Over the weekend I had the opportunity to open a GS with good friends at the historic Bizansgat in the Ceres Karoo. The bottle has good provenance as it came from descendants of George Spies himself. It had a good ullage just below the neck and close to top shoulder and the cork, although darkend, came out in one piece.
The wine had an incredible deep color and not light as one would expect of older wine. On the nose there was something that reminded me of sherbet and something else.. almost dare I say chemical (or synthetic?).
In the mouth it was dense, concentrated and incredibly fresh for such an old wine. There was lots of fruit, velvet and fine tannins and very new-world like. All was in balance and complete.
Interestingly the table was somewhat divided on the “greatness” of the wine. One taster was in awe while another was not convinced.
I thought it incredible but not so much for how it tasted (although it does taste great), but the fact that it was completely intact and fresh almost to the point of a modern era SA red. Also because it is so very different to any other old South African wine I ever tasted.
My thoughts keep returning to the wine because I am puzzled by it. I am puzzled because it is so different, so intact and years ahead of its time. We might never know what exactly George Spies did in the cellar in 1966, but it certainly was a resounding success!
22 Aug 2016
A couple of wine critics wrote about the GS, but I thought Tim James provided an accurate description of the wine in 2013:
I’ve had various experiences with the GS cabs (only two vintages made, remember: 1966 and 1968) – some excellent bottles, some poor ones. That weary bit of wisdom about there being no great wines, just great bottles applies most relevantly to older wines, of course. This one was served blind. The light was fancy-restaurant-poor, but the wine was fairly deep-coloured, with no very great signs of ageing. I’m sure better light would have given me a better clue, but I guessed mid 1990s, and my first guess at origin was California. It was rich, fresh, full of flavour, and still hinting at primary fruit. I reckon the most youthful bottle of this wine I’ve had, though Chris said the level was right down into the shoulder. I might have suspected a bit of cheating – but the cork was certainly authentic: tiny, black and shrunken.
Also read: “The mystery of South Africa’s greatest red”: the-mystery-of-south-africas-greatest-red