Tag Archives: 2013

Gabriëlskloof Shiraz 2013

The Headlines: //

Cleaner than a Spice Girls radio edit, with posh spice elements of pepper and cloves on the vanguard. Ripe black fruit and some oaky vanilla also present.
On the palate, ripe blackberries arrive first, with slow attack sweet sugar plums arriving a little later.
There is a fair amount of black fruit sweetness (for a dry red), but the acidity is every bit its match. The end result is beautifully balanced.
Mouthfeel is marvelously soft, as is the finish.
Vanilla lingers into the tail.

Quality: 17/20 //
Price: R95.00  (as of December 2016)//
Value: 4/5 //
Ponce factor: Low//
Occasion: Mid-week, post suicide hour, once the kids are in bed //
Key words: value, botrivier, UnderR100//
Vivino rating //

To fill those awkward silences…

The Cool Kids from Bot River

Bot River is a little like The Smashing Pumpkins; terrible name, superb products.
The region is home to rockstar wineries like Luddite, Beaumont Family Wines, and Wildekrans, but also hosts lesser known rising stars that offer superb value. Gabriëlskloof is one such rising star in the area, which is why the winery provides such insane value – especially on its shiraz (It’s Five Arches blend is also superb, but at R190, the value train derails somewhat.

Before they were cool

Being able to buy a bottle of Gabrielskloof Shiraz for #underR100 is like scoring Guns n Roses tickets in 1987. The quality is already out in the public domain, but mainstream hair-metallers are yet to catch on. Just be sure you snatch up some bottles before Gabriëlskloof have their Sweet Child o’ Mine moment, and blow up on Wine Spectator. You won’t be paying double digits after that.

A rose by any other name…

In case you cared, when G’nR had just formed, and were yet to decide on a band name, two little gems that were at the top of the list of possibles were “AIDS” and “Heads of Amazon”. Thankfully history took a different course.

Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2013

TLDR: Very few bottles can cost of R300 and still be worth it. This one of them//
Quality: 18/20//
Price: R320 (as of Sept 2016) //
Value: 3/5 //
Ponce factor: High //
Occasion: Solo time. Just you, the universe, and this bottle of wine.//
Key words:  Mouthfeel, Platters ratings//
Vivino rating //

Tasting notes:

Top of the table in a blind tasting against some of SA’s finest Pinot Noirs. Beating out both Hamilton Russell and Catherine Marshall, this PN boasts gorgeous vanguard aromas of red licorice, ripe plums and cherry fruit, all elevated to the level of sublime by complications of smoky oak spice on both the front and back end.

There aren’t very many wines that can charge R300 for a bottle and still deliver good value. But this is surely one of them.

Something to fill those awkward silences…

What is the Platters Wine Guide?

Journalists John Platter and his wife Erica published their first little wine guide in 1980. Since then, they have sold over a million copies, and won “Best Worldwide Annual Wine Guide” on two occasions. Almost 40 years after inception, the Platters have handed over all the legwork to a distinguished team 16 sommeliers, wine entrepreneurs, journalists, architects, wine authors, and WSET judges. The larger team not only allows a more thorough covering of the vast South African wine industry, but also pools the combined expertise from a wide range of wine-related industries.

Biased or belligerent?
When a movie critic slates a film for being an embarrassment to the academy, or a soul-sapping, time-sucking torturous two hours of cruel and unusual punishment, the public, by and large, do not cry foul and issue withering accusations of impartiality. Instead, they choose to either agree or disagree with a given verdict.

On occasions, Platter’s too, has been accused of lacking objectivity, but usually these criticisms are levelled by people who misunderstand why the guide exists in the first place. It is not a purely qualitative assessment of the liquid within the bottle, disembodied from the people and institutions that actually make said liquid. And it is also not an impartial blind assessment of the wines listed.

So what is it then?

For the people by the people about the people.
Platters is, instead, an in-depth look at the individuals, vineyards, wine philosophies, production techniques, and the wineries themselves, that all act together to deliver a wine experience. This includes elements both inside and outside the bottle

Because the guide is written by humans, who all have their own biases and stylistic preferences, it is no wonder that certain wineries and winemakers (who may appeal to these biases) seem to garner more coverage than others.

But it should be remembered that Platters is written by a large panel of judges of different ages, genders, cultures and professions, and so any apparent biases that do emerge in the final product have only done so because they have managed to impress enough of the panel to successfully motivate for said prominence. In other words, if the guide says that something is awesome, it might (just maybe, perhaps, possibly) be exactly that.

One big fat 5-star exception.
Having said that the wines are not rated in blind tastings, there is an exception to this process.

All wines that receive ratings of 4.5 stars during the first few phases of judging then go into a final round of judging, which is performed entirely blind. It is only during this blind tasting that any wine is awarded 5-star status. In Platter’s own words, a 5-star wine is “Superlative. A South African Classic”, and one can rest assured that the ever-elusive final half-a-star is awarded purely on the quality of the contents of the bottle. A comforting thought when forking out R320 for a bottle of wine!

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).