Porcupine Ridge Syrah Viognier 2009

Continuing with my animal-on-the-label-theme here, you wouldn't expect to choose a Porcupine
Posted 24th August 2011        

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Continuing with my animal-on-the-label-theme here, you wouldn’t expect to choose a Porcupine as the most endearing or glamorous animal to represent a bottle of wine.

It seems as if everyone is getting in on the act though and the more exotic the animal on the label the better the chances of someone saying “Ooh, look, there’s a lesser-spotted, outer-island, silver-haired, great-footed sparrow on the labe,l” and actually buying the bottle it’s attached to.

I resisted the chance to try this wine for ages because of my cynicism about this very thing and eventually tasted it blind (at a friend’s barbecue) where it was sufficiently impressive for me to ask what it was I was drinking. When he showed me I nearly fell backwards into swimming pool, realised that I’d fallen for that old trick of pretense and we promptly finished off the bottle! Plus porcupines are really rather cute in a prickly sort of way…

There’s good reason why this wine is good to drink from a bottle with any label on it, let alone no label; it’s made at Boekenhoutskloof, one of South Africa’s premier wine estates and one which is rapidly achieving an almost cult-like status, not only locally, but world-wide too.

Originally established way back in 1776 by French Huguenots, the owners of the estate pride themselves on the biodiversity of this part of the country with many species of flora and fauna endemic to the area. Alien plant species have been removed and the reintroduction of several Protea species has begun along with the restoration of waterways and streams. As a result the local wildlife is thriving and none more so than the Crested Porcupine which can be found burrowing in the hillside and rocky outcrops bordering the vineyards. The animal is now representative of what is effectively Boekenhoutskloof’s second wine after the premium wines it produces under its own label.

The grapes for this wine are sourced from Malmesbury in the Swartland and are imported, de-stemmed and crushed before being fermented in stainless steel tanks with a selection of Rhone strain yeasts. This has a profound bearing on the wine as it is very similar to the inky, dark-purple wines of the Northern Rhone that are also predominantly made from the Syrah (or Shiraz) grape.

Two-thirds of the wine is then further matured in French oak casks while a third remains un-oaked before blending commences. A small amount of Viognier (4%) is added to give the wine a hint of femininity and perfume that so perfectly matches the macho fruit and spice driven deep and darkly brooding Syrah. The wine is bottled with screwcaps and is designed to be drunk young although it will keep perfectly well for a number of years under optimum cellar conditions.

This wine looks like a Syrah should – deep, dark purplish-red with an inky-like viscous quality. On the nose it s full off aromatic pepper and spice tinged with a hint of floral perfume from the Viognier. It is rich, fat and peachy-smooth on the palate, well textured and bursting full of dark berry fruit softened by vanilla from the oak with a slightly exotic, oriental aftertaste that lingers. At 14.5% alcohol it has plenty of legs and can stand up to just about any food thrown at it but it is equally at home drunk on its own at a barbecue, picnic or dinner party.

Good food companions include juicy rare steak, sausage and mash with spicy onion gravy and strong cheeses. It also goes very well with bacon and smoked spare ribs.

Available at time of writing from Majestic at £8.49 per bottle I give this novelty blend 85 out of 100, mainly because it’s so approachable, drinkable and good value for money.


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Meet the Author:
Donald Griffiths
Donald lives in Tadworth, Surrey and is originally from Durban in South Africa. He developed an appreciation for wine at a relatively young age mainly in thanks to his francophile mother who served it (just one glass mind!) with food around the dining table and taught him to appreciate, enjoy and acknowledge its ability to complement and even enhance good food. This appreciation grew stronger in his early twenties when he met like-minded buyers and drinkers of wine while working behind a bar as a student and also realised that a good bottle of cabernet sauvignon was a better pairing with barbecued red meat than any beer could ever be. Now all he pretty much drinks is wine – of all colours and styles – and enjoys collecting wines he likes to drink. Favourites include (but are not restricted to!) New World Pinot Noirs, most red Rhone varietals, the deeply dark and tannic wines from South-West France, big, creamy, oaked and over-the-top Chardonnays and the sweet white wines of Monbazillac and Sauternes. Donald prides himself on a relatively in-depth knowledge of the South African wine industry. He has visited many of the top wine estates in the Cape and will gladly try and convert the most sceptic, ignorant and staunchest critics of SA wine. If he won the lottery Donald freely admits he would buy a wine estate somewhere in the world and grow old in no great rush while getting his feet wet with grape juice.