Two smart cabs
In late 2010 I wrote a piece I called "The rise and rise of Nederburg" in which, inter alia, I mentioned being very impressed with a cabernet to be released in a new top-end range.I also pointed out how irrelevant these tiny production wines are in the context of Nederburg's huge production - although, "as a sign of intent, as a cipher of the quality increasingly associated with the Nederburg brand, they are eloquent". It is, too, I suppose a way of keeping cellarmaster Razvan Macici happy, by allowing him to show his immense skills with small volumes as well as large.
Well, that 2007 Cab was released a few months back under the new II Centuries label - at a price of R400, which is quite a bit more than the Ingenuity red blend, but not as easily found. That's ii Centuries as in "Two" rather than "Eleven" - as usual whoever designs Nederburg's packaging seems to have done the usual more-or-less-bad job, including allowing for this bit of potential confusion.
A bit of confusion also seems to have gathered around the destiny of the range - Christian Eedes declared firmly on his blog that it was discontinued after the 2008, but I have been assured by the Nederburg team that this is not the case at all. It is simply that the wine will only be made when it is deemed up to standard, not in every vintage (not sure about the 2009 - surely that great vintage must have produced a good enough wine?).
Actually I had wondered if the wine was to be discontinued because the vineyards were no longer available. Although you shouldn't expect Nederburg's pathetic marketers and designers to tell you the origin beyond "Coastal", I know it is a wine with a specific origin - on the slopes of the Paarl side of the Simonsberg. I'd heard that Koos Bekker's Babylonstoren farm in that area (no wines yet, as far as I know) had been buying further vineyards, and I wondered if these were amongst them. But apparently not.
Which is A Good Thing for Razvan and Nederburg, judging by this maiden 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is as excellent now as it promised to be when I sampled it from tank - possiby the best straight cab produced locally. Still youthful, though already with some complexity to its deep, subtlety. The rich cassis fruit is sweet, but not at all jammy; lingering. The overall effect is dry, but not drying. Excellent acidity, and with very firm tannins which will get even more succulently savoury over the next decade. I tried it over a few days and it only improved. And - something I seldom do with sample bottles of relatively young wine, I actually finished this one, with pleasure and satisfaction all the way.
The other 2007 cab I paced it with is also a decent wine, but rather suffered from the comparison. This was the Cape Doctor 2007 from Journeys End - the property high on the Schaapenberg near Somerset West which seems to have started rather than ended a serious and quality journey.
The Cape Doctor 2007 (less than half the price of the Nederburg) is drinking well now - probably mature, I'd guess, as revealed by a fairly advanced colour, and certainly without the longevity of the II Centuries. Attractive, spicy but rather obviously oaky nose. Full-fruited, fairly powerful; fairly rich but not too showy, a little too sweet in its effect. Good strong tannins just a little drying on the moderate-length finish. Not all that harmonious, however. A good Stellenbosch cab but nothing far out of the ordinary.
Interestingly (or not) the Platter judges think differently from me - the Nederburg got a mere four stars from Christine Rudman (I'd have put it up for five); the Journey's End got half a star more; I'd have given it four.
Incidentally, there is also a Sauvignon Blanc 2009 in the II Centuries range. Very good of its type, perhaps, but I myself do not like the intense greenness of this style of wine (rather like the Lomond Sugarbush). I'd understand that this was to be a blended wine - but they obviously, and regrettably in my opinion, decided otherwise.