Vilafonte Prepare to Release Their New Seriously Old Dirt Red Blend – Tasting the 2018 Vintage of the Most Desirable Second Wine On the South African Market…

It seems an age ago now, visiting with Phil Freese and Zelma Long at the Vilafonte Winery on the 13th February in Stellenbosch. Who could possibly have known what lay just around the corner! Nevertheless, my brief visit to South Africa was very productive with one of the highlights being able to visit the Vilafonte Winery again together with the iconic duo of Phil and Zelma, the US partners in crime with Mike Ratcliffe at one of the most exciting premium quality wineries in South Africa.

Right from the very beginning with the 2012 Seriously Old Dirt vintage, I championed the vision of a truly special super premium second wine that over delivers in bucket loads. When I tasted the Seriously Old Dirt way back then, I knew that this ‘Members Only’ blend was a wine I needed to push on behalf of consumers and indirectly encourage owner Mike Ratcliffe to do the right thing and unleash this fabulous blend onto the wider wine world.

Seven vintages in to the project and Seriously Old Dirt is surely the number one premium selling second wine in South Africa. The consumer uptake and affinity has been exceptional both in South Africa and internationally. The new 2018 release was marked by the worst drought on record and the challenges that accompany such a vintage. After a drought spell from 2015 to 2018, water resources were at an all time low and rationing was put in place in the Western Cape.

Tasting with Phil Freese, Zelma Long and Chris de Vries.

Low moisture in spring and limited water availability led to a reduced vigour and canopy size. Some unseasonable rains and low temperatures in October and November disrupted fruit set and reduced the number and size of berries on each cluster. Harvest time proceeded on schedule, commencing February 2nd and continuing uninterrupted through to February 27th. In 2018, yields were down -24% following a generous 2017 crop. (However, production was increased as parcels of premium fruit were bought in to up the production and meet demand. This in all likelihood will be the practice going forward.)

The Seriously Old Dirt was matured for 21 months in older French oak barriques and 135 barrels were produced or approximately 40,000 bottles which is indeed a big jump up in quantity from the previous vintages of 8 to 10,000 bottles. But as always, quality is at the forefront of the Vilafonte operation and this is another exceptional release of Seriously Old Dirt. Due for earlier than planned release on the 25th June 2020.

Vilafonte Seriously Old Dirt 2018, 13.5 Abv. (Bottled Dec 2019)

89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, 4% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. A Cabernet Sauvignon driven blend this vintage, the 2018 sees a pronounced spicy aromatic lift of sweet black berry fruits, leafy cassis, sweet sandalwood and spicy damson black plums. Cool, focused and fairly linear at this youthful stage, the tannins are satin smooth and the texture generous yet structured. Finely layered and fresh, attractive black cherry, blue berry and black currant notes melt into mineral nuances of graphite and wet granite. Wonderfully polished and sophisticated as you’d expect from Vilafonte, this wine will be ready to drink on release but will undoubtedly benefit from a few years extra cellaring to allow the large Cabernet Sauvignon component to mellow and reveal further tertiary treats for the drinker. Seriously Old Dirt is on a seriously good run of form!

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

6 thoughts on “Vilafonte Prepare to Release Their New Seriously Old Dirt Red Blend – Tasting the 2018 Vintage of the Most Desirable Second Wine On the South African Market…

  1. Hi Greg,

    A 25% yield reduction in 2018, but a 4x increase in the number of bottles of SOD produced, and a 3.5x increase in the amount of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend (89% vs 26% in 2017).

    What do you make of this? Where is all the Cab coming from, and how much of it is left for the 2018 C and M?

    Intuitively this suggests they’re buying in Cab for the SOD, or volumes of the 2018 C are going to be greatly reduced. Of course I don’t have the foggiest. Do you know?


    1. Hi there, sorry, that -25% was from the vilafonte’s own vineyards. In 2018, due to unpresidented demand, they bought in some premium fruit to increase production which will be they way going forward. Apologies, I should have clarified this point and may edit my post to make it clear.
      Cheers, Greg


  2. Thanks both, very interesting and this increase shows the demand.
    Greg do you perhaps know where the new fruit has been shipped in from, and if it also was grown on Vilafonte soil?
    I’m sure it’s still great, but also a turning point.


    1. The 2018 is not the first vintage to contain ‘new fruit’. The 2016 vintage contained a magnificent Stellenbosch Cabernet component. Series M and Series C will always remain Vilafonté terroir-specific without outside influence. For Seriously Old Dirt, we have been actively looking for Cabernet vineyards in Stellenbosch and have had success (and one failure) in both the Simonsberg and the Helderberg – so far. We are wide open to exploring other sources too – but quality is the only parameter. Our hunt and our evolution is ultimately going to be resolved by acquisition as we actively seek to acquire and own our new vineyards – in Stellenbosch. I would like to think that this will be achieved soon – hopefully even in 2020.
      – Mike Ratcliffe


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