If you try different wines, you are bound to figure out which wine you like! Some people like their wines mature, while others like them young! Some people like their wines racy, while others prefer less of the lemon like acidity but rather a more neutral tone. Some people like the textural sharpness of the tannins that are gripping on the tongue while others would opt for a more smooth non-invasive flowing wine in their mouth. When you start to figure out which of those people you are, your wine journey becomes all that much more fun. That’s when you really begin to understand why you liked a specific wine and why you did not like another. The wine of the week is the Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2011 vintage.
“Everything in wine is about how you enjoy it”, said Andre van Rensburg, the winemaker at Vergelegen. It was an interview with the Oxford Wine Company 5 years ago. I strongly believe that your experience is what matters, so would agree with Andre on the point he was making at the time. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, every week that I blog, I will keep reminding you that a good wine is the wine you like, not the wine rated best by the experts. The Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, was one of the wines they tasted that day. Their tasting at the time though was a 2007 vintage.
Buying this bottle of Vergelegen Red wine, while at Pick n Pay, was an easy decision. I was killing two birds with one stone. First being to deliver on my promise to Iblis to share tasting notes on a Cabernet Sauvignon. Second being to further demonstrate the quality in South African wines that are in my Category C. You can refer to the Thelema Sauvignon Blanc blog to understand the categories I use.
Being a lover of barrel matured aged wine and knowing the quality of the wine estate, picking up this 2011 vintage in 2017 made this wine a veritable steal at R99-00! That South African price points are still so reasonable makes it hard for us to break free from the stigma of ‘cheap and cheerful’ wines, as perceived on the international stage. My only comfort today is knowing that Sommeliers and the larger wine fraternity that have delved in South African wines properly, know that our world class status is not something that should leave us feeling like pretenders to the throne. The Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot is not a cheap and cheerful wine, so don’t let the price fool you.
The Vergelegen website does claim that this wine is a “great companion for most foods, including pizzas, pastas and meat or chicken dishes”. I had made a Thai beef curry, and while the dish was an exponential experience of awesome, with hindsight it was not the agreeable match to the red wine of the night. That should not have been a problem though. The Vergelegen website also claims “or enjoy on its own”!
It was a fairly cool night for Joburg that evening of 19th February 2017. I chilled the wine for 10 minutes (in the freezer) before serving. I expected this particular bottle to need to breathe more than the other bottles of red that I recently opened. I used my wine aerating pourer as in Joburg I don’t have a decanter. The wine was not a Cabernet Sauvignon, which is what I thought I read when I took it off the shelf. It was a classic Bordeaux blend of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape as well as the Merlot grape. My expectation was still a full bodied wine with tannins (hence the aerator).
When I poured the wine, seeing the colour of the wine, my face lit up. Excitement with anticipation… It was not yet reflecting shades of brick red, a give-away of a red wine that has aged for some time. It was a dark red. On nosing it, I found the smell to be a bit foreign to me. Foreign in the sense that the aromas were not familiar enough for me to describe.
I could smell something, just not sure what! This is where wine with friends helps, and I was missing my fellow wine club member, Chomba. She was 1,400 km away at this time, so her discerning ability to smell was sorely missed. It was not the smell I expect from a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon though, as it did not have the mineral, earth like aromas I sometimes pick up with a Cabernet Sauvignon nor the fruity or herbal aromas I pick up in a Merlot.
The hope was for the sip to give me further clues so I can better describe the experience. Sip I did! Dololo… The tannins in the wine surprised me. They were sharp and gripping tannins, a texture I did not expect in my mouth given the age of the wine. The wine was released in 2014, and the label reads “Accessible now, but will also reward keeping for two to four years.” Those years you would be counting from release, and not vintage I assume. It would not make sense for Vergelegen to release the wine so close to the end of their recommended optimal life of the wine. As I said before, it’s not a cheap and cheerful wine, it was actually quite complex. It’s just not the wine for me, primarily because of the tannins.
Knowing what I know now though, my mistake was also what I paired the wine with. Had I known it would be relatively high in acidity, I would have known not to pair it with a spicy dish like a Thai Curry, a dish bursting with flavours of ginger and lemongrass amongst other things. Having said that though, even after dinner, as I sipped on the wine on its own, it remained a MISS for me.