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

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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.

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