At 10-year vertical is often used to demonstrate longevity and legacy. To showcase potential and what can be expected from investing in such wines now and enjoying them later.

They also offer a rare glimpse into vintage and the variances this causes — some are good, some less so, so it’s the opportunity to understand the wine “warts and all”, as winemaker Duncan Savage puts it. Savage is a winemaker who sources grapes from around the Cape and makes wine in his cellar within the commercial area of Salt River, to the east of Cape Town’s CBD.

It’s an epic story and one that begins while Savage was still winemaker at Cape Point Vineyards. He talks of the early days, driving up and down during the harvest, late nights spent waxing bottle tops by hand and buying barrels from friends to get the project off the ground.

Duncan Savage.
Duncan Savage.
Image: Supplied

Ten vintages and 11 years later, the winemaker is indisputably having an exceptional year. His wines having become highly regarded through the years, performed magnificently well in master of wine Tim Atkin’s SA report, the same report in which he was named winemaker of the year.

So it was naturally with much excitement that I found myself at fine-wine distributor Great Domaines’ office in Johannesburg, for the rare chance to experience the first full 10-year vertical of Savage Red, hosted by the man himself.

Savage Red.
Savage Red.
Image: Supplied

Savage Red, which over the years has evolved from a predominantly syrah-based blend (with components of grenache, cinsault and touriga nacional) to a 100% syrah from the 2017 onwards, is tasted from 2011’s vintage to the recent release 2020 vintage.

It’s the first time Savage has done the complete flight too and he regales us with notes and stories of each vintage, taking us along year by year. There’s a story in every bottle, he tells us at one point, and he proves it.

Throughout the tasting certain vintages are more expressive and some are more reserved, and an obvious change is evident once we move over to 2017 — yet all are clearly exceptionally well-made wines with a remarkable elegance; the thread that connects vintage to vintage.

The wines, while light in style, have superb structure with tannins that range from silky to velvety and pleasantly grippy as we move towards the more recent vintages. There’s an unbelievable purity of fruit, old oak expertly used to add poise and power without interfering with flavour.

The new release, the 2020 vintage, proves the same" it’s somewhat softer than the ’19 yet still showcases Savage’s intense focus, structure and elegance. Perfumed aromas of pepper spice, red fruit and florals lead on to a palate of gorgeously concentrated fruit, a balancing acidity, velvety tannins and a lingering, mineral finish. It’s remarkable winemaking.

The vertical in its entirety as much a testament to the longevity and legacy of Savage Wines, as it is a showcase of what’s to come, with the more recent vintages indisputably being among Savage’s best yet. He’s a winemaker at the top of his game and he’s seemingly just getting started.

To buy Savage Red 2020, visit Great Domaines.

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