South African Grenache for Collectors & Connoisseurs ~ Tasting the Seriously Structured Raaigras 2015 from Adi Badenhorst…

One of the original young gun pioneers of the Swartland, Adi Badenhorst is making some startling single vineyard wines from Palomino, Chenin Blanc and Grenache. They are all very impressive examples of specific varieties that seem to be excelling in the hot, dry vineyards of the Cape. 


The Raaigras Grenache is made from possibly the oldest registered vineyard of this varietal in the Cape on his Kalmoesfontein farm and the 2015 is only his second release of this single vineyard old vine red. 


Where Adi’s version differs from many of the others on the market, is the level of minerality, tannin and structure he illicit from his old vine fruit while managing to retain a modest alcohol of only 12.5 Abv. Quantities produced are tiny, so if you manage to track this one down, snap it up and pop it in your cellar.


AA Badenhorst Family Wines Raaigras Grenache 2015, WO Swartland 12.5 Abv.

This is must be one of South Africa’s best Grenache reds. Coming from old vines planted on Adi Badenhorst’s farm on the decomposed granite hills of the Paardeberg, Swartland in 1951, this wine shows such Grenache purity, power and authenticity. Made using only old oak and 30% whole bunches, the fragrant perfume is intoxicating, showing fraises des bois, parma violets, lavender, dried rose petals, bramble berry fruits, garrigue, and a delicious, savoury bresaola cured meat complexity. Plenty of textural precision, the more this wine opens up, the more minerally pronounced the tannins become, finishing with an intense, rasping granitic dry grip. Plenty of mineral tension, the finish remains very pure with great clarity and purpose together with the most alluring vermouth botanical herbal complexity. Drink now with food or age for another 3 to 5 years before cracking into your case. This one promises a long drinking curve, 10 to 15+ years. Well done Adi. 

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

The Ethereal Pinot Noir Magic of Chambolle Musigny’s Premier Cru Les Amoureuses…

Domaine Bertheau in Chambolle-Musigny makes beautiful Pinot Noir wines with great typicity and purity. With vineyards in Bonnes Mares and many 1er Cru’s, it must be his Les Amoureuses that is the pick of the bunch among gems that include les Baudes, Groseilles, Gruenchers, and Noirots. 


A relatively “hands-off” winemaker, François Bertheau allows the wines to express themselves and their terroir with very little manipulation employed in the winery. The wines typically drink well immediately upon release but also age confidently for several decades, making Bertheau wines highly collectable among both connoisseurs and drinkers alike.

 

Domaine Francois Bertheau Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru les Amoureuses 2007, Burgundy

This was served today at lunch with food and enjoyed by all. Such a privilege when you get to drink these wines and not just taste them. The 2007 was served in a pair of reds from the same vintage. A very refined nose showing earthy strawberry fruit, just a hint of sous bois, saline cassis hints, and faint caramelised black fruits. As it opens up, plenty of cherry fruit becomes evident, with electric acidity, salty bite, and the most seductive feminine elegance. This is very very fine. Perhaps not as dreamy and complex as a bottle of Mugnier Amoureuses drunk recently, but wow, so delicious. Such balance and easy-drinking harmony tantalise the palate, finishing with a fine juicy line of acidity, cherry skin pith and a stony, smoky graphite minerality. There is a modern gloss to the wine, but it is delivered in such a polished, mature, intellectual manner. 

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

Chris and Andrea Mullineux Capture the Essence of the 2015 Vintage with Their Impressive Single Terroir Granite Chenin Blanc…

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines is on top of its game at the moment. Inspired by the successful range extension with their uber premium but equally high quality Leeu Passant wines, it seems Chris and Andrea can do no wrong. But of course their phenomenal success globally is purely down to good old hard work in the vineyards and the winery. When you make outstanding wines, marketing and selling them becomes an altogether easier, more enjoyable endeavour.


Grapes for their 2015 Granite Chenin were sourced from 2 parcels of sustainably farmed old vine, dry farmed bush vines planted in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg. The vineyards are 39 and 43 years old. These very deep decomposed Granite soils tend to produce wines with great acidity and a flinty, stony aromatic profile. Grapes were harvested between the 29th January and 6th February 2015 with a yield of 6 tons/ha (30HL/ha).

Chris showing me their Granite, Schist and Quartz Chenin Old Vine vineyards in March.

Grapes were first chilled in their cold room then pressed whole-bunch and the juice allowed to settle overnight. Minimal SO2 is added and, as with all their wines, no further additions are made. The juice is then racked to barrel for fermentation which is with indigenous yeasts and lasts for about 4 weeks. The wine is left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation has completed. The barrels are then racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. 12 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%, RS 1.6 g/l, TA 5.6 g/l, pH 3.3.


Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2015, WO Swartland, 13.5 Abv

A beautifully crafted wine from the Mullineuxs, this single terroir expression of Chenin Blanc shows incredibly flinty minerality and salinity. The nose bursts with crushed granite dust, lemon grass, dried herbs, and dried orange peel. I love the austerity and dried grass spice. The aromatic breadth and complexity follows to the palate except the volume is turned up a few notches. Pin point purity, intense electric acids and amplified tangerine and orange citrus zest cloak the palate and almost overwhelm the senses. A very measured, well proportioned wine with extra concentration and acid intensity to suggest a long life lies ahead if we’ll cellared. Drink now to 2030+

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

With Chris in an old vine Chenin vineyard near Siebrietskloof on the decomposed Granite slopes of the Paardeberg

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Old Vine Swartland Chenin Blanc Proves Its Pedigree Yet Again…

David Sadie was born and bred in the Swartland and studied viticulture and oenology at the University of Stellenbosch. It was there that he met and later married Nadia, a qualified soil scientist and viticulturalist. Together, they have crafted some of the most profound wines coming out of South Africa. 


I became acquainted with the single vineyard wines a few years back when David was making 3 different versions. Last year, the 2015 Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc trounced all before it in the annual Decanter Magazine Blind South African Chenin Blanc Tasting, scoring an eye watering 98 point consensus with all three judges. Well yes, I was one of the three judges and I stand by my score, blind or sighted.

With David Sadie and my fellow 98 point Decanter Magazine judge, Tim Atkin MW

Sadly, the 2015 stock disappeared like a small rain puddle evaporating in the midday heat of the Karoo dessert. But what do you expect when only just over 300 bottles or one barrel were produced. In 2016, David bottled two single vineyard wines, the Hoe Steen and the Skaliekop Chenin Blanc. 

Made from dry land farmed bush vines planted in 1968 on decomposed granite based soils with Koffee Klip and Quartz on top, on the western side of Malmesbury. The grapes were wholebunch pressed using minimal sulphur during the short cold settling for the juice before being wracked into barrel for spontaneous fermentation and malolactic fermentation. The wine ages for around 12 months in two old 400 litre French oak barrels. In 2016, production was upped to a massive 530 bottles. pH 3.41, RS 3.0 g/l, TA 5.5 g/l, total SO2 127 mg/l.


David & Nadie Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Swartland, 13.39 Abv.

Like many of the 2016 Chenin Blancs, this wine displays more subtlety, restraint, elegance and finesse with a slightly more refined, fine boned structure than the big, broad, intense 2015 expressions. The nose is more delicate and soft spoken, showing white peach, crunchy green pear, tangerine peel, fynbos, baking herbs, and incredible dusty, crushed granite mineral lift. The palate is electric and fresh with a dry lemon, rasping mineral intensity, subtle smoky reduction and picante spice notes. Like the 2015, there are beautiful, beguiling saline maritime notes that spar with the bold zippy acids. This vintage is all about speaking intelligently with authority and sophistication rather than preaching in a loud, punchy, doctrinal style. The extra restraint, twinned with balance, harmony and inner core tension make for another profound Chenin Blanc expression. Drink now or keep for 8 to 15+ years.

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

Restless River’s Craig Wessels Finally Comes Out the Closet and Produces a Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir…

Think of Hemel-en-Aarde and red wine and you automatically point to Pinot Noir. Think of Craig Wessels and Restless River and you definitely go straight to fine Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. But finally, Craig has shed his Bordeaux blazer and donned a Burgundian hemp vest, producing his first Pinot Noir from vines he planted at the winery.


The must for this wine under went spontaneous fermentation in open top fermenters using 20% whole bunches from vines only planted in 2013. It was then basket pressed into old oak barrels for 15 months ageing. The wine has a healthy total acidity of 6.1 TA and a total SO2 of 50, with 25 free. Bottled in April 2017, Craig is planning for a mid 2018 release date. 


Restless River Pinot Noir 2016, Upper Hemel en Aarde, 12.8 Abv.

A very tense, taught version of Pinot Noir that harks back to Burgundy instantly. Lovely dark Cotes de Nuits berry fruits, a la Morey St Denis. Not quite the earthy nuances of a Gevrey, this wine is highly charged, spicey, black fruited with tart sour cranberry acids, sappy bramble berries, red plum and pithy cherry skin spice. Lovely definition, wound spring tension and ample energy. Texturally very sophisticated, broody and powder soft dry tannins. A very grown up version from young vines that can only get better and better as the vines establish themselves. Drink now or age for 3 to 8+ years. This is a serious effort for dedicated Burgundy lovers. 

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


Assyrtiko – The Grape and the Winery That Could Show South Africa the Way Forward… 

In the wake of the Greek financial crisis in 2010, Yannis Valambous, who lived around the corner from my shop in South Kensington, came in and bid his farewell, saying he was heading back to Greece to open a winery. Needless to say, I rolled my eyes, wished him all the best and thought he might possibly be the craziest or bravest individual I knew. And that was the last I heard from him… until 2016.


Yiannis returned to Santorini, his childhood holiday destination, with a plan that was part dream, part folly, which was to revive the family vineyards he inherited from his father and create a modern, state-of-the-art, boutique winery.

Fast forward and the Vassaltis Winery is now the latest addition to Santorini’s booming wine culture, with construction completed in April 2016. Together with Oenologists Elias Roussakis and Yannis Papaeconomou, who complete the team, they share the vision that Santorini can produce world class wines, and that a new generation of Greek winemakers can deliver big results, given the opportunity.
Typically, the white wine vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks, under controlled temperature. The wine remains on its lees for 6 months, in the tank before bottling.


Vassaltis Assyrtiko 2016, DO Santorini, 13.5 Abv.

A deceptively dark straw colour, this wine is as fresh as a Greek Spring morning. The nose is so pronounced and precise being an incredible mix of salty sea breeze, kelp beds, crushed granite, dried orange peel and dusty dried baking herbs. But there is also an undertone of richness and citrus fruit freshness that follows to a palate of vibrant yellow stone fruits, white peach, grapefruit, mineral austerity, and a saline, tart acidity. But with all great Assyrtiko whites, the over riding influence is maritime, salty, mouth watering acidity and rasping, mesmerising mineral austerity. A wine Eben Sadie in the Swartland would be proud to have made, which is a real badge of honour! Drink now to 2025+

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

The winery is open to visitors year-round, in addition to tours that introduce visitors to the indigenous grape varieties of the island and the unique viticultural practices that have been a tradition in Santorini for centuries.

Vassaltis Vineyards Winery:

Vourvoulos, Santorini

84700, Greece

Contact: Yannis Valambous

Tel: +30-22860-22211 

Fax: +30-27110-544450

info@vassaltis.com

http://www.vassaltis.com

Visiting Hours: 11am – 8pm (or by appointment for Groups)

A Wine Of Rarity and Beauty ~ Tasting the Sadie Family Old Vine Series Kokerboom 2015…

Within the Sadie Old Vine Series range, the Kokerboom white is probably the most enigmatic and mysterious. But in an intense, near perfect vintage like 2015, this wine’s full potential is revealed in all its regal glory. The biggest challenge then becomes actually getting hold of some to drink!


Made from fruit sourced in the Trekpoort Kloof in the Olifants River Region, this old vine vineyard Semillon was planted in the 1930s on decomposed Table Mountain sandstone and includes a mix of both white and red-skinned versions of this grape once very common in the Cape winelands. A pristine old vineyard, no herbicides or artificial fertilizers have been used on it, and it has been perfectly pruned and cared for over the years. The downside is that it is a very small and low-yielding vineyard. 


The white and red Semillon (approximately a 70 / 30 split), ripen at the same time and are picked and pressed together. The juice is taken from the basket press in buckets to an old cask for natural fermentation, and spends around 18 months on its lees before being bottled from the cask unfined and unfiltered, yielding not much more than 150 cases of 6 per vintage. TA 6.4 g/l and RS 1.8 g/l with a 3.00 pH.


Sadie Family Old Vine Series Kokerboom 2015, WO Olifantsrivier, 14 Abv.

The aromatics grow in the glass showing intense lime, white pepper, lemon herbs, lime peel, soap stone and grey slate. A really intriguing mineral melange of dusty stony complexity mixes with notes of boxwood, fynbos, and beechwood spice. The palate is full and expansive and ethereally complex. Flavours are still tightly wound, taught, and require a little coaxing to reveal a tart, briney, saline palate bite, complex citrus zest and deliciously fresh glassy acids and picante mineral cut. So many layers of lemon grass, tangerine peel, pithy green apple and sweet, freshly cut raw fennel develop. Texturally profound and so beautifully balanced, this wine teases the senses giving the drinker a fleeting glimpse of what’s still to come with further bottle age. World class and eye-opening, the Kokerboom 2015 is most certainly right up there with other sought after white icon wines from around the globe.

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