Twenty years back everyone was wondering what the Kid was going to do up in Helshoogte, Stellenbosch at the country’s most-eagerly anticipated new winery. The place was Tokara where the Kid, a.k.a. Miles Mossop, had been tasked by Tokara founder GT Ferreira to launch the wines from this spectacular spread of vineyards and cellar and all-round fabulous wine destination.
Then in 2005 the first Tokara wines hit the world like a Cheslin Kolbe line-break, with quality and a distinctive sense-of-place showing that, wine-wise, the product could assuredly match the gravitas Tokara had reached, image-wise, even before the first stuff was bottled.
Despite having left the joint five years back to do his own thing, the Kid will go down as the guy that put-down the foundations for the magnificence Tokara has claimed at the top end of the Cape wine spectrum, a spot it is not likely to lose anytime soon.
My interest in the doings of the Kid originated from the reputation of his late father, Tony. He was a leading wine commentator and critic and all-round wine gentleman who also happened to be infatuated with Port. This stuff he made in Calitzdorp on his Axe Hill farm. Those interested in wine read what Tony Mossop wrote, listened when he spoke and agreed with the many winemakers and other people who revered the man’s opinions and appreciated his understated and self-deprecating sense of humour.
And as far as son Miles is concerned, and if Tony is looking down, one can paraphrase the Who song and state that, yes, the Kid is alright.
Now making his own Miles Mossop Wines, as well as assisting with a couple of other ventures, Miles has a track-record ticking all the right boxes: Name made at Tokara. Former Cape Winemakers Guild chairman. A hero in the eyes of the younger generation of winemakers. International reputation. And not to mention that the Kid still has great hair.
He lives his wine career in the fast-lane, does Miles. Busy. Happening the hustle. The opportunity, thus, of attending a tasting of a new release at the Mossops’ Banghoek home, verdant forest-garden looking up to the colossal blue-grey Simonsberg, was eagerly taken.
The occasion was the latest vintage of Miles’s wine named Sam, a Cabernet Sauvignon-led beauty in the Mossop Family range, this one named after Mrs Miles. It is pitched top-end at just under a grand a bottle and represents the culmination of Miles’s vinous vision through a meticulously crafted wine.
Before hitting the latest Sam release from vintage 2020, glasses were filled with various renditions of the same wine from the maiden 2017.
While Sam’s geographical origin has moved to the Polkadraai Hills appellation, the 2017 started out in Bottelary, with the 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot both sourced from those rugged slopes and once again confirming Bottelary’s terrain to be a truly great setting for classic Cape wines. This 2017 Sam has a true bloodline of old-school Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon about it with that meaty dark fruit and cedar approach levelled out by a silky charm still allowing the required degree of force and presence to reverberate throughout the palate.
Good winemakers wield a deft hand at taming tannins to still the roar but allow the excitement to thrill, and this feature is noticeable in that 2017. Also helped, of course, by 2017 being a comet vintage.
Sam 2018 saw some Cabernet Franc from Polkadraai coming into the Bottelary Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot mix, and of all four vintages tasted this was rather showy in terms of a sweet-fruited rim, a firm graphite grip and some lush, glow and warmth. Fig-paste, plums and bramble-berries with wafts of fynbos and just a tad of cigar box make for a delectable wine that is both very drinkable as well as admirably commanding of respect. Pretty much like Taylor Swift wearing a Royal Navy admiral uniform.
The 2019 still spoke of some assertive and adventurous tannins of the grainy kind, the sappiness shown by 2018 being in the background. It is powerful and alert, and immensely cool and confident with the accent on petrichor, broken shale and potpourri rather than fruit succulence, the latter which will be coming to the fore in a year or three’s time.
Concerning the latest release, Sam 2020 underscores the fact that this is a great Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon vintage offering wines of immense varietal expression and a fruity eagerness, yet with polish and poise that will age to talkative secondary complexity. The 92% Cabernet Sauvignon element is now all Polkadraai, and as Bruwer Raats has displayed with his stuff, this region is known for its ability to bring accuracy and precision from them heavy granite soils, while offering just the correct degree of plushness to give depth and meaning.
A juicy tenderness lies at the core of this wine, fresh acids providing a taut harness on which to peg a tapestry of joy-giving flavours. Ripe pomegranate flesh with raspberry confit. Some sour cherries with a lick of blackcurrant and a few slivers of sun-dried prune. Brief glimpses of washed-up whelk-shell add a cooling maritime touch, while a few cedar cuttings give a civilised feral edge to a wine of immense presence and with an individual voice.
There’s a lot to like, and more to come as the Kid is at the top of his game. And the hair, man, the hair is still just great.
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