by Malcolm Jolley
Marc Kent, the genial and talented winemaker from Boekenhoutskloof in South Africa’s Franschhoek region, was in Toronto recently and I caught up with him at an intimate winemaker’s dinner held at Crush Wine Bar for a handful of journalists and wine professionals. Kent has been with Boekenhoutskloof since its beginning in the 90s. As a young winemaker, his leaner and more food-friendly style of South African wine making caught the attention of top international critics like Jancis Robinson almost right away. Kent makes and oversees a full range of wines, from the premium estate Boekenhoutskloof labels, through to the Cabernet Sauvignon blend “The Chocolate Block”, The Porcupine Ridge series (which, as a “Vintages Essential” is nearly always available in Ontario) and the entry-level Wolftrap. Kent is committed to sustainable viticulture and is moving towards biodynamic practices in the vineyard as well as the cellar. For instance, the 2008 Porcupine Ridge Viogner and Grenache Blanc we tasted (ok, I drank), with a pretty much perfect match of seared scallops with braised celery and celery root purée, had been partly fermented in “concrete eggs”, rather than stainless steel. In the video below, I ask Kent about his style, those “concrete eggs” and a few other things. The visual quality is not great. My apologies, I may have had a few too many refills of the both the 2008 Boekenhoutskloof and 2009 Porcupine Ridge Syrah (see my tasting note for the latter below the video), and also the 2008 Chocolate Block (there is a clear cocoa note to that wine, but I’ve always thought the name didn’t give the fruit in it justice, anyway…). Before I began recording, as we moved from the dinner table into place, we had a conversation that went something like this:
Me: Let’s try over here by the bar.
Marc Kent: Err, OK, but isn’t it a little dark?
Me: No… no way, it’ll be fine, looks good. I’m sure it will be fine.
Marc Kent: Are you sure? It seems dark and-
Me: Boukerhushfelt? Bookensloofenshlurp? Boukerhooksklop? Sorry, I’m trying to get this right for the video, how does it go again?
Marc Kent: [Very slowly and kindly, as if patiently speaking to a confused child] Boek-en-houts-kloof…
And then the video below begins…
Marc Kent doesn’t make Shiraz, he makes Syrah, and there is a brightness and acidity that elevates this deep red fruit wine that belies it’s big 14.5% alcohol by volume. There is red iron ore South African smoky earthiness (antipodean garrigue?) but also Grenadine and more black cherry than berry. In other words, this wine is subtly and deliciously dangerous. It’s also a great, great value at 15 bucks. Lamb or beef will do nicely, as will a soft, salty cheese on a freshly cut baguette.
This video was made possible through the kind support of Fortessa Canada / Schott Zwiesel.