ZONNEBLOEM: A GLORIOUS TASTE OF STELLENBOSCH HISTORY
Earlier this autumn, wine critic and editor of Winemag, Christian Eedes, gave a score of 97 points to a wine almost 60 years old. The wine in question was the 1963 Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon. To Christian it wasn’t just a luminous example of a wine that had survived so long, it had actually “become more pleasurable and more interesting to drink”. That’s quite some compliment in anybody’s book.
He was charmed by its “enticing and complex aromatics of red and black berries, flowers, dried herbs, earth and spice”. The palate, he said, “has a wonderful sinuous quality to it, which is to say it possesses both weight and poise – dense fruit, bright acidity and tannins that still lend shape. Very much still intact”.
To age so well, is testimony, in our view, to the fine maturation potential of Zonnebloem’s reds, all made from Stellenbosch vines. The cellar still works with some of the same Stellenbosch suppliers it has for generations. You could also say that Christian’s praise underscores the well-established link between excellence in South African Cabernet Sauvignon and Stellenbosch itself.
The 1963 Zonnebloem opened for Christian to taste, comes from the Tabernacle in Stellenbosch. It is a hallowed place amongst the wine fraternity and the other lucky few who have been admitted. An underground wine library built in 1979, it archives some of South Africa’s greatest vinous treasures. It has come to serve as a most precious historical, winemaking, and cultural resource.
Today thousands of bottles are stored here under ideal ageing conditions. The collection includes two half-bottles of Constantia wines dating back to 1821, various wines from the 1920s as well as all the other decades of the 20th century. More recently, other age-worthy reds from the 21st century have been finding their way into the Tabernacle.
A selection of Zonnebloem reds, some of them at least a decade old, have just been released for sale from this magnificent library run by the Vinotèque. All of them were recently tasted to ensure they are still very much in prime condition. They can be acquired for your very pleasurable drinking. But if you intend to compile your own personal wine library, now would be the time to think of including some of these plush and vibrant gems.