It was the right weather to focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and we had the right person opening the window to site specific Cabernets from Stellenbosch. Neil Ellis guided tasters on a map from Meerlust to Jordan, Kaapzicht, Kanonkop, Thelema, Neil Ellis, Vriesenhof, Rust & Vrede and Vergelegen. All wines were from the same 2010 vintage.
Ellis explained the maritime influence and the effect of the surrounding Stellenbosch mountains. Wineries make use of the sunlight and plant on slopes exposed to the rays providing optimal ripeness needed with this varietal that ripens later. Meerlust only makes Cabernet Sauvignon when they are satisfied with the quality of the fruit. Despite having a replanting programme Meerlust is privileged to have old vines that are influenced by the Atlantic only three kilometres away. Conversation strayed to the iconic Meerlust Rubicon and the audience shared the memories of older vintages enjoyed! Another property with a fortunate environment of old vines is Kanonkop where shale soils enhance aromatic red varietals. Graffiti was recovered in the Kanonkop cellar stating
, “Pinotage is the juice extracted from women’s tongues and lions’ hearts. After drinking a sufficient quantity, one can talk forever and fight the devil”.
The tasting moved on to Thelema, which despite having a cooler climate than Kanonkop the wines shared the same mouth-feel, yet had different aromatics. Vriesenhof in Paradyskloof and Neil Ellis Wines in the Jonkershoek Valley have Cabernets originating from small and new appellations. Neil Ellis Wines are made from fruit selected from specific sites, vines, bunches and berries. Only the fruit of the best berries are bottled.
Rust & Vrede’s fruit come from a warmer site, are fermented in open tanks and punched down. The result – a great texture. Vergelegen’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 will only be released later this year but the pre-release taste showed elegance often associated with cooler vintages.
Referencing Hermanus FynArts Ellis concluded that the art of wines lies in the blend and the varietal. The quality is nothing but science.