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Great value, top quality wines from the Stellenbosch region
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Looking back over tasting notes of more than 1500 wines from the Stellenbosch area, I thought it interesting to compile a 'best of' list for top quality wines at bargain prices. Although 'bargain' is relative and wines costing R300 might, in certain circumstances, be considered a bargain, I set my limit at R70, thinking that this is where many consumers would think twice before purchase.

Of course, the list is subjective and only my opinion, but that debate is well worn and my riposte is always 'show me a review that isn't subjective!'.

Most, if not all of these wines are still available and prices are 'at the cellar door' and I can promise that though many may not be household names or supported by huge marketing campaigns, they will provide exciting and delicious drinking.

Hoopenburg Integer White Blend 2008 over my price limit, admittedly, but even at R75 I had to include it. Based on Chenin, with classic damp straw and honey nose, this is a perfumed and tangy wine, rich, luscious and smooth and it over delivers. Lots of white stone fruit flavours with a mineral backbone make this a stylish wine which will evolve over five or so years.

The Stellenbosch Hills Reserve White 2009 at R60 is a real bargain. A mix of peachy Viognier, waxy Semillon and vanilla (from the oak) Chardonnay the rich gold hue and dense nose prepare you for a wine with substance. The odd mix works deliciously, making a full bodied, opulent wine with style and intrigue. The balance is just right, smooth but not flabby and the finish goes on and on. The Knorhoek Chenin Blanc 2009 is bright gold with pineapple and honey tones and bright, clean fruit. At R48 this is a lighter style, but will develop quince and marmalade over time and is elegant, polished and charming.

My last white is simply gorgeous. The Slaley Reserve NLH 2007 is everything you want from a Noble Late Harvest. Orange peel and apricot nose, smooth, unctuous and rich on the palate but still retaining a light touch from Chardonnay. Honey, dried raisons, mandarins and more, the flavours keep unravelling and linger for ages; again over my limit at R75 for a half bottle, but worth selling body parts for.

Reds would include the Neethlingshof Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, at R60. This is an inky, opaque wine, still youthful, with a shy nose of berry fruit. It opens in the mouth with lush cassis and spicy fruit mixed with quality oak. A classic Cabernet, chunky, tannic and complex and will be exceptional in a few years time. My second Cabernet would be the Kanu Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. At R60 it is already showing some development and tones of leafy tobacco, fynbos and liqueur blackcurrants waft from the glass. This is a generous, bold wine, alluring and fabulous value.

Two Shiraz based wines, the Eaglevlei Shiraz 2007 and the Koelenhof Nineteenfortyone 2008 (with Cabernet and Petit Verdot) at R65 and R50 respectively offer sensational drinking at the price. The first has a musk and spearmint nose then layers of stewed fruit in a classic, food friendly style, with classy oak and sweet spicy blackberries. The second is inky purple with a lovely sweet nose of vanilla and peppery dark fruit, then ripe and chewy mid weight flavours. Both are well crafted, totally enjoyable and punch way above their weight. If you want to see how Shiraz ages, try the Dormershire Stoep Shiraz 2004. Available at R65 this eight year old shows little colour change but lovely oaky development precedes silky, textured fruit. Certainly not a 'fruit bomb', this is an elegant Southern Rhone style, perfect with red meat, offering character and panache.

Lastly, three reds for those who don't want to pay R65 a bottle. The Goede Hoop Domaine Red 2011 at R30 offers an inky, mid weight wine with violets and plums and ripe spicy fruit. With grippy tannins and fleshy mouthfeel this wine will satisfy for four to six years. At about the same price, the Louisvale Stone Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 has a seductive nose then overt sweet ripe fruit in an honest and fun way. Just R29 will get you the StellenRust Kleine Rust Pinotage/Shiraz 2011. Lots of summer fruit pudding and juicy, spicy leather, easy and supple, perfect for winter glugging.

How about a dark and dusty, plum and cinnamon ruby port to finish with? Not at this price, you say, well then go back to Koelenhof for their Pino Pinto Cape Ruby. At R47 this is sensational value, rich dark and warming, the stewed raisons and lush fruit will leave you nicely relaxed.

Not the usual suspects, perhaps, but after hundreds of tastings, to stand apart they must be offering something special and at these prices, if you don't agree with me, your bank account may forgive me.

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R101 Old Paarl Road Muldersvlei Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, 7599, South Africa