Posted on 28 June 2012 by davidbiggs
I find it interesting that our modern wines are, generally speaking, far higher in alcohol than the wines of 50 years ago.
I was privileged to taste a line-up of wines dating back more than 30 years and many of those older ones had lasted amazingly well, in spite of having an alcohol content of 10% or, in some cases, only 9%.
Today we consider a 14% alcohol content nothing unusual, and many of our table wines go as high as 15%.
This is partly because winemakers now allow their grapes to reach their full potential ripeness before harvesting them. And the riper the berries are the more sugar they contain, and that translates into a higher alcohol content. (Not to mention a fuller, richer flavour.)
At the same time some of our muscadel and jerepigo producers are lowering the alcohol levels in their delicious sweet wines.
Badsberg’s 2011 Red Muscadel, for example, has an alcohol level of 15.5%.
They can do this because the sugar in those grape is not allowed to ferment dry. The alcohol is added to sweet juice to create the wines. All they need do is add a little less.
This is very good news for those of us who appreciate these wonderful sweet treasures.
I no longer feel obliged to pour a teensy little glass of Muscadel for myself when I settle down to watch 7de Laan.
I can pour a great big glass full and not feel at all guilty. “Look, it’s no more alcoholic than Klein Constantia’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, which comes in at 15% and nobody suggests pouring that into a sherry glass.”
So let’s stop pretending we don’t enjoy our glasses of bottled sunshine. They’re South Africa’s best kept wine secret. Make them your standard winter drink. You’ll be warmer and happier for the change.
Posted on 21 June 2012 by davidbiggs
The human brain is an amazingly persuasive organ. Feed it the right information and it will send out all kind of confusing messages.
This is what modern marketing is all about. Nobody advertises wine as being fermented grape juice that tastes rather pleasant and makes you a little light-headed. We all want to see wine as part of a lifestyle, so we advertise it as “Three centuries of gracious Cape living,” or “relaxed outdoor fun in good company.”
And once our brains tell us we’re about to taste a sip of gracious living our palates get themselves lined up for something special.
And we do taste gracious living.
When we see a cheeky label with a smiling giraffe on it, we immediately think “fun and frivolity” and suddenly we’re tasting in carefree party mode.
And – sure enough — it is fun and frivolous.
I wonder how a regal Chateau Mouton Rothschild would fare at a tasting if it were served in a clear PET screw-cap bottle.
Would you approach it with the necessary reverence, or take a slug and say: ‘”Hey, nice plonk!”
This is partly why blind tastings can be so misleading. You don’t know what to expect. There’s just a plain wine-glass in front of you. Do you approach it with reverence or just cheerful anticipation?
If you’re expecting three centuries of gracious lifestyle you may be disappointed by the wine. If you’re expecting something cheap and cheerful you may find a big, serious wine rather tannic and gloomy.
Marketers know this and offer us the clues we need to set our brains on the right track.
The bottle itself makes quite a difference. Bottles vary enormously in style and character.
I recently weighed two empty bottles out of interest.
The first had held Snow Mountain 2009 Syrah (from Nabygelegen Private Cellar) and weighed little more than half the Haskell bottle’s weight, at 600gm.
Both wines, I hasten to say, were delightful. I would have been proud to serve either to wine-loving guests.
But I had, subconsciously, approached each wine with a different expectation.
I expected the Haskell to be great. It was.
I was delighted and surprised to find the Snow Mountain great, which it undoubtedly was.
The planet-saving wineries might brag about their eco-friendly, ultra-light, energy-conserving bottles, but will the consumers take them seriously?
Posted on 13 June 2012 by davidbiggs
There’s nothing like a glass of rich port wine to warm the cockles on a chilly winter’s evening. And whether we’re allowed to call them “port” or not, the fact is that our South African port-style wines are as good as – and in some cases, better than – anything the Portuguese can offer.
This was the opinion of international wine judge, Dave Hughes, who headed the panel of judges (all masters of wine) that selected the Cape’s Top 10 ports.
For the first time this year the annual Cappa Port and Wine Challenge included a category for table wines made from Portuguese grape varieties like Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barocca and Souzao. To qualify for this category the wines had to contain at least 30% of a Portuguese variety. This class attracted a total of 21 entries.
As can be expected, the wines of Calitzdorp featured large on the list of winners.
Overall winner in the port section, with the title of “Best in Show,” was KWV’s Cape Tawny, while De Krans took the honours in the Cape Vintage Reserve category.
The Cape Vintage category attracted the most entries, and here gold medals went to De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2008, Calitzdorp Cape Vintage 2009, Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve 2010, Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve 2007, Bergsig 2001 and the Axe Hill Cape Vintage 2009.
In the Cape Ruby class top honours went to Boplaas Ruby non-vintage.
The Museum Class is always an interesting one, especially in a category like port, where ageing is accepted as an almost essntial part of the charm. This category is open to wines that are older than 10 years. Honours here were shared between the De Krans Cape Vintage 2002 and the Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve 2001.
Top scorers in the table wine section were Boplaas Tinta Chocolat 2011 (made from Tinta Barocca), Overgaauw Touriga Nacional/ Cabernet blend 2010, Boplaas Tinta Barocca 2009, De Krans Tinta Mocha 2011, Vergenoegd Runner Duck Red 2009, Allesverloren Touriga Nacional 2009, Axe Hill Mochado 2011, Calitzdorp Touriga Nacional 2010 and Woolworths Boplaas Portuguese Connection 2011.
In line with the new naming regulations, the organization, formerly the South African Port Producers’ Association, SAPPA, is now calling itself the Cape Port Producers’ Association, CAPPA , which sounds to me rather like a Mafia connection, (Cappa Nostra?) but I am sure their intentions are benign.
I suspect I shall be drinking a significant number of their products in the chilly months ahead.
It’s a great way to cut down on electricity costs.
Posted on 07 June 2012 by davidbiggs
“Just two spoons for me, thanks. No milk.”
We wine lovers can be a strange lot. We often say we’re looking for something new – something different. Then when something really new and different comes along we complain that’s it’s “not really in the classical Bordeaux style,” or “doesn’t have that delicious Chablis character.”
We don’t actually seem to know what we want.
The purists mutter darkly about the new style of “coffee character” Pinotage wines, saying they expect to taste grapes, not coffee, when they drink a wine.
There’s actually no coffee added to the wines. The flavour comes from the use of toasted oak staves and selected strains of yeast, both perfectly legitimate in winemaking. It’s a style that was pioneered by Bertus Fourie during his time at Diemersfontein, where they still produce their espresso-style Pinotage, that sells very well.
The interesting thing is that, when the wines are tasted blind in a line-up of Pinotages, they almost always score well. Maybe coffee and grape are two flavours that harmonize naturally.
The notes on the back label of the KWV’s blatantly coffee-style Pinotage, Café Culture, say the Pinotage grapes have been “persuaded to show an often hidden mocha flavour. Nothing is added and nothing is taken away.”
In other words, they say the coffee character was there all the time. All they had to do was persuade it to emerge.
So let’s try to be open-minded about our wines. Maybe there are all kinds of hidden flavours out there, just waiting to be unveiled. Maybe there’s biltong flavour lurking deep under the surface of Cabernet Sauvignon’s blackberries. (That could be a winner with Karoo drinklers!) Who knows what mysteries may lurk under the grassiness of Sauvignon Blanc? Apple crumble?
The wine industry’s going through a rough time right now, (which industry isn’t?) and if coffee-character Pinotages introduce new fans to the market, I reckon that’s just great.