Tag Archives: 15/20

Groot Constantia Pinotage 2013

TLDR: A must-try for those who think Pinotage can’t be elegant//
Quality: 15/20//
Price: R175 (as of Sept 2016) //
Value: 2/5 //
Ponce factor: Moderate to high //
Occasion: Fireside winter comfort//
Key words: SA Top 100, ABSA Top Ten//
Vivino rating //

Tasting notes:

Top of the table during a blind tasting of some of the ABSA Top Ten Pinotages.
Colour is a deep dense purple with vanguard aromas of salty dried beef and coriander spices.
The palate leaves the savory notes behind, exploding with superbly concentrated sweet ripe black cherry fruit. Acidity is very high, but well integrated. A perfect foil to the fruity sweetness. The tail lingers with continued ripe black fruit notes, &some gentle but persistent spice adds the required complexity for a Top100 wine.

To fill those awkward silences…

Not all that glitters is gold…
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get some utility out of the myriad stickers you see on every second bottle on the shelf. As I’ve said elsewhere, some stickers will at best ruin an otherwise tastefully designed wine label, and at worst will lead you to part with your precious sovereigns chasing the glory of an award that guarantees no elevation of quality whatsoever!

SECRET WINE RULE: If the sticker bears the logo of a bank, asset management firm, or insurance brokerage, then it usually carries a little more weight than most.

For whatever reason, the financial services sector has decided that it need to keep the wine calendar packed choc-a-block with various wine awards and ceremonies. Whether the cost of sponsoring these events actually adds any value back into said financial services sector, we’ll never know. But what we can say is that these neat little Top10 lists are quite a manageable way to explore a particular variety, and get to know what some of the more acclaimed producers are doing with the grape that has caught your fancy.

Here are just a few lists for you to peruse:
The ABSA Top Ten Pinotage Awards
The Standard Bank Top Ten Chenin Blanc Awards
The Prescient Cabernet Sauvignon Report
The FNB Top Ten Sauvignon Blanc Awards

What is the SA Top 100?

The National Wine Challenge (NWC) describes itself as “the Wine Olympics of South Africa” (though it has yet to launch the Wine Paralympics). It has been running for six years now, awarding T100 status to the highest scoring 100 wines entered into the competition. While there are always going to be a couple of duds in a list of this size, the T100 brand is a superb way to get a foothold in the positively gargantuan SA wine industry.

Most usefully, the NWC has also developed a smartphone app, for both iOS and Android, that lists winners for the past three years, dividing winners into red wines, white wines, and bubbly.  After Vivino, this is probably the most useful wine app that a South African could possibly have on their phone.
(Do not say “wine-searcher”. If you say “wine searcher”, I follow in the footsteps of the great Dane Cook, and I will stab you in the jaw. Wine Searcher sucks).

Raka Malbec 2013

TLDR: Do it for the education. Unless you don’t care. In which case, do it for the acidity. //
Quality: 15/20 //
Price: R130.00 (as of Sept 2016) //
Value:  2/5 //
Ponce factor: Moderate //
Occasion: A companion to Thursday’s Ostrich goulash//
Key words:  Cool climate, Acidity //

Vivino rating //

Tasting notes:

If one is expecting an inky purple, velvety Argentine-style Malbec, then you’ll be sorely disappointed, but if you’re prepared for a lighter, dryer, herbs & berries fest, then this guy won’t let you down.
Colour is a clear med intensity cherry-red, providing an apt visual cue for what’s to follow:
Tart red cherries with intense-but-clean acidity, holding glorious length&joined on the caboose by some slightly peppery rocket leaf herbal notes & oak spice.
As Jancis would say, “Average but distinguished”.

To fill those awkward silences…

TL;DR Cool climate wines retain more acidity while developing less sugar. Warm climate wines develop rapidly, which consumes acidity, and gives rise to lots of sugar (and also a high potential for alcohol).
Woo-hoo girls always drink warm climate wines.

Goldilocks hits the sauce

Remember that impertinent blonde forest-dwelling vandal-nymph who kept breaking-&-entering to find chairs, porridge & beds that fit her expectations, just so? The one who refused to tolerate too high, too low, too hot, too cold, too hard, or too soft? Well, it turns out that any decent winemaker has a bit of a Goldilocks inside them, waiting to bust out and make some truly bitching wine.
You see, come harvest time, every winemaker needs to decide when to pick the grapes that (s)he will use in their wine. Like with any fruit, pick it too early and it tastes highly acidic, green, astringent, and stalky. Pick it too late, and it tastes predominantly sweet – overly so – in fact, and it can present as nigh on fermented (not in the “yay-verily” sense of the word). So to pick it “just so” is essential if you value both sweetness and acidity. When a winemaker gets this right, the end result is a balanced wine that presents as neither acidic, nor sweet, but is usually ina state of alchemic-mystical-awesome that makes you want to keep drinking until you pass out. Or so I have heard from friends of mine.

In the plant world “fast metabolism” is bad…

When you’re a human trying not to be an orca, boosting your metabolism is the name of the game.

“Fast is good”, said the annoyingly trim betty, with buns of steel.

But when you’re a plant, the opposite is true. If you’re a grape trying to become an epically complex, balanced wine of renown, you want your metabolism to be as slow as possible.

But why?

Well mostly to allow the slow development of sugars, with minimal decline in organic acids (acids get used up during plant respiration).

But why?
Well, because…
1. a fast metabolism needs lots of food (think teenage waterpolo jock).
2. The need for food in a plant triggers rapid cell respiration, and the production of sugars to feed aforementioned waterpolo plant jock (depending on which analogy stuck with you most).
3. Rapid cell respiration consumes organic acids, leaving nothing left to balance all those newly produced sugars…
4. It also causes rapid fruit growth, diluting all the goodness that may be left, while also failing to leave time for other amazing chemicals to develop before all the organic acid is consumed like Cornish pasties on a Friday.

(If you want more detail, “get thee to a university”).

How does this help me to sound more poncey at dinner parties?

Well, if you remember all those hours ago when we were talking about Raka’s brightly acidic red fruit Malbec that was in no way a velvety, sweet, dense, black fruit Argentine-type Malbec? Well, the reason behind it all comes down to a glorious union between the awful botany and organic chemistry that we just dragged you through…

Cool cliamte = acidic & dry in style ; Warm climate = sweet, full & fleshy in style

Botrivier happens to have at its disposal a rather cool Atlantic-fed lagoon that brings cool breezes in over the land, reducing temperatures in the months prior to harvest.

Cool temperature slow down a grape’s metabolism, which means the ripening process takes longer, acidity is preserved, and sweetness levels are reduced.

Put yourself to the test:

Why not put your newfound organic acidity theory to the test:
1. Pick a grape variety.
2. Pick a vintage.
3. Buy two wines – one from a cooler region (Elgin, Hemel-en-aarde, Botrivier, Constantia) and one from a warmer region (Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Swartland, Darling), decant both, and see if you can tell which is why purely by focussing on sweetness and acidity


KWV Mentors Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

The Headlines: //

Colour is superbly dense. Sweet blueberry and maraschino cherries abound on the vanguard, complicated by some gloriously open oak aromas.
Palate is heavy with ripe fruit; mostly continued black maraschino cherries, with soft pepper finish and some truly grippy tannins. Acidity is moderate.
This could go beyond Thunderdome in two years’ time. But, hell, at R300 per bottle, I guess I’ll never know.

Quality: 15/20 //
Price: R270 – R300 (as of Sept 2016) //
Value: 1/5 //
Ponce factor: Moderate to High //
Occasion: Wine ponce festival //
Key words: Fruit selection, ripening //
Vivino rating //

To fill those awkward silences:

A little on the South African vintage of 2013

Humidity was an issue in 2013. Too high a moisture content in the air can facilitate the danger of rot in the vines. But harvesting too early can lead to stalky and green notes popping up in your wines. So what to do? Wait for drier conditions in which to harvest; giving your fruit time to ripen, but also increasing the chance of losing your crop to rot.
As it turns out, those winemakers who took the risk of waiting it out for drier conditions were rewarded with a superb harvest (especially among the red wines). With KWV having supreme access to awesome  fruit, they could pretty much do what they wanted. Which helps when trying to make wise fruit selection.

A few tidbits on the KWV Mentors range

For those not familiar with the Mentors Range, it is worth noting that the KWV group needs to be understood as a conglomerate of hugely disparate brands, some of which should be given global respect…as opposed to being diluted by Coca Cola. Mentors is one such label. It is a range of wines that has garnered more international awards than almost any other range of wines that our young democracy has tolerated. So, even though this wine is decent, it’s backstory is almost better than what’s in the bottle. Enough to elevate it to the point of being awesome.

But why? Well, for starters, as is the case with all Mentors wines, winemaker Johan Fourie has his pick of some of the finest grapes from pretty much any grape growing region in the country (thanks to KWV’s vast empire and unrivalled access to the country’s prime grape growing outfits). But secondly, Johan Fourie is not a rubbish winemaker. He spent years as a viticulturist, understanding the raw product, which gave him an advantage over those who skipped the agricultural grounding and went straight into the cellar. And then, more recently, he was awarded the Jan Smuts award at the 2015 Young Wine awards for both his Cabernet sauvignon, and his Shiraz.

And if that isn’t enough to keep you entertained, Jan Fourie makes some of the finest Chardonnays that this country has ever seen.
So…plenty to talk about, so long as your dinner guests are vaguely interested in wine. However, if they aren’t, and you still have nothing interesting to add on the topic of democracy, government spending, or indie rock, a sure winner is to play the “artisanal versus big corporate” card (which everyone loves, regardless of the industry), and expand on how KWV manage to be both a big corporate, and an artisanal winemaking outfit that garners international awards.