Anura Petit Verdot 2010

 

The Headlines: //
Ok, so you decide to buy the roll of blackcurrant fruit pastilles, right? Rather than the mixed bag. Because Blackcurrant are the best. Then you discover that when EVERYTHING is blackcurrant, blackcurrant doesn’t seem so special. You realise that one needs all the other duds to make BC feel like the rare reward that it is. So it is with this wine
TN: Lots and lots of soft black fruit. But unfortunately not much of anything else.
Aromas of violets, gentle hints of oak & some savoury fresh leather.
Sure, the palate is packed full of soft plums, cassis & blueberries, but without the necessary acidity or structure (where are those PV tannins?) it all borders on being a little flabby (not that I judge, being a little flabby myself).

Quality: 14/20 //
Price: R120 //
Value: 3/5 //
Ponce factor: medium-low//
Occasion: Lazy Sunday with lamb on the spit //
Key words: flabby, temperature//
Vivino rating //

Feeling flabby? Chill out, and everything will be fine

LIFE HACK ALERT. Just because you open a wine and find it to be kinda flat, sweet, overly fruity, and lacking in structure, that doesn’t mean that all is lost, and you should resort to adlibbing renditions of cousin Thelma’s strawberry daiquiri recipe. There are ways to improve a wine that may pack plenty of fruit, but seems to lack those little elements we fondly refer to as “structure”and “acidity”.

Hot and Heavy

(**This is where a wine thermometer comes in handy)

Let’s just say it is a warm summer’s evening, and you’re barbecuing a fat, juicy piece of Sirloin, which would ordinarily be perfectly paired with a brawny, concentrated, but prominently tannic Petit Verdot. Unfortunately for you, you discover that your PV of choice (hypothetically, the Anura Petit Verdot 2010) is (yay, verily) undeniably fruity, but also softer than a Bieber album and packing less punch than Pacquiao when he’s on a liquids-only diet.

What is key here is to bear in mind that the warm summer’s evening may have gone someway to increasing the temperature of your wine, perhaps shifting its temperature up into the low 20-23 degree Celsius mark. This lowers your ability to perceive tannins and acidity, but increases you ability to perceive sweetness (ever increasing as it approaches body temperature). The result can be a wine flabbier than John Goodman after Thanksgiving dinner.

So..what to do?

By putting your brawny, concentrated petit verdot into the fridge for an hour (or the freezer for half an hour) you’ll shave four or five degrees off that beast’s serving temperature and completely transform how she performs in the glass.

Acidity (and any tannins that may be present) will be bolstered quite significantly by the decrease in serving temperature, allowing those previously nominal elements to actually pull their weight and better balance the superbly dense black fruit offered by the PV of choice.

All of a sudden, a second glass of the stuff doesn’t feel so bad.

Conversely, should you find yourself pulling the cork on a rather tannic and austere wine, you can apply this theory in reverse.

Rather than blocking your nose, lining your mouth with lamb fat, and chugging that bad boy like it’s O-week, try putting the bottle in a bowl of warm water for ten minutes. Warming it up a few degrees can (on occasions) bring out some sorely needed fruit elements and soften the tannic nature of the beast you’ve chosen to serve.

You’re welcome.

Ruling with an Iron Schist:

A chat with Andrea Mullineux; the reluctant but undeniable queen of wine.

If the wine biz were showbiz, Andrea and Chris Mullineux would be Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Only a touch more classic. Sonny and Cher, perhaps.

Between the two of them, they have made wines on three different continents for some of the finest producers in the world. Whether Napa, Languedoc, Roussillon, Chateauneuf, Stellenbosch, or most recently, the Swartland, Andrea and Chris have represented some of the most exciting movements in winemaking. Mullineux & Leeu Family wines, with its HQ on Roundstone Farm near Riebeek Kasteel has been named Platter’s Winery of the year twice, is an integral founding element of the Swartland Independent Producers, and just happens to have produced a Platter’s Red Wine of the Year (2016), and Platter’s Dessert wine of the Year (2017).

** if you have no idea what a Platter’s Wine Guide award is, it’s sort of like an Oscar award for South African wines (voted by an academy or panel), rather than a Teen Choice Award-vibe (achieved through populist vote). So, a serious award. Like Tori-Amos-meets-Sinead-O’Connor serious.

 

And then there is the small matter of Andrea being named “WINE ENTHUSIAST’S WORLD WINEMAKER OF THE YEAR” for 2016. Now, I know that using a shouty BOLD ALL-CAPS typeface is considered rude, but (core blimey) if you can’t use it here, where can you use it? It’s not as if she just won second place at Miss BarleyCorn beauty pageant. The Wine Enthusiast’s World Winemaker award is (as the name suggests) a global accolade that could go to literally any one of the tens of thousands of winemakers the world over. What’s more, it is awarded to a winemaker “with groundbeakbreaking vision”; a game changer; someone who has seen further than their peers. Odin, rather than Loki.

All kneel before Zod!

So when interviewing this viniferic deity, I had hoped for some spicy ego; an element of shock rock…perhaps even a Yeezy-esque fiery third person declaration of grandeur.

Boy, I was I disappointed.

What I experienced instead was (if I’m not mistaken they call them “virtues”) humility, measured responses, a well-defined sense of place and context, and grounded grasp of where Andrea fits in the bigger scheme of things. Sure, it’s a letdown if you’re hoping for headlines & scandal, but if you’re looking to discover the sort of temperament it takes to produce wines that are taking the world by storm, then her thoughts and musings become a treasure trove for anyone with a respect for the earth, its fruit…and jolly stonking decent grog.

Q&A with AM

TMITB: The Wine Enthusiast’s award is for your “groundbreaking vision in winemaking”. If you’ve seen further than your peers, what do you think has been your most meaningful discovery? What have you seen that you’re burning to share with/teach others?

ANDREA: In my opinion I have not seen further, but perhaps I set my mind to a task, put on blinders to naysayers, and have gone for it. My biggest strength is attention to detail in the winery, and the only advice I can share is that it is all the little things that add up, so pay attention to every step along the way.

 

TMITB: Adi Badenhorst says that “you know exactly what you want in a wine, and the level of fruit it takes to produce that.”

In other interviews, you also talk about making “honest” wines. Is there not a contradiction between having a strong idea of what you want, and allowing the wine to be an honest expression of its terroir? Where is the line between the honesty of fruit & terroir and your personal desire in your winemaking?  Do you actively remove your own preferences in order to express the terroir? Or do you allow your “desire for a result” to influence what you do in the cellar? And does that diminish the notion of an “honest wine”?

ANDREA:I like to say I am the custodian of the wines and that I guide them through life, without forcing them to be something that they don’t want to be. Sometimes I step in a little more and am proactive if I foresee a problem. It is that act of knowing how much of my hand the vintage might need that I think is a strength in making honest wines.

Obviously I have a preference in what kind of expression I like in a wine, but  we chose vineyards that NATURALLY exhibit those qualities, rather than having to force it [in the cellar].

 

TMITB: What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the SA wine industry on an international stage?

ANDREA: Even though the South African wine industry has been around for several hundred years, it has still only been on the modern international scene for a couple of decades. The quality wines are getting better and better, but it is up to South Africa to create the exposure for the wines. We must not sit back and wait for people to discover us!

 

TMITB: What excites you most about South African Wine, and what is your hope for its future?

ANDREA: The exponential increase in overall wine quality is the most exciting thing. It means that South African wines are right up there with the best of the world and it is only a matter of time before more people see that internationally.

 

TMITB: You have some of South Africa’s most exciting winemakers as your friends and neighbours… What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learnt from peers like Adi Badenhorst? Eben Sadie? and Callie Louw?

ANDREA: A rising tide lifts all boats. We are all very close friends and share a lot as winemakers, so we realise that when one of us does well, it uplifts everyone.

 

TMITB: In your winemaking (or life in general), when you hit a moment of self-doubt, or an emotional low, what are the fears that come to the fore in those times?

ANDREA: Everyone wants to succeed in life, but we need to make sure that all the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears are worth it. We all have to make sacrifices, but we must never regret the way we have lived our lives.

 

TMITB: Who are the people who inspire you to climb out of those moments? How do they achieve this?

ANDREA: Chris, my husband and business partner is always there for me emotionally. He is my rock and will always brighten my day.

 

TMITB: Your tip for an up-and-coming winemaker for us to look out for?

ANDREA: My ex-assistant winemaker, Tremayne Smith, is making some awesome wines of his own now, and he really lets his own personal style shine through; both in the wine and the packaging, which is great.

TMITB: Okay, oaky. It’s all good and well to talk about wine until the cows come home, but how much do you really know about someone until you have watched them walk unflinchingly away from a cinematic explosion, while some bad-ass tunes play in the background? Nothing, right? So, for the sake of the exercise, we will just have to imagine you walking in slow motion with flames in the background, but I would need you to pick a song for us to play while we do so. What is your bad-ass-explosion-theme-tune?

ANDREA: Without a doubt, Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion”.

TMITB: A veritably royal choice, M’Lady. Let’s see how that works out!

Private Vintners Beyers Truter Bordeaux Blend Cabernet Merlot 2000

The Headlines: //

The nose is gargantuan. Like the nasal love child of Andre-the-Giant & Bette Midler. Pungent dried violets, raisins, oak, & cellar must.
On the palate, marginally overbearing port notes, though the acidity has lasted surprisingly well. As for tannins…well, what tannins, right? Soft as silk.
While the wine itself may be a touch past its best, Beyers Truter, when he is “a touch past his best” is still twice the winemaker of many a mortal. And his wines follow suit. If you have some cellared, drink them now.

Quality: 15/20 (purely due to over-aging)//
Price: Unknown //
Value: N/A //
Ponce factor: High//
Occasion: Dinner with your Grandpaps//
Key words: aging, tannins, acidity, Beyers Truter//
Vivino rating //

To fill those awkward silences…

T.A.R.A – the four secret ingredients to wines that age well

Because there is nothing like an ironic acronym to help one remember important details, I’ve developed what I like to call the TARA technique to assessing a wine’s aging potential. It involves the study of the following four elements:
Tannins.
Acidity.
Residual Sugar.
Alcohol.

(If the irony of TARA being used as an acronym to unlock the secrets of graceful aging is lost on you, download the season of Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars).

In the matter of Science vs. Booze…

But why do we need an acronym? Can’t we just check the wine’s “Best Before” date? Alas, no. Because, despite the fact that wine has been drunk for thousands of years by hundreds of very clever, curious, well-funded and highly-motivated individuals, no one has discovered a sure-fire way to predict exactly how long a wine will take to reach its peak. Or reduce itself to vinegar.

“If wine was a poor inner-city neighbourhood, oxygen molecules would be juvenile delinquents looking to break stuff…”

Perhaps part of the reason is because, while it might be possible to punch variables into a complex algebraic equation and decipher a best-before date, it’s more enjoyable to punch a hole in a cork and decipher the location of your nearest glass. So no one really bothers.

Which brings us back to T.A.R.A.

By examining the prevalence of tannins, acidity, residual sugar, and alcohol in a wine, we can at least make snappy-but-educated guesses as to how long a wine may continue to improve…or at least survive. (This info is almost always available under “technical specs” on the winemaker or estate website).

TANNINS:
If wine was a poor inner-city neighbourhood, oxygen molecules would be juvenile delinquents looking to break stuff, and tannins would be those selfless social workers, who keep them out of mischief by teaching them to knit, or play badminton.

Tannins form part of a group of compounds called polyphenols that bond to a whole bunch of other chemicals in weird and wonderful ways. One of the chemicals they like to bond to is oxygen. These delinquent oxygen molecules would otherwise set about wreaking havoc with certain elements in the wine, but INSTEAD, the oxygen hangs out with these phenolic compounds and can, given the right opportunities and a good education, actually become healthy citizens, who contribute to society.

ACIDITY:
While tannins may busy themselves with both each other, and youthful, anarchic oxygen molecules, acidity’s trump card is its ability to make life awfully unpleasant for any bacteria that may cause wine to spoil prematurely.

If tannins are social workers, Acidity is Simon Cowell on X-Factor destroying the self-esteem of young hopeful bacteria everywhere. It does this by shifting the pH of the solution down the scale to a point where bacteria cannot survive.
“In general, a wine should have a pH of somewhere between 3 and 4 to be stable and not allow bacteria to grow and thrive,” Max Meindl, all-round organic chemistry biscuit, and superbly knowledgeable founder of Max on Wine.

RESIDUAL SUGAR:
If bacteria are high schoolers on prom night, sugar is the semi-palsied history teacher monitoring the distance between adolescent bodies on the dance floor. “Always leave room for the Holy Ghost”, says Professor Sugar, totally cutting the grass of every bacterium looking to get a legover before Jocund Day can stand tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
There are various mechanisms by which sugar creates highly unromantic settings for would-be bonking bacteria (they don’t actually bonk), but the only mechanism I’d suggest further reading on at present is that of water activity.
If you want to learn more about how sugar reduces water activity, and therefore stops bacteria from having a right old time, this is as good a link as any to start you off. And here is piece from admirably conscientious Royal Coffee on role of WA in green coffee beans. In case you were looking to branch out.

ALCOHOL:
While the aim of this piece has been to avoid getting technical, I just think it’s cool the way that alcohol deals with bacteria. Alcohol acts like the blob from the 80s horror film “The Blob”. It dissolves lipids in a bacteria’s outer membranes, and then, when the poor little critter starts to bleed out like a doomed high school cheerleader in the back of jalopy, the alcohol rushes into the cell and starts denaturing proteins. Meditate on that one when you’re next hungover, and you’ll realise, “heck, I got off pretty darn lightly with nausea and a headache!”

Cheers!