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Having fun, writing about the stuff I like

Blending Out

Oscar Foulkes December 6, 2006 Uncategorized No comments

Playing around with a table-full of samples and a measuring cylinder is one of my most enjoyable activities at Cloof. Even when only one grape variety is involved, the components can be diverse:

– wine from different vineyard blocks
– wine made from grapes at varying stages of ripeness
– wine aged in stainless steel
– wine aged in barrel (further diversity comes from the cooper, or from the age of the barrels)

The permutations become more involved when one is working with multiple grape varieties (each of which can have their own variations, as per the list above).

A case in point is the Cloof Bush Vines CPS 2004. As the acronym ‘CPS’ suggests, it’s made up of Cabernet, Pinotage and Shiraz. Within each of these varieties are batches from different vineyards, as well as a large component that was aged in barrel. The end result is an intriguingly interesting wine. No grape variety dominates, the wine has multiple flavour dimensions, and the palate has a firm structure of fruit and oak tannins that makes it a great complement to many foods.

Having now had the opportunity to reflect on the wine (thanks to numerous bottles consumed slowly over the course of several hours each time), I think it’s one of the most interesting South African wines around. In my view it makes a uniquely Cloof expression.

There’s a growing group of UK wine writers that agrees with me.

Writing in Wine & Spirit, Simon Woods described the 2004 Cloof Bush Vines CPS as “excellent” and awarded it a score of 90 out of 100:

“The 2004 CPS is rich and fruity, with an earthy berry and plum intensity, but thanks in part to the French Oak ageing, it also shows a more refined and gentle edge, along with a spicy, velvety finish.”

Leading UK wine writer Tom Cannavan selected the 2004 Cloof Bush Vines CPS as his Wine of the Week, making the following comments:

“Given [its] luxurious recipe [i.e. ageing in French oak] the price is very low, but the wine delivers. The nose is dominated by the Shiraz, giving pepper and spice along with bright cherry and raspberry fruit, and a touch of earthy, vegetal, Pinotage character. On the palate a very soft cloak of cedary oak flavours is layered over ripe, juicy cherry and black berry fruits, with plenty of black pepper and clove-like spice and a robust, earthy tannic structure. There is lovely freshness too, with good acidity and the bright fruit profile persisting. Delightful stuff, and well priced.”

Olly Smith, clearly not drawn to verbosity, just said: “Rocks!”

No comment on this wine would be complete without referring to the role played by Pinotage. Without it (i.e. as a Cabernet/Shiraz blend), CPS would gush with fruit and the tannins would be softer. Pinotage not only gives the wine more structure, but also lends a savoury note to the flavour profile. It’s all part of what makes this an interesting wine. But probably harder to sell to a populist market – this is not a wine that ‘blends in’ with the crowd!

Another point of interest is to compare the cork and screwcap bottlings. The latter is much tighter, while the wine under cork has evolved faster. Its flavours are more expressive and its tannins softer.

While I love the reliability of screwcap (i.e. no corked wine), it’s clear that screwcapped wines need to be well aerated prior to drinking.

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