Sauer and sweet

I have acquired a six-pack of older vintages of Paul Sauer by Kanonkop (thank you Greg and Mr P!). If you do not know Paul Sauer Kanonkop, it is South Africa’s flagship red wine. Made from Cabernet et al. I am predisposed to hate it. However, for leaping to the store rooms of the country when I asked Greg and Mr P about really fine, mature South African reds I have to say I am terribly grateful to the two chaps for trying to satisfy my urges. Seriously, thanks chaps, I appreciate your efforts.

Let us dive in:

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 1994Paul Sauer 1994, Kanonkop

This is a truly lovely nose! It is very Claret-y, but a Claret I love! It has all that blackcurrant, cedarwood, cigar box and earthiness on the nose in precisely the right place to make me smile.

The alcohol is at a modest 12.5%, not excessive at all and a level I like for Cabernet-blends. This makes the nose (at least!) more elegant and refined than some of these New World, fruit bomb, headache monsters like the never-welcome Bin 707, that are packed with emetic value which bring the contents of your stomach direct to your toilet.

No, none of that boozy, lurid over-blown filth! This is a lovely, pleasing, balanced, harmonious wine of purer, focussed fruit and pleasingly refined gravel. The woody element is really smart and refined, a nice seasoning rather than an overblown planking.

If I were given this to taste blind I would sniff it, sit back and say, “Is not life good when someone gives you Claret that you actually like?” If I probe my memory, I would swear this smells just like a Lynch-Bages 1995. That is an extremely flattering comparison to make, but it is completely deserved by this clearly very fine nose.

So I will have a taste. Fucking shit it is horrible. It has a screamingly powerful acidic component that is harsh and aggressively nasty. It is just horrible.

If you can possibly move your attention beyond this horrible characteristic it seems like it should be very nice. It does require a touch of imagination, but you can feel there are some sophisticated tannins. There might possibly be some cool, smart fruit, and it might even be true that there is earthiness there.

These flavours, if they really do actually exist, are completely eclipsed by the raw acidity that promises to burn you extra arseholes in the soles of your feet.

How could such a thing have happened? I have tasted wine where the winemaker told me they had failed to mix the sulphur in properly (one bottle was closed, tough and miserable, another was fruity, fun and up-front), could such a thing happen when you are shovelling your acid into the final blending vat? I have to admit I do not know and I would welcome the input of a skilled winemaker in the comments section (remember: you do not have to sign in to comment, read the instructions above the comments section).

This is a total road crash of a wine. The nose is more than you could ask of an ‘internationally-styled, Cabernet blend from who-cares where in the world?’. The palate is shriekingly unbalanced, harsh and generally nasty. There are hints that it could be nice on the palate, but they have cocked it up somehow.

An indescribable pity!

Paul Sauer Kanonkop

Paul Sauer 1995, Kanonkop

I note this has sneaked up to 13%, but that is still in range for poise and balance. And it has them, oh… Oh… Yes it has them. This is a beautiful nose, skilfully constructed to be beautifully delicious and stylishly structured. There are certainly no problems with excessive alcohol.

An internationally-styled, Cabernet-blend should be precisely the style of wine I loathe, but this is refined, this is supreme elegance, this has distinct individuality – I love the bleeder! The fruit is polished with a rich, gravelly platform to support it. This is the nose of a very impressive, quite full-bodied wine and it tells you quite boldly that it is really good.

Something I noticed on the nose of the 1994 and which is strongly present here is a herbal, leafy character. I am not sure this is all to do with Cabernet Franc, it smells to me like they have harvested some of the Cabernet Sauvignon a bit earlier than the rest of it. A devious and cunning route to complexity, well done boys and girls!

It smells just lovely, you would have to be a damned good taster to say this was anything other than, an admittedly slightly foxy to pin down to an address, very classy Bordeaux Chateau.

That herbal character is very strong on the nose, I find it really attractive, it is a foil for the ripe, polished fruit. How those two factors express themselves and intertwine and play off each other alone make the palate complex.

There are hints of wood tannins still contributing to the structure, which is taut and tense. With the juicy fruit and herbal flavours decorating this it seems deeply, lasciviously desirable.

It is impressively long with all those complex flavours tumble over and through each overleaving you dazzled and pleasured by this lovely charmer. It maybe a little on the large size, but that happens all over the place with some wines and I think it is that additional scale that makes me think (and you must forgive me is you find this comparison a little fanciful as it is years since I had it), I would have made a pretty foxy guess if I had put this down as a Palmer 95.

Paul Sauer 2009, Kanonkop

Right, at 14% this has definitely not only headed in the ‘Lush’ direction. It has arrived at ‘Lush’ and is spraying itself with scent on a baroque, red, velvet chaise-longue, whilst being fed Milk Tray chocolates by a gilded eunuch.

However, mock ye not! This is not a droopy vomit bag filled with Advocaat sick handed to horrified cabin-crew on a flight taking off from Brisbane. Instead it is Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was old enough to actually look handsome but before someone had cut all the wires that held up his muscles (especially in his face).

This does not have the soupy tannins of the emetic Penfold’s Bin 707 mocked earlier. The tannins are ripe, but they are taut, firm and properly structural. There is a definite rigour to the woodiness, the pallet that your wine was delivered on has been ingested by the wine! And there is a lively, but neither saggy nor shrieking acidity.

Forget that image of lush I gave in the first paragraph, this really is a lovey with muscles: it is younger Arnold! Good god it is full of life and energy.

Yes, it is big, but all the better to force your mouth to move so you can chew it around!

Yes, it is boozy, but how else would it separate the men from those who faint at a sniff of the barmaid’s apron*!!

Yes, it is fruity but not so saggy and sloppy that it collapses into super-ripe limpness when Arnold appears for his bit-part!!!

It is a winner and I love it!!!!


*Drinking is not big or clever, kids. I am 191cm tall and have four degrees from Oxford.


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