Monthly Archives: August 2010

De Toren Fusion V Gets a Night on the Town

I did not try wines from De Toren while I was in
Stellenbosch, but this producer of Bordeaux blends Fusion V and Z, which boast
sky-high scores from Platter, Wine Enthusiast, and Decanter, is definitely on
my radar now after an impressive showing at Best of the Braai in Toronto: their
offerings showed thick, brambly blackberry flavors, dusty cassis and incredible
depth. I was thrilled when Cape Classics sent me a bottle of Fusion V 2007
shortly afterward – and I recently found a good chance to open it. 

The occasion was a blind tasting dinner with some of my new
coworkers, hosted by a certain local wine VIP. Everyone brings a bagged bottle
and they are decanted and then tasted one by one, over much discussion and a
tasty assortment of charcuterie. It was suggested that I bring “something that
would show well” as well as “something South African” – so I bagged up my
Fusion V and took it out for the night.


I’m proud to say that it definitely showed well next to the
other outstanding bottles, which included a Brunello di Montalcino, a Toro, a
Rioja, and a Barolo. Our host, a sommelier, identified it immediately as a
“Stellenbosch Bordeaux blend of the John X Merriman-esque* style.” Turns out he
actually is a fan of South African wine and has an extensive collection
555494969_1967693541_0   in his
cellar. The tasting notes centered around Bordeaux flavor profiles, lots of tar
and minerality, licorice, and a distinct earthiness. I did agree with a coworker that it
could have been served a tad cooler (this was before I got my fancy wine
fridge, where I now keep all my bottles). Amazingly, Fusion V wasn’t the only
South African poured that night – someone else brought a 2004 Vilafonte series
m – but it was the favorite of the two and definitely showing well despite its
young age.

 It's 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cab Franc, 15% Malbec, 10% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot, and it is South Africa's first five-varietal Bordeaux blend. If you can get your hands on it, it's a true showstopper that every doubter of South African excellence should try.

*By the way, if you’re not familiar with John
X Merriman, that needs to change. We just got the 2006 in at the store where I
work so I’ll have a review up shortly!

De Toren Fusion V 2007

Wine of Origin: Stellenbosch

Importer: Cape Classics

Price: $40*


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MAN Vintners 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

"Eat Critters, Drink MAN" says the label – a clever dig on the "critter" labels that are ubiquitous among inexpensive wines from a certain heavily marketed Southern Hemisphere nation. I didn't get around to trying MAN Vintners wines while in SA because I knew they'd be available in the U.S., but as one of the most widely distributed and fairly priced South African labels imported into this country, it's a brand worth knowing. 

This cabernet shows a robust nose of black cherry, cassis, and a pleasing hint of menthol. Just slightly smoky with balanced alcohol, it's juicy and full – even more so on the palate. The finish shows considerable tannin and just a suggestion of milk chocolate; I'd love to
558012244_1977123613_538236242_1281965997128   pair this with flank steak topped with molé. At $8, this cab will definitely become one of my go-to reds for entertaining friends.

MAN Vintners 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine of Origin: Coastal Region

Importer: Vineyard Brands

Price: $7.99

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Wines of South Africa 101!

One of the reasons I love my new wine retail gig is our impressive South African wine selection, and since we routinely do free, open-to-the-public wine classes, I decided my first project at the new job would be Wines of South Africa 101.

The first thing I learned was that picking out wines is about a lot more than just "what's good?" Of course, I'd love to have featured De Trafford 2004 Blueprint Shiraz – but at the $40 price point and with less than two cases in stock it wasn't logistically possible. So many factors went into play that had nothing to do with my personal taste for the wines, but it was a great opportunity to learn what goes into planning these events. 

After much deliberation, I ended up with a list I could be proud of, chosen from our inventory as a good first introduction to the wines of SA:

Graham Beck MCC Brut – a lovely example of Methode Cap Classique!

Graham Beck Game Reserve 2009 Chenin Blanc – two Graham Beck wines didn't seem so superfluous in light of his recent demise – Rest in Peace, Mr. Beck! Plus, this was the freshest Chenin Blanc we had.

Painted Wolf 2007 Pinotage – probably necessary to do a pinotage, and this one is among the more restrained and elegant that I've had.

Edgebaston 2008 The Pepper Pot – a tasty Rhone blend with a sexy label and totally South African. 

Warwick 2008 The First Lady – a gorgeous, honest-to-terroir Cabernet Sauvignon from a great producer with a terrific US presence. The stars were aligned on this one. 


The wines of the night for my full-to-capacity class (hello, SA wine peeps – there is real interest here in western New York!) were the Game Reserve Chenin Blanc and The First Lady. Lots of takers on the Pepper Pot as well. I was able to teach attendees how to pick out Brett using the Pepper Pot's meaty, iodine-y finish, and one woman couldn't get enough of the flavor and wanted to know which wines were "Brettier." I named some of the more barnyard-tasting Chinon wines I could think of.

I was pleased but not surprised at the success of The First Lady, and delighted a wine with such truly South African character was the belle of the ball, so to speak. 

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