(The blogpost part of my winning entry for the Veritas Young Wine Writer award, translated from Afrikaans to English)
When in search of an unusual wine or wine type, people often chase after them in the farthest reaches of the planet. French Bordeaux, Argentinian Malbec or German Riesling. Sometimes you look so far afield that you end up missing the gem that was right under your nose.
I discovered such a gem in a small bottle with a content resembling that of a brandy. No label. Just a name, written in Tip-Ex. Joostenberg Long & Late.
“A rarity,” I was assured.
“Uniquely dry-sweet,” I was told.
“Perfect cheeseboard wine,” was the advice I was given.
And it was exactly that. All of that and more.
My dad used to buy Hanepoot sweet wine, in those big bottles with the little ear on. A light straw-colour. He has a small, old wine barrel in the kitchen. Just a few liters. The sweet wine would be put in the little barrel. And it would be left there. Until we’d almost forgotten about it. Then one day, a year later, as winter creeps around, the barrel will be opened. Sweet, syrupy goodness would come out, almost the colour of Port. My mom’s favourite.
The Joostenberg Long & Late is nothing like my dad’s little creation. But the story behind it reminds me of it. It’s an experimental wine, a single barrel of 2004 Chenin Blanc. Harvested late, fermented in the barrel for 3 months and then just left for 8 years.
The winemaker isn’t entirely sure what to make of it either. The closest description is a Vin Jaune-style wine. Strong sherry character, but it isn’t fortified. Lots of sugar, but the sweetness is masked by something that dances around the edge of your consciousness, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. An earthy, nutty taste that just barely eludes you.
It’s a damn shame it was such a small bottle.