Luxury and otherwise

Wine Cellar in Cape Town – as innovative in tastings as it is cutting-edge in the wines it promotes – recently held tastings of “luxury wines” in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. That is, extremely expensive wines – though supremo Roland Peens includes some that are only very expensive (because he likes them, and he’s organising it all, so why not?). I accepted an invitation to join the Cape Town tasting, with a cowardly twinge of nervousness that I might not like the wines I should, and might fall prey (in the blind tasting circumstances) to the blandishments of wines I don’t normally much care for.

Perhaps if I was too disgusted with my own reactions to the wines I wouldn’t report on the results.  I’m not, on the whole, displeased, however, though it has to be said that (as usual) I don’t think that this is really the best way to gain truly considered opinions about wines. But there is a real value to blind tasting, of course, and it was an instructive and useful experience.

The roomful of some 40 of us had 12 wines to taste and to rank, and below is the order in which I put them. In brackets, after the approximate retail price, I give the consolidated overall averaged result of the tastings in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Incidentally, Roland said that in most cases the two tastings delivered pretty close results, which is in itself very interesting. He did point out that the Johannesburgers didn’t spit as much as the Capetonians – but nonetheless made fewer errors on the scoring sheets they submitted for analysis!

Single-Terroir_Schist-SyrahMy ranking:

  1. Mullineux Schist Syrah 2013. R735 (Overall ranking: 6)
  2. Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage 2014. R1450 (Overall ranking: 1; it topped both tastings)
  3. Sadie Family Columella 2013 R642 (Overall ranking: 10)
  4. La Motte Hanneli Rupert 2011 R1030 (Overall ranking: 4)
  5. Rust en Vrede 1694 2013. R1300 (Overall ranking: 7)
  6. De Toren Book XVII. R2550 (Overall ranking: 2)
  7. Delaire Graff Laurence Graff Reserve 2012. R2450, unreleased (Overall ranking: 11)
  8. Vilafonte Series C 2013. R750. (Overall ranking: 3)
  9. Simonsig Garland 2009. R1450 (Overall ranking: 12)
  10. Neil Ellis Webb Ellis 2010. R995 (Overall ranking: 9)
  11. Rijk’s Pinotage 888 2013. R1095 (Overall ranking: 8)
  12. Mvemve-Raats De Compostella 2013. R920 (Overall ranking: 5)

The wine that I think now that I got wrong was the Mvemve-Raats. On retasting later, I couldn’t see how I could have put it anywhere near, let alone below, the Rijk’s Pinotage, which I disliked for its ripe, sweet, plush softness. Apart from that De Compostella, I am inclined to say that I wouldn’t be tempted to buy most of these wines other than my top three, even if they were half their price!

Nonetheless, they were mostly good of their type – I simply don’t care for the big opulent, powerful style that most of these fitted into. One real problem is an element of sweetness on the finish which was obvious, and offputting to me, on at least half the wines, especially the ripe cabernets. I must add that the oaking was excellently done overall and not intrusive: the very obvious taste of new oak is no longer a vital part of the blockbuster, showy style. Generally, they were expertly designed to be approachable young, with soft, though firm, tannins.

My tasting notes, however, only include the word “undrinkable!” once – for a wine which I rated fairly high as I thought it of good quality (sigh – such is the problem of trying to be professional about this that one is obliged to recognise quality in something that one finds undrinkable…). But for me the Rust en Vrede was the best of the big, opulent cabernet-based wines, of which there were many. Too many.

luxuryLooking for an image to go with this piece, I googled, of course, “luxury”, and found pictures of vast numbers of things that would go pretty well with some of the wines in this tasting. Like the one alongside. Imagine living with that? Of course, one person’s luxury is another’s crass vulgarity. As ever, de gustibus non disputandum est.

I went home from the tasting and drank, with my dinner, the last third of a bottle of Mount Abora The Abyssinian 2013. A lightly oaked blend of syrah, mourvèdre and cinsaut, with 12.5% alcohol. Vastly to be preferred, in my opinion (though clearly not everyone’s!) to the majority of the “luxury” wines I’d tasted earlier. Lucky for me I have unluxurious tastes.

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