Happy sixteenth anniversary, Elitistreview!

It is Elitistreview’s sixteenth anniversary! Finally, my organ is legally allowed to have sex, rather than just making puerile jokes about it and sniggering in the corner of the Internet! Will the advancing age of this site bring a new, mature attitude to its reviews and opinion? Hmmm… I think I will stick to the jokes and sniggering…

The past year has seen me go on a bit of a South African wine bender. This has been a lot of fun as I have rarely drunk so well for such moderate expenditure. Every one of these wines has shown that South Africa is far more of a ‘Fine wine region’ than the stereotype of a New World wine location.

This anniversary note is a a follow up to the article I wrote two weeks ago, the review of Stark-Conde Oude Nektar 2017. This is also a review of a Stark-Conde single vineyard wine, the vineyard is Three Pines – a majority Cabernet Sauvignon wine from Stellenbosch.

Oude Nektar was extremely fine; reasonably fun, yet easily of the elegance, style and quality of the very top tier of Cabernet blends. Stark-Conde Three Pines Cabernet is a slightly more junior/less expensive wine, but from the 2017 vintage and from a producer capable of the explendency of Oude Nektar, it should be good enough for an anniversary wine.

Stark-Conde Three Pines Cabernet 2017 is made from a vineyard in the Jonkershoek Valley, that I am told is very mountainous with large variations in height within its area. Three Pines is a high altitude vineyard; it cannot be too chilly as this wine is 14%, suggesting a reasonable amount of sunny warmth kissed them.

Grapes for Stark-Conde Three Pines are handled in a traditional method for Cabernet: hand harvested, basket pressed, manual punching down and maturation in 225-litre French oak barrels followed by bottling without fining or filtration. 8,175 bottles were produced in 2017.

I’ve managed more detail than I did for the 2017 Oude Nektar Cabernet blend, eh?

Let us get tasting and may the opinions flow like vomit from a 16-year-old at a post-exam party!

Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Stark-CondeThree Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Stark-Conde

A deeply attractive nose that pulses with very ripe blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. It has a creamy minerality that gets added complexity with a sprinkling of granite dust.

It hardly seems oaky at all, Three Pines Cabernet is all about lovely fruit, minerality and a sandalwood richness. It is reasonably complex, but having tried Oude Nektar recently this does not glisk with as much dimension or refinement as I remember from that freaking marvellous stunner.

Let us get one thing absolutely clear, this is one hell of a delicious nose; it has what it needs where it needs it to charm and beguile. Moreover, it has excellent harmony of all the components on the nose, this is the nose of a wine that will age and improve for a long time. I bet it will taste delicious!

It tastes bloody tannic! This is not a problem, though. There is ample fruit that writhes around and within the tannic structure to keep that harmony spot on and the acidity is good and fresh.

There is a bit of oak tannin and vanillin showing here, but it seems very well integrated with the other components. It is all quite seamless and lovely.

That sprinkling of crushed granite seems present here, in an idoneous amount to add complexity without making the wine seem dry and dusty.

I was right, it does taste delicious and, if things like Paul Sauer and Oude Nektar did not exist, we would be jolly impressed by Cabernet blends like this.

Hell, I am impressed, it is delicious, with the structure and harmony to age for 15 years (or more) if your cellar is up to it. I rather like it now, but in all honesty you should leave this for another 5 years before you crack it. That structure is perhaps a trifle bold at the moment.

Stark-Conde Three Pines Cabernet 2017 is an excellent wine, not quite at the zenith of quality, but damned good. Both Paul Sauer and Oude Nektar are more refined and elegant than this, but Three Pines is just scrumptious whilst being serious enough a Cabernet to age and expect great rewards.

Three Pines costs less than a favourite Cabernet of mine, Deep Woods Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and I think it is suffused with greater fun-value, class and quality. Buy it!

Buy from Handford Wines.


I have been linking to Handford Wines endlessly and have not said why I buy from them so often. A few years back, a friend, Keith Prothero, initiated me into a wonderful relationship with South African wines. South African wines are not like New World wines in the Australian/Californian/South American mold. They have moderate alcohol levels, good acidity and fresh fruit flavours.

If you like South African wines the chances are you will end up shopping at Handford; they win seemingly endless gongs every year for their selection of South African wines. If you want a quality South African wine it will be for sale at Handford.

Why is their selection so good? It is in no small part due to Greg Sherwood MW being on the Handford Wines team. Having grown up in South Africa, he developed a love for the wines and when he pursued wine qualifications and entered the wine trade that was the region he specialised in. He visits South Africa regularly, conducts tastings of South African wines here in the UK and writes on the topic for both the UK and South African wine press. This is his blog.

Greg is a lovely chap, and if you want guidance, he is the fellow to ask. He can lead you to wines that will bring enormous pleasure and deep satisfaction whilst not breaking the bank. He is happy to help (unless he is at lunch)!

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