Winter Warmers

Some advice to Financial Mail readers last week:

One of the many lessons from the Wall Street crash of 1929 is that when you start getting tips from hotel bell-hops, it’s time to get out of the market. SA consumers are being bombarded with advice to buy 2009 vintage Bordeaux. The Weekend Financial Times (Jancis Robinson), the Sunday Times (Jim Jones) and an e-mail from Roland Peens (Wine Cellar in Observatory) were three such tips received during the first weekend of July. Although all three pundits visit the classiest hotels as guests rather than luggage luggers, alarm bells ring when prices quoted are north of €1000 per bottle.

2009 is being talked up as the best vintage ever in Bordeaux, as the world’s most influential wine critic, Robert Parker, threatens to dish out no fewer than 22 100-point scores. Of course these Bordeaux tips are all made on the basis of barrel samples. The wines themselves will only be available in 2012 and will only peak two decades hence. A lot of sub-prime mortgages can be written in the interim.

Canny investors and the thirsty might want to look closer to home at 2009 SA reds which are starting to emerge from barrel onto supermarket shelves. One of the first out of the starting blocks is the Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2009 made by Peter Finlayson for glamorous Vicki Tolman whose family owns the Hemel en Aarde property. Finlayson floats the theory that great, as opposed to merely good, Pinot occurs in four year cycles and his towering 2005, 2001 and 1997s make the point most eloquently.

Intensity of fruit and balance are the hallmarks of the current release, which at R225 a bottle is just under ten times the price of the Two Oceans Pinot Noir 2009 made from West Coast grapes grown on the farm with the most un-Burgundian name of Papkuilsfontein.

vt Winter Warmers

Vicki Tolman

The previous vintage was house wine at Château Pendock, especially after being mistaken for Premier Cru Burgundy at an Orde Mondial tasting arranged by the Chaine des Rotisseurs earlier this year. Two Oceans is the new wildly successful brand from Distell and in addition to the Pinot, there is a more than passable Shiraz 2009 and Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2009 blend that all triumphed at a recent blind tasting against international competition (in the shape of the notorious Australian Yellow Tail Shiraz and Chilean Casillero del Diablo Cabernet from Concha y Torro).

Tasters included Tinus van Niekerk, who wrote the benchmark SA wine tasting guide back in 1981, and cosmopolitan Irish foodie Clare Mack whose blog www.spill.co.za is shaking up Cape Town foodies worse than a force ten southeaster. Two Oceans reds may be found in most supermarkets at around R25 a bottle. There are six wines in the range: three reds, two whites and a rosé and the wholesale price for each is identical, so any variation is retailers cashing in on the expectation of punters to pay more for reds than whites.

As young reds can often benefit from decanting, invest in an antique crystal decanter and serve blind. For as Michael Broadbent, the most distinguished UK man of wine until tarnished by his involvement with German fraudster Hardy Rodenstock, who had a nice little earner in fake Thomas Jefferson 18th century Bordeaux grown in 1963, commented, “Even the least impressionable and most experienced tasters are biased – unconsciously or otherwise – by the sight of the bottle and label.”

Perhaps the canniest investment of all is Chateau Libertas 2009, scheduled for release in September. It’s no secret that local wine sales are under extreme pressure which means the inventory of stock available to Chateau buyers has never looked this good. Factor in a comet vintage and the result is unbeatable quality under R30. That the first lot on offer at the annual Nederburg Auction is customarily a case of fifty year old Chateau, the agebility of this Cabernet dominated blend is not an issue. It’s also sexy, as Zolani Mahola from Freshlyground told WINE magazine her most memorable experience was breaking a front tooth after a couple of Chateau’s in Camps Bay. Waka Waka, eh eh indeed.

Now that golfing legend Ernie Els and Rust en Vrede’s Jean Engelbrecht have dissolved their winemaking partnership, the golfing wino to watch is Retief Goosen whose 2009 Shiraz called The Gander (R75) is something of a misnomer as this wine is quintessentially feminine thanks to an 8% dash of Viognier. “Metrosexual” is how partner Morné Jonker, the man who planted the vineyards on the other side of the Outeniqua Mountains behind George, describes its sexual orientation. Ideal for yuppies as this refreshing Rhône-style makes a welcome debut to an SA Shiraz scene dominated by coffee/mocha Peacocks from Paarl and Muscle Mary’s from Malmesbury.

On the subject of Paarl peacocks, KWV’s Café Culture 2009 (low R40s) is a real vinous vuvuzela: garish label, Starbucks flavours and incredibly popular at parties.