The perils of finding something to drink with dinner! It was not a night for housewine (not-too expensive stuff like Lammershoek Lam or Secateurs wines and a few other stand-bys – how lucky am I to have these?), nor for foreign grandeur or expense. Something local, fairly grand was called for.
First victim of the corkscrew: Quoin Rock Syrah 2006. I’d recently had a bottle which reminded me exactly why this has often been my favourite Stellenbosch syrah (seem to have lost my notes though I’m trying to be more methodical with my scribblings), and was looking forward to repeating the pleasure. Alas (as they say, or once said), there was something wrong, though I’m not sure what – nothing obvious like cork taint; the wine lacked fruit and made up for it with a kind our dour bitterness. Maybe somehow the effect of random oxidation, though it’s hardly an old wine.
Anyway. Then an interesting pleasure I’d been planning on for a while. High Constantia Sebastiaan 2003. I’d loved the vintages of this cab franc-based Bordeaux blend of the early 2000s, including the 2003. The last I’d tried was 2006, by when the wine (and its red stablemates) seemed to show some notable cellar problem that I hadn’t picked up before. Well now, ten years on, that problem was more obvious, with animal, elastoplasty characters – a great pity, as I could still see how much else was right, and even still noble. But spoilt.
Then another 2003 Constantia Bordeaux-style blend, for a long time the undoubted best from the area. I distinctly remember buying a case of Buitenverwachting Christine 2003 from Checkers when they’d picked it up at an absurd R200 per bottle from the Nederburg Auction. Though I can’t remember when – four, five years ago? Coming from the winery cellar, it went though an unknown short period of movement, and has been perfectly stored since I collected it from Checkers.
What a good wine! It performed only moderately well for Christian Eedes’s panel that tasted 2003 reds recently (see here http://grape.co.za/2013/03/ldis-and-young/ , but my bottle tonight I’d certainly rate hugely above two of the three winners there (no complaints about top-scoring Boekenhoutskloof Syrah).
I see that in the 2008 Platter, Joerg Pfuetzner was very enthusiastic, speaking of its great balance and fine-grain tannin (“years to go”), as well as “rich, deep cassis and cherry fruit” and, from the all-new oak, “spicy cedar”. Well, the obvious fruit has gone, transmuted into something altogether more interesting and complex and savoury than the charms of the supermarket fruit aisle.
The balance is still good. The tannins are rather lovely – but just a touch too dry, if I’m going to start being desperately analytical about this. They reflect the oaking, which was always just that bit too much. This would have undoubtedly (?) been a better mature wine, as well as a better young wine, if there had been less new oak used in its maturation. There’s not too much oak flavour, aroma left, but enough to support the above contention. More fruit would do no harm.
But hey, let me return to where I was. This is a fine, mature Cape red, slightly austere for good or ill, which has been a joy to drink just a little too much of (I must check for typos in the morning). Even quibbling with the wine (with another sip or two to confirm, and a more lingering swallow to double-check!) has been a pleasure.
Let me rashly give it a score, seeing I seem rather shamefully destined to that practice, at least sometimes: 17/20.