Pleasures of Being Savage


I was chasing salted squid, eating baby pigs and talking to jaded fado songstresses when I missed the party. Well, one of them.

The one I was sorry to have slipped-up on was the maiden launch of two wines in the solo portfolio of Duncan Savage, also known as Cape Point Duncan. You know the dude I am referring to: the eternally boyish winemaker, he of the disarming smile and manicured facial hair who single-handedly turned Cape Point Vineyards into a South African icon winery in less than a decade.

Okay, modest as he is I know Savage is going to pass Cape PointGÇÖs success onto terroir, sea-winds and the foresight of Cape Point owner Sybrand van der Spuy. In youth is modesty, as we know.

But I donGÇÖt buy it. IGÇÖve spent time with Savage in the cellar. Walked the vineyards with him. Sat-in on technical discussions he was having with fellow-experts such as Boela Gerber and Duimpie Bayly. The guy is a born winemaker. A son of the soil. HeGÇÖs got wine in his veins. GuyGÇÖs a South African classic. Even if he is a Soutpiel.

So I missed the party where Savage launched two wines under his own label. Fortunate to have access to a roguishly seductive surname, the wines are called Savage and in the stable we find a red and a white.

Upon my return from Porraland, I discovered both wines had practically sold-out. In all earnestness, I was not sweating from the brow to try the Savage White, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and S+¬millon. Savage has already earned his spurs as a maker of Sauvignon Blanc and white Bordeaux, so I was champing at the bit to check out the red number.

A blend of 72% Syrah, 21% Grenache and 7% Cinsaut, the prospect of the Savage Red is always going to be enticing but I had a bit of a wait before Johann de Wet from De Wetshof rewarded his hard-working PR and marketing consultant with a few glasses.

Savage 2011 Red

The maiden Savage Red is from the 2011 vintage, and as far as origin goes, the Savage ainGÇÖt saying much. It is a Wine of Origin Western Cape number, and judging by the expressive nature of the varieties in use, at least a bucket or two of grapes must originate from the Swartland. But there is a coolness in the wine, so IGÇÖd bet Savage a Phillips Stubble Groomer there is some Stellenbosch in the fruit, especially the Shiraz.

But as the iconic film reviewer Joe Bob Briggs used to say, what are we talking about?

We are talking about Savage Red 2011, a sharp vintage for red wines in the Cape. WeGÇÖre talking a paradigm shift in anything I have personally tasted from the South African wine scene to date. WeGÇÖve got a red wine that appears to have been polished by a De Beers team of non-striking diamond brushers. We are talking colour, a colour where purple, red, pink and mauve are thrown into one vivid hue, kind of like the lipstick of high-class Parisien call girl named Jocelyn.

And weGÇÖve got a nose on this wine, boy do we ever have a nose.

The wineGÇÖs nose is soft crushed dried rose-petals, pine-needles and gentle spices being ground by the henna-tattooed hands of a chef in Goa. WeGÇÖre also talking about a clean, chalkiness on the nose which could or could not be an oyster shell that has been lying on the beaches of Arcachon for the full summer.

Onto the mouth, the sip, the drink, the taste. WeGÇÖre talking purity and cleanliness, which as we all know could cause a wine to be guilty of an unimaginative, characterless sterility. In Savage, this is not the case.

We are talking about the GÇ£wild strawberries at seven francs a kiloGÇ¥ Bryan Ferry sang about. WeGÇÖre talking Turkish fig paste, a hit of prune and a touch of 36-month cured J+ímon Iberico, all enveloped in a gush of fresh, brisk berry-fruit. But letGÇÖs talk about texture and mouth-feel. IGÇÖm telling you, I heard it myself, Danie de Wet called the wine GÇ£Burgundian-likeGÇ¥, and IGÇÖd agree any-day – even if Danie did not force me to agree. Because weGÇÖre talking of a wine that is not elegant or poised but damn-well regal in the charm and splendour it exudes, coating the senses with a sumptuous, yet ballerina-like delicateness.

We are talking about a great South African wine, Savage in name, but tamed with a lionGÇÖs heart.

Now we can party.

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