Stuart George

Mother’s little helper: South African wines at Kew Gardens

In Tastings on July 10, 2009 at 8:53 am

On the evening of 9 July, those nice ladies at Wines of South Africa invited me to join them at one of Kew Gardens’ “Summer Swing” concerts. We saw The Counterfeit Stones and The Bootleg Beatles. It was probably the first time (and “The Last Time”) that The Rolling Stones have supported The Beatles. The two groups even have their own “bootleg” merchandise!

The Bootleg Beatles

The performances – or should that be interpretations? – of both acts were extraordinarily accurate, especially that of The Bootleg Beatles, who were able to recreate songs from Sgt Pepper to the nth degree. It was just like listening to the album. Mick Jagger apparently lives in Richmond so perhaps he could hear his Kew impersonator.

The Counterfeit Stones

Jo Mason and Claudia Brown of WoSA had also kindly laid on a picnic with plenty of wines to taste. I was too busy bopping to try everything but I made a beeline for The Foundry, made as a side-project by Meerlust’s winemaker Chris Williams. I met Chris on my one and only visit to South Africa in November 2003 when he was still winemaker at Delaire and tried (I think) the inaugural 2001 Foundry. It was impressive and continues to be among South Africa’s best reds. I also had a glass of Sequillo, one of Eben Sadie’s labels. Impressive, concentrated stuff. The Kanonkop Pinotage wasn’t bad either, if you like Pinotage (which I don’t generally). And the Bon Courage Shiraz and Saronsberg Full Circle were also good drinks. However, to my mind all these reds were marked by a rather dry and charmless tannin that was wood- rather than fruit-derived. Perhaps the next challenge for South African winemakers is to get better fruit tannins into their wines.

The whites that I tried were not so good, often lacking freshness – another challenge. But on the whole, with South African wines I’ve got to admit it’s getting better all the time.

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