Stellenbosch Kanonkop Kadette

G’day guys and here I am today with another fine wine. I’ve written about quite a few good European blended wines already (so far all French) and this wine is blended with South Africa’s signature wine Pinotage.DSC00740
Like the great John Cleese once said “…and now for something completely different.” Pinotage, an important aspect of this article’s focus, this Kadette blend, is South Africa’s signature vin. In nineteen-twenty-five Pinotage was made by grafting Pinot Noir, which made great tasting and sophisticated wine but was too delicate for the South African climate onto the hardier more robust Cinsaut grape, a wine known for drought resistance and adaptability to hot climates in the French colonies of Africa (this being said, I’m surprised Cinsaut is not more popular here in Australia, where that sort of description of a plant would be a key selling point). Apparently the grafted plants, after being created successfully, were almost thrown out from the inventor’s garden after he changed jobs from a Stellenbosch university to a South African wine and spirits company and his garden became ignored and overgrown. The plants were seen and rescued by a university colleague of his, who knew about them, walking past his house from some workers cleaning out the garden. Forgotten and abandoned and saved from the compost bin, a difficult birth then to the species. The grapes grow greatly in the soil of Stellenbosch, the vine matured early and grew high in sugar. But the new grafted species was not created without difficulties. They are however, unfortunately high in tannins. The harvesters try to combat the negative bitter properties of pinotage by harvesting them as late as possible, leaving them to ripe fully and limiting skin contact. The first recorded wine from Pinotage was said to be in nineteen-forty-one, from a winery in Myrtle Grove. Also that year, vines were first planted at this label’s winery. Kanonkop, one of the most prestigious labels in South Africa, resides on a mountain slope in an area known as the “red wine bowl”, boasting one-hundred-twenty-five hectares of vineyards, fed by coastal seabreeze and what they say is “ideal soil”, what precisely makes the soil ideal Google didn’t feel like helping me with. Kanonkop combats Pinotage’s difficult nature by using wide and shallow concrete fermenters as apposed to the tall, deep fermenters used typically for European species, to limit skin contact. After all this history and viticulture, I would love a drop of Pinotage…but due to yet another retail malfunction I could not get it here, and my guy was particularly vague on when or if it would ever be back on the shelves of my local store. And I’m not driving an hour to a store that does, I don’t care how good it turns out to be, me and my rapidly deteriorating back are not driving hours for some plonk. So here is the next best thing, a blend from Kanonkop containing Pinotage; Kadette. Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Having drunk both, hopefully I can get some sense of what Pinotage tastes like from what stands out as unusual. Apparently it’s taste is summed up as dark berries and “quirky banana”, sounds intriguing. Assuming of course, saying an African wine tastes of bananas is not some dry English wit from somebody else at the BBC. I’ll look for that sort of taste, dark berries and bananas.DSC00741
Right on the label, it has a canon. The name, “Kanonkop”, is derived from the Afrikaans words translating literally into “cannon hill”, that was fired in the Seventeenth century to alert farmers that ships from Europe were coming into port in Cape Town. So on the bottle we find some words of the craft. Kadette, as it turns out is 54% Pinotage. Reassuring then. It goes on to say it’s oaked for 12-14 months in “French Nevers”. Kanonkop then, cares about this wines image, especially since this is not capped simply with a regular aluminum cap, but with proper, real cork. So for the time in months I gotta go dig out my uncorker from the cutlery draw. I’m human enough to admit this; I’m terrible at uncorking. Especially since so few of us get any practice at that part of it anymore. But to my relief, I eventually extract the cork intact. One more intact cork for the jar, chuck it in there with the Bordeaux, the Sicilian and the Israeli. So if you’re reading this now, and you end up deciding you’d like this vin, but you don’t own a wine stopper, don’t buy it until you get one.
The nose is surprising. It isn’t one that resembles either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, it in fact is fruity and vibrant. If this does wind up tasting of dark berries it doesn’t smell of it, it smells like fresh vibrant ones. I’d go as far as saying this almost has a nose like a moscato. All good so far, let’s pour. As I pour the glass, the sweet welcoming nose disappears. The nose in glass is bitter, bland. I feel disheartened, I pray this is not my first introduction into what wine is like when it’s corked. My fear is elevated when I notice even after what to the naked eye looked like a cleanly removed cork, intact, not cracked or dry, tiny particles of cork in my glass. If this is what I suspect, fishing out the tiny speck of cork only just big enough to see with my finger maybe as effective as putting lipstick on a pig. But as I wipe the sip of wine on my fingertips off on my lips, the taste is nice. Fruity and sweet. So I smell again. The sweet nose returns after its given a chance to breathe. Not as pungent as before, but still fruity. I sip it, the first impression is sourness. Not the sourness that probably just popped into your mind that you associate with when somebody describes a sour taste in a wine, not like sourdough or bread. Sour, like those sour lollies we used to have as kids. A taste of dark berries? Yes. Whatever, pray tell a “quirky banana” may taste like (as opposed to an average banana), I’m not finding it here. But I’m enjoying this
In closing: In summary, the best description I could sum Kadette up to is a little bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, topped up with a sweet dessert white. What that sweet wine blended to the traditional Europeans is, must be the contribution of Pinotage, I’d like very much to taste in its raw form. But as for Kadette, I like it. This bottle, a 2015 vintage, was very enjoyable, and it does beg the question, what will one of these taste like after some further aging? This wine then, in a small way sum up the continent of Africa – Magnificent and to be explored

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank my friend, Graham Cash, owner of Sioux Archery for allowing me to use his trophy Red Hartebeest as a backdrop to this wine bottle and allow me to take photographs in his store after business hours. Happy hunting.

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