Bringing a Kanon to a Knife Fight

Neil Pendock August 17, 2013 0

What a surfeit of spectators for Stellenbosch. First there was wall-to-wall coverage in the US Wine Spectator with the Bosch hailed as the culinary capital of the Winelands, much to the chagrin of Franschhoek. Now the top-end gets hailed in the British Spectator, a totally more credible organ. Even if it does sometimes come across as the in-house newsletter of the ruling Conservative Party.

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Turns out the Speccie’s wine columnist Bruce Anderson was responsible – along with “André du Toit, Willie Esterhuyse and their friend Wimpie de Klerk” – for the sea change of thinking among the Afrikaner elite who live and think deep thoughts in Oak City. Deep thoughts often well lubricated with Kanonkop reds.

While deciding the future of South Africa, we often drank the wines of Kanonkop, a distinguished Stellenbosch domain. It produces excellent cabernet sauvignon but also pinotage, a South African cross between pinot noir and cinsault. One evening in Jo’burg, giving dinner to Bill Deedes. I ordered some South African wines, including a seriously old and excellent pinotage, imagining that he would enjoy the fruits of my recent expertise. A couple of nights later, I was dis-abused. A return match, and it became clear that the Deedes palate was firmly grain-based. Wine was something you drank with food, to cover the interval between gin and scotch.

Over the weekend, I renewed my acquaintance with Kanonkop. We had the Pinotage Black Label 2010, far too young but full of power and promise. The same was true of a Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, which I would have taken for a wine from the Médoc. It needs at least another couple of years.

My friends had suffered a flood in their cellar, which destroyed a lot of labels. We had a pinotage and a Paul Sauer — predominantly cab. sauv, but with some merlot and cabernet franc — both from the mid-1990s, both superb. Because of the weak rand, Kanonkop is excellent value. Look out for its wines, especially with some bottle age.”

Kanonkop sells oceans of wine through Checkers – largest retailer in Africa whose CEO Whitey Basson lives in town – and with such a five star recommendation from Bruce, must enter next month’s Battle of die Berge taste tourney with the Helderberg, as something of a favourite. For bringing a canon to a knife fight, is even better than a gun. With no entry fee to producers, this newbie tourney is anything but yet another money-making scam like the one which tasted in town this week. Organized into terroir camps, it is a million miles away from the bulk wine export frenzy supported by WOSA from their palatial offices in Dorp Street. As far away in fact as Bruce is from James Molesworth in the wine writing Pantheon.

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