Wine News Le Bonheur's First New Red Blend in 24 Years

Le Bonheur's First New Red Blend in 24 Years

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“This is the first reserve wine I’ve made in my life. I had to wait 38 years for the right opportunity,” says Sakkie Kotzé of his 2009 Le Bonheur Tricorne.

The wine is a majestic, generous but also surprisingly gentle blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz.  “I’ve been thinking about doing it for a long time but it needed patience and the right vintage.  For us, 2009 was an outstanding year and by then the Shiraz vines we’d planted were seven years old and producing fruit with sufficient character.”

Tricorne is the Stellenbosch estate’s first new red blend in 24 years and just over 6 500 bottles have been produced. Prima, Le Bonheur’s only other red blend, was launched in 1988 and has developed a devoted following locally and in Europe and Canada for its very graceful elegance.

“Not that that means Tricorne will be an annual event,” he is quick to point out. “Our next vintage is the 2012. We will only make this particular three-way blend in exceptional years.”

The wine takes its name from the three-cornered hat worn by Spanish soldiers in the 17th century and then adopted by the court of Louis XIV, who made it fashionable throughout Europe, both as a civilian and military accessory. “We liked the idea of choosing a hat name as we are based in Klapmuts, which is the Dutch word for a type of hat too!”

Tricorne is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) and equal parts of Cabernet Franc and Shiraz, sourced from three top-performing, high-lying vineyards on the farm, with fruit picked from individually selected vines. The vineyards of both Cabernets, six to eight years old at the time of harvesting, are established in decomposed granite soils while the Shiraz, seven years old at the time of harvesting, grows in loamy soils.

The three components were individually vinified.

Unlike the other two varietals, the Shiraz received no skin contact. “I was looking for a very classical profile with notes of white pepper. It’s quite restrained and I tried to maintain that character in the wooding by using some second-fill American oak rather than new barrels, to avoid an overt vanilla sweetness.”

The wine spent 26 months in a combination of 80% new, tight-grained French 300-litre barrels with the second-fill American oak making up the remaining 20%. “That’s a long time but you don’t pick it up on the taste. It’s very smooth in the mouth with a rich and lingering berry spiciness.”

The new flagship red is not his only addition to the Le Bonheur range.  He has also introduced the estate’s first vineyard-designated wine, a Sauvignon blanc made from 35-year-old vines planted 220 metres above sea level in clay-rich soils. “The original material came from the late great viticulturist Desiderius Pongracz who planted it here on the farm in the late 1970s. We have been using the fruit as part of our regular Sauvignon blanc but we thought that with such a special and long-standing history, the vineyard needed to be commemorated in its own right, as well.”

He says the wine is quite different from the regular Sauvignon blanc in the range. “This is not as fruit-driven and in many ways is more nuanced. It has a lot of body, is crisp and flinty but with some green and tropical flavours. It’s an excellent food wine, very distinctive and marks the long association that Le Bonheur has with Sauvignon blanc.”

Tricorne sells for around R200 a bottle and the vineyard-designated Sauvignon blanc, for around R75.