Sacred relic unearthed in Stellenbosch restaurant


In the nativity story, wise men arrived from the East bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In SA wine, wise men fly in (Business Class) from the West, bringing insights the locals have foolishly overlooked. When Bob the Late Great Mondavi opened the Nederburg Auction back in 1982, he anointed his host’s Auction Cabernet ’74 as the only southern hemisphere member of his top ten wines of the seventies.

molesworth Sacred relic unearthed in Stellenbosch restaurant

US Wine Spectator magazine’s “lead taster on the wines of SA”, James Molesworth, went one better last year and scored the George Spies (“pronounced speace” according to the Speccie) Cabernet Sauvignon 1966, 95/100, hailing it “a breakthrough” and liquid proof that “the country is capable of producing classic wines” on a March trip to SA.

One disciple of the vine present at the momentous supper held at Stellenbosch’s iconic Wynhuis Restaurant recorded the scene for posterity. “After a mouthful, James had a ‘moment’ and called for a pencil and paper and made furious notes to himself.” And what a rave it duly turned out to be: “at first whiff, it showed tons of dark currant fruit, along with grilled beef, charcoal, hot tar and truffle notes – clearly it was far from dead.

It was even more impressive on the palate, with notes of currant and fig paste, smoke, chestnut, incense, date and brandy-soaked plums. It was fleshy, ripe and powerful, with a great core of sweet fruit. Though slightly grainy in texture, the wine was plenty viscous, with a roasted, overripe character that remained fresh and long on the finish nonetheless.”

This was St. Paul on the road to Damascus: “I’ve reviewed over 2,000 South African wines for the magazine over the years, and I’ve never given one a classic rating (95 points or better on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale).” His only reservation was “it was not tasted blind… and the wine in question is not exactly a new release.”

Further affirmation came when the sacred relic was revealed as doppelganger for Australia’s own genuine icon, Grange, in that the winemaker, the eponymous Mr. Spies, was working for Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery when he made it. “Unfortunately for Spies, and perhaps the industry in general, his bosses told him to stop (much like with Max Schubert at Grange). And unfortunately, unlike Schubert, he listened and stopped after making only one more bottling in ’68. Had he continued, perhaps South Africa’s winemakers would be a step ahead of where they are today.”

Alas, we’ll never know and are unlikely to taste the Molesworth milestone which is now over half a century old and spectacularly contradicts Sandton restaurateur Alan Pick’s contention that “SA reds don’t age.” By anointing a sacred relic as his one and only “SA classic”, Molesworth is promoting vinous voyeurism so beloved of wine anoraks, which reached its apogee when a local magazine breathlessly reproduced the wine list for the 80th birthday party of former Bordeaux chatelaine May de Lencquesaing. In the same vein, George Spies may be a turn-on for Molesworth, but remains a frustrating fantasy for everyone else.