It’s a rare privilege to be able to taste 40 consecutive vintages of the same wine.
In fact, I know of only one farm in the Cape where this would be possible.
John Faure, sixth-generation owner-winemaker at Vergenoegd, was able to present a bottle of every vintage of the estate’s Cabernet Sauvignon from 1972 to 2012.
Is there another other cellar that can match that?
There’s the added magic that every one of those wines was made by a Faure – either John or his father, Jac.
The wonderful thing was that those old wines from the ’70s were still perfectly drinkable and, indeed, delicious.
The vintages in the 1970s, John pointed out, were made very much to a standard formula. The recipe laid down exactly how much acid and sulphur was to be added and how long the juice was to be left on the skins. Not much adjustment was made for variations in season or climatic changes.
Well, formulaic or not, they turned out to be great wines.
I particularly like the ’75 and ’77 vintages, both of which still had big, bold fruit flavours and elegance – amazing for wines of that age.
The 1980s, I think, were the years of venturing into the world of new oak barrels and slightly more innovation in the cellar. Here the vintages seemed to vary more than they did in the previous decade, although the trademark salty beckground note that marks most the Vergelegen’s wine, is very evident. Nobody should be surprised at this. The vineyards are a mere three kilometers from the sea and the south-east wind sweeps across the vines straight from False Bay.
I have never scored a wine 20 points out of 20, simply because I worry about what I’d do if a better one came along, but when I tasted the 1988 Vergenoegd Cabernet Reserve, I gave it an unreserved 19 points without much hesitation. What a wine! It has huge ripe berry flavours, perfect acid balance, spiciness and that signature salty-licorice bass note. Sublime!
I hit the 19 score again with the 1995 vintage, which is every bit as good and may even surpass the ’88 Reserve.
Vergenoegd’s wines are not released early. It’s one of the very few cellars where they mature their wines until they’re considered properly ready for drinking.
You can’t buy many of their wines younger than the 2006 vintage.
I’m sure that ’95 has a way to go. Who knows, I may break my 19-score barrier when I taste it again.