Is there no end to the phenomenon that is The Chocolate Block, the multi-regional red blend from acclaimed Franschhoek winery Boekenhoutskloof? The current-release 2010 vintage sees production exceed 1 000 barrels for the first time, 1 035 to be precise, and a staggering increase from the 15 barrels which were made of the maiden 2002 vintage.
Convert current production into bottles and you get over 300 000 [previously stated as three million and now corrected - see comments below]. Trade price is R129 a bottle so this brand is responsible for something like R40 million in turnover for Boekenhoutskloof. Who says there’s no money in wine?
As Chocolate Block’s success has grown, so have its detractors in the wine industry. Too commercially oriented to be considered truly fine wine is the essential argument. This is curious given that South Africa that still struggles for very many champions at meaningful price points.
Chocolate Block is ultimately a wine beyond geek scrutiny. The name is suggestive of a punter-friendly taste profile but there are many wines with a far more exaggerated chocolate-like character. The packaging, meanwhile, is tasteful but rather neutral further allowing it to be all things to all people.
And after a close assessment of the 2010, I would argue that you have to be particularly bloody-minded not to like it even just a little bit. A blend of 72% Syrah, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Grenache noir, 6% Cinsault and 2% Viognier, it was matured for 18 months in second- and third-fill barrels. The nose shows floral perfume, a hint of fynbos and some not unpleasant reduction. On the palate, there’s pure, concentrated red and black fruit, fresh acidity and smooth tannins. The wine is instantly accessible but still sophisticated. In a word, critic proof. Score: 16/20.