Drunk

Old South African Wine at the Wine Cellar

I recently started becoming rather tired of Facebook. Too many farms, quizzes, and silliness; although a good culling of ‘friends’ went a long way to stop all that. But this week my faith was somewhat restored in the service as it allowed me to join in for a tasting I otherwise would of missed.

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And just like that I was off to what was a very interesting tasting. The Wine Cellar holds loads of excellent tastings, check here for details. It looks like they are done for the year, but look at what you missed, you’ll be sick.

Anyway, after fighting through the traffic I arrived at Wine Cellar and was greeted by Roland and a glass of 1978 Nederberg Riesling. Not very complex with toffee – specifically the yellow quality street (thanks Brendan) – being the dominating flavour. Interestingly one can not be sure this was indeed Riesling as certification only started in ‘73. So there was a good chance that this wine, lacking somewhat in acidity, was actually Crouchen Blanc, that lower quality poser, strutting around calling itself Riesling, which is like shopping at Pep, and saying it’s all original Dior. A Kaapzicht Riesling from the same era (oops didn’t note vintage *slaps hand*) pretty much confirmed this, as it had better complexity and acidity, also showing more Riesling character. Very impressive.

We then began the tasting in earnest tasting three flights. The first made up of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, the second Pinotage, and the third sweeties.

The wines came from the cellar of the late Mr Fogetty, and may I just take a moment to say thank you sir, thank you for taking care of these wines for so many years, having the foresight to purchase them, and the sense to cellar them properly. I felt almost rude sitting there sipping on wine – all older than myself – while you are no longer around. I salute you Mr. Fogetty. Cheers.

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Overall the wines were very good. Wonderful to still have fruit and acidty in the wines after all this time, I only found one or two to be over the hill. Interesting to hear how the wine from the 60’s and 70’s were produced. To generalise the wines were picked earlier, had lower alcohols, and higher acidities. They used big oak barrels (very little new) and no added tannins. The result seems to be red wines that age incredibly well. I’m not an expert, but I really don’t see many of todays reds going for 30 odd years and being in as good shape as the wines we tasted this week. Especially the over oaked, overripe nonsense we see all too much off.

I find older wines incredibly difficult to describe. I think for two main reasons; firstly they can change quite quickly in the glass, and secondly if good they can become very complex and thus hard to pinpoint. but I’ll give it a go. 

Meerendal Shiraz 1975 On first sniff still some red fruit with some cedar spice  showed a chocolaty richness but restrained. The finish was a tad dry. On the whole it showed well. On the second time round a tobacco/peaty character came through prominently.

Groot Constantia 1973 Shiraz  I was amazed with the fruit on the nose that it started with, bright and red.  On the palate chocolate dominated (like a Diemersfontein Pinotage, only 37 years old, better, wiser and more complex), but not sickly at all. This richness melded into a smoky ham character, and finally showed some honeyed notes. The acidity was still doing its job, and the wine showed good complexity.

Overgauw Cabernet Sauvignon 1974  This was an odd one and had me going back and forth between “oh my fuck!” and “agh, too bad”. But at the end I thought it really good. It had a gritty texture, with a touch of portyness. There was a mintyness behind it all that kind of formed the backdrop for the wine. After a minute in the glass the varietal characteristics started to show well. It had awesome length. My last tasting note reads: “hottest gran ever”. Take from that what you will.

Backsberg Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1974  It started with a very pretty floral nose, with some serious spiciness, the palate showed some marzipan with cedar, and lead pencil. This was the most elegant wine of the flight, light and balanced, but maybe lacking a little in intensity. Not the most complex, but very delicious.

Nederberg Barrel select 1969 (half bottle) This was for me the wine of the flight.  Massively complex nos, that showed, some dark red fruit, some gameyness, a funky forest floor character and smokiness. Most of this followed though to an extremely elegant palate. There was a hint of dark chocolate on the finish which was as long, fine, and wonderfully satisfying.

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Flight. number two was a Pinotage flight with a Chateau Libertas thrown in. After which Roland Peens – not what you would call a Pinotage Champion- said, “I didn’t  expect to enjoy that as much as I did.” And my goodness they were good. I’ve heard in the SA wino circle the brilliance of our older Pinotages, but have not been exposed to many, well only one really, a 1974 Meerendal Pinotage that was very good, but not exemplary.

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Chateau Libertas  1968. I love how the label hasn’t really changed in 42 years. The nose was quite developed with honeycomb notes. Still bright with some pleasant richness on the mid palate. The finish wasn’t great for me, it got all astringent and a little bitter. But good lord, Chateau Libertas has always been what it is, an affordable red blend. 42yrs! Respect.

Zonnebloem Pinotage 1974 Apparently Zonnebloem was the top of the top Pinotages of the day, and with 1974 being a well regarded vintage this promised to be a cracker. My goodness it didn’t disappoint. There was some obvious Pinotage character on the nose, a faint whiff of wild red fruit, with some serious earthy, olive character. Light but with rich texture and a touch of chocolate. So delicious. Only possible criticism was I thought it a tad short. But that’s like  saying Scarlett Johanssen is ugly because she has a broken toenail. 

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The lovely Zonnebloem ‘74, with the equally lovely Tessa peaking out.

Simonsig Pinotage 1974 Another delicious Pinotage, it was delicate, with some cedaryness, but still remarkably primary. With lots of solid fruit. It was quite powerful but well balanced and an interesting aniseed finish. It was a butch wine that danced gracefully in a tutu.

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Lanzerac Pinotage  1966. Not too long ago this wine was sold at a Nederberg auction for R2000 bottle. Stoked that wasn’t me, a little pricey I reckon. It was very rich, but also lightfooted, with some spiciness and a touch of earthy flavours. A very very well made wine. An interesting conversation sprung up around it. One of the attendees said that this is an obvious competition winning wine. Excellently made, but lacking in complexity and, I guess, soul. Still, it was fantastic and had aged very well.

Then it was the sweeties. The flight that had me on my knees thanking the universe for letting me attend this tasting.

Nederburg Edelkeur 1974. First a interesting historical tidbit. The first vintage of the Edelkeur – Nederburg’s top Noble Late Harvest – was in 1969. At that time local legislation made it illegal to produce table wine with a residual sugar level above 20 grams a litre. Thankfully this legislation was changed. But the Edelkeur was made in such small quantities that Nederburg felt that they needed a new method of selling the wine, as if was simply released to the open market a single buyer could purchase the entire vintage. Thus a auction was set up exclusively for the trade. This was the birth of the now famous Nederburg Auction*.

The wine was mind bogglingly good. Taught with flavours of biscuits, nuts, christmas cake and raisins, with a some dried apricot in the background. My mouth was never happier, my tongue immediately forgave me for all the  dodgy places I’ve put it, it was a truly blissful wine.

1953 KWV Muscadel A delicious unctuous wine I felt a bit naughty. So big, spicy and sweet it was pornographic. A crazy wine with liquorice, fruit spice and dried apricot. There was so much sugar in this wine I reckon it will probably outlive me. To personify it would be the ludicrously fat man in a suit, top hat with a cane, that you con only imagine being that large, it suits then.they wear their fat with pride.

1949 KWV Rubi Port This had good Christmas cake spice with some cherry and good grip. Serous shit. Viscous. Delicious.

1948 Monis Vintage Port Also a serious wine, but possibly too rich. Dying for some blue cheese. Spicy with some heat. Terrible notes here, as I was chattting too much. Sorry.

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I feel very privileged to have attended this tasting. I tasted a bit of vinous history, I tasted my best Pinotage yet, I basically had an orgasm sipping on the Edelkeur; so yes, a good night. There are other bottles from Mr. Fogetty’s cellar that will be sold, so keep your eyes on the Wine Cellar website for details.  Buy the sweet wines, you will have lived a better life for tasting them.

*Taken from the Nederburg website which gives a good succinct history of the estate. 

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8 thoughts on “Old South African Wine at the Wine Cellar”

    1. Hi Jason
      Believe it – My father has given me a case of 1974 Groot Contantia Sauvignon Blanc. which he stored and kept in perfect condition. its still in the old sleeves!
      Im interested to sell it on the open market – any suggesions on how to go about it?
      Barry
      barry@nowhiring.co.za

      1. Hi Barry. Woah, a 1974 Sauvignon Blanc. Oldest Sauvignon Blanc I’ve had have been the Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 1986 and Blanc de Blanc 1987.

        I’d be interested to taste these wines, but in theory they should be well past their prime. How much are you looking to sell them for?

  1. Hi All!

    I bought 50 bottles of wine from an old friend, some I know, others I don’t. Who know this wine: de Helderberg De Zoete Roodt.

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