Keet First Verse 2017

By , 20 July 2020



Hot stuff.

The Coronavirus world is not so weird that there isn’t a whole bunch of predictable debate about who scored what notable wine too high or too low. First Verse 2017 from Chris Keet (price: R480 a bottle) is not what you might expect from the man who brought you that wine of legendary elegance in the shape of Cordoba Crescendo, this current release bearing an abv of 15% on the label!

Consisting of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Cabernet Franc, 14% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 7% Petit Verdot, it has attractive aromatics of red and black fruit, dried herbs and potpourri before a palate that is sweet, rich and broad with a plush texture. It’s certainly flavourful but you’d have to be a brave punter to think that this has the inherent structure to still be drinking well in 25 years’ time or so as those Crescendos still are…

CE’s rating: 90/100.

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12 comment(s)

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    Gregory | 20 July 2020

    Pink Valley, they’re calling it 🤮

    Kwispedoor | 20 July 2020

    A big sad pity, this… I know the old Cordoba Cabernet Franc vineyards have been used in Delaire-Graff’s rosé, but I somehow hoped that it’s only a matter of time until someone tries to make great red wine from that site again. Now I hear that the new venture there basically aims to exclusively make rosé from it – is that true?

      Christian Eedes | 21 July 2020

      Via email from Mark Lester of Pink Valley: “Dear Gregory and Kwispedoor. Many thanks for your comments, but unfortunately the facts you’ve received are incorrect. The Pink Valley Rose operation is not made or housed on the Cordoba estate. The property previously known as Romond, is now home to Pink Valley Wines. It is here that a premium Provence styled Rose is exclusively made in its own cellar and with its own tasting lounge which the public can visit. The original Cordoba property which you have in mind, is currently undergoing an entire transformation with substantial investment by the Oddo wine family of France who purchased the property 3 years ago. 2020 Also marked the first vintage that wine was produced in their newly constructed, state of the art, wine cellar, under the guidance of Schalk-Willem Joubert. Cordoba will in future be named Taaibosch, after indigenous flora which goes by the same name and which is prevalent on the estates green belt. Due to Cordoba being the same name as an internationally demarcated geographical area, they had little choice but to change the name for trade-marking purposes. They plan to focus on producing only two wines at Taaibosch, Crescendo (a blend) and a Cabernet franc, therefore remaining true to the cultivars, style and quality that are suited to the estate and which has given this famed estate its reputation over the years. Keep an eye out for these wines which are expected to be released in 2021 and can be tasted by appointment only. The only relation between Pink Valley and the Cordoba (Taaibosch) property, to clarify therefore, is that the ownership is the same and that both properties are situated on the same Cordoba road.”

        Kwispedoor | 21 July 2020

        Thanks, that’s a relief. Now I live in hope that mere mortals and real wine lovers will be able to afford a case of the wine(s) in order to mature it.

    Hennie C | 20 July 2020

    I had the 2015 a few weeks ago and I had a similar experience to yours on the 17. I was quite disappointed – it lacks finesse and is way too ripe and sweet. I remember loving the First Verse’s first vintage (say that after a few glasses), and this riper style in what was very good vintages are a letdown.

      Christian Eedes | 21 July 2020

      Hi Hennie, After a telephone conversation with Chris Keet, he says that in vintages like 2015 and 2017, he is looking for both “a core of power” as well as “balance and harmony” which will together allow the wine to age “almost for ever”. He says he could remove alcohol (like some others do) but is inclined not to “tamper” with the wine…

        Kwispedoor | 21 July 2020

        Did Chris remove alcohol when he was at Cordoba? Because those wines aged nicely, had a good core of power plus, generally, balance and harmony – without the very high alcohols (barring perhaps a vintage or two at around 14.5%, but that was not the norm).

        Now I’d like to generalise, if I may: I could be mistaken, but I see a prevalent stylistic development that is due to either grape growing and/or winemaking decisions. Or it’s due to a change in circumstances (not global warming – the rise in temperature has been too insignificant) that has been, so far at least, beyond the control of most winemakers in South Africa. But what would those circumstances be?

        Syrah, Pinot, Pinotage and others you will find plenty of under 14% ABV, but the same can be said of precious few premium wines made from Bordeaux red varieties. Sub-14% ABV’s were the norm up to at least the late eighties and, despite plenty of theories from people trying to explain the rise in alcohol levels, I still haven’t come across a really plausible one, except of course a conscious decision to harvest later.

        Thing is, there are indeed winemakers who manage to make really good wines from Bordeaux varieties without excessive ripening. Just thinking quickly, I think Jordan’s CWG Sophia has always been between 13% and 14%. The new Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Cab also clocks in at 14% – and it’s fermented bone dry. Restless River is another one. Could these wines have been made better by longer hang time? I don’t think so. Did these producers remove alcohol from their wines? Highly unlikely, not so? These are just a few examples.

        I suppose few producers would acknowledge that their vines have too much virus infection or that they don’t have the ideal grapes on the ideal sites or that they lack the funds or skills to properly twtheir vineyard management. But if it’s not something like that, it must mean that it comes down to a stylistic decision in the end, must it not?

          Kwispedoor | 21 July 2020

          Sorry – “properly tweak their vineyard management”.

          Hennie Taljaard | 22 July 2020

          the issue re low alcohol of the past remains a puzzle. im no winemaker but sugar = alcohol. so my only conclusion is that winemakers in the old days worked with lower ripeness levels. Interestingly if you look at what Knox (1982 2nd edition) wrote: Vergenoegd picked at 21 balling in a “difficult ripening year”. Zandvliet (Robertson) aimed for a average balling of 23.5. Meerlust & Middelvlei picked at 22-23 which was considered “mid-ripe”. Rustenberg at 22 etc. Go figure!

            Kwispedoor | 22 July 2020

            What do you mean you’re no winemaker, Hennie – I just drank your 2017 Shiraz last week (very nice)!

            You’re correct, of course, they did harvest earlier back in the day. I think one of the main issues is rather that pyrazines were not a problem back then at those ripeness levels, while – somehow – it is today.

            Why? If it’s more effective yeasts, then what about the winemakers who do spontaneous fermentations? If it’s virused vineyards, then what about the farms that focus on eradicating leafroll? If it’s viticulture, surely viticulture has only improved the last few decades? The addition of Cinsaut definitely also doesn’t fully explain things. Those old earlier harvested Cabs are not pyrazine bombs.

            I’m still really perplexed that through the whole industry, in this day and age, nobody can put forward a plausible, emphatic explanation for this.

              Kwispedoor | 22 July 2020

              In fact, despite a hike of a degree Celsius (or whatever) due to global warming in the last 50-odd years, with better plant material, better viticultural practices and all sorts of other advances, shouldn’t one be able to attain physiological ripeness at even lower levels, not higher ones? I realise I’m harping on about this, but I’m really super interested in understanding.

        Gareth | 22 July 2020

        This is very interesting and, to me at least, makes complete sense.
        I’ve seen a number of wines penalised for going the other route and being labeled “green.”

        Perhaps a decision between the two needs to be made by the winemaker, and I think the local market has more of an appetite for big, opulent wines.

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