Wed 24 Sep 2014

South Africa at Lord’s: Pushing the Boundaries


I can’t recall a Society event I’ve attended with such a palpable buzz in the air as the South Africa tasting held earlier this month at Lord’s.

There seemed a noticeable excitement about the wines, with members of all manner of ages coming together to enjoy some of the highlights from Jo Locke MW’s range, in the company of the growers behind the labels.

Cape Point: exciting new sauvignons

The Cape Point team

The Cape Point team

The first growers I caught up with were the Cape Point team, who are among the newer faces in The Society’s portfolio. They are charming, lovely people and the two sauvignons they showed were superb in different ways. Their normal Sauvignon Blanc (£10.95) bottling is a delight – restrained, elegant but thoroughly refreshing and moreish – whilst the Reserve cuvée (£14.95), fermented and raised in old oak so as to round out the flavours without imparting too many intrusive wood influences, shows the more serious side of what Cape sauvignon is capable of today.

The elephant in the room changing its spots?
Pinotage, South Africa’s indigenous Marmite grape, has long been a favourite topic of tasters and trade, provoking as it can a mixed response (one winemaker is alleged to have uttered the words ‘Don’t steal, rape, or murder – or make pinotage’). Increasingly, however, it appears that the different potential styles of pinotage are at least as diverse…

A Fistful of Schist Chenin Blanc

A Fistful of Schist Chenin Blanc

Kanonkop’s have long been turning heads, and I was very impressed by the Estate Pinotage 2009 (£19), a special-occasion red par excellence. For those still on the proverbial fence, the pure black-fruited poise and savoury complexity of this wine deserves attention before delivering a verdict.

Chenins for all seasons
Like pinotage, the chameleonic chenin blanc grape is never far from the limelight in South Africa and rightly so. I spent much of the night pouring A Fistful of Schist Reserve Chenin Blanc, the cheapest wine of the tasting, and yet a winner of numerous converts as the night went on. I know this is the ‘house white’ of several colleagues and it’s easy to see why – it’s a delightful, fresh and citrusy chenin that has admirable varietal typicity for under £6. Some advance ‘under-the-table’ tastes of the new Fistful of Schist Colombard and Grenache Rosé were also there to whet appetites and wet whistles, both of which they did admirably.

A sneak peak under the table!

A sneak peak under the table!

Delheim: serious chenin (and cabernet) for a silly price
The Delheim Family Chenin Blanc (£11.95) from Stellenbosch was a showstopper for me (not to mention their silky, juicy and thoroughly good-value Cabernet). While similarly exuberant and dry, this is a cut above A Fistful of Schist in terms of complexity and focus, as one would expect for the price, and yet I would not have been surprised to find out this wine cost more.

Jayne Beaumont pouring Hope Marguerite

Jayne Beaumont pouring Hope Marguerite

Beaumont’s benchmark white
Jayne Beaumont was also there, pouring her family’s top chenin, Hope Marguerite (£16.50). A wine that would not look out of place in a line-up of fine Vouvrays, this pure, elegant and yet rich example of the grape showed once again why it is a benchmark within The Society’s range.

A last straw
To further demonstrate chenin’s versatility, the Tierhoek team brought along their famed Straw Wine (£17.50 per half bottle), made from high-altitude chenin fruit that is dried on straw mats before a sherry-like solera process, resulting in a lusciously sweet, honeyed and gloopy glass of remarkable intensity and complexity. A treat, and a fine way to end the tasting.

There were many other highlights, too numerous to list here.

Those new to South Africa’s wines however should find much to enjoy in Jo Locke MW’s handpicked Introduction to South Africa selection, narrowing the field and reducing the noise to arrive at a shortlist of six bottles priced between £5.95 and £9.50.

A wider selection of wines can be found in our main South Africa offering.

Martin Brown
Digital Copywriter


  1. Donald Howes says:

    Was this a Wine Society event or put on my South African producers? I never heard anything about it. If it was Society event, this is the sort of thing that the Society should be promoting more aggressively in the News letter before the event not after and by e-mail.

    • Martin Brown says:

      Thanks for your feedback, Mr Howes, and sorry you did not hear about this event. We do promote our tastings and events via a regular brochure (if for any reason you do not receive it and would like to, we would of course be happy to oblige) and, occasionally, via email. You can view forthcoming tastings and events at any time at
      Best regards

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