The problem with a) having a capacious cellar and b) working from home, I am the depository for any samples of new wines sent to either or both Tim James and myself.
During Platter, deliveries are tucked into whatever corner is available, awaiting completion of the guide and some degree of recovery; at a later date for Tim than myself, as he does much editing and proof reading.
A bit of waffle leading up to some thoughts on our first, post-Platter get together when, with Ingrid Motteux joining us, we tasted around half of the accumulated and now not-so-new releases.
Actually, in a generous move, La Motte included two older vintages – 2004 and 2007 – of the flagship Pierneef Shiraz Viognier, to accompany the latest 2010 which sells for R199 (a bit like those awkward Woolies R19.95 price tags. Would R200 make such a psychological difference? But I divert).
I’m a fan of Edmund Terblanche’s wines; he has a light hand where it is necessary, which is to the advantage of their overall elegance, restraint even, but always their great precision and character.
Unusually for the style, they are well-awarded on shows, as is evident from stickers on two of the three vintages.
Now, I’m not someone swayed by bling on bottles; in fact the less the better, as most are unattractive, even more so when they’re accompanied by equally unattractive others. But I have to admit my preferences for these three wines mirrored the number of award stickers on the bottles.
The youngest has three (but just the Platter five star in the photo, a definite advantage, as it does at least complement the label!) all fully deserved. I’m finding 2010 a very mixed red wine vintage; the best, this La Motte included, are naturally, sturdily built so will surely benefit from a few years ageing, probably around three to five from now; in the majority of cases, I prefer South African reds at eight rather than ten years old.
The shiraz-viognier mix is extremely difficult to get right; far too often the viognier – which usually ripens prior to shiraz – is left until it is too ripe; those lush apricot notes then impose themselves too obviously on the shiraz, leaving a somewhat clumsy, vulgar result.
Since the maiden 2003 vintage, Terblanche has cleverly avoided this trap; I seem to remember in earlier vintages by harvesting the viognier and keeping it in a cool room until the shiraz was ripe. Now, some viognier – all from Franschhoek – is picked and fermented with each batch of shiraz from the three sources in BotRiver, Elim and Franschhoek. After 14 months in French oak, the selection for the final blend is made and homogenised in barrel for a further four months.
This new release is tremendously expressive with great depth of vivid, dark spice, rich in flavour yet not heavy, all supported by a confident thread of freshness and those sturdy yet polished tannins. The 12% viognier is so subtle, I’m not actually sure what its influence is; nevertheless it perfectly complemented my chorizo, roast butternut, green pepper and onion, dusted with NoMU Moroccan rub, supper.
Unfortunately, the 2007 had that marmite note of oxidation on the nose (a bottle rather than vintage problem?), though it was much more pleasing to taste and also made a good accompaniment to our meal. Strangely, with less viognier (9%) than the 2010, it seemed more obvious in the lifted floral notes.
We did wonder why Terblanche had selected the award-less 2004 (well, it had no bling), as presumably the whole idea was to illustrate how the wine ages. The colour is excellent with little sign of ageing; sadly the flesh seemed to have fled the bones. I say ‘seemed’, as I’ve just re-tasted it with better results, though I wouldn’t leave it longer. I’ve never been too enthusiastic about this vintage; it was a long, stop-start harvest with uneven ripening in some reds but its main misfortune was coming after 2003, arguably the second best quality vintage in the decade after 2009. There are very few I’d hold on to for longer.
Talking of long, this is long enough and the three La Motte Pierneef Shiraz Viognier vintages anyway deserve their own space – the 2010 in your wine shelves as well.
More of other, much newer releases shortly.