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2010 De Toren “Fusion V”, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Vintage: 2010
Type: Bordeaux Blend
Country: Stellenbosch — South Africa

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I travelled to South Africa for my first time in August 2013. I prepared a great deal for this trip through a destination management agent (Margot from “7th Sense” in Cape Town) on all details relating to airport transfers, hotels, restaurants, a rental car, safari expeditions, etc., but nothing could prepare me for the roller-coaster ride that is the South African wine industry.

My previous exposure to South African wines was limited: I had tried a couple of bottles of the famous Pinotage varietal over the years in London but that was it. I had not consumed enough South African wine to form a proper opinion. This first (and possibly last trip) to South Africa was a real eye- and palate-opener for me. South African vineyards, unlike those of the Canadian Okanagan region, are in my opinion, focusing on varietals they know work for their terroir and can therefore target oenophiles in foreign markets.

In separate posts, I will discuss my experiences at individual Franschhoek and Stellenbosch vineyards/wine estates.

Here I describe my first red South African wine, which I enjoyed in a group setting at a seafood restaurant based at the V&A Waterfront: the 2010 De Toren “Fusion V”.

Before jumping into the technical review, I would like to say a few things about this red wine. It’s a wine that is masterfully blended using five popular grapes that are grown in France, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot leading the composition. On this basis alone, I knew it had the potential to make our group of international diners very happy. Although I paired this wine with a meal made of langoustines and prawns, it would better suit dishes made from the exotic game of South Africa, such as slow-roasted Springbok shank or grilled Ostrich steak.

Technical Review

Appearance
Clear, deep Ruby.

Nose
Clean and pronounced. Aroma characteristics of ripened black fruits (plums, cherries), with hints of chocolate and something from the woodlands, like pine or mint leaf. A vanilla note comes through, possibly due to the use of new, toasty oak barrels.

Palate
Dry-medium sweetness, high acidity, with smoothened tannins. Medium-bodied with long finish. Flavour characteristics are similar to its aromas.

Conclusion
Excellent and worthy of a high price (>£15.99 per bottle); drink now, with the potential for ageing. This Bordeaux-inspired blend will drink superbly in 10 years. Resist the urge to open it because I am sure it will be worth the wait.

2010 Pinot Gris by Domaines Schlumberger, Les Princes Abbés, Alsace, France

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Vintage: 2010
Type: White (100% Pinot Gris)
Country: France–Alsace

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This is the only bottle of wine that I ordered during a business trip-turned-chaotic situation on the East Coast of the USA in early-January 2014.

In the middle of a terrible snow storm (or “polar vortex” as Americans started to call it), a reciprocal visit was arranged for me to the Cornell Club in New York City and I was fortunate to secure two seats at a Members’ “Wednesday Lobster Night” dinner. What a treat for me and my husband!

There was ample choice on the Club’s Cayuga Dining Room wine menu, but given that we would each be eating a 2 lb lobster with a variety of starters, we opted for an acidic white wine that might help cut through all of the salt and butter.

We selected the 2010 Pinot Gris by Schlumberger, which, with its elegant, elongated bottle neck and honeyed sips, brought back delightful memories of our driving tour through the Alsace region, also in 2010.

In retrospect, I should have elected to drink this wine on its own on a warm autumn afternoon (perhaps with a selection of soft, continental cheeses on the side), but it does make for a satisfactory accompaniment to a fleshy seafood dish.

(Apologies for the picture that I have uploaded. Photographs were not allowed inside the Cornell Club, so I had to sneak it without a flash.)

Technical Review

Appearance
Clear, pale lemon.

Nose
Clean, light aromas of stewed apple, honey.

Palate

Medium sweetness, medium acidity, low tannin.  Medium-bodied. Similar flavours to the aromas above. Medium length finish.

Conclusion

Good, ready to drink now (not intended for ageing). Could possibly command a medium price (>£12.99).

2010 Pinot Noir by Ranch 32 Monterey County

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Vintage: 2010
Type: Pinot Noir
Country: USA — California — Monterey

2010 Pinot Noir by Ranch 32

I was recently in sunny, warm San Diego, where I was working in a conference hotel during the day and discovering the city at night. January evenings were surprisingly balmy, which allowed me to walk all around the Gaslamp Quarter looking for interesting restaurants and wine bars.

At the intersection of Market Street and 12th Avenue, you will find a new sushi and wine lounge called Infuzon. Open since mid-2012, this restaurant fuses the art of Japanese sushi rolls with the sophisticated (but relaxing!) atmosphere of a wine bar.

The owner of Infuzon recommended Ranch 32’s 2010 Pinot Noir to accompany his abundant selection of sushi rolls. Ranch 32 is considered a “local vineyard.”

NB: my Japanese boss from Austria always insisted that sushi is best accompanied by fruitier red wines … and he is always right.

This wine on its own might be viewed as weak and lacking in character; however, when specifically paired with Japanese sushi and sashimi, I think it really enhances the dining experience. It won’t be overbearing and drown out the subtle flavours of ginger, radish, avocado, etc. that is found in and beside sushi rolls.

Technical Review

Appearance

Clear, medium ruby.

Nose
Clean, medium aromas of sour cherries and non-specified, unripe dark-skinned berries.

Palate
Dry, medium acidity, low tannins, with light body.

Flavour characteristics of sour cherries and some floral hints.

Medium alcohol and medium length.

Conclusion
Good. Drink now; not meant for ageing. High-priced, especially if sourcing from outside the USA.

Tesco’s Finest Douro 2010

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

Vintage: 2010
Type: Red Blend
Country: Portugal–Douro

This is a wine that I sampled at the Tesco Wine Fair held at the Royal Horticultural Halls this past autumn.  I wasn’t considering buying any Portuguese wines to stock the racks at home but after swirling this wine around and around my glass, it grew on me. This is a perfectly acceptable blend of various regional grapes, appropriate to serve with a basic dinner or selection of cheeses. Tesco describes this wine as, “a deep coloured, rich and warming red wine with aromas of violet and black fruits.” I would not disagree but I do recommend swirling small amounts in your glass for a few minutes in order to encourage aeration. After some minutes, taste it. If it is still highly tannic and a bit sour, just give it a bit more exposure to air.

Technical Review

Appearance
Clear, medium Ruby.

Nose
Clean, with aroma characteristics of flowers (violets, in particular) and dark, black fruits.

Palate
Medium acidity. Strong tannins. Medium body.

Conclusion
Good.