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.
One of the signs that the world is becoming a place for pussies is the downward spiral in global Port consumption. The alcoholic power of this magnificent wine style, as well as its delectable and uncompromising sweetness, has fallen out of favour in a wine world obsessed with purporting to drink stuff of restrained elegance and linearity. A hefty 18% per volume sugar-induced kick appears too much to handle for sensitive modern souls, and the inky blackness might just stain those freshly capped teeth.
We were all tuxed-up, man. For this was Veritas, South African’s premier part of the wine events schedule. So a tuxedo was donned for?+¦-+?+¡the most?+¦-+?+¡important show of the year.
Yes we can. Viognier, South African that is, is deliciously drinkable. But then again, whoever said it wasn’t?
Like Merlot, Viognier has been victim of the shallow throwaway line: “We can’t make that in South Africa.” Said thrower then goes on to pontificate about “excessive greenness”, a perceived hiccup in Merlot’s ripening procedure under South African conditions. Really? So how, pray, is the country making such sterling Bordeaux-style blends if the Merlot is deemed to be so tart?
The spate of Cold Fronts lashing the Western Cape over the past few weeks were only the precursor to the real storm set to take place this Friday when wineries Muratie Estate and DuToitskloof Winery square off in the first Boland Waterblommetjie Championship Cook-off. The ubiquitous waterblommetjie, a classic local ingredient used in preparing a traditional hearty stew, takes centre stage when a panel of esteemed judges line-up to decide who is the Boland’s Waterblommetjie Champion.
Stellenbosch is, and always will be, the greatest red wine producing region in South Africa. Why? Same reason that Hawaii has great pipeline, Germans make good cars and Chelsea will win the Champions League: because God intended it that way.
Chatting to a Pinot Noir maker a while back, the dude flicked the hair from his eyes and said that Jan Boland Coetzee was probably the best Pinot exponent in South Africa. “But unlucky for him, he’s farming in the wrong region.”
LIKE,a hard man, a good Shiraz is not all that easy to find. I think the sentiments expressed in this article by Eric Asimov apply to South African wine lovers as much as they do to the Yanks.
But taste is in the mouth of the beholder, so I am not against those consumers who like their Shiraz wines full of sweet fruit, chunks of tooth-rattling wood and enough alcohol to drop a rhino at ten yards. When it comes to Shiraz, I prefer less to more. Like other Rh?+¦???+¦?+¦????ne varieties, the grape has enough inherent power and concentration of flavour of its own to deliver an elegant drop of varietal character without having to be dollied-up.
Locally I have always liked the austerity of the Muratie Shiraz with its classic earthy and leathery flavours. The Jordan 2003 is still one of my favourites ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ lean and un-showy, but with a very sexy perfume character.
One of the new greats is, to my mind, the Aeon from the much-trumped Haskell Vineyards in Stellenbosch’s Helderberg region. Haskell gives good Shiraz. It has done so with the Pillars, which caused a simultaneous wet-dream among the three blokes involved with a navel-gazing competition called the Tri Nations where wines from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa are pitted together.
In any event, with Rianie Strydom at the helm, Haskell has proven it is not just a pretty face with just about the right amount of money to burn that is required for those wishing to embark on a vinous adventure in Stellenbosch. Besides the Shiraz there is some cute Chardonnay and vibey Sauvignon Blanc, with an agreeable Bordeaux blend on the way.
As far as the Aeon 2007 is concerned, everything about it says “Monster”. The bottle is heavy enough to fog-up the windows of the World Wildlife Fund’s South African headquarters which are located just down the road from Haskell. Mucho carbon penalties for this one. (By the way, does anyone remember the carbon footprint anymore or is it just me thinking the whole greenie thing is as pass+¬ as the Platter Guide’s excuses for judging wines sighted?)
In any event, inside this heavy bottle is a very classy example of Shiraz. In the glass the wine is the colour of a freshly henna’d Nepalese virgin. The nose is like a drowning blonde: shy and quiet, until it gets some air. Then it really whacks you with dense potpourri, quince paste and freshly crushed cloves. Man, if this is foreplay?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-+?-+..
Down the glug-hole, this wine goes down like a homesick mole. It is so gorgeously, awesomely delicious you want to drink the whole bottle from unfashionably fully-topped glasses.
The wooding is 65% new French which harnesses the tannins, combing out the harsh bits. Mouthfeel is complete and leaves one with a feeling of inner-sanctity. Flavours are graceful, elegant on the front palate but a rip-roaring rush as the wine gushes down the funnel.
Sage-brush. Prunes. Tapenade. Fresh bread. Cured meat. These are some of the riveting flavours I tasted. They took me to far-flung places. The flower market in Orange, Provence. Lucio’s bakery in downtown Portland. The prosciutto market in Florence. I saw and smelt and tasted colour and heard music that was too complex and exciting for an instrument to play.
Okay, so one bottle of Haskell Aeon is going to set you back around R300. But the smart, freshly laundered Russian money says this wine is going to be a keeper, and five years from now it should be a South African classic of well-deserved international status.
The terrain is right. The winemaker is right. More to say? Nothing left.