Particular Platter pleasures

The Platter tasting season is drawing to an end (just a few dozen out of 250-odd samples left) and I can look forward to once more regularly choosing what wines I want to drink. It’s not just that for the last two months I have usually been tasting in the afternoons and don’t particularly want more than a glass or two with dinner (my capacity is not what it used to be, and it was never great).

But of course there are always wines open, and it seems vaguely absurd to go and open something more, for the sake of one or two glassfuls (I’m the only wine-drinker in the house) even if there’s nothing particularly to my taste available.

So what do I look forward to post-Platter? The general category of my eager anticipation is, basically, mature wines. By definition, the Platter wines are extremely young, many not even released yet, and I don’t generally care much for young wines, if they are of any decent quality. A pretty little chenin is one thing, but a tight young serious cabernet or shiraz quite another.

One of my pet amazements, as it were, is that so many people buy these ambitious and expensive reds (and some whites too) and drink them pretty immediately. Sadly there aren’t any merchants who sell mature wines on a regular basis, I think, so that’s one reason. More scandalously, few restaurants mature wines either, but delightedly add on their huge mark-up to wines delivered to them the same day, more or less, as they sell them.

But I’m getting side-tracked. I thought I would mention a few of the wines that have given me especial drinking satisfaction during this year’s Platter round; wines that I have turned to with pleasure for my dinner accompaniment and often pursued quite far down the bottle. Not necessarily high-scoring wines, but, I suppose, often pretty smart. They’re mostly whites – precisely because there are more whites than reds designed and ready to drink in their youth.

The first such wine this year was the L’Avenir Grand Vin Chenin Blanc 2008, which was both delicious and rather befitting its grand name – but scarcely any wood flavour (modesty in oaking is a criterion that all my drinking favourites share. I recall that that bottle got pretty nearly whacked.

I’m not a great fan of sparkling wine, never buy it, and seldom choose to drink it, but I did this year surprise myself by not only rating Simonsig’s Cuvée Royale (predictably) quite high,  but absolutely enjoying drinking it with my dinner (can’t now remember what that was). So few local bubblies have any mature complexity on them, although they don’t lack freshness. The Cuvée Royale spends about five years on its sediment in the bottle, which adds immeasurably to the character and interest of what was obviously a fine young wine. It costs R165 from the estate, twice as much as the famous but much lesser Kaapse Vonkel, and is worth every penny (especially if you’re a bubbly fan, of course).

I’ve mentioned before the Viognier from Eagles’ Nest. That was a wine that gave great drinking pleasure as well as drawing admiration. At a rather humbler level, I was very happy to enjoy the whites from Thandi – great value, I thought (and I must write about them in more detail sometime), though I didn’t like the reds as much.

Most irritatingly, the one wine this year that gave me a shiver of delight at first sniff, and made the hair on my arms stand up at the second, was a sauvignon blanc. I say irritatingly, because it remains a category of wine that generally bores me (oh, the dozens of sauvignons I’ve tasted this year that are all more or less the same well-made stuff, even the very good ones, with their pleasant, balanced combination of green and tropical aromas and flavours, with sometimes a bit of citrus!). But this one had scents of blackcurrant, exquisite poise, breadth and depth aided subtly by wood maturation (25% new, what’s more). It’s the second edition (2009) of The Nicobar, from the Agulhas vineyards of Quoin Rock. The estate’s other Aghulhas 2009 Sauvignon is also excellent, but no local touches the Nicobar, in my opinion! I suggest you look out for it when it comes onto the market.

There are some reds that I should add to the list of wines that, on the night, I greatly enjoyed an extra glass or two of. One was the Malbec from Annex Kloof (a Swartland label for a few related producers who, happily, set aside a few vineyards from what services the big merchants). A simply delicious drink this, with lots of mulberry and loganberry flavours, but some decent structure to support them. Another delicious Swartland wine – a bit more serious, though equally unpretentious – was the little known Shiraz from DeanDavid called 2MileSquare Swartland Syrah. The Platter submission this year was the 2009, already most enjoyable, and very good as a food accompaniment because of its remarkable freshness. The wine hasn’t been released yet; when it is, in a few months, I will report on it further. Meanwhile, if you stumble across the 2008 in some clever restaurant, that was also very good, and very good value.

Of the many cabernets and Bordeaux-style blends I’ve tasted (and rated, some very high, of course), amongst the most drinkable in their youth was the merlot-based Le Bonheur Prima; though it will be better in a few years, I managed to happily down a glass. Or two. As I did with the Ladybird Red from Laibach; the 2009 is probably the best yet of this lovely wine from vineyards which are farmed organically out of the owner’s and viticulturist’s conviction, rather than as a marketing ploy. It succeeds in being eminently enjoyable in its youth without being at all trivial.

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