Grange-beating, 'most prized modern Cape wine'
‘His is the hand behind what might become the priciest, most prized modern wine.’ – John Platter (1997)
In what could be our most incredible rediscovery yet, Wine Cellar has purchased a pristine parcel of 1994 Stellenzicht Syrah and 1994 ‘Stellenzicht’. ‘One of SA’s newest and most convincing cult wines,’ wrote Platter of the Syrah in 1997. The full story tells of a young Andre van Rensburg striking gold with a bit of luck.
Staking its claim early at the 1996 SAA test match against Australia, awarded third place by international judges, the ’94 Syrah beat the legendary Penfolds Grange 1990 and caused quite a stir. It cracked 92/100 from Wine Spectator, then the highest rating for a SA red, and put van Rensburg on the map. He left just 4 vintages later to head-up Vergelegen.
The whopping 14.4% alcohol, ‘thick-fruited’ and spicy, dried herb nuanced beauty lead Andre to apply to Sawis for a ‘Syrah’ labelling. It was also the most expensive SA wine at the time, released at R55 per bottle, and sold at the New York Waldof Astoria at $30 per glass.
Most remarkably, 23 years on, the 1994 is perfectly composed, fresh and complex. The nose exudes pure red-berry fruit, hints of spicy oak and an underlying meaty, dried herb complexity. The palate is structured, fine and long with a lovely balance that runs from start to finish. Not too dissimilar to the Wine Spectator note 2 decades ago, it will drink well for another 20 years. Produced from a low-yielding vineyard that Andre named ‘Plum Pudding Hill’, later vintages never reached this dizzying height.
The ‘born-free’ Stellenzicht Bordeaux blend shows similar precision and freshness. Ripely-fruited at 12.5% alcohol, the under-rated early vintage of 1994 is really starting to shine.
If there ever was a South African icon red wine, the Stellenzicht 1994 Syrah would be the number 1 contender.
See here for our full vintage list, including a host of local legendary wines.