Oldenburg Vineyards ~ Big Plans, Big Ambition and Unbelievable Potential at this Stellenbosch Winery…

Oldenburg is one of those wineries that has big plans and equally big ambitions for its wines. Today I met up with owner Adrian Vanderspuy to taste through a small selection of their unreleased 2015 reds over lunch at private members club 67 Pall Mall.

With winemaker Phillip Constandius finally hitting his stride at this Banghoek property, the future looks very bright for this dynamic winery. Quality and focus can only be improved further when Oldenburg finally gets its own winery, hopefully in the next 18 to 24 months.

After a delicious glass of 2013 Chenin Blanc, it was time for the first red, the Syrah 2015 with its impressive purity, spicy black berry fruits and wonderful harmonious texture. The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon was a bit more of a gawky teenager, but showed plenty of intensity of dark berry fruit, herbal spice, cassis leaf and spicy cedar and graphite. This needs a few years of slumber before approaching again but should turn into a real cracker.

Finally, a real treat…The Oldenburg Rhodium 2015 Merlot – Cabernet Franc Bordeaux blend. Youthfully confident, this red is still showing a lick of creamy vanilla pod spice, cedar and bruleed coffee beans, with sweet tobacco nuances. There is also some really delicious, compact black and blueberry fruit complexity embroidered with a fresh, piercing, crystalline acidity. Massive intensity, focus and power, this is a really beautiful wine with real poise, balance and concentration. When it is finally released, possibly in 2019, it should be even more integrated and harmonious. A thoroughly distinguished blend.

(Wine Safari Score: 94-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

A Super Premium Expression of Cabernet Franc from South Africa… Tasting the ‘The’ Cabernet Franc 2014 from Walker Bay…

Dark and alluring, this wine is packed with expression and intrigue. It’s not everyday you get to taste the newest and most expensive super premium wine produced in South Africa! But D-day has arrived and it’s time to put the ‘The Cabernet Franc ‘ 2014 through its paces! This delicious, tantalising effort produced by Brian and Marian Smith of Elgin Ridge, in partnership with Niels Verburg of Luddite Wines, is the smartest new Bordeaux’esque premium wine to emerge from the Cape since the creation of MR de Compostella in 2004.

The nose is lush and seductive and oozes the aromatics of a super polished, finely tuned red wine. The oaking is rich, perfumed and ultra sophisticated. Tasted over a few hours, the nose remains tight and broody, compact and focused. You need to coax the genie out the bottle, but once it awakens, wow, you are inundated with a complex bouquet of liquorice stick, oregano, graphite, blueberry, cassis leaf and pronounced crushed gravel and limestone minerality. I poured this wine in both a Riedel Bordeaux glass and a Zalto Universal to make sure I could examine every element of its burning ambition.

The palate weight is creamy, textural and dense but remains fresh, vital and powerful with excellent varietal typicity. This effort is certainly more Napa Valley than Loire in style, but having said that, it wears its DNA proudly on its sleeve and represents pretty much every thing that’s great about South African wine at the moment. What’s perhaps most impressive about this wine is the way it holds its shape, vigour and presence in the glass over several hours… and then almost seems to tire of examination and starts to close up again.

I know Brian and Niels intimately and understand their passion and drive to not only get this wine ‘right’, but also make sure that it represents a wine genre that changes perceptions, opens eyes, shatters glass ceilings and helps premium South African wines climb another couple of steps up the competitive global fine wine ladder.

I have no doubt this wine will impress as many people with its quality, as it will upset with its price. But pause, take a deep breath, look around the market and you will see that there are so many wines from California, Bordeaux and coastal Tuscany that command similar or higher prices, but that are actually not as good as this very fine effort. Quality comes at a price. Be brave and tuck a 3 pack of this superb wine in your cellar!

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

The Silent Operator… Master Winemaker Adam Mason Really Knows His Stuff…

I was so pleased to catch up with Adam Mason recently to taste the ex-Klein Constantia winemaker’s delicious range of wines produced outside of his day job at Mulderbosch. The Raised By Wolves selection is really quite awesome and definitely worth tracking down, being made from different old vine vineyards across the Cape. Adam has crafted some very serious wines and while the La Colline Semillon is a benchmark classic, the Chenin Blanc represents a real classical expression that has massive punter-appeal.

Adam Mason Raised By Wolves 2016 Chenin Blanc Driehoek, Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

Another fine expression of South African Chenin Blanc made from the rare Montpellier clone, resurrected and made famous (again) by Bruwer Raats with his high density Eden Chenin Blanc. This 2016 is elegant, rich and opulent showing creamy yellow fleshy fruit, lemon biscuits, salty sea breeze notes, brine, and pithy white peach and pear fruit. Lovely concentration, excellent core tension, and impressive complexity and focus. A wine that conveys confidence and precision. The finish is long, vibrant and intense with attractive dried herb notes and mint leaf spice which combine well with the most seductive orange blossom and tangerine peel depth. This is one to buy now and drink, or even cellar for 5 to 8 years for more complexity.

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

Julien Schaal’s Confluence Chardonnay 2016 Recognized at the Platter 5 Star Awards… 

I have been a long time follower of Julien Schaal’s amazing wines from both Alsace as well as South Africa. Always over delivering in quality terms and offering great value for money, Julien upped the ante in 2014 with the launch of three single vineyard Chardonnay whites: Evidence (Elgin), Confluence (Hemel-en-Aarde), and Renaissance (Elandskloof).


While they are all absolutely delicious terroir specific wines, the Evidence Elgin Chardonnay has always been my perennial favourite. This year however, it was Julien’s Hemel-en-Aarde Confluence Chardonnay 2016 that deservedly cracked him his first 5 Star Platter Wine Guide award. A massive achievement for this young, talented French winemaker, it can only be the beginning of new heights that will surely be reached in coming vintages. 


Julien Schaal Confluence Chardonnay 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13 Abv.

From another drought vintage, this beautiful 2016 shows an opulent lifted nose with real concentration and intense aromatics of sweet honeysuckle, orange blossom, mango peel, lemon and orange rind, and a complex, mineral undertone of wet slate and crushed granite, expertly embellished with brûléed vanilla oak spice, toffee apple and waxy green apple nuances. However impressive the nose is, the palate offers up threefold more. Sculptured acids frame the lush, intense, concentrated citrus fruit flavours, showing layers of lemon marmalade, caramelised oranges, barley sugar, lemongrass spice and pithy apple puree. Rich and fresh, piercing and taught, this wine seems to have it all. Intensity, balance and such mouthwatering length. Well done Julien, this is a truly accomplished Hemel-en-Aarde Chardonnay. Drink now to 2028+

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

South African Grenache for Collectors & Connoisseurs ~ Tasting the Seriously Structured Raaigras 2015 from Adi Badenhorst…

One of the original young gun pioneers of the Swartland, Adi Badenhorst is making some startling single vineyard wines from Palomino, Chenin Blanc and Grenache. They are all very impressive examples of specific varieties that seem to be excelling in the hot, dry vineyards of the Cape. 


The Raaigras Grenache is made from possibly the oldest registered vineyard of this varietal in the Cape on his Kalmoesfontein farm and the 2015 is only his second release of this single vineyard old vine red. 


Where Adi’s version differs from many of the others on the market, is the level of minerality, tannin and structure he illicit from his old vine fruit while managing to retain a modest alcohol of only 12.5 Abv. Quantities produced are tiny, so if you manage to track this one down, snap it up and pop it in your cellar.


AA Badenhorst Family Wines Raaigras Grenache 2015, WO Swartland 12.5 Abv.

This is must be one of South Africa’s best Grenache reds. Coming from old vines planted on Adi Badenhorst’s farm on the decomposed granite hills of the Paardeberg, Swartland in 1951, this wine shows such Grenache purity, power and authenticity. Made using only old oak and 30% whole bunches, the fragrant perfume is intoxicating, showing fraises des bois, parma violets, lavender, dried rose petals, bramble berry fruits, garrigue, and a delicious, savoury bresaola cured meat complexity. Plenty of textural precision, the more this wine opens up, the more minerally pronounced the tannins become, finishing with an intense, rasping granitic dry grip. Plenty of mineral tension, the finish remains very pure with great clarity and purpose together with the most alluring vermouth botanical herbal complexity. Drink now with food or age for another 3 to 5 years before cracking into your case. This one promises a long drinking curve, 10 to 15+ years. Well done Adi. 

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

Chris and Andrea Mullineux Capture the Essence of the 2015 Vintage with Their Impressive Single Terroir Granite Chenin Blanc…

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines is on top of its game at the moment. Inspired by the successful range extension with their uber premium but equally high quality Leeu Passant wines, it seems Chris and Andrea can do no wrong. But of course their phenomenal success globally is purely down to good old hard work in the vineyards and the winery. When you make outstanding wines, marketing and selling them becomes an altogether easier, more enjoyable endeavour.


Grapes for their 2015 Granite Chenin were sourced from 2 parcels of sustainably farmed old vine, dry farmed bush vines planted in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg. The vineyards are 39 and 43 years old. These very deep decomposed Granite soils tend to produce wines with great acidity and a flinty, stony aromatic profile. Grapes were harvested between the 29th January and 6th February 2015 with a yield of 6 tons/ha (30HL/ha).

Chris showing me their Granite, Schist and Quartz Chenin Old Vine vineyards in March.

Grapes were first chilled in their cold room then pressed whole-bunch and the juice allowed to settle overnight. Minimal SO2 is added and, as with all their wines, no further additions are made. The juice is then racked to barrel for fermentation which is with indigenous yeasts and lasts for about 4 weeks. The wine is left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation has completed. The barrels are then racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. 12 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%, RS 1.6 g/l, TA 5.6 g/l, pH 3.3.


Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2015, WO Swartland, 13.5 Abv

A beautifully crafted wine from the Mullineuxs, this single terroir expression of Chenin Blanc shows incredibly flinty minerality and salinity. The nose bursts with crushed granite dust, lemon grass, dried herbs, and dried orange peel. I love the austerity and dried grass spice. The aromatic breadth and complexity follows to the palate except the volume is turned up a few notches. Pin point purity, intense electric acids and amplified tangerine and orange citrus zest cloak the palate and almost overwhelm the senses. A very measured, well proportioned wine with extra concentration and acid intensity to suggest a long life lies ahead if we’ll cellared. Drink now to 2030+

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

With Chris in an old vine Chenin vineyard near Siebrietskloof on the decomposed Granite slopes of the Paardeberg

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Old Vine Swartland Chenin Blanc Proves Its Pedigree Yet Again…

David Sadie was born and bred in the Swartland and studied viticulture and oenology at the University of Stellenbosch. It was there that he met and later married Nadia, a qualified soil scientist and viticulturalist. Together, they have crafted some of the most profound wines coming out of South Africa. 


I became acquainted with the single vineyard wines a few years back when David was making 3 different versions. Last year, the 2015 Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc trounced all before it in the annual Decanter Magazine Blind South African Chenin Blanc Tasting, scoring an eye watering 98 point consensus with all three judges. Well yes, I was one of the three judges and I stand by my score, blind or sighted.

With David Sadie and my fellow 98 point Decanter Magazine judge, Tim Atkin MW

Sadly, the 2015 stock disappeared like a small rain puddle evaporating in the midday heat of the Karoo dessert. But what do you expect when only just over 300 bottles or one barrel were produced. In 2016, David bottled two single vineyard wines, the Hoe Steen and the Skaliekop Chenin Blanc. 

Made from dry land farmed bush vines planted in 1968 on decomposed granite based soils with Koffee Klip and Quartz on top, on the western side of Malmesbury. The grapes were wholebunch pressed using minimal sulphur during the short cold settling for the juice before being wracked into barrel for spontaneous fermentation and malolactic fermentation. The wine ages for around 12 months in two old 400 litre French oak barrels. In 2016, production was upped to a massive 530 bottles. pH 3.41, RS 3.0 g/l, TA 5.5 g/l, total SO2 127 mg/l.


David & Nadie Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Swartland, 13.39 Abv.

Like many of the 2016 Chenin Blancs, this wine displays more subtlety, restraint, elegance and finesse with a slightly more refined, fine boned structure than the big, broad, intense 2015 expressions. The nose is more delicate and soft spoken, showing white peach, crunchy green pear, tangerine peel, fynbos, baking herbs, and incredible dusty, crushed granite mineral lift. The palate is electric and fresh with a dry lemon, rasping mineral intensity, subtle smoky reduction and picante spice notes. Like the 2015, there are beautiful, beguiling saline maritime notes that spar with the bold zippy acids. This vintage is all about speaking intelligently with authority and sophistication rather than preaching in a loud, punchy, doctrinal style. The extra restraint, twinned with balance, harmony and inner core tension make for another profound Chenin Blanc expression. Drink now or keep for 8 to 15+ years.

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