PRESS AND REVIEWS
TIM JAMES: RADFORD DALE AND THE “VERY BAD AND DISLOYAL” GAMAY
By Tim James - May 17, 2019
If one can have feelings for a grape variety, gamay noir is one of the more serious candidates for your sympathy. Burgundy snobs will know that it’s virtually disappeared from the grander vineyards of the Côte d’Or, where it once thrived – and that it was officially banned in 1395 by Duke Philip the Bold, who called it “a very bad and disloyal variety”. A variety, moreover, his edict declared, “very harmful to human beings”. Enough human beings survived it, however, and apparently even enjoyed it sufficiently to make it necessary for later dukes and the like to repeat the injunction. So the favoured pinot noir (one of the parents of gamay) didn’t have the field, or vineyard, clear for itself even in the Côte d’or – although the great home for gamay has been in southernmost part of greater Burgundy, in Beaujolais.
The reputation of beaujolais has had its ups and downs – somewhat on the up at present, thanks both to a revival of interest in lighter reds and a greater concentration in the area on more serious styles than the frivolous, light and fruity beaujolais nouveau, with which the grape became dangerously associated. In the Cape, gamay has had a fitful presence over the years since, I think, it was brought in by Perold. I’ve no idea which was the first label – perhaps it was that of the Verdun estate (now Asara); certainly that was the best-known, and even the only varietally named version in much of the last decades of the 20th century. It’s there in the maiden Platter guide of 1980, while the 2000 edition also lists versions from Ashanti, Backsberg and Fairview. (As an aside, those producers who don’t offer their wines to Platter are doing a signal disservice to future winelovers and researchers trying to find out details about modern Cape wine history).
Currently, Platter lists only one producer of gamay: Stellenbosch-based and -centred Radford Dale. And it’s thanks to Radford Dale (and especially its presiding genius, Alex Dale, a great admirer of Beaujolais) that the Cape’s plantings of gamay have crept up again, following a major decline – to a magnificent total of 7.73 hectares at the end of 2018, all in Stellenbosch. That’s still over 10 hectares less than there were a decade back, and below the approximately 11 hectares reported by Orffer in his 1979 book. And no-one here even banned it or denounced it as a “disloyal grape”, as far as I know! It has just languished from lack of interest.
This week I visited, with winemaker Jacques de Klerk, the little gamay vineyard that’s made that latest upward difference. It’s on a splendid grape farm on the rolling Bottelary Hills, called Karibib, that provides grapes to some very classy names even apart from chenin to Redford Dale (Van Loggerenberg, Alheit, Craven, The Blacksmith, for instance). The new gamay planting (which should be completed this year, when material becomes available, and reach nearly a hectare in total), is a joint project between Radford Dale and the highly regarded farmer, Jozua Joubert – a former Warwick winemaker, who also now makes a few wines of his own off his Karibib, under the Solitary label, which unfortunately I don’t know (but intend to remedy that).
There are two Radford Dale gamays. The hipster, geeky winebar version is under the Thirst label (where, incidentally, the delightful skin-contact Clairette Blanche is well worth seeking out) and left me rather cold. Entirely wholebunch-fermented, made in traditional Beaujolais carbonic maceration style (reliant on an initial, intracellular fermentation that occurs within the berry itself); fresh, undoubtedly, and light at 10.5% alcohol, with a nice bit of fruity perfume – but I found the 2018 rather insipid and lacking vinosity and deliciousness. All this minimalism at over R150.
The more serious, generous version is called The Antidote, the current version being the maiden 2017, but I also sampled the 2018. It is also made by carbonic maceration, but with fewer stems included. Here, now, is something characterful, something a bit different in the spectrum of lighter Cape reds (12.5% alcohol). Its name offers it as a remedy to “high alcohols, big tannins, lots of oak, your car breaking down, a bad interview, a shit day at work, the dark powers against you… – everything we playfully call poison”. I can accept that. Winemaker Jacques suggested that it in some way “straddles pinot and syrah”, and that seemed to me an acute characterisation, in terms of appearance, flavour and structure – the richer 2018 especially bringing out a spicy, peppery note, as well as an element of earthiness, both vintages having modest but informing tannins, a fresh acidity, and a rounded and textured whole. A rather elegant wine, and recommendable – even at around R400, if you can afford to splash out on something new and different. Gamay … why not? You needn’t even feel disloyal to pinot noir.
Tim James is one of South Africa’s leading wine commentators, contributing to various local and international wine publications. He is a taster (and associate editor) for Platter’s. His book Wines of South Africa – Tradition and Revolution appeared in 2013.
Article published on www.winemag.co.za, 17th May 2019
Click here to read the original article.
PRESS AND REVIEWS
Here's a roundup of our recent reviews and news from around the world.
Radford Dale Terroir Range Press Pages
Tim Atkin Lismore Tasting Results - 23 March 2019
Alex, took part in the fifth Lismore tasting held in Greyton by Tim Atkin and Lismore Wine Estate. Designed to pit the best wines of South Africa against their peers from the rest of the world this time it was Chardonnay. 35 wines were tasted in total, 13 of which were from outside the Cape.
Our Radford Dale Chardonnay 2017 came in 1st of the South African wines and 4th overall, in the group tasting! Interestingly, 4 of the 5 top SA Chardonnays were from Stellenbosch.
GROUP TASTING TOP 10
1. 2017 Errázuriz Las Pizarras, Aconcagua Costa (Chile)
2. 2017 Black Book Clayhill Vineyard, Essex (England)
3. 2014 Domaine Marc Morey Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Referts (Burgundy)
4. 2017 Radford Dale Chardonnay, Stellenbosch (South Africa)
5. 2017 Kershaw Clonal Selection, Elgin (South Africa)
6. 2017 Circumstance, Stellenbosch (South Africa)
7. 2016 Leeu Passant, Stellenbosch (South Africa)
8. 2015 Domaine Hubert Lamy St Aubin Premier Cru Les Frionnes (France)
9. 2017 Meerlust, Stellenbosch (South Africa)
10. 2015 Leeuwin Art Series, Margaret River (Australia)
For more information, please visit:
Platter's 2020 South African Wine Guide
Another great year - 12 of the Best
12 of our Radford Dale wines were awarded 4.5 stars and 8 received 4 stars in the latest guide, we are thrilled with the results!
This 40th edition's independent ratings and reviews are the result of a best-of-both worlds system of sighted and blind tastings.
Please click here to see the full list of the wines and vintages and Platter notes.
Platter's 2019 South African Wine Guide
12 of the Best - Consistently Outstanding
We are thrilled to announce our Platter 2019 results.
An unprecedented 12 RADFORD DALE wines were awarded 4.5 stars in the latest guide, released last week.
This, the 39th edition, features over 8,000 wines from 900 producers. The guide's independent ratings and reviews are the result of a best-of-both worlds system of sighted and blind tastings. Please see below for the full list of the wines and vintages with fully transcribed Platter notes.
In addition to the 4.5 star scores above, 8 of our Radford Dale wines have been awarded 4 stars while our Radford Dale Black Rock retains its 5 star rating, which demonstrates our consistently superb ratings in the Platter guide.
This all follows the recent high scores received from Tim Atkin for which we are delighted to have obtained especially as we celebrate 20 years of Radford Dale.
We are very proud of our range and to receive such acknowledgement of all the hard work the team puts in year after year is extremely rewarding.
What did Tim Atkin MW say about Radford Dale?
"I am extremely impressed with the quality of what I tasted in 2020, especially from 2019 vintage...Against formidable odds, South Africa is making some of the greatest wines in its history"
Radford Dale Renaissance Chenin Blanc 2019
Alex Dale refers to Chenin Blanc as "South Africa's noblest grape" and it's hard to disagree
when you taste a wine like this. Elegant and subtly wooded, this is all about balance and
freshness, with fennel and lemongrass aromas, lemon and green apple flavours and the
concentration and extract to age.
Radford Dale The Revelation Chenin Blanc 2019
Low in alcohol and deliberately made in a style that reflects its cooler Walker Bay source, this
is a fresh, sappy, very lightly wooded Chenin Blanc with commendable precision, brightness
and lift. Aniseed, citrus and wet stone flavours marry well on the palate.
Radford Dale Chardonnay 2019
Burgundy nut Alex Dale has shifted the style of his Stellenbosch Chardonnay in recent years
from Meursault to Chablis, as it were. Low in alcohol, with pear, lemon and subtle cinnamon
spice, this is long, refreshing and a pleasure to drink. The opposite of a one-glass wine.
Radford Dale Freedom Pinot Noir 2019
Reflecting Alex Dale's love of red Burgundy, this is a light, elegant, focused Elgin Pinot that
wouldn't look out of place in Chorey-lès-Beaune. Graceful and refreshing, with redcurrant
and watermelon flavours and fine-grained tannins supported by older oak.
Radford Dale Vinum Chenin Blanc 2019
Offering superb value for money at just R160, this is like a scaled-down rendition of Alex
Dale's top wines. Taut and refreshing with wild yeast aromas and texture, a hint of oak spice
and a core of crisp, tangy citrus and green apple fruit.
Radford Dale Vinum Pinotage 2019
The aim here is to reveal "the hidden side of Pinotage", using natural fermentation and
carbonic maceration. It's certainly a wonderfully drinkable red: supple and juicy with
impressive colour and concentration and raspberry and black cherry fruit.
Radford Dale Grenache 2019
Sourced from Alex Dale's home vineyards, close to the Helderberg and cooled by the breezes
from False Bay, this is a Grenache for Pinot Noir lovers, with some whole berry carbonic
maceration. Medium weight, lightly wooded and spicy, with notes of thyme and fennel, tangy
acidity and raspberry and bramble fruit flavours.
Land of Hope Reserve Pinot Noir 2019
Part of an educational project of "social upliftment", this tasty Pinot Noir is serious stuff.
Made with clones 115 and 777, it's a focused, well-structured red with wild strawberry and
tomato skin flavours and a spicy, slightly volatile lift.
Radford Dale The Antidote Gamay Noir 2019
Made in the style of a Beaujolais Cru rather than a Beaujolais Nouveau, this is a pretty
serious Gamay from Alex Dale and his team. Savoury, grippy and showing some reduction,
with bramble and raspberry fruit and a dusting of oak spice.
Radford Dale Thirst Gamay Noir 2019
One of those wines that I often order by the glass in South African restaurants, this is a
classic combination of Gamay on granite soils. Zesty, crunchy and refreshing, it has thirst quenching acidity, pale colour and bright cherry and raspberry flavours.
Tim Atkin released his South Africa Report 2018 at Cape Wine last week and we are delighted to announce the reviews he gave our wines.
Each Radford Dale wine he tasted, he scored between 96 – 90 points
which means all our wines have been bestowed an Award of Excellence.
The 3 Regions in which we specialise: Stellenbosch, Elgin & The Swartland,
each featured among these endorsements, reflecting our consistent quality across the various
terroirs and Appellations.
5 single varietal wines and one blend featured, also reflecting our consistent quality
across different styles and varieties.
Renaissance Chenin Blanc, with 96 Points, was named as one of his WINES OF THE YEAR.
Radford Dale The Renaissance of Chenin Blanc 2017
The Renaissance hails from a single vineyard on the Helderberg that also supplies the core of the Vinum Chenin. Made with a Burgundian sensibility by Jacques de Klerk, it’s layered and complex, with refined oak, amazing concentration and palate length and a creamy, savoury finish. 2019-29
Radford Dale Chardonnay 2017
With his background in Burgundy, Alex Dale has always had a sure touch with Chardonnay. This fresh, light-bodied style, all from the Polkadraai Hills, is light, nuanced and focused, showing notes of struck match and lemon butter and impressive palate length. 2019-25
Radford Dale Vinum Chenin Blanc 2017
The core of this wine is a 48-year-old vineyard on the Helderberg. It’s all about fruit, with only 30% of wooded material, subtle skin contact for some grip, bracing acidity and flavours of pear, wet stones and spicy, palate-coating concentration. 2019-25
Radford Dale The Antidote Gamay Noir
Inspired by the Cru wines of the northern Beaujolais, this is a new release for Radford Dale,
made with carbonic maceration. Lightly wooded, it’s a very ambitious Gamay, with pepper
spice, bramble and raspberry fruit and crunchy, lip-smacking acidity. 2019-25
Radford Dale Freedom Pinot Noir 2017
“We’ve taken a long time to refine the style,” says Jacques de Klerk of this unfined, unfiltered, whole berry fermented Pinot. There’s a bit of what he calls “grunt” here, as well as subtle reduction, but the underlying fruit is pure, sweet and wonderfully juicy. 2019-24
Radford Dale AD Pinot Noir 2016
AD is made with the 115 and 777 clones and is all about perfume and approachability, with no whole bunches or new wood, just refined fruit from Elgin Orchards. Pretty and very enticing, it’s a Pinot Noir for lovers of Chambolle-Musigny. 2019-24
Radford Dale Syrah 2015
Laterite soils in Firgrove supply the fruit for this grippy, savoury Syrah. There’s a feral note to this wine, as well as 15% whole bunch spice. Firm and serious, even at lower alcohol levels, it needs time in bottle to soften. 2019-25
Radford Dale Black Rock 2015
Grown on granite soils in the Swartland, Black Rock is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sinkRhône blend of Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Viognier. It’s a tight, rather tannic wine at the moment with a funky undertone and good concentration. 2020-25
You can download the report in full from Tim's website www.timatkin.com for R395 or £20.
Freshly Pressed 2018
We've had the good fortune to meet the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (and two Ladies) ofRadford Dale this week - we suggest you read the story to get the reference here: https://bit.ly/2qorfICAlternatively, there's a special case right here:https://bit.ly/2JD2jVS And their individual wines available here: https://bit.ly/2EEtH25 With their Black Rock 2014 wine identified as Platter's Best Red Wine of 2017, we have a feeling you can't go wrong.
— Products shown: Radford Dale - Vinum Chenin Blanc (2017), Radford Dale - Nudity Syrah (2015),Radford Dale - Thirst Gamay (2017), Radford Dale - Syrah (2014), Radford Dale - Thirst Clairette (2017),Radford Dale - Thirst Cinsault (2017), Radford Dale - Black Rock (2015), Radford Dale - Freedom Pinot Noir (2016), Radford Dale - Chardonnay (2016) andRadford Dale - Chardonnay (2013)