Two duds and then, wow!

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.

buitenverwachting-christine2003Then 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 , 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.

3 thoughts on “Two duds and then, wow!

  1. Fresh back from pizza night with a couple of friends (including Solms-Delta Cape Jazz Shiraz, Longridge Chardonnay 2007, Black Oystercatcher Cabernet-Merlot 2005 and Vondelng Erica Shiraz 2007), I must join you in lamenting the High Constantia situation.

    At the time, a young 2001 Cabernet Franc from them was the best Franc I’ve ever had from South Africa. Their wines always seemed to have an x-factor when they were young – impressive stuff.

    Through the years, my enthusiasm waned pretty fast as I opened mature High Constantia reds at both sighted and blind tastings. Acetobacter and brettanomyces were more the norm than the exception. I can confirm that my fellow tasters and I always found what seems like worthy redeeming features under the cloak of unwelcome faultiness – so sad. The precious few wines that were clean, were really pretty damn good, but they sadly seem to be exceptions. Through the years, I’ve been converted from an enthusiastic fan into a disappointed skeptic.

    Their Sauvignon and Clos André MCC are the only wines of theirs that I’d be willing to buy right now. As far as their reds go, I’m resigned to live in hope. I’m rooting for them, but not with bated breath…

  2. Checkers seem to buy premium wine at a bargain and then sell it even cheaper. Not sure about their economics, but I remember buying 6 bottles of Cape Winemakers Guild 2004 Lourensford made by Philip Constandius for R49 a bottle back in 2007/8! Maybe because I bought it in the Somerset West Checkers the transport costs from the winery just down Lourensford Road were low, or maybe the well known owner of Lourensford/Checkers wanted the locals to sample good wine! Anyway I had the last of the 6 a few weeks ago – it had travelled back to the UK with me when I relocated back in 2011 and it was delicious and concentrated example of a Cape Shiraz blend. It’s always hard drinking the last bottle – though I do still have a CWG Cordoba 2003 left and I can’t bring myself to drink it given there is probably none left to replace it!

    • Phil, I only ever had two mouthfuls of that Cordoba CWG 2003, but it remains etched in my longing memory. In an almost perfect vintage when just about everyone got greedy and produced over-ripe, over-extracted and over-wooded wines, that wine was just oozing class.

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