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03 Jun 2015 09:11
Cabernet Sauvignon Report: The best wines combine luscious fruit and textual generosity without sacrificing freshness. (Reuters)
Has the success of Syrah and the Rhône blends coming out of the Swartland skewed the picture as to what’s going on at
the top end of the South African wine industry as a whole? An international
commentator has barely to set foot at Cape Town International Airport before he
or she is whisked off to Riebeek Kasteel and environs for a tasting, which might
well mean that what’s going on in other red wine categories is getting short
The Christian Eedes Cabernet Sauvignon Report is now four years old. There were 13 wines out of 60, which rated 90
points or higher on the 100-point scale and it’s difficult to imagine a
similar-sized flight of Shiraz producing a much better result.
If advances in Shiraz are being largely
driven by Swartland winemakers, then Cabernet remains a Stellenbosch forte – out of
the top 13, 10 feature grapes sourced solely from this district while 40% of
the fruit for the Spier Woolworths Reserve 2012 is from there (the other 60%
from Darling) with only the Nederburg II Centuries 2010 (Paarl) and La Bri
Limited Release (Franschhoek) breaking the pattern.
Also of interest is how much the 2012
vintage features with 10 of the top 13 from this year.
When renowned United Kingdom wine
critic Jancis Robinson MW was out here in January, she remarked that the
fundamental challenge for viticulturists right now was to “close the gap”
between the two curves of sugar ripeness and phenolic ripeness (the former
progressing quicker over time than the latter) and it does seem that the
favourable growing conditions which 2012 provided contributed significantly to
wines of excellence.
Ageing like wineIs my general bullishness about the
category entirely justified? It has to be said that there are still a lot of
wines selling for around the R200 a bottle mark (expensive in the local
context) with scores in the low to mid-80s and this is undoubtedly below par.
However, much it might pain the traditionalists out there, wines showing a
“green” character are not permissible but equally drowning over-ripe fruit in
plenty of oak isn’t the solution either.
The best wines, or at least the wines this
panel is inclined to reward, combine luscious fruit and textual generosity
without sacrificing freshness.
That one caveat aside, what’s really
exciting is that however good this year’s line-up is, even better is probably just
around the corner. The point is there’s a lag time between critical
feedback and being able to see the effect of improvements implemented in either
the vineyard or the cellar. The trajectory of the learning curve that the South
African wine industry has been on ever since political transformation circa
1994 remains steep which means quality gains are still relatively easily had.
The tasting is capped at 60 wines, partly consisting of examples which have fared well in recent local or international
competition and partly from those producers I consider to be the best in their
field even if somewhat low profile.
The judging panel was chaired by myself and
further consisted of two trusted colleagues, namely Roland Peens and James
Pietersen, both of Wine Cellar, a Cape Town firm which brokers and cellars fine
We tasted blind and the scoring was done according to the 100-point system:100 – 96: Extraordinary & Profound95 – 93: Outstanding92 – 90: Excellent.
93 points: Waterford (2012) – Stellenbosch
Waterford Estate wines (Facebook)
92 points: Le Riche (2012) – Stellenbosch
91 points: De Trafford (2012) – Stellenbosch
91 points: Graham Beck The Coffeestone (2013)
91 points: Laibach The Widow’s Block (2012) – Simonsberg - Stellenbosch
91 points: Nederburg II Centuries (2010) – Simonsberg - Paarl
91 points: Oldenburg Vineyards (2012) – Stellenbosch
Oldenburg Vineyards wine (Facebook)
91 points: Rust en Vrede Single Vineyard (2012) – Stellenbosch
91 points: Vergelegen V (2011) – Stellenbosch
90 points: La Bri Limited Release (2012) – Franschhoek
90 points: Spier Woolworths Reserve (2012) – Darling - Stellenbosch
90 points: Stark-Condé (2012) – Stellenbosch
90 points Warwick Blue Lady (2012) – Simonsberg - Stellenbosch
Warwick Blue Lady wine (Facebook)
See the full list of wines here.
Christian Eedes is the editor of Wine magazine. He has tasted
wines for the Old Mutual Trophy
Wine Show and Platter’s South African Wine Guide, as well as various other
local and international competitions.
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