Had an interesting tasting yesterday with Roger, one of our main suppliers and the winemaker and his fiancee from Mischa Estate down in Wellington South Africa. Now Ive been trying to do a bit more South African for a little while now, because I think there is a lot going on down there and the quality of wine coming out of South Africa seems to be getting better and better. Thankfully more of the farmers are moving away from the Co-ops and starting to produce their own fantastic wines. The big problem for both them and UK sommelier and customers is that at the moment many of these wines dont yet have a route to market. But that is changing and as time goes on, they will find UK importers knocking on their doors trying to get them to sell to them.
Now Andrew Barns looked more like an Aussie surfer dude than a South African winemaker, but there is no mistaking the accent. They started off by showing us their Viognier. On the nose it is recognisable Viognier - peaches and cream, a touch of floral character - white flowers and honeysuckle. There is a subtle hint of spice on the nose too, which put me in mind of a good aged Condrieu. On the palate it delivers the same fruity character, fresh and lighter than many viogniers, not at all thick and oily. The acidity is so well balanced that it finishes quite dryly and made me want to drink more. After the first spit, I didnt want to waste anymore and ended up swallowing it!! We liked this one so much, were going to list it by the glass.
We moved on to the reds next, looking first at the Eventide Cabernet 2006. There wasnt a single hint of smokyness that Mark would characterise as typical SA red. There was ample red fruit character - currants and blackberries with a spiced note of cinnamon and licorice root. The woody characters are there in a background support role, and as Andrew (the winemaker) put it, the fruit has to do the talking, not the barrel. The oak is to be used as the canvas over which the fruit character will paint the picture. I liked that, and its true, the oak presence (2nd, 3rd and sometimes 4th fill french oak) is very much in the shadows, letting the essense of the grapes be the dominant character. It had a great length and we like this one as well, enough to give it a listing.
We moved on to the Mischa Estate Cabernet 2003. Andrew explained that when they vinify the individual parcels of vines they select those that shine out for the Mischa label. This was his forth vintage, and it was easy to see the difference between the eventide and mischa wines. There was much more going on in the glass of the mischa cab, currants, cloves and cacoa, again the oak taking the backstage. On the palate the tannins were more structured, finer and there was more substance to the length and the finish. We really liked this one.
We finished off with the Mischa Shiraz, and again there was none of the typical smoky, burnt rubber character, instead there was vibrant berry fruit flavours, with hints of white pepper and maybe some cacoa too. I had commented that this was completely different to a Barossa style shiraz which hits you with the big menthol notes up front, when I went back to the glass and started to find small aromas of menthol. Maybe it was the power of suggestion, but the menthol was restrained and fitted together nicely with the flavours. We liked this one too, enough to decide to list all the wines and explore the possibilities of doing a Gourmet Dinner with them next year.