A rather strange mustering of wines

An odd mix of wines on an occasion for which “dinner-party” sounds too grand a term. The wines worked perversely well because the evening was pleasant – and because, though the selection was unplanned, they were all good in their own different ways.

mixNo problem at all with a lovely riesling from the famed Alsace producer Trimbach – the Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2004, just about at its peak of expressive loveliness, I suspect (certainly close enough to it for me to not regret opening it). It was intended to go with the fishy starter (salmon sashimi, snoek mousse from Woolworths and some crumbled smoked snoek) but was nearly finished by then – I was lucky enough to be the least keen on moving onto red, so I had another glassful.

The reds were not what I’d intended to go with the vegetable + chorizo stew – I’d brought out a 2006 Sequillo that I wanted to try, but we didn’t get to it. Firstly, my pal David had brought along, for old times’ sake, a bottle of 2001 Welgemeend Estate Reserve, a shared favourite of our relative youth. How many remember how elegant the Welgemeend Bordeaux-blends were in the bleak 1980s and 90s? How many kids know that Welgemeend was the Cape’s first commercially released such blend (with a 1979) – they mostly believe Giorgio dalla Cia who misremembers his Meerlust 1980 as the first… And how many know  that Welgemeend Amadé was the first serious local blend with pinotage, when Billy Hofmeyr was bent on creating an authentic local equivalent of a good, honest Cȏtes-du-Rhȏne red? Sigh. I’m old and crotchetty, forgetful and occasionally insisting on remembering….

The second red was the substantial remnant of the very last of my Platter tastings for this year (a latecomer, for various reasons, and opened for a day already) – the 2012 vintage of Saronsberg’s Rhȏne-style blend called Full Circle (the name having some obscurely pretentious connection with the Tulbagh earthquake of 1969).

Two Cape reds apparently very different. A quiet, mature, but lively and harmonious, cab-based wine of obvious elegance  and refinement, and a youthful, more powerful, fruity, thrusting, syrah-based pretender. The connection is that both were very good of their types. Full Circle is the wine of Dewaldt Heyns’ that I most like (though I equally admire his Syrah, I would much less seldom choose to drink it), as it most successfully shows his skill at making a ripe wine with a lot of alcohol and a lot of oak, that is nonetheless balanced and not blockbusterish, that still retains a bit of grace. He doesn’t always pull off the trick, unfortunately, but here he regularly does.

On this evening, at this small gathering of five people, some enjoyed one wine more, some the other, some – like me – enjoyed both (though I went back to the Welgemeend to linger).

Incidentally, I recently tasted more recent releases from Welgemeend, from well into the period since the Hofmeyrs sold it, in the mid noughts. They’re still made in the same elegant, restrained  style, I’m pleased to say, and are quite pleasing, but increasingly reveal the lack of ripeness that can come to extremely virused vineyards and are leaner and less well balanced – frankly, I was even surprised at how well the 2001 was holding up, as the vineyards were even then pretty far gone: the continued finesse and vitality of the wine is good testimony to the balance that Louise Hofmeyr  achieved in her wines – I persist in believing that balance and harmony are at least as important to longevity and development as any specific component like tannin, acid or fruit intensity.

Dessert wine (shamefully, there was no proper dessert to go with it) was also youthful – Delheim Edelspatz Noble Late Harvest 2012, rich and delighful and, I perhaps shouldn’t admit, a perfect thing for soaking bits of almond biscotti. It makes for delicious nibbles, but very mucky-looking glasses.

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