Some five years ago, I interviewed Günter Brözel, former cellarmaster and managing director of Paarl winery Nederburg and the man responsible for developing Edelkeur , the first sweet wine in South Africa to be made from grapes infected with noble rot, maiden vintage being 1969. “No spittoons needed,” said the then 71-year-old Brözel as we begin our tasting of eight vintages beginning with 1974 and ending with 2003. “I’m being delivered to the devil in any case, so I don’t mind a bit more devil in me.”
Attending Nederburg’s annual pre-auction tasting for the media is a must if only because sweet wines are so age-worthy and there always some old examples on show. This year Eminence 1988, from Muscat de Frontignan and the last vintage ever made by Brözel. The wine had an arresting note of mint on the nose as well as dried apricot while the palate showed a lot of caramel character with soft but sufficient acidity. My score: 17/30.
This was followed by the Eminence 2003, a curiosity in that it was the last vintage to be labelled as “Noble Late Harvest”, all subsequent years designated as “Natural Sweet”. Current cellarmaster Razvan Macici explains that Muscat attracts negligible noble rot and while Nederburg was fully entitled to label Eminence as Noble Late Harvest (as it always contained more than the mandatory minimum residual sugar), he sees the product as much more akin to Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance, which has never professed to be anything but Natural Sweet. This wine had a shy nose and came across as very rich and concentrated on the palate balanced by a fresh acidity. My score: 16/20.
Next up Edelkeur 1977 and 2005, this wine always made from Chenin Blanc. The 1977 was dark brown in colour with a green hint. The nose was hugely complex with caramel, dried apricot and spice while the palate showed weightless intensity with everything the nose advertised being delivered. Totally academic to score a wine like this. It appeared on the 2007 auction were the hightest price it fetched was R5000 for a case of 12 375ml bottles, the equivalent of nearly R420 a bottle.
Finally the 2005 vintage, showing dried apricot and an intriguing botrytis-derived mushroom character on the nose, while the palate was rich and concentrated, managing to present as savoury despite a residual sugar of 233.2 g/l. My score: 19/20. Absolutely top stuff and I always wonder why Edelkeur is mentioned more often among South Africa’s potential icon wine.
Wine magazine was published from October 1993 until September 2011 & now lives on in digital form as Winemag.co.za. We cover everything to do with SA fine wine.