As anyone who has read more than one of my posts will know, I don’t have a copy editor. I do my best, but it seems every time I go back and read an old post I find a letter or word out of place. Alas, with over 150 wines reviewed, I’m unlikely to ever find all the typos. So it may seem like I’m just asking for trouble reviewing this wine, but it is such a favourite of mine that I’m willing to risk spelling the producer’s name five different ways through the course of this post in order to bring you the Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2004.
With a name like that, Boekenhoutskloof can only be from South Africa (or the Netherlands, I suppose). The label gives some hint as to the origin – the seven chairs represent traditional styles of 18th and 19th century furniture making, and in South Africa these chairs would ideally have been fashioned from native Cape Beech, also known as Boekenhout. A kloof is a ravine, and the full name dates to the founding of the original farm in 1776 near Franschhoek. It took its most recent form in 1993 when the property was purchased by a group of partners and vines replanted. The first vintage was produced in 1997.
When my wife and I visited South Africa in 2007, we managed to swing by the Boekenhoutskloof cellar door but unfortunately they were sold out entirely of their eponymous line of wines. It turns out their winemaker, Marc Kent who joined as a partner in 1994, had just won Diners Club Winemaker of the Year. (He is a finalist for the 2012 award as well, to be announced on November 3rd.) We were able to enjoy a bottle subsequently at a restaurant, though we were assured it was the last one to be found. Fortunately though, it turns out to be one of the few fine wines of South Africa imported into Australia, and since news of the award didn’t make the front page in Adelaide, I was able to pick up this bottle and the rest that our local wine merchant had on hand.
Boekenhoutskloof is the name of the company as a whole, as well as their flagship line of wines, which includes Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon and this Syrah. It’s produced in very limited quantities – less than 1000 cases of each of the reds and much less of the Semillon. Their second brand consists of a single wine, the Chocolate Block, which is a Rhône style blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Viognier, with some Cabernet Sauvignon thrown in as well. Their Porcupine Ridge and Wolftrap ranges are everyday drinking wines, and constitute the bulk of production.
Before I get to the wine itself, a quick word about the production. While some brands are somewhat coy regarding what happens in their winery, Boekenhoutskloof actually lists some of the specific equipment they use, from mechanized berry selection tables, to the specific destemmer, press, pump, and even the trendy egg-shaped fermenter from Nomblot, all of which appeal to me for having worked a few vintages. Winemakers like their toys as much as anyone, and it’s nice that Boekenhoutskloof is willing to share those details.
Likewise, this Syrah has had a number of winemaking techniques applied across the different parcels sourced from a single vineyard that made up the final wine, including some whole bunches, carbonic maceration, and some stalks. Fermentation was with natural yeast in a combination of open top oak and concrete vessels, and after some maceration the wine was put into used French oak for over two years. Fining was done twice with egg whites, but it was bottled without filtration.
In the glass this wine is clear and bright, with a dark garnet colour and quick thin legs. On the nose it’s clean and developed, with medium intensity and notes of sweet spice, red fruit, raspberries, pumpkin, and red cherries. On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus acidity, medium plus integrated tannins, medium plus alcohol, medium body, medium plus intensity, and medium plus length. There are notes of green peppercorns, sweet spice, brambles, blackberries, and liquorice.
This is a very good wine. It’s clearly a Syrah on the nose, but it took a while to show that typicity on the palate. It’s nicely balanced, and really driving – the combination of length and intensity makes the wine stand out. I especially liked the contrast of the relatively sweet nose with the more savoury notes on the palate. I don’t know exactly how many bottles of Boekenhoutskloof I have in the cellar, but I look forward to drinking the rest over several years.