The Joys of Getting Old

Sendiment is not for sissies.....

WineGoggle is delighted to welcome the intrepid commentator Kwispedoor to the fold. And what’s more, he’s writing on one of the Goggle’s favourite topics: Sweet, old sticky stuff – and we ain’t talking Joan Collins.

Generally, nobody wants to pick a Muscadel tasting theme at our little wine club, The Noble Rotters. Too much sugar and too many simple, raisiny wines for one night: if you’re going to lose teeth and gain weight during a particular flight of wines, you want them to be worth it.

However, given enough proper maturation, these wines integrate nicely and gain a nutty, caramelly complexity, making them vastly more drinkable and interesting. So we tweaked the theme to “Non-Port Fortifieds From the Previous Millennium” and nine eager Rotters sat down to a truly memorable blind tasting.

As it turned out, only two of the twelve wines were not Muscadels. One was a non-vintage Blandy’s Madeira Rich Malmsey, aged for ten years in wood. With all the information at our disposal, we’ve determined its actual age at exactly 35 years, give or take a decade. The other was a Rooiberg Red Jerepigo 1996, famously made from Pinotage and generously donated by their CEO Johan du Preez, along with the other two Rooibergs on the tasting. The two non-Muscadels were more or less spotted by all the tasters although, perhaps surprisingly, nobody guessed that the Red Jerepigo was made from Pinotage.

We tasted in random order, which got us off to a rollicking start with a sumptuous, complex, soft, but balanced Rooiberg Wit Muskadel Vintage Reserve 1994, placed second overall. From then on we worked our way through an orgy of muscat, fig, citrus peel, boiled sweets, pear, raisin, apricot, herbs, watermelon and even some dainty flowery aromas, with wood and Father Time adding mint, toffee, nuts, molasses, chocolate, honey, spices, smoke and tea to the heady mix. Here and there we found a slight lack of complexity or a wine that was just a little bit too sticky, but generally they really wowed us.

The Madeira was my second favourite wine, but only managed to achieve eighth place overall. I guess in context it might have been a bit unusual for some tasters, but I loved it! Its advanced age was obvious looking at the colour and I was excited to see ample chunks of sediment. The unique and complex nose revealed forthcoming banana, boiled sweets, pear, musk and nutty wood. The palate seemed drier than all the other wines with intriguing sherry nuances and had, to me, great mouthfeel, near-perfect balance and a lingering aftertaste. It was also the most versatile wine, paired with all the food we had afterwards.

My favourite wine was also the overall winner with a boisterous average score of just over 18, putting it in the top three Noble Rotters wines of the last decade: KWV Late Bottled Vintage Bin B14 Muscadel Superior 1930. KWV’s Lampies Lambrechts and Thys Loubser are our heroes for their sterling efforts in getting the wine donated to the club for this tasting.

It seems that details of this (pre-computerised era) wine will remain somewhat of a mystery, as various people at KWV had scant luck in unearthing any information about it from dusty and dungeoned files. Combining estimations from Sakkie Bester and Lampies it seems that, in all likelihood, it’s a white Muscadel made from Paarl/Wellington grapes that spent around 45 years in wood. Yes, that’s four and a half decades! And I thought the 1974 Charles et Charles ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ see the list below ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ at 16 years in casks was wood-matured for a long time! One recent fact about the 1930 is that the single bottle of this wine that was up for auction at the 2010 Nederburg Auction, went for R5800.

Tingles tangoed up my spine as I looked at the toffee coloured wine with its green-tinged yellow rim and abundant sediment ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ something special was in store for us! I found the wine to be one of those that almost defies description, because it is such a perfectly integrated whole with a singular, unique character.

In awe, I scored it 18.5, but my notes were reduced to simply: “Gorgeously old! Forthcoming toffee, sweet fruits, still fresh acid. Cracking aftertaste. Magical!” I was rendered powerless to dissect the wine’s attributes and merely basked in its heavenly joy. My fellow tasters were more prolific, gushing on about ginger, coffee, honey, dark chocolates, rooibos, liquorice, wood shavings and so forth ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ not spitting a drop in the process. It was a humbling honour; drinking wine made from grapes harvested almost a decade before World War II began?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-+?-+ It’s not generally available at all, but the KWV Red Muscadel 1953 is available at the KWV Wine Emporium at R500 per bottle.

If one takes the wines out of the context of this blind tasting, even the ones at the bottom of the pile would mop the floor with most young Muscadels. Just this month, the unctuous Nuy Rooi Muskadel 1988 (ninth at our tasting) received a well-deserved double gold medal at Veritas 2010. At the prices they go for, our country’s best Muscadels are a “buy and keep” no-brainer.

The wines we tasted and their average scores are listed below:,

Score Wine
18.0 1930 KWV Late Bottled Vintage Bin B14 Muscadel Superior
17.7 1994 Rooiberg Wit Muskadel Vintage Reserve
17.3 1992 Monis Vintage Muscadel
16.3 1975 Boplaas Vintner’s Selection Red Muscadel
16.2 1974 Charles et Charles Superior Premium Muscadel
16.2 1975 KWV Muscadel Jerepigo Liqueur Wine
16.0 1968 KWV Muscadel Jerepigo Liqueur Wine
15.8 N/V Blandy’s Madeira Rich Malmsey
15.8 1988 Nuy Muskadel Volsoet Rooi
15.3 1996 Rooiberg Red Jerepigo
15.0 1974 Riverview Red Muscadel
14.8 1990 Rooiberg Muskadel Jerepiko

8 thoughts on “The Joys of Getting Old

  1. Sonia Cabano introduced me to this blog, to my eternal gratitude.
    My afternoon is now out of kilter because of the time I’ve spent here.
    Great blog, but I can’t find the email subscription link …

  2. As far as I know, there’s only one ‘The Noble Rotters’ club. We have our origins in the middle nineties, when we were students at Tuks (well, to be 100% accurate, some of us – meaning mGò¼+¦Gö£GòóGö¼+¦Gò¼+¦Gö£GòóGö£GûÆi – were merely registered at the university and didn’t study anything at all, except vitis vinivera).
    We don’t have an official base and taste all over Gauteng, though mostly in Pretoria.

  3. Dear Noble Rotters

    I have read about this tasting with great interest. You mention the Charles et Charles 1974 Superior Premium Muscadel, but I could not work out if you had included tasting notes. If you have tasting notes I would dearly like to see them.
    There are 10 bottles of this wine in the sale of a private cellar which is taking place on Saturday 26 March, and I would appreciate your opinion on the state of the wine.

    1. Hi Kelly
      As it is not sold on the open market, the jury is out on this one. I would say R2 500 for a 750ml. Do you have one?

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