Rick’s Café Americain in Gardens, Cape Town offers casual dining for trendy inner-city 20- and 30-somethings. The products of producer-wholesaler Distell feature heavily on the wine list and hence why it was the venue for the launch of two new wines under the Zonnebloem Limited Edition label, a Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and Shiraz 2008.
Zonnebloem Limited Edition features sporadic bottlings of special batches aimed at uplifting the overall image of the brand, and the wines have achieved some noticeable successes, perhaps most notably the Semillon 2007 winning the trophy for best in class at the 2008 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show.
The question, however, is does the average habitué of Rick’s Café care? In a rare moment of candour for Distell employees regarding volumes, it was confirmed that no Limited Edition bottling ever amounts to more than 5 000 litres (about 550 cases), hardly the sort of quantities that are going to change the state of the market fundamentally. When it comes to packaging meanwhile, there’s almost no kind of signal that Limited Edition is different or more special than standard Zonnebloem so no real incentive for brand-conscious yuppies to have it on their table.
What about what’s in the bottle? The Sauvignon Blanc 2010, a blend of 75% Darling grapes and 25% Stellenbosch, is pretty smart showing pronounced grapefruit on nose and palate, good weight and zingy acidity. The standard label 2010 is served by the carafe at Rick’s cafe which facilitated an impromptu blind taste-off and suffice to say, the Limited Edition is streets ahead, well worth the price differential of R60 a bottle compared to around R40 for the standard label.
The Limited Edition Shiraz meanwhile is a more confusing proposition relative to the standard offering. On its own, this R99-a-bottle wine (sourced mainly from the Helderberg) is sound enough with red berries as well as plenty of not unattractive oak character thanks to 14 months in French and American oak, 100% new. The standard bottling, however, retails for a mere R45 to R50 a bottle and benefits from a lot less new oak, the wine showing charming fruit and spice, the perfect accompaniment to the sort of hearty, uncomplicated fare served at Rick’s Café.
Ultimately, the problem with Zonnebloem Limited Edition is not the quality of the wine but an indistinct consumer promise. According to Platter’s, approximately 9 000 tons of grapes get processed annually for wines under the Zonnebloem label, and out of this, you feel the Zonnebloem winemaking team could hit any quality level they wanted to but it would be up to the Distell marketing department to position the resulting wines appropriately.