Vilafonte Series M 2014
This wine exhibits a dense purple color with a brilliant red rim. Aromatically the wine offers a smorgasbord of red fruit characters: plums, dark cherry preserves, and dried cranberries. Underlying these are more mature aromas of dried flowers, balsamic and fruit cake. Open and inviting, this vintage is notable for its silky, succulent entry, lovely weight, resolved tannin, ripe red fruit flavors, and long finish. With only a modest maturation in new French oak, purity and clarity of aromatic expression characterize this elegant blend of the Series M Malbecs, Merlots, and Cabernets from their Vilafonté vineyard.
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The 2014 Series M comes from 17 different blocks each vinified separately. It is a blend of 39% Merlot, 36% Malbec and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is matured in French oak for 20 months, just 3% new oak mainly, as it turned out to be a larger vintage than expected according to winemaker Zelma Long. It has a rich bouquet, ripe and generous with kirsch, crushed strawberry and blueberry, later just a smear of creme de cassis. The palate is soft and rounded on the entry, a little smudged perhaps, yet still nicely balanced with a sprinkle of white pepper towards the finish. Perhaps it just needs a little more persistence on the aftertaste compared to vintages that I have tasted in the past, but still a fine Series M.
Zelma Long is Head Winemaker for the Vilafonté project. Zelma is one of America's best known winemakers. One of the first women to study enology and viticulture at U.C. Davis, she began her winemaking career at Robert Mondavi Winery, rapidly working into the Chief Winemaker position.
Vilafonté's General Manager is Michael Ratcliffe. Mike qualified as a business major before attending the University of Adelaide. Mike is Managing Director of his family estate, Warwick which is recognized as one of South Africa's foremost wine estates.
Phil Freese is head 'wine-grower' and creator of the Vilafonté vineyard which he calls "Different by Design". Phil spent 13 years as Robert Mondavi’s Vice-President of Wine Growing. Phil designed the first Opus One vineyards, and initiated the remote sensing project with NASA that has spawned a new wave of tools for viticulture analysis and quality enhancement.
With an important wine renaissance in full swing, impressive red and white bargains abound in South Africa. The country has a particularly long and rich history with winemaking, especially considering its status as part of the “New World.” In the mid-17th century, the lusciously sweet dessert wines of Constantia were highly prized by the European aristocracy. Since then, the South African wine industry has experienced some setbacks due to the phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s and political difficulties throughout the following century.
Today, however, South Africa is increasingly responsible for high-demand, high-quality wines—a blessing to put the country back on the international wine map. Wine production is mainly situated around Cape Town, where the climate is generally warm to hot. But the Benguela Current from Antarctica provides brisk ocean breezes necessary for steady ripening of grapes. Similarly, cooler, high-elevation vineyard sites throughout South Africa offer similar, favorable growing conditions.
South Africa’s wine zones are divided into region, then smaller districts and finally wards, but the country’s wine styles are differentiated more by grape variety than by region. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is the country’s “signature” grape, responsible for red-fruit-driven, spicy, earthy reds. When Pinotage is blended with other red varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Pinot Noir (all commonly vinified alone as well), it is often labeled as a “Cape Blend.” Chenin Blanc (locally known as “Steen”) dominates white wine production, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc following close behind.
One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, the best of these are densely hued, fragrant, full of fruit and boast a structure that begs for cellar time. Somm Secret—Blends from Bordeaux are generally earthier compared to those from the New World, which tend to be fruit-dominant.