Minimalist Wines Stars in the Dark Syrah 2018

By , 2 October 2019



Elim Shiraz/Syrah is topical after the De Grendel 2017 from grapes grown in this ward emerged as best wine overall with a rating of 95 in the recent Shiraz Report. Another example of the variety from here that is causing a stir is the Minimalist Wines Stars in the Dark 2018 as made by Sam Lambson, a University of Stellenbosch oenology student. This apparently showed very well at the recent New Wave tasting in London and you can see why.

Shining light.

Entirely whole-bunch fermented and no sulphur added the nose shows lifted notes of cranberry and raspberry, bramble and white pepper while the palate is light-bodied with lemon-like acidity and fine tannins, the finish gently savoury. A balanced, nicely downplayed drop. Approximate retail price: R300 a bottle.

Editor’s rating: 91/100.

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13 comment(s)

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    Henry | 10 October 2019

    In red wine, most of the SO2 is in the “bound form” and free SO2 is actually non-existent. After bottling, the free(active) SO2 fraction, disappears quite quickly, ecspecially in reds . The free SO2 in wine is the only “active” anti-microbial fraction in wine. SO2, therefore ,has little or no impact on microbial preservation of red wine and also a has a minimal anti-oxidative effect.

    Therefore, the lowering of SO2 on red wines of all styles and aging potentials makes perfect sense as the microbial and oxidative stability are determined by the pH, extract and phenolic composition of the wine,not the SO2 level.

      Kwispedoor | 10 October 2019

      Thanks, Henry. How quickly does the free SO2 disappear in wine if the requisite amount has been added? I’m not a scientist, but just really interested: it is my understanding that, if enough SO2 (considering the particular wine’s pH, aldehydes, cell mass of spoilage organisms, phenolics and other solids, etc.) is added to react and bind and afterwards still leave a large enough stable residual free SO2, that SO2 will not have anything much left to bind with further and will remain relatively stable/available for protection. Am I misunderstanding this?

      It makes sense that a more natural approach will exclude the use of SO2 at the start of the winemaking process, otherwise the “natural” yeasts will be killed off. And I’m learning more and more that there seems to be significant organoleptical advantages of using as little SO2 as possible from there on, provided the grapes are healthy and the processes hygienic. I’m still left wondering though, if those wines intended for extended maturation don’t warrant just a little bit of extra SO2 security?

    Chris | 6 October 2019

    Hi All,

    The proper answer is miscommunication. Using no sulphur in the winemaking process is not the same as bottling with no added sulphur.

      Kwispedoor | 7 October 2019

      Hi, Chris. It’s not so much about that, nor is it really about this particular wine, which was merely a conversation starter. My question is a general one.

      See, I would understand if my bottle of young Force Majeure Red or Morgenster Sangiovese or Myburgh Bros. Cinsault is made with little or no sulphur. They are very affordable and I’m going to smash them all sooner, rather than later. In fact, I’d rather prefer them to be light on sulphur and Tyrell explained why I might.

      Conversely, when I’m spending a few hundred Rand on a wine meant for ageing, I’m happy to know that the winemaker’s hand was not too light on the sulphur.

      However, making wines that are generally low on sulphur is trending and it is trending amongst this latter category as well. I’m simply wondering if the benefits of ample, but judicious sulphur don’t outweigh the cons concerning this particular category of wine (fine wine/”serious” wine/wine that’s made with the intention that it should benefit from maturation over the medium to long term).

    Smirrie | 6 October 2019

    Gents and Ladies

    I am also curious to obtain a proper answer to the question poses by Kwispedoor

    Hennie Taljaard | 3 October 2019

    if a winemaker doesn’t need to use sulfur it shows that he is doing a lot of other things right.

      Kwispedoor | 3 October 2019

      I understand that, Hennie, but I don’t think you fully understand what I mean. Sure, the cleaner you work, the healthier the grapes, the better the pH, the lower the sugar, etc. – the less sulphur you have to add. But time often reveals that a touch of sulphur would have served the wine better…

      I put a CPV Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2009 on a blind tasting this Saturday and almost all the tasters guessed it between 7 and 10 years (!) younger than it was, some of them stating that the wine deserves more time. I’m sure that would not have been the case if the wine was made without added sulphur.

      I can get away with driving on the wrong side of the road if there is no traffic, but isn’t it better just to keep left anyways? My question is why there is such a big movement away from sulphur? If it’s done judiciously, at the right times and moderately, what major damage can it do? I’m honestly seeking to be educated about this, because I often hear winemakers mentioning how little sulphur they add, but nobody has ever explained to me why this is, on balance, such a good thing. On a reasonably naturally made wine that’s meant to be drunk young and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, I also prefer low sulphur, but I’m referring to fine wine meant for maturation here.

    Kwispedoor | 2 October 2019

    I’m a little nonplussed about the no added sulphur. Why? I have bought a couple of bottles of this wine, jumping quickly while it was still available, assuming that it’s good enough to keep for quite a few years (I don’t really want to pay too much over R150 for a porch pounder, preferably less).

    I’m not saying that wines with no added sulphur can’t age for a few years (and sometimes quite a bit longer than one might think), but it certainly adds to the risk for the consumer – especially in the absence of a maturation track record. I can understand it if you are specifically making wine for the “natural wine” market in Japan or the UK. Or if you are making a “buy it and smash it” wine for the hipster/geek segment of the local market, but then R300 certainly gets a bit steep, even if the wine is made in small quantities.

    I just don’t quite get the very prevalent fashion of low or no added sulphur. Why would one not use judicious amounts of this natural additive to protect your wine against such a big range of potential destructive developments (I’m particularly tired of bretty wines, unless they are made to drink young and only slightly affected), at the same time providing your wine with security over time? Serious wine aficionados always prize fine wines that are able to mature with benefit.

    I’m not specifically being critical of Sam’s effort here as I haven’t tasted it yet – and it does sound utterly delicious – but I’d be grateful if a few winemakers who follow this trend would comment on it and elucidate/educate why they are so shy to use a bit of sulphur at the right times?

      Tyrrel Myburgh | 3 October 2019

      The flavour and aroma spectrum can be quite different and quite attractive when not using SO2 , and this can be a positive element as long as the “funk” doesn’t creep in.

        Kwispedoor | 3 October 2019

        Thanks, Tyrrel! This makes sense to me regarding young wines, but doesn’t this change as the sulphur does its work and molecules polymerise over time? Doesn’t sulphur then become a positive for attractive flavours and the prohibition of funk? My question basically relates to the finer side of wine, where wines can and should be matured, as opposed to those beautiful, honest, “natural”, young wines that are meant to be smashed in their youth.

          Duncan | 3 October 2019

          I tend to agree. I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the young, fresh, sometimes quite funky, sulphur free wine I’ve tasted. Not sure I want to pay R300 for something that isn’t built to age, though.

    Ashley Westaway | 2 October 2019

    The heretic at work again; Lol. I’m surprised that there’s not already a wave of denunciation like there was after your review of the Porseleinsberg 2012…

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