Desiderius, the Commanding Cap Classique

When considering language to tag to the flamboyantly packaged Desiderius Cap Classique in the Pongrácz range, the word “brave” comes to mind. First and foremost, memories of the man Pongrácz himself, a pint-sized contrarian who’s opinionated cockiness was only matched by that of the yapping, peeing pack of miniature Dachshunds accompanying him around the Cape winelands. Here he was inspecting vines, initiating new plantings – Rhône varietals held a special allure – and baiting wine farmers into arguments about his opinion on their stubborn ways.

The second braveness of the Desiderius Cap Classique is the showy bottle. Ribbed and edged in gold, it is not at all modest in appearance, rather resembling a container one would expect to find at a Kardashian 21st bash or a Russian house of ill-repute.

Pongrácz with Dachshunds, some of them.

But since hitting the market 15 years ago, the flamboyant packaging has proved to have been way ahead of its time. Currently, that bottle is right in line with what is deemed as branding desirability.

But at the end of the day, it is about the wine. And here, too, Desiderius is a courageous Cape Classique in terms of style.

The 2009, just released, is a classic partnership of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, the cuvées pressed from Elgin, Robertson and Stellenbosch fruit. A slight percentage of the Chardonnay sees oak, evidence of which does show up in the final product. And with 72 months lees contact, cellar master Elunda Basson places the wine on a potentially precarious journey.

Nothing but the best base wine is going to complete the six year journey in a state of health, verve and pure Cap Classique expression. It is, thus, a brave quest, and once again the Desiderius gamble pays off.

Stylistically the Desiderius 2009 is in a Cap Classique class of its own. It resembles the Champagnes of Pommard, being more serious and sullen, with a bit of weight and moody depth one does not expect the bright image of sparkling wines to carry.

The Pinot Noir segment zips past the Chardonnay, offering plummy and kumquat notes. The Chardonnay presents an alluring grape-fruit element, with just a hint sorrel and buttercup.

Elunda Basson, Cap Classique maker extraordinaire.

But the wine’s prestige lies in the palate-weight and structure, the firm, succulent grip in the mouth, the commanding density on the senses and the finish which is longer than the legs of a Peruvian supermodel, just smoother.

Desiderius is no wine for frivolous downing at open-air hipster concerts, nor for splashing about at those noisy, uncouth MCC festivals. It is meant for food – live oysters spring to mind – or sipping with a spicy Havana cigar, such as Bolivar.

I am no fan of beauty shows where Champagnes and Cap Classiques are poured blind in an attempt to flummox critics into enthusing how close or better our sparkles are than Champagne. But if a Cap Classique is going to be taken seriously by a Champagne panel, Desiderius will step forward, proud as anything and brave as hell.

·       Emile Joubert

Vriesenhof: the Home of Greatness

Everyone needs a bit of yesteryear now and again. And whenever this feeling raises its head, Vriesenhof is my place.

Look, I’m all for progress. And having resided and worked in Stellenbosch for almost four decades I am stunned by the continuous evolution the wine industry has shown. Not only in its incomparable wine quality, but the imagination and initiative wine-farm owners have shown in turning the region into a haven for tourists and other visitors. Gourmet restaurants. Cavernous, shiny venues with gorgeous views offering detailed wine-tastings to rows of eager tour groups. Art collections and play-spaces for kids.

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More Real Stellenbosch, Please

Image and premier status should be non-negotiables for Stellenbosch. But the manner in which the region’s wine authorities are allowing the prostituting of its integrity is placing an increasing amount of pressure on producers intent on marketing their wines as deriving from Stellenbosch grapes instead of the trucked-in versions sold by an increasing amount of wineries based in this area.

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Dry Encounter of the Thirst Kind

In a lingo filled with guttural sounding words to the tune of “achtung”, “mein Gott” and “Schweinehund”, the noun “Riesling” is one of the German language’s more joyous components. I have always found Riesling to be a precise, pure sounding word evoking images of brisk forest streams full of clear water foaming over clean white pebbles, a pristine green mountain forest lying beneath glaciers and a blond German damsel, straight from her fortnightly shower, picking daffodils next to a Gothic cathedral.

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Jury’s Out on Elim Pinot Noir

An invitation to lunch with an unacquainted lawyer is usually not an excitable prospect. But as long as there are no pending paternity issues or PC-fuelled lawsuits, there is scant reason to be afraid. Just make sure you meet the legal raptor in a place frequented by folk more likely to take your side in the event of verbal conflict or espetada-stick violence. And keep your wallet in sight.

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Charm and the Heartbreak Grape

I had always struggled to nail my precise feeling towards Pinot Noir when Danie de Wet did it for me. “You find three kinds of wine: red wine… white wine,” the Sage from De Wetshof said, “and then you have Pinot Noir.” This was over a decade ago when De Wet had been busy at playing pioneer again – not Chardonnay, but by making the first Pinot Noir in the Robertson Valley.

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The deceptively simple and seemingly innocuous description stuck, and the more Pinots I drink the more on-the-button Danie’s words appear.

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