Tim James: A gift of Cab-Cinsaut

By , 6 July 2015

Cab-cinsautWine journalists obviously – or should – draw a line between gifts and necessary samples. A clear, strong line, but even if you accept that it’s there and should be, not always easy to discern, and perhaps too often blurred by the receiver. Or the sender: A few months back I was irritated to receive a rather gushing PR email asking for my address so I could be sent the “gift” of a bottle from a producer. I was interested in tasting the wine, but wrote back saying that I had no wish to accept a gift, but was always happy to receive tasting samples.

“Pompous prick!” was quite possibly the (silent) response of the gushing PR person – but I do hope she learnt a lesson in tact at least, and about how to approach at least one or two of the wine-writing fraternity who have sensitivities of this kind when it comes to freebies.

I can’t pretend I’ve never received the occasional bottle as a genuine gift from a producer. Whether I have always wanted the gift is another matter, but being polite is also sometimes part of being a journalist. I could list a few, even rather expensive, bottles, that will long languish on the rack, and many others that have been passed on.

This is a preamble to a confession of receiving a welcome wine gift, but one that I wish to publicly declare (unfortunately there’s no obligatory register for such journalistic declarations as there is in parliament, for example).

I’ve recently moved house, and just in advance of this tremendous undertaking I got an email from Tertius Boshoff, the winemaker at Stellenrust, a Stellenbosch producer I much respect. He’d heard of my move, he said, and wanted to send me a couple of bottles. Especially, he said, he wanted me to have a bottle of an as yet unreleased 2012 wine called Quota Cuvée, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and cinsaut – perhaps the first of a new generation of this blend which retailer Roland Peens thinks is going to be Very Big in Stellenbosch.

Quota Cuvée is a witty name for the blend, as it conjures up – to oldsters and history-aware people at least – the time of KWV-imposed quotas on wine production (especially, it seemed, new, high quality vineyards); which was also the time when cinsaut performed in many excellent local wines the traditional role of merlot in Bordeaux – softening the sombre grandeur of cab’s tannins.

Anyway, Tertius generously said that I had “inspired” his wine, by my recalling and urging the reintroduction of such a blend. He added: “Did not want to show it to you so young and just want you to enjoy it. Don’t write about it, don’t think about it – just for your enjoyment when you sink into the coming weekend.”

Well, I obeyed at least the second half of this injunction, and didn’t (as Quota Cuvée became the first wine drunk rather exhaustedly in my new house), think about it much. My critical faculties were slightly alert, however, and I can report that it is a serious, still youthfully tight but admirable wine; and if you think that a dollop of cinsaut will necessarily turn serious cab into a pussy cat, you’re wrong. But what certainly happened in this case is that cinsaut can add a lovely, red-fruited lift and vivid freshness.

Tertius also sent some unreleased bubbly, apparently based on cab franc. Even less did I ponder much about this wine – though I unthinkingly drank the whole bottle over a few days. That must suffice for comment on a welcome gift now duly and gratefully declared.

  • Tim James is founder of Grape.co.za and contributes to various local and international wine publications. He is a taster (and associate editor) for Platter’s. His book Wines of South Africa – Tradition and Revolution appeared in 2013.


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