It’s a big, rich wine and it’s a bargain. I prefer the latter to the former, but it’s such a deal I thought it worth writing about.
Everybody loves a good bargain. That’s the appeal of flea-markets and second-hand shops. I recently found awesome steam-punk styled salt ‘n pepper grinders for R100. The joy of finding them was almost over-shadowed by the fact they were such a bargain. The same is true of wine. Sometimes a wine that is good, tastes better because you can imagine paying more for it and still being happy. A recent example was the Tobias Red from Bryan MacRobert. It was around R80, but I would have paid R120 for it. I suspect, however, that was it R120 I would have enjoyed it that little bit less.
This makes me a bit of a cheapskate I’ll admit. So it is with glee that I am able to report one of the great local wine bargains of the year.
Writing about wine has its ups and downs. The downs generally consist of a life scarily close to the poverty line, but the bonuses are fantastic lunches. There is nothing like a good lunch. A good lunch is one of life’s sweeter moments. Long lunches, lunches that turn into dinner, lunches that are well oiled by fine wine and food that arrives constantly, punctuated by luxurious cigarettes. I think Aldous Huxley got it right:
A man may be a pessimistic determinist before lunch and an optimistic believer in the will’s freedom after it.
Such was the lunch I was treated to the other day at Haiku in Cape Town by Kleine Zalze wines. They used the occasion to put on a vertical tasting of their Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc.
Kleine Zalze have two main Chenins available locally, the Cellar Selection Chenin Blanc is unwooded, from old vines, and generally offers good value. The Vineyard Selection is barrel fermented and also from old vines. The latter has, thankfully, developed from being a very rich, over the top Chenin into a leaner more polished wine.
We tasted the 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Personally I couldn’t stand the 2005 and 2006. Very big, very rich, lots of botrytis, thick monster Chenins. This style appeals to some, and they can have it, but when the alcohol (somewhere around 15% I reckon) forces its way through your palate like a drunken lout who just won’t leave, and the finish is reminiscent of a shot of hard liquor, it detracts from whatever voluptuous pleasures the wine may offer. Those wines won lots of awards because in their youth, I imagine, they impressed at blind tastings. High residual sugar, ripe flavours and high-alcohol made them stand out. But now they just felt bloated.
Thankfully the 2009, while in a similar sort of style – rich, ripe and oaked – was far more streamlined. It is really drinking well now. There are layers of flavour, apricot, honey, baked apple and pear mingle together with a good acidity that draws the wine out over the palate without it becoming cloying. It’s not a style of Chenin that I find myself normally drawn toward, but this one was seriously good. It was everybody at the tasting’s favourite wine, although I suspect that over time the 2011 will show itself to be the better wine.
I enjoy finding wines in styles that I am not entirely into offer enjoyment. It’s like discovering a new author, style of dressing, or TV show that normally you would give a wide berth, but on closer inspection find that you really enjoy. It makes you feel that you have an open mind. It doesn’t, but it’s a nice feeling.
So what?. A three year old Chenin that is very good. Is this worth a column, or am I just proving that there is no such thing as a free lunch? I wasn’t going to write about the 2009 because I assumed that like the 2007 and 2008 it would be sold out. However it is your and my lucky day, as I am happy to report that the farm still has around 250 cases of the stuff left. The best part, it’s only R65 a bottle.
That’s a bargain to get excited about. If you like oaked Chenin Blanc get a couple of these cases right away. Actually, even if you are ptial in the slightest to oaked white wines you should stock up. The wine is drinking very well now and I honestly can’t think of a wine in this style, this good, anywhere near this price. Also, it matched quite brilliantly with Haiku’s “Asian tapas”.
I’m glad I get to write about a well priced Chenin that has complexity, length, and interest – even if is on the bigger bolshy side of things – after last week writing about the very pedestrian Neetlingshof wine (that is not that much cheaper). So while it’s not an antique, the 2009 Vineyard Selection Chenin from Kleine Zalze is most definitely a bargain.
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