The punt – that indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle – comes in many different sizes. Indeed, some wine bottles have no punt at all, whereas others are impressively deep.
Alright, if some bottles can manage without a punt, what is its purpose, I wondered, as I poured a tasting sample of the latest Hanneli R 2009, the crème de la crème from La Motte, with my thumb stuck down its impressively deep punt?
Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine ducks the issue, merely describing the punt as an ‘optional indentation in the bottom of wine bottles ..’ Off to Google search, where someone on Jamie Goode’s website wonders whether the depth of the punt is a fail safe way to judge wine quality. Having acknowledged its purpose is uncertain, Goode offers various ideas, including ‘some ambitious producers use heavy bottles with big punts to give the impression of quality,’ adding that everyday wine comes in puntless bottles, so ‘there might be a loose correlation between punt size and quality.’
That fits for Hanneli R, though the rather lovely bottle (both shape and colour have much appeal) isn’t in fact that heavy (thank goodness) and the wine itself need no gilding of the lily. The major benefit of this punt is that it makes pouring with one hand much easier.
A multi-origin blend of shiraz, grenache, carignan, cinsaut and drop of merlot with a generous, though complementary 30 months in new oak, Hanneli R is indeed a wine of great finesse, as described by La Motte’s CEO, Hein Koegelenberg. I’m not sure why he needs to also attribute ‘courageous’ to the wine named after his wife, Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg; perhaps he’s referring to the buyer’s state of mind when considering the R845 asking price.
Tim James and I tasted the wine together last week. My notes then were pretty brief, the overall impression being one of elegance, sophistication with a lightness of touch aided by good freshness and firm but fine tannins. The structure and new oak seem to suggest more of a Bordeaux style but as the wine opens (we drank the share Tim left for us over supper two days later), spice, pepper and a general savouriness reflected its Rhône varietal origins.
It’s not submitted for Platter, but had it been, after this extended opening, I’d have had no hesitation in nominating it for five stars, which I sincerely hope my colleagues would have awarded it.
On the point of price, it is, as always, relative. Bruce Whitfield, presenter of the Money Show on CapeTalk radio, went shopping in the luxury market. He found a whisky for R65 000, a watch for R350 000 and a bed for R1 million (‘strue), what’s more, all have found customers! Makes Hanneli R sound positively good value and it’ll give a lot of pleasure. Incidentally, I’m one up on Tim; he says he’s heard Hanneli Rupert singing, I’ve actually sung with her, when I was a member of the Cape Philharmonia Choir – many years ago now. I had to resign when the choir became so professional and because of my work commitments, I couldn’t attend sufficient rehearsals.
With my interest in punts piqued, I started looking at some other bottles we’d tasted.
Steenberg’s new The Black Swan Sauvignon Blanc 2012 carries a punt of some importance as does its R160 price tag. Replacing the former Reserve, it includes fruit from younger vineyards (seven years upwards), but is very much in the rich, Steenberg style but the grassy, green pea ripeness provides a more forward character than the Reserve would have had at this stage. There should be no negative connotations with the name (SwanLake and the Natalie Portman film), which refers to the Spur-winged Geese and which the Dutch referred to as Black Swans. Steenberg fans won’t be disappointed.
Smaller punts still and all of a size in Elim’s First Sighting Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – showing that area’s typical cool lemon grass character with fine energy and juicy quaffability. A wine of character for R64 ex cellar – and Groote Post’s Kapokberg Sauvignon Blanc 2013. From a new range named after the highest point on this Darling property, it will please those who prefer riper flavours, freshness without aggression and a touch of sugar to modify both, though the asking price of R118 might seem steepish.
A wine which deserves a grander punt is Nitida’s Platter 5 star Coronata Integration 2012, a 60/40 sauvignon/semillon blend. It also deserves better capsules than the cheap, wrinkled plastic one on our bottle. A pity but don’t let it detract from the wine’s own attractions; its overall elegance and unshowy character featuring orange citrus aromas – quiet at first, but which open over a few days – the semillon’s oak-enhanced richness (but no overt oakiness) and firm freshness. Don’t let its current drinkability dupe you into imagining no further development is possible; I had somehow managed to leave some until day five, the fuller and much longer flavours are worth the wait. For R115 ex-cellar, Coronata is very good value of its genre. A genre producing some of the Cape’s best white blends; there will be more.