Man shapes the environment but does the environment shape man? Vilafonté is the joint venture between Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick in Stellenbosch and eminent US wine personalities Phil Freese and Zelma Long. First bottling was 2003 and I’ve struggled with the wines in the past on account of how premeditated they appear. Technically correct but a bit joyless – what some might consider typical of “American” top-end wine.
That said, I thought the 2009 of both the Series C and Series M represented a breakthrough, the wines showing real balance and character in addition to the (huge) concentration typical of the label. It was the former which particularly impressed, earning a rating of 18/20 (see here) and on being given a preview of the 2010 to be released in March next year, it seems even better.
The Cabernet Sauvignon component is now up to 75% (compared to 54% in the case of 2009), the rest being 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot and 5% Malbec, this combination appearing to work particularly well . A heady nose in the best sense – dark berries, spice and cocoa rather than chocolate. The palate, meanwhile, is rich and full with great flavour intensity. Pure, optimally ripe fruit is matched by really grippy tannins and just enough acidity. A big whack of oak– this is bling wine as the R450 price tag reminds you – but entirely complementary to the overall experience.
Substantial, dense and chewy and the lasting impression is savoury rather than sweet. As Ratcliffe, Freese and Long become more familiar with their Paarl vineyards, the resulting wines grow more compelling and, dare I say it, more authentic. My score for the Series C 2010 is 18.5/20.