Hard yakka, this one. After a vintage of poor flowering we hand sorted this fruit with the precision you might employ if you were promised pearls amidst a pile of tiny plastic baubles.
In the end we took no more than 40% of the grapes, but goodness were they ever a happy bunch. The result is an aromatic tour de force. Imagine rhubarb, pomegranate and sarsparilla cocktails beside a charcuterie platter on a thick bed of pine needles. Meaty, concentrated, cherry cola intensity.
When Cult Syrah first hit the scene he was a mouthy upstart; a belligerent, in-your-face raconteur with noisy, controversial opinions on everything from Justin Bieber to geopolitics.
With every subsequent vintage he has matured, though we would never say mellowed. Gone are the screaming outbursts and rough edges verging at times on frivolity, replaced by a seriousness of purpose and the wisdom not to offend. He’s a grown-up sherbet, a tannic sorbet. He’s black pepper, curry leaf, cumin, bacon fat and salt. Where once he fidgeted, Cult Syrah now regally presides.
Chocolate and pork-blood pudding. Stay with me.
In a small town in Puglia the culminating highlight of the annual pig festival – back before small-town-festival pigs’ blood became contraband – was a warm custard-like sauce made on the spot with blood, milk and chocolate. As a tribute to the totality of the pig, one could hardly be more reverent. Whilst no pigs were harmed in the making of Sparks Grenache, the blood dessert analogy is a perfect one – in this case blood and raspberries. Chewy, dense, lifted and concentrated with a smooth, thick layer of chalk mid-palate. Vampire-like, this vibrant wine will live forever.
With majestic height and the grace that comes with physical strength, she is the impossibly wealthy and enviably blond mistress of the Meursault manor house.
Having flown in for the summer, she pulls open oak-framed French doors allowing the deeply floral breeze to billow spring dust from the white curtains. Her heels click audibly along a polished granite hallway to the kitchen where she idly crunches a celery stick and surveys lunch preparations – provençale rabbit. Swaby 2012 evokes with unyielding elegance a vintage of comfort and success.
We normally seat this wine beside our Swaby Chardonnay for sheer richness of expression.
This year’s Gower – like Swaby – is a firm nod to Old World sensibilities. Lifted and downright Burgundian-pretty on the nose. Rhubarb and tomato leaf atop spicy forest undergrowth. On the palate the depth is more apparent with tempting flavours of soft, ripe raspberries and the tang of black mulberries. You can drink this wine without food. Come to think of it, you may not even need a glass.