‘Parkerisation’ is often loosely used to refer to rich, ripe, oaky and bombastic wines, made to impress wine critic Robert Parker. Whether or not this is true, it speaks to the psyche of the winemaking world, where many (if not most) producers manipulate or steer their products in favour of someone’s preferred taste, whether it be the critics, judges, consultants or consumers.
Michel Rolland is a Bordeaux-based oenologist and consultant to a plethora of French and overseas producers. He is often criticised for advocating fruit-heavy and oak-influenced wines – some will even go as far as to say that he steers winemaking to suit Parker’s palate.
But criticisms and stylistic preferences aside, Rolland can be accredited with improving many poor-performing Bordeaux-wines, while assisting and mentoring numerous producers worldwide.
Remhoogte winery is situated in the Simonsberg ward of Stellenbosch and its first wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon, was created in 1995 by owner Murray Boustred, with the help of Jean Daneel – a wine that still showed beautifully at a recent vertical tasting hosted at the cellar.
After seven vintages on their own, Murray and his team decided to employ the services of Rolland in 2002 and a joint venture, Bonne Nouvelle, was created. Since then, the two main red blends – Estate and Bonne Nouvelle – were produced under the guidance of Rolland for the next five vintages.
The Estate wines are made from older vines, with more restrained and classic flavours, while the Bonne Nouvelle wines show richer and riper fruit and more oak character.
Vintage variation taken into consideration, the tasting of these blends from 2002 through to 2007 showcased just how tastes differ, with about half the room preferring the one and the other half preferring the other.
A stand-out wine for many was the 2006 Estate – it had a good balance of dark berry and herbaceous flavours, as well as spices, with silky tannins on the palate. Incidentally, this was also the first vintage that saw the introduction of Shiraz to the blend, which until then, comprised combinations of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinotage.
Even though many changes and developments have taken place since 1995, the stylistic evolution is far from finished. The 2007 vintage was the last directly influenced by Rolland and in 2008, Murray’s son Chris took over the winemaking reigns, with brother Rob joining shortly after in the sales and marketing department.
Chris is now aiming to produce wines with tension; by using older oak and shortening the maceration time, he hopes to find a balance between the Estate and Bonne styles. “We appreciate everything that Michel has done for us – he is a great winemaker, taster and person,” Chris says.
“He guided us from the vineyard to the cellar, teaching us, for example, to open the canopy on the morning-sun side – this meant that we could pick earlier and get better tannins,” he says.
Chris’s brand new creation, the 2010 Sir Thomas Cullinan (R200), is still a work-in-progress, but showcases what this new and exciting generation at Remhoogte is all about. Made from 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, it has a good balance between flavours, with loads of tannins and good acidity. The wine is still very young and needs time to develop further, but it is definitely a keeper.