Monday, November 8, 2010

Post House Penny Black in Frederic Dasse's TOP 10 Shiraz based blends lineup.

Interesting newsletter by Frederic Dasse
Top 10 Wines Newsletter

Hello wine lovers!

What a nice tasting that was. I can say it was really appreciated by most of the tasters; many of them had Shiraz based blends on their favourites’ short list!

I would like to say thank you today to all of you who come to the tastings, for your comments and your passion for great wines. I needed to say it!

Now, who is the best Shiraz based blend of South Africa , as per our passionate group of last Thursday...?

That is the SPICE ROUTE MALABAR 2006!
The Malabar secured an average 2,71 ranking, with close to half the tasters ranking it first !
The winner is a typical Rhone Style from Swartland and this is justice to this winery who has been one of the pioneers in Rhone style wines in South Africa , and is still a key actor in experimenting and taking risks.

Second and third come two wines of beautiful make, Woolworths Reyneke Capstone (Shiraz/Cabernet) and Ken Forrester The Gipsy (Rhone Style). Both wines secured virtually the entire balance of the 1st Ranks, if it was not for the Post House Penny Black that comes fourth in the final ranking.

Woolworths and Ken Forrester really pleased all, in two different styles though. The one is a typical Rhone blend (Ken Forrester), while the Woolworths Reyneke is a Shiraz/Cabernet blend. You will see below my little analysis on this. A typical illustration of the two types of Shiraz based blends we find in South Africa , when talking of the very best wines.

At this stage, I invite you to reflect on the fact that the top 3 seats are taken by wineries/companies which are all very well known, and are amongst the biggest actors in exploring new avenues in wine making, blending and terroirs in South Africa . I am not going to teach any of you how much men like Ken Forrester and Charles Back ( Fairview , Spice Route ) contribute and have contributed to make SA wines internationally recognized. I am not going to teach you either how much Woolworths stores are doing to promote the best SA wines, and taking the local wine drinkers to new heights and to a perpetual discovery of new varietals, blend types, or sometimes very small wineries or talented winemakers.
Spice Route ( Fairview ), Woolworths, Ken Forrester! We owe them all a big round of applause!!

In fourth place comes a wine of great interest. Mainly because of the style and of how much it divided opinion at the tasting. It managed to score no less than four 1st places, but also was badly ranked by 4 or 5 tasters.  The reason? probably rightly, as its owner/winemaker, Nick Gebers, states it because it is "perhaps the darkest and most textured wines to be found anywhere". The wine is powerful, concentrated, and full of layers and aroma. You like it or you don't like it, but this definitely a great wine with a very personal style. That makes a wine that one must definitely try, and maybe adopt, or not. But at least try it... 

Rhone Blends vs Shiraz/Cabernet, Shiraz/Bordeaux Blends:
Going to this tasting, I thought that it would be very exciting to see the opposition between pure Rhone blends and Shiraz/Cabernet, Shiraz/Cabernet/Merlot, or Shiraz + Bordeaux blends. In fact, we have two Rhone blends in the top 3 and one Shiraz/Cabernet. Should be conclude in a slight advantage to the Rhone Blends? I don't think so, as in the rest of the ranking shows a split between the two styles. It is noticeable though that no other blend types are present in this Top 10. When making the initial selection, I thought there would be some atypical blends, something like a Shiraz/Sangiovese/Merlot/Pinotage, or Shiraz/Zinfandel/Merlot/Cabernet/Mouvedre, or Shiraz/PinotNoir/Malbec, etc... In a way, I can only hope that in the future we will see more unusual Shiraz based blends making it to the top.
In that line, the Top 10 Alternative Blends of next week will be very interesting. It gathers together all the blends that are neither Bordeaux Blends, nor Cape Blends or Shiraz Based Blends.

Stellenbosch vs Swartland:
That's an interesting challenge too... One could say that in general, we had on one side the Rhone blends from Swartland, and the Shiraz/Bordeaux, or Shiraz/Cabernet/Merlot on the other side. In fact, while all the Swartland wines we had were Rhone blends, and all the Shiraz/Bordeaux or Shiraxz/Cabernet/Merlot are from Stellenbosch, there are also some Stellenbosch Rhone blends in that Top 10. To summarize, here are the three categories of wines we could consider in this Top 10:
  • Swartland Rhone Blends
  • Stellenbosch Rhone Blends
  • Stellenbosch Shiraz/Bordeaux or Shiraz/Cabernet
And nothing else!
Interesting, isn’t it..!

In spite of the fact that we had less Swartland than Stellenbosch wines, one can't say there is any really winner here, as the ranking is in fact a split between the categories. This kind of confirms that they are all right in their quest, even though styles may differ. There as well, I would not say that there is a definite style for each category. It seems that the winemaker's philosophy, as well as specific terroirs play a large role and limit a correlation between style and geography.

Old Vines:
Have you noted that we have two wines in the top 3 that have Grenache Vines of more than 50 years old age? In the Spice Route Malabar and in the Ken Forrester The Gipsy. I am not making any conclusion, but just drawing your attention to it. More globally, apart from a few exceptions, I note a larger concentration of old vines in the top section of the ranking than in the bottom of the ranking.

Note that we were sadly missing three wines at this tasting, the Lammershoek Roulette (Swartland), The Reyneke Reserve Red, and the Sadie Family Columella. Two for delivery/collection issues, and one not being available. I will try to rectify that in our next Top 10 Shiraz Based Blends...

To finish this newsletter, note that the schedule of tastings has been a slightly revised with three tastings being changed for a different date to be confirmed later. See below for full details of the program.

The Top 10 Viognier next week is going to be something and the tasters will likely be amazed. Viognier is probably the fastest growing varietals worldwide in terms of trendiness and could well one day challenge the dictatorship of the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc varietals. These are great grapes, great wines, and South Africa is proving year after year that it is a fantastic home for this varietals full of aroma and character. Anise, Apricot, Honey, Lemon, Musk, Peach.... this is viognier ! Come and enjoy the best of SA viogniers... and become an official Viognier Ambassador... (I will give you your badge at the tasting !)

Another interesting one will be Top 10 Desert Wines. Note that Five Flies proposes a special two courses package at R125 for the tasters at our Top 10 Wines tastings, which makes the evening more affordable.

See you soon, don't work too hard this week!

A la votre,

Frederic Dasse

Next Top 10 Wines tastings

Top 10 Alternative Red Blends (Other blends that are not Bordeaux Blends, nor Shiraz Blends or Cape Blends )
10 November –18h30 @  Alliance Francaise
155 Loop Street, Cape Town ( – R100pp

Top 10 Viognier
16 November –18h30 @  L’Aperitivo
70 Loop Street, Cape Town ( – R100pp

Top 10 Dessert Wines
19 November –18h30 @  Five Flies
14-16 Keerom Street, Cape Town ( – R100pp

Top 10 Alternative Reds (unusual varietals: Grenache, Mouvedre, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, etc.)
Date to be confirmed soon
@  Societi Bistro
50 Orange Street, Cape Town ( – R100pp

Top 10 Semillon
Date to be confirmed soon
@ Constantia Uitsig (The Wine Shop / Constantia Uitsig Restaurant)
Spaanschemat River Road, Constantia ( – R100pp

NB: All bookings by return e-mail to

Top 10 wines
Cell: +27-72-606-2782
Tel: +27-21-782-5042
Fax: +27-86-558-2525