Anthony Rose: 'The Cape is transforming itself into a more varied and interesting palette of wine styles'


I don't know if it was my conscience that was pricked or my subconscious that kicked in, but either way, omitting South Africa from my 2013 crystal ball was an oversight. After my last trip in the summer as a judge at the Old Mutual Wine Trophy Show, I found much to admire in the way Cape producers have gone about addressing deep-seated vineyard problems and a tendency to uniformity of style.

No longer dominated by reds, Bordeaux-styles in particular, the Cape is transforming itself into a more varied and interesting palette of wine styles. I've always thought the slogan 'Variety is in our nature' pretty glib, but on the evidence of the past year, the variety is not just grape variety, but the many locations with potential beyond the Golden Triangle of Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschoek.

Swartland is the new rallying cry. Maybe it's because vineyards here are cheaper but younger winemakers with talent and passion are pushing the envelope with red and white blends in the mould of the Rhône. The 2009 Mullineux Syrah Swartland, around £17.95, Berry Bros (0800 280 2440), Handford (020-7589 6113), Swig (0800 027 2272) is a case in point, showing wonderful purity of blackberry fruit intermingled with smoky tar.

The warm Malmesbury district, too, is coming up with some really good-value reds such as the paprika-smoky, black-fruited 2011 Porcupine Ridge Syrah Viognier, £8.84, Majestic. And let's not overlook great, emerging pinot noir such as the excellent red berry fruits' fragrance, spice and purity of the 2010 Chamonix Reserve Pinot Noir, around £15.48-£16.99, Cambridge Wine Merchants (0122 356 8993), Lay & Wheeler (01473 313300), Berry Bros.

Thanks to the legacy of chenin blanc, the Cape was perhaps better known at home for whites than reds, but that image, too, is today under reconstruction. Certainly there are some wonderful chenins around, few more so than the rich and creamy 2011 Waterkloof Circle of Life White, around £16.99, The Sampler (020-7226 9500), Amps Fine Wines (01832 273502), Woodwinters (01786 834894).

But new Rhône-style whites such as the 2010 Bellingham The Bernard Series Roussanne, £9.99-£11.39, Sainsbury's, SA Wines Online (0845 456 2365) and the oak-smoked 2009 Thelema Viognier Roussanne, £12.50, Great Western Wines, show that there's life beyond sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Speaking of which, Vergelegen's wonderful 2010 GVB, £20.45,, SA Wines Online, a Graves-style blend of sauvignon and semillion, and Rustenberg's richly burgundian Five Soldiers Chardonnay, £27.75-£29.95, Lea & Sandeman (020-7244 0522), Great Grog (0131 555 0222), Swig,, Wine Society, illustrate that there's plenty of life left in the traditional styles. And I haven't even started on the fizz yet.