No Cult Wine in the Making – Keets First Verse is Already Here

Chris Keet (photograph plagiarised from Neil Pendock's blog.)
Seeing as wine commentary is ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ like all commentary ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ personal and subjective, one is allowed the confident luxury of making big statements. Make too many of them, and their effect is obviously diluted. So before coming up with a massive missive on a space such as this read by about 12 wine enthusiasts, three of my closest friends as well as my brainy dachshund Maximillian, careful consideration is required.
Well, stuff it.
I have just tasted South Africa’s best red wine.
It all began in Namibia, of all places. Walking around the recent Wine Show held at Jean Engelbrecht’s Stellenbosch Wine Bar and Bistro in Windhoek, it was a pleasure to bump into old wine-maker chum Chris Keet. Having known Chris since university, I have followed his career at Cordoba where he helped that property gain blue-chip status both as a quality producer as well as giving it a general aura of all round excellence.
Since the “closing down” of Cordoba, Chris has hit the consulting game.
Here he has built a reputation for being versatile, being able to work wonders not only in the cellar but also in the vineyards themselves.
In between the consulting, Chris also found time to get his own brand going, and this is what brought him to Windhoek where I found him pouring wine to a throng of elegantly enthusiastic Namibians.
After a brief hello and a bit of banter, I excused myself. The glass of Keets First Verse 2009 that Chris had hit me with required further and closer inspection. A brief sniff and quick snip had alerted me to the fact that there was something serious going on here.
On closer inspection, the wine is a classic All Five variety Bordeaux blend delivered in the following percentages: Cabernet Franc 32%, Merlot 26%, Cabernet Sauvignon 21%, Malbec 11% and Petit Verdot 10%. The grapes are sourced from the Helderberg, including the property formerly known as Cordoba, and the Simonsberg ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ in other words, South Africa’s C?+¦???+¦?+¦????te d’Or. And with Chris’s intimate knowledge of this region, its soils and viticulture, one can be sure that only the best grapes would do.
The wine was matured separately in ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ and here’s the thing ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ in second fill French oak “simply because I could not afford new barrels”. After 18 months the blend is put together.
The first thing that hits one is a fresh, bright tonk of Cabernet Franc. Steely, spicey. From there the almost equal portions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot take over with refined fruit plushness, the Malbec and Petit Verdot providing much meaty power.
But it is churlish to harper on the bits and pieces, as it is the completeness and the holistic satisfaction the wine provides that makes it a truly beautiful thing.
Obviously the awesome 2009 vintage made a considerable contribution to this wine’s greatness. But what we see here is a master maker of an array of wines with the ability to bring the bits and pieces together in total harmony.
Here I concur with Duimpie Bayly, elder statesman of the South African wine industry: “They say wine is made in the vineyard, but that’s not true ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ personally I’ve never seen a horse wine the Durban July without a jockey.”
Keets First Verse has immense Bordeaux perfume of oyster-shell, damp earth and scrubbed iron, with just a typical hint of fynbos one finds in Simonsberg fruit. What hits you in the mouth is the wines ability to flush through the entire palate at once. There is no entry, mid-palate or finish: it is all directly there at once. Dense black fruit, vast red-berry, acres of cedar. These being old barrels, the tannins are soft, yet firm, providing a bracing edginess.
If, however, I was down to my last dollar and had to sum this wine up in one word it would be purity. The gorgeous purity of soil and sun concentrated into a little black berry converted into beautiful beverage. Just that.
And it is this purity that makes this wine so memorable.
A steal at R250 a bottle, this is one of those wines you can haul out in 2020 and hear your mates saying in incredulous tones “how the hell did you get hold of a Keets 2009?”.
Because true greatness is eternal.

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6 thoughts on “No Cult Wine in the Making – Keets First Verse is Already Here

  1. I’ve tasted some truly inspiring, awesome wines made by this man and I’m a big fan. Which is why I was a bit confused when I heard about a viognier Chris made (since flying solo) that had something like 15% or 15.5% alcohol. Viognier or not, this seemed excessive and very unlike Chris (I can’t remember tasting any Cordoba wine of his with more than 14% alcohol and quite a few below that). In the past, he’s proved to be a true master with Bordeaux cultivars though, so I’d love to taste this new wine.

  2. Hello Oom Emile

    Chris is my kind of winemaker…he lets the wine do the talking. No flash, no showman, no smoke and mirrors just great wine. The question is where the hell can we find this wine?


  3. Yes Kwis. I’ll ask Chris. To my mind he will always be a Bdx styled blend dude, with an obligatory emphasis on Cab Franc. Goedgaan

  4. Jip, Mr Keets did make a Viognier and it does have an alcohol of 15% (or a bit more), it was offered on auction at the CWG in 2010. Rocket fuel stuff, if not intensely perfumed en jy moet maar ‘n moerse lamsnekpottjie maak om hom vas te vat.

  5. Agreed, this oke makes great stuff. In my humble opinion, alcohol levels are not an issue given conditions in SA vineyards. The style of many of our wines, even some whites, masks high alcohol so well. If a winemaker like Chris has come up with a delicious wine packed with alcohol, you can bet it does not impact negatively on the taste. I’ll have a box …

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