Douglas Green St Augustine 1977

By , 3 June 2020

Comment

12

Dry red.

My collection of the Platter’s wine guide does not extend further back than the 1984 edition, where Douglas Green of Paarl is described as “(l)ong-established, reputable liquor merchants”. Of the wine then labelled as St Augustine, it is written that it was “the flagship red until the 1979 cabernet superseded it, it is usually the same wine as the KWV export red Roodeberg”.

More specifically, the guide reports on the wine as a “(f)ine quality, full-bodied dry red blend of Tinta barocca, shiraz and pinotage. Well balanced, soft and most palatable, it is distinguished by a two-year maturation in wood. A round, fullish, well fleshed-out wine, with no single varietal predominating… Lasts well – about 10 years. Quite high in alcohol at about 12.8%.”

The author, however, does not particularly care for the 1977, noting at the time of writing that it appears “leaner” than the “richer” 1978 and 1979.

Drinking the 1977 vintage 43 years later, it is quite magnificent. The nose is still remarkably primary with notes of wild berry, some floral character, pepper, leather, spice and a slight varnish-like note that is more a point of interest than anything else. The palate, too, is very much intact with sweet fruit and bright acidity. Very good flavour intensity with a gentle savoury quality to the finish. This did not merely hold up over the course of a meal but constantly revealed hidden depths. A real treat (totally outshining a Roodeberg 1983 drunk earlier under lockdown).

CE’s rating: 94/100.

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Comments

12 comment(s)

  • Germain Lehodey22 June 2020

    it is a great experience to be in front of top aged red wine. it gives you a memory experience and it is worth to try. Unfortunately often the wine was not store in good condition specially in Gauteng where you have several consecutive months without rain. the humidity may drop as low as 30% and in this case it will damage the corks. those days the quality of the corks were not at their best to allow the wine to age so long.
    Saint Augustine and Chateau Libertas were the most popular red wines served in restaurants those days.

  • Gareth4 June 2020

    Hi Christian,

    Thanks for a great review. It does raise a question for me though, and I’d be very interested in your thoughts:

    It’s generally accepted that the wine-making techniques and expertise have greatly improved over the years as can be seen in the quality of a lot of the new releases. However, based on the 10 year reports published on this website, it appears that the wines these days don’t age as well as some of these gems from the past. Could it them be argued that in some instances these older wine were in fact superior?

    • Christian Eedes4 June 2020

      Hi Gareth, The question you raise is enduring and might well be a good topic for a PhD thesis! To my mind, the two key reasons SA’s red wines prior to the 1980s are often so long-lived is because 1) they benefited from minimal intervention – less intensive extraction than is in vogue now and maturation in large-format old oak. Obligatory tartaric acid additions probably didn’t do any harm, either! and 2) the wines tended to be blends of varieties that grew well rather than made according to some pre-ordained template (be that Bordeaux, Rhone or anything else). The issue is no doubt more complex than that and I’d welcome further comment from others.

      • Kwispedoor4 June 2020

        A very interesting discussion. I’d like to take a few guesses here. Earlier harvesting meant better pH levels (a great preservative and spoilage preventative component) and better balanced alcohols. Then, many of those wines were often matured in old oak for about three years. This meant less intrusive oak flavours, but also a nice (if not velvety) tannin backbone and – perhaps crucially – a much more stable wine. Nowadays wines are rushed to market for various reasons and that natural stability is a rare thing indeed. Years ago, winemakers often proudly stated that their wines are not ready upon release and should be matured, while nowadays most wines are crafted to be accessible upon release.

  • Richard Gundersen4 June 2020

    That’s how they made them in those days!! Storage conditions vital, but well-rewarded.
    A problem arises when you’re down to the last one of a particular wine. How much longer to keep it!!

  • Pertunia3 June 2020

    I recently bought wine crates from a collector , 2 of them came with around 30 bottles of the 1977 Douglas Green St Augustine 1977.
    Around half of them seem like there was some damage to the corks, i opened 1 yesterday and it had the color and smell of a sherry, not a red. Does that mean it is corked? Do these hold any value? pertuniamongoai@gmail.com

    • Christian Eedes3 June 2020

      Hi Pertunia,

      Hi Pertunia, The condition of the cork is a huge factor when it comes to how well old wines drink – the closure can either dry out making it difficult to remove or lose its elasticity, become loose and allow wine to leak out. Storage conditions, in turn, influence how a cork will perform over time – exposure to undue heat being particularly problematic. It sounds like some of your wine has prematurely oxidised but other bottles may prove very tasty. The value that these wines hold can mostly be measured in potential enjoyment although if you could find a willing buyer, and presuming the closure is not compromised, then you might sell them for quite good money, perhaps around R1000 a bottle.

  • Top Wine SA3 June 2020

    Would love to see a Winemag take on current vintage of St Augustine vs Roodeberg vs Chateau Libertas…

  • Angela Lloyd3 June 2020

    Fine quality, burgundy-style dry red blend tinta barocca, pinotage & cinsaut. Well-balanced, soft & most palatable, it is distinguished by a two-year maturation in wood.’ 1st Platter, ***, Same note in 2nd edition, only in 1983 ed are vintages introduced & pinotage changes to shiraz (not sure whether pinotage was a mistake or shiraz really did replace it), but the basic note remains the same. We’d never get away with that under the current editor! Your experience, Christian, again goes to show there are no great or even dreadful, wines, only great/dreadful bottles!

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