If South Africa has a flagship wine, then this must be it. Its legend dates back three centuries and there are reports of bottles ageing beautifully for over 100 years or more. Once upon a time it stood proudly next to Yquem, the great Tokaji's, and Germany's finest in the pantheon of the world's great dessert wines.
The first time I tried it I didn't like it. I didn't think it lived up to the hype that the producers, Klein Constantia, were trying to instil in the brand. I thought they were trading on past glories, that their great experiment was doomed to failure, that I would stick to France for great sweet chenin blanc. I don't remember that vintage. It may have been late nineties.
Trying the 2002 is a very different story.
Incredibly deep gold, with hints of brass and possibly copper at the core. Delightful brilliance - genuinely beautiful to look at as it captures the light.
The nose is such that were I only to have smelled it, I could take some small comfort. The nose is beautiful. Spiced marmalade, flint, lemon, heather honey and a touch of marzipan edged with floral perfume and a hint of minerality.
Honey and marmalade come alive on the palate - such brilliant purity of sweetness and fruit - oranges, lemons and a touch of peach. It isn't flabby though - there's a classic flintiness and minerality that keeps it from all going crazy. It gives structure and texture that makes me want to try this wine with some fantastic food - creamy Loire goat's cheese perhaps, or a tarte citron? The finish lasts a good couple of minutes. It's ridiculously more-ish, and surprisingly elegant, considering the intense concentration of flavours.
It will keep for a decade or two at least, though I look forward to trying one of their centenarian bottles.
Tasted 31/1/08 at Luvians Bottleshop.