Reverie Chenin Blanc 2016 – A Masterful Skin Contact White Creation From Jacques de Klerk…

I think I first met Jacques de Klerk of The Winery of Good Hope a few years ago at a ‘very liquid’ casual fine wine dinner in Stellenbosch organised by Ryan Mostert and Samantha Suddons of Silvervis / Terracura fame. While I’m quite familiar with the Radford Dale wines, Jacques’s own pet side project, the Reverie skin contact Chenin Blanc, was a new one for me.

I recently enjoyed another bottle of the 2016 in London. Sourced from an old vine Chenin Blanc vineyard in the Swartland, this wine is made in a savoury oxidative style with several days skin contact before being aged for over a year in older oak. With the 2017 vintage already released and en route to Europe, grab the last few bottles of this exceptional 2016 if you can find it. This really was a superb vintage in South Africa specifically for older vine Chenin Blanc.

Jacques de Klerk Reverie Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Swartland, 11 Abv.

Rich and spicy, pithy and candied with an incredible lemon sherbet zing, enchanting white citrus, lime cordial and grapefruit length. The aromatics show the spicy lift of skin contact but it melts harmoniously into a grassy, fynbos and granitic complexity. Taut, concentrated and fresh but certainly does not lack any weight or archetypal Chenin Blanc punch despite the impressively low alcohol level. A very intelligently made wine that is very true to its Chenin Blanc roots in the Swartland but also displays its characterful eccentricities proudly.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

It’s Evolution Versus Revolution at Tesselaarsdal – Tasting the Third Release of their Elegant Pinot Noir…

The brand that is Tesselaarsdal was established in 2015 by long time employee Berene Sauls who started at Hamilton Russell as an au pair originally. With higher vinous aspirations and then valiant  support financially and emotionally from Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell, Berene was cast adrift to fend for herself in the wide world of fine wine after her first release in 2015. Proudly, one of my claims to fame is that I was the first to taste the maiden release 2015 in January 2016 at breakfast, as you do in the trade, at Hamilton Russell when I was invited over to be the panel chair and guest speaker for the Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir Celebration 2016.

As delicious as it was, the 2015 now starts to pale into insignificance along side newer releases like the 2017 and 2018 vintages. With the 2018 about to land in the UK, I took an opportunity to reacquaint myself with the 2017 that has had a nice amount of time to settle in storage.

Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir 2017, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

A winemaking collaboration hand in hand with Emul Ross, the winemaker at Hamilton Russell, Tesselaarsdal 2017 is made from fruit 100% sourced from a vineyard leased from La Vierge in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge from totally unirrigated vineyards. A style of wine that always shows a little bit of sulky reduction early in its evolution, the 2017 seems to have blow most of this off and now starts to up the ante with notes of wild fraises de bois, red bramble berry fruits, freshly cut hedgerow and an interesting melange of sappy red berry fruits, limestone minerality and dried herb spice. On the palate there is a real luminescent brightness, crisp freshness, salinity, and purity of crunchy red berry fruits. Tannins are soft and supple, very elegant as you would expect from the sultry 2017 vintage in Hemel-en-Aarde making the wine very friendly, accessible and opulent already. Ultimately, what I love about this wine is its completeness, its textural harmony, its fruit intensity and of course its saline bite. Only the third vintage, this remains one of my favourite Pinot Noirs produced in South Africa.

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

Great Wines Are Born Through Innovation and Experimentation and Few New World Wines Illustrate This Better Than The Jem From Waterford Estate…

Named after Waterford Estate’s owner, Jeremy Ord, or Jem as he is known, this is a red blend that has often seduced but also confounded critics over the years in equal measure since its first release in 2004. Indeed visitors to Waterford Estate often wonder if the different varietals that go into The Jem are aged separately. “They aren’t,” says winemaker Mark Le Roux.

A slightly exotic blend in the South African context, shortly after undergoing malolactic fermentation, about 20 different batches of the eight various varietals are meticulously blended to make up The Jem. “This is done to give the wine the maximum amount of time to integrate and bond” says Mark.

It is certainly a wine I have grappled with over the years and is perhaps one I have often failed to fully understand. So when in doubt, crack another bottle and explore further is what they say! With noticeable style changes occurring under Mark Le Roux’s watch towards greater elegance and freshness with real changes really being effected over the past 3 to 5 years, it certainly was time to open and reflect on the contents of a bottle of the newest release – The Jem 2014.

 

Waterford The Jem Red Blend 2014, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

Made from a warm, moderate growing season, 2014 as a vintage is best remembered as the last normal year before four drought seasons. The 2014 Jem blend is made up of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Shiraz, 14% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot, 4% Mourvedre, 3% Sangiovese and 2% Barbera. According to winemaker Mark Le Roux, the Jem is based on both red and black berry fruits with spicy aromatic tones and a polished, textured mouthfeel. The nose does indeed reveal opulent layers of fruit and spice with pronounced notes of oregano, thyme and dusty stony minerality. It certainly invokes notes of high octane wine making that thrives on the exotic. This wine could so easily be another Bordeaux blend based around Cabernet Sauvignon and it would no doubt excel under the watchful eye of Mark Le Roux. But there is a higher striving involved with this wine and since its inception, it has never embraced the establishment but rather courted the esoteric. It is on the palate that the idiosyncratic blend components reveal themselves, showing spicy black olive, red cherry spice, red peppercorns and red currant bramble berry fruits that buffer a darker, denser core of earthy black currant and saline cassis depth. In the past, this wine was perhaps a little too big and bold for me but now with the more recent vintages I can see the evolving tannin elegance, the textured nuances, interwoven acidity and exotic herbal Italianesque spices that set this icon wine apart from its competitors. If you like bold, modern, adventurous red wines, I suggest you crack a couple of these with your Sunday roast beef. Satisfaction is guaranteed. Drink now to 2034+

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

Gaja Pieve di Santa Restituta Brunello 2014 – A Triumphant Effort in a Difficult Vintage…

One of Angelo Gaja’s two Tuscan properties, is on the site of an old church, Santa Restituta, which dates back to the 4th century. As is the family’s style, their’s is a fusion of modern and traditional winemaking. They too own land on the Buonconvento Northern side of Montalcino and some prestigious lands in the South, a stone’s throw from Sesti.

The Northern sites normally go into the Brunello di Montalcino ‘normale’ with Sugarille and Rennina located around the winery on the Southern side of the town being bottled individually as Crus. These three Brunellos from one of the finest names in Italian wine are impeccably crafted and full of character, finesse and age ability.

 

Gaja Pieve di Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino 2014, 14 Abv.

In 2012, Gaja blended all three of their top vineyards together to create a single punchy super Brunello cuvee. In 2014 they did the same again due to difficult weather conditions but with one massive difference being that this time, 80% to 90% of the final cuvee’s fruit came from just the two Cru vineyards of Rennina and Sugarille. Bright translucent colour, the 2014 Brunello mimics the delicious 2012 release. The result is a wonderfully fragrant, expressive aromatic nose showing tar, red cherry, Seville oranges, earthy aniseed root, violets, cherry blossom, tannery leather and sweet cedar oak vanilla spice complexity. Deliciously plump and full fruited, this wine is plush and opulent, fleshy, dense and super vibrant with an extra level of stony minerality. What a fabulous success for the vintage. Drink now to 2030+

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

25 Great South African Wines Under £25 Retail – Red and Whites Not to Miss…

Value versus quality. It’s the eternal debate with all New World wine producing nations. Peg your marker in the sand and stand up for top premium quality at the price you think the wine deserves or take perhaps the long view and sell your wine at a more affordable price level with more market accessibility. Who knows what’s right?

All I know is that some of the cracking whites and reds in my 25 for £25 selection could easily sell for a lot more money and no consumers would blink an eye. So does that mean the producers are under pricing themselves? No, not necessarily. Everybody produces different quantities, works from a different cost base and has a different long term business sales vision.

This eclectic collection of reds and whites does not stand alone to make a statement or indeed even seek to provoke discussion but merely serves to illustrate to consumers that South Africa is not only about £35-£75 bottles of white and red from trendy producers. Crack open any of these below wines with absolute confidence!

White Wines 

Fram Grenache Gris 2017, WO Voor-Paardeberg, 11 Abv.

Pithy bramble berry, stalk spice and sap with a zesty tart strawberry pip fruit note, crushed stone minerality and grippy tannin. Class. (£24)

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

Winterhoek 2015, WO Ceres, 13.5 Abv.

Earthy savoury quince, cassis leaf, sweet sour plum and oxidative notes. A different take on Sauvignon more in the Pouilly Fume style. Unique but a bit of a marmite wine. (£8.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Foundry Roussanne 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Fragrant white peach, citrus, orange peel zest with a creamy core and yellow pastille fruit finish. Superb! World class. (£15.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Foundry Grenache Blanc 2017, 13.5 Abv.

White peach, yellow citrus and pithy stony fruits. Juicy to its core. Incredible quality with a nutty marzipan finish. Wow! (£15.99)

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

Naudé White Blend 2009, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc Blend. Packed full of white citrus, white pepper, stalk spice and bruised orchard fruits on a finish with bright acids. Delicious and super classy. (£17.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Craven Clairette Blanche 2015, WO Stellenbosch, 11.5 Abv.

Quince, wet grass, apple peel, leesy white peach Bon Bon finish. Drinking very well. (£17.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Hannes Storm Wild Air Sauvignon Blanc 2017, 13 Abv.

Quince, tropical yellow fruits, gooseberry and a hint of green mango peel. Creamy, mineral, super concentration. Old World style at its best! (£18.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Craven Chenin Blanc 2017 Karibib Vineyard, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

Dusty, stony mineral fruits, hints of wet bushveld, white peach stone and crushed gravel on the finish. Very youthful. (£20.99)

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

Elgin Ridge Chardonnay 2017, WO Elgin, 13 Abv.

Grapefruit Bon Bon concentration, citrus pastille, lime peel and a toffee apple kiss. Vibrant, intense, incredible piercing length. Really very very special and worthy of an upgraded score since my last tasting note! (£22.95)

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2016, 13 Abv.

Semillon, Chardonnay, Roussanne, Clairette Blanche, Chenin Blanc, and Viura Blend. Creamy, complex and such interwoven intrigue. Flavours melt into one another. Fabulously complex, harmonious effort. (£24.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Julien Schaal Confluence Chardonnay 2017, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13 Abv.

Pithy, citric, mineral and super energetic. Overtones of expensive fresh white Burgundy. Among South Africa’s best Chardonnays no doubt. (£24.99)

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

Rall Grenache Blanc 2017, WO Piekenierskloof, 13.5 Abv.

Piekenierskloof fruit selection. Deliciously stony with pithy white citrus, peach stone and crushed granite minerality. Very pure and elegant. Lovely subtle yellow sour plum finish. Fabulous. (£23.49)

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Red Wines

Primordial Soup 2017 Blend, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

Light fresh sappy red bramble berry fruits. Bright, savoury stewed strawberry hints and a long juicy finish. Great value for money. (£7.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 86+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Zorgvliet Silver Myn Argentum 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec blend. Shows sweet plum, cassis and tannery leather. Classical notes with sweet black fruited savoury depth. Well-proportioned and great value. (£9.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 87/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Kaapzicht Cinsault Skuinsberg 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

Stewed winter fruits, damson plum and raisined cranberry with a hint of marzipan and rose petals. Soft, sleek with a granitic minerality. Very fine. (£18.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Bohemian Syrah 2016, WO Wellington, 14.5 Abv.

Rich savoury, bramble berry black fruits, sweet cassis, cured meats and crushed coriander and peppercorns. V8 Chevy engine under a Porsche bonnet. Plush, smokey savoury finish. Punchy style. (£18.99)

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

Cricket Pitch Red Blend 2013, WO Wellington, 14.5 Abv.

Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc blend. Super perfumed notes of rose petals, violets, lilies with sweet cassis fruit. Sleek, classical Bordeaux Blend expression with fine pedigree. (£19.99)

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

Hat Trick 2012 Cape Blend, WO Wellington, 14.5 Abv.

Pinotage, Merlot, Grenache Blend. Sweet sappy bramble berry savoury black fruited nose. Exotic with hints of peach juice and black currant and a long, musk laden finish. (19.99)

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

La Vierge The Affair Pinot Noir 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

Savoury bramble berry fruits, pomegranate exoticism, tilled earth and blood orange. Fresh, cool and precise. Lovely. (19.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Crystallum Peter Max Pinot Noir 2016, WO Coastal, 14 Abv.

Starts a bit reductive so give it air. Packed full of cherry stone and cranberry with hints of Victoria plum and pink rock candy. Cool, creamy, sublime balance and delicious depth with typicity. (£24.99)

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

Naude Adoro Red Blend 2007, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz blend showing classic notes of sweet tannery leather, raisined plums, winter stewed compote and earthy black bramble berry fruits with ample spice, salinity and cured meat complexity. A real consumer favourite! (£20.95)

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

David & Nadia Pinotage 2016, WO Swartland, 12.5 Abv.

Deliciously light, lithe and fresh with perfumed, chalky red fruits and luscious, sappy red apple and cranberry intensity on the long, pure finish. Fabulous expression. (£22.99)

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

Thorne & Daughters Wanderer’s Heart 2016, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

Stony granitic cranberry and sweet tart red cherry. Super pure and precise with amazing freshness and depth with a light weight texture. (£24.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Kottabos Grenache Syrah 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

Lifted dried rosemary and oregano herbal notes melt into sweet red berry fruits, liquorice, dried mint leaf, peppercorn and a subtle eucalyptus kiss. Delicious. (£24.99)

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

Savage Thief in the Night 2017, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah blend showing wonderfully expressive perfumed nose with crystallised cherries, cranberry, Turkish delight and red bramble berry fruits. Such purity, class and distinction. Just wow! (£24.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Brunia Pinot Noir From Cold Mountain Vineyards – A New Side Project from Wade Sander…

Wade Sander is the assistant winemaker at the Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines cellar in Franschhoek. That snippet you might know. But what you probably didn’t know is that he makes a very accomplished Pinot Noir on the side.

In 2017, only 960 bottles were produced from nine year old vines. The wine was then aged 10 months in 228 litre old French oak barrels. The results are impressive for this ‘heart-break variety.’

Cold Mountain Vineyards Brunia Pinot Noir 2017, WO Sondagskloof, 13.5 Abv.

This is definitely a cool, light touch Pinot Noir with a bright, lively cherry ruby red colour. The aromatics are perfumed, lifted and refined showing notes of violets, fresh raspberries, red currant, red cherry combined with a complexing sappy spice. The palate too is equally clean, pure and refined and displays a taught, sappy resinous red cherry and red bramble berry intensity with subtle oak spice notes. There is a lightness and elegance to the texture but also a noticeable core of wound spring tension. This is an eminently classy delicious expression without being profoundly complex in its youth. Effortless to drink, this wine is another fine addition to the ongoing and developing tapestry of Pinot Noir in the new South Africa. Drink now and over the next 10+ years.

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

One of the Finest Semillons On the Market – Tasting the Dark Side of the Vine Semillon 2016 From Jacques Wentzel…

Semillon has always been a grape that has struggled to resonate with the consumer. Yes, fabulous dry versions from Tyrrells and other Hunter Valley producers in Australia have made the headlines globally, but in South Africa, I think it is fair to say that this variety has historically not been very popular.

However, things are changing. A new generation of winemakers has cracked the Semillon code and worked out how to produce styles that show great appeal. What all the top producers’ expressions have in common, from Chris Alheit to John Seccombe, Marc Kent to Eben Sadie, is exceptional fruit from historic old vine vineyards.

 

Jacques Wentzel from Black Elephant Vintners is another producer accessing fruit from one such vineyard for his Dark Side of the Vine cuvee. Basil Landau’s old vine Semillon block in the Bo-Hoek area of the Franschhoek Ward was planted in 1905 and is one of the oldest white wine vineyards in South Africa. The grapes see around 24 hours of skin contact before being fermented with natural indigenous yeasts followed by 12 months ageing in 500 litre French oak barrels. The results are exceptional and this wine now joins the ranks as one of South Africa’s very finest expressions of dry Semillon.

Black Elephant Vintners The Dark Side of the Vine 2016 Semillon, WO Franschhoek, 13 Abv.

The 2016 Semillon leans more towards fruit and flesh and less towards spice and herbal complexity like the 2015 vintage.  The wine displays a wonderfully intense aromatic nose with sensational lemon and lime zest and perfume. It unfurls wave upon wave of lemon confit, fresh peach juice, dried herbs, crushed walnut, nutmeg, tangerine peel, wet stones and dry thatch nuances. The palate is beautifully full and fleshy, almost unctuous but framed with the most delicious piercing, mouth-watering acidity. Super concentrated and broad but profoundly sensual and textural, the wine finishes with pure white citrus, black currant leaf and yellow tropical fruit candy notes. A joy to taste a wine that really does full justice to these centenary old vines from this famous vineyard in Franschhoek. Drink now or age for 8 to 10+ years.

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

Wines are distributed in the UK by Red Squirrel Wines. Approximate retail price £55.99 per bottle.