Jonathan Ray Jonathan Ray

Sell-out bottles for Spectator subscribers


We’ve some cracking South African wines on offer this week, courtesy of Private Cellar, including yet another bona fide Spectator scoop: the exclusive on the 2023 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. For one week only, The Spectator is the only place where these wines – made in tiny quantities and destined to sell out fast – can be bought. I mean, do we love you or what?

And not only that, thanks to the generosity of Private Cellar’s marketing director, Laura Taylor, the other wines featured boast extremely tasty discounts and, to make the offer even more punter-friendly, all wines are available in six-bottle boxes (with free delivery on 12 bottles).

This is sensuous and elegant, showing what beauty there is in a young Pinot

There’s a lot of shoddy Chenin Blanc in South Africa but the 2020 Rijk’s Touch Chenin Blanc (1) is anything but, being an absolute humdinger, plain and simple. It’s also ridiculously cheap considering its exemplary quality. Crafted from fruit grown in Tulbagh, some 75 miles north-east of Cape Town, by dynamic young winemaker Adriaan Jacobs, this is just so creamy, so peachy and so ripe and with such beautifully judged acidity that all I want to do is gulp it down. Mrs Ray has forbidden me to buy any more wine but I still dare sneak in a case or so of this when her back’s turned. £15 down from £16.45.

The 2019 Aristea Semillon/Sauvignon (2), made by Matt Krone (host of a memorable Spectator Winemaker Lunch) from carefully sourced cool-climate Elgin fruit, is another beauty. Sauvignon-dominant, it’s fresh, lively and enticingly concentrated with a deliciously complex mix of honey, greengage and quince on the finish. £22.45 down from £24.95.

Anthony Hamilton Russell is an old friend of both Private Cellar and The Spectator (he’s hosted at least six Winemaker Lunches and was a shipmate on last year’s notorious Clays, Claret and Cognac Cruise), and Laura invited us both to Private Cellar’s HQ the other day, where the exquisite 2023 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay (3) set the tone for an extremely jolly wine-soaked evening.

2023 was a challenging vintage in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley with Chardonnay producing one of its lowest yields in yonks. Three passes through the vineyard were required to garner enough fruit.

What came in, though, was first rate, and although rounder and fuller than the 2022, this has all the HRV hallmarks of vibrant acidity, a tight mineral heart and a ripe yet restrained and concentrated finish. Think what you can buy in Burgundy for the price and you’ll see it’s a comparative bargain. £40.

The 2020 Rijk’s Touch Pinotage (4) shows just how far this once-derided grape variety has come. Once infamously redolent of burnt rubber, here Adriaan has coaxed it into a gloriously juicy, jammy incarnation, full of blackberries and vanilla complete with an appetisingly savoury finish. It’s a joy. £15 down from £18.50.

The 2019 Aristea Cabernet Sauvignon (5) is similarly succulent. Aristea doesn’t own any vineyards of its own but sources from the finest sites with the greatest care. Twelfth-generation winemaker Matt K is famously fastidious, homing in not just on the best vineyards but on the best row of vines within said vineyards. With juicy, soft blackcurrant fruit, this is drinkability incarnate. £27.50 down from £30.50.

Finally, the majestic 2023 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir (6). Both AHR and winemaker Emul Ross reckon this is the best red that Emul has made. Where 2022 was restrained but muscular, this is sensuous and elegant, showing what beauty there is in young Pinot. With its signature purity, spice and touch of savouriness, it will age magnificently, too. And, again, with Burgundy prices going bonkers, this is an utter must for lovers of top-notch sophisticated Pinot. £44.

All wines are available in unmixed boxes of six bottles, with delivery free for two boxes or more. Single boxes will incur a delivery charge of £15 per address.

Order online, or download an order form.

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