If the Swartland marketing slogan is “small berries, big flavours” then Namaqualand should adopt “big lorries, small prices.”

In a nutshell:

  • Best value for money maritime style Sauvignon Blancs in SA
  • Home to largest organic producer in SA
  • Fresh and spicy Shiraz a feature

Back Label: “Big trucks proceeding past this point, do so at their own risk” says the sign 10km short of Citrusdal on the road north from Ceres, through the Kouebokkeveld.  Which reminded me of the notice British eccentric Lord Berners erected outside the folly in the garden of his Oxfordshire country pile.  “Members of the public committing suicide from this tower, do so at their own risk.”

NamaqualandNeither was joking, as the precipitous track through the Cederberg Mountains resembles those Taliban supply routes in Afghanistan, with US drones replaced by hungry Lanner Falcons and Pale Chanting Goshawks.  It was lorries that got us into this mess in the first place, as one had overturned in the Nuwekloof pass between Tulbagh and Gouda and Google Maps had redirected us onto the rustic R303 as replacement for the stop-and-go rich N7 highway.  Suffice to say, driving to the Olifants River wine appellation can be a challenge.

Terroir Credentials: Made from grapes grown 320km north of Cape Town, elephant wines typically have warmer, more tropical flavours than other maritime appellations such as Durbanville and the Hemel & Aarde Valley, yet a shared proximity to the cold Atlantic Ocean adds a refreshing natural acidity that makes them fresh and exciting.  The boutiquification of the region is still in its early days (giant co-operatives like Lutzville and Namaqua Wines dominate volumes) with one noticeable result: it is hard to find a wine priced over R100, the entry level in tonier terroirs.

Wineries: Olifants River wineries are some of the largest in the country.  The SA tourism website somewhat breathlessly notes “production is dominated by co-operatives and the Vredendal Co-operative alone crushes more grapes than the whole of New Zealand in one harvest!”

Well Vredendal Co-op transformed into Namaqua Wines many moons ago and New Zealand has ramped up production and now dominates the market for grassy Sauvignon Blanc in the UK in the interim.  In the south of Namaqualand, Stellar Winery is the largest organic wine producer in SA.

Ethically traded, it salves conscience as well as the palate and inner personal trainer.  In the western approaches, Bamboesbaai and Lambert’s Bay are home to two of the greenest Sauvignon Blancs in the Cape, real doppelgängers for the grassy Kiwi style that sells so well in Knightsbridge, but at a fraction of the price.

Best Wines: Our blind tasting of 68 wines unearthed five gems including five wines rated five hearts.  There is a great value 2011 wooded Chenin Blanc for R55 from the appropriately named Lutzville Diamond Collection and a 2010 Pinotage costing all of R25 from Namaqua Wines.  Less well known is the 2010 Shiraz from Stoumann’s Wines (R70) whose logo is a tortoise, the meat ingredient in waterblommetjiebredie before Karoo lamb became popular.

Terroir Top Ten

  1. ♥♥♥♥♥ Sir Lambert Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 R65
  2. ♥♥♥♥♥ Namaqua Wines Spencer Bay Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 R75
  3. ♥♥♥♥♥ Bellpost Shiraz, 2008 R71
  4. ♥♥♥♥♥ Lutzville Diamond Collection Shiraz, 2010 R65
  5. ♥♥♥♥♥ Lutzville Diamond Collection Chenin (wood), 2011 R55
  6. ♥♥♥♥ Lutzville Diamond Collection Ebenhaeser, 2010 R85
  7. ♥♥♥♥ Namaqua Wines Spencer Bay, The Blend, 2008 R75
  8. ♥♥♥♥ Fryer’s Cove Sauv Blanc, 2011 R90
  9. ♥♥♥♥ Lutzville Pinotage, 2010 R40
  10. ♥♥♥♥ Stellar Organics Sparkling Wine, 2012 R55

Budget Top Ten

  1. Namaqua Pinotage, 2010 R25
  2. Klawer Cellars Chardonna,y 2011 R28
  3. Klawer Cellars Pinotage, 2011 R28
  4. Klawer Cellars White Muscadel, 2008 R30
  5. Klawer Cellars Red Muscadel, 2009 R30
  6. Klawer Cellars Hanepoot, 2008 R30
  7. Lutzville Diamond Collection Chenin Blanc, 2012 R33
  8. Namaqua Red Muscadel, 2011 R35
  9. Stellar Organics Chenin Blanc, 2012 R35
  10. Stellar Organics Ros,é 2012 R35

Tasting Notes

Five Terroir-driven Sauvignon Blancs

♥♥♥♥♥ Sir Lambert, 2012

Tangy ruby grapefruit with a finely judged balance between sweet and sour and huge length.

♥♥♥♥ Fryer’s Cove, 2011

Fine gooseberry white peachs and tropical fruit.  Serious palate weight with a tangy finish.

♥♥♥ Lutzville Diamond Collection, 2012

Grass, green pepper and asparagus, sweetly fruited.  Smoky minerality.

♥♥♥ Stellar Organics, 2012

Floral nose, tropical fruit palate with some lemon zest. 

♥♥♥ Sir Lambert, 2011

Sweetly fruited gooseberries with some vegetal notes.

A Quartet of Orgasmic Organics

♥♥♥♥ Stellar Organics Sparkling Wine, 2012

Chardonnay & Chenin Blanc. Fine mousse. Ripe white ripe, citrus zest, hints of medium pastry, Creamy, sweet, round easy going fizz.

♥♥♥♥ Stellar Organics Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, 2012

Floral nose with some tomato leaf, fresh and typical. Grippy and fresh, long lasting.

Stellar Organics Chenin Blanc, 2012

Racy, fine palate and some sweat.  Pithy finish.

Stellar Organics Rosé, 2012

Tangy strawberries and some spice, great summertime tipple.

A Terror Trio of Syrah

♥♥♥♥♥ Bellpost Shiraz, 2008

Stone fruit and rooibos herbal liqueur. Extra spicy with a rocky minerality.  Mouth filling and fresh with a lingering finish.

♥♥♥♥♥ Lutzville Diamond Collection Shiraz, 2010

Chocolate mint berries, orange marmelade, toast and extra spice, elegant, fresh with a grippy palate.

♥♥♥♥ Stoumann’s Shiraz, 2010

Good Rhône-like character with a refined elegance.

A Trinity of Sweeties

♥♥♥ Klawer Wines White Muscadel, 2008

Tropical fruits with hints of honey.  Sweet with a  round palate.

♥♥ Klawer Wines Red Muscadel, 2009

Herbal rooibos tea, apricot jam, honey and caramel, Creamy, mouth filling, sticky sweet.

♥♥♥ Klawer Cellars Hanepoot, 2008

Citrus pulp and zest, roses, ripe white fruit, hints of honey. Sweet, round and appealing.

A Pair of Punchy Pinotages

♥♥♥♥ Lutzville Pinotage, 2010

A real crowd pleaser. Toasty, green banana, ripe red fruit, sweet spices. Elegant, sugary and fresh.

♥♥♥ Namaqua Pinotage, 2010

Toasty, green banana, candied red fruit, sweet spices.

A Duo of Blended Reds

♥♥♥♥ Namaqua Wines Spencer Bay “The Blend”, 2008

Bordeaux blend showing sour cherries tobacco with a flinty minerality.

♥♥♥ Lutzville Diamond Collection Ebenhaeser 2010

Exotic nose, complex palate, well balanced.

Best Cabernet Sauvignon

♥♥♥♥♥ Namaqua Wines Spencer Bay, 2008

Dried stone fruit with chocolaty nose, sweet spice, dried bell peppers. Complex, round and mouth filling, grippy.

Best Chenin Blanc

♥♥♥♥♥ Lutzville Diamond Collection Chenin (wooded), 2011

Citrus pulp and zest, fresh grassy notes, ripe white fruits with hints of sweet pastry. Creamy, fresh and elegant.

Best Merlot

♥♥♥ Bellpost, 2011

Savoury red plums.