Novak eventually beat the Italian, and I left Wimbledon before the next match wishing to avoid the hysteria meeting Cameron Norrie’s appearance before the home crowd. The tube was quiet and getting off at High Street Kensington, I noticed the traffic stiller than usual, too. Even the Londoners are feeling the fuel prices, it would appear, although the diesel-scent from the black cabs was as evident as the tattooed arms of the hipsters strolling towards Kensington Market.
I walked past the Armenian church in-haling the heavy, slow air oxygenated by the elms and the horse-chestnuts and the oaks further down my road. The Abingdon Villas flat was cool, I opened the windows before switching on the television for the Norrie-Geffin match. The crowd was crazy, and only three games had been played.
The bell rang and Julia arrived having trotted down from the third-floor. She bore a bottle of cool Chablis. Before sitting down, I had another idea concerning the drinks. Me, I had been drinking Pol Roger all day at Wimbledon and needed some sterner stuff.
My wine fridge contained a bottle of the recent vintage of Paul Sauer, the great red wine from Kanonkop in Stellenbosch, this one from the 2019 vintage. Far too young, sure, but as I told Julia, one is never too old to go through an experimental phase.
She parked the Chablis and watched as I opened the Paul Sauer. It spilled purple and brooding into the decanter, filling the living-room with a heady aroma of crushed grapes, fermenting wine cellar and mossy autumnal forest. The wine was given 30 mins to open-up and draw in air and to get to know the world it had left behind during the 24mths in casks of new French oak.
Julia and I nibbled on the strawberries and she took of her shoes, tucking her feet next to her lap, as women of casual grace and confident elegance tend to do.
I poured the wine into two glasses and handed her one. She loves claret and noticed a Margaux element on the Paul Sauer’s nose. I told her she was correct: it is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, the balance made up with Cabernet France and Merlot. Structure, she said marvelling. Yes, those decomposed granite soils on the Simonsberg Mountain slopes, and the constant air-flow, and the geographical and historical provenance of Kanonkop, that all adds to the immensity of the wine.
This was my first sip of the Paul Sauer 2019, so I asked her to allow me some time to do a bit of reflecting and assessing of my own.
It is a sharper, cooler wine than Kanonkop produced in 2017 and 2018, more in line with the magnificent Paul Sauer 1997, which is still in as fine a shape as Julia’s calves, although I did not tell her that. The 2019 is already remarkably approachable. Decanting has whisked away most of the oak, only a brief bacon-kip stroke remaining. But apart from that, it is all wine purity; juicy and alert, corralling loads of classic Bordeaux-styled tastes. There is mulberry and crab-apple, a crunchy wet and sappy pomegranate. This deliciousness leads to sour-cherry and a load of plum, the showiness ending as the stern, sombre drama of pedigree and class takes over. Long, sleek tannins, more sinewy than dry. Gum-prickling, edgy energy and an firm, severe palate weight commanding as much attention as respect.
My chest swelled with pride at having the opportunity of entertaining Julia with such a splendid wine from my home country. She took out her phone to call her wine merchant to place an order, and before putting down the phone, she took a photograph of me as we both smiled and watched the tennis. Norrie had just played a stunning half-volley.
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