Great Minds, Great Vision and Great Terroir Meet at Brookdale Wines in Paarl – Tasting the 2018 Vintages with Tim Rudd and Winemaker Duncan Savage…

Since Duncan Savage left Cape Point Vineyards, he has been fully absorbed and focused on taking his Savage brand to the next level and bedding Down his new urban winery in Salt River, Cape Town. But as I discovered when I visited him recently, he does consult to one client, Englishman Tim Rudd at his beautiful Brookdale Winery in Paarl.

Named after the hamlet in Derbyshire where Tim originates from, Brookdale is a fabulous winery planted with 20+ year old Chenin Blanc as well as other Chenin Blanc blocks that are almost 35 years old.

At first I thought Duncan made the acquaintance by buying fruit from Tim, but Duncan was quick to point out that this was not the case and that he just simply discovered that he really clicked with Tim and his ambitious vision to make Brookdale one of South Africa’s top quality focused wine labels… and so the collaboration started.

Owner Tim Rudd and consultant winemaker Duncan Savage.

Old Vine Chenin Blanc almost 35 years old.

It’s all still very early days with few people having even tasted the finished 2017 wines let alone the new barrel samples from 2018. But I believe Neal Martin did manage to taste the 2017s on a recent trip and scored the wines very positively. Much of the day to day work at the winery still involves the ongoing rejuvenation of all current vineyards, many of which were badly neglected over the years before Tim bought the estate, but also now includes a massive replanting programme.

Some of the new plantings of Grenache Noir hidden in the cover crop.

As usual, Duncan is spinning his own kind of winemaking magic with some very fine fruit and with all the ongoing investment being poured into the winery and vineyards, this is definitely a hot name to watch.

Brookdale Block 2 Chenin Blanc 2018, 13.5 Abv.

From a 25 year old block of Chenin Blanc, took 6 months to ferment in 500 litre barrels with full malolactic in barrel. Due to be bottled end Jan / early Feb 2019. Classic Paarl Chenin aromatics of white peach, pineapple pastille, orange citrus and dusty notes of granite and fynbos spice. Palate full and bold, broad textured coating the palate with layers of green apple, white peach, pineapple, finishing with a subtle restrained, piquant mineral gravel note. The wine is deceptively classical with more reserved phenolics than the luscious, opulent nose suggests. A work in progress but already showing excellent pedigree and potential.

(Wine Safari Score: 90-92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Brookdale Block 10.1 Chenin Blanc 2018, 13.5 Abv.

From a block planted in 1985, the aromatics show more pronounced notes of vanilla and oak spice that embraces white citrus, white peach, green apple, thatch, fynbos and peach tea nuances. Palate shows wonderful intensity and tension, focus and textural tautness that is more mineral laden, gravelly and restrained. Quite a grown up expression of old vine Chenin Blanc.

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

Brookdale 3 Block Blend Chenin Blanc 2018, 13.5 Abv.

With various components of block 2, block 5 and block 10.1 blended together, the aromatics come together in a more restrained, subtle melange of gravelly pineapple pastille, orange citrus, wet thatch and fynbos spice. In converse to the single block expressions in isolation, this wine shows more opulence and sweet flesh on the entry and fine palate texture and reach. Attractive oak spice and peach tea complexity but also lovely elegance and harmony on the finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 92-93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Brookdale Chenin Blanc 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Blend of all the blocks, only 1000 bottles produced from 50% new oak (1 x new 500 litre and 1 x 10 year old 500 litre barrel). No malolactic, the ferment was much quicker than 2018 lasting 4 weeks. The nose shows dusty, earthy, savoury leesy notes of buttered warm baguette, vanilla spice and delicious yellow orchard fruits. Palate is already very expressive with explosive concentration of pineapple pastille, yellow peach, green apple and pithy citrus peel. The acids are bright and vibrant but finely balanced by a generous fleshy glycerol texture that is succinctly punctuated on the finish. An impressive debut.

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

Vega Sicilia’s New Release Tasting In London With Antonio Menendez Puente and Gonzalo Iturriaga de Juan on 3rd December 2018…

The Fine Wine Safari is all about celebrating the efforts of the greatest wineries around the world and there can surely be no greater, more legendary winery in Spain than Bodegas Vega Sicilia in the Ribera del Duero.

Tasting their new releases is always a momentous occasion as one is acutely aware that you are documenting fine wines that will be bought, cellared and consumed for decades to come. The newest releases include beautiful wines from 2009, 2014 and 2015.

Antonio Menendez Puente and Gonzalo Iturriaga de Juan

Vega Sicilia Pintia 2014, Toro

A wine that has found a new extra top gear over the past few vintages. The 2014 is gorgeously perfumed with fragrant notes of parma violets, crushed blueberries, sun raisined blackcurrants and a subtle dusting of graphite and kirsch liquor. The palate is bright and fresh, superbly delineated, crystalline and very pure. There is plenty of blueberry fruit crunch, earthy black bramble berry depth and an impressive frame of acidity backed by a milk chocolate and vanilla oak spice nuances on the finish. A really very impressive wine for a region known for its rusticity and overt power. Drink on release or cellar comfortably for 10+ years.

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

Bodegas Alion 2015, Ribera del Duero

This warm ripe vintage in Spain is portrayed handsomely in the glass with opulent layers of brûléed black berry fruits mingling with notes of stewed prunes, plum sauce and salted caramel. Texturally there are broad layers of flesh, creme de cassis, raisined black cherries and plum coulis all underpinned by powerful, grippy mineral tannins. The finish is long and intense with a pronounced salinity and piquant acidity bite. A really bold expression from Alion. Drink from 2021 to 2035+

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

Vega Sicilia Valbuena 2014, Ribera del Duero

While this wine is the same vintage as the positively youthful Pintia, the Valbuena is altogether more complex, savoury and earthy on the nose with a distinct vein of tannery leather, freshly tilled earth, black currant and cedar wood spice. The palate is focused and fine with a classic line of acidity running through the wine which is generous, opulent and texturally very harmonious. Plenty of pedigree on display here, this will definitely appeal to Valbuena followers with its extra concentration, regal elegance and impressive length.

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

Vega Sicilia Unico 2009, Ribera del Duero

A wine that positively oozes class from the word go. The aromatics are cool, elegant and superbly subtle displaying a melange of earthy black bramble berries, black currant, hoisin plum sauce and sun raisined black cherries with a sprinkling of freshly ground coffee beans and mocha spice. The flavours on the palate are bold and intense with layers of earthy red currants, bramble berries and savoury black plums bolstered by powerful structured tannins, limestone minerality and a dusty graphite finish. There is plenty of fruit concentration to match the structural muscle, all rolled into an incredibly complete fine wine package. Despite some elements of accessibility, this one definitely needs to be popped in the cellar for at least another 3 to 5 years.

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

Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva Especial NV (2019 release), Ribera del Duero

Always a profound offering, the latest release of this multi-vintage blend is a delicious edition displaying hedonistic aromatics of lifted sweet briary, red strawberry confit, cranberry coulis and a sweet cherry kirsch liquor exoticism. Wonderful clarity, pinpoint purity and fruit forward precision punctuate a palate superbly well balanced, pure and energetic. A wine majestically constructed allowing instant drinkability but that also offers fine ageing potential. Drink now to 2040+

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

Vega Sicilia Rothschild Macan Clasico 2015, Rioja

Fabulously bright perfumed nose of crunchy strawberries, ripe cranberries, red cherry and dusty mocha toasty vanilla oak spice. There is wonderful palate weight, a concentration of crunchy bright red fruits and classically shaped mineral limestone tannins underlying a wine with excellent poise and balance. Drink this super effort from 2020 to 2030.

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

Vega Sicilia Rothschild Macan 2014, Rioja

The flagship Macan Rioja is a wonderful creation from an excellent cooler vintage in Rioja. Compared to the Clasico, this wine is altogether more broody, dark, deep and aromatically restrained. Weightless concentration is neatly tucked into shape by soft fresh acids and creamy mineral limestone tannins. A serious offering, this wine shows the universally ageless classism of premium red Rioja. Drink from 2021 to 2035+

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

A Wine That Announces Jean-Luc Jamet’s Resurgence Among the Great Producers of the Northern Rhone – Tasting His Epic 2015 Côte-Rôtie Les Terrasses…

I have been following the resurgence of Jean-Luc Jamet with great interest over the past 2 or 3 vintages. Afterall, the Côte-Rôties of the greater Jamet family have long been regarded as the benchmark wines of the region within the Northern Rhone. In 2013, brothers Jean-Luc and Jean-Paul announced that they would be splitting up the family’s domaine. For many years, Jean-Paul was the face of the domaine and Jean-Luc was the steady hand in the vineyards. 

Thankfully, Jean-Luc has now stepped out of the proverbial shadows and returned to the fine wine arena with a resounding bang, using his prestigious holdings of some of the greatest sites of La Landonne, Chavaroche and Lancement to create his impressive new Côte-Rôtie called Les Terrasses. This is surely the type of Grand Vin that is going to propel Jean-Luc’s wines to become some of the most sought after Syrahs in the whole of the Northern Rhone and unfortunately with prices to match.

Made from 100% Syrah from 5 hectares notably 0.7 ha on Lancement (1980-1995), 0.6 ha Bonnivières, Chavaroche (0.5 ha early 1980s & 0.3 ha early 2010s), 0.7 ha on Mornachon (1985), also Côte Baudin, La Landonne, Moutonnes (0.11 ha 1945, 0.4 ha early 1980s), Les Rochains, Fongeant, 65% destemmed, with a 21 day vinification using wild yeasts, employing twice daily pump overs and 1 cap punching. Wines were aged in 20-30% new, 70-80% 1-6 year 60% 300-litre, 20% 228-litre, 20% 500-litre oak casks for 10 months, before being fined and bottled unfiltered to produce 26,650 bottles.

Jean-Luc Jamet Côte-Rôtie 2015 Les Terrasses, 12.5 Abv.

The 2015 vintage across the Rhone delivered some of the most intense and profound wines seen in many years. What separates this great vintage from the merely good ones is the way Jean-Luc has crafted a classically styled Côte-Rôtie Syrah that is both bold and powerful yet sleek and incredibly intense and seamlessly elegant at the same time. From the first drawing of the cork, aromatic waves of sumptuous dark berry fruits, exotic Asian spices, violets, crushed black pepper corns, dried herbs, garrigue and savoury new season game meat notes rise imperiously out of the glass. The palate at this youthful juncture remains taut and linear, utterly focused but texturally supremely polished and elegant with serious precision and depth in abundance. The concentration and clarity of fresh saline cassis, tart blue berries and broody black bramble berry fruits is something to behold reaffirming that this will be a vintage to cellar and enjoy over 20+ years. This is a wine that feels self-assured, confident and aware of its own talents within the serious pecking order of the Côte-Rôtie appellation. 

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

Jean-Luc & Evelyne Jamet, 4624 Route du Recru Le Vallin 69420 Ampuis, France

Tel: +33(0)474 56 13 82

jamet.jeanluc@yahoo.fr

Exploring the Iconic Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie La Landonne 1991 Over Dinner at The Noble Rot Restaurant and Wine Bar…

Cote Rote remains one of the hottest collectable and age worthy wines in the Northern Rhone along with select Hermitage and Cornas and no one crafts more precise fine wines in Cote Rotie than Rene Rostaing. Rene owns some of the most prestigious parcels of Cote Rotie namely in the Cote Blonde and in La Landonne. But it was his exceptionally good fortune to inherit 4 prime hectares from his father-in-law Albert Dervieux and then subsequently another 1.4 hectares of old vine Cote Rotie from is uncle Marius Gentaz bringing his total holdings up to 7.4 hectares that has made for a thoroughly captivating vignerons tale.

Of all the wines Rene Rostaing has produced in the past few decades, there are few more famous and sought after than his 1991 La Landonne Cote Rotie. This wine holds legendary status and is regarded with the highest esteem by Northern Rhone collectors. I recently got to drink a well cellared bottle at the Noble Rot Wine Bar with winemaker Romaric Chavy of Domaine Chavey-Choue in Burgundy and writer / restauranteur Dan Keeling. A rare treat indeed!

“In 1991 he produced four cuvees. Perhaps the best of these 1991s is the 1991 Cote Rotie La Landonne. As you might anticipate, there is considerable rivalry between Rene Rostaing and his neighbour, Guigal. Rostaing is quick to assert that his La Landonne vines are considerably older than those of Guigal” … wrote Robert Parker Jr. in December 1992.

Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie La Landonne 1991

Brilliantly bright ruby red, a superb bottle drunk at Noble Rot wine bar, liberated from a private client’s cellar after being bought on release. Tantalisingly complex and exotic, there are wonderful aromatic layers of black berry, black cherry, pepper corns, savoury cured meats and smokey graphite. So seamless, integrated, it’s hard to deconstruct the wine. Just a really profound melange of savoury, spicy, black fruited perfection. Beautifully dense, full bodied, suave and concentrated, the flavours and fruits are so vital and mineral laced yet also so amazingly youthful with tannins that are sweet, powdery but nicely resolved from bottle age. A really sensational, profound bottle of Northern Rhone. They don’t come much better than this. Drink now and over the next 10+ years.

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

A South African Chenin Blanc for Fine Wine Connoisseurs – Tasting the Profound Raats Eden Chenin Blanc 2015…

When Bruwer Raats released the first vintage of his high density planted Montpellier Clone Chenin Blanc in 2014, the wine represented a culmination of years of planning and work to produce a wine unlike anything else produced in South Africa. What Bruwer, the Chenin King achieved with his young vines is genuinely astonishing.

With the UK release of the third vintage imminent, I thought it would be fascinating to revisit the second vintage produced from the seriously stellar 2015 vintage to remind myself just how impressive this wine really is.

Raats Family Wines Eden Chenin Blanc 2015, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Only 1,176 bottles produced from this young, high density vineyard planted to the Montpellier Chenin Blanc clone. The 2015 is an incredibly tight, serious, mineral and aromatic white with visceral tension and intensity and fruit slightly masked by vintage restraint. The aromatics are super complex with crushed gravel, wet grey slate, oyster shell, dry bush veld, white citrus blossom and crunchy yellow peaches. Restraint and reserve continues on the palate that is linear and slightly closed up, broody and restrained but with underlying generosity and depth temporarily bound up by tight fresh acids, tart lemon and pineapple fruit depth. This is a wine that needs to be tucked away in a dark cellar for 6 to 8+ years before reexamination! A profound expression of this variety.

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

The Hills of the Langhe In Piedmont Produce Some of The Best Nebbiolos Yet in 2017…

This famed co-operative in Piedmont dates back to 1894; forced to close in the 1920s because of fascist economic rules, it was regenerated and revived in 1958 by the village priest of Barbaresco who recognized that the only way the small properties could survive long term was by joining forces and combining their efforts. Today the cooperative has 56 members and 100+ hectares of Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco appellation, which amounts to almost 1/6 of the vineyards of the area.

Their Langhe Nebbiolo in particular has long been one of the greatest and most profound value reds on the international wine market, recognised and lauded unanimously by critics far and wide. The 2017 was a much smaller vintage in Piedmont and right across Italy and even before the harvest came in, 2017 was predicted to be -15% to -20% lower than 2016. The 2017 harvest will certainly be remembered for being one of the earliest in 10 years but also with exceptional quality attained specifically in the hills of the Langhe. After Spring frosts kept many a vigneron up at night, a hot dry summer followed with the lack of rain a real worry for many growers. But all the difficult weather did not deter the growers’ efforts in the vineyards and the wineries and final resulting quality was truly excellent and possibly even beyond the growers highest expectations. The legacy of the 2017 vintage will be rich, fresh and fruity wines, thanks to the excellent physiological ripening of the Nebbiolo grapes.

It seems the message of the high quality has travelled around the market place very quickly and after only a couple of months into sales of the Langhe 2017 vintage stock, I was told by the UK importer that they had already sold more than half of their annual allocation. So this wine will sell out well before it normally does and certainly long before the release of the 2018 vintage. So stock up now! It’s a thing of beauty.

Produttori Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2017, Langhe DOC, 14 Abv.

A stunningly complex lifted aromatic bouquet of ripe macerated wild red cherries, potpourri, dried mint leaf, wet granite, aniseed root and salty liquorice stick. The intensity, power and purity is reinforced by a deliciously concentrated, fleshy palate that is full, plump, majestically sweet fruited with comforting nuances of parma violets, red cherry coulis, cherry cola and the most sublime creamy, chalky tannin texture. The density, texture and complexity of this Langhe Nebbiolo go far beyond anything you could reasonably and qualitatively expect from a wine of this classification level. Which probably explains why, according to the producer, it has been one of the fastest selling Langhe Nebbiolos produced to date. I am smitten. Drink this beauty from release and over the next 8 to 10+ years.

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

Old Vine Bordeaux at Its Very Best – Tasting the Ancient Vine Chateau Tour Baladoz Cuvee Le Centenaire 2010…

Château “Valados” first appeared in “Le Producteur” in 1841, and was included in the first edition of “Cocks and Feret” (Bordeaux and its Wines) in 1850 under the name of “Baladoz”. From 1874 to 1922, the estate was known as Château Baladoz until a tower was erected and adopted into the name. In certain parts, vines are grown at an altitude of up to ninety metres, almost the highest in the appellation, with more vines planted on the clay and limestone plateau that dominates the estate. Originally categorised as between the first and second crus of St Emilion, the estate later settled in the Grand Cru category.

The property, located in Saint-Laurent-des-Combes, was purchased by Belgian wine trader Emile De Schepper in May 1950 and included 5.56 hectares of vines. The new owner spent his first year renovating the cellars and making improvements to the vineyard. In the early years, the wine was exclusively exported to Belgium, in barrel, where it was bottled in the owner’s cellars in Ghent. The current cellar master and manager is the ultra talented Jean-Michel Garcion, who was appointed in 1992 and now also overseas production at sister estates Chateau La Croizille next door and Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudiere in Margaux.

70% of the Tour Baladoz vineyard is planted on the plateau, with the remaining 30 % situated on the slopes of the valley over deeply submerged rocks. Here, the challenge lies in making a wine that is as mineral as the geological environment in which the vines grow. The soil base varies from pure chalk and marl, which reminiscent of certain terroirs in the Champagne region, to freestone that appears occasionally and is noticed because of the colour variation in the clay. Here, the Merlot grape thrives and comprises 70% of the vineyard planting with Cabernet Franc (20%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) making up the remainder.

While one of the great wines of the neighbourhood is certainly the Chateau Tour Baladoz, they also produce miniscule amounts (1,000 bottles) of a special cuvee called Le Centenaire St. Emilion Grand Cru from vines over 100 years old on average. But the great rarity is the cepage with this incredible wine being made up of a blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, 3% Saint Macaire and 2% Bouchales, the later two varieties being incredibly rare ancient Bordeaux varieties. After fermentation, the wine is aged for 24 months in 100% new French oak barriques.

Chateau Tour Baladoz Cuvee Le Centenaire 2010, St Emilion Grand Cru

A wine of such rarity and corresponding cost (circa £325 per bottle) always commands respect before the cork is even drawn. Coming from probably the greatest modern red wine vintage in Bordeaux’s history, certainly since 1982 though many argue since 1959 and 1961, this wine automatically had a lot of expectation thrust upon it. Already 8 years old, it has a bright ruby garnet rim and a slightly opaque earthy red black plum coloured core. Tasted from Bordeaux Riedel glasses, the nose was initially reticent as many youthful 2010 reds still are, but in true right bank style, was quicker to reveal its charms than perhaps some left bank Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blends. The aromatics are very precise showing beautiful cherry blossom, parma violets, red cherry sherbet and subtle exotic earthy notes of mechanic’s diesel rag. Super complex, noticeably different but thoroughly spell binding. The palate is cool, ultra sleek and beautifully polished but like the nose, has an exotic twist of Caribbean red berry fruits, red cherry, purple rock candy, tart cassis and a Fanta grape twist. Texturally, it’s as fine as it gets with classical old vine power and concentration twinned with dense satin soft tannins and Bordeaux first growth balance. But this wine represents a whole that is clearly much greater than the sum of its parts and a lot of this must surely be attributed to the noteworthy ancient, and now almost extinct, Bordeaux varieties in the blend. A privilege to taste a rarity like this. Drinking now to 2045+

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