Ideally, I think, every winemaker should be striving to produce the very best wine possible from the grapes available to him (or her) and the terroir in which they are produced.
If this were indeed the case, every wine farm and every wine maker would have just one wine to offer. All his effort and all his knowledge would be concentrated into that one, superb wine. It would be unique to that cellar.
Unfortunately life isn’t like that. We have to earn a living and follow what the customers demand, whether we agree with their demands or not.
Which is why almost every Cape cellar offers a Sauvignon Blanc, and a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay, even though that farm may not be ideally suited to the production of that particular grape.
And a “Bordeaux Blend.” Oh dear!
Every winemaker seems to feel obliged to produce a red blend based on Cabernet and Merlot like the famous wines of Bordeaux.
I have often said the very idea of making a “Bordeaux Blend” is a loser from the start. The best you can ever achieve is to make something that’s close in style to the wines of Bordeaux.
Always a second-best, or an almost-as-good.
I was fortunate enough to be a member of a tasting panel that assessed 20 “non-Bordeaux blends” recently.
In other words, they were wines blended from any red varietals the winemakers felt would add the most to the end result.
Shiraz, Pinotage, Cabernet, Cinsaut, Mourvedre, Malbec and Ruby Cabernet all featured in the line-up.
The results were spectacular.
Freed of the restraints of trying to copy the style of Bordeaux, our winemakers had created individual, very drinkable wines, full of rich fruit character, beautifully balanced tannins, well handled oak and silky texture.
Wines like Flagstone’s Longitude (Shiraz, Cabernet, Malbec), Beyerskloof’s Synergy (Pinotage, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon) and Schalkenbosch Edenhof Bin 409 (Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre, Voignier and Cinsaut) charmed all the panel members.
Some very affordable wines like Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap (Shiraz, Mourvedre and Viognier) showed delightful, easy-drinking elegance — perfect for our relaxed South African lifestyle.
Surely these are the sort of wines our cellarmasters should be striving to achieve.
Each is unique, each is original, truly South African and none tries to mimic the ideas of some self-opinionated winemaker far away in an ancient French chateau.
Isn’t it time we became “Proudly South African” rather than “Trying Hard to be French”?
Photo: Cape Winelands, courtesy of TravelBlog