Getting (un)lucky on Saturday night

Well, if wine were entirely reliable, made entirely safely and sealed and delivered equally reliably, would we love it as much? Can a bit of tension in our lives be a bad thing?

Saturday evening started off well. Gloriously springlike weather it was, so I compensated for making an arguably wintry venison casserole by sipping, as I prepared it, some Secateurs Rosé 2014 – a perfectly delicious Adi Badenhorst triumph made from cinsaut, shiraz, grenache & carignan, just like a rosé should be. I’m sure it improved the casserole somehow, though the red wine I poured lavishly into the latter wasn’t one of Adi’s.

The next two moves were depressing, however. Continuing my uncertainty as to whether it was summer or winter, I decided on a lovely light, fresh syrah to accompany the vension (food and wine matching is not my strength; basically I want both food and wine to be nice, and that’s enough) – LAM Syrah 2012, from Lammershoek.

It was a touch too petillant, and a touch too funky for my mood. (I’d not had a problematic bottle of this wine before, though I’d be lying through my teeth if I said that I’d never had one of Craig Hawkins’ wines that showed signs of deciding to do a bit more fermentation in the bottle – nonetheless I’ve continued to buy, though I’m slowing down…)

saturdaySo I abandoned that bottle, and, sticking to the lighter side of syrah, decided on a great treat: my last bottle of Alain Graillot’s splendid Crozes-Hermitage 2005. No doubts here, the wine was disgusting – horribly corked. I felt quite viciously pleased that I’d just that day accepted an invitation to a presentation about developments in screwcaps (the fact that the accompanying lunch was at Jardine’s at Jordan had been, of course, immaterial in my rare acceptance of an invitation to any wine function).

The casserole was by now getting a bit chilly. And I was getting irritated.

I abandoned syrah in favour of cabernet franc (with cab sauv and bloody merlot!) in the form of Boekenhoutskloof’s The Journeyman 2005. Ah. Relief. Bliss, even. No cork taint. No fizziness, just a brilliantly good wine. I’ve suggested before that’s it’s probably one of the best Cape reds, and saw (tasted) no reason to change my opinion.

(Though I couldn’t help but remember the last time I opened a bottle of this wine, in a context where mostly pretty grand foreign wines were being drunk. An always  horribly acute taster immediately identified it as a South African wine. How? Because of a particular character which suggested to this person that the grapes had been grown in a vineyard with creosoted trellis poles. This subject, possibly connected with the notorious “burnt rubber” character of many Cape wines. is altogether too big and deep for me, especially right now. Though did you know that creosote is banned in Europe while it continues to be used in most vineyards and many other places here?)

Postscripts: I’ve been drinking The Journeyman again tonight, 24 hours later, and mostly I’m struck by how youthfully fruity and how beautifully structured it is – it  still seems to me a really excellent wine, and not for the first time, I’m very pleased that Im not a “technical taster”.

Further: I tonight opened another bottle of LAM Syrah 2012. VNervously, as I still have the better part of a case of it. A few bubbles, perhaps, but here the fruit was fuller, sweeter, fresher, not at all compromised, and the wine was as I remembered it. So, with luck, I’ll get quite a bit more pleasure out of what remains of the case. Cork and low sulphur additions permitting.

One thought on “Getting (un)lucky on Saturday night

  1. Hi Tim.
    Interesting comment on creosote posts. Before we run off and ban creosote, we need to look at what are our alternatives. CCA is widely used in other countries, but is more problematic environmentally. (CCA posts are the green ones). The problem with them is that they contain arsenic, that has even been known to leach into the ground water. Metal posts have been trialed, but they are expensive and use a lot of energy to produce and mining is not that environmentally friendly. Another problem is certain brands are not strong enough. 3 years ago, but neighbor’s whole vineyard blew over a week before harvest in a very strong storm. The 2 hectares of chardonnay looked like a beautiful lawn. Concrete poles are an option for hand harvesting, but not machines as they don’t have flex. The most interesting alternative are recycled plastic posts. These look like thick walled pipes. At this stage they are pricey, and they have a tendency to droop in hot weather, so need a bit of redesign. Certain types of hardwoods are naturally termite and rot resistant, but the idea of cutting down these old growth forests for their timber is probably not good.

    I am not so sure that we can blame tarry characters on creosote, as all experts agree that the problem is less prevalent these days, and I have not seen less creosote poles being used. I would love to see a study on this. Are the old tarry SA wines exclusive to trellised vineyards? Some prominent SA winemakers feel that the issue was cause by bacterial spoilage during MLF. Again, we do not know enough.

    Maybe the final solution lies in bushvines!

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