We just tasted a sample of Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block 2019. It was the first time since the 2006 vintage that we opened a bottle. Our palates have changed so much since then that we weren’t sure what to expect. We are happy to say this gorgeous red wine from Western Cape, South Africa continues to wow us. What a treat to taste it again so many years later. Its name comes from the spicy dark chocolate profile that the wine displays. Read on for details.
The Boekenhoutskloof Story
Located in the furthest corner of the pretty Franschhoek Valley of South Africa, the winery’s name means “ravine of the Boekenhout.” The Boekenhout is an indigenous Cape beech tree greatly prized for furniture making.
Established in 1776, the winery features bottle labels with chairs that pay tribute to the achievements of the 18th century craftsmen “in creating beauty from natural sources, just like the pursuit of fine winemaking.”
In 1993, Marc Kent and his business partners bought and restored the farm. As well, they established a new vineyard planting program that now includes Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Semillon and Viognier.
Next, three years later, Boekenhoutskloof released its first vintage, Cabernet Sauvignon. Further, in 2002, the winery produced the first vintage of The Chocolate Block. Marc, the winemaker, bottled 15 barrels to release in 2003.
In 2007, Diners Club named Marc the Winemaker of the Year “in recognition for his unswerving winemaking excellence.” Wine writers frequently describe Marc as colorful, an icon and a maverick.
Subsequently, Platter’s South African Wine Guide awarded Boekenhoutskloof with the Editor’s Award for Winery of the Year in 2020.
The Chocolate Block: First Impressions
In 2008, our local Seattle wine bar introduced us to 2006 The Chocolate Block, which was unlike anything we had ever tasted. At the time, I wrote that the 2006 had “a lot going on … rich and robust, with balanced and smooth tannins and strong berry flavors.”
High praise indeed. However, in 14 years, our palates developed and refined. So we opened the 2019 vintage with some trepidation.
No worries – The Chocolate Block 2019 is also a stunning wine, likewise with strong dark berry flavors.
The Chocolate Block 2019 (SRP $37.99)
The Chocolate Block is a cult favorite, therefore it is no wonder that we were impressed. Marc tweaks its composition each vintage to best reflect the ancient vines that are an integral part of the wine’s charm and personality. For example, the 2019 uniquely blends Syrah (71%), Grenache (11%), Cinsault (9%), Cabernet Sauvignon (8%) and Viognier (1%). But the 2006 vintage combined less Syrah (55%), Grenache Noir (17%), more Cinsault (15%), Cab Sauv (9%) and more Viognier (4%).
The Syrah brings black fruit flavors, a classic black olive nuance and an inkiness in the glass. The Grenache vineyards on Porseleinberg display bright aromatics, while old-vine Cinsault knits the wine together, and Cabernet Sauvignon provides structure to the blend.
The 2019 features intense aromas of dark fruit, espresso, baking spices and a hint of perfume from the Viognier. The five grapes in the blend bring juicy layers of fruit flavors such as blackberries, blueberries, cherries and plums, along with hints of black olives, smoke, graphite, licorice and savory, earthy notes. And, of course, chocolate.
Be sure to decant it before pouring, or cellar it to see how the flavors develop over the years.
We paired The Chocolate Block with a juicy steak but it would also complement roasted or barbecued chicken, pork or lamb chops.
Of note, you can purchase 2019 The Chocolate Block in the U.S. Boekenhoutskloof released the 2020 in South Africa, but it is not yet available here.
In conclusion, we are always delighted to experience wine from South Africa, especially Boekenhoutskloof. And we know our journey is just beginning. We highly recommend The Chocolate Block. As well, we look forward to tasting other Boekenhoutskloof wines.
Thank you, Vineyard Brands, for the sample.
Margot and Dave