Recently a tasting of 12 wines from the 2005 vintage courtesy of colleague Angela Lloyd (read her report here). Three flights of four as follows: Flight One – Vergelegen White, Boekenhoutskloof Semillon, Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay and Hartenberg Riesling; Flight Two – Hartenberg Gravel Hill Shiraz, Quoin Rock Syrah, Waterford CWG Reserve and Waterford The Jem; and Flight Three – Vergelegen Cabernet Franc Merlot, Vilafonté Series C, Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon and Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sadly, I was left underwhelmed. All the whites were in decline if not undrinkable – tasting blind, my favourite wine (with a score of 90/100) was the Hartenberg but I wasn’t confident that it was a Riesling – there was lots about it that suggested “exotic white blend” – and no doubt the 18g/l RS had helped preserve it and probably still adds to its appeal.
As for the reds, they were all more or less hanging on but few if any at all have become more complex or interesting by virtue of bottle maturation. Stellenbosch was, according to most sources, hot, dry and early and the wines from here and environs are typically super-concentrated.
My favourite wine of the day was The Jem from Waterford (58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Shiraz, 11% Mourvèdre, 7% Malbec, 7% Merlot, 2% Sangiovese and 3% Barbera.). Red and black fruit with some floral perfume. Relatively medium bodied with freshness and fine tannins. Good fruit purity and great length. Still very much alive and I gave it an upbeat score of 94/100.
All very humbling as I think I was alone among the eight tasters gathered in feeling enthusiastic about this wine. Moreover, when I had the 2005, 2007 and 2009 of The Jem next to each other back in mid-2013, I said it had “rustic appeal” and gave it a score of 88/100 (see here). What was particularly mortifying this time around is that the wine came after the Waterford Auction Reserve (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 10% Malbec) which as recently as February of this year, I rated 95/100 (see here).
Context matters so much when it comes to wine tasting and side by side on this particular day, the Cab-driven Auction Reserve looked very “green” next to multi-variety The Jem. You live, you learn.