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Raise a glass to praiseworthy workhorse wines


Raise a glass to praiseworthy workhorse wines

Some, such as chenin blanc and colombard, hold barrels of promise, but this does not include all varieties

Michael Fridjhon

When fellow wine enthusiasts suggest I try a handcrafted wine made from a surviving block of what was once a high-yielding vineyard that used to help supply the once insatiable Cape brandy industry, my eagerness is usually a little muted. This same (hopefully polite) sense of reservation extends to many of the more pedestrian workhorse reds.

I’ve worked in Priorat in Spain, where some of the oldest and most photogenic carignan vineyards in the world are to be found. I find it impossible to express unrestrained enthusiasm when reviewing the beverage coaxed from those marvellous gnarled bushvines. The landscape may be harsh and uncompromising: the wines are generally bland and forgettable.

Not every old vine is an undiscovered vinous treasure, nor are most of the cultivars planted on account of their ability to yield fruit (usually in inverse proportion to the price of grapes) capable of producing anything better than box wine. The blunt but useful expression about silk purses and sows’ ears comes to mind. Sometimes a thoughtful vinification of an obscure but unremarkable variety is fun and breaks the monotony of bucketloads of faultlessly produced merlots and shirazes that offer about as much personality as the governance officer of a big bank. ..

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