Post the Nebbiolo tasting at Steenberg on Wednesday morning, an excellent lunch at on-site restaurant Bistro 1682 consisting of marrow bones on toast, followed by steak tartare, an animal protein blow-out that offset the high-natural acidity, high tannin wines left over from our earlier endeavours.
Once our repast was over, it was not difficult to persuade winemaker JD Pretorius to raid the Steenberg wine library. First up, Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc 1993, from a block planted in 1989 and which Pretorius reckons is the one that is now responsible for the property’s famed Reserve bottling. The 1993 was from the second crop ever harvested, and the wine was made by Nicky Versveld (now chief winemaker for The Company of Wine People) at Welmoed in Stellenbosch. Never officially released, most of it was “delightedly consumed by the top brass of [then owners] JCI” to quote Platter’s 1995. What kind of nick was it in? It could be said that it simply showed more of what you’d expect from a young Steenberg but oh, so intense and harmonious.
Then on to a Semillon 1997, which was altogether fatter, rounder with sumptuous fruit and a line of acidity that was softer but also better integrated into the wine as a whole than was the case on the old Sauvignon Blanc. What’s curious about Semillon says Pretorius is that total acidity drops out as it ripens and yet pH (a measurement of the concentration of the effective, active acidity in a solution) stays high, making it a wine with the potential to last well. Tasting the two wines next to each other, it suggested that Magna Carta 2007, Steenberg’s first attempt at an ultra-premium white blend comnining Sauvignon’s raciness and Sem’s palate weight, is an inspired effort that will age very, very well.