De Trafford Blueprint Syrah 2012

November 21, 2014
by Christian Eedes
in What I Drank Last Night
with 5 Comments
Monumental.

Monumental.

There were 25 examples of Shiraz/Syrah nominated for 5 Stars in Platter’s 2015 and it fell to Grape.co.za founder Tim James, sommelier-at-large Higgo Jacobs and me tasting blind to either endorse these or not.

Wine assessment is often humbling and particularly so in this instance. Out of the five wines we as a trio anointed as worthy of 5 Stars, two were wines about which I’d expressed significant reservations previously on this website, the Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2012 described as “extremely polished” (code for “overdone”) and scoring 90/100 here and the Porseleinberg 2012 having “something ever so slightly peculiar on the back palate” and scoring 91/100 here.

I feel even more awkward having now drunk a bottle of the De Trafford Blueprint Syrah 2012 (approximate retail price: R500 a bottle), not only rated 5 Stars but red wine of the year in Platter’s.

Grapes are sourced mainly from the neighbouring Keermont farm. In the cellar, spontaneous fermentation, the cap punched down manually two to three times a day for around 16 days and maturation lasting 21 months in French oak, none new.

Whatever I thought about it at the taste-off for Platter’s, I found it absolutely gigantic last night. Black and blue fruit, pepper, earth and a slight malty quality. Über-intense on the palate with moderate acidity and oh-so-soft tannins. And there’s definitely some warmth on the finish if not outright alcoholic burn (abv 14.76%).

Winemaker David Trafford has always been unapologetic about his aesthetic vision (which might be paraphrased as “scale doesn’t matter as long as it’s in proportion”) and his reds have an uncanny ability to mature beautifully (is it the alcohol acting as preservative?). All that said, the Blueprint 2012 is heady stuff and having spent time with it over a meal, I think all that concentration is ultimately at the expense of balance.

Score: 91/100.

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5 Comments

  1. Christian EedesNovember 22, 2014 at 7:49 amReplyAuthor

    For the record, I don’t think blind tasting is better than sighted or vice versa – they serve different purposes.The curious aspect of the Platter’s methodology is that it is premised on tasting sighted and then it’s ultimate accolade is determined blind – individual tasters spend hours, even days with a wine before nominating it for 5 Stars and then at the point when pedigree should be most important, it is abandoned. I fear the result is that wines which sit at a stylistic extreme (whether super-geeky or super-showy) get rewarded over wines which are equally good but less radical.

  2. Tim JamesNovember 21, 2014 at 9:27 pmReply

    PS. I am totally convinced by the excellence of the Porseleinberg 2012. Amongst the best few shirazes the Cape has ever produced.

  3. Tim JamesNovember 21, 2014 at 9:23 pmReply

    An interesting aspect about our five-star judging of the shirazes (and I don’t think I’m letting out trade secrets here) is that I know that all three of us initially rated the De Trafford wine just UNDER the five star barrier (94/100). It’s rare for a panel of three to give a unanimous high rating like this – and, with the support of the roving chairs, we agreed to rate it higher. (But bear in mind that we initially all thought it not quite worthy of five stars – though the circumstances meant that we knew we’d have a second chance at rating it, when we has a discussion.) Then, although it wasn’t the panel’s top-scoring shiraz (that was the Porseleinberg, by a point, also after discussion) the De Trafford was the one that the wider panel, judging the various nominations for wine of the year, selected. Perhaps because it was a bit safer than the edgy Porseleinberg. Unlike Christian, I haven’t had the chance to actually drink the De Trafford, but I genuinely respect him for recognising, and admitting, that drinking is an altogether different matter from judging wines in a biggish line-up (perhaps the “blindness” of the judging is less relevant). And I hope he will bear this in mind when he reflects and pronounces on future big competitive tastings in which he has a stake! Tasting wines is an exercise entirely different from drinking the stuff.

  4. KwispedoorNovember 21, 2014 at 11:13 amReply

    I also don’t get too excited about the big De Trafford wines – I very much prefer David’s gorgeous Sijnn stuff. Having said that, some of the De Trafford wines age curiously well and I’ve had some very good older ones indeed.

    Feeling awkward and humble about the whole wine tasting thing means you’re gaining in experience and wisdom.

  5. Hennie @ BatonageNovember 21, 2014 at 10:22 amReply

    David’s wines aren’t for wussies, that’s for sure. In some parts of the world guys drive monster trucks, weld without a visor, shave with a blunt razor or do bullfighting to prove how manly they are. I just try and drink a bottle of De Trafford wine on my own. My manliness is still in question because I have to date not managed to get past 2 and half glasses before developing a speech impediment and falling into a big depression of what a wuss I am.

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