More than a

fireside sipper

Versatility can be underrated. Port-style wines made locally offer a rich variety of options and should be enjoyed all year round, our panel found after a tasting of a select few examples.

Port-style wines are something that South African producers do well – particularly those in hotter, drier locations like Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo and also the Swartland. This tasting had the panel once again questioning why consumers tend to think it’s a drink only to be enjoyed in winter, or with cheese at the end of a meal.

“These are delicious!” said publisher Shayne Dowling who admitted he was partial to enjoying port chilled or flinging a few ice cubes into a glass during a summer’s afternoon or evening. Writer Clifford Roberts shared that the Portuguese – who know Port well and protect their naming right to it – enjoy it on hot days mixed with tonic.

There’s a deep, flavourful richness and spice to the wines, whether they are the young Cape Ruby style or the altogether more complex, refined and aged Cape Vintage or Tawny wines. The use of brandy or neutral spirit to stop the fermentation and retain the sweet fruitiness and vibrancy is an important part of the fortification process – but the spirit shouldn’t be too prominent. Everything in the glass is about the fruit, the balance and the vibrancy with a supportive tannin structure and dry finish.

Tasting panel: Elvina Fortuin, Clifford Roberts, Dee Griffin,

Shayne Dowling, Fiona McDonald

De Krans Cape Ruby

Calitzdorp specialist, De Krans makes a range of Port-style wines and this is the youngest of them. The raisin and plum aromas have a light floral or blossom appeal too. The palate boasts ripe fig and syrup flavour said Elvina and Dee while Clifford loved the spiciness with its clove and cinnamon highlights. Soft textured and smooth with a light raisin, blueberry and nutty note.

De Krans Cape Vintage 2019

Gentle rose petal perfume with waxy raisin and spice on the nose. The same spice and prune flavours could be discerned in the mouth, with a lovely dryness and a chalky tannin grip from its time in oak barrels. Somewhat unusual almost saline nuance to the palate. The panel speculated that this latter characteristic might possibly have something to do with the protracted drought the area experienced leading up to the vintage. Still rewardingly rich and tasty. Not too sweet.

Allesverloren Cape Vintage 2018

One of the most appealing noses of all the wines was the consensus: confectioner’s sugar, sultana, herbs and notes of freshly planed wood. The flavours were rich and delicious with macerated ripe plums, prune, spice and blueberries. Smoothly fine with light warming fiery note and precise length. Finishes dry.

Axe Hill Cape Vintage 2009 

Another Calitzdorp specialist, this was the oldest in the lineup. Deep, dark and densely inky colour. Wilson’s malty toffees, tea leaf and prune. Richly concentrated with a superbly sweet succulence and balanced fortification. Complex, sophisticated and long with a lovely dry tannin grip. As Clifford remarked, the sort of thing you could easily enjoy a second or third glass of!

Bergsig Cape Late Bottled Vintage 2017  

Exotic spices sprang from the glass with Dee finding Chinese five spice while Shayne discerned cardamom and garam masala! Spice was an obvious component of the richly fruited palate, Christmas pudding with kola tonic and a beautiful citrussy lemon oil note. Complex and refined. Utterly poised and balanced with lovely harmony and length – but that’s to be expected from 2017 which was an excellent vintage overall.

De Krans Cape Tawny

“Lots to talk about here,” said Shayne who found ripe fruit galore. Dried apricot (Elvina), mango strips (Dee), Clifford found dried fruit roll while Fiona noted antique roses. Lovely roasted hazelnuts, prune and fruitcake flavours galore. Big spice and notes of old church pews with a delightful dryness and length. Balanced and long.

Boplaas Cape Tawny 

“Spicy ginger cake!” said Dee who also found toasted almonds. Elvina noted a citrus or orange zest nuance while Shayne proclaimed Karoo herbs and spice. “Big explosion of flavour in the mouth,” he said. Rich, spicy, maple syrup, sweet dried cherry and spice galore. Balanced, dry, lovely nutty flavour and dry tannin grip. Clifford loved the fact that the brandy spirit could also be picked up on the palate, along with a hit of white pepper at the end.