Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Celebrating ten years of Saronsberg Shiraz at Auslese

Tasting 10 vintages of Saronsberg Shiraz
We feel very privileged when we are invited to this sort of tasting. Saronsberg winemaker Dewaldt Heyns took us through the ten vintages of their Shiraz at Auslese this week, followed by lunch with our favourites. To see the progression of this wine on one table is amazing and very, very interesting. It started out as a big, full on, spicy, warm Shiraz and, as the vines have aged, it has turned into a Northern Rhône style shiraz, full of minerality and refined layers of flavours, but still recognisable as the same wine. Lynne had two very different favourites, the award winning block buster from 2007 and the elegant 2010; hard to believe that they are from the same vines, but what a marvellous progression. We have all asked if we can do this again in another 10 years, so that we can taste 20 years of the wines’ progress! Here’s hoping that we will all still be around tasting wine.
The farm was bought in 2002 by Nick and Mariette van Huyssteen and, in 2003, was badly hit by a fire. The vines were ‘aggressively’ replanted and they also added more surrounding vineyards. In the early days, some of the wine was bought in. Now it is all produced on Saronsberg. Is this the best area for Shiraz? It really does seem to suit the Tulbagh area. Does Tulbagh have a terroir indicator on its wines? We found tobacco on the nose and palate of the odd year vintages.
All these wines have dark and dense colour. It was interesting to see how fresh some of the older wines still are, showing lots of further growth potential. The earlier, full, fruity style changes as the vines aged and many people preferred one style to the other. We liked wines from both ends of the spectrum and were delighted to find that we could drink them with lunch. Lynne’s preferred vintages were the 2007 (Tobacco, silk, mulberries and ginger on the nose and full to bursting with ripe warm fruit and spice and some soft chalk. No faults and it still has lots of life left to keep on giving). The contrasting wine that she scored the highest is also the favourite of winemaker Dewaldt and it is he 2010: Vanilla on a shy nose, intense minerality, elegant ripe cherry fruit with whiffs of violets. Soft fruit on the palate which intensifies on the back palate, spices and long, long flavours. A definite food wine. It was also interesting to taste 2013 and surmise how it will develop – not yet a final blend, as it is still in barrel and will be bottled in October/November. It has a pretty nose of violets, spice, dark cherries and some creaminess. Lots of shy fruit hiding in the wine, with lots of depth, but it is seeking balance and does not yet have strength. Dewaldt will sort this out when he does the final blend, we are sure
Delightful canapés of a fish mousse, produced by the Auslese chefs
and lovely fresh oysters
The long table took 38 journos and other wine related experts and invitees – it was a tiny bit of a crush, especially as we all had 10 glasses in front of us
Auslese (and Aubergine) sommelier Khuselo Mputa pouring, with Cathy van Zyl MW watching with amusement. Next to her are Maryna Strachan and Karen Glanfield Pawley
Greg de Bruyn CWM, James Pietersen of The Wine Cellar and wine writer Angela Lloyd
Oops! Lynne sent one glass flying over John’s nice clean trousers
With ten glasses at each place, space was very tight and some of us need to use our hands when we talk
Dewaldt Heyns, winemaker of all the vintages at Saronsberg, tells us about the vintages while Harold Bresselschmidt, Chef and Owner of Aubergine and Auslese, acts as a pourer. Lynne is checking out the quantity he is, fairly, pouring
‘Legs’ on wine can indicate its substance, quality and, often, its keeping ability
Dewaldt told us, not only about the vintages, but also the weather in each year, which has a profound effect on the wine. Was it a windy, wet or dry year, were there heat waves or was it cool? Did we have rain at harvest? All these factors and more can seriously influence what goes into the bottle.
The line up of the ten wines we were tasting. They have won multiple awards over the years, as you can see from the stickers. The interesting thing is that the bottle without any award stickers, the 2009 Shiraz, was felt by many attending to be one of the best wines in the tasting, proof that it often needs time for a wine to come into its best
Winemaker Dewaldt Heyns
James Pietersen
Graham Howe
Mariette van Huyssteen
Greg de Bruyn CWM
Wade Bales and James Pietersen, chatting while enjoying some warm bouillon
Wade talking to Alan Mullins CWM
Journalist Samarie Smith and Anel Grobler
Johan Crafford and Johane Nielsen
Broadcaster Guy MacDonald and Anel Grobler
Sommelier Khuselo Mputa liked the same two vintages that stood out for Lynne. All of them were good wines, but most of us have preferences!
Chef Harold Bresselschmidt with Jane Broughton
The lunch menu offered dishes paired with Shiraz vintages
Just seared fresh tuna, coated with dukkah spices in what tasted like a nut paste. The pink grapefruit was a lovely contrast.

Unctuous braised lamb shank with very fine textured shiraz flavoured polenta a Shiitake mushroom filled with pickled cabbage with Romanesco (a type of broccoli)
John's special version was prepared specially, without the mushrooms
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2014

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