Greatness No Hassle at Haskell

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Rianie Strydom, wine-dame at Haskell.

LIKE,a hard man, a good Shiraz is not all that easy to find. I think the sentiments expressed in this article by Eric Asimov apply to South African wine lovers as much as they do to the Yanks.

But taste is in the mouth of the beholder, so I am not against those consumers who like their Shiraz wines full of sweet fruit, chunks of tooth-rattling wood and enough alcohol to drop a rhino at ten yards. When it comes to Shiraz, I prefer less to more. Like other Rh?+¦???+¦?+¦????ne varieties, the grape has enough inherent power and concentration of flavour of its own to deliver an elegant drop of varietal character without having to be dollied-up.

Locally I have always liked the austerity of the Muratie Shiraz with its classic earthy and leathery flavours. The Jordan 2003 is still one of my favourites ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ lean and un-showy, but with a very sexy perfume character.

One of the new greats is, to my mind, the Aeon from the much-trumped Haskell Vineyards in Stellenbosch’s Helderberg region. Haskell gives good Shiraz. It has done so with the Pillars, which caused a simultaneous wet-dream among the three blokes involved with a navel-gazing competition called the Tri Nations where wines from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa are pitted together.

In any event, with Rianie Strydom at the helm, Haskell has proven it is not just a pretty face with just about the right amount of money to burn that is required for those wishing to embark on a vinous adventure in Stellenbosch. Besides the Shiraz there is some cute Chardonnay and vibey Sauvignon Blanc, with an agreeable Bordeaux blend on the way.

As far as the Aeon 2007 is concerned, everything about it says “Monster”. The bottle is heavy enough to fog-up the windows of the World Wildlife Fund’s South African headquarters which are located just down the road from Haskell. Mucho carbon penalties for this one. (By the way, does anyone remember the carbon footprint anymore or is it just me thinking the whole greenie thing is as pass+¬ as the Platter Guide’s excuses for judging wines sighted?)

In any event, inside this heavy bottle is a very classy example of Shiraz. In the glass the wine is the colour of a freshly henna’d Nepalese virgin. The nose is like a drowning blonde: shy and quiet, until it gets some air. Then it really whacks you with dense potpourri, quince paste and freshly crushed cloves. Man, if this is foreplay?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-+?-+..

Down the glug-hole, this wine goes down like a homesick mole. It is so gorgeously, awesomely delicious you want to drink the whole bottle from unfashionably fully-topped glasses.

The wooding is 65% new French which harnesses the tannins, combing out the harsh bits. Mouthfeel is complete and leaves one with a feeling of inner-sanctity. Flavours are graceful, elegant on the front palate but a rip-roaring rush as the wine gushes down the funnel.

Sage-brush. Prunes. Tapenade. Fresh bread. Cured meat. These are some of the riveting flavours I tasted. They took me to far-flung places. The flower market in Orange, Provence. Lucio’s bakery in downtown Portland. The prosciutto market in Florence. I saw and smelt and tasted colour and heard music that was too complex and exciting for an instrument to play.

Okay, so one bottle of Haskell Aeon is going to set you back around R300. But the smart, freshly laundered Russian money says this wine is going to be a keeper, and five years from now it should be a South African classic of well-deserved international status.

The terrain is right. The winemaker is right. More to say? Nothing left.

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