In order to put the launch of the Cape of Good Hope old vineyard series into perspective, a tasting of benchmark international wines:
Domaine de Belliviére Vieilles Vignes Eparses Coteaux du Loir 2002 (Chenin Blanc from vineyards 50 to 80 years old)
Château de Beaucastel Roussanne Vielles Vignes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009 (from a 3ha vineyard at least 75 years old)
Terroir Al Límit Les Manyes Priorat 2008 (Grenache from vineyards 55 years old)
Perrin & Fils Vielles Vignes Gigondas 2007 (80% Grenache, 20% Syrah from 10.5ha of 100-year-old pre-phylloxera vines)
Achaval Ferrer Finca Altamira 2007 (Malbec from 80 year old vines on own roots in the La Consulta region of the Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina)
Yalumba Tri Centenary Vineyard Vine Vale Barossa 2005 (from 122 year old vines)
Rockford Basket Press Shiraz Barossa Valley 2005 (from vines 80 years old on average)
An over-riding impression of the line-up was the massive flavour concentration that working with old vines clearly affords.
A particular treat to sample Terroir Al Límit Les Manyes 2008 as made by our very own Eben Sadie in conjunction with Dominik Huber as part of their venture in Priorat, Spain. Whereas most of this appellation has slate soils leading to wines of great structure and power, the Les Manyes vineyard is on very calcareous soil and the resulting wine is very much more elegant than is typical of the region. “The soil is white in colour and reflects so much sun, you get blisters on your top rather than bottom lip. It gets more light than any other vineyard I know of,” says Sadie. The wine is from densely planted 55 year old Grenache vines planted 700m above sea level and yielding 2 tons a hectare. Whole cluster ferment and maturation in old barrels. It appears intensely aromatic on the nose with notes of red cherry, strawberry, rose petal and spice while the palate shows great fruit expression, fresh acidity and grippy tannins. Very smart stuff.