Boekenhoutskloof tutored tasting

By , 26 November 2015

Marc Kent

Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof.

Having resolved to forsake wine dinners and other promotional activities some five years ago, Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof is back on the road again after the failure of any of his wines to rate 5 Stars in the 2016 edition of Platter’s. “I’m still sulking but I’ll get over it and we’ll be back,” he says during a tasting held at Wine Cellar in Cape Town.

Wine shown included the Semillon 2004, 2009 and 2012; Syrah 2006, 2009 and 2012; Cabern et Sauvignon 2006, 2010 and 2011; The Journeyman 2005 and 2009; and Noble Late Harvest 2005 and 2006.

Kent is bemused with the fixation on “freshness” among new-wave winemakers and some journalists. “Does the market want a 12% alcohol Boekenhoutskloof Syrah? Not so long ago, everybody wanted their wines to be “physiologically ripe”. If you’re physiologically ripe, you can’t also be fresh,” he says. “I think palate richness and depth remains important. Something you can get your teeth into.”

Kent has famously embraced relatively high pHs on his reds because this gives him the texture and mid-palate he’s looking for. His predicament therefore becomes: does he stay true to the style that over time has elevated Boekenhoutskloof to one of South Africa’s most highly regarded labels but which might now be a little out of fashion?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, goes the saying, and when it comes to the Cabernet Sauvignon, I think Kent appreciates that if you want to sell at a premium price (the current release 2013 goes for R440 a bottle), a certain amount of plushness doesn’t go amiss. Platter’s has always rewarded this style and probably will again in the future but it’s arguably more modern than classic. Out of the three vintages that Kent showed in this instance, it was the 2006 which impressed me most on account of its relative austerity, which is surely the mark of great Cab.

Kent’s approach is more convincing when it comes to his Syrah perhaps because wines from this variety can afford to be more robust. He has traditionally succeeded in capturing all the winning aromatics of the variety (scrub, pepper and spice) while achieving real mass on the palate. Those high pHs do pose a question about maturation potential, however, and I thought that the 2006 shown last night was starting to tire.

It’s an open secret that grapes for the Syrah have traditionally come from Schalk Burger’s farm Welbedacht in Wellington but from the 2013 vintage, the wine also contains fruit from Porseleinberg, Boekenhoutskloof’s Swartland property and it appears that in time this will be the sole source of the wine. The question then becomes how much a change of style will necessarily be brought about due to the change of appellation? The wines under the Porseleinberg to date have been nothing if not new wave…

As always, more debate about the reds than the whites but it has to be said that the three vintages of Semillon, made in part from grapes off vineyards over 100 years old, were compelling. These are wines of great balanced and complexity and are supremely age-worthy – I scored the 2004 95/100 and both the 2009 and 2012 94/100, a shade behind simply because they’re still too young to drink.

And to end proceedings, two vintages of the Noble Late Harvest which were simply magnificent. Edelkeur and Vin de Constance get all the column centimetres when it comes South Africa’s sweet wines but what Kent’s doing is right up there, if not even better.

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