Assessing the New Releases from Mullineux Family Wines – Part 2: Tasting the Single Terroir 2020 Syrah Reds…

The Mullineuxs have put an immense amount of blood, sweat and tears into creating their Mullineux Old Vine White Blend and their Mullineux Syrah. With the latest releases in 2022, we see both wines rising to unseen level of quality and the 2021 Old Vine White is definitely their most distinguished creation to date. But these wines only tell half the story. Much of the rise in quality of these larger production “estate” wines from a blend of vineyard sites can be attributed to the knowledge and expertise acquired over the past decade of producing the more niche Mullineux Single Terroir wines.

With the 2020 red Syrah releases, the Mullineuxs have been granted permission from all farmers and vineyard owners involved to use the actual farm names on all the labels for the first time across the range. Previously, only the Mullineux Schist wines carried the Roundstone designation on the front labels. With all the experience and expertise has also come an extra confidence for the Mullineuxs to trumpet the site-specific origin of these wines, all of which now show noticeably specific vineyard traits and similarities from their terroirs year after year. I caught up with the Swartland power couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux recently and tasted through their new range of wines together.

The Single Terroir Reds:

Granite Syrah Jakkalsfontein (100% of a set block from the Jakkalsfontein farm recently bought by Eben Sadie and Adi Badenhorst)

Schist Syrah Roundstone (the Mullineuxs own farm vineyard)

Iron Syrah Kasteelsig (Using same 18 rows that have been contracted since 2008)

The 2020 vintage had more warm spells with a roughly one week later picking start date than usual with more warmth than 2021, but which still saw very even ripening across all vineyards with absolutely no pressure to pick according to Andrea Mullineux.

Mullineux Granite Jakkalsfontein Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 13.86% Abv.

1.8 g/l RS | 5.5 g/l TA | 3.67 pH

The deep GRANITE soils on this Jakkalsfontein farm allow for deep root growth and a larger natural canopy. This is incredible for allowing the grapes to retain acidity and purity which ultimately leads to tight, yet fresh tannins and a more lifted perfume. Like all 3 Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks the wine was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled. This allows the tannins to develop, which are very long when Syrah is grown on Granite, one of the prime distinguishing characteristics of the soil type, and then lets the natural fresh and fragrant perfumes develop, and amazing blossoming of soil type-derived personality.

Same block has been bought for over 10 years from 21+ year old vines growing on deep sandy decomposed granite soils with a hint of clay. The aromatics reveal a lovely spicy, floral array with an expressive lavender lift intertwined with sweet black peppercorns, red currants, black cherries and a dusty dry straw and fynbos herbal complexity. On the palate, the incredibly powerful but very fine-grained, drying mineral tannins lend a real classicism to the wine’s mouthfeel and finish. The red and black berry fruits are subtle and restrained showing real precision, purity and focused finesse. While it is probably more of an illusion created by the tannins and the fresh acids, the lasting impression of the wine is its incredible minerality and old world restraint. The sour cherry picante finish just puts the final finishing touches to a very classical and classy expression of Syrah. This is one for collectors and connoisseurs, drinkers who want to age their wines and then sip them slowly in lengthy contemplation. World class Syrah in every sense of the word. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.

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

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 13.34% Abv.

1.8 g/l RS | 5.1 g/l TA | 3.81 pH

These very special and characterful grapes grown on the brown schisty Kasteelberg showcase the Mullineux’s own estate, Roundstone, and its ability to define Syrah grown on SCHIST Soils. These rocky soils limit vine size and so the clusters and individual grapes, in turn remain smaller with a higher skin to juice ratio, offering denser, more brooding tannins. Like all three Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for completely gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks it was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled.

While a higher skin to juice ratio offers a denser, broodier tannic complexity, this wine is always very suave and plush, generous and alluring with complex layers of delicious black berry fruits. The aromatics show hints of lavender and violets, blueberry and black cherries, sweet grilled herbs and fynbos spice and a subtle black olive tapenade nuance. On the palate there is plenty of fleshy weight and texture with a balancing acid freshness and natural fruit concentration boasting vermouth spices, salty nori seaweed, blood oranges and an opulent, rich, meaty finish. A lot of premium wines have sex appeal and allure, it’s just that the Schist Syrah really knows how to flaunt it. A wine that is appealing to drink on release but will age gracefully for 15 to 20+ years.

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

Mullineux Iron Kasteelsig Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 12.66% Abv.

2.0 g/l RS | 5.2 g/l TA | 3.77 pH

Grown on the IRON soils on the rolling red hills that surround Malmesbury, this organic vineyard grows on the clay and gravel rich Koffieklip that is very good at holding water and very generous during primary growth in the sprint, but then around verasion, the clay in the soil stops releasing moisture and the vine compensates during this quick ripening phase by making the smallest grapes out of all the three single terroirs, but because of the canopy, the skins are not too thick. This gives us wines that are rich and round, with gravely but plush tannins, and yet for some reason, always the lowest alcohol conversions for similar sugars across the Single Terroir range (they are all picked at the same ripeness). Like all 3 Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for completely gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks it was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled.

The Mullineuxs have been working with this specific vineyard for 18 vintages making it one of their most well know sites (this includes several years prior for Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards). On the nose there are pronounced notes of scorched earth, tapenade, broody black berry and black cherry fruits together with some red fruit brightness. The slightly reductive palate boasts a great depth of fruit with rich round tannins leading the way structurally. A wine that always has the highest natural extract but like this 2020 release, shows itself with the most generosity, harmony and balance. In common with both the Granite and the Schist Syrah expressions, this wine definitely has its own very unique personality derived from its terroir and typified by its very Northern Rhone physique, its savoury cured meat and irony complexity, the bright fresh acids and the suave powdery tannins. Tasted over three days, this is the wine that unfurled and fanned its peacock tail the most. Another very age worthy expression that is a true testament to the Mullineux’s winemaking prowess. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.

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

Wines available to the wine trade in the UK from the Mullineux Wines importer Liberty Wines and in the USA from Skurnik Wines. RRP in the UK circa £49pb for whites and £78pb for the reds. In South Africa, R1,175pb for the reds and R630pb for the whites cellar door.

Assessing the New Releases from Mullineux Family Wines – Part 1: Tasting the Single Terroir 2021 Chenin Blanc Whites…

The Mullineuxs have put an immense amount of blood, sweat and tears into creating their Mullineux Old Vine White Blend and their Mullineux Syrah. With the latest releases in 2022, we see both wines rising to unseen levels of quality and the 2021 Old Vine White is definitely their most distinguished creation to date. A wine not to be missed. But these wines only tell half the story. Much of the rise in quality of these larger production wines from a blend of vineyard sites can be attributed to the knowledge and expertise acquired over the past decade of producing the more niche Mullineux Single Terroir wines.

With the 2021 whites and 2020 red releases, the Mullineuxs have been granted permission from all farmers and vineyard owners involved to use the actual farm names on all the labels for the first time across the range. Previously, only the Mullineux Schist wines carried the Roundstone designation on the front labels. With all the experience and expertise has also come an extra confidence for the Mullineuxs to trumpet the site-specific origin of these wines, all of which now show noticeably specific vineyard traits and similarities from their terroirs year after year. I caught up with the power couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux recently and tasted through their new range of wines with them.

The Single Terroir Whites:

Wines were tasted from Zalto Bordeaux glasses and reviewed over the course of three days.

Mullineux Granite Eikelaan Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 13.98% Abv.

1.9 g/l RS | 6.5 g/l TA | 3.27 pH

These grapes grown on the Paardeberg showcase everything the Mullineuxs are looking for in wines that hail from Granite Soils. The roots grow deep, so the canopy remains very full, protecting it from sun and temperature fluctuations. The grapes then retain more freshness and perfume. At the winery, the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its life. All of the juice is racked to barrel (0% new because they want all of the elements of this wine’s terroir to show through so consumers are tasting the soil and not the barrel, but older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred (the texture is coming from the South African Sun and Old Vines) until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months. Andrea leave’s the barrels full as long as possible because a full barrel is a happy barrel. The wine is bottled unfiltered to further showcase the Swartland Granite terroir.

The 2021 vintage in the Swartland was late because it was such a slow, cool and balanced vintage which shows in the wines, especially with the Granite Chenin Blanc due to longer hang times adding extra texture and mouthfeel to compliment the Granite’s racy acidity and linear tension. Across the range, the ripening of the Iron vineyard came first, followed by the Schist vineyard, ending with the Granite vineyard, picked over a 10-day period of time differentiation with no heatwaves. With the two weeks of extra hangtime, the wine displays more alluring yellow orchard fruit notes together with aromatic layers of tangerine, greengage plums and yellow citrus nuances. While there may be ample exotic fruit notes on the nose, all the intense granitic liquid minerality that is so typical for this wine are clear to be seen on the palate, supported by a zippy but tangy fresh acidity, an impressively sleek, sumptuous palate texture and the most delicious mouth-watering intensity on the finish. A super fine expression of how a taut, linear Chenin Blanc can also be so incredibly multi-dimensional in a top vintage. Simply a majestic drop of wine to drink now and over the next 20+ years.

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

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 13.95% Abv.

1.7 g/l RS | 5.8 g/l TA | 3.40 pH

These very special and characterful grapes grown on Kasteelberg showcase the essence of the Mullineux estate, Roundstone, and its ability to define Chenin Blanc grown on Schist soils. These rocky soils limit vine size and so the clusters and individual grapes, in turn remain smaller with a higher skin to juice ratio, offering positive white-wine tannins and texture. At the winery the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its life. All of the juice is racked to barrel (0% new because Andrea wants all of the elements of this wine’s terroir to show through so drinkers are tasting the soil and not the barrel, but older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months.

Coming from fruit from a young vineyard of seven years old which was picked almost two to three weeks later than normal. The shallower, rockier soils of the Roundstone vineyard traditionally yield more stone fruit aromatic nuances with the 2021 expression also boasting multiple layers of white and green citrus, pear puree, golden delicious apples and complex white peach notes intertwined with savoury dried herbs and subtle struck flint reductive hints. On the palate the wine is full and expansive but wonderfully precise and seamless, gliding over the palate with hints of honey of white toast, quince, white peach puree and an incredible concentration before melting away slowly to leave a dry, picante, phenolic tinged impression on the finish. A wine with striking depth, concentration and generosity. Drink now and over the next 15+ years.

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

Mullineux Iron Rondomskrik Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 12.65% Abv.

1.5 g/l RS | 5.7 g/l TA | 3.49 pH

Grown on the Iron soils on the rolling red hills that surround Malmesbury, these vineyards grow on the clay and gravel rich Koffieklip that is very good at holding water and very generous during primary growth in the sprint, but then around verasion, the clay in the soil stops releasing moisture and the vine compensates during this quick ripening phase by making the smallest of grapes, but because of the canopy, the skins are not too thick. This gives us wines that are rich and round, yet for some reason, always the lowest alcohol conversions for similar sugars across the Single Terroir Range (they are all picked at the same ripeness). At the winery the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its evolution. All of the juice is then racked into used oak barrels (older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months.

Only the second white single terroir expression produced from this white vineyard, the aromatics boast and incredibly reductive character with notes of struck flint, wet river stones and wet hay. Always a wine that tends toward reduction making it a real characteristic of the vineyard, even with oxidative handling. The palate is smoky and chalky, thoroughly mineral driven at the moment but with big mid-palate weight and concentration from a high dry extract. There is plenty of inherent detail and precision, an incredibly fine line of acidity supporting distinct notes of quince, chamomile, green herbs, savoury bruised yellow orchard fruits and a dried mint leaf nuance on the long intense finish. This is a wine that will need some extra time in bottle to show at its best but should be a stunner when it approaches its peak maturity. Drink from 2024 to 2035+.

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

Wines available to the wine trade in the UK from their importer Liberty Wines and in the USA from Skurnik Wines. RRP in the UK circa £49pb for whites and £78pb for the reds. In South Africa, R1175pb for the reds and R630pb for the whites cellar door.

Tasting the Cape of Good Hope Sneeuwkrans Elandskloof Pinot Noir 2018 from Anthonij Rupert Wines…

In 2006, Johann Rupert initiated the search for all vineyards in South Africa older than 35 years. Traditionally the South African wine industry depended on tonnage, meaning that the meagre yields of older vines often resulted in them being removed and replanted. What was left in the ground represented some pretty spectacular pockets of old vines tended by people who either kept them out of sentiment or foresight. Old vine fruit often guarantees extra intensity, texture while conveying a real sense of place.

Preserving these old vineyards is now regarded as an act of social responsibility toward South African wine and the people who invested in them despite the odds. In 2016, owner Johann Rupert agreed to sponsor the Old Vine Project and André Morgenthal and Jaco Engelbrecht were appointed after both having been informally involved with the project for some years.

Situated in the isolated Elandskloof Valley just North of Villiersdorp, Altima was purchased from the Overnstone Family in 2008. It is 5km wide and surrounded by a steep mountain range rising 1km from the valley floor. With a total average rainfall of 906mm per year, irrigation is generally unnecessary before the end of December. Coupled with the huge difference in temperatures between night and day, this continental climate is perfect for grapevine development. Good decomposed shale soils from the Malmesbury group are the predominant soils on the farm. With high water-retention, organic matter and usually no chemical limitation, it facilitates vigorous growth. Vineyards are planted from 600m above sea-level, with the highest vineyards planted at 878m. The steep topography causes the valley to receive less direct sunlight, making for a distinctly cooler climate.

Cape of Good Hope Sneeuwkrans Pinot Noir 2018, WO Elandskloof, 13% Abv.

Sourced from vineyards in the Elandskloof, an area renowned for producing premium Pinot Noir grapes, Anthonij Rupert Wines has created an exciting expression in 2018 from North-East and South-Western facing slopes consisting of decomposed shale at an altitude of 690 to 714 metres. The aromatics are suitably earthy and wild with hints of bramble berries, sweet herbs, sun raisined cranberries, red currant and strawberry compote. The palate is fleshy and plush with finely crafted tannins, a silky soft mouthfeel with plenty of finesse and textured elegance and a long, sweet fruited finish boasting notes of red cherry, red plum, blood oranges, sweet wood spice and earthy hints of cured meats on the finish. Complex and approachable now, you can enjoy this wine over the next 3 to 5 years.

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

An Outstanding Follow-up Vintage from Naude Family Wines – Tasting the Oupa Willem Cape Heritage Red Blend 2019…

New wines from top South African producers like Naude Family Wines are a bit like London buses, nothing for ages and then all of a sudden two or three new wines introduced onto the market. The Langpad Old Vine Colombard, the Groendruif La Colline Old Vine Semillon and the Oupa Willem Old Vine Cape Heritage Red Blend have all been released to great acclaim, further cementing Ian Naude’s status as one of the most admired producers in South Africa.

Deeply involved with the Old Vine Project from the very beginning, the Oupa Willem red blend is perhaps the most nostalgic of his new releases paying tribute to the historic old Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon blends of the 1950s and 1960s that came to define the South African wine industry for many decades.

Tasting with Ian Naudé at his cellar in March 2022.

I remember tasting the maiden 2018 vintage many months before commercial release and thinking that Ian Naude had created something very special indeed. The combination of the ethereal elegance and perfume of the Cinsault seamlessly married with the power and authority of Cabernet Sauvignon made for an incredible wine and my high ratings mirrored this excitement in every way. It was only a matter of time before the word “got out” and sure enough the 2018 was subsequently awarded a massive 5 Stars in the John Platter South African Wine Guide. Few pure Cinsaults or Cinsault blends ever achieve this regal accolade making the award even more significant.

With the Oupa Willem 2020 already in bottle, my review for the follow up 2019 vintage was long overdue.

Naude Family Wines Oupa Willem Cape Heritage Blend 2019, WO Western Cape, 11.5% Abv.

1.2 g/l RS | 5.65 g/l TA | 3.5 pH

This premium red blend draws on the unique South African expressions of 77% Darling old bush vine Cinsault planted in 1978 blended with prime Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon and fermented naturally using 40% whole bunches. Reduced yields in 2019 reminded everyone of the hangover the vines were still experiencing after four years of severe drought despite most regions receiving good rainfall during the season. Grape quantities may have been compromised but the quality was exceptional, and this 2019 red blend shows fabulously lifted notes of pink musk, red cherry, rose petals, violets and Turkish delight with some darker black berry fruit hints together with subtle nuances of raspberry herbal tea, graphite and cherry tobacco. The palate displays a wonderfully linear acid driven structure with a real mouth-watering verve and vigour, a magically textural plushness and weightless elegance. Trying to comprehend the intensity, fruit concentration and glycerol mouthfeel all delivered at an astonishing 11.5% abv. is simply mind blowing. This is another incredible vinous creation that will take its place in the history books of South African winemaking. Sure to be very long lived, the irony is that this wine is also unbelievably drinkable right now and many will find it impossibly hard to resist pulling the cork. Drink now to 2045+.

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

Tasting the Impressive New 2022 Creation Winery Releases With Owners JC and Carolyn Martin…

Probably one of the most important developments in the South African wine industry over the past 30 years has been the success of selecting the most suitable vineyard sites for the correct variety, leading to regions like Stellenbosch being dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, the Swartland by Syrah and Rhone varieties, Constantia Valley by Sauvignon Blanc and of course Walker Bay and the three Hemel-en-Aarde wards by Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You can use the best vine material and the best cellar techniques, but if the variety is not suited to its planted site, quality will inevitably be capped.

JC and Carolyn Martin, the owners of the Creation winery situated in the picturesque Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge ward, are synonymous with the production of world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and bought their original 22 hectares of virgin land in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and completed their cellar in time for their 2007 harvest. Their Walker Bay estate has grown since then and now encompasses 50 hectares planted with over 11 varieties, but focused mainly on the production of premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

I recently caught up with JC and Carolyn over a zoom tasting session hosted in London by Dr Winifred Bowman CWM.

White Wine Flight:

Creation Reserve Chardonnay 2020, WO Walker Bay, 13.5% Abv.

Shows an impressively complex aromatics array of vanilla pod and yellow citrus, where sea breeze and rock salt nuances mingle with hints of reduction, struck flint and tart green melon. The palate shows fabulous freshness, tension and intensity of savoury yellow citrus with hints of leesy lemon biscuits, vanilla pod and a tart apple strudel complexity. Lovely crystalline freshness and an impressive dry, mineral finish. Very difficult to fault this delicious Chardonnay. Drink now and over 10+ years.

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

Art of Chardonnay

Made from 18 year old vines in 2020, only 2,150 bottles were produced. Main soils here are bokkeveld shale with a seam of quartz. Whole berry pressed, unfiltered, straight out of the press made possible with very healthy fruit. It was then fermented in 228 litre French oak barrels with circa 30% new blonde barrels using much more solids than previously. No Battonage on the Art of Chardonnay with also 100% malolactic fermentation. Earlier picking and using the juice straight out the press represent the biggest changes in production.

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2020, WO Walker Bay, 13.5% Abv.

1.8 g/l RS | 6.9 g/l TA | 3.16 pH

Aged 10 months in 30% new, 70% second fill. 50/50 wild yeast and inoculated portions. Dense, rich creamy leesy oak profile, there is massive depth and breadth on the aromatics with lemon butter, dried herbs, tarte tatin, caramelised apples and delicious savoury biscuity notes. The palate is taut and steely with a real malic-styled tension despite the 100% malo. The massive focus and intensity of the aromatics follow to palate which shows impressive linearity, cool yellow citrus pastille and a tantalising stony minerality of limestone with a kiss of spearmint on the finish. Power packed and almost overwhelming at this youthful moment, this is good for ageing in the cellar for at least 3 to 5 years before opening. Seriously impressive world class Chardonnay expression.

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

Creation Glenn’s Chardonnay 2020, WO Walker Bay, 13.75% Abv. 

1.7 g/l RS | 7.0 g/l TA | 3.14 pH

Aged for 10 months in 50% new, 50% second fill barrels. With fruit coming from the Art of Chardonnay grape selection, this is merely the wild yeast fermentation portion. The result is a noticeably more earthy, savoury, leesy expression with subtle hints of struck flint reductive notes, limestone minerality, grilled herbs, sourdough and lemon brioche nuances. The palate is more supple and fleshy than the Art 2020 with a glycerol breadth and depth while all the while being kept in check by racy, tangy acids. Beautiful lemon and lime cordial notes lead to a long, intense, finish that has more in common with Chassagne Montrachet or Puligny Montrachet than anything from the New World. Really very impressive indeed. (600 bottles produced.)

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

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2021, WO Walker Bay, 13.5% Abv.

1.6 g/l RS | 6.3 g/l TA | 3.4 pH

Aged for 10 months in oak, 30% new and 70% second fill. A softer and more accessible expression with slightly lower earlier picked percentage as well as slightly lower acids on the Chardonnay grapes at picking. Plenty of delicious ripe lemon peel, pineapple pastille, grapefruit and a subtle lemon biscuit complexity with a kiss of herbs, vanilla pod and dusty gravel minerality. The texture is noticeably softer, riper and fleshier with lemon butter, grilled herbs and lemon rind but still retains beautifully pure, crystalline acids together with a pithy minerality. Very impressive but should be ready to drink before the 2020 Art.

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

Red Wine Flight:

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2019, WO Walker Bay, 13.5% Abv.

3.1 g/l RS | 5.5 g/l TA | 3.50 pH

60-65% whole bunch on the wine which really shows on the aromatics with elevated notes of chalk board duster, sappy spice and a freshly cut hedge row spice before waves of black bramble berry, mulberry and black currant rise to the fore. The palate is soft and harmonious with a very relaxed feel, boasting sappy leafy black berry note, beautifully supple tannins and a deliciously integrated freshness. Sappy and savoury suggests this is ready to drink now and over the next 8 to 10 years. (3,500 bottles produced.)

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

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2020, WO Walker Bay, 13.2% Abv. 

Already showing a pronounced leafy, grape skin aromatics with sappy sweet phenolic notes, dried herbs and layers of graphite and crushed limestone minerality. Supple and soft on the palate, there is an impressive elegance and finesse leading to impressive textural balance and harmony. Good to go now.

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

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2021, WO Walker Bay, 13.6% Abv. 

80% whole bunch portion in the wine shows through beautiful spice on the nose intermingled with a sweet bramble berry wildness, dried herbs, crushed stone minerality and black plum intensity. The palate is texturally very attractive with a sublime balance, creamy black berry fruits, exotic wild herb nuances and harmoniously integrated acids. Benchmark premium Pinot Noir quality!

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

The Symington Family Return to London to Preview Some of the Most Exciting Vintage Port Releases of Modern Times – Tasting the Graham’s and Warre’s 2020 Vintage Ports…

The 2020 Port vintage was the smallest harvest this century and produced incredibly concentrated, well-structured, dark wines in very low quantities – with the most outstanding wines originating from the Cima Corgo sub-region of the Douro. Accordingly, the Symington family have chosen to do an exceptional limited release bottling of two special edition Vintage Ports from Graham’s and Warre’s – drawn exclusively from a few of the best performing parcels from their estates in the Cima Corgo.

These special Vintage Ports mark the historic milestones in 2020 of Graham’s 200th anniversary and Warre’s 350th anniversary, celebrations for both of which were cancelled by the onset of the Covid pandemic. The fact that the Douro’s terroir provides such a variety of microclimates is a huge advantage in a year like 2020.

It takes a rare constellation of events for quality to be consistently exceptional throughout the region (as in 2011, 2016 and 2017). In 2020, the Symingtons believe the extraordinary conditions of the year gave rise to some truly outstanding wines and were in London recently to preview the new releases with the Portuguese Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

“2020 was a real Cima Corgo vintage” ~ Charles Symington

Warre’s 2020 Vintage Port, 20% Abv.

A wonderfully luscious vintage port with a profound textural depth and aromatic complexity. Beautifully lifted and perfumed, the nose is at once compact, intense and packed full of black and blue berry fruits but also super pure and precise with hints of violets, cherry blossom, melted liquorice, black cherry and mulberry jam. The palate shows a fabulous balance of freshness, power and precision with a dense creamy textural intensity enlivened by the most vibrant integrated acidity together with plush creamy ripe sweet tannins. This Warre’s connects all the dots and delivers one of the most profound and invigorating young Port experiences possible.

(Wine Safari Score: 99/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Graham’s 2020 Vintage Port, 20% Abv.

Another colossal wine, the Graham’s Port displays all the 2020 vintage muscle, power and density with lovely earthy black berry notes, hints of black plum confit, black liquorice, freshly cut hedgerow sappy spice and subtle graphite nuances. The palate is crisp and precise with a magnificently polished marble texture, massive brooding density and a long, profound finish showing saline black currant confit with little fruit spikes of pristine red berry fruits. Impressively compact and complex, this should age incredibly well owing to its seamless harmony and sheer density. Really quite profound.

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

Natte Valleij Release a Nervy New 2021 Old Vine Chenin Blanc with Real Character…

The Axle Chenin Blanc is made by Alex Milner of Natte Valleij winery from grapes sourced from a dryland old bush vine certified Darling heritage block planted in 1985 on decomposed granite soils. Made in a very minimalist, low intervention manner without losing any of its fine wine integrity, this wine is a classy textural style of Chenin Blanc undoubtedly best enjoying with food.

The grapes were basket pressed and allowed to settle for 24 hours, then racked into old 225 litre oak barrels with careful addition of fine lees sediment to each barrel. After natural fermentation the wine received regular batonnage until late May. Aged in barrel over winter, the wine was bottled in the Spring after 9 months.

Natte Valleij Axle Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Darling, 12.5% Abv.

2.8 g/l RS | 5.5 g/l TA | 3.75 pH

This delicious expression comes across as quite a rustic, natural leaning artisanal Chenin Blanc with aromatics of pear, pineapple pastille, sea breeze, sweet yellow orchard fruits, dried herbs and stony granitic minerality. The palate shows tension and frame with pithy phenolic grip, tangy layers of quince, root ginger, white pear, yellow apple and a subtle sweet – sour acidity that lends the wine such a delicious vibrant energy and intensity. Wonderfully characterful old vine Chenin Blanc from certified heritage vineyards. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5 years.

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

Assessing the Current Releases from the De Grendel Winery in Durbanville…

Charles Hopkins has been at De Grendel since the very beginning of winemaking on this famous Durbanville farm in 2005, when Sir David Graaff lured him away from Graham Beck’s red wine production. Charles is a lifelong student of wine and even after 30 years’ experience in the industry and multiple local and international accolades, he remains studious and curious to learn yet more on his winemaking journey.

In November 2019, he achieved a major milestone on this journey, with the award of his first five-star rating in the Platter’s South African Wine Guide, for the 2017 Elim Shiraz from De Grendel – a wine that is especially close to his heart as Charles was born in Somerset West and grew up in Bredasdorp and Strand.

With the accolades growing ever more frequent of late, I thought it was time to assess the current releases on the Fine Wine Safari.

De Grendel Rose 2021, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.

An attractive pale salmon pink colour, this new release dry Rose boasts seductive aromatics of wild strawberries, cranberry and subtle hints of dried herbs and wet slate minerality. There is lovely clarity and purity on the palate with crystalline hints of boiled raspberry candy, red cherry pastilles and a crunchy strawberry fruit complexity. Dry and mineral, light bodied but intense, this is a sophisticated Rose that ticks all the boxes. Drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years.

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

De Grendel Merlot 2017, WO, 14.5% Abv.

2.1 g/l RS | 5.8 g/l TA | 3.47 pH

This is a classic Merlot that shows a deep garnet-purple colour and displays a highly evocative nose of black cherry kirsch liquor, tart black plums, black currant nuances and a pronounced maritime saline complexity. Notes of black berry fruit melt into layers of violets, graphite and sweet, sappy sandalwood spice making this a very impressive Merlot expression that draws extra gravitas from the exceptional vintage conditions in 2017. Pinpoint and precise, the palate reveals a delightful freshness and a medium bodied fleshy weight of fruit that boasts energetic concentration but also a weightless, mineral laced length. This wine must surely rank among the top Merlot expressions in the Cape. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years.

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

De Grendel Shiraz 2017, WO Coastal Region, 14.5% Abv.

2.2 g/l RS | 6.1 g/l TA | 3.44 pH

This 2017 reveals a very impressive aromatic lift that leaves no doubt about its true pedigree. The poise and intricately perfumed aromatics are thoroughly seductive with scents of violets, saline black currant, crushed blueberries, subtle black liquorice, brûléed coffee beans and vanilla pod spice. The palate shows an intense yet effortless complexity of salty black berry, tart pithy black cherry, hints of crunchy strawberry and a weightlessly elegant finish infused with sweet black peppercorns and a delicately savoury, smoky finish. This is a classy wine that is carving out a tangible reputation vintage after vintage.

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

De Grendel Rubaiyat 2017, WO Coastal Origin, 14.5% Abv.

2.3 g/l RS | 6 g/l TA | 3.49 pH

Always an impressive blend, the Rubaiyat 2017 performs yet again with a complex blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The aromatics are rich, alluring and seductive with sweet savoury notes of stewed black plums, black currant, wet cherry tobacco, sweet sandalwood and resinous leafy oak spice top notes. The palate is archetypal 2017 vintage in character with sublime elegance but also all the hallmark weightless concentration of black and blue fruits with soft silky tannins underpinned by bright acids on a wonderfully light touch, focused, finely honed harmonious palate. This has all the building blocks to age comfortably for 10+ years and reward patience.

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

De Grendel Proposal Hill Pinot Noir Brut Rose Cap Classique 2016, WO Cape Town, 12.5% Abv.

6.3 g/l RS | 5.7 g/l TA | 3.25 pH

An impressive highly accomplished 100% Pinot Noir Cap Classique, this wine shows exotic notes of ginger, rose water, sun dried strawberries, botanical herbs, blood orange and subtle vermouth spices. The palate is rich, fleshy and opulent with a concentrated crystallised orange peel fruit intensity and an incredibly fine creamy mousse that points the way to a long, persistent dry finish. This wine oozes class. Simply delicious.

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

De Grendel Sir David Graaff Red 2014, WO Coastal Region, 14% Abv.

2.2 g/l RS | 6.1 g/l TA | 3.5 pH

This premium red is a blend of 58% Shiraz, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot that is aged for up to 16 months in 100% new French oak barrels before the components are blended and returned back to barrel for a further 6 months to integrate. Despite being already 8 years old, this wine is bold and confident portraying an incredibly youthful character of saline cassis, blueberry and mulberry aromas, red cherry kirsch liquor and subtle notes of salty liquorice, kelp and iodine. On the palate the expensive oak is splendidly integrated offering a kiss of sweet cedar spice, notes of vanilla pod, liquorice, tart black cherry and yet more layers of salty cassis and sweet tobacco. While the texture is wonderfully harmonious and balanced, there is massive intensity and a toned muscular depth that conveys the wines pedigree. It must be said that if I tasted this wine blind, I’d almost certainly place it as a super premium Chilean or Australian red blend. The signature magic created by the synergy of the Shiraz and Cabernet makes this a very attractive wine indeed. But of course, this type of premium quality comes with a matching price tag. Drink now or over the next 15-20+ years.

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

De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2017, WO Ceres Plateau, 13.97% Abv.

2.4 g/l RS | 5.7 g/l TA | 3.4 pH

This Pinot Noir shows impressive clarity and purity undoubtedly from the cool climate high altitude Ceres terroir. The aromatics reveal dark black berry fruits with hints of raisined black cherry, black plum, black berry compote and an earthy, foresty sappy, resinous complexity. The oak influence seems fleeting with little to no influence allowing the pronounced black berry fruit concentration to shine, embellished by hints of black salty liquorice, kelp, stewed strawberries and a long, finely balanced creamy finish. Drink on release or age 3 to 8 years in your cellar.

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

Perseverance Prevails – Klein Constantia Unveils Their New Vin de Constance 2019 Release in London…

Welcoming Klein Constantia’s winemaker Matt Day back to London after several years of pandemic imposed isolation in the Cape presented the perfect opportunity to unveil the new 2019 Vin de Constance – a wine which I believe represents the culmination of the past 10 years experimentation, innovation and tweaking to create something that reaches new quality heights. Coming from a very long and late harvest, the wine sees a move away from long 6 to 12 month ferments to a quicker, more precise 1 to 3 month fermentation.

The spring of 2018 was cold, wet and windier than usual, which impacted flowering and resulted in smaller berries and a reduced crop. Cooler conditions throughout the growing season meant that ripening was slower than normal, and pushed back the harvest. The late harvest and unpredictable autumn weather conditions forced Klein Constantia’s vineyard team to be reactive and disciplined with their assessment of perfect ripeness.

The 2019 harvest was short, taking place from late February until the end of March in warm and dry conditions that alleviated the risk of disease. In total, 26 separate different passes were made through the vineyards, collecting grapes turning from high acidity to more intense sugar levels with every passage, each being vinified separately. The different lots were aged for 18 months in 50% new French and Hungarian oak barrels, followed by a further 18 months in large foudres before blending and bottling.

Winemaker Matt Day presenting the new Vin de Constance 2019 in London.

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2019, WO Constantia Valley, 13.9% Abv.

166g/l RS | 6.1g/l TA | 3.71pH

The 2019 displays an incredibly opulent, powerful aromatic profile brimming full of grapefruit preserve, lychees, white peaches, green melon confit and melted honey on warm white toast. What purity and precision! The wine sticks perfectly to the estate’s mission statement trying to make a sweet wine that tastes not particularly sweet regardless of its actual 166 g/l RS. This is achieved through an incredible balance and harmony with a palate texture showing a sublime equilibrium between acid, alcohol and fruit intensity. Beautifully complex and layered with hints of peach iced tea, pink musk, pear purée, quince jelly and candied citrus bon bons. Very classy indeed and undoubtedly one of the best modern vintages to be made at the estate. Drink now and over the next 30+ years.

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

To add extra perspective on the quality of the 2019, Matt Day showed a range of older Vin de Constance vintages including the 2016, the 2012, the 2004 and the rare 1991.

Silver Oak Winery Previews the Sensational 2018 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in London…

Silver Oak is a much loved iconic family-owned Californian winery dedicated to producing truly premium classical Cabernet Sauvignon. Silver Oak was established in 1972 by Ray Duncan and Justin Meyer and is currently run by Ray’s sons David Duncan and Tim Duncan.

Silver Oak has two wineries, one in Oakville in the centre of Napa Valley and one in Geyserville in the Alexander Valley. The Duncan Family also established Twomey Cellars back in 1999, named after Ray Duncan’s mother, where they produce top notch Pinot Noir, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Twomey has its own wineries in Calistoga and Healdsburg. In 2017, the Duncan family added yet another boutique winery to the portfolio with the purchase of the Ovid Winery located on Pritchard Hill overlooking Napa Valley and the Silverado Trail.

The Silver Oak fermentation cellar

The 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon vintage undoubtedly belongs in a top quality echelon reserved for only the finest of the past two decades. It was absent of the challenges that plagued many of the previous years growing seasons ranging from drought to low yields and heatwaves. According to the leading critics, the best wines show balance, poise, freshness and a transparency between vineyard and appellation. To these characteristics I would add weightless fruit intensity, power and concentration that succeeds without obscuring any sense of terroir or place.

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Sonoma County, 14.4% Abv.

The amazing thing about the 2018 Sonoma and Napa Valley 2018 reds is that when you put your nose in a glass, you can almost smell the freshness and vibrant acidity lurking beneath their voluptuous fruit complexity. This beautiful Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is no exception boasting striking high notes of violets, purple blossoms and lilac over rich, dense black berry fruits with a strong vein of blue berry crumble and sweet cherry tobacco. The palate is just as enticing boasting a wonderfully dense core of black berries and black cherry fruit concentration tightly interwoven with notes of graphite, stony minerality, kirsch liquor and black plum extract. With the harmonious density and superb fruit – acid balance comes a certain youthful charm, but undoubtedly, this is another vintage from Silver Oak that merits burying in the cellar because time will definitely reward the patient! A real 5 star stunner! Drink from 2026 and over the next 30+ years.

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