Monday, June 29, 2015

Vertical tasting of Simonsig Tiara Bordeaux-style red blend and lunch at Cuvée

We had an early start to our trip to Simonsig, as we had the offer from Emile Joubert of a very much appreciated lift. Some events are hard to resist and the opportunity to taste through 7 vintages of this iconic Bordeaux-style blend, Simonsig's flagship wine, was indeed irresistible. Simonsig made their first serious red wine in 1984 from Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. In 1990, they made the first Tiara (released in 1992) and planted Merlot and more Cabernet. Cabernet Franc was added in 1992 and in 1997 Petit Verdot, after tasting Walter Finlayson's Grand Classique blend. Finally, in 2009, they added Malbec. Not all these grapes are used in each year's Tiara; the blend does vary according to their quality and what they add to the blend, and there have been some years when they didn't produce any. When Johan Malan took over as cellarmaster in 1998, he started to make classic red wines, having seen what Jan Boland Coetzee, Etienne Le Riche and other Stellenbosch wine producers had produced. He likes the style that Pauillac makes, and wines with the potential to last a long time
Winemaker Debbie Thompson is also passionate about quality wines. Her first vintage was in 2000. They leave the grapes hanging longer on the vine these days, it doesn't give you more sugar, just more depth. When to pick and press is critically important. She says the most exciting part of her job is making the blends. You play with the tannins which give the wine its longevity, search out quality, know the characteristics of all the blocks and the put the best to barrel. And they do vary the wood used: Mainly French oak, with small amounts of American. She says it's like starting with Cabernet and then adding the salt and the pepper
Following the tasting, we had an excellent lunch in their restaurant Cuvée, paired with more Simonsig wine.
Arriving at Simonsig on a chilly winter morning
It was lovely and warm having coffee in front of the fire in Cuvée restaurant waiting for the other guests to arrive. Lynne chatting with Greg Landman of Country Life
The table set up for lunch
Staff getting the restaurant ready
Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel MCC bubbles to welcome the mêlée of media..
..poured for us by Dirk Vorster
Maryna Strachan of Wine Extra with PR man Emile Joubert of Media Vision
Tasters seated in the upstairs venue which was used for the tasting
Johan Malan took us through the wines. There is indeed a linear connection between the vintages, recognisable as Simonsig. But there are, of course, differences in the blends and the aging of the different years. It was interesting to taste the 1995 made with just 72% Cabernet & 28% Merlot. It is beginning to show its age; the  colour was still a rich garnet, with the beginning of a brick red tinge, and there was excellent fruit for a 20 year old wine. The 2001 was still amazingly fresh, full of cassis, violets and incense wood, with delicious cassis fruit, a hint of bacon and a dash of green capsicum on the end. The 2003 is, Johan Malan thinks, the great vintage of the decade. The wine has good wood and good ripe fruit with touches of coconut and vanilla and a long finish
Johan Malan with Emile Joubert and, on the left, journalist Johann Crafford
The tasting continued. Tiara 2013 was many peoples' favourite wine. It is fruit first on the nose then violets and savoury tomato soup and ends with some herbaceousness; a classic blend. On the palate, there is sweet fruit, licorice, cassis, cherries and dark toasted wood with vanilla. It is very elegant and has a long way to go. Lynne's favourite came next, the 2007. Classic cherries and Cassis and wood on the excellent nose. Dry, but gently chalky, tannins gave it good structure with layers of cherries and other black berries
Tiara 2009. Has vanilla, coconut and incense from the wood on the nose and perfume from the Petite Verdot. It has a full mouth of tomato cocktail, cassis berries and leaves and nice tannins. It is still to come so is one to lay down. The latest release 2011 has a beautiful Bordeaux nose, violets, incense with lots of elegance. Sweet delicious fruit, nice friendly chalky tannins and enough fruit acid to make this wine last for years
We taste, chat and make notes on each wine
As do Petro du Toit, Publisher of Visio Magazine, Emile Joubert and Simonsig Social Media manager Nellie van der Walt
Johan introduces winemaker Debbie Thompson to us
She talks to us about her winemaking methods and philosophy
Christian Eedes of
A serious bouquet for Robyn MacLarty, Deputy editor, Fresh Living magazine
Is the tasting is over? Debbie van der Watt looks pensive
Time for lunch
and some newly released 2015 Simonsig Sauvignon Blanc with the first course
A crystal table
Some of Simonsig's own olive oil to taste with the bread
First course was matched with the Sauvignon Blanc. Different colours of pickled baby beetroot, with quenelles of goats cheese "'pannacotta", lemon curd and walnut bread
Johan answering many questions
The main course of wonderfully long and slowly braised sticky beef short rib (bones removed) with parmesan gnocchi, confit turnips, edamame beans and carrots. Perfect for a winter's day. This went so well with the 2011 Tiara
Lynne actually likes this photograph better, but says that the previous one shows the food in a more delicious way
We ended with a selection of cheese with fig and orange preserve, nuts and bread crisps - paired with the sweet Vin de Liza 2010
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015

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