Tasting A Superb Archive Vertical with Beyerskloof Icon Winemaker Beyers Truter…

You simply don’t get bigger names in South African winemaking folklore than Beyers Truter who undoubtedly made his name and established it on the global wine map producing the fine wines of Kanonkop. While winemaker there he won numerous prestigious awards including the highly coveted Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Trophy for the World’s Best Red Blend with his iconic Paul Sauer 1991 Bordeaux blend.

But the true love affair in Beyer’s life has always been another grape variety, Pinotage which will probably be the one that defines his lasting legacy and high standing in the South African Winemaking Hall of Fame.

Like a school boy watching their Springbok rugby idols on tv, I used to stand in awe of Beyers whenever I’d attend a wine tasting. But of course many of those school boys came good and ended up playing rugby alongside their idols. I too grew up, became qualified in wine and now feel honoured to call people like Beyers Truter a good friend. One will never shake off the surreal feeling that accompanies these unique paths in life.

In 2019 it was with great honour that I was invited to judge on the ABSA Top 10 Pinotage Competition overseen by the Pinotage Association and of course Beyers Truter. It was a truly fantastic and enlightening experience getting to taste and assess so many top expressions of Pinotage in one moment. But after judging was completed, I could not pass up on the opportunity to visit the great man himself at his eponymous winery Beyerskloof to taste through a fabulous archive selection of his wines.

The Stellenbosch estate was planted in 2003 and started using their own fruit from the 2007/8 vintages.

Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve 2005, WO Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Normally a combination 30% New oak using a selection of 2 or 3 better blocks. Bright earthy brambly nose with graphite an wood spice. Bright crisp acids with vibrant nervy black fruits and a savoury, steely finish. Holding up very well.

(Wine Safari 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve 2004, WO Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Rich savoury oak complexity with boot polish, black cherry and graphite notes. Palate shows sweet and sour plum, plenty of punchy depth, mineral tannins and fine pin point freshness.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood)

Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve 2003, WO Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, 15 Abv.

From a warm, dry year, the nose shows slightly riper baked, sun dried fruit notes, strawberry jam, raisined cranberries and a round opulence with a creamy oak profile, plenty of generosity and great drinkability. The aromatics may have suffered from the heat but the palate fruit is certainly vital and punchy.

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Beyerskloof Synergy 2006 Cape Blend, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

A blend of 41% Pinotage, 41% Shiraz, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot. Rich bright youthful nose, this is a really complex melange of black fruits, and savoury meaty fruit. On the palate there is a smokey charcoal embers spice, gun smoke and sweet black fruit, cured meats and clean bright acids.

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

Beyerskloof Synergy 2005 Cape Blend, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

A blend of 50% Pinotage, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. Savoury ripe brambly fruits, earth and wood spice. The palate is vibrant yet mature, but shows a beautiful texture and polish demeanour. There are some stewed fruit notes to begin but the lasting impression is overt opulence, good purity and a harmonious texture.

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

Beyerskloof Synergy 2004 Cape Blend, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

A blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Pinotage, 30% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot. Opulent nose of sweet wet tobacco, cassis, black cherry and blue berry fruits. Wonderfully sleek, lithe, harmonious and finely poised with light touch tannins, superb acidity and an overall youthful persona. Delicious.

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

Beyerskloof Field Blend 2009, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

A blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37% Merlot. Aged in 100% new French oak for 21-23 months. Attractive fragrant nose of dried mint leaf, potpourri, violets and savoury black currant and black plum. Grilled herbs and spice show a more compact, dense vintage that is 2009 with multi layers of flavour, texture and nuanced black berry complexity. A very smart expression.

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

Beyerskloof Field Blend 2008, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

A blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37% Merlot. Dark deep, broody black fruit with notes of grilled herbs, sweet tobacco, black currant and leafy spice. The palate shows a sappy sweet / sour note, spicy wood tannins and good opulence but the showy nose is a little less revealing on the palate finishing with stewed red fruit notes.

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Beyerskloof Field Blend 2007, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot. Cool dark broody nose with earthy sweet smokey spicy black fruits, tobacco and tannery leather, mint leaf and savoury black currant. Fleshy, balanced, a touch of sappy leafy fruit and a graphite finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Release Two Incredible Benchmark Wines For the 2019 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction…

One of the original goals of the Cape Winemakers Guild was to allow an elite group of producers in South Africa an opportunity to push boundaries and experiment in order to produce the most profound quality wines on the market. Some of the specially selected winemakers at the CWG have made a little more effort than most to take this opportunity to make and profile wines that leave you speechless and that command instant respect.

Few have done this more effectively than Andrea Mullineux, one half of the wunderkind duo at Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. The other half of this duo, Chris Mullineux was recently in London for the New Wave Tasting 2019 and I caught up with him over lunch at the iconic Chez Bruce restaurant to taste not only these two new CWG releases, but also the full line up of their white and red single terroir new releases.

The CWG wines are only available to buy at the auction in Cape Town but if you can’t make it, speak to Roland Peens at Wine Cellar who can bid on behalf of consumers and private clients. Contact him at: Roland@winecellar.co.za

Cape Winemakers Guild Leeu Passant ‘The Gris’ Semillon Old Vines 2018, WO Paardeberg, 13.5 Abv.

Super fragrant and lifted with aromatics dominated by an incredible saline, mineral spicy note underpinned by stalk spice, tangerine peel and white citrus. Creamy and glycerol on the palate, the concentration is clearly marked and the white blossom, green apple and briney pithiness is effortless and magically long. Outstanding effort once again.

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

Cape Winemakers Guild Leeu Passant Radicales Libres Chardonnay, 14.9 Abv.

Grapes from Bokkeveld Shale soils on the Tradauw-Joubert estate in Barrydale but produced and aged in the Leeu Passant cellars in Franschhoek. The aromatic profile screams ‘Jura meets Tondonia’ with plush saline, spicy, peppery white citrus fruits with top notes of dusty, stony minerality. The palate is big and bold but very expressive with density, breadth and incredible concentration. Of course the wine is defined by superb balance, piercing acidity which is padded out by sensual fleshy savoury fruit gravitas. The finish shows fabulous crystallised lemons, white peach pastilles and an exotic candied persistence. Really something very special.

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

Sam Lambson and His Minimalist Wines First Release Syrah Take the London Wine Trade By Storm…

I first met the talented Sam Lambson in early 2018 in a corner of Bertus Basson’s Spec & Bone restaurant while out drinking one evening with a few winemakers. While chatting, he mentioned he was studying winemaking and had made his own first wine that was still in barrel. Roll forward 18 months and Sam is in his final year of a BSc Oenology degree at the University of Stellenbosch – the perfect place to meet, and learn from, many of the region’s most talented winemakers.

On our first meeting, I did not have the good fortune to taste a barrel sample of his wine but was impressed enough to pass on his details and story to fellow Master of Wine and SA wine importer Richard Kelley MW. Richard signed Sam up and imported a small amount of his tiny volume maiden release Syrah, Stars in the Dark 2018, made from fruit located in the extreme terroir of Elim.

Anyone who has been to the area will know how cold and inhospitable the Agulhas coast can be … not an easy spot for vines to grow. There’s little rain, the winds howl and the shallow, layered shales and koffieklip-littered soils of Elim provide little nourishment for vines.

The Elim Ward is located near Cape Agulhas which is the real Southern tip of African and not Cape Point like so many visitors believe.

The ripening season is cool and lengthy yet, with their roots driven deep, the tenacious Syrah vines on this 19-year old parcel bear minute, concentrated berries with electric natural acidity. As Sam says, “some of the best things in life emerge from tough times and dark places.” Coming out the other side of depression himself has certainly taught him that. “It’s a message no other place articulates quite as elegantly as Elim.”

This wine, already sold out in the local South African market, was one of the star attractions at the recent New Wave Tasting 2019 in London in early September. However there is a small amount of stock in the UK so get your hands on a few bottles of this excellent maiden release. It’s a unicorn wine waiting to happen!

Minimalist Wines Stars in the Dark Syrah 2018, WO Elim, 13.5 Abv.

A 100% pure Syrah red with piercing black fruit aromatics that chime with seductive cherry blossom, crushed violets and dried lavender perfume which rises imperiously out the glass before the nose reverts back to more traditional Northern Rhône Syrah notes of black olive tapenade, cured meats, German deli and a saline black currant fruit intensity. The palate shows ample stony mineral tannins that underpin the fresh, cool zippy coastal acids supported by a wonderful background note of kelp and ocean sea breeze. A really super classy maiden release red from this quality obsessive producer. Sam Lambson is definitely a star to watch. Pop some of these in your cellar for a couple of years and drink over the next 5 to 10+ years.

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

Marques de Murrieta Launches Their Spectacular New Reserva Tinto 2015 In London and Previews Their Castillo Ygay 2010 For the First Time…

As well as being the oldest winery in the new era of Rioja, being established in 1852, Finca Ygay remains the largest single estate in Rioja (Alta) with 300 hectares of prime vineyards. Current owner, Vicente Dalmau Cebrian-Sagarriga, Count of Creixell, has over the past 25 years in charge focused on updating and upgrading both the quality of Marques de Murrieta’s wines as well as the international reputation of the entire estate.

My last visit to the Finca Ygay estate was in 2017 after they had broken ground on their new wine cellar which received the 2018 harvest and will also take in the 2019 vintage despite the new layout only being due for completion in 2020.

With wine distribution now in 100 countries around the world, Vicente chose London as one of his first stops to launch the new 2015 Reserva Tinto and also preview their new 2010 Castillo Ygay, due for release next year.

Marques de Murrieta Reserva Rioja Tinto 2015, 14 Abv.

Grapes are sourced at the estate from vineyards located at 320m to 485m altitude with harvest starting on the 14th September and finishing on the 16th October. The 2015 is a traditional blend of 80% Tempranillo, 12% Graciano, 6% Mazuelo and 2% Garnacha. Grapes are destalked and destemmed before fermentation in stainless steel followed by 18 months ageing in 225 litre American oak barrels 7 of which are in new oak before being racked to 2nd and 3rd fill barrels.

A deliciously seductive nose of sun dried strawberries dipped in milk chocolate, ripe cherries and red bramble berries drizzled with balsamic with a subtle top note of mocha, cocoa and vanilla pod spice. The texture is plush and sensual, wonderfully elegant and fresh yet so supple and harmonious with the finest of powdery chalky tannins, sweet cherry liquor notes, strawberry confit and spicy vanilla pod oak notes on the finish. A really impressive benchmark expression of Reserva Tinto from a very good vintage in Rioja.

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

Marques de Murrieta Dalmau Reserva 2014, Rioja DOCa, 14 Abv.

A selection of the best fruit from a 465 meter altitude plot. The 2014 is a blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Graciano which was fermented for 11 days before 21 months ageing in new French oak Allier 225 litre barriques.

Rated internationally by critics from between 97 and 99/100, this wines reputation certainly preceded it. The aromatics are big and bold, packed full of dark chocolate, sweet black cherry and black current laced with cocoa powder and espresso vanilla pod spice. Seductive brambly black fruit notes fill the palate, punctuated by intense smokey black cherry concentration, piercing acids and layers of unctuous, hedonistic, opulent sweet tannins and glycerol fruit weight. This is certainly a very serious effort and possibly the best expression of the Dalmau blend produced to date. A seductive, thought provoking wine. Modern styled Rioja doesn’t get much better than this.

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

Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Rioja Tinto 2010, Rioja Alta, 14 Abv.

Castillo Ygay is always made from the grapes from the same La Plana single vineyard planted in 1950 and located on the highest plateau of the Finca Ygay estate at 485 meters altitude. A classical blend of 85% Tempranillo and 15% Mazuelo grapes that were picked on the 21st October. After fermentation, the wines were aged for 24 months in 225 litre American and French oak barriques.

The perfume and lifted fragrance on this wine are profound. The aromatics are more complex, nuanced and delicate than its predecessor 2009 with ethereal sweet violets, dried lavender, cherry blossom, kirsch liquor and hints of balsamic spice. The palate is more Burgundian than Bordeaux with incredible intensity and purity but also a lithe, delicate texture, weightless concentration and a long, sun raisined strawberry fruit finish. The tannins are like silk and the oak immaculately integrated already. While deemed “not ready” for release until March 2020, further time in bottle should only make this special wine even more spectacular. A real show stopper that is certain to take the world by storm. One of the best Ygay Tintos since the epic 2001 vintage.

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

Pinot Noir Subtlety and Elegance Taken to a Whole New Level – Tasting the Outrageously Delicious Om Pinot Noir from Jessica Saurwein…

Jessica Saurwein is not necessarily a household name that is synonymous with premium wines in South Africa. While she has been producing deliciously seductive red wines for over four years, it is only now that international trade and buyers are standing up and taking serious notice of this newcomer.

Trying to avoid cliches, Jessica has almost single handedly managed to source and produce some of the most incredibly elegant, pure and feminine styled Pinot Noir wines quite unlike anything that has been made in South Africa before. Her maiden vintages of Nom Pinot Noir opened eyes and occupied the chattering wine trade for endless months. But in the truest sense of Burgundian subtlety, Jessica has just released another fabulous Pinot Noir expression from grapes grown on the Domaine des Dieux farm in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge ward in Walker Bay near Hermanus.

Jessica with another of her prestigious wines… her white Chi Riesling.

In this higher altitude terroir, the soils are granitic with a significant portion of clay. The vineyard was established in 2006 with Pinot noir clones 115 and 667. The 2018 was a dry vintage in the Cape, leading to tiny grapes and wines with a high grape to juice ratio and a lean, energetic style with a superb fresh acidity and super fine tannins.

In Jessica’s words, “the new Om Cuvee symbolises the concept of universal creation. This word is also synonymous with peace. The vineyards are situated in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge region (Heaven and Earth), a beautiful and peaceful place very close to my heart.”

Saurwein Om 2018, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, Walker Bay, 13.5 Abv.

With a most brilliant translucent ruby cherry red colour, the seduction starts long before one even tastes this wine. Fabulously perfumed and lofty, the aromatics convey the very best nervy components of a cool climate South African Pinot Noir with sappy crushed rose petals, tart bright cranberry, red cherry, sour red plum and crunchy strawberries immersed in cookie dough ice cream. The palate is sensual and sleek, sublimely elegant and pure with intensity, electric freshness and laser bright crystalline strawberry confit length. But you’d be wrong to think this is just another cool climate Pinot Noir. It’s sophistication, balance, finesse and sensual harmony place this incredibly beautiful wine on a pedestal of Pinot Noir grandeur. Classy in every sense of the word. I’m smitten! The ultimate “less is more” kind of wine!

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

Meerlust Rubicon 2016 – Slow and Steady Outlook Assures Another Great Vintage…

Meerlust Estate has been the pride of the Myburgh family since 1756. Today, the dedication to quality winemaking continues under the guidance of 8th generation, Hannes Myburgh. Cellar Master, Chris Williams has worked on the estate since 1995 and has been in charge of winemaking since 2004.

 

The Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on low yielding, predominantly biotite partially decomposed granite gravel topsoil rich in quartz and feldspar to a depth of approximately 600mm with a loamy clay subsoil. The Merlot vineyards are planted on more clay rich, yet well drained soils to ensure moisture retention and availability to the vines roots right through the summer. There are considerable deposits of iron-rich Laterite in the Merlot vineyards which accentuates the fruit definition and mineral profile of the wine.

The Cabernet Franc Vineyard is situated on very well drained, stony Vilafontes soil with approximately 20% clay which is ideal for this variety.The Petit Verdot is on Oakleaf 3 soils on a northerly aspect to ensure full phenolic ripeness. The 2016 growing season was unusually cool but quite dry, presenting unique problems of fruit set and ripening. Irrigation was used strategically even on the mature vineyards to ensure slow ripening and proper flavour and tannin development. The Merlot and the Cabernets were extensively suckered from early in the season, and during veraison ‘vendage vert’ was applied extensively to ensure an evenly ripe crop.

 

Meerlust Rubicon 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

The Rubicon component parts were transferred to barrel early for malolactic fermentation in 55% new Nevers French oak, 25% second fill barrels and the remaining 20% in older French oak barrels. The final blend of the 2016 is indicative of the vintage and its impact on the estate’s vineyards with 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, the lowest in Rubicon history, with 28% Merlot, exhibiting this varieties great expression in the unusual 2016 vintage, 20% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. The wine was barrel aged for 16 months before bottling. Having tasted this wine a few weeks after bottling in 2018 at the winery, it has certainly settled down beautifully and first impressions suggest further ageing in bottle will only be beneficial. It is pure, bright and generous with sweet notes of plump ripe black plums, sweet cherry tobacco, sappy sandalwood, graphite and cedar spice. The palate is still a touch taut on the entry but quickly fans out onto the mid-palate with sappy sweet black plum fruits from the high percentage of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Thoroughly honest in style, generous and approachable, this wine is both vibrantly fresh and charmingly drinkable now on release with impressively integrated creamy oak. A wine that recognizes its vintage limitations but still succeeds in delivering a wonderfully delicious and gregarious Bordeaux blend expression. Drink now until 2028+.

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

The Winery Putting Super Premium Second Wines on the South African Map – Tasting the Seriously Old Dirt 2017 New Release…

The essence of a great second wine always starts with premium fruit. When it comes to Vilafonté, very few South African Bordeaux blends can rival this producer’s wines for critical acclaim or consistency of premium quality, vintage after vintage. But a great second wine like Seriously Old Dirt not only has to leverage its own inherent fruit quality but also its own innate vintage conditions to shape a wine representative of its vineyard surroundings, its terroir as well as its ultimate ambition. 2017 has been the dark horse vintage in South Africa that has taken everyone by surprise, producing whites and reds of unimagined high quality when growers were grappling with peak drought conditions in the Cape.

 

For Vilafonte, 2017 yielded an abundant crop of high quality. Yields rose by 57% percent, despite the fourth year in a sequence of below-average rainfall for the Western Cape winelands. This follows Vilafonte’s smallest per-hectare crop in 2016 and moves back to long-term average yields. Welcome post-harvest rains in the preceding year before leaf fall, coupled with well-timed nutrient applications, allowed the vines to build up reserves before going into winter dormancy.

Winter rains in 2016 approached normal levels but fell below average in late winter to spring. Bud-break in the spring was very even, with rapid shoot growth which ceased well before bloom, allowing excellent fruit-set. Weather leading up to harvest was warm and fair with perfect ripening conditions. Harvest commenced on the 6th of February with a few short pauses and concluded on the 1st of March 2017.

 

Seriously Old Dirt 2017 by Vilafonte, WO Paarl, 13.5 Abv.

This sixth edition was matured for twenty-one months in older French oak barriques with the Seriously Old Dirt 2017 being a blend of 37% Malbec, 36% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc producing 89 barrels. The wine succeeds in displaying a truly graceful elegance, freshness and the saline intensity of the vintage while never losing sight of its core role of delivering generosity, purity and sleek textural harmony and precision. Beautifully fragrant and perfumed, the aromatics reveal no less distinction than is found on the Vilafonte Series M or C with opulent layers of mocha, cocoa power, espresso, sour plum and sappy blue berry vanilla crumble. The palate and tannins are finely polished and as sleek and elegant as the chiselled lines on a Florentine white marble Adonis displaying the seductive allure of red cherry, sweet tobacco and red currant allspice. Deceptively light to medium bodied, this five star vintage red packs an inconceivable amount of pleasure into a small bottle. Luxurious and hedonistic, this is definitely a wine for the educated vinous bargain hunter who is unwilling to compromise on quality.

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