Club 1712

This year is a big one in the Bovlei Valley of Wellington as several of the farms celebrate their tercentenary: James McKenzie’s Nabygelegen and Dennis Kerrison’s Doolhof in particular. The farms were actually laid out in 1707, but it took five years to get them registered. Not much has changed over three centuries.

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Vintage 1712: Dennis and James

Dennis’ big wine is called Minotaur and the man is obviously an Oxbridge PPE as the mythical beast lived in a maze – or doolhof in Dutch. A vertical tasting of three vintages 2007-2009 yesterday confirmed the folly of insisting on a minimum 30% component for a wine to be called a Cape Blend. My favourite was the exquisitely feminine 2007 with 22% Malbec and 9% Pinotage, reminiscent of French movie icon Catherine Deneuve tripping the light fantastic at the Whisky a Go-Go in Cannes with Dennis while the 2009, with 33% Pinotage to qualify for the Cape Blend Club, is aggressively masculine, more gamine, more an urchin than a goddess of elegance.

This is what prescription buys you. Surely the winemaker should be allowed to judge the Pinotage level which applies in her own terroir? Given the freedom to tone down the Pinotage in a harsh vintage?  What works in Stellenbosch does not necessarily translate untinkered with to the Bovlei. Heck the Bovlei Valley has recently declared vinicultural UDI and broken away from Paarl to discover their own identity in their own appellation. What a pity then to pick up the chains of regulation and make a less convincing Pinotage blend with more Pinotage in the mix! Doolhof have already demonstrated their prowess with Pinotage – winning a Decanter Regional Trophy last year for best Pinotage, even if the Thoughts of Chairman Beyers, aka the little red book of the Pinotage Association, gives them the bum’s rush.

And what a difference elevation makes. Near neighbours James and Dennis (they have an offspring of Voortrekker leader Piet Retief separating them) make totally different styles: Dennis is rich, ripe and fruity in the red department. James is austere and tannic with lashings of minerality. Time for a neighbourly blend, methinks.