china daily wine column #36

We continue this week with more about Stellekaya wines from South Africa.

Ntsiki Biyela, the country’s first black woman winemaker who joined Stellekaya in 2004, is especially good with blended wines. Orion, the flagship red discussed last week, is a Bordeaux blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Even though it is rare in China this is a wine worth pursuing.

The nose on the 2006 Orion offers an almost bitumen-like aroma combined with intense flavours of cassis. The tannins are soft and the wine has wondrous length.

This week we consider another 2006 edition, the Cape Cross – an unusual blend of merlot, pinotage and cabernet sauvignon. It is common in Bordeaux in France to blend merlot and cabernet sauvignon, but the addition of pinotage is rare. The pinotage grape grows well in South Africa. It adds body and depth to Bordeaux styles of wine.

The 2006 Cape Cross is serene and stately, with an elegant nose of vanilla and spice, the result of 22 months in new oak. It has good structure and is black cherry in colour.

The flavours cascade like a madrigal on the tongue, offering a range of sensations, and the tannins are soft and slightly chewy. It would match a traditional meat dish like steak or casserole. This is a wine to savour over the next decade but is approachable now.

The 2007 Boschetto is another blend: 40 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 40 per cent merlot, with 10 per cent each of shiraz and sangiovese. It is more rustic than the Cape Cross and would be more suited to simple meat dishes like kebabs.

The third wine received for review was the 2006 cabernet sauvignon. As with most Stellekaya wines it has high alcohol, the result of ripe grapes. The 14.5 per cent of alcohol is obvious from the long “legs” that appear on the glass when the wine is swirled. These “legs” take time to slide down the side of the glass back into the wine, often an indication of high alchohol.

The 2006 cabernet sauvignon has an image of Scorpius, the giant red constellation, on the label. Scorpius is the brightest star in the sky at night.

It would be nice to say that this cabernet sauvignon is a star in the making, but that would be too fanciful. It is best described as a minor chord in the winemaking firmament. It starts powerfully with aromas of strawberry and hints of blackberry, and feels like the kind of wine that would throw a maiden over its shoulder and carry her off.

In the mouth it is sweet initially but slightly harsh tannins lessen its appeal. When matched with strong meat dishes it found its natural partner and suggested a good marriage. Overall the flavours did not linger and the palate fell short.

Prices for Stellekaya wines were not available as we went to press.

* “More on the stellar qualities of Stellekaya blends” in China Daily, 23 April 2011, page 12. Find a link here.

Categories: China, Not home, wine

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