The Judgement of Wimbledon – Assessing Some of the World’s Greatest Grenache Reds in a Blind Tasting…

It all started a few years ago when Roland Peens of Cape Town wine merchant Wine Cellar held a blind Grenache Taste-Off with some of the most famous expressions from around the world. In an astonishing result, the Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014 trumped the competition coming out top against examples that included several wines from French icon producer Chateau Rayas. This was a result that would go a long way in establishing the cult status of the maiden Naude 2014 Grenache.

Some years later in December 2017, the Naude Grenache 2014 was put through its paces once again being pitched in a blind tasting featuring several top examples of Grenache including three wines from Chateau Rayas. In a repeat of the famous Cape Town result, the Naude Grenache 2014 triumphed yet again in spectacular fashion and this tasting became known as the Judgement of Chiswick, named after the location of the superb Michelin starred La Trompette restaurant where the tasting was held. The write-up of this tasting can be read here… https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2017/12/09/creating-a-future-icon-wine-tasting-the-incredible-naude-grenache-2014-blind-with-chateau-rayas-at-the-judgement-of-chiswick/

After only one vintage, Ian unfortunately lost the contract to the fruit from this vineyard and with the maiden Naude Grenache 2014 red riding high in the market, no further releases were forthcoming… that is until 2019, when Ian managed to once again agree access to the fruit from this vineyard that was now nearing 24 years old. With a December 2020 release of this new wine scheduled by Ian Naude, myself together with two of the original judges from the Judgement of Chiswick decided it was time to put the new 2019 vintage to the test against some of the most sturdy international Grenache competition available.

Tasting with Barry and Riaan

In the past few years since the original tastings, the extraordinary Grenache wines from the Sierra de Gredos situated west of Madrid have seduced the world’s top wine critics with their precision, perfume, old vine structure and purity. Spain in general has seen a notable Grenache wine revolution unfold to include high altitude, old vine expressions from Rioja, Navarra, Priorat and Madrid. The blind line up this year would include some spectacular examples including the 100 RP Comando G Rumbo al Norte 2018, the 100 RP Les Manyes 2016 from Terrior Al Limit and also a 98 RP Les Amis 2015 Grenache from Australia’s Torbreck estate in the Barossa. Of course no line up would be complete without the original Naude Grenache 2014 as well as a young vine expression Ian Naude made in 2017 as an entry level offering primarily for the UK market, under the A Naude Wine label.

Below are my own notes and scores on the wines tasted blind:

1 – Bernabeleva Garnacha de Vina Bonita 2016, DO Vinos de Madrid, 14% Abv.

Intense aromatics of liquid minerality, crushed granite with notes of dried herbs and sappy oak spice with an underlay of supporting vermouth botanical herbs. Palate is cool and precise, layered with chalky tannins, some chewy grip and a wild herb, red candied cherry and wet river stone finish. 92+/100 GSMW

2 – Naude Family Wines A Naudé Grenache 2017, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.

Deep rich and broody with bold dark fruited berry aromatics, graphite, pithy red plum and botanical spices. The palate is crystalline and pure, vibrant and lifted with bright juicy acids, creamy caramelised cranberry and red cherry and a cool, harmonious finish. Dense ripe tannins but seamless. Each sip beckons another. 95-96/100 GSMW

3 – Terroir Al Limit Les Manyes 2016, DOC Priorat, 14% Abv.

A little more complexity and evolution on the nose with hints of bramble berry, sweet kirsch liquor, sweet tobacco, wet tannery leather and wild stewed black plums. Fabulously seamless snd fleshy, there is incredible harmony and balance, depth and breadth on the palate. The finish focused and intense with subtle sweet red currant, graphite, brambly spice and fine powdery dusty tannins. Classy. 96+/100 GSMW

4 – 4 Monos Cien Lanzas Cenicientos 2016, Vino de Pueblo, Sierra de Gredos, 14.5% Abv.

This wine has pretty aromatics with showy sweet red berry fruits, stewed red cherries and red plum confit. Generous, fleshy and suave this has a wonderful harmonious texture, glycerol weight and a spicy, sappy bramble berry finish. Not quite the extreme complexity of the other wines but absolutely delicious. 93/100 GSMW

5 – Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat 2017, WO Piekenierskloof, 13.5% Abv.

Another deep and complex nose with broody bramble berry fruit, sappy spice, rose water and subtle botanical herbal spice. Full, round and expressive, it shows intensity and richness without sweetness or showy extravagance. Lovely weight and balance, this is another classy Grenache. 94/100 GSMW

6 – Comando G Viticultores Vino de Parcela Rumbo al Norte 2018, Villanueva de Avila, Valle de Alto Albereche, Sierra de Gredos, 14% Abv.

This red shows exotic spicy lift with subtle reductive hints of graphite, tar, black cherry, pink musk, green olive and smoky, spicy dried lavender. Palate shows lovely weight and depth, a glycerol opulent weight, smoky spicy fruits, powder tannin and a waxy liquid mineral finish. Intense, focused expression. 95-96/100 GSMW

7 – Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.

Big expressive aromatic profile with sweet cherry kirsch liquor, sweet vermouth herbs, spicy red plums and caramelised red berries. There is an oak influence but more than adequately balanced by a sweet red fruit intensity, vermouth sweetness, dried mint leaf, bramble berry herbal notes and then a more purer fruit expression emerging on the finish. 97/100 GSMW

8 – Aseginolaza & Leunda Camino de Otsaka 2018, Vino de la Tierra, 14.5% Abv.

Lovely lush dark berry fruited nose with lactic red & black berry complexity, milk chocolate and a Logan berry complexity. Perhaps a subtle lick of oak mingling with creamy cherry kirsch liquor, bright tangy acids and a finish that seems perfectly endless. Massive intensity, concentration and finesse tied together with delicious acids. This is just lovely if not a little more extrovert and opulent than the others. 94/100

9 – Naude Family Wines Grenache 2019, WO Western Cape, 12% Abv.

This shows a fascinating aromatic profile of crystalline red berry fruits, pure cranberry boiled sweets, hints of saline creme de cassis and tart red cherry coulis. Fabulous freshness, purity and linearity follows to the palate that shows well judged reductive spicy graphite hints, chalky stony tannins and a liquid mineral finish with a polished, accessible structure. Lighter touch style with elegance and finesse chosen over horsepower. 94+/100

10 – Torbreck Les Amis Grenache 2015, Barossa Valley, 15.5% Abv.

A big, full opulent expression with deep broody black berry fruit notes, sweet caramelised red plums, sweet kirsch liquor and a slightly brûléed edge. The palate follows the nose with slightly brûléed, caramelised notes, with hints of coffee bean, vanilla spice and creamy oak. Slightly obvious but fabulously punchy. 95+/100

The Judges’ Individual Blind Results:

Judge 1 (BvB)

1 – No 7

2 – No 6

3 – No 2

Judge 2 (RPot)

1 – No 6

2 – No 3

3 – No 2

Judge 3

1 – No 7

2 – No 5

3 – No 2

Judge 4 (GSMW)

1 – No 7  97

2 – No 3  96+

3 – No 2  95-96

4 – No 6  95-96

5 – No 10  95+

6 – No 9  94+

7 – No 5  94

8 – No 8  94

9 – No 4  93

10 – No 1 92+

Overall Group Results:

1st Place Wine – Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014 (No.7)

2nd Place Wine – Terroir Al Limit Les Manyes 2016 (No.3)

3rd Place Wine – A Naude Wine Grenache 2017 (No.2)

When the grand reveal was made at the end of the tasting after the scores were collated, all judges were surprised how well the Naude Grenache 2014 performed yet again, however, it was the almost unanimous third place for Ian’s ‘baby Grenache’ from 2017 that really blew everyone’s mind. Nobody expected this wine to feature in the top half of the ratings due to the formidable brands tasted alongside it. But this wine was of course rated 94 points in Decanter Magazine last year and also received a very solid 92 points from the world’s most famous reviewer, Neal Martin, writing in his 2019 South Africa Report for Vinous.com – His note for this wine was…

“The 2017 Grenache, from young Wellington vines with 80% whole bunches, is more reticent on the nose than the Cinsault 2017, offering dark berry fruits, fynbos and light rose petal scents. It needs a little more coaxing than I expected. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins that frame the maraschino cherry and strawberry fruit. There is moderate depth and a fleshy, sous-bois-tinged finish. Very fine.” 92/100 Neal Martin, Vinous

As for the new Naude Family Wines Grenache 2019, for such a young wine, it performed exceptionally well, lining up just behind some of the highest rated Grenaches in the world. With only a half point difference between my blind rating (94+) and my sighted review (95), I think this wine will equal and probably surpass the heights achieved by the 2014 as I truly believe that the 2019 is a more focused and accomplished wine. It has just been commercially released in South Africa, so do order some for your cellar!

This was a fabulously fun event to take part in and a special word of thanks should go to Barry van Bergen for hosting the tasting in Wimbledon and to Riaan Potgieter for helping to put together a seductive range of wines. Congratulations Ian and Merry Christmas!!

3 thoughts on “The Judgement of Wimbledon – Assessing Some of the World’s Greatest Grenache Reds in a Blind Tasting…

    1. Davy, Handford will ship some of our allocation in the New Year. The Naudé Grenache is more like Pinot Noir… and has rekindled my enjoyment of this grape after my relationship was badly soured by over ripe, over alcoholic, stewed Grenache mostly from the Southern Rhône and CNDP. I’m not blaming the grape anymore! 🍷🙏🏼

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s