It’s not many wineries that would even consider ‘business as usual’ after a fire that devastated the tasting room and offices on a Saturday late afternoon, with their annual launch party for a flagship wine the following Wednesday.
But the Kriges of Kanonkop are not your average owners, apart from which, this year’s event was also to celebrate 40 years of the Kanonkop label. It just had to be business as usual; and what a special evening it was.
Johann and Paul Krige might own Kanonkop, but its family is far larger, as Johann acknowledged when he gave the many gathered friends details of the fire: without any request or hesitation, the staff arrived on Sunday to help clear up affected areas. With regard to the wine in the neighbouring rooms, ozone has been pumped in and tests will be carried to to ascertain whether the slumbering wine has been affected in any way. Let’s hope there’s good news on that score.
More good news was that, after a morning of blustery, wet weather, yesterday evening turned out chilly but dry, perfect for holding the event outside under the boma.
Joined by all three of the farm’s winemakers – Jan ‘Boland’ Coetzee, Beyers Truter and present incumbent, Abrie Beeslaar – Johann Krige paid tribute to them before handing over to Beeslaar to introduce the latest Black Label Pinotage, 2012, the wine drawn from the property’s oldest vineyard, itself celebrating its fiftieth birthday this year.
If Beeslaar described 2012 as a difficult year, very dry and hot, these old vines outshone themselves. I believe the wine is the best of the six to date (there was no 2009); the purity of fruit, freshness and ripe, juicy yet determined tannins with its elevation in new oak seamlessly absorbed, lift this wine and pinotage itself to another level. Without denegrating the variety, one really has to think twice about what this wine could be; its ageability is unquestionable, I do hope I’m around to find out what it tastes like in 2023!
Singita’s Francois Rautenbach and my colleagues, Christian Eedes and Tim James, standing with me, were similarly impressed.
If the Black Label wasn’t enough, there had to be a wine to mark the past 40 years – well, that’s what colleague Melvyn Minnaar told the Kriges, who duly obliged. This is a premium-priced (around R700), 2007 barrel selection of Paul Sauer, with a picture of the Krige’s grandfather on the label. As are many reds from this cooler year, it’s still tightly closed with just a hint of mint; patience is required, but knowing the staying power of these wines, that should be well-rewarded.
Talking of the Kanonkop wines’ staying power, the usual generous back vintages of the major Kanonkop wines were spread around the Paul Sauer cellar, where the wine is fermented. I didn’t manage to taste all, but stand outs were the 1995 Paul Sauer bearing the patina of maturity but still far from heading downhill (I’m glad to have a bottle in the cellar), and 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon. This was offered from both 750ml bottle and magnum, a pair which clearly demonstrates how much more slowly the larger format ages. Paul Sauer from the same vintage had been poured earlier; I have to admit, I unusually prefer the cabernet, it’s the better wine and has more ‘Kanonkopness’. Several of my colleagues disagree with me. As they do with Paul Sauer 2009, which I believe is a great wine, though it is perhaps showing less at a younger age than other reds from this wonderful vintage.
However, Abrie Beeslaar is off to London this weekend to pick up an award that has become almost synonymous with Kanonkop for this wine, so at least some judges agree with me. Watch out for the announcement next week.
This is a piece of good news the Kriges so deserve after the misfortune of the fire, from which I’m sure they and Kanonkop will rise phoenix-like, with ever brighter plumage.