What I Drank Last Night
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Merwida White Muscadel 2010

Pristine.

Yesterday a tasting of eleven examples of Muscadel. The line-up included the nine top performing wines from the 2011 Muscadel Awards as run by producer association Muskadel SA as well as two wines from Robertson cellar Rietvallei, these being the 2010 vintage of standard release Red Muscadel and the 2008 vintage of the reserve RedMuscadel 1908 (from a vineyard planted in 1908 and hence the name). Rietvallei has historically performed well at the competition but chose not to enter this year.

I reviewed the wines James Pietersen, regular taster for Platter’s and beverage manager for Belthatzar and Balducci’s restaurants at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Using Riedel Restaurant Series stemware, we tasted blind with scoring done according to the 20-point system and here’s how the wines ranked (individual taster’s score below each wine):

1. Merwida White 2010
Luminous yellow with a green tinge. Intense Muscat aromas on the nose. The palate shows excellent purity of fruit and zippy acidity. Elegant and complex.
CE 18.5 JP 18

2. Rooiberg Red 2009
Dark red. Complex nose showing Muscat fragrance, red fruit and some toffee. The palate is very concentrated without sacrificing freshness. Intensely flavoured with plenty of red fruit and spice.
CE 18 JP 18

3. Rietvallei Red 2010
Pale red, clear and bright. Complex nose showing strawberry, Turkish Deligh and Muscat fragrance. The palate shows pure, juicy fruit, some spice and fresh acidity. Long, dry finish.
CE 18 JP 16

4.= Nuy Wit 2007
Pale orange. Pleasing development including a hint of caramel on the nose. The palate is thick textured with flavours of milk honey, nuts and spice.
CE 16 JP 17.5

4.= Slanghoek Red 2010
Bright red. Somewhat shy on the nose, while the palate is medium bodied and elegant with layers of subtle flavour (red fruit, fresh herbs, spice). Persistent finish.
CE 17.5 JP 16

6.= Calitzdorp Letter from the Klein Karoo 2010
Dull yellow. Shy nose. Rich and ripe on the palate with a syrupy texture.
CE 15 JP 16.5

6.= Nuy Rooi 2010
Dark red. Shy nose. Big and bold on the palate with plenty of ripe red fruit. Somewhat lacking in verve.
CE 15.5 JP 16

8. Bon Courage White 2010
Dark yellow. Shy nose. The palate shows plenty of sultana sweetness but relatively simple and short.
CE 15 JP 15.5

9. Montagu Red 2010
Deep red. Shy nose and somewhat plain palate with red fruit and raisin flavours.
CE 14.5 JP 15

10. Rietvallei 1908 2008
Dark red, brown tinge. Controversial in that for all its concentration, it shows significant developed character. Displays raisins, spice and nuttiness.
CE 16 JP 13

11. Du Toitskloof Red 2010
Very dark red. Ultra-ripe dark fruit on nose and palate. Lacks freshness.
CE 14 JP 14

A general observation: two superlative wines out of a line-up of 11 shows what a strong category Muscadel is and it would be a tragedy if it were to die out.

Comments

  1. I’ve written a bit more on this subject as an appendix to my recent article on fortified wines in the Mail & Guardian (which expressed great pleasure in muscadel, incidentally, as does Michael Fridjhon in a current Business Day piece – it’s the time of year when people write about these things!). The link to my article and further thoughts is: http://www.grape.co.za/users/tim_james/blog/2011-07-19-just_how_good_jerepigo.html

  2. Christian says:

    Hi Tim, I’m not sure why judging young Muscadel should be substantially more difficult than any other class. Surely the same issues of concentration, balance and length apply? I grant you that complexity is on fully revealed after time in bottle but the same could be said for young Cabernet Sauvignon for instance. The local judging fraternity has no trouble passing judgement on young Port witness the high ratings that the likes of De Krans, Bredell’s and Boplaas have historically received in Platter’s so why not for Muscadel? Part of the problem is that there’s a stigma attached to Muscadel and if it’s not all going to be poured over crushed ice, then somebody needs to make a call as to what’s worth cellaring and what’s not when these wines are released.

  3. Tim James says:

    Gosh. I must say I’m totally surprised at some of these ratings. I don’t think I could conceive of giving a young jerepigo this sort of score – they seem to me to require a minimum of 5 years before they start revealing (in some cases) any complexity and real interest, and it’s difficult to read their potential. I’m very fond of old jerepigo, and agree it’s a national treasure, but the ones of real quality I’ve always found to be few and far between. 18.5 points out of 20? It would be interesting to see what you guys awarded a great young port or madeira then!

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