If shiraz is your thing you’ll do fine; ditto with cured/smoked meat; if you like both you’re in for a real treat at Hartenberg estate in Stellenbosch next Saturday afternoon (1 June).
The organisers of the annual Feast of Shiraz and Charcuterie sent me four bottles as samples of the wines that will be there, and they happily illustrate the wide range of styles – not to mention prices – in which Cape shiraz is manifesting itself.
Let’s start at the top with Mullineux Syrah 2010, the justly celebrated Swartland wine from Andrea and Chris Mullineux. It is the current Platter Guide’s Red Wine of the Year and has opened up a little since I last tasted it some months back, though I think it has a long way to go, as the flavours uncoil and fill all the available space provided by the forceful but subtle framework. That said (and my own case of the wine stays resultely unbroken for a good few years yet), it is a fresh and lovely drink with already some complexity of flavour emerging above the silky Swartland tannins. Elegant and unimposing – but all the more impressive for that, and pretty good value at about R230. wine. I suspect the queues to taste it on Saturday will be long and eager. And then well satisfied.
Altogether more approachable now was my second-favourite of this quartet, the Reynecke Organic Shiraz 2011. If you think organic wines are necessarily a bit homespun and funky, you haven’t yet met the combination of viticultural passion of Johan Reynecke and the brilliance in the cellar of winemaker Rudiger Gretschel. In fact not all the grapes in the Organic range come from the home farm (which is not only organic but biodynamic too). It’s delicious, firmly structured and subtly-fruited wine, with quiet oaking giving a bit of smokiness but mostly adding breadth and supporting the ripe fruit; unchallenging – welcoming, rather – but far from a dumbed-down pushover. Less of a crime to drink this wine now than is the case with the Mullineux, though it is likely to develop well in bottle for some years.
More significantly youthful and in need of time – mostly because it has quite a bit of oak still in evidence is Cirrus Syrah (closer to R300 than R200). This label is a decade-old joint venture between the owner of Silver Oaks in California and Rust-en-Vrede’s Jean Engelbrecht. Especially given the rather Californian styling of R&V wines, it’s hardly surprising that Cirrus is notably-sweet-fruit, plush and opulent – and very stylish and sophisticated. Plenty of structure, but nothing to frighten those who like big, bold, ripe wines. Room to develop, certainly, but impressive enough now.
Perhaps ironically, the wine in my foursome least in need of any bottle-development is the oldest, Hartenberg Shiraz 2009. Hartenberg makes, in its famour Gravel Hill Shiraz, one of Stellenbosch’s best wines from the variety, in a fairly elegant style – though lush when put alongside something like the Mullineux. Another top-priced example from the estate is the Stork – altogether more extrovert, oaky and showy. The standard shiraz doesn’t come across as serious, except in its heavy price tag – something over R130 retail. It’s sweetly ripe – very ripe, fruity and softly ingratiating, though dry; very pleasant if this is the sort of thing you’re after and are willing to pay heavily for it. There’s also another easy-going Hartenberg shiraz, Doorkeeper, in much the same soft, fruit style, though less intense. I daresay all four will be on show at the event that Hartenberg is hosting.
The upcoming Feast, says the press release, takes place on Saturday 1 June from noon until 5pm. Tickets are R180, available from www.webtickets.co.za. For more info call 084 207 3820 or email info@dnaevents co.za.