Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tasting and lunch at Kanonkop

Who could refuse an Invitation to taste the range of current and vintage wines at Kanonkop? This high flying cellar has always produced classy wines, wines that sell, wines that are respected and wines that win international and local awards. They wanted to give us an opportunity to taste older vintages so we could understand the style of wines they produce, and understand why they make and stay with these styles. They are always questioning how to stay relevant in such a changing climate

The Kanonkop cellar under a threatening winter sky
The entrance
Inside, the comfortable tasting room
Our welcoming drink was the Kanonkop Kadette 2018 Pinotage Rosé. Wines for the Kadette range come from younger vineyards as they wait for them to mature. Fermented in kuipe (open-topped fermenters), they get the same winemaking process as the upper ranges, but with less and older wood. This has candy floss fruit on the nose, On the palate it's more a red wine than a blush, with light vanilla oak, berries and wood on the end
The barrel cellar. They vary their barrel toasting according to the vintage. It was less heavy in 2016
We moved to a tasting room behind the barrel cellar. First we tasted the Kanonkop Kadette Cape Blend 2017. Lactic, with soft cherry fruit on the nose, pure fruit on the palate, mulberries and cherries with tight grippy tannins, warmth and chalk on the end with liquorice wood. Then the 2009 Kadette Cape Blend with vanilla oak, cherry richness, and light smoke. Soft silky and juicy cherries and berries, the tannins and chalk have softened with age, and it finishes with gentle wood on the end
Then two vintages of Kadette Pinotage. The young 2016 has vanilla oak and incense wood on the soft nose, with sweet fruit and some liquorice. On the palate juicy hot mulberries, cherries and currants with dark wood on the end. The 2012 has vanilla ice cream and rhubarb on the nose. Cassis, lean berry fruit with lactic flavours, chalk and dry tannins on the palate
Owner Johann Krige told us they stick to the traditional ways of making wine. They do use mechanical as well as manual punchdowns every 2 hours but as the alcohol climbs they pull back. In 2010 the market wanted something more affordable from Kanonkop so they made Kadette. all the malolactic fermentation is done quickly in the barrel. Pinotage is very different from other grape varietals, it ferments very fast, it is dry in three and half days, while Cabernet takes 7 days. They love wet winters which give big production. Kanonkop gets 5 to 6.5 tons a hectare on average. Johann told us they have a plan to do en primeur wine in future. They tried it in 2009 but the economy tanked, and he is not sure SA is ready for it, so the wines currently get sold when they are in bottle. They want to go the quality route
Cellarmaster Abrie Beeslaar and Johann Krige with the wines we were tasting. Next came two Kanonkop Pinotages 2016 and 2008. The 2016 has incense wood, chalky tannins, juicy fruit with wood smoke. This wine has everything it needs to last decades: Fruit, acid, tannins, chalk and alcohol. One to buy and keep. Our top scoring wine. The 2008 shows what it can become with its complex nose, pretty dark berry fruit, tight tannins, long flavours, warmth and chalk on the long follow through and a tight end.  Its a male wine! Has lots more mileage too
The line-up of wines we were tasting. Next came two Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignons 2014 and 2001. The 2014 has a pretty nose, floral hints of roses and cherry berries. Lighter fruit on the palate, almost Pinot like, with a long chalky finish. The 2001 was one of our favourites. Beautiful bruléed wood nose with soft cassis fruit and elegance. On the palate the wine has berries and leaves, some green tea hints, length, and it still ends with tight chalky tannins 
Cellarmaster Abrie Beeslaar talking about his wines and Kanonkop. His Cape Winemakers Guild wine this year is made from the second oldest Pinotage vines on the farm. Next we tasted two vintages of the Kanonkop Paul Sauer Bordeaux blend, normally 70% Cabernet, 15% Merlot 15% Cab Franc. Petite Verdot is soon to be added to the blend as the vineyard comes on stream. The 2015 has clean sweet fruit, cassis, cherry and mulberry, pencil shavings, and perfume. Layers of chalk and tight tannins with long flavours of fruit, vanilla oak, and savouriness from the Cab Franc on the palate, and then more chalk and tannin - also built to withstand time. The 2009 has bruléed fruit, richness, rhubarb, cassis cherry elegance on the nose. Cassis fruit, alcohol, a pause (the wine is resting) then cassis, cherries and liquorice wood
Our final wine was the Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage (R2000 a bottle) It has a red velvet nose with lovely red fruit, well integrated. Tight tannins and chalk, wood then cooked and warm red berry fruit. It is showing its Pinot parent with the fruit, with a little metal from the Cinsault parent, wood and lots of chalk on the end. Another block buster wine for cellaring. These are some treasures in the cellar
Good to see older stock kept
The impressive vinoteque
Some old soldiers
White mould on very aged bottles
The cellar is full of graffiti
Some ancient history and good drinking
"Lunch" they said "would be simple". They don't have a restaurant and it would be braaied snoek, this is what they always serve to guests. Snoek cooked the proper way, no jam coating, just seasoning and lemon juice. Skin down on the open fire for just a few minutes. Which means it was moist and flavourful. Enough to convert anyone who has ever had dry over-cooked snoek.
A good mixed salad
Spicy sweet potatoes
and dessert was coffee and koeksisters
Michael Bampfield Duggan and Heidi Kritzinger
We enjoyed the tasting and the lunch very much. It is so good to be able to see the present, past and future with wine, and it doesn’t happen very often. The hospitality was superb. And the lunch delicious. We could drink the wines we had tasted with lunch and that was an extra treat
Paul Krige's lovely soft young Irish setter

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