Taaibosch – One of the South African Wineland’s Most Exciting New Wineries Releases Their Crescendo 2019 Second Vintage…

There have arguably been few more exciting new releases on the South African wine scene recently than the resurrection of the fabled Crescendo Cape Bordeaux red blend by winemaker Schalk Willem Joubert and the team at Taaibosch, the Helderberg wine farm previously known as Cordoba.

One of the most striking features about their maiden release from the 2018 vintage was the wines notable structure, power and tannic frame which suggested that the owners were not particularly bothered about pandering to a modern aesthetic of instantaneous accessibility with an early drinking styling.

Read my 2018 review here… https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2021/07/03/taaibosch-crescendo-2018-recreating-a-legendary-stellenbosch-wine/

Tasting the maiden 2018, 2019 and 2020 Crescendo red blends with Schalk in the Taaibosch winery.
Revisiting the highly acclaimed 2018 Crescendo.

Classically constructed, the Crescendo 2018 is an age worthy creation that will reward extended cellaring in a style that many modern-day wineries have actively shied-away from recently in search of instant opulence and high critical ratings on release.

Walking the Taaibosch vineyards in the Helderberg where they are among the last to pick red grapes.
The view from the top of the Taaibosch farm overlooking newly planted vineyards.

In my most recent visit to the Cape winelands in March 2022, one of my first ports of call was of course the Taaibosch winery to see cellar master Schalk Willem Joubert to learn more about their vineyard replanting programme and to see their impressive new cellar on the farm. This is a winery experience not to be missed if visiting the Cape.

Visit: http://www.taaiboschwines.com

The impressive new Taaibosch winery.

Taaibosch Crescendo 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.2% Abv.

pH 3.55 | RS 1.8g/l | 13.2% Abv

Fermented in cement and stainless steel followed by full malolactic in 100% cement. After the base blend is made the wine is aged 13 months in 225 litre French oak barriques with a 30% new oak component, where after 70% is moved to large oak foudre for 12 to 13 months and 30% to cement for additional ageing. Once the final blend is assembled, the wine returns to concrete for 3 months. After being bottled unfiltered and unfined, the wine is then aged for a further 5 to 6 months in bottle with a target pre-release offer date of the 1st of May annually.

The large foudre where the Crescendo blend is married and aged.

A right bank blend of 65% Cabernet Franc, 26% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2019 Crescendo shows a big, dense, complex nose with deep dark aromatics of black berries, creme de cassis, sweet cedar and grilled herbs intertwined with graphite, macerated black cherries and a dusty crushed gravel minerality. On the palate the wine is incredibly cool, broad and creamy showing immense power and dry extract concentration on the mid-palate together with wonderfully fine grained spicy mineral tannins and a very long, harmonious focused finish. A superbly complete and texturally pinpoint Cape Bordeaux red blend with a truly Grand Vin classical footprint. An iconic block-buster of the future. Make space in the cellar!

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Taaibosch open top fermenters.

Taaibosch Crescendo 2018 – Recreating a Legendary Stellenbosch Wine…

It must surely be one of the most captivating stories to emerge from the Cape winelands in the past decade – the resurrection of one of South Africa’s most famous wines, the Cordoba Crescendo Cape Bordeaux Blend originally made famous by talented wine maker Chris Keet in the mid to late 1990s. For many, drinking a bottle of Crescendo 1995 ranked as one of the pinnacles of local fine wine experiences and then all of a sudden… the winery disappeared.

I started filling my cellar in South Africa in the mid to late 1990s and was fortunate enough to purchases a number of cases of the Cordoba Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and of course the Crescendo from vintages in 1995, 1996 and 1997. While I did drink and enjoy a majority of the bottles, a number of them were left to mature in my cellar. I certainly had no idea what became of the famous Helderberg estate and what the reasons were for its demise, but when the Oddo family who also have wine ventures in Sancerre, Provence, and Sicily, purchased the famous winery in 2017 and recruited cellar master Schalk-Willem Joubert of Rupert & Rothschild fame to oversee proceedings, the scene looked set for the resumption of quality winemaking.

The first new 2018 release from the estate was launched in South Africa under the Taaibosch Crescendo label earlier this year. As I understand it, the owners are not in a position to use the original Cordoba name anymore and thus moved to the Taaibosch title. All grapes on the estate were hand-picked and once received in the cellar, the grapes were gently transferred by means of gravity to both stainless steel and cement vessels for fermentation. A period of cold soaking followed which enabled a rich extraction of colour, aromas and flavours. Extended maceration followed at the conclusion of fermentation, which assists in providing the wine with a soft texture, increased colour intensity and complexity.

The soil of the Helderberg region is fertile and mostly homogenous across the region. It consists predominantly of Table Mountain sandstone resting on Cape Granite. The soil has excellent water and nutrient holding capacity and is rich in kaolinite, iron and aluminium oxides, causing the distinct red colour, associated to the region. Taaibosch is situated on a lens of withered Malmesbury shale, setting it apart from the other vineyards in the region. The Crescendo 2018 was matured in a combination of 225 litre oak barrels, 9000 litre Foudre vessels and traditional 4500 litre cement tanks for a period of three years. These different vessels each add their own personality to the finished wine, ranging from fruity characters to subtle wood influences. All these elements were then brought together selectively to form a harmonious blend.

Taaibosch Crescendo 2018, WO Stellenbosch

pH 3.57 | RS 3.7g/l | 13.5% Abv

This wine conforms to the classically defined Crescendo blend (Cheval Blanc inspired) of 65% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon harvested from vines of 20 years of age or older. On opening in the early afternoon, the Crescendo 2018 was dense, tight and grippy with mouth coating tannins drying the front and sides of the palate. Nevertheless, the over-riding sensation was one of underlying elegance, purity of fruit and intensity sitting in the clutches of a youthful fist clench. Tasting the wine over the following 4 hours started to reveal its true pedigree which admittedly could easily have been missed on the initial pop and pour prognosis. With a little time to open its shoulders, the aromatics really start to unfurl classic notes of sweet cedary briary spice, saline inky black currant fruits, buttered brown toast, rose oil, dried violets, hints of graphite and led pencil shavings. The palate is decidedly mineral and classical with stony, textured fine grained tannins that are powerful and imposing yet ripe and supple enough to allow the layers of black and red berry fruits to slowly emerge. There is fabulous density, plenty of dry extract and concentration all pointing to a power-packed wine that is built with extended ageing in mind. In many ways, the design and texture of this wine harks back to a bygone era where immediacy and complete accessibility on release were not always the winemaker’s primary objectives. This wine has wonderful gravitas, an individual character and a real palate presence and continues to tantalise the senses right up to the very last sip that is loaded with a lovely broad blood orange acidity and mouth-watering salinity. I feel confident this wine is something really special to bury in your cellar for drinking over a good 15 to 20+ years. An impressive homage to the original Crescendo blends of the late 1990s.

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

Another Noteworthy 2017 Stellenbosch Red Blend Released By Ernie Els Wines…

The Proprietor’s Red Blend is a selection of six varieties all of which are sourced from the Ernie Els winery property. These vineyards are grown primarily on the warmer, north-facing slopes of the Helderberg within the Stellenbosch region.

These particular varieties thrive under these conditions and result in rich, full-bodied red wines with balancing freshness. At an altitude of approximately 250 metres above sea level, together with the cooling influence of the Atlantic Ocean, the ripening period or hang time of the grapes can be extended, resulting in wines with optimal phenolic ripeness and pure, bold, concentrated flavours. This of course is one of the reasons Stellenbosch has become so famous for successfully growing premium Bordeaux varieties as well as some excellent Syrah / Shiraz.

I recently tasted the Ernie Els Proprietor’s Blend and was pleased to see the pedigree of the 2017 vintage captured in this new release.

Ernie Els Proprietor’s Blend 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

A premium red blend made up of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Shiraz, 5% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. The result is a rich enticing blend with expressive aromatics laced with tannery leather, decomposing forest floor, sweet black berry compote, black currant pastille, graphite and nuances of freshly tilled earth. The palate is finely weighted with creamy round tannins, layers of crunchy black currant, black cherry and blueberry spice with delicately integrated cedar wood vanilla spice notes. This wine shows impressive density, power and concentration for a vintage renowned for having a more lithe, silky, weightless character. Here we see the elegance and textural finesse of 2017 but certainly with a little more dry extract, stuffing and grip. Nevertheless, this is a wine that can be enjoyed now on release or cellared for 10-12+ years comfortably. Another triumph for prime Stellenbosch terroir.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Ernie Els Wines are distributed in the UK by Seckford Wine Agencies.