Tuesday, January 01, 2008

S. African wines: Terroir or Taint? by (PB)

Several years ago I had an Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon--I believe it was a 2004 but I am not sure. I was impressed with it and had several bottles that year--all very tasty and at $8 a bottle, it was an excellent value. Then the 2005's were released and I noted an unusual taste that was reminiscent of band-aids. Thinking the wine was tainted I purchased another and it was the same.

In subsequent vintages and with various producers, I was noticing the same ucky aroma and taste. It was so prevalent that I was starting to think that perhaps this funky taste was actually South African "terroir" and that some would grow to love it like other distinctive terroirs around the globe.

Now after three years or so of tasting S. African wines, I am seriously wondering if this isn't terroir at all but taint caused by Brettanomyces contamination. "Brett" is a killer fungal contaminant that has ruined wineries' inventories.

It is often described as tasting like/smelling like band-aids.

I do not wish to disparage an entire industry especially since I have not tasted nearly enough wines from South Africa, to make such a pronouncement but nearly every one I have tasted in the past couple years (with the exception of some Chenins) have been touched by this nasty aroma/taste. It seems to be more pronounced in red wines.

At any rate, which ever it is, I am not inclined to continue experimenting throwing away my money on a hope that I can find a good wine. So this is offered in the for what it's worth category and I would love hearing from others who have had similar experiences.

Raise a glass but my counsel is to shy away from S. African wines without a trusted recommendation for a particular wine first.

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