There cannot be many more meticulous producers in the Cape than Chris and Andrea Mullineux who, over the past decade, have established one of the most authoritative fine wine brands in South Africa. With unrelenting attention to detail, painstaking precision and ruthless selection, the Mullineux’s have stuck unerringly to their grand vision to create a Swartland first growth estate producing wines that can confidently rub shoulders with the greatest fine wine names globally.
While the Mullineux’s have triumphed year after year with their superb red wines, it has undoubtedly been the high quality of their single terroir Chenin Blancs that has helped them ride the Swartland wave over the past decade. Now established as one of South Africa’s most sought-after brands, fine wine buyers the world over are realising that these are indeed wines that they not only want to have but need to have in their extensive collections.
I recently caught up with Chris Mullineux in London to taste through their impressive Single Terroir new releases.
Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.
RS 1.9 g/l | TA 6.0 g/l | pH 3.40
The grapes for the 2020 Granite Chenin Blanc were harvested from a 44-year-old parcel of dry farmed bush vines planted in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg. These very deep decomposed Granite soils from higher altitude vineyards tend to produce wines with great acidity and a flinty, stony aromatic profile with notes of blossom, sea salt and brine. The grapes for the 2020 were picked at 4 tons/Ha (24 Hl/Ha) and were whole bunch pressed before settling and then racked into barrel for fermentation with indigenous yeasts which lasts around 4 weeks. The wine was then left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation was completed. The barrels were racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. Total maturation was 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels.
It just seems that granitic soils and Chenin Blanc are a match made in heaven! After several years of distinctly hot, dry growing seasons, 2020 experienced cooler evenings and more moderate temperatures together with adequate water supplies for the vines. The result is a deliciously cool, tight, nervy expression of racy Chenin Blanc boasting aromatics of green fruits, citrus blossom and yellow grapefruit peel intertwined with stony, flinty mineral notes and dusty, herby fynbos and dried hay nuances. The palate is crystalline and steely and decidedly more linear and nervy than either the Schist or Iron cuvees yet lacks nothing when it comes to intensity and concentration. Sleek and fabulously textured, this classy wine bristles with green apple, green citrus and hints of tangerine and liquid minerality on the long, focused finish. Undoubtedly a wine that you’d be well advised to bury in your cellar for 5 to 8 years before drinking. (990 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Mullineux Schist Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.
RS 1.7 g/l | TA 6.0 g/l | pH 3.43
Grown in the brown Schist soils on Roundstone Farm, the home of Mullineux wines, these sustainably farmed Chenin Blanc bush vines produce small clusters, tiny grapes, and thicker skins, which lend to the structure of this wine. The maiden 2013 Schist single terroir Chenin Blanc was sourced from the neighbouring Goldmine farm while the Mullineux’s planted their own vineyards. Planted on a contour to conserve soil integrity and ensure erosion control, this wine exudes the exact sunshine, freshness and phenolic balance that have come to define the Schist Chenin Blanc stylistically. The young vine harvests originally went into the Kloof Street Chenin Blanc before the grapes started to show real potential in 2019 when a component was bottled individually. 2020 is the first proper commercial release of the Schist since the 2013 vintage. The grapes were hand-harvested in the early morning fresh air and were oxidatively whole-bunch pressed into barrel where natural fermentation started. The wine was naturally fermented with indigenous yeasts and then left in barrel on its lees until spring, when it was racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. The 2020 was matured for 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill 500L French oak barrels.
The brown schist soils of the Kasteelberg are renowned for yielding rich, creamy, fruit forward Syrahs and similarly with Chenin Blanc, these soils impart their unique character on the wine style. Full, rich and glycerol, this expression displays impressive textural breadth and depth that is accentuated by slightly softer acids and more noticeable phenolic pithiness from the grape’s thicker skins. The aromatics are packed with yellow pear, white peach, quince and candied lemon pastille fruits with more subtle mineral undertones. The palate shows wonderful purity and ripeness with rich, glycerol layers of unctuous green and yellow orchard fruits that are enlivened by a delicious sweet and sour tangy acidity, finishing with mouth watering notes of fresh fennel and naartjie. This wine performs from the minute the cork is pulled but grows in complexity and stature the longer it is open. A simply delicious, amiable style of Chenin Blanc. (2,220 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Mullineux Iron Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 12.99% Abv.
RS 1.9 g/l | TA 6.3 g/l | pH 3.40
Hailing from the red rich, gravelly-clay Koffieklip soils on the rolling hills outside of Malmesbury, this dry land bush vine vineyard is always the first to ripen. In 2018 the Mullineux’s took over the whole parcel, allowing them to allocate rows that would truly show the natural texture, alluring extract and balanced acidity that these small and concentrated Chenin Blanc grapes grown on Iron soils contribute to the variety and final wine. The grapes were harvested on the 20th January 2020 with a yield of just below 3.7 tons/Ha (20 Hl/Ha). The Iron Chenin Blanc vineyard always has a low juice-to-berry ratio due to its adaptability to the soil in conjunction with its meso-climate, which is why the Mullineux’s are incredibly careful when hand-harvesting these minuscule quantities. After oxidative pressing to barrel, indigenous yeast took the must through primary fermentation and natural malolactic fermentation was not inhibited. Sulphur was only added after natural settling occurred, and the 2020 vintage was bottled after 11 months ageing in 3rd and 4th fill 500L French oak barrels.
A portion of these Chenin Blanc grapes from circa 30-year-old vines used to be blended into the Kloof Street Chenin Blanc with their lower alcohols and higher dry extract levels that are comparable to a red wine. This maiden release 2020 shows great power, freshness and vibrancy with aromatics bursting with yellow and orange citrus fruits, orange peel, tangerine and white peach with a notable struck flint, gun smoke character. The palate is equally complex and shows richness, density and power, the result of picking riper golden bunches together with some green bunches that lend notes of green citrus and a tantalisingly tangy freshness. What the Iron cuvee lacks in delicacy, racy acids and mineral bite, it more than makes up for with its concentration, foursquare savoury palate density and classic smoky Burgundian reduction. A fabulous new addition to the single terroir range that represents uncompromising fruit selection and quality. (1,560 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)