Tasting Hamilton Russell’s 2018 Releases – A Small Concentrated Vintage of Distinguished Power and Depth…

I recently caught up with my favourite Hemel-en-Aarde couple Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell in London while en route to Prowein. I always love tasting their new releases because you can rest assured that the quality of both their iconic Chardonnay and their Pinot Noir will be pushed higher every year, vintage permitting, as maestro winemaker Emul Ross spins his magic and learns to harness something extra from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley terroir of the winery.

According to Anthony, the 2017 releases were stylistically considered a very elegant vintage and the subsequent 2018s a very low yielding year primarily due to damaging winds at flowering. But they managed to achieve an impressive fruit intensity at low alcohols using their own propagated Hamilton Russell yeasts developed after 1993. The Chardonnay 2018 was bottled in late December 2018.

Tasting the new 2018 releases with Anthony Hamilton Russell and Steven Spurrier.

The Pinot Noir 2018 release shows a tantalising melange of dark Gevrey Chambertin styled fruit with the structural richness of the 2016 combined with the Chambolle Musigny elegance and purity of the Hamilton Russell 2017. But apparently the 2018 wine continues to divide local opinion. The wine was bottled in late January 2019 unfined and with only the very coarsest of filtration.

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2018, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.2 Abv.

Chatting to Anthony before tasting the 2018, he warned there might still be a hint of reduction on this young white wine. But to be honest, I found it very fresh, pure and delightfully fragrant, though perhaps aromatically a little more restrained and mineral at the moment, showing more yellow citrus, lemon pastille and wet chalk rather than struck match reduction. There is still a very subtle juvenile lick of salted caramel and vanilla spice from the oak barrel ageing, but on the palate, this is where the real pedigree of this wine is revealed. An ultra tight, pinpoint textural finesse, plenty of core energy and a classically restrained Burgundian dry lemon and limestone finish. Wonderfully intense and focused but simultaneously a suave and supremely balanced Chardonnay from the Walker Bay. Give this wine another 6 months in bottle after release and then indulge at will.

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

Enjoying some fine red and white Burgundy with Olive and Anthony while exploring the nuances of the 2018 vintage in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2018, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.4 Abv.

Every new release reveals a vintage of Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir that is again purer, finer and more distinguished than the previous vintage. The 2018 is no exception showing a broody dark fruited nose with lashings of black cherry, black currant and salted black plums. At this young stage, the oak is incredibly well integrated allowing both the purity of black berry fruit and the limestone minerality to really shine through. On the palate, alluring hints of blueberry and mulberry dance a tightly choreographed routine supported by a well drilled accompaniment of mineral tannins finishing with a long, sappy, black bramble berry finish. This must surely rank as one of the finest young Pinot Noirs produced at the winery to date. Drink from 2020 until 2035+

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

A wine that divides opinion? Well, if the 2016 Pinot Noir can be considered more structured and Gevrey in style, the 2017s certainly earned an instant following with their feminine Chambolle styled elegance. For me, the 2018 Pinot is a dead ringer for a 1er Cru Nuits St Georges displaying depth and power, concentration and intensity of fruit with an artisanal workman-like Pinot Noir rusticity showing it’s hand. Classicists will be bowled over, novices might initially be slightly more challenged. Either way, the 2018 represents one of the highest quality “new era” Pinot Noir releases from the winery yet.

Marelise Niemann Making Waves in the Bot River – Tasting the Anysbos Maiden Releases…

Marelise Niemann officially launched her own Momento label in 2013 when she was still working for Beaumont winery in the Bot River region. She has recently taken up wine making duties at Anysbos Winery in the Bot River owned by Peter-Allan Finlayson’s uncle-in-law. Marelise has been making her Momento wines at Gabrielskloof along side Peter-Allan and John Seccombe (Thorne & Daughters) but will move production of these to Anysbos as well.

I recently tasted the two new releases from Anysbos here in London with their newly appointed importers Woodwinters and was totally blown away by the very high quality of both the white and red. There is no doubting Marelise’s expert winemaking skills, but you do need good fruit to make great wines and judging from these new releases, this is definitely a winery to follow if you are a wine connoisseur!

Tasting with Marelise in London in 2018.

Anysbos Disdit 2017, WO Bot River, 13.5 Abv.

A Chenin Blanc 61%, Roussanne 21% and Grenache Blanc 18% blend fermented with natural yeasts and aged 10 months in old oak barrels. Wonderfully opulent and expressive from the first pour over flowing with aromatic notes of tangerine, sweet pineapple pastille and green apple peel. So voluptuous, generous and fleshy with superb textural balance, impressive fruit concentration and a singing blood orange and mango flesh finish! Very impressive.

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

Anysbos Grenache Noir 2017, WO Bot River,13.5 Abv.

Super complex and expressive nose that is very precise, detailed and perfumed with notes of cherry confit, botanicals, vermouth spice and a striking line of blood orange and pomegranate spice. The balance and weight is super fine, concentrated and harmonious, quite discreet and feminine in its own kind of way. If this is the quality Marelise has achieved with her maiden Anysbos vintages, it makes the mind boggle at the end game potential. Really delicious!

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

Tasting the New Gabrielskloof Landscape Series Cabernet Franc 2017 Pre-Release…

You wait for a bus for hours and then suddenly a whole tranche of them come along all at once. This is what the past few days have felt like with Cabernet Franc from South Africa. Within a matter of days, I had tasted the new Warwick Cabernet Franc 2015, the iconic Raats Family Cabernet Franc 2015, the Raats Dolomite 2016 (and sensational 5 Star Platter winner), and also the delicious new 2017 vintage from Gabrielskloof in the Bot River … due for release on the 1st April 2019.

I vividly remember reviewing the 2015 vintage a couple of years back after winemaker Peter-Allan Finlayson had given me a “clean skin” sample to taste. Of course it was a very impressive wine from a stellar red vintage and many months later, unsurprisingly, the 2015 Gabrielskloof Cabernet Franc made it into Tim Atkin MW’s South Africa Report as his “Red Wine Discovery of the Year.” The 2017 comes from the same Cabernet Franc vineyard in the Bot River region.

Tasting with Peter-Allan recently in London.

In this third consecutive drought vintage, Peter-Allan decided to do less extraction during fermentation with 20% whole bunches, so using only three pump overs (remontage) during active fermentation and thereafter a longer 23 day post-fermentation maceration followed by ageing the wine in larger 500 litre oak barrels to retain freshness and fruit expression.

Gabrielskloof The Landscape Series Cabernet Franc 2017, WO Bot River, 14.1 Abv.

Made using fruit from 16 year old vines, the 2017 has a very attractive nose displaying a super complex perfumery of black berry, tart cassis, milk chocolate and cherry liquor. Beautifully complex wine expertly balancing piercing violet fragrance and sweet sappy cedar spice with hints of boxwood, spiced meats, melted wax and eastern incense. On the palate one is struck by the wine’s lithe, sleek mid-weight silky balance, delicious blueberry and oak spice harmony together with nuances of sweet dried herbs, plum spice, another last dusting of mocha choc spice and a very fine, long, fresh lingering piquant finish. A thoroughly confident, vibrant expression of Cabernet Franc expertly delivered in a vintage shaping up to be another very impressive high quality year for both reds and whites. Drink from 2019 to 2030+.

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

(Wines are distributed to the trade in the UK by Liberty Wines)

If it’s Pure Hedonistic Pleasure You Are Looking For, the New Vilafonté Series M 2016 Release is Probably For You…

I recently tasted and reviewed the 2016 Vilafonté Series C Cabernet Sauvignon based blend in London before its acclaimed launch in South Africa. What struck me with this wine as well as the Series M 2016 which I am tasting ahead of its 1st March release, is the distinctive quality evident in the wine. We all know 2015 was a red wine block buster but we were somehow led to believe that the drought conditions perhaps got the better of the wines in 2016?

Indeed 2016 was characterized by substantial drought conditions through the preceding winter and into the growing season. Warm, dry conditions in Spring were extremely favourable for a compact one week bloom period, leading to outstanding evenness of maturity in all vineyard blocks. The hot pre-harvest weather conditions and early picking, combined with concerns of fire risk, made for a uniquely demanding vintage. The Simonsberg mountain suffered fire damage, but fortunately, Vilafonté was not directly affected by fire nor smoke. Strategies implemented by the Vilafonté team protected the vines against heat, resulting in a surprisingly healthy vineyard with bright green leaves through harvest.

Harvest commenced on the 3rd of February and concluded on the 8th of March. In mid-February, the weather cooled and the Cabernet Sauvignon ripened under consistently cooler, more favourable circumstances than the early-season Merlot and Malbec, resulting in an unusually extended picking window. Severe drought conditions led to Vilafonté’s smallest per-hectare crop on record.

Vilafonté Series M 2016 Red Blend, WO Paarl, 14 Abv.

This red blend saw 22 months in 21% new French oak barrique with the balance aged in older French oak. The 2016 blend consists of 50% Malbec, 36% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc with 75 barrels or around 22,500 bottles produced. Lush and plush, this wine reveals a deep dark purple-garnet colour. While initially quite sweet, sappy and resinous on opening, a little time in glass allows the wine to gracefully compose itself and push its shoulders back to boldly reveal a beautiful nose of blackberry pie, cola, blueberry crumble, Ceylon tea, sweet cherry tobacco, sun raisined cranberry, a sweet toffee apple opulence and a gravelly, blackberry compote complexity. This wine is quite unlike many of the 2016 reds I have tasted, instead showing incredible aromatic lift, sweet berry fruited concentration, purity and a sense of utter winemaking control. With 50% of Malbec in the blend, the wine was always destined to resemble the more profound expressions of old vine La Consulta Malbecs from the Uco Valley in Argentina than any straight laced right bank blend dominated by Merlot or Cabernet Franc. But as I have learned over the last few years tasting the Vilafonté wines, this estate has taken Malbec to its heart and learnt to cherish the sappy sweet seductive opulence that this variety has offered as it has bedded into the local terroir. Indeed, its success can be regarded as one of the most significant fine wine phenomenons in the past 15 years and Vilafonté Series M personifies the potential of this grape married to the other classical Bordeaux varieties. My past experience of the Series M wines has taught me not to underestimate the satisfying underlying tension in the wines that sometimes take a few years to assert itself. This is no doubt an incredibly well crafted wine from one of the most up and coming wineries in South Africa and delivers a gorgeously honed hedonistic glass of vinous pleasure. Allow this wine to settle and gain more structural delineation with extra time in bottle, but if you simply can’t wait, pop it in a decanter for 2 hours and let the bouquet light up your life! Drink now to 2038+.

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

Watch out for the South African release on the 1st of March 2019. For further information, click here: https://www.vilafonte.com/members/

Putting the 2019 Platter 5 Star Wines through Their Paces – The Fine Wine Safari Assessment…

The Platter Wine Guide is the undisputed wine bible of South African wines. While this multi-award winning wine guide is not totally faultless in its approach to rating new release wines, it certainly is still the best all round annual informational resource guide a tourist or local South African wine enthusiast can buy.

So when Wines of South Africa UK presents the annual Platter Wine Guide 5 Star Tasting at the South African High Commission, it is always one of the most eagerly anticipated and well attended events for wine professionals whether they be journalists, a blogger, a wine commentator, restauranteur or a wine buyer.

Here is the Fine Wine Safari assessment of the 2019 Guide’s 5 Star wines. Over 70 wines were tasted and I have only listed the wines I rated 94 points or higher.

Whites:

Vergelegen G.V.B White 2015 

Varieties: 60% Schaapenberg Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon 

Region: Stellenbosch

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016

Varieties: 100% Chardonnay

Region: Stellenbosch

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Restless River Ava Marie Chardonnay 2016

Varieties: 100% Chardonnay

Region: Upper Hemel-enAarde Valley

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Bot River, Overberg

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Botanica Mary Delany Chenin Blanc 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Citrusdal Mountain

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

David & Nadia Hoe-Steen 2017 

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Swartland

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

David & Nadia Skaliekop 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Swartland

96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

De Morgenzon The Divas 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Stellenbosch

97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Thistle & Weed Duwweltjie Chenin Blanc 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Paarl

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

B Vintners Haarlem to Hope white blend 2017 

Varieties: 64% Chenin Blanc, 28% Semillon, 4% Muscat d’ Frontignan and 4% Muscat d’ Alexandrie 

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Old Vines 2017

Varieties: 65% Chenin Blanc, 13% Grenache Blanc, 10% Viognier, 10% Clairette Blanche, 2% Semillon Gris

Region: Swartland

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sadie Palladius 2016

Varieties:  Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, ClairetteBlanche , Viognier, Verdelho, Roussanne, Semillon Gris, Semillon Blanc and Palomino

Region: Swartland

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Savage white blend 2017

Varieties:  Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chenin Blanc

Region: Western Cape

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Stark-Condé The Field Blend 2017 

Varieties:  36% Chenin Blanc, 36% Roussanne, 17% Viognier, 11% Verdelho

Region: Stellenbosch, Jonkershoek Valley

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse white blend 2017

Varieties:  Roussanne, Chardonnay, Semillon, Clairette Blanche and Chenin Blanc

Region: Western Cape

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Red Wines:

Elemental Bob Graveyard Tinta Barocca 2017

Varieties:  100% Tinta Barocca

Region / WO: Stellenbosch

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Crystallum Cuvée Cinéma Pinot Noir 2017

Varieties:  100% Pinot Noir

Region: Hemel-enAarde

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Thelema Sutherland Petit Verdot Reserve 2015

Varieties:  100% Petit Verdot

Region: Elgin

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Raats Cabernet Franc 2016

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Franc

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Raats Dolomite Cabernet Franc 2016

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Franc

Region: Stellenbosch

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Stellenbosch 

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Reyneke Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Stellenbosch 

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Warwick The Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Stellenbosch 

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Hartenberg CWG Auction Reserve Shiraz 2015

Varieties:  100% Shiraz

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2016

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Swartland

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Leeuwenkuil Heritage Syrah 2015

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Swartland

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Porseleinberg Syrah 2016

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Swartland

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Rust en Vrede Single Vineyard Syrah 2015

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Stellenbosch

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Erika O Syrah-Grenache Noir-Cinsault 2016

Varieties: 53 % Syrah, 28 % Grenache Noir and 19 % Cinsault

Region: Western Cape 

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Saronsberg Full Circle Red 2016 

Varieties: 82% Shiraz, 11% Grenache, 6%  Mourvèdre, 1% Viognier

Region: Tulbagh

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015

Varieties: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot

Region: Stellenbosch

98/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Beeslaar Pinotage 2016 

Varieties:  100% Pinotage

Region: Stellenbosch

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2016 

Varieties:  100% Pinotage

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Kanonkop Black Label 2016

Varieties:  100% Pinotage

Region: Stellenbosch

97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sweet Wines:

Klein Constantia Estate Vin de Constance 2014 

Varieties:  100% Muscat de Frontignan

Region: Constantia

97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest 2017

Varieties:  100% Riesling

Region: Elgin

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Straw Wine 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc 

Region: Swartland

97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2016 

Varieties: 74% Touriga Nacional, 18% Tinta Barocca, 8% Tinta Roriz

Region: Calitzdorp

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Old Vines White Vertical Tasting in London From 2008 to 2017…

Chris Mullineux was recently in London to showcase a superb retrospective of Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Old Vine Whites from 2008 to current release 2017.

Interestingly, Chris mentioned that he thought 2003 was a date after which white blends really started to become famous with the release of now iconic white wines like Palladius from Eben Sadie. “At the time, it seemed a strange concept to blend Chenin Bland with exotic varieties like Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette Blanc, Verdelho etc. Now white blends are some of South Africa’s best wines in its offering.”

The Swartland is perfectly suited for white blends and Mulliineux Wines use Viognier, a pungent creamy grape that can be quite intense but is kept in check with the addition of small amounts of Clairette Blanche, with other varieties joining the blend for more recent vintages.

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Old Vines White Vertical Tasting Led by Chris Mullineux:

Mullineux Old Vine White 2008 (86% Chenin Blanc, 7% Clairette Blanche, 7% Viognier)

13.5% Abv, 2.4 RS, 5.9 TA, 3.41 pH
Subtle notes of honey, white toast, bruised yellow orchard fruits and saline, oxidative peachy notes. Lovely dusty mineral vein adding aromatic complexity. Incredibly rich and textural, honied and fleshy with an unctuous mouthfeel, sweet caramelised peach notes, herbal peach tea spice and a harmonious, glycerol broad mouthfeel. Very complex and classy, pure and vibrant with pleasing oxidative nuances.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2009 (61% Chenin Blanc, 23% Clairette Blanche, 16% Viognier)

134% Abv, 3.4 RS, 5.7 TA, 3.25 pH
From a warmer year, this shows more pithy, dusty, fynbos herbal lift, with plenty of gravel and stone fruit aromatics. Notes of honey, dried peach and dried guava roll with a maritime saline lift. Palate is beautifully creamy, sleek and balanced with amazing fleshy, peachy pastille fruit, dried yellow fruits and a real focused, pinpoint, intense finish.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2010 (80% Chenin Blanc, 10% Clairette Blanche, 10% Viognier)

13.5% Abv, 2.8 RS, 5.9 TA, 3.21 pH
Creamy, limey, waxy when it was young. Now the wine retains a more Burgundian presence with dusty vanilla pod, lemon pastille, dried mint leaf and baking herbs with subtle white citrus and granitic minerality. Palate is taut, mineral, focused and tight with honey and lime peel, lime cordial, buttered brown toast and a delicious crunchy, bright, crystalline green apple pastille finish. Young, bright and super youthful. Precision personified. Really exceptional!

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

Tasting with UK based South African restauranteur Neleen Strauss and Chris Mullineux.

Mullineux Old Vine White 2011 (65% Chenin Blanc, 26% Clairette Blanche, 9% Viognier)

13% Abv, 2.3 RS, 5.7 TA, 3.38 pH
A more spicy, lifted, piquant nose with spicy roasted almonds, walnut skins, buttered sweet corn and ripe lemon cordial. Palate is finely balanced with fleshy soft mouthfeel, vanilla and white toast drizzled with honey finishing with a sleek creamy texture and wonderful focus and harmonious, mellow balance. Despite spicy oxidative notes on the bouquet, the palate is super fresh and youthful.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2012 (76% Chenin Blanc, 16% Clairette Blanche, 8% Viognier)

13.5% Abv, 3.2 RS, 5.1 TA, 3.45pH
Quite an even vintage, not too hot or dry. Rich, creamy and round, with very fine purity, liquid mineral depth with pithy lemon peel, dusty gravel, piquant almond and roasted nuts. Palate is soft and broad, creamy and harmonious with quite a fleshy full mouthfeel, loaded with ripe glucerol fruit weight and finishes with very soft mellow acids. Cool and dreamy, still very youthful.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2013 (80% Chenin Blanc, 13% Clairette Blanche, 7% Viognier)

13.5% Abv, 1.5 RS, 5.8 TA, 3.29 pH
Above average rainfall in the Swartland, this was the last vintage where the Mullineux’s owned none of their own vineyards. The nose is quite sappy and herbal with notes of fynbos, dried mint leaf, green apple, piquant almond skins and dusty chalky notes. Palate shows great tension, focus and a deep core of glycerol yellow orchard fruit weight. Creamy yet fresh, crystalline and taut with out being too fat. Very youthful but in a slightly awkward phase at the moment. Leave in the cellar!

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2014 (73% Chenin Blanc, 13% Clairette Blanche, 10% Viognier, 4% Semillon Gris)

13.5% Abv, 2.7 RS, 5.6 TA, 3.5 pH
A big ripe opulent wine loaded with peach purée, honey, white toast and crushed gravel minerality. Plenty of aromatic gusto and power leading to a palate that equally shows impressive power and depth all in a subtly restrained framework of elegance and harmony. Peaches and creamy, lemon pastille, peach bon bons and a harmonious, mellow intense finish. Super young and backward, texturally very fine, but needs more time to blossom. A real classic and one of Andrea’s personal favourites.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2015 (74% Chenin Blanc, 12% Clairette Blanche, 6% Viognier, 4% Semillon Gris, 4% Grenache Blanc)

14% Abv, 2.2 RS, 5.2 TA, 3.30pH
After a wet 2014, this year saw around half of the annual rainfall with most falling in winter and almost none in summer months. Yields were naturally low and some fruit was dropped. The wine shows great textural intensity and concentration but also fine freshness and power. The nose is full of white blossom, pineapple pastille, citrus rock candy and creamy lemon biscuits. The palate follows the nose showing massive intensity, huge peachy concentration and a long crystalline finish. Young and bold, bury this in your cellar for 5 to 8+ years.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2016 (62% Chenin Blanc, 15% Grenache Blanc, 11% Viognier, 8% Clairette Blanche, 4% Semillon Gris)

13% Abv, 2.5 RS, 5.1 TA, 3.31 pH
Very dusty and chalky with notes of dry bush veld and fynbos, sweet botanical herbs and a savoury, peachy, earthy bruised orchard fruit complexing note. Palate is taut and tight, showing impressive tension and precision, a delicious orange peel and honeysuckle note and a superbly long, concentrated finish that shows the intensity of a drought year but also the precision of expert winemaking using fruit from great terroirs. Delicious now but certainly a keeper.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2017 (65% Chenin Blanc, 13% Grenache Blanc, 10% Clairette, 10% Viognier, 2% Semillon Gris)

13.5 Abv. 2.1 RS, 5.6 TA, 3.46 pH
Second year of drought with 280mm rain and slightly more than 2016 with some falling in January to help the vines recuperate as they neared harvest time. Following in the vein of the larger more complex blend, the wine shows massive aromatic complexity unfurling layers of dusty white peach, dried herbs, citrus blossom, honey, yellow fruits and a pronounced liquid mineral intensity. The palate shows spectacular focus and precision, pin point textural harmony and balance where the wine slips off the tongue leaving a powerful, unctuous, long, concentrated imprint on the senses. Super interplay between fruit intensity, acid freshness and liquid minerality with intelligent winemaking drawing the best out of these great Swartland terroirs. A very very impressive wine indeed. Another one for the cellar!

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

Mullineux Radicales Libres White blend 2012, WO Swartland, 14.5 Abv.

(76% Chenin Blanc, 16% Clairette Blanche, 8% Viognier) Deliciously alluring nose showing incredible richness and high tone complexity. Super exotic with notes of peach tea, vanilla pod spice, lemon biscuits, orange blossom pastille, dried yellow peaches and subtle hints of barley sugar. The palate reveals incredible richness and fruit concentration where you really feel the power of the wine amplified by the process of extended, oxidative barrel ageing. There is cedar spice, creamy vanilla wood tannins but also such incredible length that the palate gives the illusion of an addition of dollop of straw, ginger, grapefruit and candied fig. Incredible expression. Drink now to 2040+. Another unicorn wine from the Mullineux’s and one of my Top 10 SA Whites of 2018.

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

Many thanks to Berry Bros and Rudd for hosting this fascinating tasting in their St James’s Cellars. Mullineux Wines available to the trade in the UK through Fields, Morris & Verdin.

Vilafonte Blazing an Impressive Quality Trail with Their Seriously Old Dirt Second Wine – Their 2015 and New Release 2016 Reviewed…

I have been following Vilafonte’s Seriously Old Dirt releases quite closely since I first quaffed a few sneaky “members only” 2012 maiden release bottles with Mike Ratcliffe back in 2014 in Stellenbosch. But as a proper, true second wine of Vilafonte Series C and M, Seriously Old Dirt is a cuvee that has increased in quality in parallel to the amazing Vilafonte first wine releases.

But of course, everyone likes a fine wine bargain and everyone likes a plush, elegant premium wine with engineered structural accessibility while retaining age worthy credentials. So on the eve of the 2016 Vilafonte Series M release, I took the opportunity to re-examine not only the epic 2015 Seriously Old Dirt release but also taste the 2016 vintage for the first time. I was suitably impressed on many levels!

Vilafonte Seriously Old Dirt 2015,  WO Paarl, 13.5 Abv.

With more than a decade of vintages and a wealth of critical accolades and 90+ point ratings, Vilafonté has become a benchmark for South African Bordeaux blends. In 2012 they introduced a limited-production 2nd label – Seriously Old Dirt – that was initially only made availble to their private mailing list of international wine club members. Roll on three years and the epic 2015 follows on where the confident and solid 2014 (92/100 Greg Sherwood MW) left off. A wonderfully dense polished wine that is rich and full-bodied with complex aromas of pure black currant, black cherries, balsamic and fruitcake, lifted with Christmasy aromas of freshly cut cedar, nutmeg and all spice. The palate is impressively elegant and soft on entry with a ‘light on its feet’ texture but also a supremely concentrated, luscious mouth feel framed by a vibrant, fresh acidity that adds to the premium feel and expressiveness of this wine. Made in a proper second wine production model, this vintage is dead serious but can be approached and drunk now but will undoubtedly age beautifully for a decade and a half plus.

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

 

Vilafonte Seriously Old Dirt 2016, WO Paarl, 13.6 Abv.

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 76%, Merlot 13% and Malbec 11%. A deep purple black plum robe is cast by this new release Bordeaux blend. The nose is aromatically very complex and expressive, slowly unfurling layers of sweet fragrant black currant, blueberry compote, sweet pithy black cherries and alluring notes of sweet tobacco, wet autumn leaves, violets and dried mint leaf. Beautifully modern and incredibly precise, this medium bodied red blend observes the signature light touch accessibility of a genuinely premium second wine while teasing the palate with tremendous intensity of Cabernet-led creme de cassis, black currant pastille fruits, fruitcake, macerated damson plums and sun raisined black cherries. The flavours gently build in the mouth making you more and more aware of not only the persistent intensity of fruit but also the vibrant chiselled acids and chalky, powdery tannins. This is probably the most impressively assembled Bordeaux blend yet produced under the Seriously Old Dirt label and mirrors the incredible quality ascent witnessed in both the Vilafonte Series C and M 2016 releases. A really fabulous cuvee that imparts a lasting feel of grandeur and pleasure to the drinker. Like all previous releases, this is ready to go now but will age gracefully for at least 10 to 15+ years. 

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