An Exciting Marlborough and 1960 Vintage Port

Sauvignon Blanc is popular at present in the UK and I understand commands a higher average price than other wines among UK high street consumers. I have a suspicion that it is tropical new world Sauvignon responsible for this rather than Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. I think fans from both camps may well be in for a shock if they wound up with a bottle of this great Sauvignon from Dog Point.

Perhaps not quite so popular among the general public is vintage Port. In part this is due to cost but it is also due to the huge amount of ageing required to tame this most magnificent of wines. At 56 years old this was ready to drink but the idea of waiting 20+ years to touch it would have shocked me even a few years ago. Lay some down

These wines were tasted during my recent visit to The Sampler. These wines didn’t fit anywhere else so I put them together. Check out the main article on my visit to The Sampler.

Dog Point, Section 94, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2012:

This is a really interesting Sauvignon Blanc. This is a serious affair from a small plot, barrel aged with extended less contact yielding a wine of great intensity. This is very different from characteristic lower end Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (primary tropical notes). Strangely all of us tasted this picked up on a strong note of capsicum on both the nose and palate, leading into a spicy finish. This was a savoury and interesting wine and something I will be revisiting by the bottle at some point in the future.

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Crofts Vintage Port, Portugal, 1960:

Boy this was a treat. My experiences with old port are limited but every one only serves to increase my interest. At 56 years old this is showing beautifully. Over Christmas of this year I opened a bottle of Taylor’s 1985 which was gloriously intense, young and fresh. The benefit of the extra 25 years shows itself in this bottle of Crofts.  This throws a strong dark sediment which gradually settled to reveal the pale pink/ruby nectar above.  Great mouthfeel (still full bodied but not thick as in youth), grip from residual tannin and a warming sensation all the way to the stomach from the alcohol. I would struggle to do justice to the flavour but its complex, fruity, silky and delicious.  This is a vintage port in its prime and I would take this over dessert every day.

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Learning Point: Marlborough Sauvignon is really getting interesting but given enough time you cannot beat Port.

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Iona Winery, Elgin, South Africa

When we were recommended Iona it was with the caveat that it was somewhat difficult to find. We happened upon the sign to the winery on the main road and took a chance detour.  After following a dusty dirt road approximately 7 km uphill we arrived at the gates. The winery was empty and the tasting manager was out on other business.  Luckily the accountant was on hand and was kind enough to present the wines free of charge. It is great to see all members of the team engaged in the product and eager to show off the wines.

Production at Iona is not diluted by too many different varieties or cuvees –  they only list 4 wines – and it would appear this allows them to focus.  Compared to other wineries this was a no frills tasting experience.  There is no restaurant, art gallery, delicatessen: the wines are allowed to speak for themselves   Hell, they don’t even need a paved road.

Pride of place in the tasting room goes to a vintage Porsche, owned and renovated by the proprietor.  The car and wines both had a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi‘, the sense of something classic, elegant and refined.  I suspect much is of this is the result of cool climate and high altitude as well as diligent winemaking practice.

I would certainly visit again if in South Africa, and I will certainly be getting hold of some of the wines of Iona here in the UK.  Indeed, based on our pretty small sample, the wines of Elgin include some real gems at very competitive prices. Unfortunately the Chardonnay was out of stock at the time of our visit, although I understand it is also very well regarded.

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Wines Tasted: Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Pinot Noir 2013, One Man Band 2010

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Eagles’ Nest Winery, Constantia

Eagles’ Nest winery lies at the north end of Constantia on the slopes of the Constantiaberg to the south of Table Mountain.  The location of Constantia, a suburb of Cape Town, means access for visitors is straightforward and we traveled to the winery by Uber allowing us both to enjoy the wine.  Being in close proximity to the Atlantic on the west and False Bay to the East, Constantia is blessed with a coastal breeze giving its wines a cooler climate feel than those regions further inland.  I had hoped to make it to the majority of the Constantia wineries, however, due to a last minute excursion to Durbanville I only made it to Eagles’ Nest and Steenberg (link to follow shortly).

The vineyards at Eagles’ Nest were destroyed by fire back in 2000 but have now been replanted with Shiraz (Syrah), Merlot and Viognier in terraces leading up the mountain slopes.  Given that Syrah and Viognier grown together leave me thinking of Cote Rotie in the Northern Rhone I had high expectations for these wines.  Eagles’ Nest is an idyllic spot, with a modern tasting room opening on to the garden of the estate.  If I had more time around Cape Town it is a spot I would certainly return to for lunch and a glass of wine on a sunny afternoon.

Tasting Facilities: Mondays-Sundays from 10:00am – 16:30pm.
Appointments are not required, and tasting is in the gardens of the estate.
The cost of tasting is 50 Rand per person (this is refunded if spending over R500 on wine).

Refreshments: We accompanied our tasting with a superb Antipasto Platter for R165 which was more than enough for 2 to enjoy as a light lunch.  I understand it is also possible to arrange for a picnic in the grounds during the summer months.

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Wines Tasted: Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Viognier 2015, The Little Eagle Rosé 2015, Merlot 2011, Shiraz 2013

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Inflight Wines (Emirates Economy)

Having had the idea to review the inflight wines during the outward journey to South Africa I was hoping to taste the full range during my return trip.  Unfortunately my senses were ruined by a cold so you have been spared reviews of the remaining wines.

sdrWild rock Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, New Zealand, 2014.

Sauvignon blanc, 13% alcohol
Served on Emirates flight to Dubai.

Appearance: Clear pale golden colour.

Nose: Little on the nose; slight grassy note.

Palate: slight tropical notes but feels almost unripe, high attack as expected for Sauvignon Blanc, alcohol unfortunately out of balance, finish had minerality but also an unfavourable synthetic taste (? Due to high alcohol)

I Initially misread Martinborough as Marlborough; the more well renowned name for Sauvignon Blanc!  I can’t comment on other wines from the producer- remember this is the entry level wine and is sold at a low price.

Conclusions: Perhaps the plastic cup I tasted from let this down and appropriate glassware would bring out the positives. Then again perhaps not. This was pretty much as one would expect for the house wine at a chain restaurant. I would be happy for £5 in a supermarket; I have certainly had worse.

Score: 70/100 (DT)