I had the pleasure of meeting Black Pearl winemaker Mary-Lou Nash, an American expat, at a party while in Stellenbosch, and was able to tell her in person that her cab/shiraz blend was one of my early South African wine discovery moments. One of my favorite Paarl producers, Black Pearl turns out some powerful and stunning reds.
I recently made a big leap from one aspect of the wine industry to another: I left my job at the winery for a position as a Wine Associate at Premium Wine and Spirits, a member of the Premier Group. The store has a great South African wine selection, and I've taken it upon myself to host a Wines of South Africa introductory class as my first public event at the company. In selecting wines for the class I brought home the Black Pearl 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon to assess it as a possible Paarl example of the stellar 2003 vintage.
Dark, deep black-raspberry in the glass, with the gorgeous grit characteristic of an unfined and unfiltered red, this cab packed such a wallop on first whiff that I assumed my tender-palated mom and new-to-wine sister would hate it and that it was a bad choice for a family dinner. On the contrary, they lingered in the kitchen sneaking sips while I cooked until I poured them their own glasses. Boozy and dense at 14.5%ABV, it shows intense aromas of tar and cassis and smooth, elegant tannins, but commanded serious attention and a more purposeful meal than the country bean pasta we were eating. I decanted to give it some air and revisited the next day. Much smoother this time, the rusticity really came through along with chocolate and blackcurrant and revealed a wine of poise and excellent length. It's a great example of a fine Paarl red and definitely will make a nice showstopper in my class.
Black Pearl 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine of Origin: Paarl
Importer: Southern Starz
So my birthday was actually two weeks ago, but it's shaping up to be a bit of a hectic summer and my posting abilities have suffered. Without further ado, I'd like to discuss the South African stunners that graced my table, helping me and my wine geek compadres greet the summer solstice.
Naturally we began with some bubbly: a bottle of Groot Constantia Methode Cap Classique made from 100% Chardonnay which I brought back on the plane from SA. It offered lovely rich lees-y notes and hints of fig and pear. Due to a New Year's resolution my sommelier buddy Kurt (below, with nose in glass) and I shared to "drink more sparkling wine this year," the MCC shared the ice bucket with a Hermann J. Wiemer 2003 Blanc de Noir and a sparkling Vouvray, but it stood up quite well!
For our grilled sweet and sour shrimp course I opened a white from one of my favorite South African wineries, in my possession courtesy of the good people at Cape Classics: Rustenberg 2007 Five Soldiers Chardonnay. Showing a nose of apple peel and caramelized banana (like a starter for Bananas Foster) with a layered palate and restrained buttery signs of malolactic fermentation, it was a phenomenal pairing.
Kurt's answer to my request for braai was a phenomenal grilled rack of lamb, pictured above, with which we brought out the big guns: Muratie 2008 Pinot Noir and Merlot. The pinot was oaky with nice fruit, but the merlot was the real stunner and held my wine buddies' attention with its earthy, fleshy grip and complexity. I'm always interested in which of my favorite SA wines will be most interesting to my New York-based friends, and on this night Muratie Merlot was the hands-down winner.
At this point I stopped taking tasting notes (I'm only human, folks) but we finished off the night in style with Buitenverwachting Rough Diamond (an intriguing malbec/petit verdot blend) followed by a lovely, delicate, deliciously acidic Kanu Kia-Ora Noble Late Harvest Chenin Blanc. These amazing wines portended a 24th year filled with good friends, good food, and great memories – it might not have been South Africa, but it felt pretty damn close.