Monday, August 01, 2005

Backsberg Chardonnay South Africa 2002

Stephanie and I spent an enjoyable weekend entertaining her brother and sister-in-law. After a truly phenomenal lunch at Hot Doug's on Saturday, we came home for a dinner of grilled squid and grilled pork loin roast. On Sunday, we held a party in honor of the departure of my friend Kevin for D.C., and I prepared grilled chicken a la Mina - jerked, barbecued, and Italian herb - with Stephanie's homemade guac and an orzo pasta salad.

After this weekend of fine eating, Stephanie requested that we keep tonight's dinner on the lighter side. Accordingly, we began the meal on our patio, shuckers in hand, staring at half a dozen kumamoto oysters each. Although they weren't impeccably fresh, the kumis (as Stephanie calls them) would beat most other varieties straight from the sea. For a main course, I served wild sockeye salmon, grilled only on the skin side, leaving the top incredibly succulent and moist, with asparagus and rice. We chose the Backsberg chard to accompany it.

Stephanie and I have been fans of Backsberg's wines for a while now. The "Pumphouse" Shiraz and the inexpensive Sauvi Blanc are very nice wines. The chardonnay, however, was much less enjoyable. Its aroma opened with rich oak and vanilla, but these couldn't mask a distinct note that reminded me of taleggio cheese. Like the aroma, the body was rich, but the wine's body showed no sophistication or structure.

Throughout the nineties, wineries looking to make quality wines for budget-conscious consumers went to incredible feats to make their inexpensive wines taste like Mersault and Montrachet. Often this included the addition of inappropriate amounts of oak or oak chips. More recently, a number of wineries have realized that consumers are well pleased by inexpensive wines that allow the fruit flavors to show through without overwhelming oak and vanilla. The Aussies, and even some South African wineries have excelled at this. Backsberg, unfortunately, seems to have missed the boat. There's fine fruit in this wine, but it doesn't come through sufficiently to make it food-friendly. Oh well.

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