Tasting the Super Santorini Ancestral Vines “Assyrtiko 34” from Artemis Karamolegos…

Artemis Karamolegos is one of the most dynamic wineries on the unique volcanic island of Santorini. Led by his grandfather, who started making wine and cultivating vines as a hobby in the 1950s, Artemis founded the winery in 2004. The local variety Assyrtiko, which has become the flag bearer for quality wine across the whole of Greece, is at the heart of the estate’s production.

They own just over 3ha of vineyards (some over 100 years old) from many of the best villages to grow Assyrtiko – Pyrgos, Megalorchori, Exo Gonia, Akrotiri and Fira. Long-term leases on another 5 hectares allows them to manage and work with an amazing range of aspects, altitudes and local varieties. Their hugely talented young winemaker Lefteris Anagnostou crafts a small range of cuvées ranging from premium single vineyard wines though to multi-site blends using a marriage of modern and ancient winemaking techniques.

Assyrtiko 34 is the name of one of the Karamolegos winery’s top old vine cuvées that pays tribute to the 34 centuries that Santorini has been re-inhabited after one of the most awesome volcanic eruptions in the history on mankind. Throughout these 34 centuries, viticulture has continued uninterrupted, cultivating among other varieties, the noble and indigenous grape of Assyrtiko. Grapes for this cuvée are sourced from specially selected very old vine vineyards of Assyrtiko mainly from around Pyrgos, Megalochori and Exo Gonia.

I recently held a fascinating tasting with the winemaker at Artemis Karamolegos winery, Lefteris Anagnostou, who expertly outlined the fascinating history of viticulture in Santorini and the philosophy behind the superb wines of the Karamolegos winery.

Artemis Karamolegos Santorini Ancestral Vines Assyrtiko 34 2018, PDO Santorini, 14% Abv.

This delicious Assyrtiko 2018 is a really masterful exercise in mouth watering wine pleasure delivery. Classic white wine vinification is employed with a percentage of pre-fermentation cold soak with only the free-run juice used, fermented in stainless steel tanks under controlled temperatures with the use of selected neutral yeast but also some wild yeasts for different tanks in order to express the pure varietal character of Assyrtiko. The Cuvée 34 shows a minimalistic approach in the winemaking process using maturation on total fine lees for at least five months with frequent stirring (bâtonnage). On the nose, this white screams Assyrtiko typicity, displaying all the liquid minerality and basaltic volcanic rock intensity you’d hope for together with rich concentrated notes of crunchy white peaches, tart green apple, chamomile tea, pear drop and a rasping saline, briney, leesy flavour of the sea. The palate also shows piercing, well defined acid freshness, a fleshy intense concentration but also ample dry extract and palate weight to make this wine into a truly exciting proposition. Fabulously long, the finish is pure liquid minerality with a hint of savoury, almond piquant spice. Drink now or keep for 2 to 3+ more years.

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

Artemis Karamolegos wines are imported into the UK by WoodWinters Vintners.

The Iconic Klein Constantia Winery Releases Its New Vin de Constance 2017 Natural Sweet Wine to Great Acclaim Yet Again…

The famous Vin de Constance is certainly a deeply contemplative wine. While I was tasting the fabulous new Vin de Constance 2017 release, deep in thought, I realised that my friendship with current winemaker Matt Day makes up the tail end of over 30+ years of my own relationship with this great estate and its winemakers after getting to know both Ross Gower and Adam Mason very well over the years. The journey of vinous evolution has been an exciting one for Vin de Constance which now proudly ranks, once again, among the most admired fine wine brands in the world.

With more than 320 years of history, Vin de Constance is without a doubt THE greatest sweet wine of the South hemisphere, being a unique style based on freshness, complexity, balance and deliciously hedonistic aromas. The vines of Muscat de Frontignan, the only variety used for Vin de Constance, stretch more than 16,5 hectares together with the estate’s other varieties on the slopes of the Constantiaberg mountain. The terroir of the Constantiaberg is 600 millions years old and has a high clay content which ensures good irrigation and favourable water retention, keeping the vines happy during the dry and hot summers. Located between 70m and 100m above sea level, the South-East oriented Muscat plantings on the estate’s lower slopes benefit from the constant cooling sea breezes of the Cape Doctor, a wind formed by the Benguela current coming up to the Cape from the Antarctic.

In the vineyard, a first harvest is made to create a basic base wine with a 12.5% to 13% alcohol content and a good acidity. In all, there are up to 20 separate pickings which are all vinified separately, 50% from bush vines planted in 2011 and 50% from older trellised vines planted in 1983. The consequential elaboration of Vin de Constance means that it does not require any “noble rot” or botrytis but merely the raisining of the grapes in a natural sweet wine style. After an extended fermentation period, the wine is normally aged for 3 years in a combination of 50% new French oak and acacia barrels, as well as some large format foudres before further blending and bottling.

Vin de Constance was previously enjoyed by…

• Napoléon 1st who had some bottles delivered weekly at Saint-Hélène during his exile. On his death bed, he wanted to drink only Vin de Constance and nothing else.

• Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.

• King George IV, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II

• Prussian Emperor Frédéric Le Grand.

• George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

• The Indonesian Prince Dipanagara who was a Muslim but still drank Vin de Constance.

• Baudelaire (« I prefer Constance to opium »), Lord Byron, Jane Austen (a remedy to a heartbreak ) and Charles Dickens.

• John Adams, Casanova, Alexandre Dumas

• Nelson Mandela and more latterly, Xi Jinping

The build up to the 2017 harvest of Muscat de Frontignan was text book according to Matt Day. The autumn months were hot and dry – resulting in early leaf fall and moderate reserves in the vines. Winter came late with mild conditions. The rainfall, although better than 2015, was below average. Spring’s warm weather initiated budburst, however a cold September resulted in the budburst being slightly uneven. The summer months were near perfect for flowering and berry set. The exemplary growing season was characterised by cold nights, moderately warm days, cooling winds and just the right amount of rainfall perfecting the process of berry development and the ever so important maturation process. Despite the drought, they were able to isolate their individual pickings into 20 different batches of Muscat de Frontignan. The first picking showed fine acidity from the Bush vines – at just over 18 balling or 7.5-8% Abv., a 3.3pH and a total acid of 9 TA. These pickings spanned over two months, allowing numerous possibilities when making up the final blend of Vin de Constance 2017. The most time consuming of these batches was of course the essencia, the heart and soul of the Vin de Constance, which is made from raisins harvested individually by a specialised team.

The first experimental recreation by Ross Gower in 1986 was made up of around 1,000 bottles from grapes from two to three blocks with the 1987 vintage forming the first official commercial release. The 1988 vintage made 13,000 litres and was at first rejected for certification before later being passed. To this day, Vin de Constance still has no accurate official certification category, meaning that the wine is still certified as a Noble Late Harvest, despite having no botrytis, and is then declassified to a natural sweet wine with a volatile acidity level around 1.2. Recent production has now reached between 30 and 40,000 bottles annually.

Vin de Constance 2017 Natural Sweet Wine, WO Constantia, 13.97% Abv.

165 g/l RS, 3.7pH, 6.6 TA.   

When comparing the technical stats of the 2017 with those of the 2016 Vin de Constance, they appear almost identical with a very similar alcohol level, residual sugar and total acidity. The aromatics are wonderfully cool, crystalline and fragrant with delicious notes of white peach, honey on white toast, spicy orange peel, apricot, passion fruit hints and pineapple pastille. Where this wine really departs from the 2016 is with its incredibly harmonious, utterly seamless, creamy mouthfeel that boasts a soft, suave glycerol mouth coating concentration, plush fleshy layers of dried apricots, honey and grapefruit marmalade. On the finish, the wine tightens up once again revealing such a fabulous balance where its multiple textural layers become almost inseparable before ending with a long, persistent phenolic length that lends an illusion of dryness. A truly outstanding benchmark Vin de Constance yet again. Drink now or over the next 25+ years.

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

Vin de Constance 2016 Natural Sweet Wine, WO Constantia, 14.04% Abv.

164 g/l RS, 3.73pH, 6.5 TA.

Winemaker Matt Day is always effusive about how much he loves the 2016 Vin de Constance expression for its unique and characterful style that is just slightly more exotic and out of the ordinary. The aromatics are intricate and overt showing deliciously complex notes of ripe yellow grapefruit and dried apricots, pithy marmalade and spicy nectarine peel together with fabulously edgy notes of stem ginger and herbal cinnamon spice. This fabulous 2016 earned a lot of followers and was highly lauded across the world with drinkers seduced by the wine’s lush dense palate, its impressive concentration and glycerol breadth and a textural depth kept beautifully vibrant and bright by the wines superb sweet and sour tangy acidity. The finish is long and precise with tantalising hints of zesty tinned pineapple slices in syrup, fresh honey and more ginger and apricot nuances. A very special wine that shows plenty of individuality. Drink now and over the next 20 to 30+ years.

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

Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé Kiara Scott Releases Her 2019 Brookdale Winery Chenin Blanc…

Brookdale is an impressive winery owned by Englishman Tim Rudd that is planted with 20+ year old Chenin Blanc vines as well as several other special Chenin Blanc blocks that are now almost 35 years old situated at the foot of the lofty Du Toitskloof Pass in Paarl.

The property was bought by the Rudd family which kick started a widespread replanting programme where sustainable viticulture and farming for the future generations are at the centre of their ethos. Most of the previous vineyards acquired with the original estate were very neglected and so uprooted with only the old vine Chenin Blanc blocks retained. The site is regularly exposed to strong winds that often reduce yields but also offer much-needed cooling breezes in Paarl’s warm inland climate. This site offers altitude and granitic soils rich in clay and schist that are perfectly suited for Chenin Blanc.

Taking Brookdale forward from the 2019 vintage is Kiara Scott, a young 28 year old winemaker who studied at Elsenberg before being selected to join the Cape Winemakers Guild Protege Programme. Kiara has worked vintages in the Rhône Valley, Sancerre and the Russian River in Sonoma, California. The future at Brookdale is looking super exciting with Kiara at the day to day winemaking helm and Duncan Savage, who produced the first two vintages, acting as a consultant.

Brookdale Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Paarl, 13.5% Abv.

The third vintage of the Brookdale Chenin Blanc sees Kiara Scott firmly in the winemaking driving seat with the majority of the vineyards employed starting the near the magical 35 year old mark making them eligible for Old Vine certification. With the use of large 500 litre oak barrels, the oak imprint on the wine is sensitive but complimentary, allowing lovely complex aromatics of white flowers, wet straw, white toast, tangerine peel and stem ginger to mingle effortlessly with notes of leesy biscuits and savoury vanilla pod spice. While the palate has a beautiful textural feel with mouth coating concentration, you can feel the pineapple pastille and smoky yellow orchard fruit notes are underpinned by the classical, stony mineral notes of the 2019 vintage. Showing an opulence and an attractive overt appeal already, this wines is once again a superb counterfoil to the overpriced, heady whites of Burgundy. Yes, I know its Chenin Blanc, but that is of course the wonder of this versatile premium white grape that reaches extra levels of intricacy when harvested from old vines and aged in oak. A delicious white wine that will drink well on release but should age and improve in the cellar comfortably for another 5 to 8+ years.

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

Another Beautifully Classical Barolo Release from Poderi e Cantine Oddero and the Iconic 2016 Vintage…

Poderi e Cantine Oddero was established in the late 18th century by the Oddero family, who have lived in La Morra since the first half of that century. In the 1890s, Giovanni Battista Oddero began vinifying grapes, which lead to the winery’s establishment. Later, his sons, Lorenzo and Luigi followed in his footsteps. It was the first Giacomo Oddero, who started selling wine in bottles. However, it was the second Giacomo Oddero, who renovated the ancient farm and began elevating the quality and prestige of the region’s wine. Today, his legacy lives on through his daughter, Mariacristina, and his grandchildren, Isabella and Pietro, who represent the seventh generation of vinicultural tradition.

Located in Santa Maria, La Morra, the raised vineyards are naturally terraced and overlook the Langhe hills. With a total of 35 hectares, they cultivate some of Piemonte’s most renowned wines through the use of traditional knowledge paired with modern production techniques. 16.5 hectares are cultivated to produce Nebbiolo for Barolo and Barbaresco. Several of those vineyards are codified “Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive”, meaning they are prized for Nebbiolo cultivation, under the new Production Regulations (Disciplinari di Produzione) for Barolo and Barbaresco.

Oddero Barolo 2016 DOCG, 14% Abv.

Another fabulous Barolo blend from the exceptional 2016 vintage made from fruit harvested from three sites, namely Bricco Chiesa and Capalot both in La Morra, and Fiasco in Castiglione Falletto. Like all great Barolo, there is a beautifully classical balance between cool, delicate red cherry fruits notes, dried herbs, potpourri, red liquorice, smoky graphite minerality and hints of fennel seeds and dried aniseed root. The palate is taut, linear and pure with a subtle weight of red and black cherry stone fruits, hints of bramble berry and sundried cranberries with a fabulously fine grained chalky tannin finish that boasts notes of red cherries, juniper and hints of blood orange citrus zest. A structured and finely delineated wine with wonderful balance and intensity married with classical restraint that offers excellent value for money. Plenty of youthful mineral grip at the moment but you can certainly drink this now after decanting or cellar comfortably for 3 to 5 years before tucking in.

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

Fine Wine Safari Vertical Masterclass with David & Nadia – Tasting Elpidios Red Blend 2011 to 2017…

While David Sadie has made a serious name for himself with his single vineyard Chenin Blancs and his white blends, he is of course a crafty expert with red varieties like Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, blended together in his classy red called Elpidios.

On David’s last trip to London, we cracked open a lovely little vertical of his Elpidios with his importer Justerini & Brooks. “Syrah is the most important grape variety for the Swartland… the next range of wines I feel tell our story the best” David told the guests, addressing the table in front of a delicious vertical of the Elipidios from 2011 to 2017.

David Sadie… a giant not only in winemaking circles.

This Rhône-inspired red blend from David & Nadia was interestingly a Syrah based red blend from vintages 2011 to 2014, a Carignan based red blend in 2015 and 2016 before changing to a Grenache based blend in 2017. “This wine feels like a tip of the hat to a more experimental mindset that I love to attribute to the Swartland.” ~ David Sadie

David & Nadia Elpidios Red Blend Vertical:

David & Nadia Elpidios 2011, WO Swartland,14% Abv.

3 barrels. Earthy, brambly, cheese cloth notes with supporting notes of tar, black olive, cured meats and black berry fruit. Very northern Rhône in character, this wine is fresh and vibrant, layered with boiled red berries, sweet black currant, granitic grainy tannins and a long, fresh, crunchy, sleek old world finish. Very classy indeed.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2012, WO Swartland,14% Abv.

A more savoury, richer, earthy aromatic profile with sun baked red berry fruits, sweet plum, creamy plum confit, red liquorice and a stony, piquant graphite finish. Slightly stewed, but again a very old world Rhône style.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2013, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

A darker expression with plenty of bramble berry fruit, black plum, saline cassis reduction, sweet black berry, sweet black plum, graphite and soft, dry powdery tannins. Acids are soft and finely integrated making for a well rounded, brambly wild finish.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2014, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Beautifully perfumed lifted nose with pink flowers, red cherry zest, cranberry and sour red plum. Palate is very fresh, pure and crystalline with Parma violets, red berry crunch, red forest berries and an alluring brambly finish. Polished, satin tannins and a long vibrant finish.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2015, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Carignan based wine. Lifted perfumed nose of black berries, graphite, black kalamata olives, cured meats and sweet peppercorns. Tightly coiled, focused compact texture, super polished texture with enticing spicy red cherry concentration, glassy acids, bramble berries and sweet / sour plums. Very serious effort from a great vintage. Still super youthful.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2016, WO Swartland,13% Abv.

Lovely saline cassis and black berry aromatics, sea breeze, iron filings and bloody meat. The palate is fuller, grippy and rustic with black olive, wildness, sweet grilled herbs and sweet red plum, black olive, bresaola meaty finish. Fine effort in a very hot, dry vintage.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2017, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

Interesting lactic, red cherry, meaty, red currant nose with plenty of spicy, pithy, plummy depth. Superb elegance, classy old world granitic mineral tannins, fine grip and tension but fabulous length and concentration. Intense, vibrant and focused. A very fine effort showing not only the quality of the 2017 vintage but the influence of a growing Grenache proportion.

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

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Release a Trio of Benchmark 2018 Single Terroir Syrahs…

With the allocation list opening for the Mullineux single terroir wines, casual drinkers, connoisseurs and collectors alike are going to be in for a big treat with the new 2018s. These three superb single terroir Syrah expressions have over the past eight years garnered almost every possible award available to South African producers reaffirming their exceptional quality but also the foresight, vision and attention to detail that has become a relentless crusade for Chris and Andrea Mullineux.

The five new single terroir releases.

I tasted these three unique single terroir expressions with Chris and Andrea recently and was very, very impressed by the consistently excellent quality of these 2018 Swartland Syrahs. So much hype and media attention has rightly centred around the 2017 vintage reds primarily thanks to the incredible Cabernets and Cabernet based blends from Stellenbosch. But 2018 represents something very special in the Swartland and finally we are able to see the results. So get on to the Mullineux allocation hotline pronto!

Mullineux Granite Syrah 2018, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

RS 2.1 g/l  – TA 5.1 g/l  – pH 3.672

Sourced from a single parcel of 24 year old dry land grown Syrah planted on decomposed granite in the Paardeberg, the grapes were foot trodden in 500 litre French oak barrels to break the berries and release the juices. After 4 days of macerating, the fermentation begun naturally with indigenous yeasts and lasted around 10 days. After fermentation, the wine saw a further 4 weeks of skin maceration before being pressed into barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. Pigeage was performed once a day before, during and after fermentation. In the Spring, the wine was racked after 21 months in barrel and was bottled unfiltered and unfined. The wine saw 12 months in French oak 500 litre barrels, 25% new, followed by 9 months in 2nd fill foudre. A final 9 months of ageing in bottle was carried out before release.

Syrah vines in the Granite vineyard.

Just as Andrea Mullineux always enthuses, this Granite Syrah is yet again just so exquisitely perfumed with fragrant lifted notes of lavender and lilac, hints of violets and subtle notes of cherry blossom. A veritable Rhoney Garden of Eden. There is a wonderous beauty to the wine that teases the senses with multiple complex aromatic layers of wet gravel, fresh black currants, sun baked strawberries and hints of savoury cured meats, subtle juniper berry notes and sweet red and black peppercorn nuances. Intricately crafted and sublimely expressive, the palate shows a very pure and focused precision with silky, powdery almost creamy tannins that combine with dense, concentrated, tight knit red and black berry fruits, red currant compote, pithy blood orange zest and a long, fine-grained lingering finish that leaves you feeling so utterly charmed. The purity of fruit and compact textural focus and concentration is almost faultless and suggest that this wine is going to evolve into one hell of a Syrah beauty if allowed to age 10 to 15 years for starters. While always fabulous on release, these wines are built to reward extended ageing and so 6 to 8 years should be considered the minimum ageing requisite if you really want to start seeing some of the extra hidden dimensions of this wine. (5,376 bottles produced.)

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

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2018, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

RS 1.9g/l  – TA 4.9 g/l  – pH 3.72

The grapes for the 2018 Schist Syrah were sourced from 21 year old vines planted on stony shale and schist soils on the Roundstone farm where the Mullineux winery is based next door to the Kasteelberg. As with the Granite and Iron cuvees, the grapes were foot trodden in 500 litre French oak barrels to break the berries and release the juices. After 4 days of macerating, the fermentation begun naturally with indigenous yeasts and lasted around 10 days. After fermentation, the wine saw a further 4 weeks of skin maceration before being pressed into barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. Pigeage was performed once a day before, during and after fermentation. In the Spring, the wine was racked after 21 months in barrel and was bottled unfiltered and unfined. The wine saw 12 months in French oak 500 litre barrels, 25% new, followed by 9 months in 2nd fill foudre. A final 9 months of ageing in bottle was carried out before release.

The brown Schist soils of the Roundstone farm.

While the Mullineux’s are adamant that the Schist Syrah is always one of the most structured wines out of their single terroir reds range, the density and structure always seems to translate into extreme finesse, plush concentration and a seductive elegance, making this one of the most sought after cuvees by the “man in the street.” But like all great fine wines, when supreme quality is present, these wines can be drunk literally from the barrel with equal pleasure offered in youth as with bottle age. The 2018 Schist continues the vintage theme of mid-palate concentration and fruit density with an incredibly rich, plummy, fragrant aromatics laced with lavender and incense, savoury barbequed meats, charcoal embers, olive tapenade and earthy blackberry fruits. The palate is cool and velvety with a massive mouth coating concentration of red and black berry fruits, powdery dry tannins and all the depth and breath you’d expect from a wine of this pedigree. Decant and drink this beauty on release or bury away in your cellar for a good 10 to 15 years. (5,340 bottles produced.)

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

Mullineux Iron Syrah 2018, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

RS 2.2 g/l  – TA 5.1 g/l  – pH 3.78

Grapes for the 2018 Iron Syrah were sourced from a single parcel of 19-year old organically farmed dry land bush vines on the rolling iron-rich soils west of Malmesbury. This parcel of Syrah gives one of the best expression of the “koffieklip” terroir – notably broadness and mid-palate concentration. As with the Granite and Schist cuvees, the grapes were foot trodden in 500 litre French oak barrels to break the berries and release the juices. After 4 days of macerating, the fermentation begun naturally with indigenous yeasts and lasted around 10 days. After fermentation, the wine saw a further 4 weeks of skin maceration before being pressed into barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. Pigeage was performed once a day before, during and after fermentation. In the Spring, the wine was racked after 21 months in barrel and was bottled unfiltered and unfined. The wine saw 12 months in French oak 500 litre barrels, 25% new, followed by 9 months in 2nd fill foudre. A final 9 months of ageing in bottle was carried out before release.

The dry grown Syrah vines of the Iron vineyard.

Often described as one of the most intellectually challenging wines in the Mullineux line up, the Iron Syrah also happens to be the most powerful, dense, concentrated and broody of the single terroir Syrah releases. Perhaps it is my love for the classical Northern Rhone Syrah expressions of France that make this wine so singularly and utterly seductive and beguiling. The aromatics are indistinguishable from a top Cote-Rotie Syrah with fabulous layers of sweet heady lavender perfume, rooibos, garrigue and savoury grilled herbs, barbequed meats and hints of iron and blood, iodine, bruleed earth and hedonistic notes of sweet oak spice, roasted coffee beans and a kiss of mocha complexity. So impressively compact, dense and concentrated, every component seems to add synergy to the seamless balance with the tannin management excelling yet again. This is truly a wine of impressive power and beauty within an international fine wine context. Drink from release after decanting or age for 15 to 20+ years. (2,628 bottles produced.)

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

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Release Another Incredible Pair of Whites – Tasting the 2019 Quartz and Granite Single Terroir Chenin Blancs…

Always a highly anticipated white wine new release, the Single Terroir cuvees from Chris and Andrea Mullineux continue to generate a lot of excitement year after year. With just two white cuvees this year, the Mullineux Old Vine white becomes the lucky beneficiary of the Schist portion yet again.

With a lot of discussion surrounding the incredible quality of the 2019s, I asked Andrea if she saw any similarities with their 2017 releases. Both vintages showed general character traits of intense liquid minerality and tight wound-spring tension though Andrea pointed out that not only does the 2019 Granite have a noticeably higher acidity at 7.2 TA, it also possesses an incredibly concentrated and intense density of glycerol fruit at a meagre 13% Abv.

The 2019s are definitely going to impress collectors looking to buy wines to lay down. Look out for the SA release in mid-September through Méridien Wines or across Europe in the Autumn.

Mullineux Quartz Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

RS 1.1 g/l  – TA 5.1 g/l  – pH 3.49

The grapes for the 2019 Quartz Chenin Blanc were sourced from a single parcel of sustainably farmed 38 years old vines planted in a quartz kloof on the Kasteelberg on the Leliefontein farm. This parcel of Chenin gives the best expression of the quartz terroir on the Kasteelberg, always displaying a fresh minerality and a lovely textural breadth. The grapes for the 2018 were whole-bunch pressed before settling and then racked into barrel for fermentation with indigenous yeasts which lasts around 4 weeks. The wine is then left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation is completed. The barrels are racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. Total maturation was 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels.

The rocky Quartz soils

Tasting the Quartz Chenin Blanc with the Mullineuxs recently, Chris described how their customers are finely divided by their preferences for either the tension and minerality of the Granite Chenin Blanc and the broader, richer, more texturally opulent Quartz Chenin Blanc which almost resembles a 1er Cru Meursault in character with overt flesh and opulence, a broad mouthfeel and a focused concentration of white citrus and green orchard fruits. The aromatics are certainly as expressive as the best wines out of the Swartland with clear, defined aromas of crunchy green apples, white pear pastille and a thrilling melange of orange peel and naartjie zest all under pinned by a chain gang dusty crushed rock minerality. The palate is fabulously crystalline and pure with a slightly saline green melon and granny smith apple concentration and a cool, fine focused finish that suggests plenty of textural generosity. Drink from release and over the next 8 to 10+ years. (2,880 bottles produced.)

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

Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 13% Abv

RS 2.1 g/l  – TA 7,2 g/l  – pH 3.36

The grapes for the 2019 Granite Chenin Blanc were harvested from a 43 year old parcel of dry farmed bush vines planted in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg. These very deep decomposed Granite soils tend to produce wines with great acidity and a flinty, stony aromatic profile with notes of sea salt and brine. The grapes for the 2018 were whole-bunch pressed before settling and then racked into barrel for fermentation with indigenous yeasts which lasts around 4 weeks. The wine is then left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation is completed. The barrels are racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. Total maturation was 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels.

Traditional old vine Chenin Blanc bush vines in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg.

While yields in 2018 were decimated by the drought, down by up to -80%, the 2019 season also suffered a -30% reduction in yields resulting in another vintage with a dense glycerol texture, depth and intensity of fruit. The 2019 Granite is certainly classically proportioned displaying all the intense liquid minerality, crushed gravel and granitic spice that is so typical of the finest terroir wines grown on ancient decomposed granitic soils. With this minerality come layer upon layer of complex dried green herbs, green apple bon bon rock candy, crunchy white peach and salty, briney notes of a Cape west coast sea breeze. But unlike some previous vintages, this wine not only displays an incredibly piercing nervous acidity, picante white citrus and crunchy green fennel notes, it also impresses with an unbelievably expressive glycerol palate concentration with intricate notes of quince, greengage, rock salt and pear puree. With one of the highest total acidities yet registered for this cuvee, combined with its mind blowing depth of fruit, this is going to make Chenin collectors shiver with excitement. Drink from release and enjoy this wine’s evolution over 20+ years.

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

Fine Wine Safari Regional Masterclass Tasting with the Top Wine of Origin Breedekloof Wineries…

I was recently asked to participate in an interesting Wine of Origin Breedekloof masterclass featuring 10 Chenin Blanc wines and another 5 alternative varieties such as Semillon, Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanche and Pinot Blanc. A big thank you to winemaker Attie Louw from Opstal Winery for heading up the winemaker group from the valley and also Emile Joubert for acting as facilitator during the online tasting.

“It has been four years since a group of winemakers from the Breedekloof Wine Valley decided to band together to collectively showcase South Africa’s greatest white grape, Chenin Blanc, under the Breedekloof Makers banner. What started out as a dream in 2015, has since established firm roots with a collection of individual Chenin Blancs that perfectly illustrate the quality of the Breedekloof terroir. Although the humble nature of this group of winemakers remain unshakeable, their Chenin Blanc continue to draw plenty of local and international praise to boast about.” ~ Breedekloof Makers

The international panel discussing the Breedekloof wines.

If these 15 producers represent 95% of the wine produced in the Breedekloof and Slanghoek areas, then the future is undoubtedly bright for this region. The quality of wines across the board is exceptionally high and the attention to detail noticeable. The region really has its own terroir feel and fruit character allowing for the region to really hone its own wine style and expression further.

If the producers can stick together and jointly promote and market their region and its best wines in the future, which will surely be challenging for the entire South African wine industry due to the Coronavirus pandemic, then I see a bright future ahead. It won’t necessarily be easy, but these lovely wines certainly deserve wider exposure and international attention. So if you are an importer in the USA or Europe, here is a bunch of cracking wines with fantastic consumer appeal.

Botha Amyah Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Breedekloof, 13.5% Abv.

Fermentation: 25-28 days barrel fermented. 42% Natural fermentation, 58% Inoculated yeast: QA23, CY3079. 20% in barrels and maturation on lees in barrels for 10 months. Normal bâtonnage (once every week for 4 weeks). Malolactic fermentation. Oak maturation was in 35% new 500 litre French oak barrels.

Soil: Fernwood – sandy with medium organic content (adjacent to the Breede River). Elevation: 200m above sea level. Trellis System: Bush Vines (planted east –west orientation) 2.7m x 1.2m. Age of vines: 30 years. RS 5.6 g/l.

The aromatics display a distinct dusty, biscuity, leesy note with ripe lemon peel zest, fresh straw and dried herbs. There is a noticeable pithy tension and structure to the wine, a finely balanced acidity and earthy, savoury yellow stone fruit length. Considering this wine has seen malo, it has lovely round depth, vibrant intensity and concentration.       

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

Merwida Winery Family Vintners Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Breedekloof, 13.97% Abv.

Fermented in stainless steel and transferred to barrel at 18 balling. Fermentation with inoculated Vin 7, Anchor Exotics yeasts). No malolactic fermentation. Lees contact / bâtonnage: Regular bâtonnage for one month post fermentation. Oak maturation was 9 months in older French oak barrels on gross lees.

Soil:  Glenrosa and Sandstone. Elevation: 200m above sea level. Trellis: 6 wire extended Perold. Age of vines:  15 years. Clone:  SN 1064. RS 2.4 g/l.

This shows a lovely delicate complexity of lemon herb butter, warm white toast, tangerine peel, pronounced petrichor mineral notes of rain on sun baked granite. The palate benefits from plenty of air to reveal ripe lemon and white citrus notes, pithy pear and a cool, taut herbal mineral finish with just the faintest hint of phenolic grip. The extra spice and tension from the 2017 vintage is clearly noticeable. A fine effort.

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

Opstal Estate Carl Everson Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Slanghoek, 12.95% Abv.

Fermented in old French oak 400 and 500 litre barrels which lasted 10 weeks. 100% malolactic fermentation with wine kept on gross lees entire time of ageing with only occasional bâtonnage to finish fermentation.

Soil: Ancient Sand stone. Elevation:  275m. Trellis:  Low Trellised, 3 wire. Age of vines: 37 years old. Clone: SN1061. RS 3.5 g/l.

One of the most confident and intense expressions of Chenin Blanc in the region. The precision, poise and complexity on the palate is truly impressive. The aromatics show sweet yellow citrus, exotic banana rock candy and sweet grassy wet thatch notes. There is such a lovely balance between stony minerality and pithy herby spice and white citrus and green apple persistence. The oak is so integrated and subtle making it a footnote in the overall greatness of this wine. A real benchmark for the region.

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

Jason’s Hill Beatrix Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.40% Abv.

Fermented in 500 litre amphorae and Hungarian oak barrels. Fermentation was all natural with 1/3 whole bunch, skin fermentation in amphorae. No malolactic but with lees contact for 5 months, no bâtonnage. Oak maturation was in Hungarian oak, 1st and 3rd fill barrels of 300 litres.

Soil: Terrace gravels, deep stony soils & micro jets are being used for irrigation purposes. Elevation: 360m. Trellis: Perold system. Age of vines: 16 year old vines from the SN24 clone grafted on Richter 99 rootstock. RS 3.36 g/l.

This really opens up with some air to fan its tail. There are lush complex notes of sweet lemon cordial, crunchy yellow peaches, Seville oranges and a stony, dusty dried herb mineral lift. The palate is cool, focused and quite precise with a crystalline purity, tart tangerine acids and a long, stony, wet river pebble finish. Lovely classical restraint.

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

Badsberg Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.28% Abv.

Fermented in barrel for 25 days. Fermentation was with no malolactic. Wine aged on its lees for 3 month with monthly bâtonnage. Oak maturation lasted 3 months after fermentation.

Soil: Rocky and alluvial. Elevation: 225m. Trellis system: Extended Perold. Age of vines:  30 years old. RS 3.52 g/l.

The nose shows attractive notes of dried straw, lemon peel, tangerine and white citrus with an underlying mineral, dried herb and mint leaf complexity. The palate is cool and sleek, with dusty minerality, pithy green apple peel and a fairly elegant, light weight palate concentration. There is something very attractive about this wine.

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

Bergsig Estate Patmos Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Breedekloof, 14.2% Abv.

Fermented in 300 litre French oak first and second fill barrels (50/50%). Fermentation started in stainless steel tank then racked in to barrel and slow fermented for 4-6 weeks. Natural malolactic fermentation. Lees contact / bâtonnage: 4 weeks bâtonnage and left on lees for 60 days. Oak maturation for 12 months in barrel.

Soil: Mostly alluvial topsoil. The vineyard is planted on the Worcester fault line. Underground is partly Cape sandstone and partly Malmesbury Shale. Elevation: 230m above sea level. Trellis: 2 wire Perold. Age of vines: 35 years old. RS 3.58 g/l.

This is a big bold aromatic expression with plenty of bruised yellow orchard fruit complexity, savoury lemon and dried herbs, orange peel and sweet peachy notes. The palate is impressively opulent and concentrated with white citrus, yellow stone fruits and a dusty, gravelly minerality. Again, the 2017 vintage intensity and tension defines this wine.

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

Lateganskop Zahir Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Breedekloof, 12,5% Abv.

Fermented in tank and 225 litre French oak barrels. Fermentation started in tank and then wine was transferred to barrel with no malolactic fermentation. Lees contact / bâtonnage for 3 months with oak maturation for 12 months.

Soil:  Sandy clay. Elevation: 248m. Trellis: Bush vines with high density. Age of vines: 24 years old (planted 1993). RS 3.65 g/l.

This wine shows a distinctly different aromatic profile with sweet lemon oil, grilled herbs, sweet lemon cordial and an almost Mosel Riesling like note of white peach, apple bon bons and grey slate minerality. The palate is cool and steely with delicious Clementine citrus zesty acids, crunchy white peach and a linear mouth-watering liquid mineral finish. Very impressive wine.

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

Slanghoek Cellar Legends Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Slanghoek, 13.16% Abv.

Fermented in stainless steel with cooling at 16°C  for 5 days then transferred to barrels. No malolactic with lees contact / bâtonnage for 20 months. Oak maturation in 50 % new 225 litre French oak + 50% 2nd fill French oak barrels.

Soil:  Deep, rocky terrace. Trellis system: 5 wire extended Perold system. Age of vines: 30 years old. RS 3.45 g/l.

This shows a lush, intense exotic expression of waxy orange peel, yellow peach stone fruits, cigar smoke, crushed gravel and a long, rich textural mouthfeel with a very fine balance of peach and orange citrus fruits and sappy, spicy, mineral notes and an unctuous, vibrant, concentrated finish that bristles with vivacity and piercing intensity.

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

Mountain Ridge Romansrivier Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.5% Abv.

Fermented in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation allowed. Lees contact / bâtonnage lasted 9 months with oak maturation of 95% new 225 litre + 5% 500 litre old oak.

Soil: Deep rocky alluvial. Elevation: 230 m. Trellis: 4 wire wedge. Age of vines: 13 years old. RS 3.43 g/l.

This is a rather exotic version of Chenin with lush sweet fruited yellow peach notes, white pepper, dried mint leaf, yellow citrus and hints of hedgerow spice. The palate is cool and linear with iced tea notes, tart peach and green apple pastille complexity and an impressive overall concentration. Really quite enticing.

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

Du Toitskloof Wines Quest Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.5% Abv.

Fermented in French oak barrels. Fermentation was started in stainless steel tanks at 15°C. When sugar levels reached 10 balling the wine was transferred to barrels. No malolactic. Lees contact / bâtonnage for 3 months and overall oak maturation for 8 months.

Soil: Relatively dry sandy deep alluvial soils, highly weathered with mostly fine to medium sand fractions. Well drained without any major limiting factors. Elevation: 270m. Trellis: 5 wire lengthened Perold. Age of vines: 16 years old. RS 3.19 g/l.

This shows a decidedly biscuity aromatics with lemon tart, custard cream and tarte tatin caramelised apple richness punctuated with saline mineral notes, hints of brine, dried herbs and a cool, intense concentrated finish. Rather impressive indeed.

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

Stofberg Estate Borderstone Semillon 2018, WO Breedekloof, 13% Abv.

Fermented in stainless steel. Fermentation was inoculated with Yeast Alchemy 2. No malolactic. Bâtonnage once a week for 5 weeks and lees contact 10 months during oak maturation in French oak.

Soil: Sandy loam. Elevation: 220m above sea level. Trellis: 4 Wire extended Perold. Age: 26 years old. Clone: 317. RS 3.4 g/l.

The aromatics show a leesy, buttery, creamy white citrus complexity with notes of grilled herbs, lemon peel and white toast. The palate is pithy and fresh with pronounced orange peel zest, grassy spice and a piquant, bitter lemon creamy lanolin finish.

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

Daschbosch Avon Clairette Blanche 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.14% Abv.

Fermented in barrel using wild and commercial yeasts. The wine saw malolactic fermentation with lees contact and bâtonnage for 4 months and oak maturation for 6 months.

Soil: Longlands / Westleigh. Elevation: 270 metre. Trellis: Bush vines of 43 years old. RS 3.16 g/l.

This has a powerful overt aromatic nose with dried green herbs, lemon peel, green apple and a chalky crushed gravel minerality. The palate is crystalline and fresh with a beautiful vein of acidity, tart green pear, white peach, and a sweet / sour stony finish. This really is an exciting expression of this variety expertly handled. Very smart indeed.

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

Le Belle Rebelle Mariette Pinot Blanc 2018, WO Breedekloof, 14.26% Abv.

Fermentation vessel were 225 litre French oak barrels using wild yeasts. No malolactic fermentation with lees contact for 9 months with first 3 months also bâtonnage. Oak maturation was 9 months in second and third fill French oak.

Soil: Primarily clay to loam with sandy alluvial soils sections. Sandstone rocks also present. Elevation: 208m. Trellis: 5 wire guyot trellis. Age of vines: 33 years old.  Clone: Mutation from Pinot noir. RS 3.31 g/l.

The nose shows a waxy apple, herby, white citrus complexity with a smoky, waxy soap stone minerality. The palate is cool, crisp and bright with a certain vivacity and generosity of crystalline pure white peach and white citrus fruits. Lovely linear precision and focus.

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

Olifantsberg Grenache Blanc 2018, WO Breedekloof, 13% Abv.

Fermentation vessel was a 2000 litre foudre, 300 and 500 litre barrels. Fermentation used natural yeasts with a subsequent portion of malolactic occurring naturally. Lees contact on full fermentation lees for 10 months. Oak maturation for 10 months in foudre and barrels.

Soil: Clay-shale with quartz. Elevation: 460m. Trellis: Stok-by-paaltjie. Age of vines: 5 years old. RS 3.22 g/l.

This wine reveals a bold, stony mineral aromatics of crush gravel, grey slate and piquant white citrus peel and dried herbs. The palate is cool and generous, loose knit and fresh with orange peel, lemon rind zest and a charmingly bitter lemon pithy finish. There is a lot of interest packed into this bottle.

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

Deetlefs Estate Family White Semillon 2018, WO Breedekloof, 13.96% Abv.

Ferment in barrel with 60% of must inoculated with cultured yeast while 40% underwent spontaneous wild fermentation. 5% skin fermented Sémillon adds complexity and texture to the palate. The grapes are destemmed and given six hours skin contact before a light pressing. Oak maturation lasted a total of nine months in 300 litre French oak barrels. 16% first fill, 16% second fill and balance in older seasoned oak. The best barrels are selected for this special and rare take on Sémillon.

Soil: cultivated on Sandy loam soils. Elevation: 400m above sea level. Trellis: Three-wire Perold. Age of vines: 27 years old. Clone: The clone is GD 121 and is grafted on Richter 99. Cultivated on an open canopy basis to allow for at least 85% sunlight penetration to enhance photosynthesis and thus bettering berry development. High density planting, which is 25% more vines per hectares then the norm, allows for better competition of rootstocks and thus building a healthy branched root system. RS 3.38 g/l.

This reveals a charming aromatic nose of honey suckle and sweet white blossom perfume, honeycomb and sweet grilled herb spices. There is a lovely soap stone, dusty minerality that carries to the palate with spicy yellow peach, sappy baking herbs, wet river pebbles and a stony graphite finish. A very serious expression of Semillon without doubt.

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

The Duncan Family Release a Trio of Exceptional Wines from California – Tasting the New Release Wines from Twomey, Silver Oak and Ovid…

Twomey Cellars, Silver Oak and Ovid are three of California’s most iconic wineries brought together by their joint ownership under the Duncan family. The now iconic Silver Oak brand was established in 1972 by Ray Duncan and Justin Meyer and is currently operated by Ray’s sons David Duncan, who serves as the President and CEO, and his brother, Tim Duncan, who serves as Executive Vice President. The cult winery Ovid located on Pritchard Hill overlooking Napa Valley and the Silverado Trail is the most recent acquisition that was purchased in 2017 and continues to craft iconic and highly collectable wines under the ongoing stewardship of talented winemaker Austin Peterson.

Twomey Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2017, 14.3% abv.

I visited California in 2017 and of course who could forget the strong winter rains that brought a welcome relief to many years of drought. After a late March budbreak, good flowering conditions followed setting up a healthy crop size. After an intensely hot summer with two extended heatwaves, the harvest was a fairly brief two week affair and slightly later than recent previous vintages. The warmer, more inland location of the Ferrington Vineyard coupled with its sandy, gravelly soils guaranteed fruit flavour and opulence while the more coastal Monument Tree Vineyard with its cooler clay soils retained moisture well allowing the fruit to be picked several weeks later. Blended together, these two vineyards made for an expressive Pinot Noir with its own unique Anderson Valley elegance, freshness and intensity. The wine was aged for 13 months in 100% French oak with 31% of new barrels.

A wonderfully deep seductive purple plum garnet colour, the Anderson Valley is always my favourite Pinot Noir in the Twomey range alongside the Bien Nacido and Russian River cuvees. Beautifully perfumed, the 2017 has fine lifted aromatics of crushed rose petals and sweet cherry blossoms along side alluring notes of demerara sugar, wet grey slate, pithy black cherry and wild fraises de bois fruit notes. The palate is fresh and pure with its usual elegance and translucence that always make it such a stand out wine. There is also a wonderful underlying depth and concentration all packaged up with a seamless texture, suave graphite mineral tannins and plenty of finesse. The finish bristles with notes of black cherry, sun raisined cranberries and red bramble berries from the forest floor making this another impressive release from Twomey Cellars. Drink now and over 8 to 10+ years.

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

Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Alexander Valley, 13.9% Abv.

The 2016 vintage was of course the beginning of the end for the enduring drought that had plagued California. Ample rain in the winter months filled reservoirs and soil profiles allowing a strong start to the growing season. Warm weather in mid-February led to early budbreak which managed to avoid frost damage in spring time. The season was consistently warm throughout with two smaller heat spikes. Some cooler weeks in August followed bringing in plenty of coastal fog to protect the developing fruit. Ripening was steady and in balance resulting in a very healthy crop with intense flavours and concentration together with importantly a good fresh acidity backbone.

The 2016 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is comprised of 94.6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 0.5% Petit Verdot, 0.5% Cabernet Franc and 0.4% Malbec. The final blend was transferred to American oak barrels where it was aged for 24 months, with 50% of the barrels being new. The colour is a dark opaque ruby red and displays wonderfully ripe, exotic aromatics of violets, earthy crème de cassis, freshly baked blueberry muffins, dried baking herbs, sage, spearmint and vanilla pod spice. With a little more coaxing out the glass, evocative notes of creamy oak spice and black currant crumble start to emerge to reinforce this wines opulence and depth. The palate is fabulously dense and creamy with plush stony graphite tannins, a broad plump fleshy mid-palate weight and breadth that finishes with delicious notes of black currant, black cherry and raspberry confit. Just beautifully constructed and fine-tuned with balance, power and focus. Drink this from release and over the next 20 to 25+ years.

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

Ovid Proprietary Red 2016, Napa Valley, 14.8% Abv.

After the meagre yields from previous drought vintages at the Pritchard Hill estate, 2016 delivered normal crop levels. The last weeks of August brought a warm finish to the growing season and set the ball in motion for the creation of a wine with density and power, freshness and vibrancy. The 2016 proprietary red is made from a blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot. The aromatics are indeed lifted and expansive from the start, displaying complex notes of graphite and violets, blueberry and mulberry, black bramble berries, saline cassis, and hedgerow spice. Lovely exotic notes of black salted liquorice, black currant and pithy black cherry melt on the palate that is luxurious and fleshy yet simultaneously vivacious, concentrated and beautifully fresh. It’s the attention to detail, the harmonious seamless flavours and the impressively fine grained tannins that steer this wine in a direction of greatness. The finish is long, hedonistic and intense and resonates with a super long, persistent mocha and espresso laden black fruited finish. Very classy indeed. Drink from release and over the next 10 to 15+ years.

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

The wines are available to the UK trade on allocation through importer The Wine Treasury.

An Exciting New Release From the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge – Tasting the Onskuld Chardonnay 2019…

During lockdown, I was kindly delivered this interesting wine by hand and popped it in the fridge. But as the Covid pandemic took grip, I forgot to crack this bottle until more recently.

Made from a north-east facing trellised vineyard at 300 metres altitude planted in Bokkeveld shale with a high clay content in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, this wine piqued my interest immediately as I’d already tasted Berene Saul’s delicious 2019 Ridge Chardonnay that had reminded me so much of a steely Chablis 1er Cru expression.

Draaiboek Wines, a new premium brand to watch out for.

The Onskuld Chardonnay was whole bunch pressed with only the free run juice portion used. After settling, the must was allowed to naturally ferment in 300 litre and 225 litre French oak barrels, 30% of which were new. The wine was matured on its fine lees for 10 months prior to bottling unfiltered.

Draaiboek Wines Onskuld Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5% Abv.

This is classic Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge cool climate Chardonnay fruit that bristles with a crystalline steeliness more reminiscent of classy cool climate Chablis. The aromatics are lean and stony, flushed with sinuous tones of white citrus, lime peel pith, dried herbs and delicate nutty, leesy, biscuit notes. The palate is linear and taut with a glassy pure acidity, wet river pebble liquid minerality and a spicy, zesty, slightly phenolic finish of green melons, crunchy Granny Smith apples and greengage plums. A fabulous old world leaning expression of Chardonnay that is sure to find an instant following. Drink now or cellar for 3 to 8 years. (1,300 bottles produced.)

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

For further trade and distribution enquiries, email:

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