South African Wine
Having tentatively trialled two South African wines in last year's list, it was gratifying to find Jancis Robinson enthusing about the 2013 vintage of Napier Vineyards' 'Red Medallion' Bordeaux-blend thus: "Beautifully shaded ruby, very healthy looking. Fully mature fruit from an obviously warm region but very well done and at a good point in its evolution... such a joy to be able to get your hands on a mature wine." Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot grown in Wellington in the Western Cape, each grape variety is vinified individually for 12 months before head wine maker Leon Bester begins his assiduous blending process. It drinks well from release and makes a fine partner to grilled meat and wild mushroom dishes.
Napier Vineyards also produce an excellent 'Saint Catherine' Chardonnay from a single vineyard in the lee of the Hawequa mountains. It is vinified in French oak barrels (30% new) and is matured on its fine lees for 6 months before bottling. The finished wine has a golden robe, attractive brioche top notes and a tropical fruit palate with an elegant dry finish.
The boutique bottlings from sommelier turned wine-maker Carsten Migliarina were a serendipitous discovery last year. Based in Cape Town, Carsten specialises in identifying premium parcels of rootstock in different locations and deploying scrupulous vineyard and cellar management. He has a strict regimen of minimal intervention and makes wines that are incredibly poised and precise with bags of varietal character. His Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch has a baked apple and shortbread bouquet and rich orchard fruit palate offset by a beguiling nervy tension. Just 2800 bottles of the 2017 vintage were produced. Also from Stellenbosch is a succulent Syrah that is steeped with wild strawberry and blackberry scents and flavours over a framework of fine-grained tannins. Completing the range, with fruit sourced to the north in Wellington, is a pure Grenache that has a wealth of forest fruit over fondant tannins.