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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #137 (article first published : 2005-08-30)

A recent blind tasting at my home of cabernet sauvignon wines produced a surprise result, with a dark horse romping home on the score-sheet ahead of some well-known favourites.

I provided our private tasting group with seven cabernets, most of them quite old; the vintages ranted from 1995 to 2003. It is a fairly widespread misconception that red wines just get better and better with age. That’s not necessarily true. These days many high quality Cape reds are made for relatively early drinking and short-term maturation. Even those that continue to develop in the bottle seldom improve for more than eight to ten years, and then only in good cellar conditions: a cool, well-ventilated place with an even temperature. Two of the wines I served, while certainly drinkable, had equally certainly seen better days.

Against some hot competition top marks went to the Manley cabernet sauvignon of 2003, from the Manley Private Cellar at Tulbagh, about which I wrote in this column three months ago. The cellar was established only three years ago and it is not yet a familiar name on the Cape wine scene. The cabernet is very dark in colour, with blackcurrant, marzipan, herbal flavours, and it greatly impressed all our tasters, one of whom described it as “lovely and chewy”. This wine retails at about R85 a bottle, and it was comfortably ahead of the others in the tasters’ scoring.

Second place went to the Plaisir de Merle cabernet of 2002. Plaisir de Merle, at Simondium, between Paarl and Franschhoek, is one of the most beautiful farms in the Western Cape. Owned by the liquor giant Distell, it has been producing excellent wines for the past eleven years. This cabernet is dark, elegant, fruity, distinguished, and it retails at about R78 a bottle.

Among the other wines tasted were quite a venerable Nederburg Paarl Cabernet Sauvignon, 1998 vintage, holding up well after seven years in the bottle, and the 1999 vintage of the Rust en Vrede cabernet, from a farm at Stellenbosch that was established in 1694.

Both these wines scored well. The price of the 2002 vintage of the Nederburg, now on sale in the bottle stores, is about R40, good value. The Rust en Vrede now available in the stores is the 2001 vintage, and it is priced at about R120 a bottle.

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The charity wine sale at this year’s Nederburg Auction raised R187,000 for the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa. This brings the total charity amount raised by Nederburg Wines and its buyers over the past 14 years to just over two million rand.

The Nederburg Auction is the main donor to the Hospice organisation’s development fund. There are now 63 hospices in South Africa and the aim is to have one in each of the country’s 170 health districts.

This year eleven items were on offer at the auction’s charity sale. The highest price, R75,000, was paid by the Altia Corporation of Finland for a barrel of pinotage. A 150-year-old bottle of Madeira wine was sold for R30,000 and a 1947 Burgundy for R10,000.

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South African wines continue to win awards in Europe. The Jordan Winery at Stellenbosch has won a gold medal, two silvers and two bronzes at this year’s International Wine and Spirit Competition, which attracted more than 5,000 entries from over 50 countries.

Jordan’s gold medal was won by the 2002 vintage of its Cobblers Hill red wine, a blend of cabernet sauvignon (85 percent) and merlot.

Nederburg’s 2002 Eminence, a noble late harvest wine, has won a gold medal in the French-based Muscats du Monde competition. This event covers a broad spectrum of red and white Muscat wines, from dry to sweet. Muscat is usually called Muscadel in South Africa. The Nederburg Eminence is made from the Muscant de Frontignan grape.




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