Top 10 Finer Wines for Christmas

Cathy splashes out for the festive season.

05 Dec 2011

Like most of you out there, I buy wines on a budget. Finding a good white under R40 or a decent red under R50 or R60 is nearly always the first thing I look for. But once a year, I like to throw caution to the wind and actually buy and drink something a bit special – not outrageous, but just a little better than normal. So here are my top ten suggestions for holiday treats.

Altydgedacht MCC Blanc de Blanc 2008  R100 cellar door
This is the maiden vintage of this wine and it certainly had a good start in life, garnering 4 stars in the last ever edition of Wine Magazine. Altydgedacht is such an underrated cellar – I also got sent a few other wines with this one and loved them all – more later.  This is a great fizz – lots of toasty brioche notes with delicate frothy mouthfeel and a good dry finish. 2 years on the lees.

Jacques Bruère MCC Brut Reserve 2007  R110 cellar door
This is such a fantastic example of everything great that can be done with a cap classique. 10% has been barrel-fermented, the wine has been on the lees in bottle for up to 4 years, after disgorging, it remained on the cork for a further 9 months – I just love, love, love everything about this wine. Apart from the fact that, of course, I failed to sabrage it, as always! Wonderful complexity, elegance and depth. And all at a crazy price too.

Weltevrede Aletheia MCC 2007    R135 cellar door
This is my favourite from the trio of white fizzes offered by Philip Jonker and surprisingly for me, it’s because it’s wooded. I really love the extra richness and weightiness in the mouth offered by this Pinot/Chardonnay blend. It’s been a minimum of 3 years on the lees and every mouthful oozes class, finesse, rich savoury fruit and creamy elegance.

Trizanne Signature White 2010    R83.50 via
Trizanne Barnard is a winemaker in demand these days! Previously at Anwilka, she now works alongside Bruce Jack at The Drift Wines in Napier whilst still making wine under her own label. This is a white Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The latter has been in oak and the former come from the coolest of cool climates – Elim. Everything about this wine oozes class – it’s limey, zesty, fragrant and poised. The perfect partner for a smoked salmon starter.

Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2011   R95 cellar door
I am now about to do a very naughty thing which is to write about another wine! Why? Well, because this is always so consistently good that I am certain that we shouldn’t be drinking it now, but should be buying it to squirrel away instead. In honour of NOT trying this wine, I opened a bottle of the 2007 and it was magnificent – rich, savoury and complex. If you like fresh, zesty flavours with a richer mid-palate and lots of teeth-tingling acidity, then by all means go for it now. But whichever style you prefer, this should be snapped up quickly cos it definitely won’t hang around long.

Solms Delta Amalie 2010    R110 cellar door
A beautiful Rhone blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, this was barrel-fermented and matured to give a full-bodied and fruity dry white wine. The full-bodied bit was helped by the fact that the Grenache was desiccated – the stem was pinched to inhibit water reaching the grapes in order to concentrate the sugars and give extra complexity. And it really does – I recommend this with a robust and hearty chicken dish to make the most of the soft yellow stonefruit.

Bilton Wines Sir Percy 2006    R170 cellar door

Bilton’s flagship blend may have been somewhat overlooked this last year with the launch of their mad and fabulous 500% new oak wine, The Bilton. But trust me, that would be a mistake! This is a Cabernet-dominated Bordeaux blend and has been given careful handling and delicate treatment by winemaker Rudi de Wet to create a wine full of flavour, but with plenty of balance and complexity besides. A very good price for a really good wine, this should be savoured over a good piece of meat.

KWV Dr Charles Niehaus 2010   R199 cellar door
Who, I hear you ask? Well, if I told you he was responsible for one of SA’s most iconic wines and one of the pioneers of no less a variety than Shiraz in this country, perhaps that would mean a little more to you! Dr Niehaus took over from Dr Perold in 1941 and amongst his many gifts to the SA wine industry, he was the creator of the Roodeberg blend. And now the KWV is really returning to its quality roots, it’s a fitting time to commemorate such an inspirational man. This is a blend of mainly Shiraz with Cabernet and Merlot and for all that it’s young, it’s already intricate and expansive with lovely fresh fruit and an endless finish.

Veenwouden Merlot 2009    R230 cellar door
Owner/winemaker Marcel van der Walt has had a bit of a re-organising session at his boutique cellar in Paarl. This is now one of the Reserve Collection wines and shows just why Marcel has such faith in Bordeaux grape varieties. People knock Merlot all too often, but when the soil selection is just right and the winemaker takes as much care as this, it all comes together beautifully. Rich and warming but with a good backbone and structure, this is a great partner for roast duck.

Stellenbosch Ridge 2009     R280 via Rust en Vrede
A four-way Bordeaux blend from Rust en Vrede?  Wot, no Shiraz then? Only kidding, this is the new wine in a new direction for Jean Engelbrecht. He’s working with some other partners and the aim here is to create a wine for restaurants – not only is it very food-friendly, but it is also not widely available thus preserving a little much-needed mystique. I found this wine to be incredibly more-ish – juicy, fruity but with plenty of elegance and class. Demands nothing less than a whole fillet on the braai.


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