Posted on 30 August 2012 by davidbiggs
I love a wine label that tells a story because every wine has a story to tell. It’s not a factory-made product like beer or fizzy cola. Wine is the product of one particular set of vines, one particular season and the imagination of one particular winemaker.
When this story is reflected on the label I am always happy to spend time reading it.
I love the story of the changing season that surround Waterkloof’s Circle of Life wines, for example, and I enjoy finding hidden secrets on Adi Badenhorst’s AA Badenhorst Family wines. (Why’s that little jackal sneaking off to one side?)
I have enjoyed reading the new label they’ve put on Zonnebloem’s flagship red blend, the 2010 Laureat. It’s been made from the classic Bordeaux grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, picked from various vineyards in the Stellenbosch region and matured for at least 14 months in a selection of French, Hungarian and American oak barrels. All under the watchful eye of winemaker Bonny van Niekerk.
This is a big, bold wine packed with dark fruit flavours underpinned by some very elegant oak notes, some dark chocolate hints and even a whiff of rich cigar tobacco. It would be a pity to glug it down while watching rugby on TV. Laureat deserves our full attention.
It’s drinking very well already, even though it’s only two years old, but I believe it will reward a few more years of maturation. It could be wonderful in 10 years, if you have the patience. I don’t.
When you have the right occasion, serve it with a big, hearty meat dish – venison or an ox-tail casserole would match it well.
Back to the label: the designers have combined elements of the family crests of the Malherbe and De villiers families, both involved in the history of Zonnebloem. The first Malherbe, Petrus, gave the name Zonnebloem to his farm back in the late 1600s. The lion was part of his family crest.
Later the farm was owned by the De Villiers family, whose lamb and upraised scimitar can be seen on the label, together with their family motto: “La Main La L’Oeuvre”, which I am told means “the hand that works”.
Tucked away on the edges of the design you can also see the ornate gable of the original Zonnebloem farmhouse, as well as a very fancy trophy won by the wine. There have been many of them down the years.
Posted on 26 August 2012 by davidbiggs
I don’t usually pay very much attention to the annual SA Young Wine Show because it seems to be of more importance to the wine industry than it is to ordinary wine drinkers. We don’t often get to taste the winners because they often end up in blends and, in any case, they’re very different wines by the time they reach the market. I was surprised to learn this year that the show’s top trophy, the General Smuts Trophy, had been awarded to a Ruby Cabernet – not usually regarded as a very serious grape variety. The trophy was won by a relatively new wine company, uniWines Vineyards, and made by their cellar master Nicolaas Rust. uniWines was established some four years ago when Groot Eiland Cellar, Daschbosch and Nuwehoop – all from the Breedekloof area – combined forces. Groot Eiland won the General Smuts trophy with a Ruby Cabernet/Merlot blend in 2006. Spier also emerged victorious, the Pietman Hugo trophy for the highest marks for the best five wines entered. Spier’s chief wine maker Frans Smit and his team competed with a Chenin Blanc (wooded), Chardonnay (wooded) and their Merlot (wooded). Vergelegen and Badsberg Wine Cellar tied with two SA Champions each. While the SA Champion White Blend went to cellar master Willie Burger and his team from Badsberg for their Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay, Vergelegen won the SA Champion Red Blend with their Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot blend. Badsberg furthermore claimed the SA Champion Dessert Wine title for the second consecutive year with a Red Jerepigo, while the SA Champion Cabernet Sauvignon went to Andre van Rensburg and his team at Vergelegen.
Posted on 10 August 2012 by davidbiggs
A question I have been asked is “Why do we need so many wine competitions? Surely just one would be enough.”
And I agree it can be confusing trying to keep up with all the awards and scores that come pouring out of the wine industry.
There’s Veritas and Michelangelo and Old Mutual Trophy Show and the Terroir Awards and the Young Wine Show and many more.
Every time a wine receives an award the PR people send out long and glowing press releases about it.
After a big competition like Veritas I am absolutely swamped with ecstatic stories.
Yes, indeed, why so many?
The fact is that wine tasting is a very subjective matter. I may love a wine and you may equally hate it. I enjoy a certain style while you probably want something quite different.
This is good, because if we all liked the same thing the winemakers would work to a set formula and produce standard flavours, like the breweries do. We’d be reduced to “Dry White,” “Dry Red,” “Semi-sweet white” and so on.
Wine competition organisers assemble judging panels made up of the people they believe have the “best” palates. Each panel is different and no two panels will produce exactly the same results. Very often a wine that wins gold in one competition will scrape home with a bronze medal at another.
So what’s the point of it all, you may ask.
The point is there are more than 6500 individual wines produced in South Africa every year. Not even the most enthusiastic wine lover could try them all.
Although their tastes may differ, panel members are experienced wine tasters and can all distinguish between a good wine and an indifferent one.
The result is that all the wines that receive gold awards and trophies can be regarded as being of high quality. Silver awards are also an indication of excellence.
So when you’re gazing in awe at the rows and rows of bottles on your wine shop shelves, trying to decide what to buy for supper, the gold and silver stickers can act as a guide. They do, at least, point out those wines some experts have found to be above average.
You don’t have to agree with the awards, but they all help you to make a decision.
The most important decision, of course, is the one you make for yourself.
If you find a wine you enjoy, even if it has not even rated a bronze medal, then go for it. There’s no reason you should follow some snooty wine snob’s idea of what’s good.
Posted on 04 August 2012 by davidbiggs
Tradition has it among wine enthusiasts that you stand up in homage when you drink any wine older than yourself.
This is not something that happens too often for me, alas, but I recently stood in homage – and awe – when I tasted a 1926 KWV Private collection Reserve Port.
This wonderful amber liquid is packed with the warm, plum-pudding flavours of brandy-soaked raisins. Time has added to its elegance and roundness. What a treat!
The occasion was a preview tasting of some of the wines that will go on sale at this year’s Nederburg Auction, which takes place at Nederburg on September 28 and 29.
There are just six bottle of the rare 1926 port on offer, and they have a reserve piece of R3000 each.
I have no doubt at all that the bids will go considerably higher than that.
For those with pockets not quite as deep, there’s a delightful Allesverloren 1999 Port at a reserve price of R990 for a six-bottle case. It’s a soft and nutty after-dinner drink with flavours of cedar, tobacco and raisins.
Another of the wines that drew my attention was the 2007 Perdeberg Rex Equus Cabernet Sauvignon, offered at a reserve price of R1000 for a six-bottle case. This is a big, bold wine, loaded with spicy dark plum flavours, cinnamon and cloves, with a suggestion of oak vanilla that doesn’t dominate the flavour spectrum.
A wine for a special occasion.
Unusually for me, the stars of this year’s line-up shone brightest among the white wines, with some great Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blanc on offer.
I loved the Strandveld Adamaster 2008, named after the old god of winds and storms. This is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon with a smooth, creamy biscuity character and a long, lingering aftertaste – a perfect food accompaniment.
An unusual wine on offer is Rustenberg’s 2008 Stellenbosch Rousanne. It’s a very charming, fresh wine with complex flavours of peach and apricot. There are not many Cape wines made from this grape variety and this one carried a reserve price of R840 for a six-bottle case. If you want something rather rare and unsual with which to impress your dinner guests, this is certainly one to consider.
Then, of course there were the noble late harvest wines – always the stars of the Nederburg Auction.
Nederburg’s Private Bin S316 Weisser Riesling Noble Late Harvest and the cellar’s iconic 2001 Eminence were both made from grapes grown on Plaisir de Merle near Paarl, while their Semillon Noble Late Harvest 2000 is from grapes harvested at Altydgedacht in Durbanville.
Top of my list, however is the 2007 Nederburg Edelkeur, a charmer that offers lovely naartjie, tangerine and apricot flavours, all woven together to create the perfect end to a great dinner.
I believe there will be some high prices paid this year, in spite of the global economic “down-turn”.
The list is enough to lift the heart of even the most depressed economist.