Sticky, Sweet and well Aged

I have found lately that as the winter months move on I’ve become quite fond of a glass or two of sweet wine.

Though this could (in part) be attributed to my untrained pallet and sweet tooth, I’m inclined to also mention that I have come to appreciate both the skill it takes to produce such a wine as well as their age ability.

But before I get to the wines, just a note on the matter of age. I am not ashamed to admit that I am new at being a wine editor / writer / enthusiast and that my relatively young age does not afford me much authority as yet.

I too have noticed, as both Christian Eedes and Cathy Marston have noted, that there is quite a big gap in terms of age demographics in the wine journalist landscape. I can easily count on one hand the number of writers under 30 years of age that I have met in this profession. This startling fact also makes me wonder (as Angela Lloyd mentioned) where we will be creating a platform for ‘inexperienced’ writers to get their name out, with print publications no longer being able to survive in the current economy and changing times.

Is blogging and online writing (for wine.co.za) the way of the future for young wine writers? And how important will their role in the industry become if the proposed ban on alcohol advertising takes effect?

I guess only time will tell …

Back to the topic of sweet wines. I have had the privilege in the last two months to taste the following wines (many of which outrank me in age):

The first of the ‘golden oldies’ that I’d like to make mention of is:

1933 KWV White Jeripigo, which was the oldest entry into the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show competition this year where it walked away with the Best Fortified Sweet Wine Trophy (in the Museum Class). I was fortunate enough to taste a sip of this at the Old Mutual Awards Public Tasting in June. Some comments on this was the fact that it was still very fresh for its age and many commented on the coffee colour and nuttiness of the wine.

My second opportunity to try a few sweets was when I went to visit the team at Rietvallei in Robertson. Rietvallei boasts the oldest certified muscadel vineyard in South Africa which was planted in 1908. The quarter hectare block is used to produce the Estate’s flagship 1908 Muscadel wine.

I was fortunate on my visit to be able to do a vertical tasting of the Rietvallei Red Muscadel which included the 1980, 1998 and latest 2010 vintages.

Our comments on the different vintages were:

1980 Rietvallei Red Muscadel – coffee character with some cooked and stewed fruit. This was also (in John Burger’s opinion) the best vintage at Rietvallei.

1998 Rietvallei Red Muscadel – strong cinnamon and caramel characters. The different vintages were all made with vines other than the 1908 block. The age range of the vineyards used was between 30 and 70 years old.

Late in June I was also one of the lucky guests to sample some of Norman McFarlane’s apple crumble with a glass of 1984 L’Ormarins Bukettraube Noble Late Harvest which one can (surprisingly) still purchase in a local wine merchant.

And then lastly my most recent encounter with older sweet wines was at this past Monday’s Nederburg Auction Media tasting at the Nederburg Estate in Paarl. I felt very honoured to have been invited as this was my first time at such an event.

We made our way rather quickly through the white wines before settling into the sweet wines where the stand out for me was most definitely the 1979 vintage Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur. Both the Nederburg Eminence and Edelkeur sweet wines have consistently been produced from the same vineyard blocks. This means that the spores have been given the chance to settle and happily live in the vineyard to help with forming botrytis.

1979 Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur – a note on the 1979 vintage was that many of the sweet wines made in that year lost their colour very early on (which gives me some indication of what to expect from the 1979 De Wetshof Edeloes which I’m saving for a special occasion).

Just in closing, if you have the opportunity to drive through to the Breedekloof Soetes and Soup festival this weekend do pop in at Opstal Estate where they will be conducting a vertical tasting of a few vintages of their Hannepoot.

This article was first published as a blog post on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.

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