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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 : 2002-03-15)

Blended wines, in which different grape varieties are combined to make a harmonious whole, are popular all over the world, sometimes for reasons of economy as well as quality. In the Cape, cabernet sauvignon is often blended with sympathetic and less expensive partners to produce good quality red wines at reasonable prices.

Cost is, of course, not always the factor. Many of the most famous and elite wines of Europe are blends. The classic case is the Bordeaux blend --- cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc --- which originated in France and is emulated in many parts of the world.

At a recent blind tasting at my home I offered eight blended Cape reds ranging in vintage from 1984 to 1999. The blends were various combinations, and in the end top marks went, perhaps predictably, to the 1999 vintage of Roodeberg, which has been an export stalwart of the KWV cellar at Paarl for half a century. Every year the KWV produces 100 000 cases of this wine, a blend of cabernet, merlot, pinotage and ruby cabernet. It is a wonderfully full-flavoured, savoury wine, quite high alcohol at 13,5 percent, and the tasters enjoyed it greatly.

Two expensive Bordeaux blends (cabernet, merlot and cabernet franc) scored high marks: the celebrated Meerlust Rubicon from Stellenbosch (1987 vintage, still standing up well) and the 1991 Vriesenhof Kallista, made at Stellenbosch by rugby personality Boland Coetzee. I don’t know what these vintages would cost if they were available at the bottle stores, but the current Meerlust Rubicon goes at about R100 a bottle.

Of more interest, perhaps, to the ordinary reader is the performance of the 1999 Adelberg, a “budget Bordeaux” from the Malan family of the Simonsig estate at Stellenbosch. This blend of cabernet and merlot is lightly oaked, quite spicy and has a touch of sweetness on the palate,. Our tasters placed it second in their scoring. It retails at about R25 a bottle, a very reasonable price for such a good wine.

The best known of all Cape blended reds is Chateau Libertas, which has been on the market for 70 years. I have had good results from several old vintages of this wine. On this occasion I served the 1984, and it was still in good shape after nearly 20 years. The blend for Chateau Libertas, a medium-bodied, lightly wooded wine with berry and cherry flavours, changes from time to time. In 1984 it was cabernet sauvignon (60 percent), pinotage and cinsaut. At present it is cabernet, cinsaut, merlot and shiraz. At about R20 a bottle for the current vintage, this is one of the best buys available. – Michael Green




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