Friday, 11 May 2012

A delicious South African red wine

For a number of years before his job as a travelling wine buyer and rep began to take him around the world, Richard Kelley MW was a member of the Nottingham Wine Circle. Indeed, Richard is still an occasional visitor, having presented tastings in recent years of wines from the Loire Valley, Jura and - most recently - his beloved South Africa. Richard was in town recently on a flying visit, and although he was unable to join us in the evening, he was keen to drop a bottle off at the venue, to see what his old friends thought. Richard's alter ego is Rick, the Cape Crusader - a.k.a "The Liberator". In Richard's (or Rick's) own words....

"Beyond the periphery of South Africa’s conventional vineyard regions lie great vinous treasures, resigned to anonymity; forgotten, abandoned or just simply undiscovered. It is the mission of Rick, our intrepid Cape Crusader, to seek out and liberate these rare wines, consigning them to the table of the most inquisitive and discerning imbiber. Each episode represents a single discovery; a precious parcel that is both unique and finite."

On arrival at the venue, I collected the bottle from behind the bar, put a sock over it (we are into the "bottle blind" season, and a sock works as well as anything else to conceal a wine's identity) and passed it around, as if it were my own. Various guesses were offered (mostly southern France, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre - they know me too well) before we eventually got there - at least broadly speaking! By way of revealing the wine's true identity, I read them Richard's amusing little introduction to the wine (again, courtesy of The Liberator website).....

"It was five in the afternoon and I find myself rushing up the Helshoogte Pass, late for my 16h30 meeting with Miles. Nothing changes. In the winery all is quiet; the cellar hands have left for the day. There is no sign of the world’s most handsome winemaker (that’s Mrs Rick’s observation incidentally, not mine) and after another aborted call to his cell phone, I set about busying myself amongst the barrels. Pipette in hand, I stumble across a few rogue barriques of Mourvèdre which I am to find out later come from an experimental planting on the farm. The phone rings and it’s our elusive winemaker on the line. Evasive and somewhat apologetic, he admits to forgetting our appointment; something to do with the surf being up on the West Coast… Feeling somewhat gatvol, he agrees to curtail his ‘board meeting’ and return to Stellenbosch to conclude our now seriously delayed blending session. By the time he arrives, the assemblage is all but complete on my new Provence-style red; all it needs now is a name…"

I'm pleased to say that it was received particularly well by the group as a whole, but here is my own note;

The Liberator Episode 3 - The Bandolier 2009 Stellenbosch
50% Mourvèdre, 50% Syrah. A deep blackberry/blood colour, almost opaque, with a tiny rim. Plenty of Mourvedre characteristics on the nose, in particular beef gravy and new leather, with lashings of exotic spice and a hint of sun-dried tomato (the latter no doubt more of a Syrah trait). Further notes of peppermint, mixed herbs, clarified butter, polished wood and eau de vie make for a wine of considerable complexity and allure - especially at the price level (around £13 retail). The palate offers an attractive mix of old world and new world - intense bramble and plum fruit flavours, with background notes of mint, eucalyptus and red capsicum, all held together by ample acidity and gorgeously ripe tannins. And whilst it might not quite have the tight structure of a classic young Bandol, it is a mightily enjoyable wine in its own right - and beautifully balanced, despite its 15% abv. And by the second night (I took the bottle home to enjoy the last glass) it was even better and still fresh as a daisy, which for me is a sure sign that it will age and evolve for a good few years. I like it a lot, and will definitely be asking Richard for a few cases. Drink now (after a long decant) or over the next 5 to 10 years.


Edwin Wood said...

I shared a bottle of The Liberator 3 last night with friends. We were completely bowled over by it. The 15% is scary to say the least but it didn't show. As you say the wine is beautifully balanced.
We had it with Morroccan spiced food and it was a perfect match.
I thought that the nameing was a bit ambitious; nothing like the structure of a true Bandol even though the ceppage could be Bandol, but a very worthy, fruit driven wine in it's own right.
Edwin Wood
Nantwich, Cheshire

Leon Stolarski said...

Hi Edwin - Thanks for dropping by and for your thoughts on The Bandolier. I agree it is a lovely wine and also tend to concur with you on the name. Perhaps (in terms of style, and in keeping with the super-hero theme) something like The Rhone Ranger would be more apt. But wait a minute..... didn't a certain winemaker in California already coin that phrase some considerable time ago? ;-)

By the way, I didn't realise you lived in Cheshire - no wonder sightings of you at the Wine Circle are rarer than the Loch Ness Monster!


King Bing said...

My detective work leads me to say that this is produced by Miles Mossop at Tokara wines. A great producer, so this should be a bargain.

Leon Stolarski said...

King Bing (my detective work - or memory? - leads me to believe you may be Ben ;-) ) You are correct - it IS a bargain! :-)

Leon Stolarski said...

Incidentally, it looks like Episode 4 will also be "liberated" from Tokara, too. A Sauvignon-Semillon blend.........

King Bing said...

Your memory serves you well, Leon. It is me! I look forward to to tasting the new Liberator.