Adding va­ri­ety to the mix

The art of red blends has come of age in the Cape, ex­plains Gra­ham Howe

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SOME purists pre­fer to seek the per­fect ex­pres­sion of their favourite va­ri­ety in sin­gle va­ri­etal bot­tlings — and oth­ers in sin­gle vine­yard ver­sions. But oth­ers find sin­gle va­ri­etal wines one-di­men­sional and pre­fer the com­plex­ity of flag­ship blends which com­bine the char­ac­ter­is­tics of dif­fer­ent grape va­ri­eties into a new sym­phony of aroma, flavour and tex­ture.

Four main kinds of con­tem­po­rary red blends are found in the Cape — Bor­deaux blends of Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, Caber­net Franc, Mer­lot and Petit Ver­dot; Rhônestyle blends of Shi­raz, Viog­nier, Mourve­dre and Gre­nache; newworld style blends of Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and Shi­raz and Cape blends of Pino­tage with Caber­net, Shi­raz or Mer­lot. A great blend demon­strates the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Try a few of the new re­leases of the big red blends I’ve sam­pled re­cently. A mixed case: the best of the new blends Buiten­verwacht­ing Rough Di­a­mond 2006. This in­trigu­ing newworld blend of Petit Ver­dot and Mal­bec was in­spired by the film Blood Di­a­mond which fea­tured Leonardo di Caprio walk­ing through the Con­stan­tia es­tate’s vine­yards. I en­joyed the earthy, savoury char­ac­ter of this blend with wine­maker Brad Pa­ton over lunch there. David Frost Par Ex­cel­lence 2006. Celebrity golf wines are find­ing a niche mar­ket — from the sig­na­ture Gary Player se­ries and Retief Goosen’s The Goose to Frost’s ac­claimed vine­yards in Voor Paarde­berg. This wit­tily named blend of five Bor­deaux va­ri­eties shows cin­na­mon and ci­gar notes from 26 months in French oak. Eik­endal Clas­sique 2006. The Helder­berg es­tate’s flag­ship blend of Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, Caber­net Franc and Mer­lot has a mul­ti­lay­ered berry bou­quet and sub­tle bal­ance of oak, tan­nin and cas­sis fruit. Wine­maker Nico Grob­ler iden­ti­fies juicy plum, ci­gar box, to­bacco and dark ripe fruit flavours in­fused with a minty, spicy un­der­tone. Fleur du Cap Las­zlo 2006. This five-way Bor­deaux blend pays trib­ute to Dr Julius Las­zlo, the in­no­va­tive cel­lar mas­ter who played a ma­jor role in the Cape wine re­nais­sance in the 1980s. This clas­sic as­sem­blage has lay­ers of black cher­ries, cas­sis and fruit cake with nu­ances of mint choc, cedar spice and to­bacco. Horse Moun­tain Michele 2006. The la­bel of this cult win­ery in the Voor Paarde­berg de­picts the wilde paar­den (wild ze­bra) which roamed the Paarl moun­tains in the 18th cen­tury. Their sig­na­ture Bor­deaux blend shows in­tense cedar spices, cherry and herbal minty flavours with fine grain tan­nins, ma­tured in French oak. Klein Genot Black Swan Re­serve 2007. A walk in the Zen vine­yards of this bou­tique win­ery and feng shui guest­house high up the Fran­schhoek Val­ley is as un­for­get­table as this flag­ship blend. Laibach The Lady­bird 2008. The 2007 vin­tage of this flag­ship Bor­deaux blend made from or­ganic grapes was run­ner-up in the in­au­gu­ral Ned­bank Green Wine Awards. . . La Motte Mil­len­nium 2007. While the Pierneef Col­lec­tion show­cases Rhône-style blends of Shi­raz, Gre­nache and Viog­nier, the Mil­len­nium flag­ship flies the Bor­deaux ban­ner with a clas­sic five-way blend. It’s an el­e­gant wine with rich red-berry fruit, spicy cherry to­bacco, plum and mocha chocolate flavours. Neder­burg twenty10 Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon 2007. As of­fi­cial sup­plier of wines to the Soc­cer World Cup, Neder­burg has kicked off a lim­ited edi­tion of three wines fes­tooned with foot­balls. Soc­cer-mad cel­lar mas­ter Raz­van Macici blended the red wine from their top vine­yards to make a be­guil­ing wine with ripe berry fruits. Rick­ety Bridge The Foun­da­tion Stone 2008. This maiden Shi­razMourvè­dre-Gre­nache blend is a clas­sic Rhône-style blend. It’s a typ­i­cal earthy wine with juicy berry fruit, mul­berry and rasp­berry flavours and a savoury twist. Sarons­berg Full Cir­cle 2007. At La Colombe at Con­stan­tia Uit­sig we en­joyed a vertical tast­ing of five vin­tages of Sarons­berg’s Rhône blend. Vrede en Lust Mo­cholate Mal­bec 2009. One of two sin­gle va­ri­etal wines in my line-up of blends makes the list as it is a mouth­ful of new flavours and one of the first reds from the 2009 vin­tage. Wine­maker Su­san Wes­sels gives Mal­bec a makeover in a mocha and chocolate wine with cherry, mul­berry and black­berry char­ac­ter.

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