No one likes a grumbler, and I don't like to be the one bearing bad news. It's kind of negative, and negativity sticks to you like mud on your boots or cat hairs on your suit. But it's a requirement of a good wine critic to criticize on occasion, or at least to report on the odd wine that didn't hit the spot.
Today it's the turn of two South Africans. I guess my expectations were high for both, which is why I was a little disappointed. It's not that they're rubbish wines.
First, Flagstone's The Last Word 2002, a Port-style fortified red made from a range of varieties including Mourvedre and a little bit of Sousao (a Portuguese teinturier variety, with red flesh as well as skins). It's spoiled by a green streak hiding among the sweet red and black fruits. Overall, the wine just lacks impact. I bought this for £7.49 in and Oddbins sale (normally £12.99), and it's disappointing. I met Bruce Jack in December at Flagstone, and I really liked what he was up to; I suppose everyone is allowed an off-day.
Second, the Engelbrecht Els 2003 Western Cape. From winemaker Louis Strydom (who used to make the Saxenberg wines, if I recall correctly), this is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Shiraz, 4% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 9% Malbec. It's a substantial, structured and rather split-personality sort of wine. On the one hand we have very ripe dark fruits (with a bit of sweetness); on the other we have a bit of greenness, along with firm, spicy tannins. It's as if the extreme ripeness is being countered by a bit of unripeness, and the result isn't totally convincing. Great concentration, though, but I'd expect more for the £20 this wine retails for.
There you go. I'll be back with more positive news soon, I hope.