Pringle Bay Pinot Noir, Western Cape, South Africa 2021 (£8.99, or £7.99 as part of a mixed six, majestic.co.uk) There are many winemakers I admire who are brilliant at making small quantities of very special wine with special-occasion prices to match. And there are others who I think do a great job of making millions of bottles of the sort of wine that most of us can actually afford to buy in our day-to-day lives. The skills required for each are a little different: most of the “fine” winemakers tend to work closely with vineyards and cellars that are small enough to get their daily personal attention; the high-volume winemakers are all about mastering logistics, managing teams of winemakers and growers, and knowing where to find the best-value grapes. South Africa’s Duncan Savage is one of the few who has managed to succeed in both fields. Savage makes some of the Cape’s most exciting small-batch wines under his eponymous label; but along with partner Thys Louw of respected family estate Diemersdal, he’s also responsible for the elegantly juicy red Pinot Noir and tangy white (Chenin Blanc) Pringle Bay wines that are among the best-value wines I’ve tried this year.
Great Heart Red Blend, Swartland, South Africa 2019 (£9.99, Waitrose) Savage isn’t the only talented South African fine winemaker whose career has at times resembled the arthouse film-maker who also turns their hand to Hollywood blockbusters. The equally revered Adi Badenhorst, whose Badenhorst Family Wines is a treasure trove of deliciously inventive fine wines, used to be responsible for a Swartland Chenin Blanc that was one of the best wines in the Tesco finest lineup (its ripe, rich, but refreshingly balanced latter-day equivalent, Tesco Finest Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2021, made by the historic large family firm Stellenrust, remains an excellent buy at £7.50). Other names who are proving themselves capable of pleasing customers in the supermarket and the Michelin-starred restaurant are Andrea Mullineux and Gynore Fredericks, who together work on the often-exquisite fine wines of Leeu Passant and Mullineux but are also responsible for the excellent Great Heart range, which includes a spicy-meaty Syrah-based red and zippy apple-crunchy Chenin Blanc 2020, both down from £14.99 to a bargain £9.99 until the end of the month at Waitrose.
Blank Bottle Aasvoel, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2021 (£26, swig.co.uk) As far as I’m aware, Pieter Walser has never made wine for a supermarket. Nor does he quite fit the caricature of the artisan vigeneron that I sketched above. His methods are somewhat unorthodox in that, rather than owning and tending his own vines, or associating with a single site or region, he hunts around South Africa’s winelands, looking for small parcels of old vines that might yield something interesting for his Blank Bottle label. It’s a method that means you never quite know what you’re going to get each year. Indeed, according to UK importers Swig, who are also responsible for bringing in the wines of Badenhorst, Savage and many more of South Africa’s most interesting wine producers, Walser’s annual production could be anything from 20 to 35 different wines each vintage. I’ve not tasted anything like all of them, but I’ve never been less than fascinated by what I have tried, including, most recently, this absolutely scintillating dry white, made from the Portuguese Verdelho variety, which teases the mouth with pithy citrus and then fills it with gorgeously pure tropical fruit.
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