Brilliant tasting today at the South African High Commission in Trafalgar Square. It was titled ‘taste the earth’, and the idea was to show wines where there was link between the terroir and the flavour.
160 wines were shown, which is, of course, too many to taste all of them and make sensible, serious judgements. But this isn’t a problem, because I can happily attend a tasting like this and taste a bit selectively, and still come out with lots of useful information.
I know I go on about the wine trade’s obsession with tasting over drinking, but there is a place for big tastings like this. There were lots of serious high-end wines here today that I just wouldn’t normally have access to. And I have flagged lots of wines that I’d like to return to and get to know better at some stage.
Aside from the ‘taste the earth’ aspect (it proved to hard to get to the issue of terroir when stylistic choices on the part of the winegrowers seemed to be the key determinant in wine flavour), there were some really interesting wines on show. Many of South Africa’s top producers were represented; I got the chance to taste many wines I’d heard about, but which I hadn’t tasted before.
I seems a bit mean to pick out just a few wines, but I will. Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2009 showed impeccable balance; Reynecke Sauvignon Blacn 2009 was equally good, if a little more pungent and intense. Steenberg Magna Carta 2007 was unusual but complex, blending together Sauvignon and Semillon.
Of the Chenins, SAAM Middleburg 2009 and Badenhorst Secateurs 2009 were both brilliant and affordable. More serious were the Radford Dale Land of Hope 2008, Raats Family 2008 and Ken Forrester FMC 2008 (much more refined and pure this year).
White blends impressed. Vonderling Babiana 2007, Lammershoek Roulette 2008, Naude White 2008 and Tokara Directors Reserve 2008 were all very good.
I’ve never thought much of South African Pinot Noir, but four were really good: Chamonix 2009, Radford Dale Freedom 2009, Meerlust 2008, and Paul Cluver Seven Flags 2006.
Of the Bordeaux-styled reds, there were some serious efforts. Rust en Vrede Cabernet 2006 and Rustenberg Peter Barlow 2006 were great. De Toren Fusion V 2007 had lovely freshness and concentration. Tokara Director’s Reserve Red 2006, Kaapzicht Steytler Vision 2006, Rust en Vrede Estate 2006, Jordan Cobbler’s Hill 2006, Waterford The Jem 2006, Ernie Els Stellenbosch 2005 and Reynecke Cornerstone 2008 were all pretty serious.
The best Pinotages? Flagstone Writer’s Block 2007 and Kaapzicht Steytler 2007 both impressed.
Syrahs were strong. Glenelly Estate 2009 got my value vote, with lovely purity. Rudi Schultz 2007, Waterford Kevin Arnold 2007 and Fairview The Beacon 2006 were very nice.
I made quite a few new discoveries, and came away impressed. The South African wine scene is moving fast. Blink, and you’ll miss it. There’s real progress here.