Another Benchmark South African Sauvignon Blanc from Hannes Storm…

I remember reviewing the delicious 2016 maiden vintage of Wild Air in September 2017, with its wonderful minerality, crystalline purity and old world restraint. (See review here…)

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2016/10/28/yet-another-epic-wine-from-hannes-storm/

The 2017 vintage somehow manages to up the intensity and precision yet another notch to deliver a very special expression of Hemel-En-Aarde Sauvignon Blanc. Track this down from Indigo Wines for summer drinking!

Wild Air Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, 13 Abv.

Wonderfully dusty mineral aromatics that immediately suggest an accomplished terroir driven wine. There are multiple layers of talcum powder, crushed granite , limestone and green apple pith beautifully interwoven with green gauge, Granny Smith pastille fruits and crunchy white pear nuances. The palate is equally grown up and complex, deliciously fresh and concentrated with a long, glycerol finish … but most importantly, very impressive harmony and balance. A really beautiful wine from a fantastic vintage for aromatic whites.

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

Tasting with Wineanorak’s Jamie Goode and Hannes Storm at last year’s New Wave Tasting in London.

Beginning of a New Era at Champagne Taittinger with the UK Launch of Comtes de Champagne 2007…

Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger was in London last week to present the fabulous new Comtes de Champagne release, the first since 2016. With new winemaker and chef de caves, Alexandre Ponnavoy at the helm, it looks like the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Taittinger.

The 2007 vintage is regarded by Taittinger as a very good vintage in Champagne with an especially warm winter resulting in early vegetative growth. The harvesting started with Chardonnay being picked in early September.

Greg Sherwood MW with UK Taittinger importer Patrick McGrath MW and Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, President of the Grandes Marques.

The character of the vintage, according to Alexandre, “showed fine freshness, crystalline purity, ample complexity and an intricately bright acidity underpinned by a fine, pin point salinity” which is generally regarded as the key to the 2007’s great success.

The Four Principles of Comtes de Champagne:

Extremely small production, 10 years of bottle aging on the less before disgorgement, five top Grand Cru sites, making a wine that is “an affordable luxury”… appealing to real Champagne connoisseurs, not just millionaires or billionaires.

1 Unique terroir

2 A long vinification history allowing a wine personality to develop

3 Vinification with attention to detail

4 Good forests, using a small amount of oak foudre for ageing a portion of this wine to add a little “salt and pepper” to its character and complexity.

Tasting with new chef de caves Alexandre Ponnavoy.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut 2007, 12 Abv.

A fantastic young Champagne with a colourful personality. Chalky aromatics bristle out the glass, interwoven with dusty limestone minerality, lemon and lime cordial and yellow grapefruit notes. Sublime balance, harmony and creamy textural elegance, this really is such a sympathetic wine with delicious mouth watering acidity and vibrancy. The wine oozes breeding and regal heritage but without any pretentious airs or graces, delivering palate depth, structure and a focused creamy mousse with delectable notes of lemon biscuits, buttered white toast, lemon bon bons, hazelnuts and a wonderful zesty white peach pastille complexity. A luminous bright citric core, refined palate breadth and a creamy sour dough and buttered brioche finish. So, so lovely. A worthy successor to the block buster 2005 and 2006. Drink now or cellar for 15+ years.

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

Some of the other “treats” at the launch lunch.

Celebrating Eleanor of Aquitaine’s Marriage to Henry Plantagenet with Chateau d’Issan – The Foundation Stone of the English Love Affair with the Bordeaux Region…

On Friday 18th May I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a superb celebratory dinner at the Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament. Arranged by the Cruse family from Chateau d’Issan in Margaux, the dinner commemorated the day in 1152 Henry Plantagenet married Eleanor of Aquitaine, which ensured the city and vineyards of Bordeaux and Gascony would become an English possession for the next 300 years.

As Duchess of Aquitaine, Eleanor was the most eligible bride in Europe. Three months after becoming duchess upon the death of her father, William X, she married King Louis VII of France, son of her guardian, King Louis VI. As Queen of France she participated in the unsuccessful Second Crusade.

Queen Eleanor in the Palace of Westminster

Soon afterwards, Eleanor sought an annulment of her marriage, but her request was rejected by Pope Eugene III. However, after the birth of her second daughter Alix, Louis agreed to an annulment, as fifteen years of marriage had not produced a son. The marriage was annulled on 21 March 1152 on the grounds of consanguinity within the fourth degree. Their daughters were declared legitimate and custody was awarded to Louis, while Eleanor’s lands were restored to her.

Neal Martin from Vinous chatting to Max Lalondrelle from Berry Bros & Rudd in the Grand Hall.

As soon as the annulment was granted, Eleanor became engaged to the Duke of Normandy, who became King Henry II of England in 1154. Henry was her third cousin and eleven years younger. The couple married on Whitsun, 18 May 1152, eight weeks after the annulment of Eleanor’s first marriage, in Poitiers Cathedral.

The newest art instalment in the Palace commemorating the suffragette movement.

Over the next thirteen years, she bore eight children: five sons, three of whom became kings; and three daughters. However, Henry and Eleanor eventually became estranged. Henry imprisoned her in 1173 for supporting their son Henry’s revolt against him. She was not released until 6 July 1189, when Henry died and their second son, Richard the Lionheart, ascended the throne.

As Queen dowager, Eleanor acted as regent while Richard went on the Third Crusade; on his return Richard was captured and held prisoner. Eleanor lived well into the reign of her youngest son, John. She outlived all her children except for John and Eleanor.

Wines Tasted With Dinner:

Chateau d’Issan 2008, Margaux

This is classic, delicious, elegant Margaux claret. Complex layers of hoisin sauce, macerated plums, earthy black currant and just a little tease of graphite spice. Gloriously elegant and refined, this is another claret 10 years on that ticks so many drinking boxes. Classy classical Margaux and many guests favourite wine.

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

Chateau d’Issan 2003, Margaux (Jeroboam)

Rich, opulent exotic nose of black cherry kirsch liquor, creme de cassis and dried tarragon baking spices. Lovely and expressive, this wine speaks of the vintage and its ample sunshine and ripe fruit. The palate is fleshy and opulent, lush and showy but all quite finely proportioned. The finish show hints of bramble berry, hedge row spice and bruised black plums and soft mouth coating concentration. Drinking well now, it is impossible not to enjoy this sexy wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 90/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau d’Issan 1988, Margaux (Imperiale)

Served from an Imperiale, this wine has classic, old school Bordeaux written all over it. But 1988 Bordeaux always illustrates a cool vintage in such an animated manner, a fresh year in the Medoc showing dusty crushed gravel, parma violets, crushed leaves, wet hay, herbaceous garrigue depth and pithy cherry skin spice. Still wonderfully youthful, vibrant and fresh with a fine, complex smokey intricacy and grainy mineral tannins, superb hints of coffee bean and tannery leather. A lovely glass of wine, in a style we will probably never see made again.

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau d’Issan 1978, Margaux (Imperiale)

From such a large ex-Chateau format, there was every expectation that this 40 year old wine would be super youthful and indeed it was. The aromatics are delicately tertiary and complex, loaded with sweet tobacco, herbal cedar spice, hedge row, brewed tea and tannery leather nuances. Sleek textured, super polished, pithy and fresh, this is an immaculately vibrant, classically proportioned old school claret. A really wonderful treat to drink a large format 40 year old Chateau-cellared wine of this age.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Several regular 75cl bottles of the 1978 were also served and were equally delicious.

(Picture by Neal Martin, Vinous)

England’s youngest ever prime minister, William Pitt the Younger.

Champagne truffles to end the dinner.

The End of the Beginning – Tasting the Maiden Release Tokara Telos 2015 in London with Owner G.T.Ferreira…

The Tokara farm was bought by GT Ferreira in 1995 without a single vine on the property, initially with view to being a “gentleman’s residence.” But with such illustrious neighbours as Thelema and Rustenberg, it was always written in the stars that this prime property would be planted and established as a great wine producing estate in its own right. The Tokara winery has also had the exceptionally good fortune to have the same steady hand of Miles Mossop overseeing the wine production for the past 18 years, a factor that has almost certainly helped hasten the dawning of this new super premium wine Tokara Telos. Miles has since announced that 2018 will be his last vintage at Tokara as he leaves to pursue new winemaking projects. We all wish him the best.

I like to think that I have been a close long term observer of the ongoing progress at the Tokara winery, watching over almost two decades as the wines became finer and more accomplished with every subsequent vintage release. However, the Director’s Reserve white blend was undoubtedly the first wine to make international and local critics sit up and genuinely take serious notice of the potential of this winery. But for many years the reds somehow seemed to lag behind the fame of the whites until more recently, when some very smart red wines started to be bottled under the Director’s Reserve red blend label.

Owner of Tokara, GT Ferreira, the successful South African financier who calls Tokara home

The Tokara Telos red blend maiden release can therefore be regarded as the coming of age moment for winery, its vines, and in many ways, the conclusion of a long held vision. Indeed Telos, for those not schooled in classical Greek, is a noun used to describe “the end term of a goal-directed process; especially, the Aristotelian final cause.” So is this the end? No, not at all… it is merely the end of the beginning!

The 2015 vintage saw the driest growing conditions and subsequently the earliest harvest at Tokara in many years. The main Cabernet Sauvignon portion of the wine was harvested on the 5th of March 2015 at 26 degrees balling, the Merlot on the 3rd of February at 24.6 degrees balling and the Malbec on the 24th of February at 24.4 degrees balling. It was one of the smallest crops on record and on average had harvest dates that were two weeks earlier than previous years. At harvest, grapes were placed in a cold room overnight and sorted twice on a Pellene Mechanical sorter and subsequent individual berry sorting on a vibrating table. After a four day cold maceration in tank, with 30% whole berry and 70% crushed berries, natural fermentation was allowed to proceed with wild yeasts.

As has become all the rage with new premium releases in South Africa, the Tokara Telos 2015 was presented ‘sighted’ within an impressive flight of what can only be called ultra-premium Bordeaux reds all rated 100 points by Robert Parker on release. Hell, if you are going to go down the whole comparative benchmarking route, why not do it properly and present your wine alongside the best there is!? Needless to say, this approach needs more than a little confidence and self-belief to be effective. According to the owners, the Telos launch was held in London before South Africa as a nod of acknowledgment to a market that has been one of Tokara’s most supportive and receptive over the past years. A subsequent launch is planned for Johannesburg and then again at the winery in Cape Town.

Tokara Telos 2015, Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

A 17 year old single vineyard block making up a 1,000 bottle blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec and 3% Merlot, aged for 22 months in 63% new oak with medium toast and ‘house toast’. 2.1 g/l RS, 6.2 TA, 3.52pH. This young 2015 red blend displays an impressively perfumed nose with subtle potpourri and dried pink flower fragrance, violets and hints of lavender. Dusty graphite and gravelly minerality is tightly interwoven with attractive black berry, dusty bramble berry nuances and subtle fleshly cut hedgerow spice. The palate is sleek, lithe and particularly suave and fine boned with a very polished, sultry, light touch elegance and textural focus. There is already impressive complexity but also a modicum of classical restraint that seems to overtly shy away from elevated ripeness, oakiness or glossy sweet fruit characters. This is a rare South African expression that boasts a vibrant natural acidity and very ripe, fine grained powdery mineral tannins that cushion a beautifully natural sense of balance, harmony and finesse, all elements coming together seamlessly and effortlessly at such an early stage in the wines evolution. A really polished, faultless, old world leaning expression that is undoubtedly a new and impressive tour de force on the South African fine wine scene. Drink this wine from 2020+  onwards and cellar comfortably for over 20+ years.

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

Other Bordeaux Wines Tasted Alongside the Telos 2015:

Chateau Montrose 2010, Saint Estephe, 14 Abv.

An expectedly dense, dark, broody expression, that is quite reserved and closed. But it slowly offers up dark earthy black berry, bramble berry, and sweet graphite and cedar spice notes. An attractive sweet tobacco depth and spicy cassis opulence meanders to a finish with steely precision, incredible focus, monolithic structure and pristine depth. Very young but a profound wine nonetheless. One for the cellar!

(Wine Safari Score: 98-99/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou 2009, Saint Estephe 13.5 Abv.

Sweet leafy cedary red currant fruit notes elucidating a delicious ripe cassis opulence with boxwood hints and a soft, sappy, black fruited core. This wine screams Cabernet Sauvignon and fans it’s aromatic tail with lead pencil, graphite and violet complexity. Still showing a relatively chunky palate with plenty of textural flesh, fine vibrant freshness and an impressively sweet bramble berry and tannery leather length.

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

Chateau Leoville-Poyferre 2009, Saint Julien, 14 Abv.

Dark, deep, spicy, black currant and earthy cassis depth with an incredibly complex nose of graphite, dusty gravel and liquid minerality. A plump, opulent sweet pocket of overt fruit and piquant tannins coat the palate that shows a sweet, glycerol, cinnamon tinged earthy red currant depth. A very smart effort with an incredibly seamless balance. Classy.

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

Chateau Pavie 2009, St Emilion Grand Cru Classe,14.5 Abv.

A more opulent, generous nose with overt, ripe notes of molasses tinged black plum, earthy black berry confit and caramelised plums. The only wine in the flight with obvious sur maturite palate sweetness but almost pleasantly so, showing a more bold and riper side of right Bank Bordeaux. A wine with many merits and a delicious drinkability. Perhaps a little overblown for your classical connoisseur Claret drinker?

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

Chateau Cheval Blanc 2005, St Emilion Grand Cru Classe (A), 14 Abv.

Already 13 years old, the 2005 is starting to show subtle tertiary aromatic hints of sous bois, earthy red currants, bruised red plums, black tea and sweet tannery leather. There is no lack of classism, graphite and gravelly liquid minerality either. A super Bordeaux example with depth, elegance and fine length.

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

Chateau Latour 1996, Pauillac, 12.5 Abv.

A 22 years old expressive, classical Pauillac Claret that reveals sweet roasted herbs, briary, red currant and piquant sweet pipe tobacco spice. Lovely maturity, dusty grainy tannins and fine tertiary complexity. The 1996 is a classic power packed Latour ageing gracefully and showing plenty of pedigree.

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

Steven Spurrier in attendance at 67 Pall Mall

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – The Long Awaited Iconic 2013 Vintage is Finally Released…

A legendary wine from an iconic wine region, the long awaited Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 was released in February 2018. The Napa Valley AVA saw just 50.8cm of rain during the winter months leading up to the 2013 growing season; any meaningful precipitation ceased in December of 2012. The lack of rain and a relatively warm spring led to an early start to the growing season. Summer was remarkably mild. During critical ripening, air temperatures remained stable, creating a long, slow harvest.

The seasonal trifecta of moderate temperatures, low soil moisture and little precipitation led to a vintage that will be remembered for its structured and concentrated wines. Harvest started on September 2nd and on October 4th the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon was arriving at the winery.

The 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is comprised of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. It was blended in early 2014 and aged for 24 months in 85% new American oak and 15% one-passage American oak barrels from Silver Oak’s own Missouri cooperage, The Oak. Early blending assured a balanced core and allowed all components to achieve greater harmony during barrel aging. It was then aged for an additional 20 months in bottle before being released in February of 2018.

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley, California, 13.5 Abv.

Wonderfully dense, opulent and masculine. Where the Alexander Valley 2013 is more pretty… beauty personified, the Napa is a gladiator, full of muscle, density, broody black fruits and then a fine dollop of intrigue. All the classical components are there, dusty cassis, liquid graphite, violets, salty Victoria plums and an alluring cedary wood spice note. On the palate the black fruits melt into a dense melange of black berry confit, taut salty liquorice, graphite, cassis, blueberry pastille and muscular, intense, liquid minerality. The road map of this wine is clear. One can see exactly where this wine is going, an understanding that is integral to the impressive rating of this epic Napa release. Will it appeal fully to customers looking to drink it right now? No, maybe less so. But for pure pedigree, power, opulence and intensity, this wine is nearly unsurpassed. Buy it now and cellar it. It will never ever disappoint such is the long term track record of Silver Oak. This wine offers guaranteed drinking pleasure over 30 to 40+ years if cellared optimally.

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

The Alternative Face of Elgin – Tasting the Shannon Vineyards Wines with Co-Owner Stuart Downes…

Elgin is famous for cool climate expressions of both red and white wines. While most producers are focusing on Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, Shannon Vineyards have spent a lot of time and effort fine tuning their Semillon and Merlot, two varieties that have arguably had variable single varietal bottling success in South Africa until more recently. But I think it’s fair to say times have changed and consumers and wine merchants are more sympathetic to these varieties in their different guises.

Brothers Stuart and James Downes are the current owners and their focus has been on producing exceptional fruit from cool mountain hillside vineyards combined with minimal intervention winemaking. Stuart recently passed through London on the way back from the USA and presented his current releases.

Shannon Vineyards Semillon 2015, Elgin, 13.5 Abv.

0.5 Hectares of GD1 Australian Semillon clone with 15 years vine age. Shows real lift, dusty, spicy complexity with cut grass, lemon spice, crushed gravel, rain on dry grey slate petrichor characteristics. Definite herbaceous pyrazine hint but deliciously balanced by bright, creamy, ultra fresh yellow fruits, white citrus and a mouth watering grassy, piquant finish.

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

Shannon Vineyards Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Elgin, 13 Abv

Bright fragrant notes of cut grass, stable straw, pithy yellow citrus, white pepper and crushed gooseberries. Acids are tart, crystalline and bright with spicy green apple, crunchy tart peach and lemon grass notes. Fresh, laser like focus and tension. Great example of cool climate Sauvignon.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Shannon Vineyards Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir 2014, Elgin, 13 Abv.

Using 667 & 777 clones, also 115 & 113. Dusty, sappy, spicy, cedary aromatic profile with notes of crushed gravel and subtle smokey charcoal embers. Palate is sleek, elegant, light weight but retains a fleshy red cherry and sappy bramble berry concentration with hints of Asian spices. Quite a subtle feminine style with a complexing white truffle earthiness on the finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Shannon Vineyards Merlot 2015, Elgin, 14 Abv.

Dark, warming, enticing nose of black damson plums, cut grass, black berry and baking spice herbaceousness with a dusting of milk chocolate gloss. Palate is soft and fruit driven with hints of mint leaf, supple creamy black brambly fruits, cedar spice and an overlay of graphite minerality. Fleshy and plummy, accessible and supple style.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Shannon Vineyards Mount Bullet Merlot 2013, Elgin, 14 Abv.

On average 22 months in barrel with a low 3.2 pH. Rich complex blend of 5 Merlot clones, 2 French and 3 Italian. Plush, restrained and very classical profile with black cherry, creamy black plum, cinnamon biscuits and an attractive sappy spice. Beautifully fleshy and sleek textured with incredibly bright cherry acids, black cherry spice, liquorice and a real Italian Tuscan feel. Fine precision, some tension and tautness, finishing with an alluring red cranberry and dusty graphite complexity. A rare distinguished example of one of the Cape’s most difficult grapes to master.

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

A New World Chardonnay That Can Challenge the Best of Burgundy – Tasting the Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Chardonnay…

A new wine for me but this Rhys white was just incredible, an absolute Old World styled thriller. I rated this wine in a blind tasting without any knowledge of its provenance other than “being from the New World.” It featured as one of my top 3 wines out of 16 premium Chardonnays tasted blind on the day.

Looking a little further into this producer, I see that Rhys Vineyards aspires to make great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah from some of California’s most unique and expressive vineyards. This pursuit has lead them to search the state for exciting rocky soils that exist within the mountainous, cool, Coastal climate zone.

Over the last 15 years they have developed seven estate vineyards, six in the Santa Cruz Mountains and one in Anderson Valley, each of which is capable of producing uniquely compelling, distinctive, soil driven wine.

At their best, Rhys feel Santa Cruz Mountain wines offer all the key ingredients for truly fine wine… “breathtaking balance, terrific concentration, uncommon minerality, thrilling complexity and Old World age worthiness”.

Rhys Vineyards Horseshoe Vineyard Chardonnay 2012, Santa Cruz Mountains, 13 Abv. (50cl bottle)

It has a beautifully rich, opulent nose with green gauge fruits, yellow citrus and delicious zesty pineapple and mineral Alka Zelzer notes. The palate is incredibly creamy, rich and intense but also racy, classically proportioned and quite profound. After being open some time in the glass, hints of lemon pie, mint leaf, dried herbs and salted caramel brittle develop but all very much in a subtle, complexing way combining with delicious creme brûlée notes and harmonious, sleek, savoury chalky lemon notes. An absolutely delicious wine with really impressive mineral precision. A very distinguished wine to drink now or cellar for 10 to 15 more years.

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