5 Decades of Bordeaux style wines with SA Sommeliers

Yesterday I had the privilege to taste a few aged Bordeaux style wines with the South African Sommeliers Association.  The aim was to see how this style of wine ages, to compare the difference in regional ageing and, well, just to see what these older wines taste like!

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Ageing wine is not an exact science (much like ageing of humans…); there are so many factors that impact on ageability:  Vine age, quality of the grapes at harvest, ph levels, temperature during growing season, oxygenation, wine making technique and storage are just a few.  Interesting fact:  Every 8 degree Celsius increase in temperature initiates a chemical reaction changing some component of the wine.  Those pretty kitchen designs with the slots for wine storage all around the stove will alter your wine to render it unpalatable.

Here are my personal highlights of the tasting:

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1976 Nederburg – text book Cabernet Sauvignon with tea leaf, cigar box, ceder and a hint of herbiness on the nose. The palate delivers all that plus cassis, some red fruit and a beautiful soft tannin that can only come with age.

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1997 Sassicaia – I have tasted younger Sassicaia before and found them very difficult to drink and even understand. Now I know why! The ’97 is gorgeous; tea and tea leaf on the nose that follows on to the palate, abundant red fruit even juicy. Gorgeous.

 

 

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Chateau Canon 1982 – Nose profoundly elegant, some baking spice, cloves, even floral notes. Acidity is high, red fruit and some plums on palate, even plum skin. A wine that gives you goose bumps. This is Right Bank at its best.

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Ridge Monte Bello 1988 – California like I’ve never experienced; dusty nose, some spice and herbal notes. Lovely mouth feel and stalky finish with long length. Red fruit, even apple peel on palate. What an experience!

 

Sadly a few of the wines did not stand the test of time mostly due to incorrect storage through the years.  The Lanzerac 1970 was cork tainted while the 1963 was still drinkable.  The iconic 1966 GS (only 2 vintages ever made by George Spies from Durbanville grapes) was also not at its best.

We also tasted:  Chateau Leoville Barton 2004, Buitenverwachting Christine 1995 and 1998 and Cape Mentelle 1988 (Margaret River).  They were all enjoyable, showing that, when wine is vinified well and stored correctly, they can give pleasure years later.  It was also quite clear that South African wines (and these reds in particular) can age, and age well.

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Bottom line:  Keep your wine in a cool, temperature controlled space.  Do not keep them for ever waiting for that special occasion – opening a bottle of wine IS a special occasion.  You win some, you lose some; when you win, it’s the jackpot – that is the beauty of wine.

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