In the quest for elegance and finesse, do South Africa’s new-wave reds sacrifice mid-palate and texture? That was at least one of the topics of conversation during a benchmark tasting (sighted) of 12 examples of Shiraz/Syrah from the 2005 vintage hosted by Hartenberg Estate in Stellenbosch yesterday. A wide variety of styles on show but none bar perhaps the Graillot too “skinny”.
Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage 2005
A mesmerising wine – red and black fruit, purple flowers, garrigue, liquorice, pepper and smoked meat. So multi-faceted appearing light and airy and then dark and earthy in turns. Pure and deep with a great line of acidity and fine but firm tannins, the finish extraordinarily long.
Boekenhoutskloof CWG Auction Reserve 2005
Red and black fruit, a subtle floral note, iodine and pepper. Rich and broad, relatively soft acidity and the tannins nicely resolved. A polished, generous wine which is drinking well now.
Kongsgaard 2005, Napa Valley, USA
Ultra-ripe blue and black fruit, intense black pepper. Big and luscious on the palate, pleasantly tart acidity lending balance and the tannins very firm. Super-concentrated, thick textured yet balanced – a one-glass sort of wine but utterly compelling.
Wendouree 2005, Clare Valley, Australia
Very expressive with notes of red and black fruit, cinnamon, white pepper, rosemary and menthol. Lovely fruit expression, bright acidity and powdery tannins. Intensely flavoured, the finish extremely long and gently savoury.
René Rostaing La Landonne 2005
Red fruit, pepper and spice and a very particular herbal note. Weightless intensity on the palate – pure fruit, fresh acidity and nicely prickly tannins.
Hartenberg The Stork 2005
Red and black fruit, black pepper, some earthiness, smoked meat and slight malty quality. Rich and broad with bright acidity and smooth tannins. Very flavourful.
E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde 2005
Hints of floral perfume and garrigue on a relatively shy nose. Medium bodied with lemon-like acidity and powdery tannins. Balanced and refined, this wine appears quite tight still.
Hartenberg Gravel Hill 2005
Red and black pepper, fynbos and some pepper plus a malty quality. Rich and broad – sweet fruited with soft acidity. Appears to be on a plateau of maturity, no longer primary but set to last a good while longer.
René Rostaing Côte-Rôtie -Cote Blonde 2005
Overtly floral note on the nose plus red fruit. Juicy and fresh with lovely fine tannins and a savoury finish.
Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2005
Red fruit, purple flowers and scrub. Medium bodied with very fresh acidity and crunchy tannins – a bit angular.
Meaty, leathery notes plus a little white pepper on the nose. Sweet, rich and broad. At its peak but satisfying to drink.
Torbreck Runrig 2005, Barossa Valley, Australia
Dark fruit, mint and chocolate. Sweet on entry, thick textured and hot on the finish. Unctuous and over-whelming to drink. Widely considered a great example of the variety but impossible to score as it sits so far outside any conventional paradigm of wine quality.