Coruscating Kanonkop

It is back to #saveSAwine with a review of Paul Sauer 2017 from Kanonkop. You recall the South African wine industry has faced problems from prohibition to tax rises. We need to buy South African wine to drive exports and #saveSAwine.

Paul Sauer by Kanonkop is the iconic South African wine. A Bordeaux-blend from Stellenbosch that used to be remarkably affordable until a journalist awarded the Paul Sauer 2015 100-points in their South Africa review of the year. The 2015 is now insanely expensive, fortunately other vintages, like this 2017, have returned to more reasonable prices.

2017 is an excellent vintage in Stellenbosch (vintage is terribly important in South Africa, much like France and quite unlike Australia). Those 2017s I have tasted seem as good as the few 2015s I have had, but that same journalist only gave this 98 points. I am not quite sure what that means but let us assume it means he thought it was rather good.

The vines that produce Paul Sauer 2017 have an average age of 30-years-old and they yield 27.5hl/ha. It is made from 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot. It has an elevage of 24 months in new oak barrels. The Paul Sauer 2017 is 14%.

None of this sounds particularly remarkable, but they must have a pretty special piece of land as I have really enjoyed every vintage of this I have tried, going back to the early 90s. All those ‘wine’ friends I know who are into Bordeaux blends adore Paul Sauer; most tell anecdotes about serving it blind to Claret aficionados and them thinking it was some particularly lovely super-second.

Shall we see how lovely it is?

Paul Sauer 2017, Kanonkop

Paul Sauer 2017, Kanonkop

“God, it is fucking gorgeous!”, says The Editor as I pour him a shot. I had better try some.

Yes, it is highly attractive… I mean: it is fucking gorgeous. It throbs with glorious cassis, blackberry, plummy-ness. The Paul Sauer has a wonderful, heady, exciting fruit complex on the nose. Ripe, fulsome, generous but not overripe or over-blown. Totally delicious.

There is a floral character to the fruit as well, violets, definitely, but I think cornflower and a hint of bluebell as well. Maybe it is just that spring is in the air but these aromas speak of intricacy and style to me.

There is all that cedar wood, crushed pencil, cigar box stuff that people talk about with Bordeaux blend notes, but I think there are two things about the nose (apart from the fucking gorgeous fruit) that really do it for me.

Firstly, Paul Sauer 2017 seems charged with a gravelly, granitic minerality which is utterly beguiling, it is sophisticated and stylish. This is the nose of a wine grown in a special piece of land to have such a strong vineyard character.

Secondly, This has seen 100% new oak for 24 months and yet the oak is perfectly integrated and does not stand out in the slightest. There is a hint of vanillin to this Paul Sauer, but you would not describe it as a really oaky wine at all.

Harmony, balance and style are what this Paul Sauer 2017’s nose is all about.

And, yes, it is fucking gorgeous.

Yum, it is rather tasty too!

Again, it is harmony, balance and style that marks Paul Sauer 2017. The harmony between the acid and fruit, the perfectly-framed acid/tannin structure, all wonderful.

The balance between the structure and the fruit, the fruit and the earthy, mineral characteristics, the hint of vanillin that combines with the floral/fruity flavours on the finish to make it long and delicious.

By arse the Paul Sauer 2017 is stylish. The refinement of that tannic structure! The complexity of the flavour interplay on the palate!! The enormous, dizzyingly involute finish!!! This oozes class from every drop and makes you wonder why you bothered with all those beginners’ wines.

The wines I have been drinking recently are in no way beginners’ wines, they have been complex, classy and interesting. None have been as good as this. This is the best wine I have had in a long time, and it is damned-well satisfying to have something as good as this on a random Monday night.

The Editor has a glazed expression and keeps sniffing his glass. I have goosebumps and tears in the corners of my eyes. You must excuse me whilst I get down to some drinking.

#saveSAwine at Uncorked.


I must thank the remarkably generous Keith Prothero for my bottles; he asked me to thank Uncorked for helping him secure a little stash and send it out to me in double-quick time. Thank you, Keith and Uncorked!

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