LIQUID INVESTMENT: Saronsberg vertical tasting reveals how wines stand the test of time

Vertical tasting is the tasting of a same wine type, from the same winery, but different vintages. By doing this, differences  between various vintages are emphasized…

Article Source: bdlive


A VERTICAL tasting that reviews the same wine over a number of vintages, is a surprisingly useful way of deciding whether or not you would consider buying the current release from a particular cellar.

By seeing how previous vintages have evolved you can usually anticipate the future of the latest arrival. In gene pool terms, if you know the track record of several generations of race horses, you can make a more informed judgment call at a yearling sale.

Of course there are limitations — both to vertical tastings and to bloodline projections. Every generation is different because the DNA of both parents is present in their offspring. With wine, differences from one year to the next can range from weather conditions and vinification strategies to fruit selection within a single site, or from wholly different vineyards.

Saronsberg proprietor Nick van Huyssteen and winemaker Dewaldt Heyns hosted a vertical tasting of the first 10 vintages of their flagship wine, the Saronsberg online casino Full Circle, late last month.

Full Circle has been a work in progress, conceptualised shortly after Van Huyssteen bought the Tulbagh farm, but in a constant state of evolution as new vineyards planted specially for the blend come into production. For the earlier examples, Heyns had to rely mainly on bought-in grapes. Now that his own plantings are contributing — and he can also make more of the Rhone varieties, like mourvedre and grenache, which were in short supply 10 years ago — the composition of Full Circle is not the same as it was at the beginning of the decade.

I am pleased about this. I was never a great fan of the early releases: I found them too big and overtly too alcoholic. Hovering at about 15% they delivered ripeness (plenty) but without nuance. Ten years on, they’ve mellowed without acquiring any intricacy (though age has given the 2004 polish and opulence).

Generally the more recent vintages gave me more pleasure. The 2008 was a standout wine, especially given the weather difficulties at the time. It speaks for Heyns’s focus in terms of what he permitted to go into the blend.

The 2010 is exceptional, the 2011 still youthful but very promising, while the 2013 looks like it will reward your patience — if you have sufficient of that attribute to age it for at least a decade.