Reds with time

Since last writing about my experience of 2008s, I’ve found some genuine reds from that vintage (remember that Waterford was actually a 2004 which, on the handwritten label, was intended for the CWG 2008 auction).

But first, I also opened my last bottle of 08 Beaumont Hope Marguerite. Whether it’s the variety – chenin, the place – Bot River, grand age of the vines – several decades or the understanding experienced hand of the winemaker – Sebastian Beaumont – I wouldn’t like to say, (it probably has something to do with a little bit of each) but, with the Chamonix Chardonnay, it was the most interesting of the white bunch. Like the other whites it shows a good deal of evolution in the flavours, but there’s also some complexity and flesh on the structural bones. Will it offer further? I’m doubtful but (properly stored) it’ll certainly offer pleasure for another year. Lesson here, it’s misleading to brush all varieties, all areas of the winelands with the same vintage brush; that’s without taking the individual producer into account.

A lesson repeated with the two reds I dug out: Eagles Nest Shiraz and Buitenverwachting Christine, the latter a cabernet-led Bordeaux-style blend noted for its longevity.
Knowing Christine 2009, an absolutely stand out vintage, I can’t say the 2008 is on the same level and it shows itself much better with food than alone, when the astringency remains a barrier to enjoyment. However, it is absolutely true to the Buitenverwachting style; classic, austere but the austerity is from grape tannins, which will resolve with time (unlike oak tannins), dry but still full of fruit without being fruity. There is not even a suggestion of modern, ultra-ripe reds with their high alcohol and often residual sweetness. I would certainly be inclined to hold on to this wine for several more years, monitoring it after another two or three.

As for the shiraz, I see my colleague, Tim James wrote about this Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show trophy winner and Platter five star wine in the 2011 guide: ’08 .. back to purer style. Violets, black pepper intro to notably creamy ripe, yet elegant wine; already hints at complexity ..’ Looking at my own notes now (made before looking at Platter) they very much reflect that view with the addition of that hinted-at complexity, partly through greater homogenisation of flavours. I’m so glad I have a few more bottles, which I’m in no hurry to open – that is by unscrewing rather than uncorking. We know closure, as well as factors mentioned above, influences how a wine ages but those under screwcap have yet to be tested over ten years or more. In many ways, the Eagles’ Nest does appear more youthful than many six year old reds.

Eagles Nest ShirazI felt the 2009 and 2010 showed a little too much oak on release, which was strange, as winemaker, Stuart Botha told me there had been no change in the oaking regime. Thankfully, the wines have come into balance over time and there’s no hurry to open them. I was very interested to taste the latest and just released 2011 at last week’s Shiraz Awards, where it had reached the top 20. Notable is the concentration and structure from older vines but with no diminution of the wine’s trademark pure fruit and suppleness; oaking too is seamlessly absorbed. It should please its many fans, even though, for some strange reason, the judges failed to place it among the top 12.

Could it have anything to do with the fact that the panel was made up of winemakers, three of whom had a total of four shirazes in the top 12? I have no objections to a winemaker judging; there’s always one on the panel of three judges on the Trophy Wine Show. He or she can bring valuable technical knowledge to the table, but in the case of the Shiraz Awards – or any other competition – there should surely be better balance to ensure every style receives a fair hearing. I would hope at least the scores of the judges whose wines made the top 12 were discounted for their own wines; there was no mention of this.
The judges, under chairman, Dr Andy Roediger CWM, were Richard Rowe, Australian winemaker, currently consulting winemaker and brand ambassador to KWV, Carl Schultz (Hartenberg), Niels Verburg (Luddite) (who doesn’t enter his wines on any show), Francois Naudé (Rhebokskloof) and Anthony de Jager (Fairview).


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