Tasting De Toren Black Lion Shiraz 2020 – A Testament to Modern Precision Viticulture…

One of the most luxurious 100% Shiraz produced in South Africa, the Black Lion is a finely crafted wine cultivated from specially selected vines that are nurtured by special ‘hand manicuring’ and individual attention to produce grapes for a truly modern premium international wine, positioned to stand proudly amongst its global peers. A mere 1000 – 1300 individually numbered bottles are produced annually with the maiden vintage being the 2012, when only 608 bottles were produced.

I remember visiting the De Toren Stellenbosch winery in the Polkadraai Hills when the maiden Book XVII Bordeaux blend 2010 had just been released and the maiden 2012 Black Lion Shiraz was still ageing in barrel, made up of components of pure Shiraz grown on three different vineyard sites including the Swartland and the Helderberg, but importantly, made using the same extreme precision viticulture as the Book XVII Series, albeit with less barrel rotation and slightly different barrel cooperage. The 2020 Black Lion edition is made from fruit from one site in the Swartland and one site in Stellenbosch.

With the new 2020 release hitting the market, it was time to put this extraordinary Shiraz through its paces. Using 200% new oak ageing, there is always going to be a certain overt opulence to the wine, a hedonistic indulgence, but with stylistic perfection always front and foremost in the cellar master Charles Williams’ mind, the end product is always going to be eye-catching. More Napa Valley than Rhone Valley undoubted, but certainly a unique expression of premium luxury South African Shiraz.

De Toren Private Cellar Black Lion Shiraz 2020, WO Coastal Region, 15.5% Abv.

Three things strike you when you nose and taste this premium wine for the first time… firstly that it’s incredibly youthful as you’d expect from a 2020 vintage, secondly, the integration of the new oak on such a young wine is simply exceptional, and lastly, the all round creamy, dense intensity, harmony and balance of fruit and structure points to something very serious in the bottle. Without any obfuscation of oak, the aromatics are laid out regally like crown jewels on display, showing a deliciously rich black berry, blue berry and mulberry complexity, with hints of grilled herbs, sweet roasted peppercorns, sweet tobacco leaf and seductive notes of cured bresaola. Texturally, this wine is faultless, revealing a suave, opulent, richly layered palate that leaves little to the imagination. Sleek, fine grained, broad in the mouth, the palate shows black cherry and liquorice, black currant and black stewed plums with sweet savoury herbs, vanilla pod spice and a seductively long finish. Perhaps a little modern in style for hemp shirt wearing Syrah traditionalists, but for everyone else, this iconic red is the product of modern precision viticulture at its very best. A truly extraordinary wine. Drink from 2024 to 2038+. (Only 1,215 bottles produced)

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

The De Toren wines are imported into the UK by The Wine Treasury and retails for circa £250 per bottle.

Bodegas Noemia Reaching New Quality Heights in Patagonia – Tasting the New J Alberto 2021 and Noemia 2019…

The J Alberto from Bodegas Noemia’s owner Hans Vinding-Diers, comes from four hectares of vines planted in 1955 with an ungrafted massale field blend selection, of mostly Malbec but with some 5% Merlot, that was planted at the time in Mainqué, Río Negro. The vineyard has five separate plots that are managed and harvested individually, as they have different soil characteristics, but are all organically and biodynamically-farmed.

For much of Argentina, 2021 was a cooler vintage which brought its own challenges but also offered the potential for fresher styles of wine. Covid restrictions were still in place for the 2021 vintage in Argentina although, after their experience of 2020, wine producers were much better equipped to deal with the extra challenges. In southern Argentina, in Patagonia’s Rio Negro and Neuquén regions, winemakers reported a relatively dry, windy summer with warm daytime temperatures and cooler nights. This combination of conditions for the harvest 2021 led to wines with piercing concentration but also wonderfully fresh acidities with lower pHs.

Bodega Noemia J Alberto Malbec 2021, Patagonia, 13.5% Abv.

A beautifully fresh fragrant vintage showing an attractive aromatics of sweet violets, black cherry, saline creme de cassis, smoky graphite minerality with hints of caramelised blueberries, vanilla pod spice and cherry kirsch liquor nuances. The palate is all about freshness and vibrant energy in perfect symmetry with pure intense saline black berry fruits and seamlessly sweet tannins. While this wine always boasts a powerful depth of fruit and profound textural balance, the 2021 shows an extra special vivacity and invigorating personality making this undoubtedly one of the best J Alberto vintages produced to date. A class act through and through. Drink now to 2040.

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

Noemia’s flagship wine which combines concentration with tremendous elegance and refinement is made from 100% Malbec from 74 year old vines. A Malbec from Mainqué, planted in 1932, aged in 600-litre barrels for 18 months, it boasts a combination of elegance and liveliness that Hans says marks the beginning of a new path in which this old vine vineyard is managed with greater attention to detail and precision. The results in the 2019 Noemia are certainly clear to see.

Bodega Noemia Malbec 2019, Patagonia, 13.5% Abv.

Always one of my highlights of the year, tasting the new vintage of Bodega Noemia from Hans Vinding Diers, who’s knocking it out of the park with his beautiful Patagonian expressions of Malbec. This 2019 is another highly accomplished expression showing impressive elegance, luxurious precision, and a harmonious equilibrium. The aromatics are deep and broody with complex notes of earthy black currant fruits, purple flowers, pithy black cherry and subtle balsamic hints. On the palate the oak is seamlessly integrated allowing a real purity and textural symmetry to prevail. Silky soft with creamy fine powdery tannins, soft fleshy black berry fruits, Parma violets and pink musk rock candy nuances, finishing with a deliciously plummy, saline black fruited persistence. Never short of freshness and energetic vibrancy, this wine is remarkably well made and characterful, becoming a great flag bearer for premium non-Mendoza Malbec. Drink this now or over the next 15 to 20+ years.

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

The Bodegas Noemia wines are imported into the UK by The Wine Treasury. Retail price is circa £45pb for the J Alberto and £120pb for the Noemia flagship red.

A New Block Buster Single Vineyard Release – Part 2: Tasting the Old Vine Darling 2021 Cinsault from Alex Milner of Natte Valleij…

“These old bush vines must come from the most isolated and lonely vineyard we bring into our cellar” winemaker Alex Milner quips. Planted on a lonely hill surrounded by wheat fields, and too many gates to remember, this vineyard stands very alone. Planted in 1978 on Malmesbury formation soils, with some influence of decomposed granite, it faces South Southwest and experiences the important cooling summer wind of the afternoon South Wester blowing in off the Atlantic, only 16km away. It is this uniqueness that allows Natte Valleij to offer something of exceptional quality and interest. This Cinsault was matured for 11 months in a 2500 litre old oak foudre to maintain the poise and reflection of this old vineyard’s terroir.

I recently caught up with Alex Milner in March at his cellar during harvest and then again in early May in London to taste through all his new releases. But two of his wines specifically left a very big impression on me, namely his single vineyard old vine Cinsault reds from Stellenbosch and Darling, that are made in circa 2,000 bottle quantities.

Pressing the 2023 Darling Old Vine Cinsault in March.

Natte Valleij Darling Old Vine Cinsault 2021, WO, 12% Abv.

This Darling Old Vine 2021 Cinsault is really something to behold. If ever there was a wine that proved that Cinsault could be world-class, then this is it. In the glass, the wine shows an opaque red plum colour and has a hedonistically high-toned perfumed aromatics of freshly picked rose petals and sweet lilacs before a complex melange of crunchy red orchard fruits seduces the senses. Wonderfully fresh and vibrant, the soft fleshy palate reveals potent notes red cherry, raspberry and strawberry pastille fruits before the classic Darling hallmark Turkish delight nuances come to the fore. Delicately mineral with a succulent intensity and tangy sweet and sour acidity, this 2021 Darling Cinsault is definitely ‘hall of fame’ quality with focus, depth and precision. Drink on release to enjoy its rose petal floral freshness or cellar for 6 to 8+ years to allow the old vine fruit to show its true regal potential. They don’t come much better than this!

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

The Natte Valleij wines are imported exclusively into the UK by Museum Wines and the single vineyard Cinsault reds retail for circa £27pb.

http://www.museumwines.co.uk

Tasting the Exceptional Louis Jadot Domaine Gagey Ladoix Le Clou d’Orge Blanc 2019 Burgundy…

When I worked in the fine wine trade in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Burgundy was a much different landscape. Yes, there were the great red and white appellations in the north and south that are nowadays pretty much unaffordable, but there was also a whole slew of petit appellations that were historically underachieving and usually unexciting. Among these unsung appellations definitely lay the wines of Ladoix. On the whites, they were often slightly dull from ageing in old oak barrels, not being worthy of any expensive new oak, and the reds were slightly tart, dilute, and at very best, safe and boring.

But how the years have changed this ugly duckling into a young swan. The rising tide of Burgundy has certainly lifted all appellation boats, and the price rises and advances in winemaking and viticultural expertise combined with a bit of global warming ripeness, has transformed appellations like Ladoix into increasingly sought after hunting grounds for high quality premium Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. In recent years, I have been increasingly impressed with the wines of Louis Jadot, and it was their stunning Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc 2014 village wine in particular that really sold me on the magnificence of their ‘lesser’ appellation white wines at incredibly affordable prices.

In his impressive pre-amble writing for The Wine Advocate, William Kelley goes on to state that “Frédéric Barnier has presided over a small but superb vintage at Louis Jadot, and in terms of overall consistency across the range, I’m inclined to single out 2019 as the most successful I’ve ever tasted at this address.” With Louis Jadot’s approach to winemaking described as ‘democratic’ with almost all cuvées handled the same way — whole-cluster pressed whites, with élevage in one-third new French oak barrels, one-third once-used barrels, and one-third twice-used barrels, they ensure that a house style is present and consistent across the whole range. To use William Kelley’s words again… “this important firm is a credit to contemporary Burgundy.”

Louis Jadot Domaine Gagey Ladoix Le Clou d’Orge Blanc 2019, Bourgogne, 13.5% Abv.

When you have a range of reds and whites as large as Louis Jadot has, it is inevitable that there will be some incredible bargains to be found when vineyard, vintage and winemaker are all in sync. In the 2019 vintage, their Ladoix Le Clou d’Orge Blanc from Domaine Gagey represents an incredibly exciting expression of Burgundian Chardonnay that exhibits tantalising aromatics of baked pears sprinkled with vanilla and cinnamon spice, sweet waxy lemons, freshly baked pastries over hints of crushed limestone and a subtle struck flint reductive dustiness. Medium to full bodied, this wine punches well above its price and appellation weight, showing an impressive fruit crystallinity, a chiselled white citrus purity, lime peel zest and a long, stony, saline, liquid mineral finish enlivened by deliciously mouth-watering tangy acids. An incredibly evocative and expressive white Burgundy that has the intensity, tensile structure and focus to drink well for several years if cellared further. Just when you thought invigorating white Burgundy was all but unaffordable, a wine like this beautiful Ladoix Blanc saves the day. I for one and smitten! 

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

The wines are imported exclusively into the UK and are available to the trade from Hatch Mansfield, and are available retail from fine wine merchant Museum Wines at circa £29.99 per bottle.

A Block Buster Single Vineyard Old Vine Stellenbosch 2021 Cinsault Released by Alex Milner of Natte Valleij…

The Natte Valleij single vineyard labels of Alex Milner use the dashing strap line ‘An Exploration of Cape Cinsault’ … and I can tell you that this incredible 2021 vintage Stellenbosch Cinsault made from 49-year-old dryland bush vines grown on deep decomposed granite soils, takes you on one hell of journey.

Affectionately called ‘the ballerina’ in the cellar because of its bright ethereal energy and gracefulness, the wine was matured for 11 months in concrete egg to maintain the vineyards essential perfumed purity and mineral poise, two hallmarks of this granitic vineyard lying in the shadows of the Helderberg Mountain.

I recently caught up with Alex Milner in March at his cellar during harvest and then again in early May in London to taste through all his new releases. But two of his wines specifically left a very big impression on me, namely his single vineyard old vine Cinsault reds from Stellenbosch and Darling, that are made in circa 2,000 bottle quantities.

Natte Valleij Stellenbosch Old Vine Cinsault 2021, WO Stellenbosch, 11.5% Abv.

A translucent red cherry ruby in colour, the aromatics on this wine are astonishingly pretty sharing the tantalisingly perfumed opulence and lift that you would find on a young classical Grand Cru Burgundy tasted from barrel. The fragrant notes of violets, cherry blossom and pressed rose petals slowly melt into waves of red cherry, cranberry and wild strawberry fruits with that ever present granitic mineral vein lending further complexity. The texture in the mouth is enchanting, resembling liquid silk and the intense red berry fruits are as pure as driven snow. This is an impressive single vineyard wine built around purity and precision, finesse and freshness, and in 2021, Alex Milner has created a proverbial liquid masterpiece. Drink this on release and over the next 10 to 12+ years.

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

The Natte Valleij wines are imported exclusively into the UK by Museum Wines and the single vineyard Cinsault reds retail for circa £27pb. http://www.museumwines.co.uk

Naude Family Wines Working in Harmony with the Superb Koekenaap West Coast Terroir – Tasting the New Release Langpad Old Vine Colombard 2022…

Tasting with master winemaker Ian Naude can be quite a testing affair. If you are lucky enough to be invited into his inner sanctum of wine production to behold his new “babies” pre-release, he certainly keeps you on your toes. When tasting from tank or barrel, Ian appears to almost seek one’s confirmation or approval that he has not messed up the new vintage, when in actual fact, you’re normally in such awe of what you are tasting that his initial panic seems nearly incomprehensible. Ian has certainly never bottled any wine with his own name on the label that he does not think is worth its salt and this new 2022 Old Vine Langpad Colombard is no different.

Post Covid pandemic, I made my first return visit to the Cape just over two years to the day after my last visit when the travel ban to South Africa was lifted, and it was during this visit in March 2022 that I sampled the Langpad 2022 from stainless steel tank shortly after it had finished fermentation. We even filled a small PET bottle and took it home to retaste around a braai. Textural, rich, fresh, dry and utterly delicious… the new release date could not come quick enough.

The 2022 vintage was a cooler season with moderate weather conditions during harvest time that slowed down ripening and gave the vines the opportunity to develop extra flavours and colour. For Naude Family Wines, harvest was delayed by up to 10 to 14 days and the crop was around 5% lower than the 2021 vintage, but still larger than the five-year average. The old vine Colombard was harvested with good flavour and sugar ripeness, slightly lower acids but higher pH levels giving the 2022 Langpad an almost sweet-sour flavour intensity on the palate. As usual, all the requisite rugged West Coast maritime salinity and briney characteristics are present making for a true terroir expression once again.

Naude Family Wines Langpad Old Vine Colombard 2022, WO Western Cape, 11% Abv.

1.2 g/l RS | 6.6 g/l TA | 3.58 pH

I remember tasting this wine after fermentation in March 2022 and thinking that this wine was, yet again, something very special. Despite being an exceptional and intuitive winemaker, Ian Naude has continued to learn, building his old vine Colombard knowledge vintage to vintage, and in this exceptional third vintage, he has captured something very close to the true essence of this barren old vine Koekenaap West Coast vineyard that I finally visited in October 2022. For a young Colombard vintage, the 2022 seems more serious, more mineral and stonier, with less of the crème soda and green rock candy notes that initially tend to dominate the aromatics before blowing off to reveal the true coastal maritime salinity. There is a pronounced wet grey slate and petrichor note over hints of peach stone, lime blossom, rock salt and crunchy green pear. The palate is every bit as pleasing when I tasted the freshly fermented wine out of tank, with a rich, dense, glycerol mouthfeel packed full of salty white peaches, green apple, sour pear drops and a wet river pebble minerality. The lees ageing in tank has added a fabulous extra textural dimension and depth that plays synergistically to this grape variety’s true characteristics. Simply delicious. Drink this on release and over the next 10 to 12+ years.

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

The Naudé Family Wines are imported exclusively into the UK by South African specialist merchant Museum Wines and the retail price is circa £32pb for the 2022 vintage. http://www.museumwines.co.uk

Revisiting Some of the Impressive Lukas Van Loggerenberg 2021 Releases…

As we await the new 2022 releases from Lukas Van Loggerenberg, I thought I would revisit three wines that I tried with him in the UK a few months ago. While his Kameraderie Chenin Blanc drew all the early market attention in the first few vintages, Lukas’s Trust Your Gut Chenin Blanc has now found its own comfortable quality niche and following among old vine Chenin Blanc lovers making this wine a real steal within the range.

But if it’s Rosé wine you are looking for, the 6th vintage of Break a Leg Cinsault will charm you with its subtle reductive flintiness, hints of dried herbs, fynbos and stony minerality. Certainly one of the more serious Rosé expressions produced in the South African market. But if very fine reds, and Northern Rhône style Syrah is your preference, the Graft Syrah is simply drop dead gorgeous and well worth the effort to track down a bottle. Alternatively, get in quick when the 2022s are released in the coming months. Lukas remains one of the most exciting winemakers plying his trade in the Cape at the moment.

Lukas Van Loggerenberg Break a Leg Cinsault Rosé 2021, WO Stellenbosch 12% Abv.

The sixth vintage of this sophisticated Rosé but the first use of this 29-year-old Helderberg located vineyard planted on soft, sandy decomposed granite just above the Craven Cinsault vineyard owned by Pieter Bredell. Several pickings make up the final wine which is fermented in old oak which removes the New World tooty fruity Rosé character to expose the more grown-up serious side of the wine a la Provençal Rosé wines. The nose if loaded with aromatics of wet granite, sun dried strawberries, oyster shells and pithy red cherry with a saline, dusty dried herb sapidity. Cool, textured and quite glycerol in the mouth, this wine has lovely intensity and a fine precision, finishing with purity and a dry minerality. Another fabulous gastronomic Rosé wine.

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

Lukas Van Loggerenberg Trust Your Gut Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.

About 60% of the grapes for this superb wine were sourced from the Paardeberg and 40% from the Polkadraai Hills ward in Stellenbosch. The aromatics display a notable crushed gravel minerality with hints of struck-match reduction before notes of pineapple, ripe pears, white peach, wet straw and dried herb nuances. As always, the palate is beautifully intense and concentrated possessing impressive phenolic structure together with a bright vibrant acidity. It is striking how Lukas harnesses such power, intensity and depth of flavour at a modest 13% alcohol, reaffirming his real mastery of the Chenin Blanc grape. Drink this on release or cellar for 8 to 10+ years.

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

Lukas Van Loggerenberg Graft Syrah 2021, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

Made from higher altitude grapes sourced in the Karibib vineyard, this 2021 is an incredibly special Syrah creation with complex perfumed aromatics of violets, lilies, sweet red cherries, crushed raspberries over spicy black pepper, dried herbs, fynbos and savoury black berries. This is a spellbinding wine with overt precision, translucent purity of fruit, fabulous focus and seamless tannins. A really classy, chiselled wine displaying effortless balance and power. Very, very impressive indeed.

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

The Lukas Van Loggerenberg wines are available to the UK trade from importer Dreyfus Ashby or to retail customers from specialist South African merchant Museum Wines. http://www.museumwines.co.uk

Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin Previews Their New 2022 Listrac-Medoc Offering at Bordeaux En-primeur…

The Bordeaux En-primeur scores and prices are hitting the airwaves thick and fast at the moment with the buzz around the 2022 vintage certainly drawing the most attention to the region since the famed 2016 vintage releases. The key words summing up the new releases are “surprisingly good” and “variable quality” … so certainly not a homogeneous vintage across appellations by any means.

I recently caught up with owner Natalie Meyre from Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin and was suitably impressed by their new 2022 En-primeur offering, that is without doubt their most impressive vintage since their seriously good 2016 red. Bordeaux is not just about the high profile top 50 Cru Classe Chateaux, and tasting the Cap Leon Veyrin 2022 is a stark reminder of the exceptional quality and value still to be found in this wonderful region.

Tasting with Nathalie Meyre from Vignoble Meyre.

Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin 2022, Cru Bourgeois Superieur, Listrac-Medoc, 13.5% Abv.

A beautifully deep purple-black colour draws you in to reveal expressive aromatics of pressed violets, sweet black currants, stewed black cherries, baked black plums and an attractive top note of sweet grilled herbs that mixes with hints of sweet black tea, cherry tobacco and dusty graphite spice. There is wonderful energy and power in the mouth with all the fruit concentration concertinaed by bright crunchy fresh acids and suave dry gravelly tannins. The oaking smells and tastes suitably expensive but is all in perfect balance for what is a very impressive young wine. Probably my favourite release from this Chateau since their stellar 2016. Chapeau Julien Meyre!!

(Wine Safari Score: 93-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Le Riche Delivers a Captivating Expression of Their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 in the Face of High Expectations…

A lot of wine producing countries around the world regularly used the word “Reserve” on wines that do not strictly merit the accolade. Perhaps spending a little longer in oak or maybe picked a little riper, there are many representations of what the term means. But for Etienne and Christo Le Riche, Reserve status is only bestowed on a wine if the grapes, mainly from older lower yielding vines, and the resulting wine measures up to an exceptional standard. This is the yardstick collectors and connoisseurs have come to expect when they buy a bottle of this benchmark Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon also represents a masterclass in the art of blending special Stellenbosch terroirs from vines grown on decomposed granitic soils, sandy/loamy duplex gravels and deep clay rich oakleaf soils from the Simonsberg.

Vintage after vintage, the Le Riche family, starting with father Etienne, and now continuing more latterly with Christo, have consistently produced some of the finest and most noteworthy single varietal Cabernet Sauvignons in the Cape. If you don’t know these wines intimately already, I suggest you dive in and see what all the fuss is all about! You will not be disappointed.

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 14.19% Abv.

1.6g/l RS | 5.9g/l TA | 3.68 pH

This is a wine I have been looking forward to tasting for some time. Benchmark every year, the 2019 is a truly sublime creation that is totally captivating from the moment you pull the cork. This year’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a vineyard blend of grapes sourced from around Stellenbosch, including 46% Firgrove, 26% Helderberg, 15% Simonsberg and 13% Raithby, which were matured in 92% new French oak for 24 months. The aromatics on this pure Cabernet Sauvignon are incredible – lifted, complex and pristinely perfumed with violets and rose petals over saline crème de cassis, iodine and kelp, blueberry and black currants, sweet cedar spice and subtle mineral graphite undertones. Sometimes you just strike gold on a red wine where you find it difficult to move past the bouquet because it’s so expressive, animated and complex. The palate too has a beautiful density and piercing concentration but is also one of the first 2019 blockbuster reds that makes me think of the top premium 2017 Cabernets with their weightless fruit concentration and ethereal complexity. The fruit is so beautifully pinpoint and focused with hints of oyster shell, black cherry and maritime salinity over black berries, bramble berries and creamy, silky soft ripe tannins that envelop the palate. This is simply a monumental effort from Christo Le Riche and most definitely one of those wines that forces you to buy a case even when you know you already have enough wine maturing in the cellar. Irresistible! Drink the 2019 now after a short decant on and over the next 20+ years.

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

The Le Riche wines are distributed in the UK to trade by Boutinot’s Third Floor Wines and available retail via South African specialists like Museum Wines at circa £51.99 per bottle. http://www.museumwines.co.uk

Naude Wines New Release – Tasting the Long-Awaited Old Vine Werfdans Cinsault 2017 from Darling…

The 2017 vintage has, over the years, become one of the most lauded and sought after quality vintages for red wines in South Africa, potentially even surpassing the famed block buster expressions of 2015. Falling right in the middle of the drought years, the vineyards all around the Western Cape had finally started to readjust to the new perpetuated heat and drought conditions. I tasted some of Ian Naude’s 2017 Cinsault barrels not long after harvest and realised very early on that this was going to be a very special vintage indeed.

The 2017 harvest was slightly larger than 2016, following another dry season. The growing season, post-harvest, was very hot and dry and winter arrived late in most wine regions. Spring arrived on time with cooler nights throughout the growing season and an absence of significant heatwaves during harvest time helped buffer the effect of the ongoing drought. Higher rainfall brought some relief in certain regions although it still was very much below average. The dry conditions did contribute to very healthy vineyards and smaller berries with good colour and flavour concentration. The harvest season kicked off somewhat later due to cool night temperatures however ripening accelerated by mid-February and the harvest ended earlier than usual.

Walking the vineyards with Ian Naudé in March 2023.

Ian Naude has always had a knack of confounding critics when they taste his cool, crystalline, flavour-packed wines and then realise that they are often only 11% or 12% alcohol wines with ample texture, depth, structure and ripeness. Ian confirms that the challenge is always to interpret the vintage conditions correctly in order to monitor the natural fruit / acid balance in the grapes and of course, getting the picking dates correct. This can only be achieved with regular visits to the vineyard, tasting the grapes and then understanding when the flavours tell you to pick, not the laboratory results.

Tasting from barrel in March 2023.

I had an opportunity to taste the 2017 Cinsault in November 2022 in London at a tasting with Ian Naude and then again in March 2023 on my recent visit to the Cape winelands. Watch out for this new release in early May 2023!

Naude Wines Werfdans Old Vine Cinsault 2017, WO Darling, 12.5% Abv.

1.6g/l RS | 5.2g/l TA | 3.51 pH

Finally ready for release 6 years after vintage, the 2017 Werfdans Cinsault is undoubtedly one of the most exciting wines Ian has released to date under his own Naude Wines label. From an exceptional vintage, the 2017 is altogether tighter, tauter and more compact than the opulent and gregarious Werfdans 2016, coming across as a more serious, confident and highly composed expression of old vine Cinsault. Ian already makes some of the most regaled expressions of serious old vine Cinsault in South Africa, but the 2017 takes quality up another notch or two. The aromatics are initially a little more broody and restrained with a slow perfumed release of pressed violets, red bramble berry fruits, wild strawberry, sour cherry, sun raisined cranberry and the signature top notes of rose petals, crushed granite minerality and Turkish delight. The palate is packed as tight as a sailor’s sea chest, with a fruit density, concentration and power delivered with an effortless elegance. Always deliciously fresh and crystalline, the bright acids help frame the youthful palate fruit adding further structural integrity, finally yielding on the finish to delicately drying, mineral, fine grained stony tannins. This is an incredibly striking, long awaited fine wine release that all committed Cinsault aficionados are going to be seduced by. Drink on release and over the next 20+ years.

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

Wines are imported and distributed in the UK by Museum Wines. http://www.museumwines.co.uk at an approximate retail price of £39 per bottle.