April 5, 2009

Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block

By Andrew Barrow In Wine Notes

Rudiger Gretcher

Rudiger Gretcher is a fine fellow. Not only an excellent host during our meal at Reubens but entertaining plus he gave each of us a bottle of the Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Box to take away…

Rudiger is the wine maker at Boekenhoutskloof, a boutique operation at the far end of the Franschoek valley. He first cracked open two Semillons for comparison both from a small vineyard strip and well worth trying if you can get hold of them. The younger, a 2006 I believe, was deliciously fresh and vibrant compared to the elder bottling from the 2003 vintage that had developed plenty of honeyed, waxy complexity that, incidentally, worked beautifully with my tempura starter.

(Photos of the food are on SpittoonExtra).

In the wide ranging discussion – everything from the state of the UK wine trade, through to the importation of bottles and cooks – Rudgier also explained his own thoughts that blends would rise to be the ‘spearhead’ of South African wines. His current fascination with Southern Rhone/Languedoc styled blends stemmed from a recent in-depth trip though the vineyards of Southern France. Boekenhoutskloof is also well advanced in its plans to embrace bio-dynamic wine making. Rudigier’s passion for these ideals had us all convinced that ‘everyone’ should follow such practices.
Surprising though to find Cabernet Franc also seems to be a champion variety for Boekenhoutskloof – Rudiger was not the last wine maker during the trip to mention this.
Other wines sampled included a mint-edged Syrah (although my fellow tasters didn’t really agree with me on the mint aspect so that might be down to the deep fried mint that my main dish – Quail – came garnished with). The style was aging rich but restrained with an edge of peppery chocolate.

The star wine for me was the Chocolate Block – again reaffirming my belief that blends work better than single varieties (talking red wine in general here and not just South African wines, although it holds true here too) – but for a Rhone inspired blend the addition of a little Cabernet Sauvignon was unusual. But it works. The wine a blend including Viognier was a cross over in style taking in the new worlds natural ripeness and the old world’s structure.

Pinotage though is not seen by Rudiger as being the standard bearer for South Africa that many think it should be. To paraphrase -you start with poor quality grapes and you end up with poor quality wine. Pinotage vines are often stated as being of poor quality and of poor parentage.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block, 2007, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Stockist: SA WinesOnline Price: £18.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Syrah 55%, Grenache Noir 20%, Cabernet Sauvignon 16%, Cinsault 5%, Viognier 4%. Production just 586 barrels. 14.5% Alcohol.
Served slightly chilled in the warmth of South Africa I also chilled it briefly back in a, significantly cooler, UK to the wines benefit.
Scribblings Rating – 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

Reubens Grilled Quail with Chocolate Block Red
Boekenhoutskloof Semillons

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  1. Dylan April 6, 2009

    I’m actually excited about hearing more on red blends myself. Tomorrow I’ll be having a conversation with the winemasters of our vineyard, Denis and May-Britt Malbec. I plan to ask about the motivations behind their Bordeaux blends over a single variety and what attributions this serves for their larger vision. Or, as I may prefer to phrase it, are two grapes truly better than one?
    Thanks for sharing the experience, Andrew. The quail looks scrumptious.

  2. Giles April 7, 2009

    I visited “the place beginning with B that I can’t pronounce” (as I described it to other wineries in the area) 3 weeks ago. They were harvesting the vines just outside the cellar door and the smell of the grapes was intense. We tried the Chocolate Block too (the only wine available to us proles outside of the Porcupine Ridge range) and it was excellent.
    Out of all the wines I tried in South Africa I was least impressed with the pinotage and most impressed by the Bordeaux blends (and sauvignon blancs). Whilst recognising the need for the country to have a global “calling card”, I can’t help but agree that pinotage is not it.
    How did you find the “burnt rubber”? I found hardly any, and what there was was mainly….in the pinotage.

  3. Andrew April 7, 2009

    Sadly we didnt get to visit the winery itself… have to agree with you on the blends (although I prefer the more Rhoney-styled) and the Sauvignons. Didn’t encounter any of the burnt rubber though, not that we actually sampled that many Pinotages either thinking about it.
    Hope you enjoyed your trip as much as I did!

  4. mo therese April 4, 2010

    The best vintage of the chocolate block are those with at least 4-5 years bottle maturation. The ’03 is drinking particularly well this year. but ’05 is almost there. Weird, sweetish finish, lovely colour and legs.

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