Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A fusion of tastes from South Africa

We attended a South African wine dinner last night hosted by Cape Classics and featuring wines from De Toren among others. South Africa is producing some noteworthy Bordeaux varietal wines and Bon Vivant is always keen on keeping up with regions outside the main focus of Bordeaux, California and Tuscany.

De Toren’s story is of particular interest as they were the first to produce a South African wine to include the five Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. De Toren is in Stellenbosch, close to the Atlantic Ocean, which accounts for, at least in part, the successful growing of Bordeaux varietals. The first vintage of the wine, called Fusion V in a nod to the five grape varietals used in the blend, was 1999 and De Toren is now releasing the 2004 vintage.

An interesting tidbit we learned about the wine at dinner is that the final blend is not created by winemaker Albie Koch and owners Emil and Sonette Den Dulk alone but they are joined by other South African winemakers, sommeliers, and wine drinkers in an effort to come up with a an appealing assemblage of quality wine. And so they have, in Bon Vivant’s opinion. We have enjoyed every vintage we have tasted of this juicy, delicious and well-balanced wine (stay tuned for more extensive notes and grades when www.bonvivantwineguide.com launches.) Another fact we found intriguing is that when the varietals are tasted separately from barrel, the Malbec tends to be a hands-down favorite. Watch your back Argentina! Should we look forward to a varietal Malbec from South Africa in the future? No official word on that.

In a bit of news, De Toren is getting ready to release a “right bank wine” to complement the “left bank” influenced Fusion V, called Z. The wine will have a higher percentage of Merlot and Cabernet Franc and the idea is to make a rounder, fruiter wine with less tannin that is more suited to early drinking. The grapes for Z come from a separate vineyard that features soils more akin to the right bank of Bordeaux. The first vintage is 2004 and we can only hope that De Toren’s efforts pay off. We certainly look forward to raising a glass to their progress.

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