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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2004-02-21)

Two large groups of enthusiastic wine lovers and liquor merchants were taken through splendid tastings in Durban recently of a selection of wines to be offered at the 30th annual Nederburg Auction at Paarl on April 2 and 3.

Sixteen wines were presented for tasting, a formidable number, and at the end there were some signs of palate fatigue among the tasters. There was also clear evidence of what wine consultant Dave Hughes, who conducted the tastings, calls Hughes’s Law of Volume: the greater the volume of wine consumed, the greater the volume of noise.

Nobody worried too much about this. The noise was generated by a total enjoyment of the wines tasted: five whites, nine reds and two “stickies”, sweet dessert wines. With such an embarrassment of riches it was difficult to pick favourites, but here, for what it’s worth, is my list of extra-special items. The prices I quote are the auction reserve price per bottle (wines are sold in 12-bottle and six-bottle cases), and it is probable that the prices realised will be much higher.

Plaisir de Merle Shiraz 1998. Described by the auctioneer, Patrick Grubb, in his tasting notes as having a nice smoky nose with intense ripe berry flavours. Outstanding. Reserve price R100 a bottle.

Nederburg Private Bin Auction Cabernet Sauvignon R163 (the R stands for red) 1997. Described by Patrick Grubb as having flavours of China tea and raisins. I’d rather have this than China tea any day. Reserve price R60, will probably go for double that.

Nederburg Private Bin Auction Pinotage R172 1998. Strong plummy flavours. Dave Hughes says this wine has been mistaken for wine from Burgundy. Excellent, and a far cry from the days when pinotage smelled and tasted of nail polish. R45.

Hartenberg Merlot 1997. A host of scents and tastes: pine, cherry, mint, gum, eucalyptus. R67.

Nederburg Auction Reserve Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon Private Bin D252 2002. This is the only white blended wine on the auction. I found it delicious, with the rather bland semillon cultivar toning down the aggressive and pungent sauvignon blanc. R34

Nederburg Edelkeur 2001. The sweet wine that has for 30 years been the icon of the Nederburg Auction. Patrick Grubb finds in it honey, tobacco, litchji, melon. R59 a half-bottle.

A record 102 cellars will be participating in this year’s auction and 9,290 cases of 178 wines will be on offer. The Nederburg cellar itself is providing 950 of those cases.

Only licensed liquor dealers may bid at the auction. If you are interested in buying, consult your wine merchant. – Michael Green




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