Perhaps it’s just a wicked conspiracy, but it’s hard to find a winemaker who isn’t smiling about the 2015 vintage (thus far at least – in the coolest places they’re still no doubt sharpening their secateurs). Eben Sadie expresses the feelings of many when he says that this was a vintage worth putting great effort into, as it’s the sort of opportunity that comes very rarely.
Those of us who are mere drinkers, especially if we have some trouble interpreting the value of infant wines, will have to wait a while before adding our opinions. And then wait ten or more years to see if it’s a vintage that was all up-front charm, or if there’s the inherent quality to sustain serious red and white wines through time. It’s hard to be sure we’re understanding vintages correctly in most parts of the Cape, given that we’re still largely in a phase where winemaking is particularly crucial and the terroir has not yet learnt to speak – or been allowed to speak, or we haven’t yet learnt to understand it.
Vintage generalisations are, anyway, always tricky, even in a fairly circumscribed area, let alone across a broad range of soils, grape varieties and meso-climates. A particularly tricky pair recently were 2010 and 2011 (after a generally very successful 2009). It’s easiest to say that they were both rather mixed. In Stellenbosch, for example – probably most producers preferred 2011, but it was that year that Meerlust skipped for its Rubicon.
I remembered this latter point at a tasting with Angela Lloyd of recent releases, which included a few 2011 reds as well as a pair of 2012s and even a 2013. Glenelly, the great Stellenbosch venture of bordelaise grande dame May de Lenquesaing, did very well in 2010, like Meerlust. I had previously thought the cabernet sauvignon-based Lady May 2010 even more refined and elegant than the 2009. Last week, tasting the latest release, the 2011, I was a touch disappointed. It’s a good wine, certainly, but I found a rather too-sweet-fruited note, as well as a warmth on the finish and again that slightly sweet note – whereas it’s always been the genuine dryness of Lady May that I have appreciated. Somehow the big alcohol (declared 14.5%) is more obvious than usual, and the whole effect less refined. Nonetheless, the wine remains amongst the higher echelons of Cape Bordeaux-style blends, and I feel mean to be a bit disappointed with the 2011! It’s beautifully structured and should develop well.
The Syrah has always been my favourite amongst Glenelly’s less expensive (and usually very good value) Glass Collection range. The 2011 (at R80 versus Lady May at R300) is, I’d say, certainly good value. It’s clean, fresh and with fair concentration and incipient complexity, with a juicy tannic succulence that encourages early drinking while allowing, I’d guess, a good few years interesting development.
But of the three Glenelly wines we sampled, I most (for now at least) enjoyed the Grand Vin from the fine 2009 vintage. This blend of shiraz with Bordeaux varieties came closest to elegance – six years’ maturation is a great advantage of course in integrating and harmonising. R140 for a wine of this class and age is excellent value indeed. It’s drinking beautifully, and should continue to do so more many years.
Some of the other reds at the same tasting were less pleasing than the Glenellys. Mostly they were rather old-fashioned-seeming, somewhat lacking in freshness and with that sweetness of finish that disturbed me in the Lady May and is, fundamentally, the quintessential problem with too many Cape reds. Herewith some notes:
Alto Shiraz 2012. R175. Opaque colour. Oaky, spicy-tobacco nose. Extracted, big, heavy textured. Appears to have added acid to attempt to compensate for the extreme ripeness. Drying oak tannin. Quite tiring. Some fruit there, but so what? Not recommendable at this price for any reason.
Avondale Samsara Syrah 2007. R335. Mature colour. And mature aromas. Shoe polish and leather spice. Nice, in fact, on palate, some of the same character and also sweet fruit. Savoury. Just a bit thickly textured. Slightly sweet finish. Firm, integrated tannins. Decent, but seriously over-priced, despite the age.
Bosman Adama Red 2013. R110. Shiraz-based blend. Different varieties do give some complexity. Sweet palate – much too sweet effect, especially spoiling the finish. Maybe it’s the alcohol. Commerical, rather vulgar style.
Allee Bleue L’Amour Toujours 2011. R170. Oaky cab nose (a blend of Stellenbosch Bordeaux varieties). Ripe. Sweet-fruited, tobacco notes, rather hot finish. Decently structured, though the tannins are somewhat too oaky-dry.