Wednesday Wines – Episode 33

Episode 33 – 11th November 2020

Two South African wines this week with very different stories – one is here and available in 797 stores and the other isn’t, but it will be before too long.  I have stuck to my one over and one under a tenner rule, too!

2020 Bruce Jack, Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa (£7.00, reduced to £6.00 right now, Tesco).

Yes, this is a cheapie and the label certainly looks a little brusque, but I can assure you that Mr Jack is a very smart winemaker and not someone to put his name on anything that would lower his sky-high standards, and so this wine makes a worthy appearance in Wednesday Wines!  Lemon zest and a touch of sherbet give this wine a tingle on the tongue which makes your taste buds stand to attention.  Thereafter the fruit is dynamic and thirst-quenching, as you would expect from a wine whose grapes were hanging on a vine only nine months ago!  If you are looking for a bargain-priced aperitif then this is an awesome candidate and the brightness of fruit employed and touch of lees contact means that wine bores will find much to admire here, while keen gluggers simply sit back and enjoy the white knuckle ride!

2016 Journey’s End, The Griffin Syrah, Stellenbosch, South Africa (approx. £25.00, possibly, hopefully, available from Tanners, Handford Wines, Highbury Vintners, Selfridges and Harrods, sometime in early 2021).

I tasted this wine back in February before the world went mad, and it occurred to me that if I wait any longer to sing its praises it might never happen.  While the pandemic has gripped the wine trade by the short and curlies like never before, South Africa has had a particularly bad time of it with wine sales bans and export embargoes.  I understand that things are looking a little healthier now, but this wine’s rollout has been somewhat stalled.  While it should have rocked up in the summer, as it turns out, it has not yet left the cellar.  This write-up is, therefore, a rather speculative piece about a truly magnificent wine, not least because I have guessed at the price and also the merchants who might eventually stock it when it appears in the New Year!

I am a massive fan of Journey’s End and I have written their wines, up in my various columns, for years.  I tasted wines that were destined to be ‘new’ releases back in Feb with owner Rollo Gabb.   The final wine he pulled out of his rucksack was this beauty and it completely took me by surprise.  Handpicked Syrah grapes, from a fabulous block situated 180m above sea level, are gathered from midday into the afternoon whereupon they are left in the sun for a few hours to warm up before being carefully sorted and placed into a steel tank.  As Rollo succinctly puts it, ‘the tank was gassed with carbon dioxide creating an anaerobic environment and was then closed and left for 10 days to undergo a carbonic fermentation’.  This technique is responsible for deeply perfumed, inky-hued and gorgeously seductive red wines and the resulting brew was pressed off the skins and then aged for 16 months in 20% new American oak and 20% new French oak.   Only 19 barrels were made in total, so this Griffin is, aptly, a rather rare and fantastic beast.

I picked up unique and extraordinary tones here, with liquorice, bouquet garni, prune and blueberry flavours swirling around a cool, breezy, fresh core which lifts the whole and makes it fly.  While this is a profoundly rich wine it is also uncommonly light on its feet making it perfect for drinking now.  What it manages to do like no other Cape creation I can think of is to summon up such amazingly complex while remaining so nimble and refreshing on the palate.   A little like a Griffin, this wine has the heart of a lion and the wings of an eagle and I hope it finds its way, eventually, into your wine collection.