Old(ish) and young

As wrinklies know (in relation to partners and friends, if not themselves), growing older – mere survival – is not the same as maturing. Same with wine. Not to ignore the next stage in the story, which applies as ruthlessly to wine as to people, and more prematurely. The great majority of wines are not intended by their maker to develop: they’re designed for immediate gratification and will die young if not drunk within a few years, their fruity flesh quickly withering away to skeletal grimness.

But fine wine’s matchless glory, in addition to its infinite variousness a glory at which beer and spirits can only gape with envy, is its ability to gain in complexity, subtlety of flavour and harmony over years of cool quietness. The price paid for this is a certain rawness and awkwardness in youth, although clever modern winemaking mean that most more-or-less serious wines, even from tannic cabernet sauvignon, are at least approachable in youth.  This even though the best (especially reds) remain likely to improve over ten years or more, (sometimes much more, and others are at least going to survive.

But who cares? Not many winelovers store maturable wines till they show their best, and even fewer restaurants do what should be seen as their duty. So congratulations and thanks to the organisers (primarily wine journalist and entrepreneur Christian Eedes) and sponsors (asset management company RE:CM) of a new annual competition for ten-year-old local reds. Other competitive tastings are at best ambiguous about the readiness of their top performers – usually declaring them delicious while sometimes only marginally noting the benefits of further ageing. Such events effectively support the impatient culture that increasingly ignores the virtues of bottle-matured wine.

Highest scorer in the inaugural bout was well-reputed Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2003, still soaring effortlesslessly and beautifully and full of rewards for those who have been patient. Keeping this wine even for five years, even in less than perfect conditions, would have been beneficial. And a few more years now will do no harm.

The other two in the announced winning trio were more typical of the style of wine usually triumphant in big line-ups, being big and bold. Rudera Syrah and the Estate blend from Remhoogte shouldered their way through some arguably superior competitors. The latter is an especially well-made wine, its ripe fullness having softened into something as impressive as it was in its youth, but now more balanced and refined.

Youth’s claims must not be ignored, however, and my two wines of the week are, furthermore, at least partly from red grapes but not red wines.

circumstance_cape_coral_roseFirst, a new sparkler, classically made from pinot noir and chardonnay. At R110, deftly fresh and flavoursome L’Ormarins Brut Classique is a touch pricier than many local bubblies but certainly among the best of its type.

Then, returning to the lugubrious matter of decline, here’s a lovely wine to sip in the earlier evenings or cooler lunchtimes as summer steals away. Circumstance Cape Coral 2012 is leagues distant from those lipstick-pink, sweetish girlie drinks that crudely usurp rosé’s reputation. The produce of organic Stellenbosch estate Waterkloof, Cape Coral Rosé is also comparatively expensive at R85, but from its copper-glinting paleness through subtly fruit-filled aromas and flavours to a satisfying bone-dry conclusion, this is a most sophisticated and satisfying wine.


First published in the Mail & Guardian, 22-28 March, 2013

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