Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Blazing It’s Own Trail of Greatness in the World of Fine Wine…

I can’t deny that I have said it many times across many media platforms that when it comes to truly great, great red wines, nothing beats a blend. Well, ok… maybe a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee Conti Grand Cru Romanee Conti is about as famous and site specific as you can get for a single varietal icon.

But with Bordeaux blends, the whole is almost always greater than the sum of its parts. So when you consider a phenomenal wine like Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015, rated 98/100 GSMW on this site (and also South Africa’s first 100/100 point wine from critic Tim Atkin MW), it does make you ponder the greatness of the Cabernet Sauvignon component of this famous wine. Always set for a release at least 12+ months or more after the Paul Sauer blend, I managed to get a sneak peak of the newly bottled Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon… set for general release in October 2019 in the local South African market.

 

Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Stellenbosch

A wine with this level of anticipation needs time and consideration. This wine was opened and tasted several times over a matter of hours and my conclusions were all the same. We are in the presence of greatness, a creation that is an absolute thing of vinous beauty that is certainly unrivalled in quality since the famous 2004 Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon that controversially trumped the Paul Sauer 2004 to win the Platter Red Wine of the Year. At this super youthful stage of its development, this wine is all about the future potential and not many other South African red wines have the track record that Kanonkop has. From the block buster 2015 vintage, the newly bottled Cabernet Sauvignon reveals an incredibly restrained and self assured bouquet of black raspberries, fallen leaves, wet tobacco, freshly tilled earth and a tantalising note of graphite, Chinese black tea, dried violets and cigar box. Despite its intensity in the mouth, the wine retains a classy and classical textural demeanour with a medium bodied weight but also silky smooth sweet tannins and layer upon layer of crunchy red and black fruits. Incredibly finely proportioned and crisply chiselled, the palate slowly shows extra dimensions of saline cassis, baking chocolate, espresso roast, sweet cedar spice and just the most subtle hints of red plum skins and thyme spice on the finish. Architecturally, this has the shape and precision of a majestic Sir Norman Foster sky scraper that towers above its neighbours. Never over worked, never over oaked, this is surely one of the greatest single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon’s produced in South Africa.

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

Kanonkop 2017 Black Label Pinotage – A Wine for the Most Intellectual of Palates… we

“The 100pt rating was most certainly a terrific boost for the brand,” says Johann Krige, co-proprietor of Kanonkop. “We have never experienced such a demand for the Paul Sauer and it looks as though the interest is spilling over into our next release, namely the Black Label Pinotage 2017 of which only 6 900 bottles are available – far less than the Paul Sauer 2015.”

Black Label is made from one of the oldest Pinotage vineyards in South Africa, one planted in 1953 on a site that has over the years proved to produce fruit of specific excellence and deemed special enough to be bottled under an own label. According to Kanonkop cellarmaster Abrie Beeslaar, the 2017 vintage was truly excellent for the Black Label. “It did not initially look as if this was going to be the case, as 2017 was the third very dry year in a row on the farm,” he says. “We only had 500mm of rain, 250mm less than the long-term average.” But the final results are captured in the bottle and are results worthy of adoration.

Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage 2017, Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

When it comes to Pinotage, there may certainly be bigger wines, bolder opulent wines or more funky wines on the market but nothing ticks all the fine wine boxes like Kanonkop Black Label. The 2017 release marks the dawning of a new era where the local sales in the home market are properly mirrored with an enthusiastic international collector market pre-release offer for the first time. And what better way to do this with than with the 2017 expression which now comes from noble 67 year old vines which create a majestic elixir matured entirely in new French oak for 18 months before release. What Abrie Beeslaar has created in this vintage is a marvel to behold marrying new world hedonistic opulence with old world, Bordeaux’esque delineation and structure. This is a block buster that tantalises and teases the palate in the most intellectual sense and rewards the palate with a cornucopia of stimulation. The bouquet is positively bursting with lifted maraschino cherry, kirsch liquor, clove spice, blueberry, earthy mulberry and plum coulis. But it doesn’t stop there, before this block buster even gets out the starting blocks and close to your palate there are complex notes of sweet cloves, wood shavings, branded oak, iced tea and fresh oregano, sage and rose petal to behold. The palate is equally complex and alluring, exotically seductive in the most sensual sense of the word, showing the succulent delineation you would hope for and expect from a wine of this pedigree and price point but also a complexity of sweet bramble berry fruits, cut hedgerow, freshly tilled Stellenbosch earth and cherry kirsch liquor chocolates. But the stand out quality of this wine is undoubtedly the bright, crunchy yet sultry saline acidity that leaves you coming back for one sip after another. The lasting impression of this wine on the palate is the vitality, precision, knowhow and authority that beam from the glass akin to facing down a glass of Romanée Conti Burgundy. But I’ll stop there… the rest is up to you… the consumer! Dive in now or over the next 20+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Head to Head ~ Kanonkop Versus Beyerskloof Pinotage…

My recent tasting and lunch with Beyers Truter raised a lot of questions around Pinotage – it’s styles, it’s ageability and it’s future. Who better to explore these questions with than Mr Pinotage himself, Beyers Truter. So after our lunch, I assured him I’d explore these questions in more depth when I had access to my cellar in Pretoria where many of his vinous gems lurk. Here’s my assessment…


Kanonkop 1997 Vs Beyerskloof 1998:


Kanonkop Pinotage 1997 Magnum, Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

Perfect cork, this Magnum started off a touch muted as would be expected. But 30-45 minutes of breathing reavealed a dense, powerful wine. From a very late, long hanging vintage, the nose is full of sweet bramble berry fruits, cedar spice, raisined red berries, strawberry confit and cherry pastille sweets. Hardly any tertiary notes at 20 years of age suggest this wine is still a baby. The palate is fleshy and opulent, showing sweet tannins, raisoned cranberries, red orchard fruits, strawberry jam, red apples and black plum. The texture is dense and broad, carrying much more concentration and weight of fruit than you’d expect on a 13 Abv wine. The finish is sappy and spicy, sweetly fruited and complex with a long, youthful finish. Give this another 10+ years I reckon. 

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



Beyerskloof Pinotage 1998, Stellenbosch, 13 Abv. 

Interesting style departure between these two wines, with the Beyerskloof coming across in a much crunchier, red fruited expression as if it was trying to advertise its Cinsaut parentage. The nose is bright and spicy, with cedary, sappy, stalky complexity marrying well with red plum, bramble berries, redcurrant and cranberry tartness. Whether from vintage variation or fruit source, there is much more herbal tension, crushed leaves and spicy sappy red berry fruit. The tannins are soft, precise and very sweet, with the mid palate developing a ‘strawberry jam on white toast’ opulence. Due to its crunchier, fresher style, the granitic minerality is much more pronounced than on the Kanonkop, making this feel more like a food wine than the Kanonkop. No rush to drink this up as I’d like to see more tertiary Pinot Noir’ish, foresty complexity in another 8 to 10 years. An intriguing expression. 

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


So after much tasting and retasting, I put the question to my guests… which did they consider the better wine? A tough question considering the Beyerskloof probably cost less than a third of the price of a bottle of Kanonkop at the time and was also probably made to be drunk younger (the label says drink within 8 years).

So the verdict is the same score with Kanonkop getting an extra + based on its assured age ability, its youthfulness, its density and its track record. But the real winner has to be Beyerskloof for is freshness, purity, mineral depth, and great value.