Andre van Rensburg of Vergelegen was in jovial form yesterday, hosting a vertical of one of the world’s best value Cabernet Sauvignons. As well he might be – the tasting, especially the 1998, served to reinforce what a great site the Schaapenberg is for Cabernet Sauvignon, not to mention his “mid-wifery” skills in terms of delivering site expression.
The latest 2010 vintage has the highest proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon yet (95%), which van Rensburg sees as a beneficial outcome of vine age. In earlier vintages he blended it to a greater extent “to make Cabernet more accessible.” Referring to its “muscle and brawn” he’s in awe of his Cabernet Sauvignon (and its parent Sauvignon Blanc’s) trunks which, “like the legs of a rugby player,” betray these varieties’ prowess.
From 2006, he has deployed significantly longer post-fermentation macerations (2-3 weeks versus 1 week in the past), which lends the later wines greater palate presence, a savoury edge too; van Rensburg says the tannin profile is more approachable than in the past.
Below are my notes on the wines and click here for a report of my visit to the estate last November:
Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2010 (Stellenbosch)
Bottled only two weeks ago, with its veneer of sweet oak, this blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot is exceptionally young. It sports firm but ripe tannins, bright red fruits, blackcurrant and plum with the site’s gravelly minerality. Mid-weight but intense, with elegant potential.
Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2009 (Stellenbosch)
From a hot, dry year this darker, sultry blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc & 1% Petit Verdot is much more concentrated. Slightly smoky on nose and palate (for me, a trait of South African reds, though I only found it on this wine), it shows sage, leather and fynbos notes to its rich core of cassis and blackcurrant fruit, well supported by powerful, ripe tannins. A keeper. 14.51% abv
Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008 (Stellenbosch)
This blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc from a cool, dry year is one of my picks of the bunch. It’s perfumed, polished and elegant with fleshy and fluid plum and cassis, sage, cedar and tobacco. Long and persistent with fine tannins. Beautifully balanced. 14.37% abv
Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2007 (Stellenbosch)
This was a dry, warm year and this blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot has a more savoury burnish to its powerful charge of cassis and rich, ripe tannins, with hints of leather as well as sage, fynbos and lead pencil. Delicious, powerful Cabernet with oomph and finesse. 14.21% abv
Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006 (Stellenbosch)
A cool, dry year produces an intense wine with a rich underbelly of tannins. This blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc is starting to show some savoury development, revealing hints of tapenade and leather to its layers of concentrated cassis and fleshier plum. Powerful yet poised. 14.35% abv
Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 (Stellenbosch)
An elegant wine from a long dry summer with good winter rainfall. This blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.5% Merlot, 4.5% Cabernet Franc is perfumed and bright fruited with a subtle leafy edge and violets to its blackcurrant and cassis fruit; tannins are relatively firm and taut. Long, persistent finish with an undertow of gravelly minerality. 14.5% abv
Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2003 (Stellenbosch)
A precise and perfumed blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot with lovely depth and freshness to its blackcurrant and cassis. Pretty violet top notes and a leafy edge contrast with its firm gravelly tannins. Very good. 14.5% abv
Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2001 (Stellenbosch)
A big, ripe vintage and its shows! Wears its new world origins on its sleeve, while the others are more classical in frame and flavour spectrum. There’s a hint of raisin to its velvety sweet cassis, savoury tapenade, black olive notes too, well cushioned by powerful tannins. My least favourite wine (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot) – too burly for my taste. 15% abv
Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2000 (Stellenbosch)
A very dry, warm year produced a small crop. Though the same blend as the 2001 (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot), it’s quite different, less dense and concentrated – finer and more fluid in its delivery and very on song now, with juicy, persistent blackcurrant and cassis edged with violets and an attractive frame of ripe but firm, gravelly tannins. Not a big hitter, but attractive and lingering. 14.5%
Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1998 (Stellenbosch)
From the hottest vintage on record, this blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.5% Merlot and 4.5% Cabernet Franc entranced with its perfume of cedar and violets, silky, still succulent cassis, and slinky, long tannins. Wonderful levity and length. My pick of the bunch and how I wished I’d kept my couple of bottles for longer! 13.7% abv