My favourite food? Tuna would rate high on the list, but as much as I love this tasty fish, I wouldn’t want to eat it every day, nor prepared in just one way. So it is with wine; just imagine how boring it would be if wine were limited to one style – or variety. Diversity is the spice of life and it was certainly in evidence among the winners of Christian Eedes
Cabernet Report 2015.
As in past events, Eedes chose 60 of the Cape’s top cabs with a track record before sitting down to taste with his colleagues, Wine Cellar’s Roland Peens and James Pietersen. The format changed a little this year: ratings were out of 100 rather than 20 and there was no top 10; instead, all wines scoring more than 90/100 were deemed winners. This could have been embarrassing should only a handful have made the cut, but as Eedes pointed out, the majority entered were from the excellent 2012 vintage and this provided 10 of the 13 scoring 90/100 or more. (The less than stellar 2014s will be awaited with bated breath!)
In his report, Eedes writes: ‘The best wine, or at least the wines this panel is inclined to reward, combine luscious fruit and textual (sic) generosity without sacrificing freshness .’ After tasting through all the wines, I find that aesthetic is rather widely interpreted, although not always with negative results. The full report can be read here.
My own taste is for a classic style in cabernet and in wine generally, so the three cabernets that most pleased me were Waterford 2012, Le Riche 2012 and Stark-Conde 2012, all with under 40% new oak and only Le Riche a straight cabernet (this is the Regular, the Reserve, with presumably more new oak scored 84). They, the Stark-Condé in particular, are what I’d call ‘proper cabernets’. While both Waterford and Le Riche were the top two rated wines, Stark-Condé was number 12 on the list, something I found puzzling, given the very different styles that filled the other spots. But I guess that’s the way it goes with competitions, so if your taste is also for a more restrained, classic style, don’t be put off by that number 12 rating.
As for those in between, there was over-ripeness, notably in Oldenburg 2012 with its porty tail and the Spier Woolworths Reserve 2012, just under 14% declared alcohol, but with jammy sweet fruit.
Before you deem my judgement too subjective, let me hasten to say how much I admire Rust en Vrede’s Single Vineyard 2012, 100% cabernet and new oak. Yes, it’s big, but it’s also balanced, the fruit well able to handle the oak and of a ripeness to ensure varietal recognition rather than a soupy mess. Anyone willing and able to fork out its R850 asking price, who is out to impress or who enjoys that more modern style, will not be disappointed. Personally, I couldn’t do more than fiddle with a glass, but that doesn’t stop me recognising it’s a really good wine.
The following day, Tim James and I held one of our regular tastings of new releases and other wines submitted for our opinion. We were coincidentally faced with the same situation: a wine whose style neither of us particularly care for but which we recognise for its quality. Impressive is the word that most readily comes to mind about Spier or rather Frans K Smit’s 2009, as it should for the R745 price tag. Cabernet-based with merlot, shiraz and pinotage, this is a mouthful of luxurious vinosity. So seamless – after 31 months in all new French oak – that if a wrinkle were to be found, you’d imagine it’s been photo shopped out. And that’s part of the problem, it’s one dimensional, without nuance. Like the Rust en Vrede I’d soon get bored and exhausted by even half a glass – even if its 15.12% alcohol isn’t apparent on first sip, the effects would soon make themselves known.
Quickly on to a couple of wines that offered much more enjoyment and would tempt opening more than one bottle.
At last Basil and Jane Landau’s fabulous, now 110 year old semillon vineyard, has found a sympathetic and understanding winemaker to reveal its concentrated glory. Wynand Grobler, Rickety Bridge winemaker, is well-versed in coaxing the best from Franschhoek semillon, producing some under the Rickety Bridge label. Since 2012, the Landau’s have entrusted him with their fruit. The results are encouragingly authentic; the latest 2013 immediately engages with a waxy note, so evocative of Franschhoek, but lifted out of dourness by a subtle lemon balm freshness. Suavely silky, concentrated yet unshowy, it holds all the promise of growing with age, as delicious as it is now. Worth every cent of R225 asking price.
Of the two new 2014 and last Sequillo’s, both Tim and I find the red more exciting than the white, with layers of flavour and a suppleness that leaves it readily enjoyable now and probably for a further a year or two. Both sell for around R169.
The latest Mullineux Syrah 2013 (R275) will need time, though it’s not as sturdy as the previous vintage. Tasting it over a day or so brought out more of the red earth character I associate with so many Swartland red wines and flesh with that sense of being alive that for me equates to minerality.
Enough for now. Rejoice in diversity!