We've carried out a video tasting for this new vintage - click here to watch.
Exel tasting note: compared with last year's (2017) vintage, the 2018 is a more immediate, crowd-pleasing, riper wine, speaking of a warmer growing season. It's a fraction blacker, more supple/plush (tannins-wise) and a little less acid-driven, and is a ready-to-drink vintage. It's almost certainly not as much a wine for the long haul/long cellaring as the 2017, but this is not to denigrate its quality: it simply serves a different purpose. Prob best enjoyed before 2025/26, but may well go further. Fruit flavours are a fraction 'sweeter'/riper (bramble and blackberry mingle with the classic cassis favours). There is nothing green or herbaceous about this vintage! If still holding some of the 2017, we suggest: stick that safely away for a year or two and drink this one!
The 2017 vintage was awarded 96 points, top spot and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2020 edition article, South African Cabernet Sauvignon: 20 Wines to Buy (see blue link below).
Stark-Conde Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2017 - September 2020 Decanter review
Also, of that 2017: "If you want to know what textbook Stellenbosch Cabernet tastes like - blended with 15% Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, I'll grant you - this is a very good place to start. Focused, perfumed, balanced and very fine, this has wonderful freshness and elegance. Drink 2022-29. 94 points". Tim Atkin MW, SA Special Report 2019.
Stark-Condé Wines is located in the picturesque Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch. It is a dramatic valley with steep changes in vineyard elevation from 150 to 600 metres making for a range of sites with distinct characteristics. At Stark-Condé, they stick to traditional winemaking methods: open tank fermentation meticulous sorting of grapes hand-punchdowns basket pressing and maturation in small French oak barrels.
The grapes for this wine are from 4 different Cabernet vineyards and their best Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot vineyards, all at a mix of different elevations. Although all are on the decomposed granite soils typical of the hillsides in Jonkershoek, the soil textures vary markedly and this, together with the differences in elevations and clones, gives a variety of different flavour profiles to the grapes.
The Cabernet Franc grapes were picked in late February, the Malbec early March, and the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and the Petit Verdot were harvested in mid-March. The grapes were picked into small lug boxes and cooled overnight to about 14 degrees before being hand-sorted and crushed into small open-top fermentation vats. After being cold-soaked for a couple of days, some of the musts were inoculated with a mix of domestic and imported Bordeaux yeast. About 40% underwent fermentation with the natural yeasts. The fermentations were hand punched-down every 4 hours for the first half of fermentation and every 6-8 hours until dry. At dryness, the wine was basket-pressed and racked to barrel for malolactic fermentation and barrel maturation. Only 300-litre French oak barrels were used, of which about 30% were new. Bottled without fining and with no filtration after 20 months barrel maturation.
For extra info, here's Stark-Condé's own data sheet/fiche technique (click link below).
Stark-Conde Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2018 - fiche technique
This wine is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 2% Petite Sirah, 2% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc.
Blackberry fruit aromas with tea-leaf and cedar notes. The palate is rich and polished with dark fruit and mocha flavours and a finely balanced acidity. Long finish with the fine tannins typical of a Jonkershoek Valley wine.