Heading off to Arcachon outside Bordeaux later this month, part of my visit will entail presenting a tasting of South African wines to some local journalists, rugby players and vignerons. As the first American on French soil?+¦-+?+¡during D-Day said: ?+¦?+º?+¦There ain’t no free lunch.?+¦?+º?+æ
The most intimidating part, however, is making a selection of only six wines as there will be 32 persons present and in Bordeaux, I am told, 16 tasting pours are the maximum you are allowed to squeeze from one bottle.
Fortunately I was forced to do some cellar-cleaning recently, turning up one or two humdingers which will blow their little French socks off. The selection, thus:
- ?+¦-+?+¦++?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡ Kanonkop Paul Sauer 1998
Still getting bigger. Still getting better. Still taking-on more power. I fell in love with this wine when I tasted it three years after vintage and today it is better than ever. Massive aroma of pure Bordeaux, particularly St Est?+¦-ú??phe and quite reminiscent of a Calon S+¬gur from a fine vintage such as 1982 or 2000. Sniffing this number will clean-out some French sinuses as it is a bomb of cedar, dark fruit, pencil shavings and smoked charcuterie. The inky colour will make Cyril Ramaphosa appear about as white as he wants to be. The texture is silky and viscous. The flavours run from front-lip town to mid-gullet, playing classic chimes of blackcurrant, cigar, charred pimento and vintage balsamic.?+¦-+?+¡
- ?+¦-+?+¦++?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡ Neil Ellis Grenache 2008
We are a nation of sun-lovers, blessed with long warm summers and enough sunshine to make the Beach Boys consider reuniting again. Our sun gives warm-climate grapes, such as Grenache, so much more than it contributes to those numbers down in the Southern Rh?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ne and on Spanish spreads like Priorat.
Here in the South, the Grenache ripens with open spice and cut fruit, splashing refreshing flavours all over the place while maintaining a brooding spiciness.
This wine is superbly, beautifully crafted. Sinewy. Lean. Like a tuning fork tapping on the thigh of a Moldavian ballet dancer. But offering lots and lots of refined fruit-driven enjoyment, not just a once-off happy ending.
- ?+¦-+?+¦++?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡ Vriesenhof Pinotage 2007
Our national grape will, of course, be there. In fact, it has been requested by Monsieur. Vriesenhof’s Pinotage grows on a P+¬trus-like koppie, smack bang in the nose of the air drifting in off False Bay. The grape bunches here are what every German man dreams of: tight and black. The wine truly brings a Burgundian note to the fore, an example of what Pinotage is capable of in the hands of a stylist, such as Jan Boland Coetzee.
It still has a few years to go, but currently the wine smells like a fruit-stall that was left unattended in autumnal rain. Undertones of forest floor and truffle are lifted by crisp cherry and dried fig. Massive, lingering length.
- ?+¦-+?+¦++?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡ Crystallum Cuv+¬e Cinema Pinot Noir 2008
Peter-Allan Finlayson dropped in on the scene with this gorgeous wine which is a milestone in the South African Pinot Noir industry. Distinctly Pinot Noir with notes of Nuits-St George, the wine murmurs a distinctly South African narrative.
All the firm, classic tannins are there, with a whiff of all-spice and sun-dried straw it takes most Burgundies a decade to reach. But the red fruit juiciness and visceral aura of sun-baked veld makes it out of Burgundy’s and any other world.
- ?+¦-+?+¦++?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡ De Wetshof Bateleur Chardonnay 2009
This legendary Chardonnay is produced from vineyard material harvested from the Clos des Mouches vineyard outside Beaune and is one of the finest examples of the New World’s ability to hang a blue-blooded Chardonnay pedigree. Limestone-rich soils give the wine a perfect balance between life-affirming acidity and pH’s preservation powers. Nuts and white flowers lie scattered like water lilies on a pond of honeyed citrus purity.
- ?+¦-+?+¦++?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡?+¦-+?+¡ La Motte Sauvignon Blanc 2010
This has always been a staple during long boozy lunches at Mario’s Restaurant in Green Point. But with the rejuvenation of La Motte, this Sauvignon Blanc has hit a new level. Bracing and mineral, there is a delectable fruit core splashing about in a wine that is delicious, refreshing and lingering due to finesse and skilled wine-making. Once again, an example that brand South Africa is centred on true expression of varietal expression, purity of fruit and scientifically correct wine-making methods.
Stuff D-Day. Die Boere is op pad.