Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman may always have had Paris in Casablanca, but further down South, here in the Cape Winelands, it is Cabernet Sauvignon that is truly timeless.
All wine experiences being personal, Cabernet Sauvignon is the one red wine I always turn to. If it is a Stellenbosch Cabernet – and a genuine one, not a WO Coastal or Western Cape knock-off – the wine also offers me that clear moment of slightly inebriated insight in which to enthuse about this being the red grape South Africa has from which to make wines worthy of the loftiest international applause and appreciation.
It took a third evening of relentlessly howling Cape Town wind to make me reach for the special remedies kept away from prying eyes in a hidden wine fridge. A bottle of Rust en Vrede Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, beautifully labelled and packaged from one of the country’s true blue-blood Estates. On the Helderberg.
And yes, the lover of South African Cabernet has two choices to make when deciding upon a bottle: Helderberg or Simonsberg? The two great appellations, diverse in soils and exposure to elements but brothers in their ability to produce expressive, bold and knee-tremblingly beautiful wines of verve, style and gusto.
Helderberg wines have, mostly, a sumptuousness about them. And having had my contact lenses end eyelashes blown out and off by the south-easter as well as all those ions causing a slight irritability and jitteriness on the mood, a Helderberg Cabernet Sauvignon would surely soften the edges with its ripe fullness.
The Rust en Vrede is a beautiful wine. Yes, it has a velvet, bosomy softness about it. Yet in the background there is the hefty hit of meaty power to make this a truly nourishing wine. I love the edges of mulberry and kumquat, the lick of beef jus and the brush of herb – not green, astringent herb, but sunny, warm Provence stuff.
This Cabernet Sauvignon is also a beautiful wine to swallow, the harnessed flavours giving it a delicious coolness and elegance. Finishing a bottle is not a problem, nor an achievement, but well an honour to a fine, world-class wine.
If you do Helderberg, you have to do Simonsberg, is the warring call of the Cabernet Sauvignon- lover. So the following day I happened to come across a bottle of Muratie Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. Muratie is as deeply set in the Simonsberg as a ruby in a Queen’s jump-suit, one of my favourite farms to visit, truly.
The wine was decanted, and even my hay-fever stricken Dachshund was awoken by the aromas as the wine sloshed into the crystal glass vessel, filling the house with the smells of Simonsberg. Crushed late summer red fruit lying on freshly mowed lawn. Dry pine-needles covering a nest of ripe porcini mushroom.
There is more assertiveness in Simonsberg Cabernet. A steeliness. Headier whiffs of fynbos. You can taste the broken rocks.
The taste, too, rocks your mojo. A feral beauty. Dollops of blackcurrant. Leather. An initial austerity opening up to a symphony of pure, balanced red wine. No joint out of kilter.
And, of course, the other really cool thing about Cabernet Sauvignon is that being a Capetonian, greatness – which is what wines like these offer – are on my doorstep. And can be played again and again…. and again. So here’s looking at you, Kid.