Any Mountain High Enough

Look to the mountains for hope, they say. The Checkers Battle of die Berge, a Simonsberg-Helderberg comparative tasting to highlight traceable site-specific traits in the wines originating from these two iconic regions, had a lot going.

The tasting of each of the region’s top three wines was held at Muratie recently and this surely is the future of wine contests: focussed, narrative intensity, analytical clarity and vinous intelligence. Heck, all we needed was a pair of Swedish models and a bath of virgin olive oil to make the event perfect.

Top wine on the Helderberg side, white, went to Vergelegen’s Sauvignon Blanc 2013, and this was the wine that got me to anoint it with a score of 989/1000. I don’t like average Sauvignon Blanc as there is too much of that going around to the extent of boring blandness. The Sauvignon Blanc I like is superb Sauvignon with a full mouth-feel, restrained but visible fruit and ample freshness without the kind of acidity that makes your gut feel like you’ve swallowed a fully nailed cat paw.

The Vergelegen has all this, plus a maritime saltiness and a hit of breezy perfume. It is not a tropical Sauvignon Blanc, nor a grassy one, but a well-thought, holistic wine bearing succulence, freshness and a shovel of minerals.

The price of around R200 is a bit steep, but then one has to take the wine-maker’s medication bill into account, plus he keeps losing rugby bets against me.

On the red side, the Simonsberg trumped with a Shiraz, nogal. The Glennelly Glass Collection Syrah 2010 is a Shiraz of tremendous individuality and haunting presence.

Grown on soils with an obvious high clay content, the wine is tightly reined-in and not allowed to gallop off into the sweet meaty direction that more porous soils permit. Refinement and power come to mind, a bit like Samuel L Jackson playing the cello wearing a camouflage outfit. Tannins and primary esters are huge but balanced by fruit clarity and a pine-needle, pencil-having outlandishness. A truly gorgeous wine, although I don’t know how long that screw-cap is going to allow it to be this expressive.

The other wines in the Checkers Battle of die Berge finals were all outstanding as opposed to the greatness of the above.

Warwick’s Trilogy 2010, Delaire Graff Chardonnay 2012, Vergenoegd Runner Duck 2011 and Alto Shiraz 2011 did themselves proud and would be just victors in any wine show. Only difference is, exposed in this focussed environment of Checkers Battle of die Berge, their stories are allowed to be told.


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