An interesting exercise to mark the re-opening of Die Bergkelder, home of Fleur du Cap wines on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, after refurbishment to offer a better visitor experience:
Fleur du Cap Cabernet Sauvignon 1986 oaked six ways by the late Dr Julius Laszlo, Bergkelder cellarmaster from 1978 to 1992 and the man credited with introducing small oak casks for maturation to South Africa.
Barrels used came from the French regions of Nevers and Allier (both tight-grain) as well as Limousin (wide-grain) and then Spain and America. The sixth wine in the line-up incorporated a blend of the first five. In each case, the wine spent 24 months maturing in wood that was entirely new.
The blend (predominatly Nevers and American) proved the most harmonioius of the six samples, but I think I preferred the wine from straight Nevers barrels on the basis that it was more arresting with fruit that was still remarkably fresh, the tannins still grippy. The wine from American barrels came across as sweet and broad and while American oak occasionally works well on Pinotage and Shiraz, I’m not sure it lends itself to austere Cabernet Sauvignon.