I have no illusions about my scribbled tasting records. I’m no Michael Broadbent – let alone do I have a Daphne to assiduously write them up beautifully for me. But when I got home to find that Oliver (Olly when he’s being sweet) had ripped my current notebook to shreds, I was less than charmed by this evidence of his youthful energy.
It is, in fact, books and magazines of any kind that he wreaks his destructive urges on, rather than furniture or shoes (the current issue of World of Fine Wine, with it’s lovely thick paper, was his latest essay in bibliophilia), and I usually remember to put such things out of reach. But I’d been using the notebook the day before at Tracey van Maaren’s trade tasting and had obviously left it lying about.
You’d think that a few days later, though deprived of this prop, I could sufficiently well remember what I’d tasted and a bit more than that – but no, not with my deteriorated mind. I do recall, however, being a little surprised and even humorously resentful that probably my favourite wine at the trade event was a chardonnay – the Kershaw Elgin 2013, showing even better than it did last time I tasted it some months back: harmonious, beautifully confident yet quite the opposite of pushily assertive; poised and elegant, yet full of flavour.
(I also had a most interesting chat with Richard about the use of natural versus inoculated yeasts, occasioned by my saying that I’d preferred this, his second chardonnay, as being a little drier than the first. My opinion is generally that I’m prepared, as a drinker, to sacrifice some “naturalness” if inoculation helps the wine to ferment fully dry – but Richard says that in his experience it can be the wild yeasts which will carry a fermentation through to dryness. It’s a bit more complicated than that, involving such things as proportions of fructose and glucose, especially for someone as thoughtful and thoroughly sussed as Richard – but that’s the kernel of truth I carried away with me, just to make it more difficult for me to have a fixed opinion on this matter.)
There was actually another very impressive chardonnay on show, from Vriesenhof, which might have seemed even better were it not for the Kershaw trumping it.
I’m less of an admirer of Richard Kershaw’s Syrah, also from Elgin, though it’s undoubtedly a decent wine (as my notes have been trounced by Ollie, I can’t say more at this remove). It was clearly outshone at this event, to me, by a version from another coolish region, the very complete, suave and finely balanced Eagles’ Nest from Constantia – maybe the winery’s best yet, and a triumph for the site and for winemaker Stuart Botha.
For some reason I didn’t taste the chenins from Bruwer Raats though I usually admire them, and, of his trio of reds I thought the Red Jasper offered some of the best red value on show that day – though the less pricey Dolomite cab franc was a little too green for me, and the Raats Family Cabernet Franc 2012 pretty good, but maybe this year not worth the big premium.
The discovery of the day was undoubtedly the B vintners range of wines – the joint venture between Bruwer and his winemaker and cousin Gavin Bruwer Slabbert. All Stellenbosch, all beautifully, modestly made and I look forward to writing about these impressive wines soon, in a notebook I shall take care of.
The records that I most miss from my destroyed notebook, however, were probably those from a few days earlier – notes of the latest releases from Jurgen Gouws, under his Intellego label. Jurgen was assistant to Craig Hawkins at Lammershoek, until the radical changes of late last year saw the old winemaking regime moving on. Jurgen is now making his Intellego wines in space at the Annexkloof cellar, very near his old Lammershoek spot on the Perdeberg. I suspect Jurgen is a touch less fundamentalist in outlook than Craig (though both are have learnt to be undogmatically willing to do such “unnatural” things as add sulphur when necessary to preserve their wines).
His wines are certainly very drinkable (not to imply that Craig’s aren’t – they are) and I enjoyed the recent releases – that much I do recall. The Intellego Syrah 2014 is not complex, but is likeable, while the Kolbroek 2013, whole-bunch-fermented and with lowish alcohol and old-oak maturation, is both more interesting and more austere. Both, in fact, are good examples of the approach encouraged by the Swartland Independent Producers organisation.
I shall now go and beat my dog.