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.