Earlier this week I was one of a group of bloggers and wine writers invited to attend the launch of the 2009 ‘T’ Noble Late Harvest of Ken Forrester Vineyards, on a sunny afternoon on the terrace of the Mount Nelson Hotel, ‘paired’ with the Nellie’s famous High ‘T’!

We were welcomed with a glass of Billecart-Salmon, which is distributed in South Africa by Ken Forrester Vineyards. The latest 2009 ‘T’ vintage, and the celebration of ten years of its production, was presented as a vertical tasting of six ‘T’ vintages, going back as far as 2000. Produced from his Stellenbosch vineyard, Ken Forrester said that they have used ‘fresh’ botrytis grapes from a 32 year old Chenin Blanc bushvine block, which is only 6 km from the Atlantic Ocean, with a moderate and cool climate, and good humidity in winter.  It is low-lying, with autumn morning mist, ensuring ideal botrytis conditions. The block is picked eight times or more during the harvest, an aerial photograph technique identifying which pockets of grapes have optimal ripeness.  It is a ‘concentrated essence of Chenin Blanc’, reflecting what this grape variety is about, Ken said.

Ken named this noble beverage in honour of his wife Teresa, known to her friends and family as ‘T’, for the first time in 1999, as a gift to her.  The bottle shape and design was chosen to resemble a perfume bottle, and was designed by Mark Ransome of Fireworks.

Only the very best botrytis grapes are used to make ‘T’, and the Noble Late Harvest has not been made every year, out of quality considerations. The 2009 ‘T’ has 12% alcohol, while the 2008 had 11%.  The older vintages have an alcohol content of 13% or more.  The juice was fermented in French oak for 18 months, with peach, apricot, melon and pineapple notes.  It is recommended to be drunk with fruit tarts, wild berries, ice cream, and full-bodied cheeses.  A 375 ml bottle of the 2009 ‘T’ Noble Late Harvest costs R195.

Ken Forrester is a great story-teller, with a successful career in the hospitality industry, before he ventured into wine-making, and is co-owner with his brother of 96 Winery Road just down the road from his wine farm. He is ‘Mr Chenin Blanc’ in South Africa, and heads up the Chenin Blanc Association, promoting this variety ardently.  He is also Chairman of the Stellenbosch American Express Wine Routes.

After the vertical tasting of the 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2001 and 2000 vintages of the ‘T’, we were invited to partake of the Afternoon Tea, and the table was filled with sandwiches, quiches, cakes, flapjacks, macaroons, and a large variety of other sweet treats.

Disclosure: All guests received a gift of a bottle of 2009 ‘T’ Noble Late Harvest.

Ken Forrester Vineyards, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 855-2374. www.kenforresterwines.com Twitter: @KFWines

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage