When the word hit the street that a bottle of Pinotage with a R1,000 price-tag was about to be released, reaction in my circles was unanimous: Only Kanonkop could justify such a price.
And so it was, with Kanonkop Estate this week releasing its first new label in almost 40 years, namely the Black Lable Pinotage 2006. This is a limited release wine made from vines planted on the Kanonkop Estate in 1953 and is aimed at the premium, exclusive wine market. Of a total production of 1,178 bottles, 1000 bottles were placed on the market at a price of R1 000 per bottle ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ exclusively sold through the Wade Bales Wine Society and Fiona Phillips from cybercellar.com.
I dared share this news with the famous John Maytham, the talk-show host, wine expert, supreme ornithologist, literary commentator and general knowledge boffin. Obviously also being a talented speaker of Afrikaans, Maytham replied that paying a grand for a bottle of Pinotage was all “sinne beroof gebied” (an area inhabited by people who have been robbed of their senses.)
But hey! Scarcely two hours after the R1000 Kanonkop had been displayed on the websites of Wade Bales and Fiona Phillips, the first allocated tranche of 600 bottles was sold out.
Conveying this news to Maytham he stated: “Quite clearly there are people with more money than sense. If I had a R1000 to spend on a single bottle of wine, it certainly wouldn’t be this.”
Take note the knee-jerk reaction of homo sapiens vinus hackus – making a statement without tasting the wine. To us in the industry the funniest is, of course, the fact that Maytham knocks,Pinotage, but in his spare time he is paid by the Pinotage Association for MC-ing the Association’s 2009 Absa Top 10 Competition!
But back to the reason behind the launch. ,”This wine is a highlight in Kanonkop’s history since the release of our first label in 1973,” says Johann Krige, co-owner of Kanonkop. “With the Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage we want to make an international statement through a uniquely South African wine. We would like to see this wine become a benchmark the South African wine industry can use to prove that as a country we are capable of making a wine that can compete with the best in the world.”
The wine is also a tribute to Kanonkop’s formidable reputation for Pinotage.
,”Pinotage has been an integral of the Kanonkop portfolio since our maiden vintage. Throughout the years our winemakers have been enthralled with the quality of the grapes from our oldest Pinotage vines, the wine of which is usually blended in the standard Kanonkop Pinotage,” says Krige.
“Five years ago we decided to separate the select old-vine crop, vinifying and aging the wine separately. The results after 14 to 16 months of aging in new French oak has been phenomenal. On consultation from other wine makers and various retailers, we are convinced that this wine demands its own label and warrants marketing to select buyers of fine wine ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ locally and internationally.
With only 1,000 bottles available, Krige underscored the importance of the Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage in assisting in creating a secondary wine market in South Africa.
“The first allocation to our two negociants will be 600 bottles, with the next tranche of 400 bottles released a few months later once the market has determined the value of the wines,” says Krige. “With two negociants controlling the supply and demand they will be able to buy back stock from willing sellers to sell on to parties willing to pay a higher price.
“This secondary market, which the South African wine industry needs more of so as to establish itself as a producer of really premium wines, will open up a totally new set of dynamics in the wine industry, as well as creating an appreciation for and collectability of fine local wines.”
The second vintage of the Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage, the 2007, will be released towards the end of 2010. “Having created a secondary market for this wine, the objective is to have a genuine en primeur system in place by 2012 whereby followers and other interested consumers will be able to buy the wine after tasting it while still in barrel and before bottling ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ just as the system in Bordeaux,” says Krige.
Putting his money where his mouth is, Krige put on a tasting of some of Kanonkop’s top Pinotages throughout the past three decades, ending the last flight with the 2006 Black Label.
It was apparent that this wine is on a different level to any Pinotage Kanonkop has ever produced, and perhaps matching the Estate’s Paul Sauer 1998 in overall greatness. Dark as ox blood, the wine has a nose of sluttish extravagance: violets, brambles, fynbos and just-rained-on tar. The intoxicating nose is followed by a deeply moving taste ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ forest floor with hints of truffle leading to finely tuned black fruit and cigar box. The wine lies in your mouth like a Jim Morrison song ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ heavy, sensual, dramatic. A perfect balance of tannin and acid gives the wine a life-affirming freshness, with a very impressive seamlessness.
If any wine is worth a grand, this is it.
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