What I Drank Last Night
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Spice Route Malabar 2002

Spice Route Malabar 2002

Spice Route Malabar 2002

Visit the website for Swartland winery Spice Route, and records for flagship red blend Malabar only go back as far as 2003. In fact, 2002 was the maiden vintage and if you want to know anything about it, then a handy reference is Platter’s 2005, which reveals that the wine is a blend of 58% Shiraz, 26% Merlot and 16% Grenache.

This makes it one of South Africa’s first new-wave, ultra-premium red blends (the 2002 launched at R270 a bottle from the tasting room and current-release 2006 goes for R350). What is cool about Malabar and wines like Waterford The Jem and La Motte Hanneli R is that we are starting to see local winemakers trusting their intuition as to what combination of varieties work best in a blend rather than using templates inherited from Europe or blindly adhering to predetermined parameters, as they would have to if attempting to make a so-called “Cape Blend” which the Pinotage Association insists must included between 30% and 70% Pinotage in order to qualify as such.

A stand-out feature of Malabar 2002 is its high alcohol by volume (15% on the back label, 15.4% according to Platter’s) but what struck me about a bottle drunk last night was its remarkable freshness. Eight years on from vintage, it has great flavour intensity and texture but is not at all overdone. Modern South African reds often display power and weight but few retain much poise – Malabar 2002 has both.

Comments

  1. my wife and i opened a bottle last night – for me this is a great wine , it has taste. i am not for austere minerality etc i like my wine to taste nice and malabar does as does its litlle brother chakalaka

  2. My first and last experience of this wine was the 2003 vintage tasted in November 2008. It came highly acclaimed and priced to match. Although it showed an excellent coffee character and dark brooding plummy fruits on the nose and palate it lacked lift and indeed tasted overly extracted, overly ripe and overly alcoholic without purity of fruit (muddy instead of earthy). I thought it might have been bad luck and a bad bottle until I tasted the second bottle offered, no difference there. My expectation had been very anticipatory but sadly my overall experience was one of disappointment. Better vino available for my buck for sure.

  3. Kwispedoor says:

    Ah, helpful: I only have one bottle of that in my cellar and was wondering when to drink it. From a bad vintage and overripe/extracted as it is, I had serious doubts over its longevity, but I remember it as being quite good when released.

    • Christian says:

      Hi Kwispedoor, I agree that on the whole 2002 was a pretty crap vintage but I’ve always thought that Malabar from that year defied the odds. Not sure that subsequent releases have ever matched up to that first effort…

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