Assessing the New Releases from Mullineux Family Wines – Part 1: Tasting the Single Terroir 2021 Chenin Blanc Whites…

The Mullineuxs have put an immense amount of blood, sweat and tears into creating their Mullineux Old Vine White Blend and their Mullineux Syrah. With the latest releases in 2022, we see both wines rising to unseen levels of quality and the 2021 Old Vine White is definitely their most distinguished creation to date. A wine not to be missed. But these wines only tell half the story. Much of the rise in quality of these larger production wines from a blend of vineyard sites can be attributed to the knowledge and expertise acquired over the past decade of producing the more niche Mullineux Single Terroir wines.

With the 2021 whites and 2020 red releases, the Mullineuxs have been granted permission from all farmers and vineyard owners involved to use the actual farm names on all the labels for the first time across the range. Previously, only the Mullineux Schist wines carried the Roundstone designation on the front labels. With all the experience and expertise has also come an extra confidence for the Mullineuxs to trumpet the site-specific origin of these wines, all of which now show noticeably specific vineyard traits and similarities from their terroirs year after year. I caught up with the power couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux recently and tasted through their new range of wines with them.

The Single Terroir Whites:

Wines were tasted from Zalto Bordeaux glasses and reviewed over the course of three days.

Mullineux Granite Eikelaan Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 13.98% Abv.

1.9 g/l RS | 6.5 g/l TA | 3.27 pH

These grapes grown on the Paardeberg showcase everything the Mullineuxs are looking for in wines that hail from Granite Soils. The roots grow deep, so the canopy remains very full, protecting it from sun and temperature fluctuations. The grapes then retain more freshness and perfume. At the winery, the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its life. All of the juice is racked to barrel (0% new because they want all of the elements of this wine’s terroir to show through so consumers are tasting the soil and not the barrel, but older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred (the texture is coming from the South African Sun and Old Vines) until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months. Andrea leave’s the barrels full as long as possible because a full barrel is a happy barrel. The wine is bottled unfiltered to further showcase the Swartland Granite terroir.

The 2021 vintage in the Swartland was late because it was such a slow, cool and balanced vintage which shows in the wines, especially with the Granite Chenin Blanc due to longer hang times adding extra texture and mouthfeel to compliment the Granite’s racy acidity and linear tension. Across the range, the ripening of the Iron vineyard came first, followed by the Schist vineyard, ending with the Granite vineyard, picked over a 10-day period of time differentiation with no heatwaves. With the two weeks of extra hangtime, the wine displays more alluring yellow orchard fruit notes together with aromatic layers of tangerine, greengage plums and yellow citrus nuances. While there may be ample exotic fruit notes on the nose, all the intense granitic liquid minerality that is so typical for this wine are clear to be seen on the palate, supported by a zippy but tangy fresh acidity, an impressively sleek, sumptuous palate texture and the most delicious mouth-watering intensity on the finish. A super fine expression of how a taut, linear Chenin Blanc can also be so incredibly multi-dimensional in a top vintage. Simply a majestic drop of wine to drink now and over the next 20+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 13.95% Abv.

1.7 g/l RS | 5.8 g/l TA | 3.40 pH

These very special and characterful grapes grown on Kasteelberg showcase the essence of the Mullineux estate, Roundstone, and its ability to define Chenin Blanc grown on Schist soils. These rocky soils limit vine size and so the clusters and individual grapes, in turn remain smaller with a higher skin to juice ratio, offering positive white-wine tannins and texture. At the winery the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its life. All of the juice is racked to barrel (0% new because Andrea wants all of the elements of this wine’s terroir to show through so drinkers are tasting the soil and not the barrel, but older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months.

Coming from fruit from a young vineyard of seven years old which was picked almost two to three weeks later than normal. The shallower, rockier soils of the Roundstone vineyard traditionally yield more stone fruit aromatic nuances with the 2021 expression also boasting multiple layers of white and green citrus, pear puree, golden delicious apples and complex white peach notes intertwined with savoury dried herbs and subtle struck flint reductive hints. On the palate the wine is full and expansive but wonderfully precise and seamless, gliding over the palate with hints of honey of white toast, quince, white peach puree and an incredible concentration before melting away slowly to leave a dry, picante, phenolic tinged impression on the finish. A wine with striking depth, concentration and generosity. Drink now and over the next 15+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Mullineux Iron Rondomskrik Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 12.65% Abv.

1.5 g/l RS | 5.7 g/l TA | 3.49 pH

Grown on the Iron soils on the rolling red hills that surround Malmesbury, these vineyards grow on the clay and gravel rich Koffieklip that is very good at holding water and very generous during primary growth in the sprint, but then around verasion, the clay in the soil stops releasing moisture and the vine compensates during this quick ripening phase by making the smallest of grapes, but because of the canopy, the skins are not too thick. This gives us wines that are rich and round, yet for some reason, always the lowest alcohol conversions for similar sugars across the Single Terroir Range (they are all picked at the same ripeness). At the winery the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its evolution. All of the juice is then racked into used oak barrels (older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months.

Only the second white single terroir expression produced from this white vineyard, the aromatics boast and incredibly reductive character with notes of struck flint, wet river stones and wet hay. Always a wine that tends toward reduction making it a real characteristic of the vineyard, even with oxidative handling. The palate is smoky and chalky, thoroughly mineral driven at the moment but with big mid-palate weight and concentration from a high dry extract. There is plenty of inherent detail and precision, an incredibly fine line of acidity supporting distinct notes of quince, chamomile, green herbs, savoury bruised yellow orchard fruits and a dried mint leaf nuance on the long intense finish. This is a wine that will need some extra time in bottle to show at its best but should be a stunner when it approaches its peak maturity. Drink from 2024 to 2035+.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Wines available to the wine trade in the UK from their importer Liberty Wines and in the USA from Skurnik Wines. RRP in the UK circa £49pb for whites and £78pb for the reds. In South Africa, R1175pb for the reds and R630pb for the whites cellar door.

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 )

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