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Asara, storms are brewin’ in your eyes

[bottle]Asara 2003 “Noble Late Harvest” (Stellenbosch) – Botrytized chenin blanc. Aromatically beautiful, lush, and creamy, but it falls away on the palate. About halfway to being a truly great dessert wine; as it is, it’s very pleasant but uninspired. (11/08)

Mr. T

Ken Forrester 2005 “T” Noble Late Harvest (Stellenbosch) – From 375 ml, 100% chenin blanc, 115.7 g/l residual sugar, 14.5% alcohol. Holy Mother of God, is this sweet. Pure syrup of botrytized chenin, represented as mixed tropical fruits, dried apricots, and blended sugars and honeys of every sort. Aromatically, hints of a pan-Mediterranean fruitiness and herbality add complexity, and the acidity’s not bad at all, though of course it trembles in, and cannot emerge from, the shadow of this much sugar. Very, very, very long, and not just as a result of stick-and-cling. Intense and frankly fantastic, but in a highly particular style that will definitely not appeal to everyone. I’d love to revisit this in a few decades. Also: not even close to cheap. (2/09)


Ken Forrester 2008 “Petit” Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – While the whitish-yellow fruit here is fairly soft, it’s a good deal heftier and more present than base-level chenins usually are; this would appear to be a signature of Stellenbosch chenin, which picks up weight that it rarely attains elsewhere except in extreme late-harvest conditions. It’s not overweighted, though, and at a good price it’s a quite fair bargain. It doesn’t endure careful attention, but it’s not intended to. (1/09)

On the Vergelegen

[vineyard]Vergelegen 2005 White (Stellenbosch) – 2/3 semillon and 1/3 sauvignon blanc. Ripe, intense, concentrated, and with its eyes firmly focused on white Bordeaux, though I don’t know if it would be easy to conflate the two. Figs, dried straw, and white nectarine, with hints of wood influence and fine acidity. Very powerful, yet balanced, with a slightly leesy texture and a finish of majestic length. Turns creamier as it warms, while retaining its poise. Very, very impressive. (11/08)


Villiera Méthode Cap Classique Brut Rosé “Tradition” (Stellenbosch) – Soft strawberry with a brace of acidity trailing in its wake. Short, though. Dry, clean, and pleasant, but most certainly not special. (11/08)


[barrels]Signal Hill 2005 Syrah (Stellenbosch) – Very confident, with a grainy structure, solid leather, blackberry skins, and a welcome hint of bacon. Balanced, long, and promising, but there’s just a little something missing. Perhaps it’s that the wine’s initial swagger isn’t quite matched by its raw materials, which are a little more timid than the wine’s proud bearing seems to promise. (11/08)

It’s a fair Kanonkop

[vineyard]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)

There’s a Redhill over yonder

[vine]Simonsig 2001 “Redhill” Pinotage (Stellenbosch) – This is one of South Africa’s most decorated pinotages, but I can’t countenance the path it’s taken to get there. Oaky, with chocolate and slight volatility, followed by an intense explosion of synthetic berries. It probably needs even more years than it has already been given, but I just don’t think the balance is there; I believe the wood will always gloss over whatever qualities this wine might have had, and those qualities are already a little too shiny for my taste. In its style it’s well made, I suppose, but I don’t enjoy it very much. (11/08)