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2011 Boekenhoutskloof, Porcupine Ridge Syrah, South Africa
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Boekenhoutskloof is one of the most celebrated of all South African wineries and was indeed voted Winery of the Year 2012 by the influential South African journalist John Platter. Created in 1776 and situated in a remote corner of the beautiful Franschhoek Valley, the estate‘s recent fame dates only from 1993 when new owners completely restored the vineyard and established new plantings of varietals such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Viognier.
The driving force here is winemaker Marc Kent, a maverick genius with an unswerving commitment to the highest quality in all that he does. The winery is better known for its reds, especially Syrah and Cabernet, but also makes a stunning white from the Semillon grape amongst a small range of whites.
One of the most iconic wines of Boekenhoutskloof is the famed Chocolate Block, a red blend which changes every year according to the vagaries of the vintage, but is largely based on Syrah. The source of the wine’s name remains a mystery, as the estate’s owners refuse to divulge its origin, but the key point is that the wine is sublime.
A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.
It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.
South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.
Franschhoek wine region lies to the west of Stellenbosch in a fertile valley surrounded by the Drakenstein Mountains. The town of Frankschoek was founded by fleeing French Huguenots in 1688, who brought along their winemaking traditions and vines. Franschhoek's warm, temperate climate is perfectly suited to the production of powerful, saturated red wines and concentrated, fruit-driven white wines. The most prominent grapes in the region are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir.
Today it remains very much a boutique wine region with smallholding producers.