Pedigree and Poise

Just to confirm I have no prejudice against producers who choose to launch first in the Mother City before daring the Big Smoke, my comments on John Loubser’s magisterial Magna Carta that appear in this week’s Financial Mail.

jl Pedigree and Poise

A luxury yacht is the ultimate status symbol for conspicuous consumption. And once acquired, the most pressing issue is what to drink as you perch on a bar stool made from whale foreskin like Aristotle Onassis, gazing at pink porpoises playing in the Aegean.

While Graham Beck may have recently sold his Princess Yachts business to luxury goods combine Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey for squillions, he has retained the best part of the cruising experience – sipping Steenberg Magna Carta 2007. This stellar white blend is made on the Constantia Valley property and oldest wine farm in SA Beck bought from Adrian Gardiner back in 2005. If you need to ask the price, don’t bother – you can’t afford it.

It’s not cheap and those looking for an arbitrage opportunity should rather buy bottles of Steenberg Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2007 for R131 and Steenberg Sémillon 2007 for R145 and mix them in the ratio 3:2 to get the idea. Serious shoppers can snap up the Steenberg White Savage 2007 sold at last year’s Cape Winemaker’s Guide Auction at an average price of R350 but changing hands at under R100 according to WINE editor Christian Eedes, the mismark of the season.

But Magna Carta is far more than a mixture of Sauvignon and Sémillon, it’s an idea rather like its medieval namesake that made Kings answerable to the law, an idea worth reintroducing. Scarce – 500 six packs is the total production and being the maiden vintage with a 10-15 drinking lifetime stretched out ahead of it – worth every penny.

Steenberg supremo John Loubser reports it costs Beck R20 000 to grow a ton of grapes – up from R13K after strong winds blew 40% off the buds off the vine.

In addition to the juice, you get a seriously imported bottle, 49mm corkamorimcork Pedigree and Poise
by Amorim Cork
from Amorim and a designer label which perversely makes no mention of Steenberg. You have to turn the bottle around to find out what it is. As Loubser notes “the back label is legally the front label” while the front is just two words: Magna Carta and a vintage declaration in Latin. If you can’t decode it, you’re not educated enough to drink the contents. The box doesn’t give much more away either: three words, one on each face: “seduce”, “dare” and “inspire” which sounds like Paris Hilton was a consultant and she’s not cheap (sic).

The launch of Magna Carta is Steenberg reclaiming old ground. When owned by mining giant JCI before Brett Kebble appeared on the scene, Steenberg had a flagship blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon called Catharina White between 1996 and 2001. The brand bombed, as Loubser notes “it was too early, there was no interest from the public.”

Wine show triumphs of Vergelegen White and Duncan Savage’s unpronounceable Isliedh have breathed fresh life into the white blend argument. Over an extended dinner at Thomas Maxwell Bistro in Parkmore, faced with the wine I got an attack of the S’s “serious, not showy, great structure and sophistication.” If you want to make up your own mind, Balducci’s at the Waterfront sell glass fulls for R250.