Tasting Notes by
George Heritier




e gathered with the ostensible purpose of tasting through the current lineup of wines from Marqués de Cáceres Rioja and collaborating on a big pan of paella, but Bacchus threw us a curve ball by also providing several bottles from another producer. We’ve been fond of de Cáceres for some years now, so tasting them again is somewhat akin to listening to a sermon while sitting in the choir stall. But these others were another matter entirely, and we gave them our complete attention.

For several months we’d been hearing about the project based in South Africa that is producing very good wines for rather few dollars, called MAN Vintners. The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that Charles Back of Fairview and Goats Do Roam fame was a partner, and we’ve made no secret of our fondness for these wines. With partners José Conde (owner/winemaker of Stark-Condé Wines in Stellenbosch) and Tyrrel Myburgh (of the Myburgh family that owns and operates Joostenberg Wines), the intention is “try to make bold, fruity, palate-pleasing, modern-styled wines,” sourced from “unique parcels of grapes in different regions and to leave them as unblended as possible,” mostly in the Western Cape.

After tasting through six of these wines, we were most impressed with five of them; only their Sauvignon Blanc failed to excite, being perfectly drinkable, but ultimately forgettable. But the others are quite a different matter; here are my impressions.

2005 MAN Vintners Coastal Region Chardonnay, $9.99, 14% alc: Medium straw in color, offering rich apple, pear and lime flavors and aromas, with good cut and intensity; the lime component is definitely the defining characteristic here, and it comes off quite nicely, making for a wine that drinks very well with or without food. Find this wine

MAN Vintners Coastal Region Chenin Blanc2005 MAN Vintners Coastal Region Chenin Blanc, $9.99, 14% alc: Medium straw in color, with zippy peach and melon flavors that are sweet enough to appeal to those who don’t care for dry wines, and yet are in no way cloying or syrupy. This would make an excellent match for spicy Asian food, and like the Chardonnay, sips well all by its lonesome. Sourced from bush-vine Chenin in the “Muldersvlei Bowl” in PaarlFind this wine

2004 MAN Vintners Western Cape Cabernet Sauvignon, $9.99, 14% alc: Dark garnet in color, being rich and ripe, with sweet cassis and blackberry fruit (almost too sweet for me) shaded with overtones of violets and bolstered with a fair amount of extraction and enough tannin and acidity to avoid any sense of fat or flab; not exactly “typical” with regard to varietal character, but undeniably appealing for what it is. This might be a good choice for those who have yet to see the “zen” of dry reds, as it’s certainly the most fruit forward wine of the bunch. Find this wine

MAN Vintners Western Cape Pinotage2004 MAN Vintners Western Cape Pinotage, $9.99, 14% alc: Probably my favorite wine of this group, and a good way to get acquainted with Pinotage if you’ve never had it before, this offers up pretty black cherry, blackberry and raspberry flavors and aromas on a medium to medium full bodied frame; it shows a decidedly feminine personality, reflecting no doubt the Pinot Noir side of its cross breeding with the Rhône varietal Cinsault. It’s smooth and rich, with good extraction, fairly sweet on entry, but decidedly dry on the finish. Sourced from old vine Pinotage in the “Muldersvlei Bowl” in Paarl. Find this wine

2004 MAN Vintners Western Cape Shiraz, $9.99, 14% alc: Dark garnet in color, showing true varietal character, with tar, toast, black plum and blackberry on the nose and in the mouth; full bodied, with good tannins and acids and a nice finish. Like the rest, it’s fruit forward, but not excessively so, and offers enough complexity to keep it interesting. Sourced from the Villiersdorp Hills and the Perdeberg region between Paarl and Malmesbury, an area where Charles Back has been instrumental in developing for quality. Find this wine

These are attractive wines in every way; even the design elements from the label and capsules, which are borrowed from traditional African motifs make for a simple, yet elegant presentation. We’d recommend them to anyone looking for value-oriented wines made in the “international style.”

MAN Vintners imported by Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

PaellaLest you think we forgot, we did record our impressions of the wines from Marqués de Cáceres, and all but the medium sweet white Satinela paired well with the paella, starting with the white Rioja.

2005 Marqués de Cáceres Rioja White, $8.99, 12.5% alc.: Made from 100% Viura grapes; medium straw in color, it offers crisp citrus, melon and green apple flavors, underscored with solid minerality, which plays as important a role in defining the personality of the wine as does the fruit. With good concentration and balance, it will also work well with seafood and chicken, and it also makes for a fine quaffer all by itself. Excellent QPR here.  Find this wine

2005 Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Rosé, $8.99, 13.5% alc.: Watermelon pink in color, with crisp character and good concentration, intensity and balance; made mostly from Tempranillo grapes augmented with a smaller amount of Garnacha, it features straightforward strawberry, watermelon and rainwater flavors and aromas, and like the white, these elements are supported with a good dose of minerality. Like any good rosé, this matches well with the paella and a wide spectrum of picnic fare, and again, like the white, makes for good casual sipping on the deck or patio as well.  Find this wine

2003 Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza, $13.99, 13.5% alc.: Dark garnet in color, with a hint of animal over blackberries, raspberries and strawberries on the nose, which follow through on the palate over an earthy core; shows fairly sweet fruit accented with an unobtrusive note of oak, along with good structure, length and presence. It COULD be cellared for a few years, but why wait? It’s ready to go, especially with that paella. 85% Tempranillo and 15% Garnacha and Graciano; aged in oak for 12 months. Find this wine

Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Reserva2000 Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Reserva, $25.99, 13.5% alc.: OK, so this one may not qualify as a QPR All Star at this price, but it was tasted with the rest, so our impressions are included. Dark garnet in color, with more of everything that the Crianza has, being deeper and darker, but the driving characteristic is the big oak; my better half doesn’t care for it, but it doesn’t bother me that much. The question is how the oak will integrate with time, as the ample structure will take this a good five years down the road and beyond. 85% Tempranillo, with the remainder split between Graciano and Mazuelo; sees 24 months in French Limousine barrels.  Find this wine

2005 Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Satinela, $8.99, 12.5% alc.: I sell a lot of this medium straw colored wine, not only because I have a lot of customers who prefer semi-sweet to sweet wines, but also because it has a subtle undercurrent of earthy minerality to the medium sweet peach and apricot personality that adds some interest and complexity. Decent cut, good length and a good value for this style of wine; made from Viura, with a small percentage of Malvasia. Residual sugar, 3% by weight, sugar at harvest, 23.5 degrees brix.  Find this wine

No surprises here, as the wines of Marqués de Cáceres are always solid, consistent and dependable. The only qualification is that oak-phobes probably won’t like the Reserva.

Marqués de Cáceres imported by Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

Reporting from Day-twah,


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© George Heritier October, 2006