Most days I’m lucky enough to drink a wine that pleases me, sometimes a wine that leaves me feeling content; the thrilling, exciting ones are more rare (but probably the more thrilling/exciting for that), so to taste not one but two such exciting rarities in one day left me feeling – well, pretty happy.
The first, Bruwer Raats 2005 Original Chenin Blanc, wasn’t so old at around nine and three-quarter years, but as the first wine to be closed under screwcap in a South African produced bottle, it was also unique.
Screwcap closures was the theme of the event hosted jointly at George Jardine’s restaurant on Jordan winery by the European Aluminium Foil Association, whose members represent around 75% of global aluminium closure production, local aluminium producer, Hulamin and Guala Closures South Africa, local subsidiary of the Italian founded international closures group.
Of the many facts and figures put forward to persuade both producers and consumers to use/buy wine and other produce where aluminium closures are used, I liked that around 75% of aluminium ever produced is still in use today thanks to its recyclability.
I get as annoyed as the next person when an old or one-off bottle of special wine is cork tainted, though thankfully, it rarely occurs in bottles from our cellar. I’m equally relaxed with screwcaps, especially as they look so much smarter these days. They do have their own annoyance factor when the top refuses to part from the capsule, sending the whole thing round and round without opening. Attacking it with a knife often results in serious damage to self.
Frankly, the competition between the closures has benefitted both and, of course, consumers. Screwcaps’ popularity has taken the heat off corks and allowed the industry to sort out much of its problems, while the aluminium closure industry has been forced to upgrade aesthetically to improve the image of screwcaps.
The one on Bruwer’s old bottle had done its job admirably. As you can see from the photo (it’s the one on the left; the other is 2012), the colour has remained youthful and bright. The wine’s still enticingly fresh but the flavours have mellowed; it was this contrast with harmony that made for a much more interesting experience than mere ageing and there’s plenty of life in it yet.
Bruwer did say this was one bottle from a case he’d forgotten about and found recently. A vertical sounds a very good idea.
The other piece of happy sipping came later in the day when the Joubert family brought themselves and boxes of bottles to town from Barrydale for a tasting of some new wines and one that’s new but very old.
Try as I might, I cannot work out how many Jouberts there are but there are many (and all
helluva good looking!). Winemaker at Joubert-Tradauw, Meyer, introduced the new wines; market and sales guru, Cobus spoke about the new but very old, while Schalk-Willem (GM at Rupert & Rothschild) and youngest brother, Andries – I didn’t catch what he does – lent support, as did their parents. Maybe I’ve missed others.
Their farm on the famous Route 62 enjoys ‘a continental climate, with no sea view,’ commented Meyer. The vineyards, mainly on shale, were planted by Meyer’s father, Jacobus just over 30 years’ ago in 1982 but it was only in 1999 they started making their own wine.
Chardonnay is the sole white and an elegant, balanced and characterful wine the 2012 is; all that’s positive about today’s Cape chardonnays.
Pinot noir and cabernet franc followed. The 2013 pinot is Meyer’s third attempt and the first he feels happy enough to bottle. Made solely from Clone 115, with a few stalks added, it has a different and intriguing suggestion of fynbos/garrigue, a pleasant savouriness and full, supple mouthfeel. Maturation in older oak has provided certain harmony and focus though it’ll benefit from further ageing. As will the tempestuous cab franc, a wild spicy beast at present, the spice further boosted by its year in new oak.
But we had come to honour grandfather Schalk-Willem Joubert, who, in the early 1950s, had upped from his property in Wellington and taken his family to live in the beautiful Tradauw valley. He also took with him a tiny but precious 115 litre French oak barrel, first filled with Muscat d’Alexandrie around 1800 and never entirely emptied since. Occasionally the Jouberts have drawn small amounts from it, occasionally Meyer has thrown in a bottle of Barrydale Muscat brandy to sustain it, at times the family have even forgotten it, but now they have bottled just six 375ml bottles. How to sell it is now under discussion with Nederburg Auction an idea: very d e e p pockets will be needed.
This sort of solera system leaves a deep, wine dark aged colour but the strands of pure, grapey fragrance introduce a more youthful freshness to the almost fathomless depths of molasses, dried naartjie peel, nutmeg and cinnamon spice. Viscosity is there but never does the wine feel over-rich or heavy thanks to its riveting acidity. If a sip alone was magic, a sip with goats’ cheese studied with cranberries was paradise. Like the wine, the memory will be never-ending.