10-Year-Old Sauv-Sem blends under review

By , 25 March 2021



Following the recent 10-Year-Old Wine Report, yesterday saw another look at wines from the 2011 vintage, this time the line-up consisting exclusively of Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blends, five from South Africa and two from Bordeaux. The tasting was organized by colleague Angela Lloyd with me and James Pietersen of Wine Cellar in attendance – we tasted blind and then ranked them (no ties allowed).

The overall grading was as follows:
1. Chateau De Fieuzal 2011
2. Cape Point Vineyards Isliedh 2011
3. Vergelegen G.V.B 2011
4. Domaine de Chevalier 2011
5. Chamonix Reserve 2011
6. Tokara Director’s Reserve 2011
7. Steenberg Magna Carta 2011

My grading (with scores according to the 100-point quality system alongside) as follows:
1. Vergelegen G.V.B 2011 – 94
2. Domaine de Chevalier 2011 – 93
3. Cape Point Vineyards Isliedh 2011 – 93
4. Chateau De Fieuzal 2011 – 92
5. Chamonix Reserve 2011 – 92
6. Tokara Director’s Reserve 2011 – 92
7. Steenberg Magna Carta 2011 – 91

Some general observations: Taken as a whole, this was an extraordinarily good line-up. If the definition of age-worthiness is that wines should become more pleasurable and more interesting to drink with time in the bottle, then these certainly qualify.

Regarding the perennial question as to whether or not South Africa can match the best in the world, a most emphatic “yes”. There was little between Vergelegen and Domaine de Chevalier for me, these wines both managing to strike a balance between firmness and elegance. The Fieuzal, on the other hand, showed more outright power. Isliedh from Cape Point Vineyards is an intriguing wine with a subtle oxidative character, for which read “baked apple”. As for the Tokara, best white wine overall in the 10-Year-Old Report, it showed as particularly full and exotic in the context of this line-up (also the only wine to be closed under screwcap).

Lastly, what this exercise reminded me is that it is possible to score different wines the same based on inherent quality but to rank one above another in terms of your own stylistic preferences. Wine appreciation is a funny old business.


7 comment(s)

Please read our Comments Policy here.

    Kwispedoor | 25 March 2021

    As someone who loves older Semillon, I’m mildly surprised at your scores, Christian (I say ‘mildly’ because I know you prefer to err on the conservative side and like to leave room for the echelon that you deem the best wines in the world should occupy, even though SA’s best compares better and better). You probably roll your eyes every time someone debates your scoring, but I’m bringing this up because I sense that you also really like these wines.

    If one considers the admission that the wines have significantly improved with age and then subtract 2-3 points from each to crudely simulate scores at their release dates, these fantastic wines are all battling to get over the 90 mark… I was not at the tasting, but on paper it looks to me like they might very well have fitted rather aptly into the 93-96 bracket.

      Christian Eedes | 25 March 2021

      Hi Kwispedoor, I note that on release of the Vergelegen GVB 2011 in 2013, I gave it 19/20, a score approximate to 96/100. Has it been diminished by age over the subsequent eight years? A moot point. It’s still excellent but probably a touch less striking than it was in its youth.

      As always, I’m going to argue that my scores and that of our panel are not widely out of synch with international tasters. Take the Domaine de Chevalier 2011 – Neal Martin scored it 93 – 95 in April 2012; James Molesworth of Wine Spectator scored it 91 – 94 in June 2012; and Julia Harding of JancisRobinson.com scored it 17/20 in October 2013…

        Kwispedoor | 25 March 2021

        Thanks, Christian. I wouldn’t compare the international tasters’ scores when they tasted the very young Domaine de Chevalier almost a decade ago with what the mature wine would bring to the table. To my mind, they should be scoring the mature wine higher if they had the opportunity to rate it now. I guess your scores on these mature ones do make sense if you generally like your Semillon younger. For me, good Semillon actually becomes more striking with age in just about every sense, apart from acidity.

    Angela Lloyd | 25 March 2021

    What Christian didn’t point out was that I decanted the Tokara into a bottle that would have had a cork (to disguise the screwcap bottle) also the Isliedh, where the bottle shape is distinctive. So there were no obvious clues.

      Carl | 25 March 2021

      Excellent point Angela! Distinctive bottle shapes are certainly a giveaway. Had a Blankbottle of Casting for Chris and becoming Paul and that one stands out.

      Udo | 28 March 2021

      He also leaves out the fact that the other tasters thought the Magna Carta was oxidised but he score’s it 91?

        Christian Eedes | 29 March 2021

        Hi Udo, I’ve drunk quite a lot of older Magna Carta and it seems to age in peculiar fashion. In this instance, it was certainly more advanced than its counterparts but I thought it still had some pleasure to give – I happen to like old wine but concede many people don’t…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Like our content?

Show your support.