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Vilafonté Series C 2003 – 2012

The first decade.
The first decade.

Phil Freese, leading US viticulturist and co-owner along with winemaker wife Zelma Long and Warwick’s Mike Ratcliffe of Paarl property Vilafonté, says his aim has always been to adapt the vineyards to the site instead of pushing them into something they don’t want to be.

The first plantings on Vilafonté were done in 1997 and 1998, 2003 the first vintage to be sold commercially and to mark the release of the 2012, a 10-year vertical of Series C.

Two observations: 1) those vineyards certainly do seem to becoming better adapted to their site as time goes by (the outstanding maiden vintage not withstanding) and 2) the 2012 comes in at 14% abv compared to 15% in the case of the 2011 and elevates the wine into a very special realm. It’s apparently the start of a downward trend in ripeness levels and it is to be hoped that more producers of our ultra-premium reds follow suit.

82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec. Dark red with very little browing. Classic nose showing cassis, cigar box and graphite – really complex. Lovely fruit concentration and freshness, the wine still very much intact. That weightless intensity which so often marks great wines and a super-long finish.

Score: 95/100.

52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot,9% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec. Developed on the nose with forest floor, slightly gamey notes (“French complexity” according to current winemaker Martin Smith). Rich and broad with soft tannins, the wine starting to tire.

Score: 88/100.

66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec. Dark fruit plus earthy, tarry notes. Huge in structure: ripe fruit, firm tannins and lacking a little freshness. Rather too brutish for me but will have its fans.

Score: 89/100

54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec. Red fruit, fynbos, a hint of caramel and attractive oak spice.  Relatively medium bodied with fresh acidity and fine tannins. Elegant.

Score: 90/100.

82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc. Dark fruit, prominent but not unattractive oak. Quite lean and severe –very dry if not quite astringent on the finish.

Score: 90/100.

66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 6% Malbec. Red and black fruit plus a slight green quality. Feels awkward – lacks mid-palate and the tannins appear unripe.

Score: 87/100.

54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec. Dark fruit, some floral perfume, brown sugar and cocoa on the nose. Rich and full with moderate acidity and soft tannins. Seems a little overly developed.

Score: 90/100.

75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec. Cassis, vanilla and oak spice. Excellent fruit concentration with fresh acidity with fine, properly ripe tannins – plush in the best sense. Ends long and dry.

Score: 93/100.

81% Cabernet Sauvignon,26% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 14% Malbec. Cassis, vanilla and pencil shavings. Lovely fruit purity and carefully judged oak, the tannins smooth but not slippery. Very correct and undoubtedly powerful – will it age?

Score: 92/100.

Current release. Price: R500
53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Malbec, 19% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Franc. Cassis, vanilla and cocoa on the nose. Possesses pleasing shape and form – excellent fruit concentration and it’s cooler in the mouth than previous vintages. A degree more refinement and freshness in evidence.

Score: 94/100.

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  1. Just a thought and question

    If two wine blends have different percentages of grape varieties, and some times even an extra variety, can they really be called the same wine and can they really be compared? I understand that the wine industry has guidelines about it but the minute you change a component of the wine then it’s a different wine, even if a small percentage. If you want to make the same wine each year and be able to compare exactly you should have the same mix of varieties in each. Just a thought for a friday

    • Hi Glenn, Co-owner Mike Ratcliffe says that they “blend to a style rather than using a recipe”. It’s common practice to change the proportions of a blend to a certain degree depending on the vintage.

  2. Thanks Christian and I agree it’s about the style rather than recipe and I’m very happy that they do that to get consistency and .

  3. Hi Glenn
    Christian’s point about blending to style is correct – in the sense that it is what we do at Vilafonté. Your question of comparison has limited reference here because we are not trying to make a comparison, but rather showing a précis of the Vilafonté evolution over the past decade. It is not a competition, a comparison of a beauty competition. When you open yourself up to scrutiny, you better be prepared to reveal yourself fully if you are seeking credibility. We acknowledge that we have not done everything right. We also recognise that the accumulated reservoir of knowledge will almost certainly mean that our best wines are Head of us.
    I guess that comparison is what developes the reservoir of knowledge. It will be even more interesting when we show the first 20 vintages in 2024.

  4. Variation – through, amongst others, vintage specifics, winemaker nuance and blending would rank quite highly on my list of ‘what makes wine interesting’. Without variation, why would even bother with adding vintage to the wine label?


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