Highlights from RMB WineX

Last month Anonymous Sauces joined an impressively large and diverse crowd at the the RMB WineX show. Here’s our belated review. The wines and producers are still out there, so who cares if this comes a month after the show?

The beauty of WineX is the dizzying range of exhibitors and wines on offer.

There’s an insane amount to pack into a four hour evening of tastings, and it’s hard to know where to start. One has to be selective and strategic in approach.

Still, we – an anonymous French-British-American-South African review team – managed to each taste around 50 wines from 20 or so producers. We suffered for our efforts the following morning, but with a combination of strategic spitting, diligent note-taking and lots of water, we were able to Uber home with enough raw material and our memories of the evening sufficiently intact for this review.

Standouts of the night included Bouchard Finlayson’s reliably excellent and well balanced Galpin Peak Pinot Noir. As far as we are concerned, the 2016 again roundly confirms the producer’s position in the Ivy League of wineries that dare take on the heartbreak grape.

We preferred Bouchard Finlayson’s Pinot rendition to that of another much vaunted producer, Hamilton Russel, though it was the latter’s 2017 vintage that was sampled – lighter, less rounded and less intriguing than the Galpin Peak. Another year in bottle might have made all the difference, who knows.

Wineries like these, together with the likes of Chrystallum, Creation, Lothian, Oak Valley, Storm and Paul Cluwer with its Seven Flags range, are elevating the varietal to new heights and placing Hemel to Aarde and Elgin squarely on the list of top international Pinot Noir regions.

The Hannibal, Bouchard Finalyson’s seemingly incongruous but exceptionally tasty red blend (Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, Mourvédre, Shiraz, and Barbera, if memory serves) was also a highlight, as was Reyneke’s full-bodied and supremely decadent Reserve Red. At about R285 and R445 respectively, these wines don’t come cheap (especially not on journalist salaries) but they’d be hard to beat as companions for a special occasion.

The Meerlust Rubicon 2015 largely lived up to the hype that’s surrounded that particular vintage (unfortunately it couldn’t be tasted alongside the same vintage of the Paul Sauer). As for whites, Spier’s 21 Gables Chenin, with its incredibly alluring bouquet and never-ending finish, would seem deserving of its recent  International Wine and Spirit Competition’s 2018 Chenin Blanc Trophy.

WineX tends tends to feature more commercially accessible fare, which can entail a lot of plonk, but it must be said that we didn’t suffer many disappointing tastings. We’ve put this down to both the overall rising quality of SA wine and our own carefully targeted list of wineries.

Nevertheless, there are always a few duds at any wine show. We won’t dwell on them, save to say that the handful of imported at WineX – French, Italian and Spanish – largely failed to stand up to comparable local wines, but it was a nice touch to have distributors of foreign wine there.

It certainly makes one appreciate the quality of our home-grown tipple, and the vertical flights at the “Unlocking the Ages” tables gave an interesting sense of what time does to some of our wines.

The night was capped off with a visit to the Paserene table, where winemaker Martin Smith regaled two by now heavily inebriated anonymous sauces with his wine and his wine-making philosophy.

The Franschoek winery gets its name from the Latin word Passeriformes, the order of perching birds that includes swallows – a recurring motif in the wine’s beautifully designed labels that symbolises Martin’s wanderlust, his migration to the world of American wine-making, and his return to South Africa. His time spent in the States is evident in the strong new world inflection that runs through his wines.

Had we known better we would not have waited until our tongues were numb from hours of tannins and alcohol before visiting the Paserene table. As always, plan carefully for wine shows!


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