Cape Port Producers the Real Deal


Finally I have progressed from a Tawny Port joller to a Vintage Port kind-of-guy. Not that there is not always a bottle of Tawny in one of the many places I happen to call home.

First up, Tawny can hang around once the bottle has been open due to the years of barrel maturation and the resultant preservation powers of oxidation. Secondly, with its smoky, treacly, honey and tobacco seductiveness, it is about as hard to refuse a glass of Tawny as it is to shun an invitation to adjust Kate Winslet’s bra-strap in a Turkish bath.

But having been party to a few Vintage Ports over the past few years, I have to confess that Port Puberty has struck and I now find myself dreaming about Vintage ports. Fantasizing. Wanting. And then getting, and consuming with wanton abandon, barbaric appetite, reckless gusto and – as was the case with a Fonseca 1963 – a semi woody.

There is just something about a Vintage: the purity of a wine fortified at the correct moment and left to age and mellow and be sculpted by time, fruit and physics.

I am not into the game of comparing, well not when it comes to wine. To attempt to compare French Burgundy to Robertson Chardonnay or Stellenbosch Cabernet to the Left Bank implies a lack of vinous understanding and respect for terroir and tradition, and is nothing more than a marketing marble-throwing contest.

However, stylistically Port will always be analysed as to how much it tastes like, well, Port. And we all know where that comes from.

South Africa has always made Tawnies that taste, smell and ooze unctuous lashings of sweet pleasure like real Tawnies should. If you are tasting a good South African Tawny, it tastes like a real Tawny Port, believe you me.

Vintage Port is another story due to the aforementioned make-or-break approach required where 15% is left to the winemaker and the rest is written in the stars.

Having recently glugged a row of South Africa’s best Ports at the 2nd Cape Port Producers’ Association (CAPPA) Challenge, I must say that our Vintages are truly the real deal. Not Portuguese. Not South African. Just great Port. Because that is the only thing that counts.

I’ll get to the PR later, but the one Port that hit my sweet spot like a Tiger Woods 3 iron on the Par 5 at Silver Lakes was a Boplaas Vintage 2003. Ten years old, but still a sweet Port of youth.

All the great Vintages of Oporto, especially those in the Symington family stable, exude a soft, sweet almost minty bubble-gum note as the Port attacks the palate. This is a trademark of Boplaas, and the Vintage 2003 has it down to a T. Later, the wine forms a silky layer on the palate as it settles down in preparation of the flavour flow. This occurs with an initial peppery – rather fresh, at that – surge in to the mouth, followed by cloves, rose petals, a hint of tar, some creased Turkish leather and a dollop of autumnal mulberry. Powerful fruit. Intense spice. With that warm glow in the pit of your stomach ensuring you all is well with the world.

Yet all the time, this wine is surprisingly accessible and fresh – making it not hard to do as one should and finish the bottle once a Vintage has been open, as it is not going to last like a Tawny.

Having usurped the bottle of Boplaas Vintage 2003, the event got underway and the results of the 2nd CAPPA Challenge 2013 for Cape Port & Portuguese varietal table wines and blends with a minimum 30% Portuguese varietal component were:

As with previous years the Cape Vintage & Cape Tawny categories were the stand-out performers, with the Boplaas Cape Tawny Vintner’s Reserve N/V the overall trophy winner and the Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2010 the reserve champion.

For the first time in 5 years a Cape Ruby was awarded a gold medal, with the Groot Constantia Cape Ruby 2011 getting gold and so doing taking the Cape Ruby category; while the Slanghoek Cape Ruby came in as runner-up.  The “other Cape Port” category – for Cape White, Cape Pink & Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) style wines – also delivered a class winner with the outstanding Peter Bayly Cape LBV 2008.

The strength of the Cape Vintage category was proved by the 5 gold medals awarded in this class, with the Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2010 taking top honours and the Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2009 runner-up.  The three other gold medals were awarded to the TTT Cellars Cape Vintage 2010, Landskroon Cape Vintage 2010 and the Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2008.

Two gold medals were awarded in the Cape Tawny category to the trophy winning Boplaas Cape Tawny Vintners Reserve N/V and the Boplaas Cape Tawny 1995 a deserved runner-up. 

While in the Museum Class – for Cape Port 10 years and older – the judges were very impressed by the quality and “youthfulness” of the wines and four gold medals were achieved in this category.  The winner was the Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2003; while the other gold medals went to the De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2002, De Krans Cape Vintage Port 2003 & the Boplaas Cape Tawny 1994. 

For the second year running Portuguese varietal table wines & blends containing a minimum 30% of a Portuguese varietal were adjudicated by the panel & a CAPPA Top 10 was chosen.  This year top honours went to the Axe hill Machado 2012 a blend of Touriga Nacional and Shiraz from this boutique producer in Calitzdorp.  The rest of the Top 10 wines were as follows:

  • ·          Malagas Sijnn Touriga Nacional 2011;
  • ·         De Krans Red Stone Reserve 2006;
  • ·         Peter Bayly III 2011;
  • ·         Boplaas Ring of Rocks 2011;
  • ·         Malaga Sijnn 2010;
  • ·         De Krans Touriga Nacional 2010;
  • ·         Boplaas Touirga Nacional 2009; &
  • ·         Boplaas Tinta Chocolat 2012;
  • ·         Boplaas Portuguese Connection Woolworths 2010
Back: Danie Keulder (Groot Constantia), Peter Bayly (Peter Bayly), Ashley Mason (TTT Cellars), Louis van der Riet (De Krans), Waldo van Zyl (Malagas), Jaco Theron (Slanghoek), Abraham van Heerden (Landskroon), Mike Neebe (Axe Hill)  Front: Margaux Nel (Boplaas), Carel Nel (Boplaas), Rozanne Nel (Boplaas)
Back: Danie Keulder (Groot Constantia), Peter Bayly (Peter Bayly), Ashley Mason (TTT Cellars), Louis van der Riet (De Krans), Waldo van Zyl (Malagas), Jaco Theron (Slanghoek), Abraham van Heerden (Landskroon), Mike Neebe (Axe Hill)
Front: Margaux Nel (Boplaas), Carel Nel (Boplaas), Rozanne Nel (Boplaas)

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