Wine Time by Nick DekkerWine Time! my friends! This is my busy time of the year as March is the red wine making month in South Africa. In the first week I get my lot of Merlot grapes and towards the end of the month my second lot of Cabernet sauvignon and Mourvèdre as those cultivars ripen later. The Merlot has finished fermenting but the last lot is still on the go and will have finished next week. This is also the time of the year where my wine supply runs into trouble at times as last year’s harvest has been drunk and the new lot is not quite ready yet. Then the fun starts when I start tasting and drinking the bottles that kind visitors have brought us but we never drink because my wine is much more drinkable than most of these fine looking bottles.

I start by reading the splendid literature and am amazed by the tremendous variety of tastes that these writers discover in these bottles. Chocolate, even tobacco (Havana or lucky strike?) they find, apart from a whole stall of exotic fruit. Rarely do they talk about grapes and I can only come to the conclusion that my tasting organs belong to the most rudimentary kind or… that these scribblers are paid by the amount of undeserved flattery they spout.

Here I have a bottle of Avondale 2001 that I tasted last night as my last year’s supply is running low. The label announces the grape varietals: Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet franc and…Pinotage! This is not a blend, this is wayward mix as if the last drops from different barrels were used. I must admit that I have never liked the taste of shiraz, for me it tastes like oxidized wine but the publicity boys did a good job and many people have been shiraz washed. But… you can’t blend it with Merlot and still less with Cab.s. It’s like mixing tea and coffee or milk and beer. Adding Pinotage to this lot achieves this pot-pourri disaster.

For years I‘ve made Pinotage wine because I couldn’t get any other grapes. It took me a few seasons to learn how to vinify this grape, in the end I made quite pleasant stuff but it remained, well, Pinotage. Maybe you can mix it with shiraz, I’m certainly not going to try.

Anyway, before reading anymore on this label I had a taste. Nose; bitter, first taste; bitter. Overall; not a pleasant drink but 14° of alcohol can hide a lot of misery. Further reading revealed that this poor amalgamation of a badly mixed wine had, on top of all this, been stuffed into new french oak which resulted, according to the label in the agreeable sensation of soft tannins.

Tannins can’t be soft, tannins are harsh chemical substances in which you tan cow-and buffalo hides. The greatest craze in the wine world for the last 50 years has been this ‘new french oak’. An oaken barrel is one of mankind’s finest inventions and has lasted a long time and could only be profitably replaced by stainless steel. When winemakers had only wooden barrels they had to replace them from time to time. New barrels had to be ‘driven in’ and wine was not left in them for a long time until they lost part of their tannin. Originally tannin was a pest but then clever winemakers managed to change the tannin taste into a bouquet after a number of years. Not many wine makers know how to do this, I certainly don’t but if ever you do get hold of a bottle made by these masters you’ll never forget that marvellous taste.

Wine-fanciers that have been brain- and taste-washed with this french oak now can only appreciate a wine when their cheeks are almost pulled through their molars by all this bloody tannin. Often, people who have never tasted my wine seem a bit puzzled by the absence of tannin and then slowly they twig on how to taste the natural fruitiness of the fermented grape without the presence of that horrible bitter leather preserver. I said that few winemakers know how to age wine gracefully and that is a fact. The others should produce pleasant young wines, no aging, no oak, as little sulphur as possible and sell their wines 3 months after harvesting. I drink mine after 2 months, lovely new stuff. That way they’d make a better profit by selling much cheaper and after one year they’d be out of stock, which they would love.

If you want to know more, read my book ‘WINETIME’

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3 Responses to WineTime.

  1. Johann Mendelsöhn says:

    Good show Nick! I have never had a ten year old SA wine.
    Suggest you start dri king seriously on your “old” stuff!

  2. To all of Nick’s friends and blog fans: Read his book “Winetime”, a true gem of a book and wine-eye-opener!
    To Nick: I would love to convince you how a well matured, top Shiraz can be an absolute pleasure. I agree that the fancy terms of “exotic fruit, tobacco, a hint of this and a hint of that” are more for labels and the so called wine guides. Experiencing a true Shiraz and being able to taste what is growing and happening on the particular wine farm, from fruits to chicken shit (only a hint though) can be an absolute feast. My personal favourite is the Groenekloof 1999 Shiraz. Have only 4 bottles left, so hurry.
    Keep up your Wine Time.

  3. Jack dekker says:

    Well Nick, you will be opening a few bottles today I think, because,’Happy Birthday” mate

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