2009 February | Wine Guru

GS 1966My first post on WineGuru! With delight I start by commenting on a wine dinner with friends at Balthazar, a great steak house and seafood restaurant at the Waterfront. Proprietor Jonathan Steyn kindly provided the venue (and food) to embellish our passion of drinking and talking about fine wine. More and more often I get irritated by tasting fine wine; I need to drink and enjoy it for real appreciation. Each individual was ordered to bring 2 bottles of interesting/fine/expensive wine. I brought 4, whilst some brought 6 (Jorg!). 20-odd wines later, the list was rather impressive, the taxi drive all that more important and the next day rather unfavorable. We started with a Terra Madres Pommes Classique bottled fermented cider from Elgin. Very much like champagne, with a bone dry palate and rich acidity. Terrific as a sparkling alternative and it’s only 8% alcohol. Here is the list, ranked by favourites.

– Bonneau du Matray, Corton Charlemagne, White Burgundy 2004

Working as a Sommelier at Le Pont de Latour in London, I remember this wine vividly. Not the 2004, but the much renowned 1990 – out of half bottle. It has to be one of the greatest white wines I have ever tasted with a melted-butter texture and length that stayed in my throat throughout the rest of service. There isn’t the weight and breadth of Montrachet or Meursault, but it has tremendous linearity, focus and richness. Much like Red Corton. With years of cellaring, its complexity is phenomenal. The 2004 Matray Cotron Charlemagne was my wine of the night. At least a decade too young, but still immensely enjoyable. Layers of vanilla, nuts and pear lead to a fine honey finish. Utter bliss. 96/100

– GS Cabernet, Stellenbosch 1968

This bottle had obviously been stored perfectly; amazing ullage, neat label and primary colour. The bright ruby core made it look a decade old at the most. The nose didn’t show much varietal character with lots of farmyard notes and tea leaves. A few minutes in the glass, red fruits emerged through to a rugged rich palate. Here is were the wine kicked into gear with amazing fruit depth and clarity gathered together by fine tannins and a perfectly balanced acid backbone. So confident, fresh and vibrant with a long rich finish. And its 41 years old! A real treat. Likely the best SA wine I have ever tasted, a real legend – 96/100.

The George Spies Cabernet was apparently really tannic and brutal when it was released and required years of cellaring. Arguably it was made from Durbanville and Morgenster fruit in a traditional way in large oak with lots of skin contact.  I came across the GS after drinking the 1966 (pictured above) a few months earlier after quite a lot of media hype caused by James Molesworth (Wine Spectator) judging it 95 points on a recent visit. The 68 is superior to the ‘66 I had had, with more finesse and fineness.

Walking through a well known wine shop a few weeks back I saw a bargain bin of vintage SA wines parking at the counter. Wading through a few likely-very-unpleasant-over-mature SA wines, my eyes lit with glee, glancing on the simple label of the GS 1968! I had only read a few weeks earlier how this specific wine was named as one of the best wine SA wines aficionado Michal Fridjhon had ever tasted. I bought it for R10. The bargain of a lifetime!

– Niepoort Port 1863

Dirk van Niepoort kindly brought this out to the tasting, drawn from barrel a few weeks earlier. (Those in attendance and rememberance please fill in the information here , it was rather late in the evening). I do recall its freshness and vinosity without much oxidative or rancio notes evading the fruit. Long, unctous and supple. Thanks Dirk! NR

– Chateau d’Yquem 1920

Brought kindly by Jean Vicent Ridon of Signal Hill winery fame, the wine was a cola like colour. Not the best vintage (such as a 1923), but still lively with much enjoyment. Quite rancio added by notes of  dried peach, nuts, spice and caramel. A delicious end to end the fabulous evening. NR

– Chapoutier Hermitage Chante-Alouette Blanc 2004

2004 was a fabulous northern Rhone White vintage. 100% Marsanne on the bottom slopes of Hermitage with loess and clay soil. There is fatness and texture combined with a freshness and opulence. This Chante Alouette is Grand Cru Burgundy in quality with a super complexity of honey, nuts and figs. Lots of alcohol, glycerol flavour and richness with an oxidative edge. My style of wine, but not for everyone. 93/100

– Niepoort Projectos Riesling, Douro 2007

From the Montrachet glass this was very Burgundian with the typical burnt-match aroma. But from the Riesling glass it really shown even in its extremely tight mineral frame. Truth that classic Riesling can be made from a warm climate. Lovely balance of texture, fruit and acidity on the finish. 90/100

– Niepoort Rubustos, Douro 2004

A red wine from Niepoort with a little more extraction and longer in oak than the Batuta. Yes, certainly robust – there is plenty of tannin here. It unfolds well however with the layers of pure punchy fruit. So confident and tannic, this could age for ever. 2004 was a fabulous vintage too. 93/100. The Niepoort wines are made from up to 40 native grape varieties in the Douro Valley. Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela, Touriga Nacional and others. See http://www.niepoort-vinhos.com/

– Chateau Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1978

Quite savoury and earthy with much clarity of fruit. Very developed and slightly oxidized. The bottle or the vintage? On Parkers numerous tastings of this wine he notes it to very extremely tannic and youthfull at two decades with the potential of greatness. This bottle was certainly on the decline and offered average drinking compared to the GS 1968. NR – Sandrone Barolo, Piedmont 2003

Perfectly delicious and tasty, but I found this lacking the real Barolo austerity and Italian flare. Very velvety, soft and polished. Certainly a ripe vintage, but this tends to the modern style of Barolo. 88/100

– Dujac Charmes Chambertin 1993

For many the wine of the night. It certainly was indulgent and classy but lacked the wow-factor of the Matray and GS. Dujac as a producer can be mentioned in the same breath as Vogue and Romantee Conti. It was quite open-nit to me however, floral and fruity with layers of spice. Great length and poise, but leanish for the great 1993 vintage. 91/100

– Gruard Larose, St Julien 1994
Good drinking Claret. Medium bodied with lots of sweet cassis fruit and savoury notes. This shows how the lesser vintages of Bordeaux can still be delicious and ageworthy. This would likely have been a little harsh in its youth.  84/100

– Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Leognan 1978
SHL was rather ordinary and until the Cathiards took over the property in the early nineties. It now produces rich, sturdy and opulent Graves. The 1978 was obviously rather angular when young, as it still showed a hard edge. Quite leafy and earthy – typical graves – but sappy and delicious. Perhaps better with food. 82/100

– St Estephe 1964 (Negociant bottling)
A controversial wine, explained by JV Ridon as being potentially bolstered by Syrah from the Rhone in this vintage. From this lesser vintage, this wine was upfront and powerful with amazing youth and typical grippy St Estephe tannins. 88/100

– Chateau Belair, Pomerol 1999
Rather Raw and ripe on the nose. Took a while to discover its Bordeaux origin. Quite spicy and modern. There isn’t much complexity, but perhaps it needs some time. 86/100

– Clemens Busch Riesling, Mosel 2007

Pure and rich on the nose, with some waxy notes more reminiscent of Vouvrau. Off-dry, oily and upright without the floral delicacy of a kabinett for example. Quite heavy for the 12.5% alcohol. 77/100

– Rousseau Chambertin 1999 -CORKED! Bugger!

Note: The Chapoutier Chante Aloutte and Terra Madre are sold by Wine Cellar.