De Toren Z 2013
Blend: 42% Merlot, 21% Malbec, 16% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
De Toren proprietors Emil and Sonette den Dulk left Johannesburg in 1991 to establish their vineyards in the Polkadraai Hills of Stellenbosch. Situated on southern facing slopes overlooking False Bay, De Toren enjoys the cooling effect of constant ocean breezes. Taking a holistic approach to keeping vineyard soils healthy and balanced, viticulturalist Ernest Manuel employs sustainable farming practices throughout the property. Infrared Aerial Imaging is used extensively in order to monitor ripeness in various vineyard blocks and determine optimal picking times, although actual harvesting and production are done almost entirely by hand.
The winery is operated on gravity flow principles; a 4000 liter pressure tank in an elevator shaft (the "Tower" from which the winery takes its name) is cleverly used to exploit gravity in transporting wine between tanks and barrels without the use of mechanical pumps. As a result of De Toren’s innovative, minimal intervention production methods, their wines were among the first South African bottlings to qualify for IP (Integrated Production) certification by the Wine and Spirit Board.
The Den Dulks and winemaker Albie Koch seem to have found the key to success with their simple winemaking philosophy: gentle handling, no pumps, and minimum manipulation. Armed with this winning formula, the boutique farm has quickly risen to the ranks of South Africa’s winemaking elite with their duo of dazzling, stylish and complex five-varietal Bordeaux blends: the flagship Fusion V (which debuted in the 1999 vintage and has been hailed by Wine Spectator as "a consistently polished, outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend") and the Merlot-based "Z," introduced with the 2004 vintage.
South Africa’s most famous wine-producing district, Stellenbosch, surrounds the historic town with the same name; fine winemaking here dates back to the late 1600s. Its valleys of granite, sandstone and alluvial loam soils between the towering blue-grey mountains of Stellenbosch, Simonsberg and Helderberg have the capacity to produce beautiful wines from many varieties. The climate is warm Mediterranean, tempered by the cool Atlantic air of nearby False Bay.
Perhaps most well-known for its Pinotage and Bordeaux blends, Stellenbosch also produces noteworthy wines from Syrah, Chenin blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc. The district’s wards—Banghoek, Bottelary, Devon Valley, Jonkershoek Valley, Papegaaiberg, Polkadraai Hills and Simonsberg-Stellenbosch—all produce distinctive wines from vines with relatively low yields.
One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World, especially in California, Washington and Australia. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, these are sometimes referred to in the US as “Meritage” blends. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde River, while the Right Bank focuses on Merlot. Often, blends from outside the region are classified as being inspired by one or the other.
Tasting Notes for Bordeaux Blends
Bordeaux Blends are dry, red wines and generally have aromas and flavors of black currant, black cherry plum, graphite, cedar and violet. Cabernet-based, Left-Bank-styled wines are typically more tannic and structured, while Merlot-based wines, modeled after the Right Bank, are softer and suppler. Cabernet Franc can add herbal notes, while Malbec and Petit Verdot contribute color and structure.
Perfect Food Pairings for Bordeaux Blends
Since Bordeaux red blends are often quite structured and tannic, they pair best with hearty, flavorful and fatty meat dishes. Any type of steak makes for a classic pairing. Equally welcome with these wines would be beef brisket, pot roast, braised lamb or smoked duck.
Sommelier Secrets for Bordeaux Blends
While the region of Bordeaux is limited to a select few approved grape varieties in specified percentages, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, for example. Occassionally a winemaker might add a small percentage of a non-Bordeaux variety, such as Syrah or Petite Sirah for a desired result.