Blends: the apex of a winemaker’s art
Blending gives the winemaker the creative freedom to mix ’n match his best barrels, vineyard sites and components. Graham Howe explains
THE outcome of blending should prove the old adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I’ve enjoyed sampling a range of Bordeaux-style blends: typically Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot; Rhône-style blends (Shiraz and Viognier); Cape blends (Pinotage-based) and eclectic new-world blends (anything goes). Try a few: Brenaissance Full House 2010. A new winery, stud and pizzeria bistro in Stellenbosch’s Devon Valley undergoing a renaissance with a capital B — named after new owners Tom and Hayley Breytenbach — makes an opening gambit with wines like Jack of Diamonds Shiraz and Queen of Hearts Merlot. The seamless full house of five Bordeaux varieties is a potpourri of crushed fig, mint, chocolate, cherry and violets. Constantia Glen Three 2009. The classic wines from this Constantia wine valley farm reflect the number of varieties in the mix: CG Two (Sauvignon and Semillon); CG Three (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc); and CG Five (all five Bordeaux varieties). CG Three has dark fruit, juicy texture, velvety tannins and lots of finesse. Dalla Cia Giorgio 2007. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot made by the winemaker who pioneered Bordeaux-style blends at Meerlust 30 years ago won Platter five stars. A wine of immense concentration and balance, it shows hints of coffee, vanilla, tobacco leaf and spicy cedar wood. Delaire Graff Laurence Graff Reserve 2009. This maiden flagship from the art, gourmet, wine, spa and diamond cellar on Helshoogte Pass also won Platter five stars. An iconic wine at an astronomic price (R1,650 per bottle), this Cabernet-led Bordeaux blend shows fine carats of ripe red fruit (raspberry, mulberry, strawberry and cassis). Dombeya Altus 2007. A new release from Haskell Vineyards in Stellenbosch’s golden triangle bears the signature of winemaker Rianie Strydom. This Cabernetled Bordeaux blend, a wine with ripe black fruit and mocha chocolate character, was made in limited quantities and replaces the old Samara blend flagship. Doolhof Theseus 2009. The Cape Dutch winery and guesthouse on the slopes of Wellington makes four classic blends in its Legends of the Labyrinth (after Doolhof or maze) label: Lady in White, Lady in Red, Minotaur (Cape blend) and new flagship Theseus (a five-way Bordeaux blend that is rich and full-bodied with fine tannins. Eikendal Classique 2009. I tasted the wines of this Swiss-owned farm over lunch on the lake at their delightful cellar-door restaurant in the Helderberg. The flagship Bordeaux blend won the Old Mutual trophy for best red wine in 2012. This seamless wine shows great purity of fruit and linearity, with rich layers of berry fruit. Holden Manz Vernissage 2012. This boutique winery, bistro and Zen guesthouse on the slopes of Franschhoek wine valley makes two acclaimed dual-varietal blends: Big G 2009 (Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon) and Vernissage (Cabernet and Shiraz). Meaning “private view”, Vernissage is rich and spicy with balance of fruit and oak. Le Bonheur Tricorne 2009. This new reserve blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz released in a limited edition of 6 500 bottles joins the estate’s well-known Prima Bordeaux-style blend. Named after the threecornered hat at the court of Louis XIV, the wine has a white pepper character with rich, spicy fruit. Sijnn 2009. An intriguing blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre and Touriga Nacional with a splash of Trincadeira and Cabernet Sauvignon, is the first wine to emerge from new maritime vineyards near Malagas and Cape Infanta. Made by David Trafford, this individualistic wine has lovely wild fruit, herbal and savoury flavours. Pronounced “sane”, Sijnn is a Khoisan name for the area. Vrede en Lust Boet Erasmus 2009. The flagship Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec is named after a famous rugby-playing ancestor of the Buys family. Matured in French oak for up to 18 months, the assemblage shows a wonderful balance of ripe berry fruit and oak tannins. Zonnebloem Laureat 2010. Released under a new heritage label, this enduring blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a splash of Shiraz retains its perennial popularity. Matured for 14 months in French and Hungarian oak, cassis and dark chocolate aromas open up into a fragrant, full-bodied wine with vibrant cherry, blackcurrant and spicy oak flavours with hints of tobacco.
A panoramic view over the Holden Manz vineyards. Right: The Delaire cellar on Helshoogte Pass. Below right: Simonsberg from Delaire Graff Estate.