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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2003-03-1)

The greatest attraction of wine, as distinct from other drinks, is its enormous variety of tastes and flavours and aromas. These subtleties fascinate the experts, who sometimes seem intent on inventing new identifications and similes. Nevertheless¸ the most unpretentious drinker can recognise that a wine may taste of, say, cherries or lemons.

Wines to be placed on the 2003 Nederburg Auction were recently presented for tasting in Durban by Bennie Howard, the auction manager, and Dave Hughes, the wine consultant who has been involved with the auction for the past 28 years. The tasters were given the comments of Patrick Grubb on the 175 items on the auction. Patrick Grubb, from Britain, has conducted every auction since the first in 1975 and is an internationally known wine authority. Here are some of the words he uses to describe the smells and tastes of the wines:

Toffee, raisins, bay leaf, citrus, honey, violets, apricots, coconut, melons, grapefruit, mulberries, biscuit, chocolate, blackberry, thyme, redcurrant, tobacco, plum, marmalade, tar, peaches, caramel, litchi, strawberry, wallflowers, nectarine, mango.

Now I suppose it’s easy to smile disbelievingly at some of the more exotic descriptions but the fact is that the wines discussed do have those flavours and aromas. When you drink a glass by yourself you probably wouldn’t notice the characteristics but when they are pointed out to you, you see them clearly enough.

That is the service that the dogged and dedicated connoisseur provides for ordinary mortals. In Durban Dave Hughes and Bennie Howard presented 15 of the wines entered by 96 participants in this year’s auction, to be held at Paarl on April 11 and 12. These are the cream of the South African crop, wines which Dave Hughes says he would be proud to offer anywhere in the world. Here are some of them:

Pongracz MCC 1002. One of South Africa’s favourite champagne-style wines. This vintage comes in a huge three-litre bottle, reserve price at the auction R380 a bottle. Pale straw colour, fine bubble, fruity, biscuity character, and not too heavy at 11,5 percent alcohol.

Nederburg Reserve Chenin Blanc 2002. A lovely fragrant, fruity wine. Typical of the chenin revival in South Africa in recent years. Reserve price: R40 a bottle.

Nederburg Auction Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2001. Quite an aggressive, full-flavoured, big wine (14,3 percent alcohol). Patrick Grubb says: “Excellent attack of grass and gooseberry”. Reserve price R32 a bottle.

Uiterwyk Top-of-the-Hill Pinotage 1997. Pinotage wine was first developed in South Africa and is now grown in New Zealand and California as well. This one is something special, with great depth of flavour and a long, lingering aftertaste. Reserve: R200 a bottle.

Nederburg Eminence 2001. A sweet wine with a lovely Muscat grape and honey aroma. It seems to be much more potent than it actually is (only 11 percent alcohol). I could drink this all day long. Reserve: R48 a half-bottle.

The reserve prices quoted are almost certain to be exceeded at the auction, and to the prices paid must be added the retailer’s costs and profit. Only licensed liquor dealers may bid. The biggest buyers at last year’s auction were Spar, Makro and Pick ‘n Pay. If you want to buy an auction wine these shops should have a selection, or else speak in advance to your liquor dealer. – Michael Green




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