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Sunday, May 22, 2011


Nederburg Auction wines are still a benchmark for quality, and this was demonstrated vividly when our private tasting group met recently at Alf Sudheim’s house.

For the tasting he had assembled seven wines which were sold on last year’s Nederburg Auction and which he had bought through Checkers, the chain store, which offers to buy auction wines on behalf of customers and sells them at auction prices. The three whites and four reds which we tasted were all of outstanding quality, and this was reflected in our scoring at the blind tasting.

Top mark in the entire proceedings went to a white wine, the Bellingham The Maverick Chenin Blanc of 2006, which scored an average of 19 points out of 20. The Bellingham farm at Wellington has been bottling wine for 64 years. The farm is now owned by DGB, a firm that produces many well-known Cape wines.

The quaintly named The Maverick was sold at last year’s auction for R105 a bottle. We thought it was exceptional. The grapes came from vines in the Stellenbosch and Paarl areas, and the wine was matured in French oak barrels for 12 months. It is now a brilliant pale gold colour with hints of green, and it has a subtle bouquet and a big, bold taste of melon, apricot, spice. Some of our tasters felt that it resembled a French sauternes, or maybe the less sweet Californian version of this famous wine.

The other white wines tasted were the Nederburg Private Bin D234 Sauvignon Blanc of 2008, herbaceous with a lingering aftertaste, sold for R76; and the L’Avenir Chenin Blanc 2006 from Stellenbosch, R91, bright yellow colour, with flavours of pineapple, pears and apricots.

The red wines were all from the Nederburg cellar at Paarl, and at the prices paid on auction they offered rather good value. We liked best the Nederburg Private Bin R172 Pinotage of 2001. The grapes came from the Darling/Durbanville area, and the wine was aged in French and American oak for 18 months. It is mellow and rounded, and far removed from the harsh pinotages of long ago. Price: R85.

The other reds tasted were Nederburg R181 Merlot of 2001, berry and coffee flavours (R78); Nederburg R103 Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz of 2003, a 60/40 blend with a dark ruby colour and chocolate and berry flavours (R85); and the 1997 vintage of the same wine, R103 Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz, very dark, blackberry flavours.

The scoring for all seven wines in the tasting was consistently high, ranging from 16 to 19 out of 20. An unusual and most enjoyable tasting.

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On holiday at the Cape recently, I opened a rare bottle of wine given to me by a family member, Elio Pikholz. It was a Groot Constantia Shiraz of the 1970 vintage.

I have not often tried a 41-year-old Cape wine. I removed the cork with great care but it crumbled and I filtered the wine through a coffee filter paper. In the glass the wine was a good colour, a bit brownish at the edges. The bouquet was small, and the taste was slightly musty, but the wine was perfectly drinkable, and my wife and I consumed it with enjoyment and some wonder.

The very first Platter Wine Guide, published in 1980, noted that the 1970 vintage of Groot Constantia Shiraz was lively and well-balanced, and added: “Good for long maturation”.

No truer word ever said. It is, I think, a tribute to local winemakers that they can produce something that lasts as well as this. – Michael Green