ANYONE wondering what David Finlayson has been up to since leaving Glen Carlou last year will have to look past the cellar and the vineyards. It would appear that Finlayson has joined Bruce Jack and Charles Back in the sparsely populated territory inhabited by very good winemakers who also happen to be worth their weight in dried husks as more than competent marketers.
David’s skill as winemaker is well-known. He ensured Glen Carlou stayed on the map as one of the Great SA Estates after dad Walter sold the joint to Donald Hess, producing some of the country’s finest Chardonnays as well as not-too-shabby dollops of Shiraz. An easy-going approach somewhat belies David’s keen knowledge of local and international wines, attention to detail in the winemaking process and an admirable willingness to get his hands dirty in the cellar and put in long hours of gut-busting work.
And in the process ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ over a few short years – the Kid has built-up a few brands out of nowhere, brands that would have taken a corporation teams of overpaid consultants to develop.
The base for these brands is Edgebaston, the 22ha spread David owns outside Stellenbosch. Next to L’Avenir, opposite Morgenhof. ,He was moonlighting as Edgebaston winemaker while at Glen Carlou, and his first crack at the brand big time came with the Edgebaston GS Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. The wine honours one of South Africa’s greatest wines, namely the Cabernets made by George Spies, former production head at Stellenbosch Farmers Winery under the label “GS”.
When the Wine Spectator went ballistic over a GS 1968 (the only other vintage was a 1966), David contacted the Spies family and was given their blessing to honour the patriarch with a modern version of the South African classic. In the process the Edgebaston version has become a legend in its own right. (Those who believe in Platter ratings would have noted 5 stars for the 2005.)
Next up was a wine whose label I initially scoffed at. The Pepper Pot. With a rather dodgy sketch of a three-legged African pot. Serious?
The wine, no. A seductive smoky, moreish blend of Tannat and Shiraz and Mourv?+¦???+¦?+¦-+?+¦+ëdre. Rhone in style, but pure, clean accessibility. Delicious. Not up its arse. Accessible. And consumers have found the name and label as tasty, with feverish local and international sales surprising many, including David himself.
The latest from the Edgebaston stable is The Berry Box. And the smart money says this bottle is going to become about as trendy to have on a Sandton or Banty Bay dining table as an iPhone and a set of platinum worry beads.
The wine is a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. And the label and the name says it all.
Yes, the bloody thing does taste of berries, so none are going to be used to describe it. But it is a really lovely wine: surprisingly elegant with a dramatic perfume, the kind you’d expect to smell on a Tahitian bridesmaid.
None of this The Jam Jar in-your-face sweet sluttishness. The Berry Box is a real wine, but made with care and attention to detail, shining with radiant grape flavours. An absolute delight to drink.
At around R60 a bottle it is going to fly off the shelves as was the case with The Pepper Pot, presenting David with his next challenge, namely how to up his volumes.
But like any other of his other challenges, mince-meat will be made of this one, and washed down with a glass of Berry Box.