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Young Gun Winemakers pushing the absolute boundaries

Posted by peter | Articles | Posted on July 7th, 2011

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I hate to think that there might still be people who consider wine a daunting product, only understood and enjoyed by old fogeys. A recent tasting at Wine Cellar defied this notion in its totality. Touted as ‘Young Guns – pushing the absolute boundaries’, the tasting focused on idiosyncratic wines made by equally eccentric (young) winemakers. It was far from boring; in fact words like cool, hot, awesome and sexy rather spring to mind…

Contributing to this wicked tasting was the winemakers’ tune selection, which was played as they poured their respective wines. Apart from providing an upbeat interval in what can be the most boring part of any tasting (waiting for the wines to be poured), this exercise provided insight into the minds of those involved in the creation of these crazy wines.

Howard Booysen picked Michael Bublé’s ‘Fever’ to accompany his presentation of his 2010 and 2011 Rieslings. The 2010 is an incredible wine: waxy, lanolin notes, brazing acidity, structured palate and layers of depth; this wine definitely provokes some burning feelings… I have to add that, although they year isn’t over yet, it is one of my Top 10 wines of 2011. (Buy it for R124 from Wine Cellar.)

Next up, Jurgen Gouws, with the latest club hit to complement his production: LMFAO’s ‘Party Rock Anthem’ (you might just know it as that ‘Everyday I’m shufflin’-song’). Ja. He thinks his wines rock and he’s not wrong. Swartland Chenin Blanc in the line-up here: Intelligo Chenin Blanc 2010, which suitably showed oxidative in character. Not incidental then that intelligo is Latin for ‘I understand’, as it is a rather acquired taste.

The same applies to the wines produced by Craig Hawkins, the Lammershoek Cellar Foot Hárslevelü 2010, Mourvèdre 2010 and Testalonga El Bandito Chenin Blanc 2009, displaying those opulent, oxidative aromatics that have become so distinctive of the Swartland. My notes depict lots of minerality, spice and peaches. The Testalonga Cortez 2009 offered marvellous intrigue. Also a Chenin Blanc, but this wine is made according the solera system, with back lees from previous vintages blended into older barrels to make up the final wine. The result? A fully engaging wine with lavish, honey-like notes on the nose.

Wine-of-the-night belonged to Bryan McRoberts who owned the stage with his Tobias label. Bryan is the ghost winemaker at Eben Sadie Family Vineyards, and mentoring by the legendary Sadie has clearly left its mark. The 2010 Tobias Red was by far my favourite wine of the night. It is a blend of Cinsaut, Shiraz and Mourvèdre – it smells like roses and drinks beautifully. For those bored with ‘normality’, this one is for you. (I’m still trying to figure out why he chose ‘Blaas jou Vuvuzela’ by Jack Parow to accompany his presentation.)

Crystallum winemaker Peter-Allan Finlayson is one of those winemakers who can do no wrong in my eyes. He’s just become engaged, which is perhaps why ‘Lover’s Day’ by TV on the Radio was his theme song. He showcased a bottle of his (as-yet-unnamed) Rhône-style red blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsaut. Beautiful expression of fruit here, with lots of intrigue offered by the Grenache and Cinsaut.

Lastly, Spookfontein winemaker Craig Sheard, of the Elemental Bob range of wines fame, took to the podium to the swaggering tune of ‘Congo Man’ by Ernest Ranglin. I am totally enthralled by the mind of this winemaker. There’s no disputing that here’s a complex artisan, pushing the boundaries with wines called The Turkish and The Delight. The Turkish 2008 is a Barbera/Gewürztraminer blend that looks, smells and tastes exactly as is implied by its name. The label is equally peculiar but wonderful. Craig commissioned artist Joshua Miles from Baardskeerdersbos to do a visual representation of the wine. The result? A colourful jumping castle obscured by aloe succulents in the forefront… This is as unconventional as it gets, but I thought it was absolutely brilliant. His other blend, The Delight, is a more conventional Barbera/Shiraz blend, and didn’t quite pique my interest like the former.

Wine Cellar posed the following question as a prologue to the tasting: “Do we really need a textbook to make wine? Must all wines fit neatly into little boxes?”

My conclusion after this evening is a resounding “Hell no!” – and I don’t think anyone will dare to differ.

Author: Jeanri-Tine van Zyl

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