Tasting Jessica Saurwein’s New Chi Riesling 2020 – One of the Most Exceptional Dry Rieslings Produced in South Africa To Date…

Never one to shy away from a challenge, there is just something very gentle and chilled about Jessica while simultaneously being one of the most dogged and determined new female winemakers in South Africa. Now days you will usually find Jessica mulling around the winery with a child hanging in a papoose while she tends one of her superb Pinot Noir wines in barrel or checks in on one of her two cuvees of Riesling from Elgin.

The 2020 sees Jessica incorporate a 40% portion of Riesling fruit from the Paul Cluver farm, which is blended together with the original Casey’s Ridge fruit sourced from the Vrede en Lust property of Dana Buys. When I last caught up with Jessica in Cape Town in February at the Cape Wine Auction 2020 with wine trade hubby Roland Peens, she seemed decided that the two parcels would be blended together to make one wine, where as at the New Wave wine show the previous year, Jessica seemed open to possibly creating another second Riesling cuvee. Tasting the results in bottle, I am pleased she eventually decided to take the blended option as the final wine reaches new heights of quality not seen on either the 2018 or 2019 editions.

View from the top of the Casey’s Ridge vineyard in Elgin.

Despite production creeping up to a “massive” 5,900 bottles, this wine evaporates about as quickly as a summer rain puddle in the Karoo desert. There are certainly a handful of delicious Rieslings being produced in South Africa at the moment from the likes of Paul Cluver, Spioen Kop, Lothian and occasionally Carstens Milgliarina, but Jessica’s Chi Riesling remains for me one of the most impressively drinkable Rieslings around.

Saurwein Chi Riesling 2020, WO Elgin, 12.5% Abv.

(RS 7,8 g/l | TA 7,0 g/l)

The new 2020 Chi Riesling from Jessica Saurwein is just a fabulous expression of this Germanic variety. I don’t know whether it’s Jessica’s own Germanic roots that have helped her find a closer affinity with this grape or perhaps just her deft female winemaking touch? Either way, this wine is a real cracker, bursting with energy and electricity and the crystalline purity of artic ice. The nose is delicately fruity with complex notes of citrus blossom, green apple, dry bitter lemon, white peach, grey slate and delicate dried herbs with just the faintest hints of lemon sherbet and rock candy. The palate is chiselled and precise with a tart lime peel zest, a saline line of acidity but also a juicy, mouth-filling breadth that is elegantly dry but also incredibly stimulating. This 2020 shows an extra level of fruit intensity and concentration on the previous 2019 and 2018 expressions and a focused spine of acidity that should help this delicious wine age effortlessly for 8 to 10+ years without a question. So it’s onwards and upwards for Jessica Saurwein and her exceptional range of wines.

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

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