Coming of Age

Friday, 22 March, 2019
WoSA Blog - Angela Lloyd
The remarkable ageing ability of South African red wines from the 1940s to roughly end of 1970s has been recognised by both local and, importantly, international tasters over the course of several years. One of the first old wine tastings, which alerted winelovers and winemakers to their quality, was organised by Michael Fridjhon prior to the Trophy Wine Show; it is now an annual event.

The opportunity for the younger generation of winemakers to experience these old wines – lighter in alcohol, fresh, dry with their flavours unencumbered by new oak – has proved a valuable eye-opener and no doubt left its mark on many of their wines.

As those wines were a snapshot of their times, so were the red wines of the 1980s, when new small wood began to fill cellars. Vineyards were full of virused vines, which struggled to fully ripen; the results were frequently unbalanced and oak-dominated.

By the early 2000s, cleaned up vine material allowed for easier ripening; sugar levels shot up, as did alcohols. Over-ripe, jammy wines then acidified, were often a consequence, but quality-driven producers were by now more fixated on the vineyards and reining back on oak. It took two notable vintages, 2003 and 2009, to highlight the very real progress being made, including ageability, an important duty of a fine wine.

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wosa coming of age
wosa coming of age

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