The De Toren Z Cape Bordeaux Blend Becoming a Real Force to be Reckoned With – Tasting and Assessing the Iconic New Z 2017 Release…

The focus of the De Toren estate has always been centred around the iconic Fusion V Cape Bordeaux blend made in a Left Bank leaning expression with a dominance of Cabernet Sauvignon. But the De Toren Z has slowly but surely started to catch the attention of wine critics and connoisseurs around the world with on-trade buyers and sommeliers taking a particular fancy to this blend.

While the debate continues as to whether this Merlot based Right Bank blend was born out of the quality Fusion V off-cuts or whether it was individually designed around specific varieties and terroirs on the Polkadraai estate, one thing is certain – the De Toren Z Cape Bordeaux blend is a premium wine to be reckoned with and taken seriously as it enters a small select group of top red blends coming out of South Africa.

With the 2016 Z currently selling great guns in South Africa and around the world, I thought I’d take a sneak peek at the highly anticipated 2017 that looks set to take the world by storm.

De Toren Estate Z 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

This wine personifies the De Toren journey of initially making one premium wine that ultimately heralded two iconic wines due to the estate’s attention to detail, terroir and focus on quality. This Merlot based blend is another absolute blinder revealing a rich, intense, brûléed aromatic array of saline cassis, nori seaweed, pithy black cherry, savoury black plum, roasted coffee beans and hints of open fire grilled winter chestnuts. The palate is super sleek and beautifully silky and suave bolstered by the most opulent, plump, hedonistic black fruit concentration, brûléed wood spice nuances and a long, mouth coating, vibrant finish. This wine speaks of the vintage with its weightless concentration and seamless balance and will appeal to Right Bank Bordeaux lovers who especially enjoy the iconic vintages. This wine is certainly right up there with the sensational 2015 De Toren Z and must surely rate as one of the best vintages of Z produced from the estate to date. Drink from 2022 to 2036+

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Watch out for the launch of this 2017 beauty in SA around the end of 1st Quarter 2021.

Another Valiant Effort From De Toren – Tasting the Fusion V 2016 Bordeaux Blend…

We all know that 2016 in the Cape was the second consecutive warm, dry, challenging vintage for grape growing. Nevertheless, top producers like Meerlust, Kanonkop, Raats Family, Vilafonte and De Toren succeeded in producing seductive Cabernet Sauvignon led Bordeaux blend reds.

We are fortunate enough to still be drinking many top 2015s here in the UK market while the 2017s are already starting to seduce local drinkers in the home market. But 2016 should certainly not be written off as quality focused producers stood up to the challenge of the vintage and delivered the goods in many circumstances, producing wines for slightly earlier drinking.

De Toren 2016 Fusion V Bordeaux Blend, Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

While the 2016 Stellenbosch reds don’t quite have the same fruit purity and aromatic precision as the 2015s or 2017s, many of the top examples like this De Toren Fusion V 2016 make for very attractive wines with wonderful opulence and plushness. A 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Malbec, 14% Cabernet Franc, 11% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot blend matured in French and American oak, 50% new. The nose is full of black chai tea complexity, lead pencil, graphite, sweet cedar, black currant, desiccated black cherry and notes of savoury hoisin plum sauce. The palate is supple and fleshy with ample chalky grippy textured tannins, raisined black plum, sweet fig and a subtle earthy Christmas pudding and wintery dried prune note on the finish. An all round delicious Bordeaux blend exuding freshness, palate vigour and vinous excitement. Drink over the next 6 to 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

De Toren Z Blend 2016 ~ and the winner is…

In case you read my below write up of the De Toren Z blending session at 67 Pall Mall recently thinking it was a fun but slightly pointless affair… think again. 

The results are in, announced today and the vote of the people is final. Viva De Toren democracy….

Here is the official announcement released today:

Dear Greg

After months of meticulous crafting, duteous tweaking to the potential blends and the valued input from the tastings, the concluding results of the De Toren Z 2016 Blend Tastings are in…

As an honorary guest of De Toren at the recent De Toren Z 2016 Blend Tasting, we want to use this opportunity to personally inform you of the final results. 

We are proud to announce the outcome of the 2016 vintage of De Toren Z, for the very first time. The winner, i.e. the blend for the De Toren Z 2016 vintage is, blend number 7!

This blend scored exceptionally well in all three rounds of the Blend Tastings and stood out from the overall blend line-up with a stellar 8 more points and the least controversial comments or feedback.

Please see below the varietal breakdown of the De Toren Z 2016:

· Merlot 54%

· Cabernet Sauvignon 12%

· Malbec 12%

· Cabernet Franc 16%

· Petit Verdot 6%

Once again, we would like to thank you for being part of this integral process, in helping us define our De Toren Z blend for the 2016 vintage.

Your input and time are valued a great deal. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the 2016 vintage, after some further ageing, when released in 2018. 

Kind Regards,
The De Toren Team

Read my write up of the blending tasting here:

Making and Marketing a Fine Wine ~ Attending the Inspirational De Toren Z Blending Session at 67 Pall Mall…

Marketing and selling fine wine successfully nowadays is all about connecting with your customers in a unique and dynamic way. Whether your customers are wine buyers, agents or end consumers, producers need to be able to think outside the box and educate as well as inspire. 

Yesterday’s De Toren Z 2016 blending session certainly ticked all these boxes and was both highly enjoyable, inspiring and educational all at once. With 10 to 12 buyers, customers, agents and sommeliers in attendance, we tasted and selected our favourite blind Z blends from nine possible 2016 variations. 

Below are my tasting notes for these blind wines for which no further blend information was furnished until after we had all delivered our top three wine choices as well as our least favourite. 

Z Blend 1 ~

Dense dark opulent nose of plum confit, mocha and milk chocolate. Subtle notes of red liquorice, crushed leaves, and hedgerow spice. Palate is soft, plump, fleshy with soft acids, and creamy spicy black fruit. Finish maybe lacks a little cut and tension. 89+/100

Z Blend 2 ~

Rich creamy nose of bruleed black fruit, caramelised cassis and black cherry. Hints of blueberry pie, condensed milk, and Creme brûlée. Shows a lifted cedar oak spice note, lead pencils and suave, sleek tannins. Fine balance, crunchy acids and very fine grained tannin finish. 93+/100

Z Blend 3 ~

(A blind ringer, actually being last years bottled 2015 Z Blend)

More exotic nose with raisined cassis, liquorice, touch of molasses and creamy raspberry crumble. Less overt fragrance and perfume. Palate is fleshy, full bodied but slightly less complex, a little soft and broad with perhaps insufficient definition and tension at the moment. But a lovely blend nonetheless. 92+/100

Z Blend 4 ~

Rich exotic nose of kirsch liquor, cherry confit, liquorice and blueberry pie. Hints of creamy molasses, sweet plum and freshly chiselled granite. Palate is fleshy, creamy, opulent, with dry grippy granitic mineral tannins, in a powerful, structured four square style. 91+/100

Z Blend 5 ~

Dense, dark creamy black fruits, Molasses, and caramelised plum. Develops classical notes of gravel, spice and chalk. Good freshness and grip, but the components are slightly disparate at the moment. Nice tension on the finish. Shows a lot of potential. 92+/100

Z Blend 6 ~

Dusty creamy bruleed oak, black plum, dense core, cherry pith, and a spicy lift. Violets, tobacco spice and sweet plum. Nice harmony, balance, and breadth. Shows good fine wine potential. 93/100

Z Blend 7 ~
Rich creamy opulent nose showing plenty of blueberry, cassis and aniseed root, liquorice stick and leafy cherry spice. Pretty dusty mocha powdered lift. Palate entry is tart, crunchy, vibrant and fresh with sour plum, cassis, graphite, gravelly tannin grip and a steely textural precision with a hint of cedary oak spice complexity on the finish. Very smart, very fine, great pedigree. 94/100

Z Blend 8 ~

Creamy dense, spicy cherry, black currant, and damson plum. Hints of raisined plum and blueberry. Palate is soft, creamy, dense and crunchy, with powder mineral grip, light weight supple elegance, and a very elegant texture. Suave, harmonious wine with good mid palate tension and freshness. 93+/100

Z Blend 9 ~

Overt nose of black plum, black cherry, spicy cedar as vanilla pod spice. Palate is very fleshy, sweet fruited, opulent and plush, showing good minerality. Finish is a touch shorter than some of the other Cuvees and does not quite fan its tail. A little more mid-palate tension and this could have been excellent. 89/100

My Blend Results:

After this challenging exercise, I settled on a top three list of Wine 7, Wine 8 and Wine 2, with my “least favourite” being Wine 9. Though I should add that all the blends were very fine and impressive, with some just a little more balanced, precise and complete in my mind. For such young wines I look for that extra intensity, tension and wound spring energy. Getting the right fruit, acid and tannin balance among the component blends can certainly deliver this. 

Results: Z Blending 2016

Emil Den Dulk’s selection:

7, 5, 6 and least 1

Sommelier Caroline from 67 Pall Mall: 
2, 5, 3 and least 7

Pretoria Tasting Session Selection: 

6, 3, 9 and least 1

Average Result Selection:

7, 3, 9 and least a tie 6,5,2

We were then treated to a fantastic lunch where we were able to discuss the blends while drinking an impressive Fusion V 2008 – 93+/100, Z Blend 2008 – 92/100 and Z Blend 2012 – 93/100. 

While the above tasting event may all seen a little bit academic if you weren’t actually there to taste the different wines’ subtlety and nuances, it nevertheless stands as a wonderful marketing exercise that gives a fascinating insight into the blending of a complex fine wine.