What I Drank Last Night
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Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

“We try for seed ripeness at the lowest possible sugars,” says Kleine Zalze cellarmaster Johan Joubert during a workshop featuring the 2005 to 2010 vintages of both his Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz held yesterday.

Ripeness is everything for Joubert and alcohols by volume for both wines regularly exceed 15%. He’s particularly concerned about making sure the pyrazine count on his Cab are kept low – opening up of the canopy in the vineyard is key here but not too much so. “We want diffuse sunlight around the bunch zone. Too much sun and you get seed ripeness but also a drop in anthocyanins.”

The Cab and the Shiraz are from single sites on the actual Kleine Zalze property and both are highly decorated locally and internationally but my impression was that the Cab was more convincing than the Shiraz. In fact, it is a belief that I hold with increasing conviction that Stellenbosch Cab is not sufficiently celebrated while Stellenbosch Shiraz is pretty dull compared to just about anywhere else in the country. Whereas the former give you depth of flavour and proper structure, the latter are too often fruit bombs with not enough detail…

Juggernaut.

Juggernaut.

Wine of the day was the Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, among the top 10 in my recent Cabernet Sauvignon Report (see here).

Yesterday, it showed red and black berries plus cigar box and some floral fragrance. It’s full but balanced with great fruit purity, fresh acidity and fine tannins. Abv 15.46%, RS 2g/l, TA 6.7g/l and pH 3.73.

Score: 91/100.

Comments

  1. Kwispedoor says:

    Without getting into a stylistic debate (surely this is a legitimate style with a large following and even I like big boy wines if they’re very good – recently, Beeslaar Pinotage 2012 comes to mind), I have the folowing curiosities:

    Are these to be drunk as after dinner sippers (like fortifieds) and tasting samples only or are they fun to actually drink like normal wines? I might sound sarcastic, but I’m not really. I’ve tasted the FR wines often enough and even liked them to a point (they’re generally just a bit too alcoholic for me and I’m getting more of a spoofy than an authentic vibe from them, though they have some very good points too), but I’ve never actually had the opportunity to drink a bottle with a friend or two. At those ripeness levels, any “fresh acidity” (a whopping 6.7 g/l TA in 2009, to try and balance a monstrous 15.46% ABV and a meagre 3.73 pH) must surely also be added.

    I’m also interested in the ABV of the 2010′s. Being such a hot vintage, compared to the super cool 2009 vintage, the alcohol must be pushing 16% or higher, PROVIDED the vintage is allowed to show its character, right?

    • Christian says:

      Hi Kwispedoor, Are they fun to drink as normal wines? On the day, we had them with an excellent Michael Broughton menu featuring shredded lamb belly and gnocchi followed by six-week matured Angus beef – anything lighter and the wines were going to struggle. It didn’t help that it was a bright and sunny day in Stellenbosch (the temperature getting up to 28 deg C by 15h00) – these are wines for when the rain is pouring down and it’s cold outside. Again, the issue of compatibility with food is why I think the Cab works better than the Shiraz – even when super-ripe, the Cab retains a modicum of grip while the Shiraz just offers gobs of fruit. Abv of FR Cab 2010 is 14.71% and of the Shiraz is 15.38%. These were my least favourite wines, lacking shape and freshness: 85/100 for the Cab and 86/100 for the Shiraz. Joubert acknowledges that alcohol levels ideally need to come down and reckons a simple way of addressing the matter is upping yields from 4t/ha to between 6 and 8t/ha. Bring on that day.

  2. Christian says:

    Hi Reenen, It makes an impression. Red and black fruit, some lily-like fragrance and pepper. Sweet, rich and round but not without balance thanks to bright acidity. Really well put together especially given that it was a difficult vintage and I scored it 89/100. But here’s the thing: while Family Reserve Shiraz are always more or less impressive, they’re difficult to love. The 2008 has an abv of 14.94% and a RS of 4.6g/l which leaves it short of refreshment…

  3. Hi Christian. Opening the 2008 FS shiraz later tonigh. What’s your thought on it?

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