Call me a plebeian but I prefer the second-label Ugaba 2008 from Stellenbosch farm Anwilka to the property’s flagship 2008.
Anwilka is the joint venture between Bruno Prats, former owner of Cos-d’Estournel in St-Estèphe, Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, co-owner of St-Émilion property Angelus, and Lowell Jooste of Klein Constantia.
On Wednesday, Prats and Jooste hosted guests to a review of Ugaba 2006, 2008 and 2008 (no 2007 as not a single bottle remains unsold) as well as Anwilka 2005 to 2009 at the farm’s new tasting room.
Anwilka was purchased in 1997 and its neglected vineyards were extensively replanted. Intially, the concept was to have only one wine, and the maiden vintage of Anwilka was 2005.
However, Ugaba was soon introduced. “The 2006 vintage produced lots of fruit that was good but would not make wine of quite the same complexity and ageing potential and we decided on another wine. After all, the concept of a Grand Vin and second label is well established in Bordeaux,” says Prats.
Anwilka 2005 caused a stir when it was dubbed “this is the finest red wine I have ever had from South Africa” by powerful US critic Robert Parker. Prats says it was intended to be “seductive” and was made with low extraction in order to be round, soft and light in tannins. “Probably the reason it was well received,” Prats says.
The 2006, by contrast, was conceived to be more structured, more age-worthy. From 2007 onwards, the style is meant to be “somewhere in between”, showing fruitiness when young but also having the concentration and intensity to reward ageing.
Though production volumes of both Ugaba and Anwilka are roughly the same currently at between 2 000 and 3 000 cases, the plan is to double that for Ugaba and reduce Anwilka to 500. In addition, a “second second-label” to be called Amadoda is set to come online.
So how does Ugaba 2008 stack up against Anwilka 2008? The former is a blend of 70% Syrah, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot, which spent 10 months in French oak, 20% new. On tasting a selection of red blends for the January issue of WINE magazine, I rated it 18 on the 20-point scale and noted “Ripe dark fruit on the nose and palate. Intensely flavoured. Rich and full but not weighty. Succulent fruit, fine tannins, well balanced”. This time around it struck me as true to its place of origin, with me making the observation that it was “classically Helderberg”.
The Anwilka 2008, meanwhile is a belnd of 45% Syrah, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. Wines were matured in French oak, 50% new, for seven months before being blended together and spending a further six months in oak before bottling. In the WINE magazine tasting mentioned above, I scored it 15 out of 20, describing it as “Sweet, rich and ripe. Soft tannins. Modern style”. Tasting it again, I was again struck how plush it was and felt that the oak was too much in evidence – it could have come from anywhere in the world. (The yet-to-be-released 2009 is far more promising and it is clear that all involved are on a steep learning curve.)
By far the majority of Anwilka production gets sold directly into the Bordeaux en primeur market, but Jooste says he would like the different wines to have more of a profile domestically. Anwilka 2008 sells from Klein Constantia for R330 a bottle, but the wine you should be clamouring for is the Ugaba 2008. “We haven’t done anything about it yet but I guess we have about 500 bottles we could sell if anybody was interested,” says Jooste. A price has yet to be fixed but will be in the vicinity of R70 a bottle.