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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MICHAEL GREEN'S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2002-10-18)

Blending of wines, the mixing of different wine types, is practised throughout the world. There are various reasons for doing this: to improve the product by balancing different features (for example, merlot is often used to soften the sometimes robust character of cabernet sauvignon); to achieve consistency year after year; to effect economies by combining expensive wine from low-yielding vines with less costly varieties.

Some of the most famous of all wines are blended and producers in the Western Cape have adopted the practice with enthusiasm. There are now more than 400 different blended reds on the market and, of course, a large number of whites. They offer a huge variety of styles and prices, as was demonstrated to our private tasting group when Peter and Annette Hoyer presented us with eight young blended reds. There was nothing more than three years old, and the prices ranged from R19,30 a bottle to R70.

The tasting was, as usual, blind - we were given descriptions of the wines but did not know the order in which they were served - and I suppose it says something for our palates that we all liked best, by a good margin, the most expensive wine. This was the Blaauwklippen Barouche 2000 from a well-known estate in the Stellenbosch area, near Somerset West. Blaauwklippen has, or used to have, some horse-drawn carriages, one being a barouche and another a landau, both names now given to wines made on the estate.

The Barouche 2000 we tasted is a wood-matured blend of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and pinotage, a distinctly superior wine with flavours and aromas of chocolate and plums. Expensive (R70) but a good choice for a special occasion.

Second place in our marking went to another of the more expensive wines, the Vergelegen Mill Race Red 2000. Vergelegen, at Somerset West, is one of the most famous farms in the Cape, established more than 300 years ago by Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel. The picturesquely named Mill Race Red was originally marketed as a lowish-priced wine. It was of consistently high quality, consumer demand was strong and the price, inevitably perhaps, went up. It is now R38 a bottle, not excessive for this classic Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. It is a bright colour and has strong blackberry flavours.

Third place went to yet another fairly expensive wine, one entirely new to me: Du Preez Estate Polla's Red (R38,90). This is a property at Rawsonville, in the Worcester area. I don't know who Polla is but the wine is a powerful and quite spicy blend of shiraz, pinotage, petit verdot and ruby cabernet.

The other wines tasted were the well-known KWV Roodeberg 1999, cabernet, merlot, cabernet franc, pinotage and ruby cabernet (R41,50); Van Loveren River Red 2002, merlot, shiraz and pinotage (R21,50); Lost Horizon Classic Dry Red 1999, ruby cabernet, cabernet sauvignon, merlot (R22,20); Rocksfield Dry Red, merlot, shiraz and pinotage (R20,40); and Simonsvlei Simonsrood, cinsaut, cabernet and ruby cabernet (R19,30). Michael Green




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