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Age-worthiness is a particularly beloved topic of wine geeks!

Posted by peter | Articles | Posted on July 8th, 2011

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It has been said that Sauvignon Blanc for instance is not age-worthy on the basis that as it gets older it simply shows more of what it showed at a primary stage – more herbaceousness, more asparagus, more tinned peas. Cabernet Sauvignon, on the other hand, is particularly noted for its keeping qualities, able to emerge more complex after sometimes decades in bottle.

10 years on from vintage is typically a good measure of whether a wine is maturing with benefit, at its peak or past it. I’ve had occasion to look at a few wines from the 2001 vintage so far this year and although modern-era South African wines do not have a great reputation for their maturation potential, I’ve generally been impressed.

Among the whites, a stand-out wine was Vergelegen White which combined lime and leesy flavour with great texture balanced by fresh acidity. Two Rieslings were also pretty smart, Klein Constantia showing honey and spice to go with the terpenes typical of the variety, the wine appearing relatively broad on the palate while Thelema was slighter and more primary with lime flavour and fresh acidity.

As for reds, Boekenhoutskloof Syrah was its sexy self appearing juicy and fresh with plenty of dark fruit, spice and pepper flavours. Meerlust Rubicon 2001 meanwhile proved a worthy winner of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande trophy for best blended red wine at the 2006 International Wine and Spirit Competition, a wine with a wonderfully complex nose of cassis, black olive and pencil shavings, the palate displaying plenty of finesse with fresh acidity and fine tannins before a saline finish. Classic stuff.

Also very refined was the Grangehurst Nikela , the Cab-Merlot-Pinotage blend from Jeremy Walker and proof once again that he makes some of the most long-lived wines around. A label that’s so uncool it’s cool.
I’ve encountered the Kanonkop Paul Sauer and the CWG auction bottling from 2001 in two separate blind tastings and curiously in both instances thought the wines to be Pinotage. Plumy fruit and somewhat astringent tannins. Proof that terroir ultimately will out?

Perhaps most interesting out of all the wines from 2001 that I’ve tasted so far this year is the Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay. I’ve had this twice in blind tastings and what was remarkable was the subtle but distinct difference between the two bottles. The first showed honey and toasty oak on the nose while the palate was rich and broad with marmalade and vanilla flavours and gentle acidity. Just a bit tired.

The second bottle was superlative. Citrus, burnt matchstick and attractive oak spice on the nose, while the palate showed pure, juicy fruit but simultaneously lots of intriguing secondary character thanks to deft handling in the cellar. A wine that could hold its own against much of Burgundy.

How to explain the difference? The two bottles came from different cellars, but their respective owners are both meticulous in terms of ensuring optimal storage conditions. There’s an old adage which holds that after a certain point, there aren’t good wines, only good bottles and here was a case of this if ever there was.

Author: Christian Eedes

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