May 27 2012
╬ô├╢┬╝Γö£├¡The word Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║reportΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ scares the bejezus out of me. Like wine writer-personality-judge Christian (Krisjan) Eedes, I was also at a private school where some poncey senior was always threatening to Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║reportΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ me for innocuous activities, such as adding DadΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s Single Malt Islay to the tadpole tank in the biology lab. The quarterly Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║reportΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ, which documented oneΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s academic progress through the respective term, was often something to be feared. Especially as my grand-father was a former school principal and at the age of 98 was still capable of dishing out a good klap if my Latin dropped below 85.
The Christian Eedes Cabernet Sauvignon Report is KrisjanΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s second foray into the world of promotional vinous activity under his own name, the first being the Chardonnay Report. And I must admit I rather like the grandeur of the Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║reportΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ. Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║ShowΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ and Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║TrophyΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ and Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║InternationalΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ and Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║Of the YearΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ have been done to death by wine competitions, and Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║reportΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ gives KrisjanΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s gig a cool, reserved image with which the compiler thereof should not mind to be associated.
Basically, the Report works on a by-invitation-only basis. Wines are selected for judging and reporting. Each wine gets a rating, with the Top 10 highlighted. The whole thing is subjective, select and nicely niched and welcomed in the current environment where the only thing desperate wine show organisers seem to concentrate on is the number of (paid) entries they managed to solicit, which is by no means a measure of a competitionΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s success.
KrisjanΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s Cabernet Report chose to judge 60 wines. But obviously, no matter how much reporting one wants to do, it is the top 10 Cabs that count. So hereΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s for 2012, with the stars they mustered.
Delaire Reserve 2009 (5 stars)
De Trafford 2009 (5 stars)
Graham Beck The Coffeestone 2009 (5 stars)
Tokara 2009 (5 stars)
Cederberg Five Generations 2009 (4,5 stars)
Rickety Bridge PaulinaΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s Reserve 2009 (4,5 stars)
Stark-Conde 2009 (4,5 stars)
Stark-Conde Three Pines 2009 (4,5 stars)
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2007 (4 stars)
Louis 2008 (4 stars)
Besides for Krisjan, the judges were wine importer and endurance athlete Roland Peens and wine service sommelier guy James Pietersen. A commendably and relatively youthful troika, thus.
Keeping the judges in mind and looking at the list of the top 10, as well as tasting the wines, I found the selection unsurprising. ╬ô├╢┬╝Γö£├¡These are 10 clean, pure and definitely modern styles of Cabernet Sauvignon and each one can act as an ambassador for South AfricaΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s ability to produce world class Cabernet.
I personally found the Delaire Reserve 2009 the stand-out wine in the line-up with its symphony of dark fruit, patchouli and cedar, everything assisted by a graceful palate weight and with the probing length of an extreme National Geographic explorer.
David Trafford, who is coming to the fore as one of my favourite red wine makers, provided the Cabernet with the most character. Inky black and heady on the nose, the De Trafford 2009 oozed succulence with a spicy, bloody unctuousness. A huge Cabernet, but huge with the personality and style to which so many Napa Cabernets aspire.
Cederberg Five Generations had the most upfront-fruit in the line-up, while Kleine Zalze will possibly be the most appealing to a Cabernet virgin, a paint-by-numbers, all-boxed-ticked example of what a Cabernet should be.
Obviously there are always going to be surprises. How come, may we well ask, did Kanonkop and Meerlust Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£Γöñ to name a few pedigrees Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£Γöñ not make it onto the top 10 list?
Having read and listened to the three judges during the course of a few years, the answer is quite simple. The new generation of wine critics have a set of criteria religiously used to appraise a wine. The slightest hint of a wood flavour immediately gets an Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║over-oakedΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ label, in the process negating the more positive aspects a wine could have. A brush of alcohol on the finish – Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║too alcoholicΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ. A youthful tannic grip becomes a Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║dry-tanninΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ blooper, and heaven forbid the slightest touch of Brett of farmyard on a wine, for then you are truly stuffed.
The edginess of a young Kanonkop, the muscularity of a Rust en Vrede or the steeliness of a infant Meerlust become victims of the Cabernet Sauvignon ReportΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s goal of determining excellence through purity.
But it has the right to do so, and in the process has awakened my personal interest in re-looking many of the wines reported.