The Leeu Passant New Releases – Part 1: Tasting the Franschhoek Old Vines Lotter Cinsault 2018…

I recently caught up with Chris and Andrea Mullineux over Zoom for an intimate tasting of their new Leeu Passant releases. South African wineries were once again allowed to send out samples as of the 1st of May as lockdown started to be eased, and after tasting through their new releases, it is clear and evident that fine wine lovers are in for a considerable treat with these new single varietal reds.

Instead of running through all the wines in one foul swoop, I thought I would afford each wine the time and respect they deserve by profiling each new release in three separate reviews. Starting with the seductive Old Vine Lotter vineyard Cinsault from Franschhoek, this is a vineyard Andrea has gotten to know more and more intimately after producing a 2015 and 2016 mono-varietal wine from this site for her Cape Winemakers Guild submission. The Lotter vineyard also forms a key part of the Leeu Passant flagship Dry Red Blend.

For many years, Franschhoek got a bum rap for producing wines that supposedly just weren’t up to the high levels of Stellenbosch, Paarl and the Swartland. Substandard terroir or lazy winemaking? Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, a fact highlighted by the production of exceptional white wines like those incredible Semillons from the La Colline old vine vineyard and of course reds like this Old Vine Lotter Cinsault sourced from a vineyard planted in 1932 but farmed by the Mullineux duo since 2015.

As Andrea points out, it is fascinating to walk through the wonky rows of the Lotter vineyard which have only ever been farmed by hand and horse, with the deep rich brown clay soils adding gravitas and density to the Cinsault grapes harvested from this 2 hectare vineyard. The plot was originally 4 hectares but by the time the Mullineuxs had managed to contract the fruit, over half the vines had already been grubbed up to make way for fruit trees. Andrea works with whole bunch clusters and only natural yeast fermentations for grapes from these eastern slopes of this south west facing vineyard planted with an ancient field blend of 90% Cinsault, 2% Cinsault Blanc, 6% Cinsault Gris and 2% Palomino. The grapes are harvested and fermented all together.

Leeu Passant Franschhoek Old Vines Lotter Cinsault 2018, WO Franschhoek, 14 Abv.

The large Cinsault berries in the Lotter vineyard develop thick dark skins and yield a skin to juice ratio not dissimilar to small Cabernet Sauvignon berries. This wine was matured for 20 months in 500 litre French oak barrels and shows a fascinatingly different expression to their Basson Old Vine Cinsault from Wellington. Fabulously red fruited, the bouquet shines with crushed rose petals, sweet red plums, sun ripened red currants, macerated cherries and exotic Turkish delight nuances. Fuller, rounder and more opulently fleshy on the palate, the generosity of fruit belies a density, depth and concentration supported by a plump, textured mouth feel enlivened with hints of sapidity, hedgerow herbaceousness and mulled wine Christmas spices. Beautifully sweet, well honed tannins leave a lasting impression on the long plush finish. A wine still playing its cards close to its chest, but suggests great rewards lie in store for those willing to cellar their bottles for a further 5 to 8+ years before revisiting.

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

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