Tasting wines with close friends can be great fun and very informative, especially when they bring along the odd gem. Drinking wine at the Hussar Grill, a great local Cape Town steak house, a friend and I enjoyed two superb wines. The first a Peter Lehmann Wigan Eden Valley Riesling 2004 from the Barossa Valley in Australia. Deep in colour, a fine yellow gold it was still youthful, not showing any of the characteristic petrol aromas associated with aged Riesling. Austere on the palate with fine acidity lending its backbone it displayed a beautiful bouquet of limes and honey. A real delight sourced from the top importer’s Reciprocal. A lovely opener to the meal.
My friend pulled out a Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 from the long established top Stellenbosch producer. The Thelema Cabernet 1994 was a real stunner and earned a fine reputation. The 1995 did not disappoint either. From a fine vintage it displayed tremendous concentration with typical Cabernet power and austerity. At its peak and in full maturity it showed what some of the older SA Cabernets and reds can do. They can age and have great staying power. In the excitement over the current more accessible modern SA reds we should not forget the wines of the 1980s and early 1990s. Taking longer to reveal their charms and true worth than the current crops of SA reds they possess great ageing potential and real class. Many of them are classics.
Whizzing off to my family wine farm in Paarl with some friends for an orgy of fine wine drinking. Thursday night enjoyed a bottle of Grangehurst Nikela a cape blend meaning that it contains Pinotage. This 2001 was still youthful and darkly coloured. It had a fine fragrance and did not disappoint. Once the rage of the town Grangehurst continues to provide fine reds and maintain its position.
Friday night, another wine from my cellar. Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2000. Full bodied and dense. Slightly musty and showing some age. Kanonkop Cabernets tend to start maturing at ten years and last for at least 25. But this one seemed to develop more quickly. Must open the other bottle as it might tell another story. Kanonkop remains one of SA’s leading premium red wine producers. You can never right off a Kanonkop.
Saturday night and more friends arrive, particularly the tall friend with the Thelema Cabernet 1995. Decide to have a real bash and really dig into my cellar. Starting with one of my favourite SA bubblies, and in my view one of South Africa’s finest. This wine can really age. I am speaking of the Graham Beck Brut Blanc de Blancs. I really enjoyed their 2002, a beautiful wine, so I pulled out the 2004. It did not disappoint. Yeasty, defined and elegant. A lovely way to start a meal or drink on its own.
Hamilton Russell have long been known for producing premium elegant and yet rich and refined Chardonnay. For long one of the leading exponents of the variety in the country. Their 08 Chardonnay was for them a surprisingly upfront wine. With an incredible bouquet the aromas simply leapt out of the bottle. A tremendously rich wine. A little more subdued now it is no doubt going through a quiet phase though still delicious and like many Hamilton Russell Chardonnays will probably peak at ten years.
The wine that stole the show was the Australian number that my tall friend hauled out of his treasured cellar. A Henschke Mount Edelstone 1994. Henschke are famed for their old vine Shiraz. And this wine did not disappoint. Dense, ageless, tar and blackcurrants. It almost brought one of my part Aussie friends to tears.
We finished off with a Grand Constance 2008, competitor or perhaps companion to the long established Vin de Constance from neighboring Klein Constantia. Straight from the box and into my wine cellar and then drunk on the farm. Ruby red and deliciously sweet from Muscat grapes. Boela Gerber is making great wine at Groot Constantia.
The following afternoon over lunch I took out a bottle of Ashbourne 2006. The brain child of Anthony Hamilton Russell and mainly a blend of Sauvignon Blanc I had drank it with him a few years back. I was so impressed I bought half a case! An elegant wine designed for bottle age this wine was maturing well. Quite a deep colour now. Although one should not be taken in by bottle variations as another bottle from my half case might be quite different.
Quite a range with so many different stories to tell…But the two Australian wine really stood out proving that many critiques of Australian wines wrong. And that the Australians can on occasion make fine, even glorious wine.