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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2003-06-13)

Jean Taillefert was a French Huguenot pioneer of the Cape wine industry. In 1691 he bought a farm on the slopes of the Paarl mountain called La Brie, later named Laborie, planted vines and eventually made wines of such good quality that they were compared with “the small wines of Champagne” (in France).

In the modern era Laborie and its wines are still there. The estate is owned by the KWV and it produces about 10 different wines of a high standard. Laborie has now released a 2001 vintage shiraz named Jean Taillefert, and it is a very fine commemoration of the founder of the estate. The winemaker, Gideon Theron, describes it as “the crowning achievement in 300 years of wine production at Laborie”.

The wine, which was matured in 300-litre American oak barrels for 13 months, is a deep, dark colour with strong coffee, chocolate and blackberry aromas and flavours. It comes in a handsome tall black bottle and it packs a punch at 14,69 percent alcohol (most red wines are about 13,5).

Just the thing for a winter evening, but it should be a special occasion. The wine retails at more than R200 bottle; most shops will probably charge about R240. But it is available from Laborie at a cellar price of R185. Total production is 3,500 six-bottle cases.

In pronunciation the French name Jean vaguely resembles the Afrikaans Jan, and my rudimentary French suggests that Taillefert should be pronounced Tye-ee-fair. No doubt it will be “Tallyfurt” in South Africa.

The KWV has won another distinction with its celebrated KWV 10 Year Old Brandy. For the third successive year this has been judged the best potstill brandy in the world at the International Spirits Challenge in London, and it has been awarded a gold medal. This year the competition attracted 220 entries and only six gold medals were awarded.

The Laborie estate is open to the public for tastings and sales. It has a splendid 200-year-old Cape Dutch manor house, a restaurant that features traditional Cape dishes, and attractive picnic sites. Phone 021 8073390. – Michael Green




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