Kanonkop 2008 “Kadette” (Stellenbosch) – I find Kanonkop’s wines quite impressive, especially their pinotage and Paul Sauer blend, but this is the outlier. It’s OK, but really no more than that. Big, big, big fruit, with that strappy, paint/varnish pinotage character – missing from their varietal bottling – on full display, and obliterating any appeal that might otherwise be lent by the other grapes in the blend. It’s not awful or anything, but I don’t really see the point to it, other than a way to slough off lesser product to preserve the quality of the upper-tier bottlings. (5/10)
Kanonkop 1993 Pinotage (Stellenbosch) – Corked. Oddly, this is something no one (including me) realizes the night the wine’s first opened, though it’s apparent on day two, and completely obvious by day three. A shame. (4/09)
Kanonkop 1989 Pinotage (South Africa) – The appellation seems to be as the bottle indicates, though of course under current law this would be from Stellenbosch. The cork is an absolute mess, takes an epic effort to remove in the tiny pieces into which it disintegrates, and by all rights should herald a damaged and prematurely decrepit bottle. But if so, there’s no sign of it in my glass. The wine looks much younger than it is, and tastes so as well, which makes me wonder if pinotage is the South African version of petite sirah…eternally youthful and forever consumed too soon. Quite heavily-fruited still, in the form of a baked fruit compote without distinct elements, though the first stirrings of maturity appear as old, time-burnished furniture and a loamy mushroom quality. Very soft, yet far from unstructured, and seemingly not yet mature by its mouth-filling headiness. Very impressive. (11/08)
Unfortunately, this most lavish of landscapes is also an armed camp. Beyond the usual “armed response” security signs nailed to every home and business, the greatest of the estates seem to bristle with defenses. I have already seen far more razor wire than I care to, which in otherwise beautiful locales is particularly jarring, but here are added fiercely-armed guards that glower at each passerby.
I don’t exaggerate. On the drive towards an interior building at one famous Constantia winery, we cruise down a beautiful vineyard road, admiring the signs designating each block of grapes, while keeping an eye on the quarter-dozen machine-gun-toting, flak-jacketed, paramilitary soldiers that patrol it. It’s a very disconcerting site. On the other hand, I’ve never eaten on a military base before…
Kanonkop 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch) – By reputation and critical response, this is the worst version of this wine that Kanonkop’s made in many years. And yes, it’s a little scratchy and advanced. But I find the minor greenness, touched with a dusting of white pepper, appealing in contrast to modern cabernet’s distorted lushness (not that lushness is something from which this wine regularly suffers), and in fact the wine’s balance is better than its reputation would indicate. I wouldn’t hold it any longer, though, and I think food – something with fat – is essential. (12/08)