At last year’s Nederburg Auction, a case of six half-bottles of Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon 1961 fetched R5 500, the equivalent of R1 833 per 750ml bottle. Does old South African red deserve this sort of premium? Yesterday the chance to explore the age-worthiness of Zonnebloem Cab, the line-up including 1964, 1974, 1982, 1995, 2000 and the Limited Edition 2009.
The 1964 was pre-certification and included a large portion of Cinsaut. Very tertiary on the nose with notes of mushroom and soy sauce, it showed red fruit and tart acidity on the palate. Somewhat Chateauneuf-du-Pape like. Not without some charm but modest and uncomplicated. Score: 15.5/20
The 1974 found wide favour but not with me. Rich and full, I felt it tended towards jammy and over-ripe. Although certification now applied, producers needed only to include 30% of a particular variety in order for the wine to be labelled as such. Abv 13%, RS 2g/l, TA 4.5g/l and pH 3.9. Score: 14.5/20
The 1982 was wine of the flight for me. Dark cherry and a subtle but entirely attractive mintiness on the nose and palate. Well structured with fresh acidity and fine tannins, this wine showed good varietal typicity. Age has robbed it of real intensity, but rewarding drinking even so. Score: 16/20.
The 1995 was rather straightforward, a little hollow on the mid-palate and astringent on the finish. Small barrels were introduced at the beginning of the 1980s and if the 1982 showed deft use of oak, the 1995 seemed a little dried out and attenuated. Score: 15/20.
The 2000 appeared sweet, rich and ripe – residual sugar only 2g/l but abv coming in at 14.6%. Full bodied, moderate acidity, soft tannins, this wine was the most overtly commercial in style. Score: 15/20.
The Limited Edition 2009 is modern in the best sense with lots of pure fruit and prominent oak. Current cellarmaster Deon Boshoff admits he wanted a “big” wine and in this regard, he has succeeded. All wines under the Limited Edition label are made on an experimental basis, for which read “made in small volumes with the intention of good results in competition” and the 2009 Cab duly got gold at last year’s Veritas. My score: 16/20.
The function was at The Roundhouse in Camps Bay and the wine which stole the show for me was the Lauréat 2009 served with lunch. Great focus and poise with red and black fruit and a touch of olive, while the acidity is fresh and oak unobtrusive. Very elegant, it paired brilliantly with a main course of venison loin, hay ash-baked beets and pickled blackberries and cherries.
Supposedly a blend of 50% Cab, 35% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot, I did wonder if there might not be a dash of Shiraz for extra fruitiness (à la the notorious 2007 which won gold in the Bordeaux blend category at the 2010 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show but was subsequently disqualified when it was discovered to contain some Shiraz) but ultimately who cares?
The thinking is to position Lauréat a notch above the rest of the mainstream Zonnebloem range as of this vintage and this wine really is smart. Very primary now, my score is a provisional 17/20 and I suspect it will only improve with age.