jamie goode's wine blog: Cloof a spoof?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cloof a spoof?

Now this is an interesting wine. The question: is it totally spoofy, or just an honest good-time bottle with plenty of oomph?

The Cloof Cellar Blend 2004 Darling, South Africa

Spicy, dark, intense, tannic, this is a bit of a beast of a wine. It's an undisclosed blend, 25% of which was matured in new French oak, and it weighs in at 14.5% alcohol. The nose shows sweet berries with a hint of chalky minerality, some jamminess and a touch of tar. The palate combines very sweet fruit with some grippy tannins and a bit of spice, and in the background there's just a tiny hint of greenness. It's one of those wines that has that characteristic of deliciousness: it's robust, concentrated and moreish. In fact, that's what worries me a little. Am I being conned by this almost over-the-top wine? I think it's really nice in an obvious, forward sort of way, but have I been duped by the winemaker? Is there a bit of residual sugar papering over the cracks? But I do like those grippy tannins: they are what saves this wine for me. It's the sort of wine that if you open it with friends, the bottle will very soon be drained. Very good+ 89/100 (RRP 9.99, more info from alison@ew-pr.co.uk)



At 11:49 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

It's a kitchen sink blend, I believe: Pinotage, Tinta Barroca, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. I'm sure it's got pepper and spice and all things nice but I would be a mite concerned by the residual sugar levels (over 5 g/l which is quite a bit sweeter than the average Stellenbosch red, for example).

There's quite a vogue for blending mishmashery. I can understand the relationships between various of the components, but I wonder about the rationale of the whole mixture.

The nature of deliciousness is an interesting idea. I would not readily identify a wine described as "dark, intense, tannic and a beast... very sweet... some jamminess... obvious, forward... " as delicious, a word which implies something delicate and delightful. Even if it's not delicious it is obviously, on its own terms, a darling.

At 7:33 AM, Blogger Cru Master said...

I guess for me, the most important part of Jamies analysis is this:

"It's the sort of wine that if you open it with friends, the bottle will very soon be drained"

I love delving deeper into the wines merits and learn a great deal from these discussion....but sometimes I sit wondering whether we over anaylse at times - residual sugar, spoofy and style of blend aside - does it taste good? would you enjoy another bottle? would u enjoy it with friends or over a midweek dinner with your family?

some wines deserve and demand closer analysis - others are merely there to be enjoyed.

Thanks for showcasing a South African wine Jamie, its great to see!

At 8:05 AM, Anonymous keith Prothero said...

Cloof make an excellent range of wines.I especially enjoy the Crucible shiraz ,which after a few years bottle age,is definately a wine that will be consumed rather quickly!!

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

I was right about the residual sugar:

Alc: 14.29 %
RS: 5.10 g/l
Extr: 32.10 g/l
pH: 3.79

I've asked the winemaker how he did this.

What I meant by deliciousness is that as soon as you sip it there's an immediate hedonic response - 'put more of this in your mouth'. It doesn't mean it's a great wine, just one with an immediate appeal, sorta like an ice cold coke or a big mac - of course, the learned element of aesthetics is more important and more enduring, and with a moments thought you might decide 'no, I don't actually like this'. First impressions can mislead.

Cru Master, quite agree, although this argument is often a defensive posture of wine critics who've backed a spoofy wine and then have been found out!

Keith, I loved their lynchpin 2005 (cask sample I was sent) which was sold en primeur in the UK.

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

This is the response from Cloof:

"The short answer is that the sugar is from good, old-fashioned stuck fermentation. When we did our final tastings prior to bottling we decided the wine needed a dash of sweetness. It so happened that in 2005 we had a tank of cabernet that refused to budge beyond 20 grams residual. It was also obscenely fruity. This component eventually made up 10% of the final blend.

The other consequence of using this component is that we got a slight dose of VA (sweet wines and malolactic are not a happy combination), which we think adds to the wild appeal of the wine.

It may help your understanding of our rationale if I give you the background to the origins of Cellar Blend. Early in 2003, soon after I started at Cloof, Christopher was showing me all the wines in the cellar. We'd finished in the barrel cellar, and were walking out, when I remarked that we hadn't tasted all the stacks. He told me that the end row wasn't of any commercial value ... the previous year's press wines that were in barrel only to keep the barrels wet.

In fairness, 2002 had been a very ripe vintage, with elevated residual sugars. Consequently this wine (mainly Pinotage and Cabernet) had a little whack of VA, too. I was turned on by its monstrous bigness - it really was outrageously concentrated, and very wild. The label story produced itself from a place of divine inspiration in the space of less than 15 minutes.

So, while it is theoretically a randomly composed blend (which is mostly is), we did feel the need to interfere just a little to massage the 2004 in the direction of the 2002. Hence the stuck cabernet, and your question about the sugar.

Upon reflection, I think it's wine that will forever be followed by stuck ferments. In 2005 we were also struck with the misfortune of our Crucible Shiraz 'sticking'. So the 2005 Cellar Blend got dosed with some very syrupy (mainly from fruit concentration) de-classified Crucible Shiraz.

We're not trying to make it as a semi-sweet red wine. It's a by-product of collecting the craziest and most concentrated wine in the cellar.

Lynchpin, of course, is a totally different animal, which hopefully shows that we can also be demure...

Oscar Foulkes
Cloof Wine Estate (Pty) Ltd
PO Box 269
South Africa

At 4:12 PM, Blogger Oscar Foulkes said...

Gushily forward wines tend to have less credibility, because of the suspicion that they cannot be matched with a meal.
I can report that Cellar Blend fared particularly well when paired with chicken pieces roasted in a putanesca-type sauce (tomato, capers, olives, anchovies, garlic and rosemary), accompanied by oven roasted Nicola potatoes, red onions and Sweet Dumplings (a kind of squash). The robust flavour of the sauce is daunting for most wines, and the slight sweetness of the vegetables would make many wines taste tart, but Cloof Cellar Blend was up to the challenge.

At 4:45 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Thanks Oscar - sounds like a great combination. Personally, I think the food and wine matching obsession is often taken a little too far. Often I just want to drink a wine I really like, almost irrespective of what I'm eating (with exceptions, of course).

At 7:21 AM, Blogger Salil said...

Saw a few bottles of this at a very good price in a wine store in Singapore, and picked up one (given that I've been keen on trying some South African reds recently, but haven't yet done so). A quick google search brought me here - thanks for providing all the info on the wine/process behind this. I'm now quite looking forward to popping this open soon.

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At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Jimmy said...


What was the name of the wine store in Singapore??

Appreciate the help.

Cheers, Jimmy


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