Tag Archives: 16/20

Bloemendal Suider Terras 2014 wooded Sauvignon Blanc

The Headlines: //
“More complex than the American electoral system.
Vanguard aromas carry fresh grass and green pepper up front, followed by slow-attack asparagus, and an intriguing somewhat darker, nigh-on clovesy spice note at the back. Lovely evolution. Definitely not easy drinking, but marvelous intellectual value. 
Oaked for 8 months. 50% new oak barrels.”

Quality: 16/20//
Price: R250 (as of November 2016) //
Value: 2/5 //
Ponce factor: High//
Occasion: A Summer gathering of the ponce club. On the terrace//
Key words: oak, sensory evolution, trending//
Vivino rating //

 To fill those awkward silences…

It’s not mine, Guv’nor.

I love a bit of wood in my Chardonnay. So one can imagine my dismay when I got totally busted on my passé penchant by an undercover member of the wine fashion police, writing me a ticket for enjoying something as “pas cool” as a wooded chard. Now in hindsight, I should have mustered my finest Gandalf impression and said, “Madam, if you’re drinking wine to be on trend, then I’m afraid you have bigger problems than a few splinters in your Chablis.”
Instead, all I could muster was a weird sort-of half curtsy, followed by an awkward swallow and something about it not being mine. “oh, I’m just holding it for a friend.”

“a stellar wooded chardonnay should be assessed on its quality alone, rather than by some sort of acceptability scale, modified from an early draft of the Mean Girls script”

 Be cool. Sport wood.

Now, while the notion that quality can go out of style is sheer lunacy (and so a stellar wooded chardonnay should be assessed on its quality alone, rather than by some sort of acceptability scale, modified from an early draft of the Mean Girls script) there are those occasions where one doesn’t want to have to explain oneself.

Take James Dean, for instance. He’s dead, and so finds it almost impossible to explain himself. But he still needs to be cool, right? So what does he do? Well, he delivers a sure thing. He goes for that gray-scale image of him leaning against something. In his black t-shirt, smouldering. I mean he’s smouldering. Not his shirt. But whatever. The point is, it’s a sure thing. No one needs to have that explained to them. It just is.

So what if you have this crazy lust for lumber in your wine, but still need to serve “a sure thing”? Wooded Sauvignon Blanc. That’s what.

Hold the rocks

Sauvignon Blanc’s generally light body and (preferably) crisp, zingy acidity makes it the ideal summer quaffer. And hey, there’s no judgment here, so why not toss a few blocks of ice in there, too. And, hell, maybe a straw, if times are tough.
But when it comes to serving a wooded Sauvignon blanc, you may want to try a more restrained approach.
The touch of oak in these wines bulks up the mouthfeel somewhat, delivering a heavier presence on the palate. Also, it will almost certainly add more complexity than a schoolbus of adolescent netballers, so don’t be afraid to sit with it for a little while. Give it a chance to tell you a story.
A good rendition on this theme should be able to deliver (1) clearly articulated fruit (depending on ripeness levels these could range from lemons right through to sweet [each), (2) savoury and herbal complications (grass, nettles, asparagus, peppers), and of course (3) the oak influence, which can manifest as coconut, vanilla, dairy products, or sweet spice.

*If you’re looking to taste your wine a little more actively, an interesting exercise is to try and break down the notes that you’re tasting into those three categories.

Even The Pundits say so.

If after all this, you’re still feeling insecure, or you’re simply a chronic people pleaser, you can rest assured that at least three of the 2016 FNB Top Ten Sauvignon Blancs were wooded (a significant portion, given that they are far rarer than their unwooded counterparts), and so if the big wigs say so, then who are your dinner guests to argue.
The FNB woody winners were:
1. Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015
2. Hermanuspietersfontein Nr 5 Sauvignon Blanc 2013
3. Jordan The Outlier Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Another goodie worth finding is the Steenberg Rattlesnake. You shouldn’t pay more than R110 per bottle (November 2016)


AA Badenhorst Family Wines Red Blend 2014

The Headlines: //
Some estates harvest in strict accordance with the correct physiological ripeness. Maverick winemaker Adi Badenhorst prefers “psychological ripeness”; when the timing “just feels right”.
The result is a fresh, elegant Shiraz-fronted red blend with herbal and spice aromatics, fine grapeskin tannins, and exquisitely pronounced laser-like red fruit acidity. At its core, the wine holds juicy red cherries, currants, and red plum fruit, finished off with delicate hints of pepper & cloves. An exquisite example of just how elegant and refined a shiraz blend can be.

Quality: 17/20//
Price: R280 (as of October 2016) //
Value: 2/5 //
Ponce factor: Through the roof//
Occasion: Any time you’re on a date with a vegan//
Key words:  Swartland revolution, minimal intervention //
Vivino rating //

 To fill those awkward silences…

The man, the mystery, the boerewors

Adi Badenhorst is a visual mélange of Old Testament Abrahamic beardy majesty and a skater from Tableview. But one very soon realizes that his conflicting visual cues are simply a premonition of the multiple contradictions that this winemaking legend embodies. When speaking publically, he mixes his penchant for profanity with regular religious references (he makes wine that are like sermons – they “comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable”) and, most noticeably, he is relentlessly self-effacing, while clearly carrying the sort of charisma that has his audiences hanging on his every word. When asked what his wines pair well with, he replies, “Shit, I don’t know. But they taste bloody lekker with boerewors.”
It’s really hard not to like him.

Why Vegans love Adi:

Vegans are, by and large, pretty down on the human race. Humans are all idiots who messed up the planet. Humans drink milk, even though they are most certainly not baby cows. And humans think they’re clever but are almost always doing something that will inevitably lead to their extinction.

So… the big question is:

How does a man, who wakes up at 5am to eat boerewors with fellow Swartland legend Eben Sadie, make wines that are perfectly suited to impress a disdainful vegan? Well, quite simply, by embodying all of those elements into a wine that still manages to pair well with boerewors (just because she’s vegan, doesn’t mean you have to be):

  1. Adi acknowledges that people can be dumb:
    Adi harvests his grapes according to “psychological ripeness”. Instead of running around with a brix meter measuring sugar levels of various grape varieties, he prefers to simply pick a day when it “feels right” and then harvest his grapes. Why? Because the more that humans try fiddle around with a harvest, the greater the chances that they’ll mess it all up. As Porseleinberg’s Callie Louw likes to remind us, “your wine is just a measurement of how well you farmed”. So farm well, and then relax about what comes afterwards.
  2. Irrigation should not be a thing in the Swartland:
    Adi farms with utmost respect for his environment. Not only does he select grape varieties that grow well in the hot dry Swartland (his view is that varieties of Portuguese origin work wonderfully, by and large), but he also refuses to irrigate his vineyards. Why? Because water is scarce, and irrigating your grapes shows a distinct lack of respect for both water as a natural resource, and for certain grapes’ ability to thrive against the odds.
  3. There is always hope for humanity:
    In his own words, Adi was fired from making wine for the iconic Rustenburg Wine Estate for a combination of offenses that included using foul language and making a particularly dodgy rosé. But had that never happened, he wouldn’t have found the magical piece of Swartland land that is Kalmoesfontein – the home of all AA Badenhorst family wines.

So however disdainful one may be of the human race, one has to believe in second chances, and Kalmoesfontein, (and the wines that have brought Adi international acclaim and rave reviews from half of the world’s leading wine critics) is a tangible piece of evidence to support this. While vegans may exhibit a tough exterior, they really just hanker after genuine hope for the future of the planet, and Adi’s wines are a delightful combination of sensory bliss and ideological uncle banana which may or may not set you in good stead for a glorious evening of soul connection with any vegan worth his or her biodynamic salt.


Lismore Chardonnay 2014

TLDR:  A world class wine with a matching price tag//
Quality: 16/20 //
Price: R220 (as of Sept 2016) //
Value: 1/5 //
Ponce factor: High //
Occasion: Feminist’s Convention After Party //
Key words: Pricing philosophy, Cool Climate //
Vivino rating //

Tasting notes:

Sam O’Keefe is one of the few SA winemakers to have a wine listed in Robert Parker’s Top50 red wines worldwide (her 2014 Syrah), but it’s her white wines that impress more consistently. This chardonnay is no exception. Superbly clean kiwi fruit acidity, set against the ever so delicate hint of vanilla & delightfully lingering lemon rind finish, makes it obvious why the international demand for Lismore wines is so intense. The downside of all the acclaim, of course, is that it’s driven the price fairly high.

To fill those awkward silences…

Samantha O’Keefe is Erin Brokovich

Sam O’Keefe is a modern day hero for both men and women alike. But I imagine her story would appeal to almost every woman I know – A single mom to two very young boys, stranded in desolate foreign land, on the brink of financial ruin, trying desperately to make wine in an area where everyone said it was impossible. It’s either the stuff of lunacy, or the makings of a silver screen Erin Brokovich-style epic.

There she was, in the classic battle of wo(man) against the elements, ploughing onwards (yes, that was a farming joke), despite reaping only very low yields (and a few votes of no confidence from her neighbours). Heck, Eastwood himself could not have cut so stark a silhouette against the harsh frontier skyline.

And, as every character must do on their path to hero status, O’Keefe faced what seemed like insurmountable challenges. Financial pressure was building significantly, and Lismore Wines was in a race against time to start turning profits (Forget Erin Brokovich. I just cast Dolph Lundgren in the role of Sam, with Vin Diesel in the director’s chair).

Keeping with the cliche, O’Keefe was on the verge of giving up, and heading back to her homeland (California, USA) to lick her wounds. If only she could sell that damn wine farm… but for whatever reason, no one seemed to want to buy a doomed vineyard in a region where no one else seemed able to grow anything of any worth…

But as it turns out, this cinematic tale has a happy ending.

But then (all of a sudden, Dolph), one by one, globally renowned wine critics began writing the most incredible things about her wines. Robert Parker first – giving an accolade that no other SA winemaker has achieved… then Tim Atkin praising her Viogniers… and then the international demand followed. Very shortly, it became almost impossible keep any wine for her South African fans. Most recently, she started buying extra grapes from Elgin to produce her latest Age of Grace Viognier (it’s superb, BTW).

And so a (stratospherically-priced) rock star was born…

Now the fact that none of her white wines can be purchased for less than R200 per bottle has left a few disgruntled wine lovers accusing Sam of being greedy. Of tearing the ring out of things. Of destroying the concept of good value.
But anyone who cares to take a closer look at the situation will see that this is nothing more than good old capitalism at work, and the simple result of supply and demand.

When her vineyards produced dramatically lower yields per hectare than she had predicted, her business plan was all of a sudden in drastic need of revision. Instead of 8 tonnes per hectare, she was lucky if she got four tonnes per hectare. This puts a gargantuan nigh-on Tarrantino-esque kibosh on her plans for profit, and a responsibly funded education for her kids.

But what her vineyards withheld in quantity, they made up for with quality, to the extent where wine buyers in the US, Europe, and Asia were knocking on her door daily (sometimes literally, and sometimes figuratively) for more of what the O’Keefe vs Greyton terroir combination could delivery. It is now at the point where she spends a large amount of her admin time simply telling wine lovers that she has nothing left to sell, because everything has been reserved for markets ranging from New York to Beijing.

To buy or not to buy…that is the question.

And so here we are, with Lismore Chardonnays at almost R250 per bottle, and her viogniers no longer available in South Africa – purely due to International demand. Do we curse O’Keefe for her ability to garner foreign currency, or do we acknowledge that, by and large, South African wine lovers are simply short-stacked when bidding against the world’s most passionate (and better funded) wine buyers?

Do we rebel against world-class winemakers who start to demand world-class prices? Or do we simply fess up to the fact that, up until now, we have had some of the cheapest international gold medal winning wines anywhere in the world – and that this fortuitous situation can’t possibly last forever.

Either way, the fact that our local talent is being celebrated across the globe should be a cause for mirth around these parts. Because where one winemaker excels, the competitive spirit in human nature will see others follow, and the end result will be the South African wine scene growing rapidly in both quality and reputation.