Waterkloof Circumstance Cabernet 2015



After a self-described “less than brilliant scholastic career,” Paul Boutinot branched out into the wine industry – chasing a life-long dream over five decades that has culminated in this wine: Circumstance by Waterkloof.

Paul grew up knowing a touch about wine – his French parents had been forced to flee to England in the early 1940s, wherein they set up a classic mom-and-pop French restaurant. Mom in the front of the house, dad as chef, and kids peeling potatoes as soon as they could hold the peeler. Paul wasn’t too keen on this, and after his short-lived schooling, he jumped into the wine trade.

That was in the 1970s, a still youthful time in the world of wine, and Paul got to see (and taste, and sell) some magical things – the rise of California Cabernet with the Tasting of Paris, the start of domaine bottling in Burgundy, the golden years of 1980s Bordeaux, the rebirths of Barolo and Brunello. In 1980, he opened his own wine importing business to great success.

Yet like many who sell wine, just selling wine wasn’t enough for Paul. In 1993 he started a research project looking for a top vineyard site. By then, most of the tip-top sites were unavailable or had become a playground for billionaires. Wanting to make serious hands-on wine, he spent 10 years finding the perfect estate, Schapenberg overlooking False Bay in the Cape of South Africa.

Planted since the 1970s, Schapenberg (meaning sheep mountain) was originally – you guessed it – used for sheep herding. It happens to be a high point at 300 meters above sea level and only four kilometers from the coast. Which means, if you were Cape Governer Willem Adriaan van der Stel, you could see sailing vessels come into the Cape first, rush your sheep down the mountain, and sell before your competition.

But Paul doesn’t raise sheep. What he had found was a cool-climate site near the ocean, a perfect Bordeaux- or Napa-like climatic condition that was virtually untouched (and remains virtually untouched – Paul and his estate was awarded Champion Status by the World Wildlife Fund’s Biodiversity Initative). Extensive plantings, replantings, and a state-of-the-art gravity-fed winery followed, and after almost 10 more years, they produced their first wine. And the result is absolutely world-class Cabernet.

The nose starts with red and black berry fruit that evolves into a traditional Pauillac-like pencil shaving, graphite and wet stone character. There is a wonderful savory side to this wine – if one could smell False Bay and its wet stones coupled with the idea that perfectly ripe tannins can give wine aroma – that would be the secondary dramatic element going on in this glass. The ripeness continues through the mid-palate until the finish, when the tannins take over, leaving the wine with great length.

The golden age of Napa Cabernet might have been the 1970s, and Bordeaux the 1980s. But right now, South Africa is entering an amazing new epoch for its wines. If you can think of the tastes of ‘70s Napa and ’80s Bordeaux as if they were recently bottled – that is the dramatic poise of this wine.

Or, to put it another way, international wine magazine Decanter just did a tasting of worldwide “ultra premium” Cabernet. This was the winner, and it was one of the cheapest bottles in the pack! We got a little cache of this wine, don’t miss it.

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