09 February 2008

Beyerskloof 1995 & Synergy 2001

There’s a new chef at Beyerskloof Winery’s Red Leaf restaurant, and an extended menu with a good crown of lamb and huge chicken salad. But the Pinotage Burger is still a fixture, which is what I had been waiting for 12 months to eat one.

There is a front page story in a local newspaper here in the Cape complaining about the high mark-up on wines sold in winery restaurants. But wine in at Beyerskloof’s restaurant is priced the same as in the cellar shop.

This time last year I was drinking the just released 2006 standard ‘white label’ Pinotage, a wine I went on to buy several cases of at home. So I was keen to see if the 2007 vintage topped that, however it is not yet available.

So instead we had two wines from Beyerskloof’s library wine list. The first ‘white-label’ Pinotage from 1995 and the first Synergy Cape Blend from 2001. These are both priced at R225 (about £17/$32). And you know they have been stored in absolutely perfect conditions in the cool cellar underneath the restaurant.

Both wines were kept chilled in ice-buckets, essential in the 30 degree heat of a South Africa lunch time when you’re sitting outside on the veranda overlooking vineyards.

The 13 year old Beyerskloof Pinotage was a revelation. Pale bricking red, light bodied with lots of sediment staining the sides of the bottle. It tastes like an aged Bordeaux but with a bit more fruit. It was light, (12.5% alcohol), and elegant, definitely showing signs of age, a fascinating drink.

The 2001 Synergy is a blend of Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This seemed a mere youngster alongside the 1995 Pinotage, and fruit was to the forefront. But ageing had smoothed out some of its ebullience, and softened tannins to make an extraordinarily classical European style wine.

They didn’t produce much of these old wines, and probably the only opportunity you’ll have to aquire them is at the winery, so don’t shake them up and boil them in the back of your car, but drink them there in the restaurant. It won’t cost you any more.

And while you are doing so, check out the wine glasses. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you, the stems actually are bent, tipping the brim of the glass towards you. “It’s a feature,” says Beyers with a grin, “it makes it easier to drink from.”

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