Too dry? Add sugar, says wine wizard

NEXT time you’re feeling like a sip of rosé, plop a drop of cabernet into your sauvignon blanc.

Fancy it a little sweeter? A teaspoon or two of sugar will do the trick.

Well, who am I to argue with the owner-winemaker from an estate that the US’s respected Wine Spectator lists as one of the world’s top 50?

The estate in question, Buitenverwachting, is a relative newbie in SA’s oldest wine-making region of Constantia – having only been in the business since current owner Lars Maack’s dad bought the run-down farm in 1981 – but that doesn’t make this winemaker any less passionate about well-aged wine.

He surprised guests at the recent Dine & Wine evening at Kipling’s at the Boardwalk Hotel with the little-known fact that the maiden vintages of Constantia were already celebrating their half-century when France’s venerable Bordeaux region first started producing wine.

And when his neighbour celebrated a 50th birthday a few years ago, he invited Lars over to share a priceless bottle of 1791 “Constantia Sweet”. Never mind the taste, he says, the occasion and the once-in-a-lifetime experience made it a truly memorable bottle of wine.

While very, very few will ever get to have a similar experience. Maack’s advice to us ordinary wine-drinkers is always to keep a few bottles back when you buy a case and let them age to see how they develop. If you can’t restrain yourself, experiment with decanting a wine and leaving it for a few days.

Try a glass a day and see how the wine develops into full richness after three or four days. Leave the top off the decanter, he says, and just pop a piece of paper on top to keep the flies out!

Explaining his passion, Maack says: “I want a wine that communicates character, not like someone who is interesting on the first thing they have to say, and then no more. The wine must develop as the evening goes on, delivering more than what was in the glass on the first taste.”

He also has a very down-to-earth approach to wine. “It’s a beverage. We blend in the cellar, we add sugar. If you like your tea sweeter, you add sugar. I have no problem if you do that with my wine too.”

Perhaps not, though, with his magnificently smooth and full-bodied Meifort Bordeaux blend – while the Boardwalk diners tasted the 2009, Maack and his friends are only now drinking the 2003. This, along with the Buitenverwachting Merlot and Cabernet, are made for the long haul, with a life-span of at least 15-20 years, says the winemaker.

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