Calm after the storm

Pugnacious pinotages, savage sauvignons, confrontational cabernets, belligerent blends … okay enough alliteration but you get the message that Platter tastings are not all a bed of roses. As I wrote a couple of blogs ago, all I wanted once the last wine had been sniffed, tasted and spat, was plain water.

The last large tasting was of the five star nominations last Monday, since when I’ve deliberately headed for older wines in the cellar – well, relatively older , but wines that would offer a sense of calm after the challenge of the youngsters that, of necessity, are for the most part, offered for Platter.

I guess unless one pays over the odds at a restaurant that cares sufficiently to lay down wines until they’ve got a bit of age on them, few winelovers ever get the opportunity to experience the enjoyment and contemplation many inspire. That bit of age not only smoothes out the edges, but allows the full range of flavours to express themselves, at least in those wines that have that inherent ability to do so.













That was my luck with these three pictured, though, of them, the Beaumont has a lot more to reveal, which shouldn’t have been a surprise given it’s from that excellent vintage, 2009.
The Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon is a perfect illustration of how cool climate sauvignon and semillon can taste so similar. What would have made guessing even more difficult is that this sauvignon includes 7% semillon and a small portion of barrel fermented wine. Sleek and silky, it’s hardly one’s benchmark savage sauvignon, though once tasted, any of this cellar’s white wines are sufficiently distinctive to stir recognition when tasted blind. Unless, of course, one thinks they’re from Elim, whose cool climate and similar clones can fox one. In any event, this seven year old was delicious with loads of flavour, freshness and pleasure. Going by my axiom to drink on the way up rather than down: drink up.

To date, the Newton Johnson’s have received Platter 5* for every vintage of their Family Vineyards Pinot Noir; this 2009 was just the second, from still youngish vines, but like its predecessor, has shown no hesitation in showing off that – hey – South Africa can do pinot, despite lacking latitudes into the 40°s south. It not only tastes great, but feels great too, like a gentle yet deep wave rolling across the tongue. Pinot at its best should always seduce; this one does, so don’t worry if you’re tempted to open another bottle. The message is the same as with the CPV sauvignon.

While talking of when to drink, this is one of the many questions Platter asks producers to indicate on the technical forms. Winemakers are an amitious lot, if those whose wines I tasted are representative; many ticked the 11 years and upwards box!

As beautiful and pure is the fruit in the sauvignon and the pinot, they just don’t have the intensity of the chenin; that is the old vine factor. It’s as though the vine has had time to ‘sow its wild oats’ during its early years, the roots pushing this way and that before the vine feels completely comfortable and can put all effort into producing concentrated berries.

What a treat it was to have the opportunity to taste even older vintages – of Hope and other wines in their range – at the recent lunch to celebrate Beaumont’s 20 years of winemaking and 40 of the family living on the farm. Sebastian had chosen 2007, of particular significance to both him and me; I’d nominated it for Platter 5*, confident it would sail through. Sadly, there were two batches of this wine, one undergoing some bacterial problem and it was this that got on to our 5* tasting and very quickly rejected. As upset as Sebastian was, this did allow him to find out what had happened and withdraw the faulty wine. The bottle opened for the 40 year party was one of the loveliest chenins and Hope’s that I’ve had the pleasure to drink.

Given how good even those two from younger vines are, I can only imagine how superb they’ll be in 15 to 20 years’ time.

Given how good even those two from younger vines are, I can only imagine how superb they’ll be in 15 to 20 years’ time.

Not all wines need keeping; some are made to be enjoyed in the cheerfulness of their youth, but not to experience the pleasure and intrigue of wines calmed by even a few years is rather like reading the first few pages only of Anna Karenina or taking a brief glance at Jan van Eyck’s immensely detailed and interesting Arnolfini betrothal. There’s so much more to relish in all, which time will reveal.


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