Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Stellenbosch Cabernet - 2017 Vintage Preview at Lanzerac

An interesting invitation to this event; one we were keen to attend. The chance to taste and possibly future purchase En Primeur 2017 vintage Cabernet Sauvignons from 32 of the best producers in Stellenbosch. They group themselves under the title Stellenbosch Cabernet Collective. Wine Cellar was involved and you could place your orders with them. This is a varietal that Stellenbosch excels at and they produce wines that echo Bordeaux in style and weight.
First we were invited to attend a master class to taste two wines from each of four farms: an older vintage and a current vintage. This was held in one of the handsome conference halls. The building was badly damaged in the 2017 fire, but has been beautifully restored. We were told that they have since discovered that this was one of the original wine cellars, possibly from the 1800s
This beautiful chandelier graces the room
This was the tasting sheet
and the first of two flights was poured
Christo le Riche, convenor of the Master Class, introduced Johan Jordaan
who makes the red wines at Spier
Johan Jordaan presented the Spier Naledi Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 which has a beautiful nose of pure berry fruit, minerality and soft smoke. It was silky on the palate, full of rich berry fruit. A huge wine with lots of depth, dark toasted wood, minerality and still some chalky tannins on the end. As it aged in the glass more savoury marmite appeared. The vineyards are on the Helderberg, right next to Cordoba. Left on the skins for a longer time to get tannins. It’s in the French model, left in tight grained oak for a minimum of 2 years. Paired with this was the Spier 21 Gables 2015 Cabernet. Raspberry cordial and cherry pie on the nose, then some tomato leaf. Silky on the palate, then tight chalky tannins appear; dark toasted oak, with mulberries and cassis. Minerality and then dark chocolate on the end. Definite aging potential
Kanonkop Marketing Manager Diedre Taylor
Rudi Schultz of Thelema presented the next two wines. He joined Thelema in 2001, so was not responsible for the older wine. It is one of the famous 'Mint' cabernets from their block next to the entrance to the farm which has been influenced by the eucalyptus trees. Thelema Cabernet 1995, 13% alcohol and brick red. A very savoury nose, with olive tapenade, green peppers and tomato, lots of umami notes. Sweet fruit on the palate with a backbone of tomato mint and dark chocolate. lots of cassis, some chalky tannins do remain and salty liquorice on the end. We were surprised how well it has lasted, but if you have any drink soon. They still make the mint cabernet for its fans, but now have another vineyard high on the slopes of the mountain, which is unaffected by eucalyptus. The Thelema 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. Expensive incense wood, elegant and not too forward, with cassis berries and leaves, and some forest floor on the nose. Silky on the palate with beautiful fruit, just so integrated and delicious, it has it all to last for years. Some good chalky tannins, good fruit acidity and excellent wooding. Lynne’s highest scoring wine
The next flight of four wines
Warren Ellis of Neil Ellis wines presented their two vintages. First the Neil Ellis 1997 Cabernet from the Jonkershoek Oude Nectar farm, now Starke Conde. Savoury tomato cocktail with wood supporting, but not overly appreciable on the nose. Soft sweet fruit, then tomato and balsamic flavours; a good alcohol kick even though it’s 12.5%, and long blackcurrant fruit gum flavours remain. Aging well. Warren told us that Stellenbosch has some of the oldest soils in the world, decomposed granite with deep clay banks that give the roots more space below. The soils higher up are a bit younger, with deep red soil and the clay base which produces more vigorous vines which give powerful structure to the wines. Then the Neil Ellis 2015 Cabernet from Klein Gustrow Grapes in the Jonkershoek valley. It is perfumed with musk and seaweed, shy cassis. Soft chalky tannins, puckering tannin, crisp cabernet fruit, lots of cassis, warmth from alcohol, green leaves follow with dark toasted oak; everything you need for aging Cabernet. He told us that they use 100% new oak; they do no sorting of the grapes, they get the vineyard right first. Timing of the harvest is important
Lanzerac winemaker Wynand Lategan, with the Lanzerac 1957 Cabernet, told us this that was the first Cabernet they made, the famous skittle bottles came later. What a treat and a privilege to be able to taste this wine. It was made in huge vats in those days, grapes from Lanzerac, but the wine was made at SFW. Dark burnt sienna in colour, with balsamic hints on the nose, cooked berry fruit in essence, with ginger pepper spice. Showing age, but this is 61 years old. Surprising soft sweet fruit, warm alcohol; amazing that so much fruit is still showing and so is the fruit acid which is still there. Dark toasted wood, then cassis and mulberry and still some chalky tannins. These old style wines were made to a recipe, when to pick, at what balling, how to vinify and they do last
The Lanzerac 2016 Cabernet came next. Sesame oil, some shy red fruit initially, then cooked cherries on the nose. Sweet fruit, crisp fruit acid on the palate; made to last and soften, cherry rather than cassis flavours predominate, chalky tannins, and it is quite grippy with complex molasses, wood on the end. Wynand says you have to have patience with wine
The original Lanzerac Cabernet Sauvignon 1957
The line up of the wines we tasted. It was extremely educational and a treat. Thank you
The old reception area of the hotel, completely restored after the fire
A bust of a gentleman. It was damaged in the fire but is still displayed
From the costume, possibly c.1800
We then proceeded to the Cellar Hall Venue to taste the 28 en Primeur Cabernet Sauvignons. Have a look at the website of the Stellenbosch Cabernet Collective. to see the 32 current members. The wines, without exception, were showing well, some are excellent and quite eye opening. We expect wines this young, and many samples had been pulled from barrels that week, to be a bit harsh and difficult. Not at all, they showed their character well and you could see that they have the right components to be great wines one day. In amongst them are some rising stars and some exceptional Cabernets. We can make good Cabernet in our own style, because they echo our terroir and climate and our wine makers are becoming expert at making them. We don't have to copy France, or any other country; our Cabernets are beginning to come to the fore. If you are interested in buying any of these, do contact Roland Peens at the Wine Cellar, soon.
Some canapés were produced and we were very grateful for them. Salmon and avocado on a spoon
savoury crumbed deep fried balls of pulled lamb with mayonnaise and beetroot

The wines were on stands around the room with the winemaker or someone with knowledge from the farm if the winemaker could not be present. We tasted all 28 and Lynne was tempted by one and bought a case, to be delivered in 2021!
 Chef Christophe Dehosse of Glenelly and Murray Barlow, winemaker at Rustenburg
Murray is a Diners Club 2018 Winemaker of the Year finalist
 Lynne with the boys. Wim Braak, National Wine Sales Manager at Zevenwacht Wine Estate and Desmond Binneman, National Sales & Marketing Manager at Muratie
 Jordan winemaker Sjaak Nelson
 Tokara winemaker Stuart Botha with his wife Gemma

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