This Week’s Wine Tasting

South Africa

Imported by Vineyard Brands

Vineyard Brands- 
“Vineyard Brands was founded by Robert Haas in 1971, and a remodeled barn on the Haas family farm served as headquarters from the inception of the company until May of 1997.

Robert Haas began his career in 1950, as the buyer for his father’s wine shop in New York City. As Haas became more interested in the wine business, he became less interested in the retail business. In 1955, he started an importing arm, Leeds Imports Corporation, and commenced seriously selling in markets other than the state of New York.

In May of 1997 the transition was completed when the headquarters of Vineyard Brands was moved from the barn in Chester, Vermont to a new facility, more than twice the size of the Chester office, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Most of the office staff moved from Chester to Birmingham and the total number of employees has grown from 2 in 1971 to 56 people today,with 32 sales representatives (including 5 regional managers) throughout the U.S. Our sales and marketing staff work with restaurateurs, retailers and over 100 distributors in all 50 states to ensure effective national distribution for all of our wines. The Birmingham office handles all shipping, accounting, promotional materials and advertising for Vineyard Brands.”


MAN Vintners– “MAN is pleased to introduce new packaging for our range of wines. Our new MAN Family Wines packaging is aimed at telling our story: our family origins and core, our focus on one wine region (Agter-Paarl, South Africa), our small, passionate team dedicated to producing delicious wines, and our distinctive South African origins.

The classic feel of the new packaging reflects the serious attention to detail and care that is taken in our winemaking. Each wine has an individual pencil drawing that shows a view of our wine region, highlighting our commitment to the Agter-Paarl area. The unique name given to each wine roots us firmly in our South African heritage, and the new MAN Family Wines branding draws attention to the fact that at its core, our winery is a small, family business started by 3 friends (two of them brothers) and named after their wives: Marie, Anette, and Nicky.”

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate says of MAN Vintners: “I tasted excellent wines from MAN Family Wines with relatively generous production levels of around 5,000 cases each. This winery has some fabulous values and should be high on the shopping lists of frugal consumers.”

MAN Vintners Tormentoso Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2013– Agter-Paarl, Coastal South Africa. “A crisp, clean, expressive wine with pure fruit flavours for everyday drinking-also pairs well with food. Light yellow/straw in appearance. Vibrant aromas of baked apples and quinces. On the palate, grapefruit and bold citrus flavours are backed by refreshing acidity and minerality. A versatile food wine with poultry, shellfish and vegetable dishes. Also fabulous as an aperitif for a hot summer afternoon. Serve chilled.”

87 Wine Spectator– “A rounded, honey-edged style, with creamed pear, yellow apple and warm pie dough notes, backed by a flicker of ginger. A crowd-pleasing style. Drink now. 250 cases imported.”

2012 88 Wine Advocate- “Fashioned from 30-year-old, head-pruned vines, the 2012 Chenin Blanc offers lots of spring flower-like notes along with a creamy, melon-y richness, beautiful intensity and texture, medium body, abundant fruit and depth, and perfect balance. The acidity balances out the gorgeous fruit in this beautiful, dry Chenin Blanc that will have enormous flexibility with an assortment of food. Ten percent of this cuvee was aged in new oak and the balance in stainless steel. Enjoy it over the next several years.”



Neil Ellis– “In 1986 Neil Ellis took a calculated leap of faith into the wine negociant arena, buying and vinifying grapes from selected vineyards and marketing these hand-reared wines under his own label. Mindful that exceptional terroir and assiduous vineyard cultivation form the bedrock of great wine, Neil forged long-term supply partnerships with top grape-growers in premium areas.

Today the same philosophy—sourcing superior grapes from low-yielding, hand-selected vineyard lots in the Cape’s top terroirs—remains the mainstay of the Neil Ellis wines. In the very year Neil Ellis set out as a negociant, his future partner Hans Peter Schroder purchased the Stellenbosch wine estate, Oude Nektar, in the spectacular, viticulturally-ideal Jonkershoek Valley. This coincidence gained fresh resonance some years later when Neil and Hans finally met. Neil, recipient of many accolades since flying solo, had outgrown his leased cellar; Hans, in search of a like-minded partner for a quality-focused winery, had extensive cellar facilities (and, moreover, prime-quality grapes).”

Neil Ellis Sincerely Chardonnay 2014– Western Cape, South Africa. “A multi-distinct blend with fruit sourced from Darling, Stellenbosch and Paarl. The juice was handled reductively and left to settle for 3 days after which it was racked and inoculated to ferment at low temperatures. Left on the lees for 3 months before blending and bottling. Attractive green tints. Tight lemon and lime aromas with green apple notes. A focused palate with citrus fruit and an elegant long finish.”

“If you’re fan of the no oak, French style of Chardonnay, Sincerely is for you! It’s wonderfully clean and crisp with plenty of lemon and lime citrus and green apple. It’s aged on the lees which gives it good length of flavor in the finish.”

2013 87 Wine Spectator- “A plump style, with golden apple and ginger notes carrying through the rounded, lightly buttery finish. Drink now. 1,200 cases imported.”


Neil Ellis Left Bank Bordeaux Blend 2012– Western Cape, South Africa. A blend 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Shiraz, 13% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. “Dark ruby red in color. Aromas and flavors of red- and blackcurrant, black cherry, menthol and licorice, plus suggestions of coffee and mocha. Bright acidity gives cut and energy, not to mention immediate appeal, to the moderately deep middle palate.”

“The medium-weight palate offers similarly concentrated fruit flavors, with a slightly chewy texture and a long, spicy finish.” “Expressive aromas and flavors of crushed dark berries, tree bark, licorice, pepper and spice cake. Offers lovely sweetness but the mid-palate is also given good shape by a firm edge of acidity. Finishes with substantial but ripe, broad tannins.”

86 Wine Spectator– “Direct, with modestly juicy plum and black cherry fruit lined with hints of singed vanilla and bramble. Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Drink now. 2,100 cases imported.”



Fairview– “Fairview is a family owned wine and cheese business located in Paarl, 40 miles from, and within sight of, the natural glory that is Table Mountain. Charles Back, the owner of Fairview, is the third genera­tion of Backs to head the family business since it was purchased in 1937 by his grandfather who had immigrated to South Africa from Lithuania in the early part of this century. He started a small business in Paarl, which was a success. He then decided to start farming during the First World War, buying the farm Kleinbabylonstroen, which eventually became Backsberg wine estate, and is now owned by Charles’ cousin, Michael.

Fairview had already been in the grape business for many years before the Backs bought the farm. The first European settlers on Fairview received their title deeds in 1693 from Simon Van der Stel, the second Dutch governor of the Cape of Good Hope. Fairview quietly prospered through the years as a mixed farm. Details of the his­tory of the farm are sketchy, though there is record of a local doctor prescribing tea­spoons of Fairview fortified wine to help cure ailing children in the latter part of the 19th century. Fairview was put on solid foundations by Charles Back, the grandfather of the pres­ent owner. When he passed away, his son inherited the farms. Cyril Back guided Fairview to prosperity through hard work and careful management.”

Fairview Spice Route Chakalaka 2012– Swartland, South Africa. Swartland, South Africa. A blend of 29% Syrah, 29% Mourvedre, 13% Grenache, 13% Carignan, 8% Tannat, and 8% Petite Sirah. “Intense red-purple in the glass. Initial smoky cloves and savory notes give way to a plum and black cherry nose with hints of intense oak spice. Medium bodied with well-integrated oak and fruit, this wine has a smooth tannin structure and lingering spice flavors.”

90 Wine Spectator– “Enticing, with warmed fruitcake, fig paste, blackberry coulis and licorice snap notes coiled together and carrying through the wood spice- and bramble-edged finish. Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan, Tannat and Petite Sirah. Drink now. 2,400 cases made.”

88 Wine Advocate– “The 2012 Chakalaka is a blend of 29% Syrah, 29% Mourvedre, 13% Grenache, 13% Carignan, 8% Petit Syrah and 8% Tannat that is raised in French and American oak for 22 months. It has a smoky, dark chocolate-scented bouquet that is reasonably well defined, the American wood lending a touch of espresso with time. The palate is medium-bodied with ripe juicy tannins, good acidity and a touch of piquancy on the dark plum, dark chocolate and raisin finish. A crowd-pleaser.”



Southern Right– “Southern Right is a small Pinotage and Sauvignon blanc specialist located on a strikingly beautiful 448 ha property in the cool, maritime, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation, just behind the old fishing village Hermanus.

Founded by Anthony Hamilton Russell in 1994, Southern Right’s aim was to produce a serious, age-worthy Pinotage combining a distinct South African fruit and flavour expression with classic styling and refinement. It is Anthony’s belief that as an early ripening grape, Pinotage is best suited to cooler areas. It was also his conviction that the stony, high clay content, shale-derived soils on the sites he chose for the vineyards, were best suited to creating the more classic style he was aiming for. Rigorous yield management and extreme care to ensure harvesting at full physiological ripeness, combine with the terroir to re-define South Africa’s red grape variety. The Sauvignon Blanc remains a local and international best seller with its classic, tight minerality complementing the prominent varietal fruit. It has been rated best South African Sauvignon blanc in the Wall Street Journal and was the only Sauvignon Blanc to win a Gold Medal at the Classic Wine Trophy awards in 2009.

The wines are named after the rare Southern Right whales, which frequent the cool South Atlantic Walker Bay, 3 kilometres from the vineyards. With each bottle sold, Southern Right makes a contribution to Southern Right whale conservation.”

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 2014– Walker Bay, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. No oak. Aged for 3 months on the lees. A blend of “93% Sauvignon Blanc, 6% Semillon, 1% Chardonnay. In general 2014 has been a challenging vintage, with warmth and Southeast drizzle in February creating ideal conditions for Botrytis (luckily – and with vigilance – well under control). This followed an unusually wet January with 1/5th of a year’s rainfall occurring over 3 days in what should be a fairly dry month. Nevertheless, every harvest presents its set of challenges – reminding us that agriculture is a form of gambling with nature- and we have a sufficiently long experience of working our terroir to pre-empt and control many of the risks. What we thought would be a particularly late harvest is very much in-line with 2013.”

“Made reductively in order to maximize the fruit personality of the vintage, the 2014 shows more marked fruit aromatics than usual, while maintaining the typical Southern Right balance of Old World minerality and length with hints of New World palate coverage and body. 2014 is a wine that favours origin expressive individuality, minerality and palate complexity ahead of pure, pungent varietal aroma. A significant percentage of fruit from clay-rich soil has added an intense mid-palate structural component and addition overall complexity to this wine.”


Hamilton Russell Southern Right Pinotage 2013– Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa. Fermented and aged in barrel for 10 months. Underwent 100% malolactic fermentation. A blend of Pinotage 92.2%, Malbec 4.4%, Syrah 2.3%, Petit Verdot 1.1%. “2013 was a standout vintage with rich, generous, sumptuous wines displaying great depth of fruit and structure. The reds in particular benefited from the 2013 harvest conditions, with dark, complex fruit at moderate alcohol levels. A cold winter was followed by a cold wet spring almost up to flowering, while cool strong Southeasters with some rain during flowering and berry-set contributed to very low yields. In general bud-break was later than usual and for the first time Sauvignon Blanc ripened before Pinot noir and Chardonnay. A drier, breezy December and January contributed to healthy disease free ripening. The average of the maximum temperatures for December, January, February and March was, at 25.33 Centigrade, a touch higher than our long-term average of 25 Centigrade – warmer than 2012, 2010 and 2009, but cooler than 2011. Overall a later harvest and a harvest characterized by smooth logistics and excellent team work between cellar and vineyard.”

“Southern Right is re-defining Pinotage with this intense classically styled, clay-grown wine, packed with complex berry fruit, beautiful tannins and subtle wood spice. Full ripeness and the longer hang-time afforded by cooler sites, combined with the complex, more classic fruit aromas and structure resulting from clay-rich soil, make this wine a highly individual expression of South Africa’s unique grape variety.”


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