Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 13: Chateau Seraphine L’ Innocence de Seraphine 2019 from Pomerol…

Regarded as one of the true rising stars of Pomerol and the right bank, Charlotte Krajewski, daughter of owner Martin Krajewski, has overseen winemaking at the Chateau Seraphine property since 2017 as the Technical Director and Chief Wine Maker after previously travelling and working extensively in France, Australia, USA and more latterly New Zealand in Hawkes Bay.

Their vineyards have an overall surface of 2.2 hectares but is split into two parcels of vines. At Plince they have one hectare of vines situated on a well-draining slope of sandy topsoil over clay and deep gravels and 0.4ha of this plot was replanted with Cabernet Franc in April 2017 at 8000 vines per/ha. The second block at Mazeyres is 1.2ha and is also laid out in two distinct sections. The first part consists of a raised deposit of deep gravels on 0.6ha and is planted with old Merlot vines. The second part sits on a gently sloping 0.6ha and is a patchwork of shallow sandy soils over gravels and blue clay (smectite) and was replanted with Merlot in April 2017 at 8,000 plants per/h.

The growing year started slowly but was followed by a series of heat waves, a drought and heavy rain in late September although Seraphine also enjoyed an almost endless dry summer that led to a very fine harvest. During the 2019 growing year Seraphine decided to maintain a slightly higher density canopy and so did only a light leaf-thinning in the early season on the side of the rising sun. Then in early August they also did a green harvest to adjust the crop size and to take pressure off the vines after the long warm summer.

In the winery, the harvested fruit was carefully loaded from small baskets onto a first-sorting table and then de-stemmed using their precision CUBE system followed by a berry hand-sorting table and a gentle crushing before arriving in the fermentation tanks by gravity. The average yield was approximately 35hl/ha for the older vines although not all of the fruit went into the Grand Vin, and 25hl/ha for the younger vines, which was used exclusively for the ‘second’ wine.

Chateau Seraphine L’ Innocence de Seraphine 2019, Pomerol, 14% Abv.

Surely the expectations for a premium 100% Merlot Pomerol from a top vintage like 2019 will be high and this second wine certainly does not disappoint. The aromatics are accessible, rich, broad and expressive with high toned notes of violets and lilac over hints of tilled loamy earth, wet clay, earthy black plum, burnt wood embers, bitter black chocolate, dried coconut flakes and bruleed coffee beans. The palate is equally inviting with soft, spicy, pithy layers of chocolatey black berry fruits, dusty graphite, vanilla pod, black tea, stewed cherries and exotic baking spices. The tannins are classically mineral and piquant offering structural support to the supple dark berry fruits ensuring serious drinking pleasure for true Bordeaux connoisseurs. Drink this now or cellar comfortably for another 5 to 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

This wine is available in the UK at £59.99pb from Museum Wines.

https://www.museumwines.co.uk/product/linnocence-de-seraphine-pomerol-france-2019/

Restless River Releases Two Benchmark Fine Wines – Tasting the New Release Ava Marie 2020 and the Main Road and Dignity Cabernet 2019…

Swig Wines represents one of the most exciting and dynamic set of international wine producers in the UK and recently they held their portfolio tasting in Soho, London. Of course, the South African contingent was well represented as usual with the likes of Duncan Savage, Alex Starey from Keermont and Pieter Walser from Blank Bottle. But there was one glaring omission, Craig Wessels from Restless River.

Unfortunately, Craig experienced a freak accident surfing and had broken his leg and was unable to travel with the SA brat pack and share a warm sleeping bag with Duncan Savage! 😉 So I was extra excited to hook up with him at Cape Wine 2022 in early October for a proper tasting and a good catch up. But you can imagine my surprise and joy to be contacted by Craig only a short time afterwards asking to hook up again in London to taste his new releases one-to-one. Restless River’s new offerings always represent one of the most exciting and high-demand South African fine wine releases of the calendar year and so getting a proper run down from Craig himself was an invaluable experience for me.

Craig bought the Restless River estate with 7ha planted planted in 1998 (one hectare pulled out subsequently). Plantings are now already up to 21 hectares. Craig’s first vintages released were the 2012 for the Ava Marie Chardonnay and the 2008 for the Main Road & Dignity Cabernet Sauvignon with his Wunderlust label representing an experimentational range allowing him to express his creative juices, producing one-off wines that are never usually repeated.

Restless River Ava Marie Chardonnay 2020, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13% Abv.

The 2020 vintage has a little more apparent acidity than the 2019, combining the fruit and salinity with the fresh acids. The 2020 was all produced in 500 litre barrels followed by blending and ageing in stainless for 3 to 4 months, settling and stabilising on its fine lees before bottling for better integration. The wine already shows lovely Lemon butter and leesy aromatic complexity with hints of white toast, lemon rind, white citrus, melted wax and a mellow kiss of salted caramel. The palate is bright and fresh but also shows a generous mid-palate concentration and textural fleshy character. This is a fabulous terroir driven wine that is harvested over the period of a month allowing for individual parcels to be brought in to the winery to be blended into the perfect assemblage. Incredible balance and mid-palate weight make this a tantalising offering. Simply benchmark in terms of Chardonnay in South Africa. Very similar to the 2019 in many aspects with the same ‘inner profile’ but with a tad more acidity and minerality in the 2020. A true classic that is worthy of a place in any collector’s cellar … if you can get an allocation! (10,901 bottles produced.)

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Restless River Main Road Dignity Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 14.01% Abv. 

Made from 23 year old vines, yielding 2 -2.5 tons per hectare. The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon had a very long hang time which gave it super smooth, ripe, dry fine grained tannins on the palate. Harvested from 10th March to 7th May, an almost unheard of length of picking spread for two small 1.59 hectare and 0.71 hectare vineyards, which are vinified separately by parcel within each vineyard, with each parcel matched to a different cooperage. Aged for 23 months in barrel and then almost another 24 months in bottle, the wine certainly hits the ground running in a most spectacular fashion. Such pristine purity and precision with beautiful purple and black berry fruits, creme de cassis, blue berry and an essence of watermelon making for a deliciously exotic, hedonistic wine. So incredibly lithe and fresh in the glass with tangy acids, a sleek but supremely intense concentration of blue and black berry fruits and a pronounced maritime salinity on the finish. But it’s undoubtedly the ‘wagyu-styled’ fine tannins that are massaged to perfection with an imperceptible mineral grip and a sleek velvety texture thanks to the longer hang times. So incredibly delicious. Wow! (8,124 bottles produced.)

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Fantastic Charitable Colaboration Between Schalk Burger, Sporting Wine Club and the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation – Tasing the Doddie’5 Cap Classique…

In 2020, during the dark days of the pandemic, ex-international rugby players Kenny Logan, Simon Halliday and Schalk Burger Snr. decided to create a wine to help in the fight against MND, in the name of MyName5Doddie Foundation. The Doddie5 was born and this amazing red blend (5 grape varieties) has been enjoyed throughout the UK, raising significant funds for the Foundation.

Then came the sad news of Rob Burrow’s MND diagnosis, and the 7&5 Gin was created reflecting his and Doddie’s rugby shirt numbers. This raised more funds and awareness of their commitment to research to combat this disease. Now Sporting Wine Club brings you the third project, the Doddie’5 Cap Classique Brut Blanc de Blancs.

Welbedacht Wine Estate may be more renowned for their bold, premium reds but it’s a slightly better kept secret that they actually produce some excellent Cap Classique or Method Champenoise-styled bottle fermented sparkling wines from the Cape. Normally produced under the Mon Rene Blanc de Blancs Brut label, Welbedacht have offered their sparkling wine expertise to produce the latest creation in the Doddie’5 charitable range. A project worthy of every sportsman’s support!

Doddie’5 Cap Classique Brut by Welbedacht Wines, Schalk Burger & Sons, WO Western Cape, 12% Abv.

An alluring pale gold colour with a vibrant energetic mousse, the aromatics are seductively complex boasting layers of dusty white citrus, green Granny Smith apples, warm buttered brioche and honey glazed pastries. Produced as a pure varietal Chardonnay, this Brut Cap Classique has all the sourdough, lemon biscuit and leesy savoury white toast nuances that make traditional bottle fermented sparkling wines so tantalisingly appealing, suitable not only for celebrations but also food and wine pairing. The palate is sophisticated and elegant with a beautifully creamy mouse, a fresh mouth watering acidity that adds extra structure to the mouthfeel, finishing with hints of chalky minerality, lemon peel and white peach bon bons. A classical expression that will seduce a lot of fizz drinkers. Drink now and over the next 2 to 3+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Wines are available from Sporting Wine Club in the UK at £24.95 per bottle inc.

https://sportingwineclub.com/product/cap-classique/

A Triumph for Spioenkop and a Triumph for Elgin – Tasting and Reviewing the Sarah Raal Chenin Blanc 2020…

Spioenkop is a “conical, sun-drenched, and waterless hill in distant Natal.” It was the site of a nasty defeat for the British during the Anglo-Boer War in 1900, but now also lends its name to an impressive fine wine winery in South Africa’s cooler Elgin wine region.

Winemaker Koen Roose is a terroir obsessive as he believes, quite rightly, that winemaking is easy, but it’s finding the best grapes grown on the right terroirs that will deliver elevated, above average premium quality wines. The tactical battlefield advantages of the cool climate Elgin terrain also lend themselves beautifully to premium grape growing and winemaking.

With only a small handful of producers able to source Chenin Blanc in Elgin, this is a wine that will make collectors and connoisseur stand up and take notice. Along with other previous examples from Carstens Migliarina and Vrede en Lust, this Spioenkop 2020 Sarah Raal Chenin Blanc is a triumph not only for Koen but the entire region of Elgin.

Spioenkop Wines Sarah Raal Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Elgin, 14% Abv.

3.3 g/l RS | 7.5 g/l TA | 3.23 pH

There is a reason top Chenin Blancs have risen to incredible heights and are now challenging the top white Burgundy styles of France. This enticing expression from the vinous magician Koen Roose is certainly a beautifully crafted example that bursts out the glass with aromatic layers of buttered white toast, morning dew on wet straw, bruised yellow orchard fruits, dried baking herbs, green pears and spicy lemongrass top notes. Some of the grapes that used to go into the Johanna Brandt cuvee are now blended into the Sarah Raal for extra complexity and this stunning 2020 is rich, pure and focused with a piercing concentration of pithy yellow and green fruits, sweet tangerine, hints of exotic passion fruit, a delightful umami maritime salinity and a vivaciously fresh acidity that’s as highly charged as an highveld electrical thunderstorm. There is not that much Chenin Blanc grown in Elgin, but the ones that are made are real super stars and this Spioenkop is for me, one of the very best examples you’ll find. Drink this blockbuster on release and over the next 10 to 12+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Last cases of this wine are available from Museum Wines in the UK at £31.99pb.

https://www.museumwines.co.uk/product/spioenkop-sarah-raal-chenin-blanc-elgin-south-africa-2020/

An Iconic South African Sweet Wine Produced by Alheit Vineyards Hits the Market – Tasting the Lost & Found 2019 Hanepoot Dessert Wine…

Most fine wine collectors and afficionados will need no reminding that South Africa has the proven ability to produce some of the most tantalizing and mesmerising dessert wines in the world. Whether it’s a throw back to the golden sweet wine age of the 1800’s or simply a built in cultural sweet tooth, South African winemakers have always excelled with which ever sweet wine style they have put their minds to. Of course the iconic Vin de Constance needs no introduction, but we should not forget the epic Cape Vintage and Cape Tawny Port styles from the Klein Karoo and the Swartland, the delicious Muscadelles and Hanepoot Jerepigos, the botrytised Sauvignon Blancs, Semillons and Rieslings, and more latterly, the incredible Straw Wines made from rack dried Chenin Blanc grapes. We are simply spoilt for choice in South Africa.

A new addition to the Cape’s iconic sweet wine selection.

While the wine industry bathes in the recent big scoring successes of straw wines like the 100-point Olerasay No.2 and No.3 from Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines, I was thrilled to see yet another incredible “certified heritage vineyard” used to produce an ambitiously noteworthy wine from the 2019 vintage. The Gevonden farm near Rawsonville, at the spot where the sheer cliffs of the Du Toitskloof open into the Breedekloof, is the site if a three-century old farmhouse just across the Moolenaars River. Right in front of this old farmhouse is a vineyard considered by many to be the oldest commercially productive parcel of vines in South Africa.

In the Cape, official record keeping of vineyard planting dates only started in 1900, so unfortunately nothing can officially pre-date that year although we know from word of mouth that vines were already in the ground and producing grapes on the Gevonden farm as well as from other famous old vineyards like the Basson Old Vine Cinsault in Wellington, farmed by the Mullineuxs, and the Eselshoek (Hanepoot) Muscat d’Alexandrie vineyard in the Swartland that Eben Sadie used to make delicious sweet wines from bush vines aged over 100 years old. According to the De Wet / Boonzaaier family history, the Gevonden Hanepoot vines were planted by one Jacobus Hendrik Stofberg De Wet in 1882 just after the first Anglo-Boer War from 1881-1882.

The gnarly old Hanepoot vines planted in circa 1882.

As has been the case for many of these newly discovered “old vineyards”, Chris Alheit came to know about this special heritage block through the ongoing work of Old Vine Project founder Rosa Kruger, who introduced Chris to farmer Neels Boonzaaier in late 2010. After several frustrated failed attempts to create something special, the sweet wine project was abandoned until a chance meeting with Neels’s son Janus in 2017 led to Chris Alheit giving the sweet wine project another bash. In 2019, the vineyard yielded what Chris considered was a large enough quantity of fully ripe grapes to attempt the rack drying process to concentrate the sugars.

The Resulting raisins were pressed for five days yielding juice with a sugar concentration of around 55 Brix. This juice was then fermented for 12 months, reaching just over 7% alcohol with a residual sugar of around 450 g/l. But the story does not end there. The 2019 vintage was also sadly the last vintage that the De Wet / Boonzaaier family, who owned the Gevonden farm for six generations, farmed this famous Hanepoot block and so Chris does not expect to be able to source fruit again. So perhaps the label should read, Lost & Found & Lost Again?

Alheit Vineyards Lost & Found 2019, WO Breedekloof, 7% Abv.

Looking at this rich, unctuous wine in the glass is akin to gazing through an ancient piece of Jurassic fossilized amber – ripe, captivating and most definitely warmly inviting. But this is no normal sweet wine and one sniff of the rich, ripe, potent aromatics reveals an enchanting bouquet of freshly boiled marmalade jam, green mango preserve, barley sugar, sweet herbs, wet straw and dried apricots. Give the dense, glycerol wine another slow swirl in a big Zalto Bordeaux bowl and it shifts gears again to offer yet more pithy orange peel nuances and seductive notes of quince jelly, pressed grapes and burnt caramel. Like some of South Africa’s other truly great sweet wines, the aromatics are so complex and seductive that you almost forget to sip the wine! Incredibly viscous and fleshy on the palate with a round glycerol opulence, there is no suggestion at any point that this wine is going to be overly sweet and clawing with its 450 g/l RS. In fact the sweetness is kept smartly in check by a searing acidity that scythes through the caramel and barley sugar laden fruit layers with samurai sword precision. The finish is gloriously mouth coating, hedonistic and persistent with just the most subtle sappy, pithy, bitter orange peel vermouth twang. An incredible vinous expression that represents an unbelievable journey of not only all those who have farmed this block over the decades, but also of the vines themself. A fine wine that will undoubtedly endure and out live most us who are tasting it now. Some of the most desirable decadence available in a bottle.

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Prodigious Stellenbosch Red Wine Producer Stark-Conde Release Another Block Buster White – Part 2: Tasting the 2021 Field Blend…

This deliciously complex white is a barrel-fermented blend of 54% Roussanne, 30% Chenin Blanc, 9% Verdelho and 7% Viognier. All sourced from a single vineyard at the entrance of the Stark-Conde Oude Nektar farm, it is planted to a mix of varietals in order to match the complex mosaic of soil types found on this unique plot of land. The grapes are all picked at the same time, pressed and co-fermented together as a genuine field blend.

Stark-Conde Field Blend 2021, WO Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.

Very Southern Rhone in its varietal mix, but decidedly Mediterranean on the nose with lifted aromatics of wild garlic leaf, white blossom, sweet green herbs, bruised apple and subtle waxy incense notes over a dusty, stony granitic minerality. The barrel fermentation lends additional savoury, honied notes of lemon biscuits, warm white toast and peach stone fruits. On the palate there is a fabulous vibrancy and tangy acid freshness of crunchy yellow orchard fruits, white peach, ripe tangerines and a long, slightly pithy, phenolic finish of tart green pears and wet river pebble minerality. The richness and textural generosity of the of the Roussanne and Viognier is beautifully managed, enlivened by the salinity and freshness of the Chenin Blanc and Verdelho. Field blends seem to be the new trend setters for white wines in the Cape and I have not tasted many better than this yet. Another super exciting Cape white blend that expresses its own sense of place. Drink this on release and over the next 6 to 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Prodigious Stellenbosch Red Wine Producer Stark-Conde Release a Block Buster Chenin Blanc 2021 from Jonkershoek Valley Fruit…

The back label of this wine says it all. It starts by proclaiming … “Chenin Blanc is a relatively rare varietal in our area of Stellenbosch, but the higher, cooler slopes and granite soils are well suited to producing an intense, mineral style.” We are of course talking about the Jonkershoek Valley, a Ward of Stellenbosch more famous for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah than Chenin Blanc. But with some super famous Chenin Blanc wines like Mev. Kirsten from Sadie Family Wines, Ian Naude’s Old Vine Series Chenin Blanc and Chris Alheit’s Nautical Dawn all coming from various other top Wards of Stellenbosch, the potential for producing block buster Chenin Blanc wines around Stellenbosch is unquestionable.

Self-taught American cellarmaster Jose Conde (who’s married to the owner Hans Schroder’s eldest daughter) first attempted making wine in 2000, and he chose to experiment with his favourite grape, Cabernet Sauvignon. As luck would have it, his father-in-law Hans Schroder farmed arguably the best Cabernet grapes in the region. Made with basic equipment and using traditional methods, the maiden vintage yielded just 2,400 bottles, but against the odds and to everybody’s surprise the wine went on to win 5-stars in the Platters Wine Guide, rated 92/100 points in Wine Spectator, and was selected by UK wine writer Oz Clarke as one of the Top 20 Wines of the Year. I remember this wine very well as I was one of the first wine merchants in the UK to buy and sell it in the early 2000s. And a cracker it was too!

Winemaker Rüdger van Wyk

Today, the team at Stark-Conde includes the prodigiously talented winemaker Rüdger van Wyk who creates fine wines using minimal intervention in the cellar. With vineyards ranging in elevation from 150 to 600 metres above sea level, the Stark-Conde estate offers some incredibly fine red wines of distinct character and sense of place and this new 2021 Chenin Blanc is no different. The winery also produces a well known white field blend which I look forward to tasting and reviewing soon.

Monk Stone Chenin Blanc gets its name from the large boulder which punctuates the organically grown, high-altitude vineyard block at Stark-Conde. This bush-vine Chenin Blanc vineyard is planted along dramatic terraces which were sculpted to prevent rain erosion. The wave and ripple patterns formed by these terraces, together with the large boulder, recall a traditional Japanese rock garden, and hence the name “Monk Stone”.

Stark-Conde Monk Stone Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.

7.6 g/l TA | 3.10 pH

A beautiful rendition of Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc that initially shows a youthful reserve before slowly opening up with aromatics of yellow orchard fruits, granitic minerality, dried green herbs, tangerine peel, green pear and saline oyster shell maritime hints. The minerality and salinity are front and foremost on the palate that shows all the classic 2021 vintage characteristics of purity, clarity, freshness and intensity. Loaded with electric tension, vibrantly fresh acids, the wine reveals a tart juicy green fruited melon concentration and again, an abundance of pithy minerality and rock salt salinity on the persistent finish. Deft winemaking on display here complemented by exceptional vintage quality. Drink this on release and over 8 to 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The wines of Stark-Conde are available to trade and consumers from their UK importer:

https://www.museumwines.co.uk/product/stark-conde-monk-stone-chenin-blanc-south-africa-2021 for £24.99 per bottle.

Produttori del Barbaresco On Top Of their Game with Two New Releases – Tasting the Langhe Nebbiolo 2021 and Barbaresco 2019…

This famed co-operative in Piedmont dates back to 1894; forced to close in the 1920s because of fascist economic rules, it was regenerated and revived in 1958 by the village priest of Barbaresco who recognized that the only way the small properties could survive long term was by joining forces and combining their efforts.

Today the cooperative is comprised of 50 families and 100+ hectares of solely Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco appellation, which amounts to almost 1/6th of the vineyards of the appellation. With village Barbaresco and the crus pushing such high prices, attention once again has reverted to some of the great Co-ops who traditionally produce some of the regions best value for money wines. Produttori del Barbaresco’s mission is clear – “Excellence in Simplicity”.

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2021, 14% Abv.

An impressively substantial wine yet again from Aldo Vacca and this world famous red wine Co-operative. The wine has a real presence showing complex aromatic layers of wild herbs, dried blood orange, botanicals, vermouth spices over pink musk, red cherry and candied red berry fruits. The palate is sumptuously muscular, plump and fleshy, but beautifully mellow and harmonious with a massive red and black berry fruit concentration, spicy herby tannins and an incredibly bold, vibrant acidity that once again underpins the fabulous depth of fruit and fleshy opulence. This is the real deal, a substantial Nebbiolo that simply sings in the glass. Bravo Aldo! I don’t know how you do it, year in and year out, but the Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2021 is an absolute winner. Drink on release and over 10 to 12 plus years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2019, 14% Abv.

High expectations for this new release coming from such a highly lauded vintage, the 2019 does not disappoint. Bold and punchy from start to finish, the nose boasts a multi-layered melange of lavender, violets, ripe red and black cherries, botte oak spice, potpourri and perfumed bathroom soaps. Seductive and muscular, the palate is as bold as it gets with a rich vein of textured mineral tannins over dense, sweet pithy berry fruits before the finish is overwhelmed by a chalky, spicy, stony minerality. This is a very serious piece of kit with high aspirations and serious intent that is sure to seduce serious Piedmont Nebbiolo collectors.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Wines available to the trade in the UK from Astrum Wines. Langhe Nebbiolo retails for circa £25-£26pb and the Barbaresco for circa £40pb Inc. Vat.

Eben Sadie Delivers a Columella and Palladius Masterclass in London in His First Visit for Several Years…

Earlier this year, Eben Sadie made his first trip to London in several years and with so any new projects and developments taking place in the world of Sadie Family Wines, a visit to explain all the exciting new developments was considered long overdue. With Eben producing the most sought-after selection of red and white wines in South Africa, every change he makes in the winery or in the vineyards is closely watched and examined.

Starting in the early 2000s, Eben started to strive to improve the freshness on all his whites and reds with the effects of climate change becoming more and more apparent vintage after vintage. Over the past years, Eben has planted a range of esoteric white and red grapes, many with their origin around the Mediterranean – Agiorgitiko, Mencia, Cinsault Blanc, Grillo, Assyrtiko, Picpoul de Pinet, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouchet, Cunoise, Mavrotragano, etc. all on specially chosen sites with suitable soil types that allow the grapes to express freshness, brightness and elegance.

Following a policy of only making large scale changes once every 10 years, Eben firmly believes that what needs to be learnt takes time even if the actions you took and the changes you made end up ultimately being unsuccessful. The wines tasted in this masterclass reflect the learning and changes that have occurred at Sadie Family Wines over the past 20 years. To complement this fascinating masterclass, I followed it up with a visit to the winery in October to see some of the new developments first hand.

Eben Sadie surveying the new wine cellar building works.

Walking through the newly acquired old vine Rotsbank Chenin Blanc vineyard.

Top of the “to do list” was visiting the Rotsbank Old Vine Chenin Blanc vineyard that Sadie Family Wines recently acquired. This vineyard previously supplied some Chenin Blanc for blending into the Palladius, but following the purchase, Eben will release his first new Old Vine Series wine in 13 years and also his first single varietal Swartland Old Vine Chenin Blanc with the 2022 vintage. Also on display, were the extensive building works which mark the building of a new winemaking facility and archive cellar on the farm. So plenty to look forward to!

Columella Vertical: 2004 to 2018

Sadie Family Wines Columella 2004, WO Swartland

A beautifully cool, precise year that is an exceptional vintage for the wine but with Eben giving most of the credit to vintage conditions – “they merely didn’t mess it up in the winery, preserving the greatness of the vintage”. Wonderfully pure and perfumed with potpourri, garrigue, bramble berry spice and cured meats. The tannins are polished and silky, precise and pin point with fabulous mineral layering supported by bright tangy, crunchy acids with just the most subtle, reductive, saline cassis nuance on the finish. A supremely classy, classical expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Sadie Family Wines Columella 2007, WO Swartland

A warm, dry vintage that led to many vines shutting down and thus offering long hang times on paper but with out the corresponding ripening. So a difficult vintage known for its pyrazines, especially on the whites. The nose shows rich, plumy, earthy characters with cured meats, black olive, plum compote and hints of tannery leather. The tannins are sweet and plush, creamy and opulent with a fine line of acidity wrapped in voluptuous layers of sweet red and black berry fruits. An impressive offering for the vintage and drinking beautifully at the moment.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Sadie Family Wines Columella 2010, WO Swartland

Semi-warm vintage, less warm and dry than 2007. The aromatics are earthy and savoury with plenty of tannery leather, tilled earthy, stewed plums and spicy grilled herb notes. The palate shows a stony minerality together with a more restrained fruit depth, spicy graphite, bramble berry and pithy black currant. Tannins are soft and quite polished, finishing with a subtlety and elegance. A fascinating, mineral driven expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Pre-Masterclass interview with Jancis Robinson OBE MW.

Sadie Family Wines Columella 2018, WO Swartland

The end of the drought vintages, this shows an incredibly old world, Rhone style aromatics with savoury black fruits, garrigue, grilled herbs, black currant, black cherry, raspberry compote, and a meaty, chargrilled component. The palate shows a delicious crunchy, raspberry fruited vibrancy with hints of red bramble berries, wild strawberry and red cherries combined with a beautifully precise fresh acidity, impressive fine grained tannins and a wonderfully elegant, harmonious, poised finish. Very classy indeed.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Palladius Vertical: 2007 to 2019

Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2007, WO Swartland

Dry and hot vintage, the aromatics show a defined, honied yellow fruited oxidative complexity with layers of grapefruit jam, melted honey on buttered white toast. Massive glycerol texture with oxy fig and caramelised peach nuances, tangy acids and a deliciously exotic, saline, tropical finish. Offers a lot of wine and leaves it out there for all to see, leaving little to the imagination.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2010, WO Swartland

Warm vintage again, the 2010 shows almost like a white Tondonia from Rioja with oxy yellow peach and condensed milk notes, tart tatin, and caramelised apples. The texture is creamy and dense, plush and opulent wth peach stone fruit, bruised yellow orchard fruits and a lactic, oaky, vanilla pod finish. But it’s ever so funky, luscious and delicious.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2016, WO Swartland

The second very hot and dry vintage for the Cape, yet miraculously, many of the Chenin Blanc based blends defied the conditions to produced superb wines. A lot earthier and honied showing savoury characteristics with a much more aromatic, phenolic expression. But fabulously glycerol and balanced, seamless and focused with finely intertwined acids. Really delicious now. A triumphant wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2019, WO Swartland

The vineyards and blend reach a nice equilibrium in this vintage. The aromatics are pure and pinpoint with a pronounced pithy, mineral, crushed granite dust on the nose, intertwined with pithy yellow orchard fruits. The texture boasts great intensity along with harmonious balance and an ever present power. Hints of peach pastille and green apple cordial carry the full, textural palate weight effortlessly to a long and incredibly harmonious finish. Really impressive vinous architecture on display here.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell Showcase their Exciting New Oregon Wines in Cape Town…

This is an exciting wine project I have been hearing about for the past few years from winemaker Emul Ross as well as its proprietors Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell every time I met up with them in either Cape Town or London. But this year also marked the release of their maiden offering of their new Oregon Chardonnay 2019 produced from the Maple Grove Vineyard in the Willamette Valley AVA, joining their premium Eola-Amity Hills AVA Pinot Noir.

During a quiet moment of the Cape Wine 2022 trade fair, I met up with Anthony and Olive to taste their new Chardonnay and Pinot Noir over a quick lunch. As we sat there discussing this exciting Oregon project, photos of the new Chardonnay 2022 harvest fortuitously started popping up on Olive’s phone, sent by Emul Ross as they had just commenced picking in the Willamette Valley.

Tasting the new Oregon releases in Cape Town with Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell in October 2022.

Sadly, these wines are not yet available in the UK or in the South African market but are available in 21 different US states through Vineyard Brands. But judging from the excellent quality, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before some stock finds its way out of the USA!

Hamilton Russell Oregon Maple Grove Vineyard Chardonnay 2019, Willamette Valley AVA, 13.8% Abv.

1.9g/l RS | 5.70g/l TA | 3.40pH

Maiden vintage and second crop from this Jackson Family owned Maple Grove single vineyard Chardonnay. South West of Salem, from an area due to become a new AVA, just south of the Van Duzer corridor. Pure Clone 95 in 2019, this wine was fermented with the Hamilton Russell’s own indigenous yeasts and was then aged in 34% first fill and 66% third fill Francois Freres barrels. The nose displays fabulous creamy leesy lemon biscuit notes, vibrant layers of waxy yellow citrus and a saline, stony minerality. The palate shows a fabulous lemon butter opulence, a honied leesy savoury complexity and a broad, soft, harmonious, fine boned persistent finish. Very classy, nuanced and pure. Fruit from a great terroir shaped and nurtured by the winemakers hand. More porcelain than pottery. Drink now and over 5 to 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

286 x 6 cases produced and exclusively sold in 21 states in the USA at circa $65pb. Vegan friendly. Distributed by USA Vineyard Brands.

Hamilton Russell Oregon Zena Crown Pinot Noir 2019, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, 13.3% Abv.

1.2g/l RS | 5.30g/l TA | 3.58pH

A classically orientated style of Pinot Noir aged for 14 months in 1st fill 23%, 2nd fill 30% and 3rd fill 47% French Francois Freres oak barrels. The aromatics are very exotic and seductive boasting delicate red and black cherry fruits, cranberry, pomegranate and hints of foresty bramble berry and wild strawberry. The palate is beautifully cool and sleek, light on its feet and finely textured with a real light touch elegance, a stony volcanic minerality and delicate silky tannins with an aspirational grandeur. Just love the effortless beauty of this wine. Plenty of appeal here for Burgundy lovers. Drink now and over the next 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

565 x 6 cases produced and exclusively sold in 21 states in the USA at circa $85pb. Distributed by USA Vineyard Brands.