Grace of the aged
Chateau Libertas reflects the skill and thought in making long-term wines.
Celebrating an enduring eighty great years of uninterrupted market presence, Distell’s famous brand deserves all the limelight it should get. The upcoming Nederburg auction, where a number of oldies will be sold, will be such an event.
A small tasting yesterday, from a private collection of consecutive old vintages (often vintages are handpicked by producers for show), was another. It proved that Chateau Libertas can truly claim to be a proper, sometimes cunning, if shy, and certainly under-priced stalwart of South African wine.
All five vintages we tasted from a promotional ‘suitcase’ the marketing people used way back in 1990 were in good nick. At least two turned out to be especially bright stars. The flat wooden case held bottles from the 1980 to 1985 vintages, of which all, except 1983 (a lighter year), bore the golden ‘superior’ seal. A replica of the front page of the Cape Times from 1932 was included in the original container.
It was a particular thrill to discover that a set of wines, held since 1990, were all still very drinkable. Some bottles had minimal ullage, three corks crumbled in the take-out, but otherwise all were bright and lively. Over lunch the 1980 showed most variation, probably fading in oxidation. The rest were all fresh, even brisk.
The star of the show was the 1982, with the 1984 hot on its heels. Both will be at the Nederburg auction, each in single cases of six. The reserve prices of R1 200 and R1 000 should easily be breached. The 1982 was complex and vibrant with great length. The 1984 was interesting, even Bordeaux-like. (Wouter Pienaar, who made the wine, and attended our tasting, said it was probably due to merlot joining the blend of cinsaut and cabernet, as well as more use of small wood.) It was a great reminder of what good South African red wine used to be. (Even though C.L. had always been under priced.)
At the Nederburg media/trade tasting a while back a Chateau Libertas of vintage 1968 impressed tasters with its grace and complexity in old age, while at the official 80th birthday lunch earlier this year, vintages 1940, 1957, 1962, 1978, 1982, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2009 and 2010 all displayed the grand-old brand’s brilliant career.
A special birthday bottling is on the cards, but wine lovers everywhere should be on the lookout for older vintages in personal cellars or dark wine shop shelves in this birthday year.