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Garden Route Shiraz 2011: Easy drinking, somewhat enigmatic…

October 9, 2012 2 comments

2011 Garden Route Shiraz, made from grapes grown in the Outeniqua wine ward

“Location: Calitzdorp • Map: Klein Karoo & Garden Route • WO: Durbanville/Outeniqua • Est/1stB 2008” reads the entry in Platter’s 2012 for Garden Route wines.

The bottle in my hand reads “Garden Route Shiraz 2011, Wine of origin Outeniqua” on the front label. The Platter entry lists the 2007 Shiraz, made from Durbanville grapes, noting that the 2011 Shiraz is made from grapes grown in the Outeniqua wine ward, one of the newer wine wards to emerge in the Southern Cape in the last few years. It’s all thoroughly confusing really. What happened to the ’08, ’09 and ’10 vintages I wonder. Where did the grapes come from ? Or did they just not get made?

The wines (I received the 2011 Shiraz and 2012 Sauvigon Blanc via courier a couple of weeks ago)  are made at De Krans in Calitzdorp, by the redoubtable Boets Nel, he of De Krans Port fame. Aside from a slew of competition honours, half the De Krans page entry in Platter’s is a solid block of red type, indicating 4 1/2 and 5 star wines, testimony to the winemaking prowess of Boets, and not just in the port and dessert wine stakes. The 2010 Touriga Nacional and the 2006 Redstone Reserve, a blend of Touriga and Cab Sauv, both crack 4 Platter stars.

So it’s entirely reasonable to expect that he should be able to put together a credible Shiraz, which if you taste the 2011, you may well agree he has done. Okay, I don’t believe it’s a 5 star wine, but it is entirely drinkable, inky garnet in colour, with a dense black fruit nose of plums and blackberries on vanilla and earthy spice notes.

The palate speaks of surprisingly dense black fruit, with cracked black pepper notes, underpinned by gentle oak and a vanilla edge. The fruit is mouthfilling, juicy and is balanced by pleasing acidity, the tannins very soft and gentle for a 2011 wine. Ten months in 2nd and 3rd fill French barrels make for well integrated oak. I don’t believe it’ll last for ever, but I doubt it’s meant to. It’s a typical cool climate wine, with bright juicy fruit, made to drink young.

I drank it with a very mild chicken curry, not the ideal pairing I admit, but it was passable good nonetheless. It’ll do well with a traditional roast, beef or lamb, and it’ll also do great with a slab of steak, or with a typical South African braai.

Drinking well now, it retails at R92 a bottle. The 2007 gets 3 1/2 Platter stars, and the 2011 cracked best Shiraz at the Klein Karoo Young Wine Show that year.

Out of the rot comes forth sweetness

June 23, 2010 1 comment

Die Bergkelder's 2009 Fleur du Cap Noble Late Harvest, the first vintage to be made from Chenin Blanc

Pieter Badenhorst of Fleur du Cap is the first winemaker I’ve listened to who actually explains the intricacies, pitfalls and barnacles inherent in making a noble late harvest (NLH) or noble rot wine.

Most all other explanations I’ve heard are glib and misleading, as if this benign fungus invades the vineyard and gently turns the grapes into super-sweet raisins, while the viticulturist and winemaker sit back with arms folded waiting for the right moment to harvest.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The fungus Botrytis cinerea infects grapes during the flowering stage but it manifests much later during the ripening stage. Intense humidity followed by longer dry warm periods at just the right time, results in noble rot (édelfaule in German), whereas sustained humidity with no warm periods of relieving dryness, leads to grey rot, The former is divine the latter, disastrous.

The most prevalent legend about the origins of botrytised wines says that the Reisling producers of Schloss Johannisberg (Geisenheim in the Rheingau region, not Jhb SA!) had to wait for the permission of the estate owner, Heinrich von Bibra, Bishop of Fulda, to commence the harvest. In 1775, the abbey messenger was waylaid en route by brigands and the ensuing delay of three weeks allowed the Botriytis to take hold. The shrivelled, raisin-like grapes were considered worthless, and given to the local peasants, who made a surprisingly good sweet wine, the very first “late harvest” or as it became known, Spatlëse. Read more…