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Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2003


Last night a meeting of our social tasting group, the theme of the evening Cabernet Sauvignon. Two flights, the first featuring wines from 2001 or younger, the second wines from 2000 or older.

We tasted blind and here’s how I scored the wines using the 20-point system.

Flight one
Kanonkop 2003 18/20
Dalla Cia 2005 16/20
Hess Collection Mount Veeder Napa Valley 2004 16/20
Le Riche CWG Auction Reserve 2006 16/20

Flight two
Kanonkop 1986 18/20
Vriesenhof 1991 17/20
Thelema 1997 16/20
Kanonkop 1998 15/20

Some general obsersvations: The biggest disappointment of the night was the Kanonkop 1998. This was a vintage much hyped by producers at the time on account of the warm, dry conditions during the ripening period which supposedly facilitated “full phenolic ripeness”. So many of the wines in fact were overdone and I’m afraid the Kanonkop is one of them: super-ripe fruit, hollow mid-palate, astringent finish.

In a good year, Kanonkop is capable of world-class stuff, witness the 2003 which was wonderfully complex, the nose showing red and black fruit, fynbos and appealing oak while the palate was medium bodied with fruit, acidity and fine, mouth-coating tannins in perfect balance. The 1986 was pretty smart, too, but 25 years down the line, needs drinking.

1997, meanwhile, had been cool and wet presenting producers with rot-related problems and hence it initially got talked down. What these milder conditions facilitated however was a more gradual ripening and the best wines from that year are proving to both elegant and long-lived. The Thelema 1997 was medium-bodied with red rather than black fruit and a pleasant herbal note to it.

Vriesenhof 1991 was old fashioned in the best sense being lean and austere but quite regal for it, and it is a great pity that South Africa has largely been bullied out of making wines of this style.


  1. Agree on your assesment of the ’98 Kanonkop I recently drank.

    I also had the 1990 Kanonkop Cabernet, which I found better balanced and showing some nice tertiary flavours. More than ready to drink though.


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