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)