Nov 02 2011
ThereΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s a lot of good stuff going on in new plantings, new wines, new styles. Juicy drops concocted from a medley of Rh╬ô├╢┬ú╬ô├╢├▒ne varietals. Hearty, solid Portuguese-styled reds. The odd experiment with Sangiovese and co-Italian variety Nebbiola.
Yes, the South African wine industry is free from its over-regulated shackles of yesteryear, leaving farmers to plant what they want, where they want. Okay, so it takes a call to Duimpie Bayly at the Wine and Spirits Board, but what the heck. Want to plant Gr╬ô├╢┬ú╬ô├▓┬Ñneveltliner on the Heads at Knysna or Nero dΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗Avola on the Cape Flats, go for it.
But in this land of ours, from sea to shining sea, Cabernet Sauvignon shall always rule.
When the chips are down, youΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗re down to your underpants and you have to come to the party with one South African red wine on which your life depends, my money bets youΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗re going to choose a Cabernet.
All this talk of South Africa being perched between the classical elegance of the Old World and the big ripe fruit wads of the New is only really applicable to Cabernet Sauvignon.
This is where the harmony between New and Old is happy and where South AfricaΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s red status can truly compete on the upper echelons.
The Holy Grail for Cabernet Sauvignon remains Stellenbosch. And those accusing South Africa of suffering from a Bordeaux-obsession, well, the day StellenboschΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s Cabernet vines are replaced with Tempranillo or Touriga will be the day Julius Malema shops at Pep Stores.
AinΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗t going to happen.
Kanonkop, Rust en Vrede, Meerlust, Le Riche and Rustenberg are arguably the Big Five, but if there is one brand knocking on this gilded door it is Edgebaston Family Vineyards.
Owned and run by David Finlayson, Edgebaston is a bit of a bit of lots. There is a lot happening. David is edgy (duh?), creating brands, developing new wines, getting his hands dirty on the industryΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s Other Side, namely marketing and sales.
With brands like the Pepper Pot and Honey Pot Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£Γöñ I suggested Pol Pot but David was concerned about the Cambodian market Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£Γöñ Edgebaston has an irreverent edge surrounding the classic and focussed nature of its main brand.
The one wine that continually stands out, however, is the Edgebaston GS Cabernet Sauvignon. Named after the legendary George Spies, production manager at Stellenbosch Farmers Winery who made two iconic Cabernets under his own name, the Edgebaston Cabernet is heading towards classic status of its own.
The 2008 version has just become the only South African wine to make the Wine EnthusiastΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s top 100 list for 2011, scoring 93 points in the process. And with the wine only beginning to settle down now its best years ahead, one can see why.
Those wine-lovers who are into colour will start drooling once the stuff is poured into the glass. Gushing hues of purple and black like, to quote Al Stewart Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║a water-colour running in the rainΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ.
The nose is suitably heady, and this is where the unashamed ballsy South African-ness of the wine hits you like a silk boxing glove powered by Bakkies Botha. Pine needles and fynbos; hot tar after a thunderstorm; freshly sliced moist beef biltong lying on a bed of mushroom.
The palate weight is enormous, almost arrogant in its presence. But lured by the wines desire to please the parts others canΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗t even pronounce, it releases a barrage of intoxicating flavours that leave one breathless. Crushed mulberries and toro tuna on soya sauce. Dry rose petals and overripe Turkish figs. A whack of old cigar and a crisp layer.
But not heavy, hey. Oak structure, but no logs floating around. Fresh, vivid and bright. Tannins subdued, just enough to produce the desired effect on the splendid body.
Those ticking the classics can add this baby.
The instruments and the costumes may change as fashions come and go. But when Cabernet Sauvignon is singing for the South African wine industry, the song remains the same.