Another Iconic Vin de Constance Release from Klein Constantia – Tasting the 2014…

The 2014 Vin de Constance release sees Klein Constantia winemaker Matt Day deliver a superbly confident display of vinous sweet wine alchemy, conjuring up an impressively fine and balanced rendition of this iconic sweet Muscat dessert wine. Fill your cellars with this vinous gold!

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2014, WO Constantia, 14.2 Abv.

172 g/L RS, matured in 500 litre barrels for around 36 months, the 2014 displays a wonderfully aromatic nose of white blossom, honeysuckle, quince confit and freshly baked brioche smothered in honey and yellow grapefruit marmalade. The 2014 is wonderfully approachable showing a finely poised balance of creamy yellow orchard fruits and superbly elegant integrated acids. The finish is focused and pure, concentrated and beautifully textural, finishing with a delicious melange of orange peel, ginger pastille sweets and caramelised apples dusted with vanilla pod spice. This is a really distinguished expression that shows the winemaker’s growing confidence to be able to deliver an iconic expression of Vin de Constance year after year. Drink from 2019 to 2045+

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

Domaine Jean-Marc Millot Raises a Few Eyebrows With His New Release Single Amphora Aligote…

Jean-Marc Millot based in Nuits-Saint-Georges has been making elegant, understated, classical red Burgundy wines for several decades but is seldom mentioned in the critic’s lists of winemakers / wineries to watch out for… until recently. But the last couple of years has seen Jean-Marc joined by his daughter Alix Millot as the baton is slowly passed on to the next generation.

So no surprises then when visiting last year, Jean-Marc pointed out a lone Amphora in the winery containing of all things Aligote! The bottling and release of this tiny production curiosity wine was awaited with great anticipation. An En-primeur Amphora sample was reviewed here in January 2018…

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2018/01/18/a-superb-amphora-white-burgundy-sure-to-make-wine-geeks-weak-at-the-knees-tasting-jean-marc-millots-new-aligote-2017/amp/

As a firm Aligote convert, I have covered some super exciting versions on the Fine Wine Safari from producers like Thibault Ligier-Belair, Francois Mikulski and Michel Lafarge. Well, here is another cracker! 🦄

Domaine Jean-Marc Millot Amphora Aligote ‘Les Deux Terres’ 2017, Burgundy

One sniff and I felt a certain familiarity. But this wine also reveals a truly complex aromatic melange with a pronounced dusty minerality, sake rice wine notes, white citrus, white blossom and an earthy, savoury note of intrigue. The palate shows a beautiful crystalline purity, pear and apple fruits, bright acids and a koshu meets sake rice wine character. If this single Amphora Aligote is exported to Asia, well, European allocations are simply history such is the Asian allure on the palate. The finish is bright and pure with wonderful citric clarity and intensity, with the most mouth-watering edge and stony liquid mineral finish. This has cult written all over it. Drink now to 2022+

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

When It Comes to Classic Premium Cuvee Champagne Few Can Match the Desirability, Personality and Consistency of Dom Perignon…

The past few months in the fine wine trade have seen a quite a few epic new premium Champagne releases including Salon 2007, Comtes des Champagne 2007, Heidsieck Cuvee Blanc des Millenaires 2004, Roederer Cristal 2008 and Dom Perignon 2008. But a wine that preceded them all was the mainstream and bigger production Dom Perignon 2009.

As with many houses including Louis Roederer, the decision was taken to release the more opulent, fruity, accessible 2009 vintage expression before the 2008 which although older, was a very serious vintage that showed much more tension, a tauter texture and closed up fruit characters.

The 2009 represents a deadly serious expression of Dom Perignon that is rich, complex and eminently age worthy… but is also slightly more accessible and overt. A delicious noteworthy wine that I’d still buy to cellar for at least 10+ years and drink over 20 or more.

Moet et Chandon Champagne Dom Perignon 2009, 12 Abv.

Plenty of sunshine throughout the month of August and into early September helped to shape an excellent harvest that commenced on the 12th September. Released before the tighter, more closed 2008, chef de cave at the time, Richard Geoffray described the 2009 vintage as a forward, fruit laden vintage. Still eminently youthful, the wine has an overtly floral nose of lemon blossom, white flowers, grated green apples, honeysuckle, dusty limestone minerals and a pronounced maritime briny sea breeze kiss. The palate is full, elegant and fleshy with a precise, focused lemon creamy vinous texture and complex notes of honey brioche, glazed red cherries, spicy yellow grapefruit and salted sour dough. Lovely density, impressive classy balance and a youthfully creamy fine beaded mousse that charms with premium Champagne style.

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

Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance – Still the King of South African Sweet Wines…

Vin de Constance as we all know was drunk by Napoleon in exile and helped sooth lovers’ broken hearts in Charlotte Bronte novels but more significantly, was regarded as one of the most desirable sweet wines in the world often selling for higher prices than Bordeaux’s grandest red wines.

Now days, the winery employs the services of one of the most talented young winemakers in South Africa, Matt Day, who has whole heartedly embraced the quality vision promoted by the new(ish) owners, to make Vin de Constance one of the most desirable sweet wines in the world once again.

It’s actually not too often one gets to drink the older vintages now days but when they do pop up at lunches or dinners, they are always a truly wonderful vinous treat. I recently had the pleasure of enjoying the 21 year old 1997 Vin de Constance at lunch and it was every bit as riveting as expected. My advise is not to neglect this style when purchasing wines to cellar as they will certainly reward patience and appreciate in value.

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 1997, WO Constantia, 14.5 Abv.

Dark golden molasses brown with orange brick rim, this wine is super expressive, complex and intricate showing tertiary aromas of brown sugar, brûléed oranges, barley sugar, honeyed nuts and molasses hints. A subtle toffee apple and burnt sugar opulence underpins the palate which is wonderfully multidimensional, layered with caramelised orange peel, sweet peach ice tea and piquant Seville orange marmalade nuances. Incredible intensity, a regal sugar / acid balance and a superbly focused depth. A really awesome sweet wine expression. Drink now or bury in your cellar for another decade or two.

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

With Klein Constantia Winemaker Matt Day in London recently.

Drinking An Iconic South African Red – Unravelling the Meerlust Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1976 and the South African Fine Wine Investment Market…

In the week that Wine Cellar South Africa launched (and sold out of) its first fine wine investment fund built around (physical) iconic South African wines from the 2015 vintage, I thought it was fitting to drink a wine that illustrates the true greatness of South Africa’s best red wines. In light of the Wine Cellar VIP 2015 offering, many international commentators less intimately connected to the fine wine market have stated that “few South African wines improve appreciably with extended ageing” and thus the fine wine investment model is built on a sandy foundation.

Firstly, one needs to clarify what extended ageing implies. From a wine trade / merchant point of view, one could reasonably expect the quality of wines included in the VIP 2015 Fund to age and certainly improve incrementally for easily 10+ years… and many on the list for certainly 20 years plus. Secondly, to say that there is no secondary market for aged South African fine wine is blatantly wrong. There is massive demand but merely little to no supply… and the older stock that does make it to market commercially is either small parcels kindly released by the wineries themselves from archive stocks as more of a marketing endeavour or the stock is from provenanced private collections. Either way, it is an insignificant, non commercial quantity unable to influence the market in any meaningful way and adds no liquidity.

I have been involved in the top end of the UK fine wine trade for 20 years now, many of which I have actively been promoting and selling the very best wines from South Africa to international collectors and connoisseurs. Admittedly, you need to sell the best names from the best vintages, but that is certainly no different anywhere else in the fine wine world. Many top South African red (and white) wines clearly age very very well and while you always need to be selective and take professional advise, this fact is now indisputable.

To many, the term or idea of investing in a wonderful agricultural product like wine is sacrilege, a dirty word, a dirty concept. But for time immemorial, the concept of “investing in wine” implied buying double your requirements, with money you did not always readily have, and then selling half the wine several years later when more scarce to finance the drinking of the other half. In essence, this is still the model many fine wine investors (drinkers) that I deal with on a day to day basis follow. Indeed, I cannot name one private client on my books who is tea total and who only invests in wine for the hard cold cash returns. They are all passionate about wine.

One thing is very clear to me however. For South African fine wine to gain a genuinely fluid and dynamic foothold in the fine wine investment market globally, there has to be a strong and confident “wine investment culture” locally in the home market of the wines in question. The demand for older vintages needs to begin at home and then ripple out to international markets. For far too long it has been international buyers piling into the Nederburg Auction wines, the Cape Wine Makers Guild Wines or the odd rare fine wine older vintage auction offering. This Wine Cellar VIP 2015 Fund marks the turning of a corner, where locals put their money where their mouths are and invest in iconic wines from possibly a once in a generation quality vintage. With over 12,000 bottles included in this fund, we should over the coming years, see stocks of these perfectly cellared older vintages released onto the market for local and international consumption at a premium that is commensurate to the quality and rarity of the given wine. Supply and demand will decide that premium.

For what it’s worth, I bought this wonderful Meerlust Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1976 from the winery in March 2018 and drank it recently at a South African themed fine wine lunch in London. Poured sighted, there wasn’t a taster on the table of seven that did not sit in awe of its youthful elegance. A true testament to the ageability and longevity of classical Cabernet Sauvignon produced by one of South Africa’s top estates. The message now disseminating out of the South African fine wine scene is not whether the country is able to produce age worthy wines of super premium quality, but whether the industry as a whole has the skills and knowhow to market these wines globally in a proper confident manner, for the correct premium price tag and importantly, to the correct target market segments? Time for everyone to up their game in the South African fine wine trade.

Meerlust Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1976, W.O. Stellenbosch

A beautiful mahogany colour, the nose is initially tight and cedary, spicy and quite restrained, but 20 minutes of air in a decanter after the cork is pulled allows this grand old wine to open its shoulders. Wonderfully mellow but still vibrantly youthful, beguilingly complex, fragrant and intriguing. The palate is loaded with lovely sweet raisined cranberries, violets, sweet tobacco, black tea and an earthy red currant sappy depth. Texturally this is so fine, initially quite piquant and spicy but also beautifully elegant. Incredible to think this wine is 42 years olds and still going strong. A bold, powerful and elegantly regal red showing the real potential of South Africa’s greatest terroirs and the true premium standing of great Cabernet Sauvignon. What a treat!

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

Jean-Luc Jamet Re-Establishing His Own Brand of Greatness in the Northern Rhône Valley…

Many Cotes du Rhône reds are produced from the blended cast off components of bigger appellation cuvees. For Jean Luc Jamet, now working exclusively under his own name since 2013, his L’Enclave 2016 is produced from 1 hectare of pure young Cote Rotie Syrah vines grown on clay and schist soils in the Le Champon and Bonnivières terroirs and delivers an impressive level of quality as you’d expect.

Jean-Luc Jamet Cotes du Rhône L’Enclave 2016, 13 Abv.

The aromatics of this sexy red are exotic and seductive, loaded with sweet caramelised black cherries, a kirsch liquor lift, sun dried cranberries, loganberries and subtle complexing notes of blood and graphite. The wonderful fragrant aromatics are complemented by vibrant, tart sour plum notes, hints of savoury cured meats, iron fillings and a smokey, crushed rock mineral finish. There is a suggestion of sappy resinous spice on the sleek finish which admittedly lacks the extra power and depth associated with some older vine cuvees. But this wine does show admirable terroir pedigree, intelligent winemaking and delicious varietal typicity from this more elegant, soft spoken vintage of 2016. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8+ years.

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

Alheit Family Wines 2017 New Vintage Release Tasting in London…

The 2017 vintage releases sees Chris Alheit expand his single site range of white wines and stake his marker firmly in the sand, pointing to the future direction that the Alheit Family Winery will be pursuing in future.

His overall vision has evolved since starting out with his first Cartology release in 2011, a wine Chris feels helped give birth to the newest range of single site wines from the winery. These new wines further help define the history, origin and outright pedigree of old vine Chenin Blanc in South Africa. Or as Chris says… “the journey of diversity continues.”

Cartology Tasting Flight 1:

Cartology 2011, 14 Abv.

A wonderfully expressive, detailed wine that really pays testament to Chris’ vision for creating a blended old vine white from multiple sites. The famous 96 pointer from Neal Martin, this wine is the antithesis of global score inflation. Wonderful pedigree, the aromatics are packed with sweet honeysuckle, pear purée, white peaches and yellow orchard fruits with a expressive vein of granitic minerality, dried herbs, dusty gravel and lemon peel zest. The palate shows textured weight, flesh and depth with layers of honied yellow peaches, orange peel, tangerine, honeydew melon and buttered brown toast with honey. All this fruit and concentration is tightly hemmed in by bracing acids that are in fine balance and integrated, helping the wine build to a tumultuous, intense and incredibly long profound finish. Surely not much of this icon left in consumers cellars setting it up to be a true unicorn wine one day. Drink now or cellar confidently for another 10-15+ years. (3.8 g/l RS)

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

Cartology 2012, 14 Abv.

A wine that was slightly misunderstood on release, being dryer, tighter and decidedly more minerally focused than the 2011. With valuable time in bottle, this wine still shows a certain strictness but is already developing super complex notes of dusty gravel, pine needles, resinous sappy spice, yellow peach, waxy yellow apples and intriguing fynbos herbal, earthy nuances. The palate is crisp and bright with a clear honied, yellow fruited depth, a slight spicy oxidative complexity and a pithy, salty, briney finish. A wine that still retains a certain amount of intrigue. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8 years.

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

Cartology 2013, 14 Abv.

Cooler and tighter nose, the aromatics show complex notes of soap stone, talc, dried herbs, rosemary, tarragon, hints of yellow orchard fruits and a dusty, sappy fresh fig top note. The palate is rich and expressive, brimming with lemon butter, lemon biscuits, fresh pastries, white peach, tangerine and toffee apple exoticism. Super pure and crystalline, this wine shows admirable youthfulness, clarity and focus and a real sense of core tension. A very fine expression of Cartology, this is a youthful example with superb freshness, harmonious balance and lovely lingering length. Keep this in your cellar.

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

Cartology 2014, 13.7 Abv.

This is a big bruiser, with immediate, opulent aromatics that show exoticism, power and definite botrytis influences. The nose is full of bruised yellow orchard fruits, ripe quince, honied peaches, buttered white toast drizzle with honey and hints of dried peaches, guava roll and dried mango. As expected, the palate is full and fleshy, dense and full, round, with a delicious sweet and sour yellow plum acidity, bright fresh acids and a tangy, honied, textural earthy dried mango peel finish. Slightly atypical but oh so delicious and hedonistic. Drink now and over the next 10 years.

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

Cartology Tasting Flight 2:

Cartology 2015

A serious vintage, this wine shows complex aromatics and palate depth in a way that really ticks all the boxes. The nose is pure and bright, focused but expressive, with multiple layers of yellow peach, yellow apples, dusty sappy spice and a lovely granitic, crushed gravel minerality underpinned by subtle notes of fynbos and green herbs. The palate shows impressive power and shape, flesh and coiled textural tension with incredible polish and harmony twinned with intensity. The fruit purity is very noticeable, embroidered by bright, mouth watering acidity, mouth coating intensity and impressive white peach and green apple length. Youthful for sure, this wine has plenty of legs. Drink now for a hedonistic experience or cellar for 15+ years.

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

Cartology 2016

The 2016 shows a real immediate generosity both on the nose and palate. The aromatics are intricate and nuanced showing crunchy white peach, hairy yellow peaches, green apple, wet river pebble minerality and subtle fynbos lift. The palate is super fresh, bright and energetic with real purity, polish and textural finesse. A clear favourite of Chris’s, this wine definitely shows more core tension, leaner, slightly sour green acids and a very intense, focused, tight finish. This wine is impossible not to like, but perhaps takes a little time to get to know. Leave it in your cellar, it will reward 10 to 15 years of bottle ageing.

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

Cartology 2017

Big, broad expansive yellow orchard fruit aromatics, subtle yellow blossom and then an overriding dusty gravel quarry minerality. The palate shows amazing depth, typical Alheit pineapple fruit pastille concentration, lemon grass and an incredible saline, grassy, herbal pithy length. Another epic effort from Butch.

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

Tasting Flight 3:

Radio Lazarus 2017, 13 Abv.

The effort that goes into making this cuvée shows immediately on this wine with the most expressive aromatics that seduce you and draw you in. There are lovely notes of white peach, crunchy yellow fruits, yellow plum, white citrus, pear and green apple brightness. The palate is dusty and sappy with hints of stalk spice, crushed fynbos, green herbs, apple skins and crushed gravel minerality. The acids are bright and intense, not sharp at all, but coat the palate and make your mouth water with its sheer purity and clarity. This is a wine of a gnarled, struggling old vine vineyard that is more about dusty minerality, austerity and terroir than any kind of fruit opulence. A heartbreak venture, this is a true heritage wine of the Cape. Drink this fairly open expression on release or age for 20+ years.

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

Nautical Dawn Chenin Blanc 2017, 13 Abv.

Another classic Chenin Blanc parcel from the False Bay that again shows wonderful defined site specific characters. Very different to Swartland expressions, this Rustenhof vineyard wine from bush vines planted in 1978 yields expressive aromatics of white citrus, white peach pastille, tart sour plum, crushed gravel, limestone and a dusty lemon rind note. On the palate, this wine shows incredible tension, acid frame, brightness and purity, so beautifully balanced but still slightly raw and saline at the moment. A wine of intensity and vibrancy, this wine packs a punch of note. This looks a good bet for ageing.

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

Tasting Flight 4:

Fire By Night 2017, 13 Abv.

Bright, crystalline and intense, wonderfully taut and intense, loaded with liquid minerals, limestone and greengage, green apple and white pears. Pithy phenolic notes, a spicy pear purée expression and such clarity and focus. Mouth watering acidity, this wine tells an amazing story and delivers on so many levels with great subtlety.

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

Huilkrans 2017, 14 Abv.

Wonderful melange of pure mineral, granite, grated apple, white peach and crunchy green pear with hints of orange blossom, tangerine and dried herb spice. Incredible harmony and balance, precise textural focus, sleek concentration and liquid mineral depth. A thought provoking wine, confounding the senses, stimulating the palate. Grand Cru texture, focus and precision.

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

Magnetic North Mountain Makstok 2017, 14 Abv.

A stern, lean, focused, striking wine with tension, tightly meshed acids and phenolics and a wonderfully lean and mesmerising nose of liquid minerality. Like the Lazarus, this is dusty and restrained, gravelly and austere but delivers an impressive focus and intensity on the palate. Crystalline, saline, bright and tart, backed with incredible white peach and white citrus, pithy granitic limestone minerality, this wine has greatness in its DNA, a wine that is initially less generous, more austere, packed with briney tart acidity but with the most incredible intensity, energy, and electric length. Another ageworthy gem for the cellar. Drink from 2020 to 2040+

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

“Not really thirst quenching, more thirst provoking.” ~ Julia Harding MW

Tasting Flight 5:

La Colline Semillon 2017, 13..5 Abv.

Planted in 1936, this is a selection massale block from original genetic material brought to the Cape in the 1600s. Plenty of pedigree here showing white citrus, yellow grapefruit, lime cordial, fresh asparagus and pithy tangerine peel complexity. The palate is loaded with yellow grapefruit, white peach, waxy green apple and tart, lanolin tinged gravelley complexity often seen on Bruce Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon from Hunter Valley. There is great intensity, breadth and power that tantalises the palate with apricot and earthy spice on a long, profound finish. Bench mark in every way.

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

Hemelrand Vine Garden 2017, 13.5. Abv.

One of Chris Alheit’s young vine wines from the farm they live on in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. A blend of Roussanne, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Verdelho and Muscat, this 2017, the third edition shows an enticing nose of lime peel, fragrant cantaloup melon, lychee, fresh rose petals and ripe pineapple pastille. Steely, bright, intense with searing freshness, this wine has an electric core, plugged straight into the mains. A wine that becomes more accomplished with every subsequent release.

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

(Wines available to the trade in the UK from importer Dreyfus Ashby)