Tasting Andre Bruyns’ Superb Second Vintage of City On A Hill 2016 in the Swartland…

So yesterday, after a very hectic weekend of vineyard exploration and tasting in the Swartland, I headed back to Stellenbosch stopping enroute at David Sadie’s leased cellar at the Dassenbosch farm in the Paardeberg area of the Swartland where decomposed granitic soils rule the roost.


I have to say this was a double appointment as I also came to taste David’s assistant, Andre Bruyns’ second vintage release of his City On A Hill 2016 from 36 year old Chenin Blanc vines. Sourced from two old vine vineyards planted 1981, the 2016 incorporates 8% of Viognier in this 92% Chenin Blanc blend, producing 2,600 bottles.

(David Sadie’s new 2016 releases will be reviewed separately.)

Looking out across Dassenbosch towards Adi Badenhorst winery

Tasting Note: City On A Hill 2016 Chenin Blanc, Swartland, 12.5 Abv.

This is an alluring wine with complex dried herbs, dried mint leaf, garrigue and baking spices. So much oregano and thyme beautifully melded with dry yellow stone fruits and white citrus. I just love the nuances of pithy tart yellow peaches and the rich but linear taught structure that defines this and so many other 2016 wines. The palate seems to move into a 6th gear, where the impressive 2015 only had 5. Vibrant crunchy yellow citrus fruits, peach stone, and peppery, dusty slatey granitic minerality. This wine has energy and verve, massive intensity, pithy yellow pineapple and white peach concentration and a real dusty granitic finish that is direct, nervy, tightly wound and very focused. Well done Andre, not easy to make a better wine than you did in 2015, but I believe you succeeded in doing so. 

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

Leeu Passant ~ The Most Exciting New Releases From South Africa in Years…

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines have always been all about bottling the great vineyard expressions of site and soils of the Swartland. This week saw the first new vinous additions to the growing Mullineux legacy in the form of Leeu Passant. 


The new range consists of two terroir specific Chardonnays and a dry red blend, which is a deconstruction and reconstruction of the venerable Cape wines of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s with almost equal portions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and a “modern” twist of Cabernet Franc.With the European Launch of Leeu Passant set to take place in London on the 5th April, when I’ll be in Bordeaux tasting En-primeur 2016 wines, it was fortuitous that I was staying with Chris and Andrea in the Swartland at just the right moment to experience these wines pre-release.


Below are my initial impressions and ratings of this profound new threesome of whites and reds…


Leeu Passant Elandskloof Chardonnay 2015, 14 Abv.

Very rich intense opulent nose, layers of pineapple pastille fruits, green apple and green citrus crunch. All natural ferment with indigenous yeasts, and all natural malolactics. Complex sweet green fruits, subtle creamy oak from 12 months ageing and another 10 months in bottle. The palate is taught, fresh and crunchy, some waxy white peach notes, flinty minerality and a noticeably cool, restrained dry finish. Plenty of power with animated subtlety. 

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


Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2015, 14 Abv.

This is a blockbuster wine. Sweet green quince, crunchy pears and pineapple pastille fruits, Bon Bon green apple crunch and subtle hints of struck match reductive complexity and gravelly, saline pithy fruit. Incredible acidity showing real power and drive, and incredible precision. High acid, bottled at 8 TA. Also such subtle, considerate oak use, fine integration of fruit and acids and again, like the Elandskloof version, finishes bone dry and elegantly restrained. A very impressive, complex Meursault’esque Stellenbosch Chardonnay illustrating the grandeur and terroir of this premium SA region. Superb… A must buy for Chardonnay obsessives! 

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


Leeu Passant Dry Red Blend 2015, 13.5 Abv.

36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 31% Cinsaut. 

The Wellington Cinsault at 117 years old is the oldest recorded Cinsault vineyard in SA, blended with a more youthful 91 year old vineyard from Franschhoek. The Helderberg Cabernet Sauvignon is 36 years old and the Cabernet Franc 18 to 20 years old. Lovely peppery, spicy leafy nose of plum, peppercorns, sweet bramble berries, hedgerow, bergamot and sappy cherry spice. There’s a real opulent confit fruit character, impressive ripeness, fragrant but simultaneously mineral and restrained. There is also a real dusty granitic vein, a chalky, spicy texture and sweet red currant and raspberry sappy fruit. Punchy, intense, really focused but with real mouthwatering drinkability. Beautifully fine harmonious texture, and tight polished tannins. A true testament to South Africa’s red winemaking heritage. A very classy wine.

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

Volumes PER wine: Elandskloof  Chardonnay ~ 2000 bottles, Stellenbosch Chardonnay ~ 3000 bottles, and 4,000 bottles of Leeu Passant Dry Red. 

 (UK RRP IS £72 – £75 pb Inc.)

My First Encounters at Roundstone, the Mullineux Family Farm in the Swartland

The Swartland is a beautiful and wild spot off the beaten track. The landscape is a series of dry rolling hills with a few significant outcrops of rock that form the Paardeberg, Kasteelberg and Piketberg mountains. This is also the region winemakers Chris and Andrea Mullineux chose to make their home.

The 7 – 8 year old Grenache Blanc vines being returned to bush vines after being trellised to begin with.

This is my first visit to Roundstone, the original farm from where Chris and Andrea started buying the famous fruit for their iconic Schist Syrah in 2007. This fruit has now also become a key component of their award winning “signature range” Mullineux Syrah. Roundstone’s own vineyards now represent around 30% of their Syrah production. 

On a clear bright day like today, you can see all the way to Table Mountain, around one and a half hours away heading south down the N7.



Chris and Andrea finally acquired the property in 2014 and, together with their viticulturist Rosa Kruger and farm manager Jeandre, started an exciting planting program that will run until 2018. 

They will be planting more Syrah, and also Chenin blanc, Grenache (noir and blanc), Cinsault, Clairette Blanche, Carignan, Semillon Gris, Roussanne, Maccabeu, and some more esoteric varieties.


I look forward to tasting their new Leeu Passant wines tomorrow. Very exciting. Now it’s time for a cold glass of Chenin! 

South African Winemaker Eben Sadie’s Greatness is Recognized Internationally at Prowein…

The Institute of Masters of Wine and international trade publication The Drinks Business are delighted to announce Eben Sadie as the winner of the 2017 Winemakers’ Winemaker Award.The honour, which has been given annually since 2011, recognises outstanding achievement in the field of winemaking. The winner is chosen each year by Master of Wine Winemakers and previous winners of the award.


Eben was revealed as the Winemakers’ Winemaker at ProWein today, in front of Masters of Wine and industry professionals. On receiving his award Eben said, “It is a major honour to be receiving this award and I would like to dedicate this to the great team of people I have by my side that have helped me over the years to grow closer to a dream. For a great wine is not the work of one.”
Eben graduated from Elsenburg College, Stellenbosch in 1994, and worked various harvests in Germany, Spain, France, United States and South Africa. He ventured out on his own in 2000 to pursue his passion for blends and terroir in his Swartland home. From what Eben describes as a ‘little shack’ in the Paardeberg, he began creating The Sadie Family Wines’ two signature wines – Columella (a red blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Tinta barocca) and Palladius (a white blend of Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Semillon, Clairette, Verdellho and others).

After a decade of producing these signature wines the Family released the Old Vine Series, a bottling of eight single vineyard old vine parcels; Skerpioen, Skurfberg, Voetpad, Mev. Kirsten, Kokerboom, Pofadder, Soldaat and Treinspoor.

Jane Masters MW, Chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine said, “Eben’s determined search to produce outstanding wines has put Swartland and South Africa on the map. I am delighted that the Master of Wine Winemakers have rewarded his dedication and talent – it’s truly well deserved.”


Eben now joins Peter Sisseck (2011), Peter Gago (2012), Paul Draper (2013), Anne-Claude Leflaive (d) (2014), Egon Muller (2015) and Alvaro Palacios (2016) as winners of the Winemaker’s Winemaker Award. 

Tasting Chateau La Croizille Saint Emilion Grand Cru, the New Kid on the Cote…

I first visited the impressively modern Château La Croizille winery in St Emilion at En-primeur time in 2015. Prior to that, I’d only ever cast a curious eye over its large, orange, modern-art tasting room that protrudes from the limestone cote, across the way from Chateau Tetre Roteboeuf. I had never tasted the wines and had never seen them in the UK market, the Claret capital of Europe.


The reason for this relative obscurity perhaps lies in the fact that La Croizille is a St Emilion Grand Cru estate that originally was acquired by the Belgian De Schepper – De Mour family in 1996 and is sold mostly in the Benelux. The 5 hectares of vines belonging to the Château benefit from the same remarkable soils, on the borders of the clay-limestone plateau of Saint-Emilion in the commune of Saint-Laurent des Combes, as Chateaux such as Tetre Roteboeuf and Troplong Mondot.


After 1996, the De Schepper family commenced on a large investment spree, bringing the estate into the modern winemaking era, combining its sought after terroir with high-end technology and traditional know-how to create a wine with great opulence, finesse, modernity and personality.


This winery is a rising Saint Emilion star which you’ll read a lot more about in years to come. Already, the winery’s more recent vintages have garnered several 90 plus point scores from international critics including James Suckling and Decanter Magazine. Buying a few cases of the opulent 2015 or intense 2016 could be a very smart choice.


Tasting Note: Chateau La Croizille Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2012, 13 Abv. ~ A dark cherry black opaque colour greets the drinker. Initially, the nose is broody and closed. But a little glass swirling and coaxing starts to elicit some of the more classical elements of the bouquet… black berry, black cherry pith, cassis, dusty limestone minerality, hints of graphite and a gloss of buttered brown toast. The oaking is almost imperceptible, revealing a very restrained and quite classical expression from this “drinking” Bordeaux vintage. The palate has all the sleekness, suppleness and accessibility that you’d expect from a 2012. A soft fine grained texture, polished powdery tannins, chalky grip and spicy, plummy, peppery black cherry and black berry fruit. It’s all packed into a very classical, medium bodied parcel, that delivers pleasure now but also suggest it is structured enough to be holding back a few surprises in reserve for drinkers in 5 to 8 years time.

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

Tasting the Spanish Priorat Icon L’Ermita Pre-Release with Álvaro Palacios…

Álvaro Palacios arrived in Grattallops, Priorat, in 1989, invited by a group of local producers and intent on extracting the very best from the land of llicorella grey slate soils.


The steep amphitheatre vineyards of L’Ermita extend around the village of Grattallops, where the broken, open slatey llicorella soils bring outstanding clarity to wines. 


The old Granacha and Samso (Carignan) vines receive more than 4,000 hours of sunshine per year and less than 380mm of annual rainfall, leaving a decisive mark on the character of their wines.


The 2016 L’Ermita is comprised of 85% Garnacha, 14% Carignan, 1% mixed Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, and Pedro Ximenez. The people who harvest pick the grapes off the stems one by one and discard whatever is not perfect, resulting in a total production of 2,000 bottles in 2016 from an area of 1.4 hectares.


Tasting Note: The L’Ermita 2016 Priorat is something special, all class and subtlety. The nose is effusive, bursting with dark fragrant parma violets, sweet sun raisined black berries, fig confit, black plums, spicy black peppercorns, and subtle grape jelly nuances. The palate is lush, broad, expansive, coating every inch of the mouth with crunchy, fleshy red and black berry fruits. Such impressive complexity, opulence and dense, sweet, seamless tannins. There is correspondingly massive concentration and intensity, yet flavours never stray to the spectrum of over ripeness. Everything is so perfectly judged. Just lovely precise acids, very fine balance and a real assured feel to the wine. So distinguished… a wine deserving its icon status.

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

Catching Up With the Legendary Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira in London…

It’s been a long week with moderate jeg lag after arriving back from San Francisco last Sunday. By Friday, I felt I was just about back to normal, only waking up at 5am… instead of 3am. But there can certainly be no better pick-me-up than some bubbles, and today I had a lovely visit from Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira himself, the master of Cape MCC.


As someone who did their MW dissertation on MCC Production in Constantia Valley, I am of course a great lover and eternal ambassador of fine Cape Methode Champenoise sparking wines, or Methode Cap Classique as they are classified in South Africa. And there are no greater names in MCC circles than Bubbles Ferreira, who makes some of the greatest examples of bottle fermented sparkling wine outside of Champagne.


Interesting to hear from Pieter that MCC sales continue to grow around 14% per year for them in SA and I suspect this is probably only slightly higher than the overall category average. For three quarters of the year, South Africa is almost too hot to drink too much red wine, so beer, white wine and of course chilled bubbles are the order of the day. South Africa has developed into a serious producer and quality of MCC across the board is very high on average. Not surprisingly, South Africa is now also the largest market for French Champagne on the African continent.


So it was great to have another look at the famous Graham Beck Cuvee Clive 2009, the most prestigious cuvee in the Graham Beck portfolio and an absolute personification of Pieter’s passion and obsession for creating the perfect sparkling wine. Grab a bottle if you can get your hands on some of the tiny allocation that has made it to the UK for the first time.


Tasting Note: A blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, both were whole bunch pressed and only the tete de cuvee was used, being mostly fermented in stainless steel but with a small percentage in Piece Champenoise 205 litre oak barrels. The wine is pale straw and wonderfully vibrant and fresh. The nose is rich, subtly savoury and exceptionally complex, showing wonderful opulence and attractive notes of biscuit, dusty limestone, shitake mushrooms, and white truffles. The whole while, the nose and palate are underpinned by vibrant, creamy citrus fruit purity. Lemon and dried herbs, yellow grapefruit and white citrus blossom. The texture is hedonistic and luxurious with a real salty, briney sea breeze character coming through on the long, toasty, nutty finish. Beautiful creamy mousse is perfectly assembled and in fine balance with fresh acids and elegant mineral finesse. A truly world class expression. Bravo Bubbles Ferreira.

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