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Dark Star

TORONTO: Despite making numerous wines with increasing ambition, Boekenhoutskloof winemaker Marc Kent admits to playing favourites in the cellar. Justifiably celebrated as one of South Africa's best vintners, Kent routinely captures top marks for his Semillon and Cabernet Sauvignon, and recently released a new high-end Cabernet Franc-dominant blend (The Journeyman) that ranks with the best expressions of that grape internationally.

    For Kent, however, those varieties pale in comparison to the dark star, Syrah. "We've spent the last 12 years trying to position ourselves as the leading producer of Syrah and Syrah-based wines in South Africa," he explains.

    "Syrah is really what I love, it's what I focus a lot of attention on... If you look at the (entry-level) Porcupine Ridge range, Cabernet and Merlot are things we do and we do well because the market is there, but Syrah is the standout."

    Likewise, he adds, Syrah represents 60 percent or more of the blend of his popular reds, The Wolftrap and The Chocolate Block.

    Kent's top-of-the-line Boekenhoutskloof Syrah, meanwhile, is considered South Africa's most formidable Syrahs, and one of the world's finest expressions of the grape. Annual production of the Boekenhoutskloof Syrah hovers around 1,250 cases (of 12 bottles). It's such a tightly allocated wine that we're lucky if 20 cases reach Canadian markets.

    The sting of missing out, however, is more than compensated for by the wide access we enjoy to Kent's equally impressive Porcupine Ridge Syrah, which, to my taste, is one of the world's best red wine bargains.
Just released at Vintages outlets in Ontario, Porcupine Ridge is available at specialty wine shops in Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia.

An added benefit for most of us is that it's easier to ask after a bottle of Porcupine Ridge Syrah at the liquor store as opposed to trying to wrap our tongues around Boekenhoutskloof, a Cape Dutch word meaning "Ravine of the Boekenhout." (A boekenhout being an indigenous Cape Beech tree prized for furniture making.)

    Over the years, Kent has increased wine production at Boekenhoutskloof to surpass 2.5 million bottles. (His first vintage at Boekenhoutskloof totaled 6,000 bottles.) The ultra-premium end hasn't increased by much — it represents less than five percent of total production — but the Porcupine Ridge and Wolftrap labels have exploded internationally, and with them the reputation of Kent, Boekenhoutskloof and the wines of South Africa.

Wine of the Week:
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Boekenhoutskloof 2008 Porcupine Ridge Syrah
Western Cape, South Africa $15 Ontario | $15 Alberta | $17.99 Manitoba | $18 BC (595280)
    One of the world's great red wine bargains, the Porcupine Ridge Syrah benefits from barrels that didn't make the grade for the top-of-the-line Syrah or Chocolate Block. As a result, this offers terrific concentration and intensity for the price. Drink over the next three years. Represented by The Bacchus Group (www.bacchusgroup.ca) in the west and RKW Wine Imports (www.rkwwineimports.ca) in Ontario.

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