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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #123 (article first published : 2005-02-15)

Relatively few wine-lovers, apart from liquor dealers, are able to attend the annual Nederburg wine auction at Paarl, the country’s most prestigious wine event, but an opportunity to sample the wares of the auction is open to all in Durban next week.

This is the popular pre-auction wine tasting for the public, which will be held at the Holiday Inn Elangeni on the beachfront on February 22, at 1830 for 1900.

Wine consultant Dave Hughes will take the tasters through about a dozen of the rare and high quality wines which will be auctioned at Paarl on April 9. Only licensed wine merchants may buy at the auction, but private individuals can ask dealers to buy on their behalf.

The preview wines to be tasted on February 22 include chardonnay, pinotage, cabernet sauvignon and noble late harvest. Red wines from Nederburg include the Petit Verdot Reserve 1999 - the second Petit Verdot from Nederburg to be on the auction - and the Nederburg Pinotage Private Bin R172 1999. Petit Verdot is a grape that originated in Bordeaux and is now grown at the Cape in small quantities. It is used mainly in blending, and this single cultivar Nederburg is a rarity.

Another unusual wine is the Plaisir de Merle Cabernet Franc Cellar Master’s Release 2003. Cabernet franc is used mainly in the classic Bordeaux blend red wines. It accounts for only about 1 percent of the Cape’s vineyards.

Other wines at the pre-auction tasting include a 2000 shiraz from Sentinel Vineyards of Stellenbosch, who will be taking part for the first time; Boschendal Shiraz 1999; and Graham Beck’s The Ridge Syrah 2000 from the Robertson area (syrah being another name for shiraz).

Whites to be tasted include the Nederburg Auction Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon D252 2003; the Nederburg Auction Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc D234 2003; and the Nederburg Private Bin Chardonnay D270 2003. The award-winning Jordan Winery will present its Nine Yards Chardonnay 2002, a five-star wine from a 15-year-old vineyard.

The “stickies” - delicious sweet dessert wines - include Nederburg Edelkeur 2002 (chenin blanc noble late harvest) and Eminence 2003 (muscadel noble late harvest).

Tickets for this tasting cost R75 per person. This includes sparkling wine on arrival and light snacks afterwards. Bookings can be made through Computicket.

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Some of the issues that perennially confront winemakers are touched on by Nederburg’s cellarmaster, Romanian-born Razvan Macici, in a recent newsletter. The Western Cape has had two dry winters, which has affected grape production. Nederburg, which draws its grapes from a wide variety of sources as well as its own vineyards, has been in a sound position because some of the farms were less affected by the drought than others.

The cellarmaster expects a smaller than usual harvest. This year’s harvesting started a week earlier than usual. Apart from pinot noir and chardonnay for sparkling wines, always picked early, the first grapes to come in were pinotage, and the grapes, from Simondium and Darling, were of good quality.

Suppliers to Nederburg have also picked substantial quantities of sauvignon blanc grapes. Razvan Macici comments: “Sauvignon blanc is extremely sensitive to water stress, and if you leave the fruit to ripen too long the berries, instead of accumulating flavour, shrivel and actually use flavour”.




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