An Exciting New Release From B-Vintners ~ Tasting the Terroir Specific 2016 Fire Heath Chardonnay From Walker Bay…

Bruwer Raats and Gavin Bruwer Slabbert have really raised a lot of eyebrows both in South Africa and abroad with some of their exciting releases in the B-Vintners vine exploration range. With the Strandwolf Chardonnay already in the range, this new addition is another wonderful site specific, terroir expression from the boys, joining two of my favourites, the delicious Liberte Pinotage and the highly lauded Hope to Harlem Chenin Blanc blend in the growing range.


B-Vintners Fire Heath Chardonnay 2016, Walker Bay, 12.5 Abv.

Made from vines grown on calcareous soils, this Chardonnay has an impressively low 12.5 Abv but is positively bursting with flavour. The nose is incredibly dusty, pithy and mineral laced, with prominent notes of fynbos, dried herbs, lemon peel, dried straw and lime sherbet. Great vibrancy and vitality lie at the heart of the liquid aromatics. On the palate, there is real restraint and dusty, gravelly, minerality. If ever there was a wine that tasted of wet river pebbles, here it is. The white citrus fruits are pithy and mesmerisingly austere, showing alka seltzer zip, dry bitter lemon, briney salinity, fresh acids and again, multiple layers of wet grey slate and crushed gravel minerality. A wonderfully pure, steely Chardonnay expression with the most subtle use of oak. A fabulous addition to South Africa’s cool climate coastal Chardonnay landscape.

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


Ground Breaking South African Bordeaux Blend ~ Rating the Epic 2015 MR de Compostella…

Mvemve Raats is a critically acclaimed collaboration between friends and winemakers Mzokhona Mvemve and Bruwer Raats. Bruwer is of course the owner and winemaker of Raats Family Wines, where he has earned a reputation for top notch Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Mzokhona Mvemve, the first Indaba Scholarship recipient, is a graduate of Stellenbosch University and one of South Africa’s first qualified black oenologists.


On Friday the 8th September, Bruwer Raats joined us to launch the 2015 vintage of the MR de Compostella. The grapes for this extremely limited production of MR are sourced from Stellenbosch, widely recognized as the Cape’s premier red wine-producing region, especially when it comes to Bordeaux style varieties. With the 2015 vintage currently being lauded in South Africa as possibly the best all-round vintage in South African viticultural history ever, the stage was perfectly set for Bruwer to perform his magic.


MR de Compostella 2015 Blend, WO Stellenbosch,14.5 Abv.

I have been one of Bruwer Raats’ biggest MR de Compostella followers in the UK market since the maiden 2004 vintage release, and we have tasted the MR pre-release every year together since then, discussing the wine’s blend and vintage complexities over a few bottles of MR and fine left bank claret. So after a great amount of anticipation, we got to taste the MR 2015 together last Friday. This is an absolutely gorgeous, coming of age wine. A blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec, the 2015 is genuinely a compelling wine with a classic nose more reminiscent of a fine, opulent Cru Classe Pauillac than a Stellenbosch Bordeaux blend. There are beautiful perfumed notes of assorted purple flowers and fresh violets that melt away to reveal ripe, intense notes of crème de cassis, blueberry crumble, cherry kirsch liquor and damson plum. The wine has gravitas, intensity and a room-silencing presence that is neither heavy nor overpowering. Like all MR vintages, it has impressive laser-like precision, a fine grained focus and an amazing fruit purity and concentration that is a hedonistic pleasure to experience. What extract, what fine piercing acids, what power, but all delivered in a sublimely harmonious chorus of black cassis fruits, blueberry confit and graphite spice. It is impossible to tire of this wine, with its palate freshness reigniting your senses continuously. More structured and intense than its riper, plumper predecessor 2014, the 2015 delivers more intensity, with tannic restraint and brooding classical Pauillac’esque depth. Drink this young if you will, but this MR is the closest Bruwer and Mvemve have come to perfection since they started this project in 2004. I expect the 2015 to be going strong in 30 to 40 years time and continuing to seduce connoisseurs  and collectors globally. 

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Quality By Design ~ Tasting the Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2015…

Just a week or so after Bruwer Raats released both his 2015 MR de Compostella and 2015 Eden Cabernet Franc in South Africa, he was in London presenting both of these wines to the fine wine trade. The 2014 Eden Cabernet Franc scored an impressive 96 points here on the Fine Wine Safari site when reviewed in February 2017. With the follow up 2015 coming from an even better vintage that is being widely touted as the greatest modern-era vintage in South African wine making history, it’s an understatement to say the anticipation pre-tasting was high. 


Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8000 vines per hectare) meticuously planned and planted 6 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, 5% of the grapes were whole bunch fermented before being aged for 8 months in new French oak, followed by a further 10 months elevage in older oak barrels. (UK recommended retail £65 per bottle).


Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2015


Tasting the second vintage release of the Eden Single Vineyard High Density Cabernet Franc after the Raats Dolomite and Raats Family Cabernet Franc cuvees illustrates graphically the power, precision and intensity of this profound wine. Piercing lifted perfumed notes of blueberry, cassis, violets, cherry blossom, cedar spice and liquid minerality all play at full volume. Real intensity of fruit, showing red cherry, kirsch liquor, powerful grippy tannins, delicious salinity and an impressively bold structure define this impressive wine, which simultaneously wears its elegance and finesse proudly on its sleeve. All the building blocks for greatness are present. This is certainly one of the most accomplished red wines conceived in South Africa and looks set to not only age extremely well but also improve in bottle for 15 to 20 years, and drink well for over 30 years. Well done Bruwer. A towering achievement in the context of fine wine.

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

Another Blockbuster Vintage Release of Bordeaux Blend Icon Meerlust Rubicon…

Whenever I visit South Africa, my eye is always drawn to the latest vintages of Bordeaux blend Icon Meerlust Rubicon on the Duty Free shelves. They always amazingly seem to be two vintages ahead of us here in the UK. So today I cracked into the 2014 to see what this current release holds in store for drinkers and collectors alike.


Meerlust Rubicon 2014, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv. 

An invitingly youthful, opulent nose bursting with blueberry pie, vanilla pod spice, violets, cedar wood and polished mahogany. Very impressive with lifted black currant and raisined cranberry notes, the complexity of this wine is mesmerising. The palate is wonderfully suave, fleshy and elegant, showing superb harmony and balance combined with Cabernet Sauvignon backbone, power and breadth. There are lashings of delicious sweet cassis, black currant pastille, blueberries, and seductive creamy oak vanillins. Such a polished example, finely tuned, and positively oozes with class and pedigree. This impressive 2014 should drink well now and for another 25+ years if well cellared. Bravo Hannes Myburgh and winemaker Chris Williams. 

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

Verdict: Buy and fill your cellar! 

A Winery On Top of Their Game ~ Tasting De Morgenzon DMZ Sauvignon Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

To be clear, 2016 was not an easy vintage, with drought conditions gripping the Western Cape. But any winemaker worth their salt would have watched their grape’s veraison even more carefully than normal in order to preserve that all important acidity. With Carl van der Merwe on top of his game, there is not a lot this fella can do wrong and this wonderful Stellenboschkloof white bears testament to Carl’s skill and precision.


The DMZ range is a more affordable, accessible range from the winery and this Sauvignon Blanc 2016 is very well executed and thoroughly attractive. Such perfumed, multi-dimensional aromatics rise imperiously out of the glass. There are wonderful notes of green Granny Smith apples, freshly cut grass, thatch, green boiled Bon Bon sweets, dusty granite, and cream soda notes. On the palate, there is just enough of the sweet confectionary shop and stick candy notes mingling with dusty chalky minerality to make this a finely poised offering with delicious, vibrant acids and succulent, green melon and green apple zip on the finish. It’s all so tightly packaged, so well put together that I just can’t imagine anyone not finding this bottle an absolute pleasure to quaff. Drink now and over the next 3+ years.

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

The Stellenbosch Hills are Alive… Tasting Reenen Borman’s Kottabos Grenache – Syrah 2016 Blend…

Hot on the heals of the super sexy single clone Syrah, Sons of Sugarland, comes another delicious red from young Reenan Borman of Boschkloof fame. This small project wine called Kottabos is a stunning blend of 87% Grenache and 13% Syrah, both sourced in Stellenbosch from the Polkadraai area. 


The grapes both had 50% whole bunch fermentation and were then aged in used oak for approximately 11 months. Only 1,760 bottles were produced. Reenen describes the Kottabos as “a project of exploration in the Stellenbosch hills, the sole purpose being to showcase what this unique terroir has to offer.”


Reenen Borman’s Kottabos Grenache – Syrah 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

Another micro-vinification offering from the beautiful hills of Stellenbosch. In the glass, this wine has the alluring colour of young red Burgundy and shows a crystalline, translucent ruby glow. The nose offers up incredible perfume lift of cherry bon bons, blood oranges, rose petals, parma violets, pomegranate and subtle cedary, boxwood, marzipan spice. Notes of black pepper and earthy bramble berry sappy spice develop with time in the glass. The palate is very fine boned, precise, and light on its feet with an almost Pinot Noir elegance and finesse, framed beautifully by crunchy, sappy, tart cranberry acids and subtle, fine powdery tannins. The wine is so effortless, brimming full of energy, and really shows off Reenen Borman’s extensive winemaking expertise. Drink this wine now or over 3 to 8 years as it develops more forest floor and savoury bramble berry spice nuances.

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


Tasting the Perfect Bohemian Bank Holiday Syrah from Schalk Burger & Son’s Welbedacht Wine Estate in Wellington…

There can be no doubting the pedigree of the Syrah fruit grown at the Welbedacht Estate in Wellington. Some of the best grapes have been siphoned off quietly for other “premium” WO Western Cape Syrah for years. The large Welbedacht Estate (pronounced “well-be-duct”) is situated in one of the Cape’s most picturesque landscapes near Wellington, a warm climate region which seems ideally suited to the cultivation and production of world class Rhone varieties like Syrah.


Welbedacht is also home to the Burger family, surely one of the country’s most recognised sporting names. Schalk Senior was a formidable Springbok rugby player back in his day (and his handshake still is), and son Schalk Junior has followed in his father’s size 14 footsteps representing South Africa multiple times as a Springbok and who is now playing out the twilight of his career at Saracens in the UK. Second son, Tiaan, hung up his provincial rugby boots a few years ago and now heads up the cellar’s marketing operations.


In 1995, Schalk bought his first farm, Af-en-Toe, and started farming with 40 hectares of Cinsaut and Chenin Blanc. This was followed by the purchase of Welbedacht in 1997. Dating back to 1830s, it was a bit run down, but the water and the established old trees may have led to the decision to buy it. Welbedacht means “well thought out” in Dutch, and this is precisely how the Burger family approached the extensive restoration of this gracious property to its previous glory.


Schalk Burger & Sons Welbedacht Wine Estate Bohemian Syrah 2015, WO Wellington, 14.5 Abv.

The 2015 Syrah is probably one of the best I have tried from the Estate. There is a seductively rich intense nose of blueberry crumble, ripe black berries, mulberries and an alluring lift of vanilla pod mixed with violets, cherry blossom and sweet oak spice. Despite the 14.5 Abv, this lush rich wine is light on its feet, vibrant and thoroughly vital, with lovely clean linear acids and powdery tannins that punctuate the palate texture perfectly. The nose continues to open up in the glass revealing subtle bruleed coffee bean notes, fynbos, savoury cured meats, sweet black peppercorns, and a ripe black cherry kirsch intensity on the finish. The wine is drinking so beautifully now it would be a shame to bury it away in the cellar. Opulent, expressively dark fruited, this delicious purity should be enjoyed now and over as many stages of development as possible. Drink now to 2028+.

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