The sublime result of pioneering cellar techniques and precision viticulture, De Toren’s The Black Lion bears the hallmark of all the estate’s wines – a devotion to superlative quality. Known primarily for its focus on the Bordeaux cultivars, De Toren’s The Black Lion was the estate’s first venture outside of these stylistic parameters. An answer to the challenge of creating ‘the best wine in the world’, this 100% shiraz certainly sets the benchmark.
Hailed as the most powerful shiraz ever produced in South Africa, De Toren’s The Black Lion is a large, bold and powerful wine, a masterful alchemy of hand-chosen fruit. Wine Enthusiast has historically awarded this robust beauty a stellar 95 points, securing it the title as Wine Enthusiast’s highest ever rated SA Shiraz. This wine – crafted from the ancient soils of Africa and cultivated from specially selected vines that are nurtured by special hand-manicuring and individual attention – is the result of a meticulous and extreme approach to winemaking. The Black Lion is truly, and profoundly, a labour of love.
Taking into account soil combinations as well as meso and macro-climates, carefully selected vineyards from three unique sites – the Swartland (for its structure), Stellenbosch (for its freshness) and the Helderberg (for finesse) – were earmarked for the making of this complex wine, with the terroir of the first lending it its raw power, and the latter pair an undeniable elegance.
With each vine visited on a weekly basis by a very select team of dedicated caretakers sporting surgical gloves, the grapes are nurtured in an uncompromisingly quality-driven manner. Only the very best fruit is finally selected – that which has been fully exposed to sunlight – and is picked at its peak concentration and complexity at sunrise. This results in a very low crop yield – only 4about 50g (or four to six bunches) per vine. By contrast, the standard is usually 3kg. Hand destemming follows within an hour of harvesting and then fermentation in new French Oak barrels in the De Toren Private Cellar for a period of 18 to 24 months.
A wine crafted to stand out and made entirely by hand (with no machinery or mechanical intervention), The Black Lion is destined for collector’s item status. Its maiden vintage in 2012 consisted of only 608?? precious bottles.
And now, the much-anticipated new vintage of The Black Lion 2019 is about to be released. With merely 953 bottles available, it’s a rarity in terms of quantity as well as quality.
According to Charles Williams, De Toren’s Cellar Master, the 2019 vintage has a wealth of advantages: “It was the most unique vintage that I have experienced in my time at De Toren. The best way to describe it would probably be the most European vintage we’ve had in decades. This was a vintage to throw out the technology and predictive models and spend more time in the vineyards to determine the perfect harvest date. The vintage will be characterized for yielding wines with expression, clarity and beautiful integration.”
Expecting this season’s wine to have more tannins, the winemaking team chose their barrels accordingly – slightly less toasted – in order to soften and counteract these, add elegance, as well as express the aromatic component of the vintage. “The tannins are ripe, finely grained and creamy, while the acidity perfectly frames the wine, adding the vibrancy to keep your senses captivated,” explains Charles.
He describes the 2019 vintage as having a “ripe, expressive bouquet, showcasing creamy black cherries, hints of plum, sweet spices and, as it develops, fresher notes of crunchy mulberry.” Going on to explain the palate as extremely defined, he notes that it’s somewhat leaner than one would expect judging by the intensity of the nose. He cites pure and precise flavours with some subtle oak rounding out the wine.
Martin Fourie, De Toren’s winemaker, weighs in with his personal take, describing it as a “fantastic combination of red fruit and spice accompanied by oaky notes of tobacco leaf and dark cherry, which complement the riper-style tannin structure leading to a long developing palate.”
As far as food pairing goes, Charles recommends rich marbled beef to complement the vibrancy and boldness of the wine as well as earthy flavours like porcini mushrooms. “As it ages it will keep on being the perfect partner to rich expressive food flavours. I would even suggest mild curries with a creamy element to bind the wine and food together,” he adds. Martin concurs that expressive dishes with lots of personality will fare well paired with this 2019 vintage. “Think dry-cured meats and strong cheese. But the wine can of course be appreciated on its own,” he notes.
To complement and celebrate the new vintage comes brand-new packaging, even more luxurious and iconic than before, befitting of this one-of-a-kind wine. The label, boasting an illustration, which, like the wine, was handcrafted, it tells the story of the magnificent black-maned Cape Lions that once roamed the land. Expressed through the skill of a highly acclaimed international artist using an ancient engraving technique to carve out visual elements (representing the estate and the unique viti- and viniculture practices), it boldly announces the new vintage.
To finish off the immaculate and luxurious presentation of this investment wine, each bottle is individually numbered by hand. An accompanying and equally iconic key rests on top of the striking, black wooden case in which the bottle is presented, there to not only safekeep this collector’s item, but also to unlock its every pleasure…
The Black Lion 2019 vintage is priced at R3 245 per 750ml bottle, exclusively available directly from the cellar.