Yesterday a tasting convened by Angela Lloyd for an article on the age-worthiness of modern-era South African wines to appear in an upcoming issue of WineLand.
Two flights of seven wines, the first and the second red. We tasted blind with scoring done according to the 20-point system. Here’s how I rated the wines:
1. Vergelegen 2001 18/20
2. Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2001 (New Zealand) 17/20
3.= Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2001 16/20
3.= Steenberg Catharina 2001 16/20
5.= Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2001 15/20
5.= Thelema Rhine Riesling 2001 15/20
7. Neil Ellis Elgin Chardonnay 2001 14.5/20
1. Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2001 18/20
2.= Rust & Vrede 2001 17/20
2. =The Foundry Syrah 2001 17/20
4.=Jordan Cobbler’s Hill 2001 16/20
4.= Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2001 16/20
4.= Morgenster 2001 16/20
7. Thelema Cabernet Sauvingon 2001 15.5/20
Some general observations: Were South Africa’s whites, even top-end examples, made with the intention of lasting as a long as a decade back in 2001? I suspect not and yet the seven wines we looked at did not disgrace themselves, the maiden vintage Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend still exceptionally good with layers of flavour and great freshness.
As for the reds, the over-riding impression was one of massive concentration, the wines showing less interest than might have been expected ten years from vintage. After local reds had been criticized in the mid-1990s for being lean and green, the early 2000s saw producers go in pursuit of ripeness at all costs and these wines are very much a product of their time.
The Boekenhoutskloof Syrah with its abv of 15% was as big in structure as anything in the line-up, but was very sexy with a wide spectrum of flavours including red and black fruit, pepper and spice; The Foundry Syrah 2001 was thoughtfully done with great focus and an intriguing savoury edge; the Rust & Vrede was enhanced rather than diminished by a hint of Brettanomyces (usually considered a spoilage yeast).