Zonnebloem Lauréat 2007 is destined to become the stuff of legend after first winning a gold medal in the Bordeaux-style red blend class at this year’s Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show and then subsequently disqualified when it was discovered the wine contained a “dollop of Shiraz” (read more here).
That the wine was stripped of its medal is not entirely pedantic as some might argue. At the recent launch of Grand Plaisir, the flagship red blend from Paarl winery Plaisir de Merle onto the local market, Neil Bester recounted the conception of the wine. According to him, the maiden vintage 1997 was made as a potential entry into the 1999 Diners Club Winemaker of the Year competition, the stipulated category being Bordeaux-style red blends. When some Shiraz crept into the blend, the wine was never entered.
In fact, the category for the Diners Club competition in 1999 was so-called Cape Blends so Bester must have added the Shiraz deliberately and how it performed in the competition we’ll never know (the eventual winner being Ronel Wiid for the Hazendal Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 1998). While the debate around what constitutes a “Cape Blend” has gone cold, judging wine within categories remains necessary as some kind of context or frame of reference is required lest the exercise become entirely unmanageable.
The likeable Bester is also perhaps South Africa’s most absent-minded winemaker. Asked what the subsequent vintages of Grand Plaisir had been, he struggled to recall. For the record, the wine was made in 1997 and then every year from 2001 until 2007, except for 2004. The newly released 2007 consists of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 15% Shiraz and 10% each of Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot) and was matured in new 300-litre French oak barrels for 16 months. The wine is classically styled with dark fruit, bright acidity and fine tannins. Very old school, un-showy and a pleasure to drink. It costs R250 a bottle from the farm.