I buy far too much wine, and lacking a decent place in my house to keep it properly cellared, I have a climate controlled storage unit where most of it ends up. That’s a good thing for at least two reasons, in that first the wine is kept in good condition and second when I visit to dig out a bottle, it’s often a pleasant surprise when I come across something long forgotten. The downside is that since I don’t have a proper inventory (yet), some things can sit too long and I don’t find them until they’re past their prime. I was pleasantly surprised both to find this bottle hiding away, and that it was not the case that it had sat for too long. And so the wine for today is a five year old bottle of Graham Beck Pheasants’ Run Sauvignon Blanc 2007.
It took me a while in this blog to get to a Sauvignon Blanc, and when I did, I went with a Saint-Bris which was a bit of a rarity. Since then I’ve written about a few others, including the recent Bannockburn creation. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the grape, but rather that it’s been so ubiquitous since I started studying wine that I largely ignored it, instead preferring the more obscure grapes. I’ve helped make two styles of Sauvignon Blanc in the Adelaide Hills, one in the classic modern style of fresh fruit fermented in stainless steel and bottled almost immediately, and another fermented in oak and matured somewhat before bottling. The former is for drinking immediately, the latter improves with time. Between expanding my horizons by tasting Sauvignon Blanc from around the world, and being involved in its production, I’ve deepened my appreciation of the grape, and look forward to having some more when the weather warms up a bit. (It’s the middle of a cold, wet winter here.) For details about the grape itself, have a look at the Astrolabe write-up from last month.
As regular readers will know, I often lament the availability of other New World wines here in Australia. The reason I had this five year old bottle of wine from South Africa in my cellar is that I had it shipped here after a trip to the Cape, when I had the pleasure of visiting the Graham Beck facilities in Franschhoek (now relocated to Robertson). It was an impressive set-up, from the very fancy cellar door through to the ultra-modern bottling line, visible through a large window from the bar.
The company was founded eponymously by self-made billionaire Graham Beck in 1983, much of it funded through his success as a businessman in the mining industry. The first vintage was in 1991, and though Beck passed away in 2010, his company continues from strength to strength. It is a leader in the production of Cap Classique (a uniquely South African sparkling wine), with the Brut NV having been the drink of choice for the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela in 1994. In addition to over a half dozen different sparklers, the company produces two dozen still wines, reds, whites and rosés, varietals and blends, table and sweet. They have plantings (or access to fruit) of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinotage, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Ruby Cabernet, Mourvedre, Malbec, and Muscat de Frontignan.
Since I’ve had a few Sauvignon Blancs recently, just a quick note about how this was made (or at least how more recent vintages have been made – I can’t find a 2007 technical note). Pheasants’ Run is made with skin contact, though it only 18 hours worth. It is fermented slowly at low temperatures, which suggest refrigerated steel instead of barrels, though no specific mention of the vessel is given. Post fermentation there is some amount of time on lees, on the order of five to six months, with stirring shortly before bottling. So it’s somewhere between the non-interventionist style of Astrolabe and the every trick in the book approach of Bannockburn.
As I mentioned, when I visited their cellar door was in Franschhoek, which I described at least briefly when I wrote about Haute Cabrière. Strictly speaking, this is a wine of Coastal Region, which includes not only Franschhoek (strictly speaking, the Paarl region) but also Constantia, Durbanville, Cape Point, Swartland, and Tulbagh.
In the glass this wine is clear and bright, with a pale lemon green colour and some legs. On the nose it’s clean and still developing, with medium plus intensity and notes of green bell pepper, peas, asparagus, and lemon. It started with a bit of that yoghurt culture/mushroom note that I sometimes get, but as I’ve not been able to convince anyone else that I can actually smell such an aroma, I should either find a more commonly accepted descriptor or just stop mentioning it altogether. On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus acidity, medium body, medium plus intensity, and medium plus alcohol. It has notes of lemon, green pea, bell pepper, and a bit of cream. It is fairly rich, and opened up extremely well with a hint of bacon. It has medium length with a bell pepper and white pepper finish.
I’m happy giving this wine a very good rating. It has a complex range of flavours, strong intensity and concentration on the nose and palate, and it’s developed very nicely. Unless it’s a very special bottle that you know will mature with time, I do not generally recommend cellaring Sauvignon Blanc for five years, but this bottle managed the task handily. The next bottle I encounter I hope to have a bit younger to compare and contrast.