Adding variety to the mix
The art of red blends has come of age in the Cape, explains Graham Howe
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.