Winemaker Corlea Fourie and Bosman Family Vineyards Creating Some Profound Benchmark Wines in Wellington…

The extensive Bosman Family vineyard holdings are based primarily in the Wellington region although a new winery in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near Hermanus was added to the portfolio in the last few years. As well as owning large swathes of vineyards, the Bosman Family are also one of the leading nurseries for vine rootstocks in South Africa. Under the lead of head winemaker Corlea Fourie, they make some fantastic white and red wines.

But two whites that really stand out head and shoulders above the rest of the wines in their range are the Fides Grenache Blanc and the Optenhorst Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc. The Fides was first produced in 2013 as a ‘project of passion’ for Corlea who is certainly regarded as one of the most talented and precise winemakers in South Africa. This wild ferment skin contact Grenache Blanc has certainly allowed Corlea to ‘let her hair down’ and experiment with her ‘wild side’.

The second wine of note  is the Optenhorst Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc from bush vines planted in 1952. In 2010 the Chenin Blanc Association funded research into the old vineyards of the Cape and it turned out that this was the 4th oldest registered Chenin Blanc vineyard in South Africa.

Bosman Fides 2016 Grenache Blanc, WO Wellington, 14 Abv.

An alluring old gold colour with just the faintest copper tinge. The aromatics are super complex and a little more ‘wild’ than previous vintages. One almost gets the feeling that Corlea has loosened her winemaker grip slightly and allowed this skin contact Grenache Blanc vintage to really express its own personally a little more. The nose is packed with ginger biscuit spice, tangerine peel, bruised yellow orchard fruits, furry yellow apricots, spearmint and complex savoury herbal nutty notes. The palate is sleek, focused and taught, displaying delicious fresh bristling acids, pithy phenolics, bitter orange peel, sweet pineapple and mango pastille fruits, and finishes with a lovely long, textural, harmonious length. A superb effort if not the best to date. Drink now to 2026+

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

Bosman Optenhorst Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2015, WO Wellington, 14.04 Abv.

The 2015 is an even more profound wine than the excellent 2014 Optenhorst. This superb new vintage plays to this wine’s style perfectly. The big rich bold bouquet is brimming with white peaches, tinned pineapple nuances, Golden Delicious apple puree, waxy pear skins and a fine vein of stony minerality. The palate possesses the most explosive concentration and intensity, coating all corners of the mouth with honied apples, yellow citrus, pineapple pastille and orange peel zest while all the while kept tightly under the firm reins of a mouth watering acidity. This is really one of South Africa’s top Chenin Blancs from one of the oldest vineyards in the country. This wine certainly does this heritage vineyard site justice. A real WOW wine. Drink now to 2035+ (RS 2.1 g/l, TA 7.8 g/l, pH 3.0)

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

A Photographic Record of My Year in Wine – 2017 – Part Four: October to December

So with my final instalment of my year in wine in photographs, I’d like to thank all my friends for helping to make 2017 such a rich and exciting year full of treasured experiences. Long may they continue in 2018!!

Happy New Year!

Pieter Ferreira from Graham Beck was back over in the UK to host an incredibly interesting and enjoyable food and wine matching lunch. Plenty of their premium Cuvee Clive was poured. We were joined by Gary and Cathy Jordan who are also in the process of planting and planning their own English sparkling wine.

One of the most enjoyable tastings of the year involved the highly talented Reenen Borman giving a sell out crowd an excellent masterclass on all the wines and projects he is involved with. We were joined by his successful and dynamic UK importer Preet from Edgmond Wines, who represent some top young stars.

Hot on the heels of the Reenen Borman tasting was the highly anticipated Eben Sadie Masterclass showing a packed room multiple back vintages of both Columella and Palladius. We all know Eben is not big on travelling overseas too often so it becomes all the more special when he does visit us in London. Needless to say, the tasting attracted big guns like Steven Spurrier.

Then finally, it was time to welcome all the South Africans back to London again for the SA New Wave Tasting including Ryan Mostert, Chris Alheit, Craig Wessels, Duncan Savage and Donovan Rall.

The slightly shy, soft spoken Callie Louw who makes the incredible wines of Porseleinberg in the Swartland was certainly one of the big draw cards at the New Wave Tasting. The greatness of these wines will only truly be appreciated in 20 years time.

I was so pleased Chris Williams won the Platter Guide SA White Wine of the Year 2017 with his delicious Foundry Grenache Blanc. Such a talented winemaker crafting his magic equally with whites and reds. I love all his wines.

The following evening after the SA New Wave Tasting, Handford Wines took the opportunity to host its South Africa Icon Tasting at the SA High Commission with the support of WOSA UK. Lovely having several winemakers in attendance including Adam Mason, Carl van der Merwe and of course Schalk Burger Snr… though James Handford MW might beg to differ!

Yet another lovely fine wine lunch punctuated the year this time with Neal Martin and my ex-colleague Mick O’Connell MW who flew in from Dublin specially.

One of the biggest success stories of the year has been the resurgence of Greek wines in the UK and especially the wines of Santorini. There are none better than Yiannis Valambous and his incredible Assyrtiko expressions from Vassaltis Winery!

October also saw one the most fantastic fine wine lunches at Michelin Starred Chez Bruce to toast the departure of Keith Prothero back to the Cape! Great having Neal Martin join once again and owner Bruce Poole on hand to curate a fantastic lunch menu!

Not all Saffers visiting London make South African wine! Manfred Ing is making some wonderful expressions in Chianti Classico at Querciabella and on the island of Giglio.

With Xito Olazabal passing through London for the New Douro Tasting, we were very fortunate enough to grab him to present a sell out Quinta do Vale Meao Douro Masterclass for private clients followed by a lovely dinner. Had to introduce Xito to Eben’s amazing Old Vine Series Treinspoor Tinta Barroca red.

Next up, a wonderful evening at Vintners’ Hall in November to celebrate the graduation of the new Masters of Wine including the Noble Rotter, Mark Andrews. A big congrats.

Of course, always lovely to catch up with South African MW No.3 and Chair of the Education Committee, Cathy van Zyl MW.

November saw two more significant wine trade events, the first being the superb Wines of California Napa Valley Vintners Tasting. Always fun tasting with talent like Mike Turner and the legend Oz Clarke.

The other big gathering was the International Wine and Spirits Competition Awards ceremony which saw Joe Fattorini honoured as best communicator of the year and Abrie Beeslaar and Kanonkop winning Winery of the Year and Winemaker of the Year! What an coup for SA!

With December near, there was still time to host legendary SA Winemaker Jeremy Walker for a top tasting in London.

Many fine oyster lunches were enjoyed with my good friend Anthony Crameri from St Emilion. He is officially one of the founding members of the #handfordoysterclub

But there was still time to inaugurate Car Boot Ruth Spivey into the #handfordoysterclub. She seemed suitably impressed with the honour!

Here’s hoping that in 2018 I will be able to lure Mr Zalto UK Daniel Primack to South Kensington so that he can be inaugurated into the #handfordoysterclub!

End of November also saw a rarified gathering of global wine talent to celebrate the 50th birthday of Jamie Goode at the Winemakers Club wine bar in London. Thank you to all the Winemakers who flew in for the party… Rajat Parr, Dirk Niepoort, Duncan Savage, Mick Craven, Brian and Marion Smith, Norm Hardie just to mention a few. What an epic night of fine wine.

Finally, a last throw of the dice celebrating Andrew Johnson’s birthday at the best restaurant in London and possibly the UK… the Ledbury. Farewell to Sam Lucas who has worked at the Ledbury for longer than I can remember and who takes up a top job in New York at Per Se Restaurant. You will be missed.

Oh, and thank you to Ledbury regular and Richmond neighbour Gareth Birchley for the photo! You scraped in Gazza! 😂🍷

A Photographic Record of My Year in Wine – 2017 – Part Three: July to September

After a very busy year, the Summer always seems a good time to catch ones breath and rest ones palate. Well, that is very much wishful thinking. July kicked off with a bang and the calendar was as fully packed as at any other time of the year. There seems to be no off switch anymore. All the more reason to make sure you enjoy your job, whatever it is that you do.

Part 3: July to September 2017

In July I arranged to join Neal Martin on a fun trip down to Wales to visit Ancre Hill Estates the fabulous high quality organic and biodynamic winery producing some of the best bubbles in the United Kingdom. Neal had received such a good response from his first English wine review in the Wine Advocate that it seemed a jolly good idea to go and visit!

A great picture of David Morris, son of owner and wine maker at Ancre Hill. I was thrilled when “Star & Furrow Magazine – The Journal of the Biodynamic Association” asked to use this picture for their January 2018 Edition profiling this talented young winemaker.

Always fun to catch up with Mike Ratcliffe in London, this time for a pre-release tasting of the Vilafonte Series C 2015 which rightfully made it on to my Top 10 most memorable reds from South Africa in 2017.

Thelema wines remain some of South Africa’s most iconic and it is wonderful to see Thomas Webb doing such a great job promoting them in the UK.

Summer time properly kicked off with another BBQ summer party gathering of the TW Wine Club… open to members of the wine trade (and VIP guests by invitation) who live in the Twickenham TW post code. Anne Burchett volunteered her lovely garden again and the weather obliged. Great to catch up with the whole gang including Jamie Goode, Oddbins MD Ayo Akintola, Telegraph journalist Victoria Moore and many others.

August heralded my first trip back to Tenerife since the mid 1980’s to catch a bit of sunshine and visit some of the wonderful wineries on the island, documented in my Fine Wine Safari series titled “The Tenerife Wine Odyssey”.  Great to visit one of the best, Suertes del Marques near La Orotava and be hosted by owner Jonatan Garcia Lima. Some amazing wines made on the island as confirmed by the high scores of Wine Advocate writer Luis Gutierrez’s recent Spanish Report covering the new releases from Suertes del Marques and Envinate, the islands two best producers.

Another great summer bash, this time generously hosted by David Clawson, owner of the Remedy Wine Bar. Plenty of fine wine enjoyed late into the night.

Never a dull moment when Ian Naude is around. He hosted numerous Masterclasses for us and really opened the eyes of a lot of consumers on the quality of old vine Chenin Blanc and Cinsaut coming out of South Africa.

One of the most highly anticipated Champagne tastings of the year was held in the late summer with the unveiling of the new release Krug 2004 vintage. Amazing wines tasted with Olivier Krug.

Plenty of fine wine drunk with Gary Jordan and Ian Naude on the occasion of their UK importer ABS’s new release portfolio tasting. A few cleansing ales wrapping up a fun day.

It’s not often a tasting of a Chilean producer includes a 100 point wine. Errazuriz’s Vina Chadwick cracked a 100 points last year and this year it was the turn of their Sena Bordeaux blend. Winemaker Francisco Baettig hosted us at 67 Pall Mall to sample the 2015 vintage new release as well as a vertical of several older vintage of both Sena and Vina Chadwick. Such distinguished wines.

With Wines of South Africa’s Intrepid Tasting just around the corner, it was time for the Saffers to decent upon London once again. Lovely to catch up again with Martin Meinert and Gottfried Mocke from Boekenhoutskloof.

The Intrepid Tasting was a great success despite the slight scheduling disconnect with The New Wave South Africa Tasting happening one month later. All the top journalists were there in force and the Tim Atkin MW 95+ Point table was a great draw card. Always fun to taste with Joe Wadsack, Neal Martin, Jo Wehring, Victoria Moore, Rosie Davenport etc.

In the gap between the Intrepid Tasting and the South African New Wave Tasting, there were a few moments to concentrate on “other” wines from around the world. Mark Savage MW, who has been importing Tertre Roteboeuf from St Emilion since the late 1970s, was on hand to present a fascinating vertical of wines from the current release all the way back to the late 1980s. A truly rare and fascinating occasion.

Another incredible vertical, written up on the Fine Wine Safari, was Luis Pato’s amazing Bairrada Baga vertical featuring some very rare single vineyard wines back to the mid 1980s.

The late summer was commandeered by Wines of California again starting with an amazing tasting tour of Sonoma wineries around London’s top steak houses organised by The Buyer’s Richard Siddle (above) and Peter Dean. A really innovative event and also very successful as well as enjoyable. Below, with my wing man for the day, Roger Jones.

Part of the entourage for the Sonoma Vintners Tasting was Joe Fattorini, presenter of The Wine Show, which is due to screen its second season soon.

The excellent Wines of California Tasting in Westminster allowed for a little reunion of our group that visited California in March. Above picture, myself with organiser Justin Knock MW and merchant Noel Young from Cambridge. Below, Noel Young, Amelia Singer and Peter Ranscombe.

Always lovely to have big Schalk Burger Senior visit when he is over in London, on this occasion for the Dunhill Invitational Pro/Am Golf Tournament at St Andrews … as well as several obligatory wine merchant visits with new Welbedacht vintages.

To end the third instalment of my year in wine through photographs, here’s a corker of our ex-manager Mick O’Connell MW over from Dublin to give us a preview of his super second vintage of Garnacha not Guerra 2016, which he produces in small quantities (1000 bottles) with his wife in Sardinia. 🍷

A Photographic Record of My Year in Wine – 2017 – Part Two: April to June

This is part 2 of my wonderful year in wine 2017 as seen through the lens of a camera. So many wonderful people encountered, delicious wines consumed and wonderful experiences forged into long term memories.

Part 2: April to June 2017

Many a late evening spent Chez Sherwood with this fella, David Shaw. Our friendship was truly forged through fine wine… Champagne Cristal 1985 in this instance.

After a busy session judging and tasting in South Africa, it was straight back to Europe and a week in Bordeaux to assess the 2016 En-primeur vintage. Always fun tasting with this chap – Tim Atkin MW. Funny enough, he knows a little bit about Bordeaux as well as South African wine!

Contemplation in wine… with Chateau Le Pin 2016 and a true gentleman of Bordeaux, Jacques Thienpont.

Still in Bordeaux! One of my favourite winemakers of all time, Peter Sisseck, taking us through his 2016 St Emilion Rocheyron as well as Pingus 2016! Delicious! 🍷

No trip to Bordeaux is ever complete without a tasting with the original bad boy himself, Jean-Luc Thunevin.

Lovely to see Philippe Bascule again at Chateau Margaux after I narrowly missed him in Napa Valley in March at Inglenook, where he is still consulting for 6 weeks a year.

Tasting with François Mitjavile of Tertre Roteboeuf in St Emilion. A truly passionate individual making some of the most individually great wines in St Emilion.

After tasting in Bordeaux, it was great to hook up again with these gals, Amelia Singer and Andrea Mullineux, in London for the UK Leeu Passant launch. Who says the world of wine is dominated by men!??

End of another year at the popular Remedy Wine Bar. Plenty of wonderful wine moments enjoyed there with these two, owner David Clawson (left) and regular quaffer-in-chief David Shaw.

We are very fortunate that the awesome Noble Rot Restaurant and Wine Bar is going strong. Here the whole rat pack enjoying an evening of 89/90 Chave, Jaboulet, Pegau and Beacastel! L to R. Neal Martin, Dan Keeling, Rowley Leigh, Luis Gutierrez (from the Wine Advocate) and a very generous wine collector!

Funny enough, Luis Gutierrez was on holiday in London with his family and we bumped into them all at the Remedy Wine Bar the following night! Introducing Luis to Testalonga Wish I Was a Ninja Colombard Pet Nat!

Attending the inauguration of the new Institute of Masters of Wine HQ in Battersea with a few friendly MW faces.

Lots of fun to be had when Uncle Ernie visits London. Great tasting through his delicious Ernst Loosen 2016 Rieslings.

Attending the legendary Michael Broadbent MW’s 90th Birthday at Vintners’ Hall with his son Bartholomew Broadbent and a host of wine trade celebrities. A great honour.

Always fun catching up with Craig Hawkins in London for his refreshing take on winemaking! Love his latest releases.

A real wine trade power crowd gathered to celebrate the launch of The Telegraph journalist Victoria Moore’s new book, Wine Dine Dictionary. A great piece of work.

Fellow guests Will Lyons, Anne Burchett and Anthony Rose (above) and Matt Walls, Dan Keeling and Julia Harding MW (below).

Always exciting tasting the new Barolo releases with Theresa Mascarello (below). Her wines are becoming uber collectable and near impossible to buy on release.

Wonderful privilege to taste and write up a superb Creation Pinot Noir Reserve Vertical with JC and Caroline Martin at the wonderful 67 Pall Mall. Awesome Hemel-En-Aarde Ridge wines.

Lovely to finally meet Winemaker Norm Hardie at the Wines of Canada tasting at Canada House on Trafalgar Square. Some superb cool climate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

May month means London Wine Trade Fair time. Always a privilege to taste with the legendary Steven Spurrier.

Catching up with my California Trip partners in crime at the trade fair, journalist Peter Ranscombe and master blogger, Mike Turner. Two very talented wine trade commentators.

Another of my favourite winemakers, Julien Schaal, has had a fantastically successful year being awarded his first Platter Guide 5 Stars. Great catching up with him at his importers London Portfolio Tasting.

My other California Trip partner in crime… Sir Colin Hampden – White. An amazingly talented photographer, wine judge and Whiskey Editor & connoisseur. Sharing memories together of our Raymond Winery visit in March.

A big highlight of the year sharing a long lazy lunch with Pinotage king Beyers Truter. Such a lovely chap and full of very entertaining wine trade stories. He has certainly been around the block!

June highlights wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my fabulous trip back to South Africa to celebrate my father Roy’s 80th birthday with a special bottle of Bogogno Cannubi Barolo Riserva 1937.

Posted by my old school pal Fortunato Mazzone at his amazing new restaurant, Forti’s Grill and Bar. Such a special evening with so many fab bottles of wine including this Drappier Grande Sendre 1988!

Managed to squeeze a standard 9 hour wine trade lunch in with the great Derek Kilpin of fine wine specialist importer Great Domaines. A lot of special bottles consigned to history!

I had the pleasure of Dirk Niepoort’s company several times through the year at numerous tastings and lunches, none more exciting than the Niepoort 2015 Vintage Port Launch Tasting! What a legend!

Pleasure to host Giuseppe Vajra from Piedmont for an fabulous tasting including vintages of one of my favourite Barolo crus, Bricco delle Viole. Burgundy meets Barolo!

Hans Vinding Diers was born on the Rustenberg Estate! Now days this cousin of Peter Sisseck is happily married with his first child making some truly amazing wines down in Patagonia, Argentina. I can’t wait to visit there one day!

Another great picture with two of my great wine pals, Car Boot lady Ruth Spivey and Remedy Wine Bar owner David Clawson. Smiles all round after a superb Burgundy lunch at Cabotte Restaurant.

Perfectly fitting to end my second instalment of my year in wine through pictures with two people who work tirelessly promoting South African wine, Jo Wehring and Andre Morgenthal. What a year it’s been for South African wine, especially in London with the phenomenal Old Vines Project Tasting launch at the South African High Commission being one of my vinous highlights of the year!

A Photographic Record of My Year in Wine – 2017 – Part One: January to March

Another very eventful year in wine! While 2017 may be considered a very challenging year for global politics, from my experiences, it was another very successful year in the wine trade.

Some amazing wines were tasted, beautiful wineries visited and new friendships forged over some great bottles of wine. Here is Part 1 of 4 covering the first quarter of the year.

January – March 2017

Always great catching up with my jet setting buddy Jamie Goode over a few bottles of fine wine. Wine journos don’t do “dry January” luckily!

Gaja is one of my favourite wineries, so it was great having Giovanni Gaja over in the UK for 3 months while working with his importer.

Always great to catch up with Peter-Allan Finlayson from Crystallum over a few decent bottles.

Hannes Myburgh one of the biggest characters in the SA wine trade, overseeing production of Meerlust, one of the greatest South African Icon wines, with Winemaker Chris Williams.

Wines of Germany rolled out the big guns at their annual investiture dinner at Vintners Hall. Here Hugh Johnson, Neil Beckett and Margaret Rand.

Brian Bicknell became one of my favourite NZ winemakers when I fell in love with his wines at Seresin. Now days, he produces some fab wines at his own winery Mahi in Marlborough.

Axel Heinz from Ornellaia hosted one of the most exciting tastings of the year – A deconstruction of Ornellaia 2015 and all it’s component parts.

I headed off to California in March with a star studded crew, none more so than up and coming tv / media sensation, Amelia Singer from the Wine Show.

Great catching up with Bruce Cakebread at one of many fantastic Napa lunches and tastings.

Popped my cherry finally and visited one of my favourite wineries, Silveroak in Alexander and Napa Valley. Marketing Director Vivian Gay a great old friend after all these years!

Back in London, Alvaro Palacios presenting the new vintages of L’Ermita from Priorat always a big highlight!

Before heading back to South Africa for judging, I was treated to a great tasting with Pieter Bubbles Ferreira from Graham Beck.

Top Team and top times at the Nederburg Auction pre-selection judging with Richard Kershaw MW and Kenichi Ohashi MW among others.

Lovely catching up with Duncan Savage to taste the new CWG Love Boat red and white in Stellenbosch.

A fantastic preview tasting of all the new release Mullineux wines along with the superb Leeu Passant wines at their Roundstone Farm in the Swartland.

Perfect timing means being able to Gate crash Adi Badenhorst’s Oesaf end of harvest party.

An epic memorable dinner hosted by Chris and Andrea Mullineux at Roundstone with Eben Sadie and Rosa Kruger.

Fabulous tasting of new vintages with legend Ian Naude. Exciting changes ahead for 2018 as he finally goes solo under the Naude Family Wines label.

A superb tasting and lunch at Gabrielskloof tasting the fabulous 2016 wines from John Seccombe, Donovan Rall, and Peter Allan Finlayson.

Then on to Hamilton Russell Vineyards to be greeted by Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell bearing gifts of Beluga caviar and Bollinger Champagne for our sundowners on the cliffs above Hermanus. Lovely!

Then, one of my best tastings of a 10 day trip with young, supremely talented winemaker Emul Ross. Quality has never been this high at Hamilton Russell!

And then back to the UK in time for Bordeaux En-primeur and the 2016 vintages.

Part 2: April to June 2017 coming soon…

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Most Memorable South African Red Wines of 2017…

South Africa must possess some of the most distinguished and diverse high quality white wines in the world. But some how it seems that consumers, connoisseurs and collectors judge a country or region’s prestige almost exclusively based on the quality of the red wines produced. In 2017 South Africa fortuitously released many of its truly greatest 2015 red wines making it a bumper year for red wine ratings and reviews internationally.

My top 10 selection of reds and whites is based on wines that I tasted and drank through the year and that I considered supremely memorable as well as very high in quality. They were not selected purely based on scores.

So again, in no specific order…here is my Top 10 Most Memorable South African Red Wines of 2017.

MR de Compostella Bordeaux Blend 2015, Stellenboch – 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Bruwer Raats may be known as the Chenin King but it has to be his incredible red wines that have truly cemented his global reputation as an iconic fine wine producer. There can be no doubting the quality of his amazing Cabernet Franc reds which he is so proud of. Indeed, who can forget the high powered tasting in Europe where his 2001 Cabernet Franc trumped Cheval Blanc 2001 and was lauded by Jancis Robinson OBE MW as one of the greatest varietal Cabernet Francs in the world. But for me, it is another wine that has always captured my heart.

As a consummate Bordeaux lover, the MR de Compostella has been an absolute eye opener since the maiden 2004 was released. Tasted again recently, the 2004 is still youthfully dense, taught, concentrated and utterly majestic with another 20+ years of life left ahead of it. Having tasted every vintage pre-release since 2004, I like to think I have an intimate knowledge of this wine. So when Bruwer did a pre-release vertical tasting in London earlier this year, we got to see the 2015 in all its noble splendour. I received a few raised eye brows for scoring this wine 98 points, but my argument was simple… When tasted along side critically acclaimed MR vintages that scored 95 or 96 points internationally, the 2015 was considered 15% to 20% better. So I had no hesitation in scoring this wine 98 points and declaring it my 🍷🍷 South African Red Wine of the Year 2017.  

Congratulations Bruwer Raats and team.

Raats Family Wines Eden Single Vineyard High Density Cabernet Franc 2015, Stellenbosch – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

As if making one of the highest rated reds in South Africa wasn’t enough, Bruwer has continued to pursue his passion for all things Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc related, launching the first Raats Eden High Density red and white releases last year to great acclaim. The Eden Cabernet Franc has seduced journalists from far and wide, astounding drinkers with the quality achieved from 6 year old vines. ‘Quality by Design’ is the buzz phrase attributed to these fascinating wines that have been recognised locally in South Africa and internationally as outstanding examples of Cabernet Franc varietal purity and precision. Made in tiny quantities, this is a red wine designed to impress the most accomplished and educated palates. I sense there will be very little disagreement on the inclusion of this wine.

Beeslaar Pinotage 2015, Stellenbosch – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

I recently attended the International Wines & Spirits Competition awards ceremony in London a few weeks ago and sat at the neighbouring table to Abrie Beeslaar and Johan Krige, to witness them being awarded the “International Winery of the Year” for the third year in a row and “Winemaker of the Year” for their outstanding wines at Kanonkop. What an honour. But Abrie also has a small project on the side producing limited amounts of this eponymously named wine from some exceptional Pinotage grapes. Only in its fourth vintage, this impressive Pinotage comes from a 22 year old single block close to Simonsig planted on shale soils. Seeing less new oak than the super premium Kanonkop Black Label, this expression is an opulent, sleek, textured glassful of brilliance with the most incredible harmony, purity and balance. This is exceptional Pinotage that really puts this unique variety on the world wine map. An outstanding effort from Abrie Beeslaar.

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Roundstone Schist Syrah 2015, Swartland – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW  

In March I paid a long awaited visit to Chris and Andrea at their Roundstone farm in the Swartland to taste the new releases of their Mullineux and the Leeu Passant wines. The Schist Syrah, sourced from grapes grown on the Roundstone farm,  has become one of their most sought after wines internationally due to its opulence, fragrance and balanced blueberry fruit intensity that harks back to the great icon wines of the northern Rhone in every way. I do have an inkling that their Granite or Iron Syrah Cuvées may age better over the very long term, but over the medium term, the Schist Syrah represents one of the most outstanding expressions of Syrah coming out of South Africa at the moment.

Duncan Savage Follow the Line 2016 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

Of all the new red wine creations that have come out of the Cape in the past five years, few can rival Follow the Line for its mantel of most delicious cult wine! This wonderful Cinsault / Grenache / Syrah blend from Duncan Savage is a wine that effectively captured the mood of a new generation of wine drinkers looking for characterful, vibrant, energetic, crunchy fresh reds that could be drunk on release or cellared for 10+ years. Since the maiden 2014 release, this wine has got better and better and now that Duncan is settling into his own new urban winery in Salt River in Cape Town, you can expect all his whites and reds to become even more focused and distinguished. One of my favourite red wines from one of my favourite South African winemakers. If you have not tried this wine yet, get your skates on!

Sadie Family Wines Columella Red Blend 2015, Swartland – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

What a year it has been for Eben Sadie! Winemaker awards, sell out wines, continued growing cult status internationally, and high quality wines that seem to get better and better every year despite vintage conditions. With already two whites making my top 10, this has got to be the wine that Eben takes the most pride in producing. He has always been aware of the hype that surrounds the micro vinifications in the Old Vine Series, but the Palladius and Columella are his “day job” and his bread and butter and most certainly his pride and joy. So to have released two of the greatest ever expressions of both of these wines is a true testament to the upward trajectory that Eben continues to travel on. One of the truly great winemakers of the world and one of the greatest wineries. What an accolade to make South African’s proud.

Brian Smith & Niels Verburg The Cabernet Franc 2014, Bot River – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

While neither Brian Smith or Niels Verburg are newcomers to the South African wine scene, their new joint venture red certainly ruffled a few feathers in the local South African wine scene with the release of the THE Cabernet Franc sourced from a small vineyard in the Bot River region. Classy, polished, opulent, and distinguished, this wine has all the attributes of a Napa Valley cult wine including the matching price tag. The greatest thing about this wine has been the discussion and open debate that has resulted after its release… which was one of its primary aims to be fair. The contents is certainly very sexy and luxurious and drinking my first bottle was undoubtedly a very memorable moment.

Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2015, Stellenbsoch – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

I remember seeing my Swartland based Rhone junkie friends Ryan Mostert and Samantha Suddons drinking bottles of Boschkloof Syrah and occasionally Epilogue Syrah years ago and thinking that I need to get to grips with these wines (I grew up drinking father Jacques Bormans’ wines!) When Jamet junkies are raving about them, they must be serious. Last Christmas I reviewed the Epilogue 2014 Syrah and rated it as one of my top reds of the year. Surely the epic 2015 vintage would have to be better!? Well, I would say it is equally as good but not better. It is the perennial trap we fall into thinking that block buster vintages always make better wines. For most producers they do, but for the likes of Reenen Borman, his real talents are revealed in the less than perfect vintages (2014 or 2016). But splitting hairs aside, this is one of the most profound northern Rhone, Cote Rotie’esque  expressions of Syrah available in the New World. Well done Reenen!

Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

What a year of change it has been for Ian Naude. After years of serving other masters, he has finally gone solo and become his own boss. Under the Naude Family wines label he will now seduce us with his very best talents in the form of Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Cinsault and Semillon. But just like last year when I included his “older” Chenin Blanc 2013, this year I have found myself simply unable to exclude his most profound, complex and impressive Grenache 2014. Such is the intrigue surrounding this wine that we felt compelled to repeat the “Wine Cellar / Roland Peens” Rayas blind show down again in London at one of the top Michelin star restaurants. Yet again, this fabulous wine beat off the competition and trounced some of the world’s greatest Grenache reds with ease. Sadly, this vineyard grape contract was subsequently lost and has not been made again since. So it is now not only one of the great red wines of South Africa, but it is firmly moving into the Unicorn ranks of collectability. We stand in hope that Ian will venture back into the Grenache minefield and attempt to craft another gem from this temperamental Rhone grape. Meantime, if you find any of the 2014, snap it up immediately!

Vilafonte Series C 2015, Paarl – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

This is another winery project that I have been following closely since its maiden vintage release in 2003. This joint venture between Warwick Estate’s Mike Ratcliffe and Californian wine guru power couple Phil Freese and Zelma long, unashamedly set out to produce the most precise, polished, high quality expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot possible from their manicured vineyards in Paarl. There is a subtle gloss to the wines, there is incredible polish, and the wines are quite international in style in many ways, but above all, there is a sense that the end goal is extreme quality without compromise. Ok, this approach may not work quite as well with wilder Syrah, Grenache or Cinsault, but for international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec… it is surely the path to greatness. Add to the ingredients a 5 star block buster vintage and hey presto, the Series C 2015 miraculously resembles some of the iconic high scoring Chateaux of Pauillac and St Julien from a riper left bank vintage in Bordeaux but with the precision and polish of Napa Valley.

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Most Memorable White South African Wines of 2017…

What a busy year it’s been. No sooner had the smoke from the New Year’s Eve 2017 fireworks cleared then it seemed plans were being made for Christmas lunch 2018. Where did the year go?

Fortunately, I can punctuate my year with some of the exciting wines I have tasted and drunk along the way… and there have been a lot of them. My Top 10 list of whites and reds is not necessarily made up of the 10 highest scoring wines I tasted but is more focused on wines that were very memorable and enjoyable to experience. Inevitably, most of them will be among my highest rated wines of the year.

And the winners are… in no particular order… though I’m starting with Raats Family Wines as a nod of respect to Bruwer Raats for winning the Platter Wine Guide Winery of the Year 2017 Award.

Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2015 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

I first tasted the first release 2014 with Bruwer Raats in South Africa at his winery tasting room pre-release. I thought it was knock out good. I couldn’t believe you could make a wine this profound from vines so young (4 or 5 years old back then). Tasting the 2015 merely reinforced Bruwer’s incredible achievement, making another fabulous wine of note from young high density Montpellier Clone plantings of Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc. If the vineyards remain healthy, the mind boggles at the potential quality that might be seen in 15 or 20 years time!

Alheit Family La Colline Semillon 2016 – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Made from vines planted in 1936 on a southern slope at 320 metres in the Franschhoek Valley, this old vine Semillon blended with a little Semillon Gris, is a very profound offering. Such complexity with notes of peaches, beeswax, jasmine, custard pie, tangerines, and yellow citrus. But the wine also manages to remain dense and concentrated yet light on its feet, understated and restrained, classically shaped, but also showing a touch of struck match reduction. I tasted this wine several times, but it was during the Old Vine Project tasting at the South African High Commission in London that this wine really stood out in the same way a Grand Cru white Burgundy would in a tasting of village wines. An amazing winemaker using an amazing vineyard. One of South Africa’s very own Grand Cru expressions.

Sadie Family Old Vine Series ‘T Voetpad 2016 – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

While they are all incredible wines, there is always a stand out wine in the Old Vine Series range every year. This year the Kokerboom Semillon and Skurfburg Chenin Blanc were both very impressive but it was the extra depth and complexity of the Voetpad field blend that captivated me. This is a wine that ages incredibly well and previous vintages tasted blind at lunches have been called out as Grand Cru Burgundy before. This is the league in which this wine comfortably sits. Only small quantities are produced and allocations are always small, but it is a wine worth tracking down and spending a few bob on.

Sadie Family Palladius White Blend 2015 – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

While we are talking about the incredible talents of Eden Sadie, it seems appropriate to highlight one of his most outstanding achievements. As a part time hobby winemaker myself, I qualified as one of the Masters of Wine who got to cast a vote for the Institute of Masters of Wine’s Winemakers Winemaker Award 2017… which thankfully went to Eben Sadie. I have been voting to Eben for years and it is rewarding that his talents have well and truly been internationally recognised now. So it is fitting that he released what is probably his finest expression of the Palladius White blend to date this year. Tasted again most recently at his masterclass held in London, this is a wine that can hold its own against the greatest whites from around the world. Every connoisseurs’ cellar should have a few cases in it!

Reyneke Natural Chenin Blanc 2016 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

I have always loved the purity and energy of the biodynamic wines of Reyneke especially the reserve white which often appears in journalists’ top wines of the year lists. This Natural Chenin was a latecomer for me as I did not taste it earlier in the year in South Africa and stock only just arrived in the UK in December. But I reviewed this wine on the Fine Wine Safari site recently and it really blew me away. The energy, intensity, complexity and drinkability really took me by surprise and pleasingly, another Stellenbosch Old Vine Chenin Blanc squeezed its way into my top 10 wines of the year. Well done to Rudiger Gretschel and Johan Reyneke.

David & Nadie Hoe Steen Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2016 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

I feel intimately related to this wine having been one of the Decanter judges on the blind panel that made history and awarded the 2015 Hoe Steen 98/100 and the unofficial Chenin crown. Again, the 2016 like the 2015, was made in tiny quantities and will be sold out before most people even get to hear about it. But this is a wine and a vineyard site that is being made into something really great by the gentle giant David Sadie (no relation to Eben Sadie). Together with his wife Nadia, they are producing some of the top white and red wines in South Africa. If you can’t get your hands on the Hoe Steen or his other Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc Skaliekop, then just buy his amazing regular David & Nadia Chenin Blanc. Another successful year for this lovely couple.

Thorne & Daughters Paper Kite Semillon 2016 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Another of my favourite producers in South Africa, everything John Seccombe touches seems to turn into something magical, none more so than his Paper Kite Semillon old vine white. With all their successes, it is hard to believe John and Tasha Seccombe only started their winery in 2012. Funnily enough, I tasted this wine earlier in the year in March with John and proclaimed at the time that this wine could already be a candidate for my top 10 whites of the year. Nothing has changed since then and along with the Alheit La Colline, remains one of the most tantalising expressions of this varietal in South Africa.

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2015 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

It’s safe to say a lot of planning and hard work went into the sourcing of suitable fruit and the subsequent production of this amazing wine. But of course, Chris and Andrea Mullineux don’t do things by half measure. Released earlier this year to great acclaim, the Leeu Passant range consists of two Chardonnays and one red blend. Just in the same way I love to taste profound Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, after all the headline stealing wines from the Swartland, so too is it rewarding to taste a great Stellenbosch Chardonnay in the face of incredible upstarts and challengers from top wineries in Elgin and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. This is a delicious wine and yet another success story for this winemaking power couple based in the Swartland.

(A previous deconstructed vintage label)

Kershaw Wines Deconstructed Chardonnay Bokkeveld Shales CY548 2016 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Talking of upstarts from Elgin… Richard Kershaw MW has turned the world of New World Chardonnay on its head and succeeded in producing one of, if not the most profound examples ever seen from South Africa. His deconstructed range takes the terroir and clonal components of his main Kershaw Wines Chardonnay and bottles small amounts of them individually to illustrate the unique character and winemaking results of the soils and clones on their own. This version is spellbinding, with nuances harking back to the greatest Premier Cru vineyards of Meursault in Burgundy. Almost impossible to buy now, but if you come across this wine via the internet or on a restaurant list, pay the money and drink this profound wine. It could change your life!

Patatsfontein Old Vine Steen Montagu Chenin Blanc 2016 – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

2016 was the second of what looks like being four years of difficult drought vintages in South Africa… 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. After a wet winter, the 2015 whites had plenty of water reserves to ripen wonderfully healthy fruit and the resulting wines have been every bit the expected block busters. So it was with great surprise that I tasted and rated this 2016 Chenin Blanc from Reenen Borman even more highly than the delicious 2015. A masterful, intelligent winemaker, Reenen has crafted a real gem from this Montagu vineyard. If the partnership involved in producing this wine can retain the vineyard fruit contract in Montagu, drinkers will be in for several more years of incredible Chenin Blanc treats from Patatsfontein.

So those were my Top 10 Most Memorable Whites of 2017. As it’s not based on scores, it becomes a very much more subject exercise. Wine is based on enjoyment and sharing experiences with friends. These experiences in turn hopefully become treasured memories.

Watch out for my high powered “Top 10 Most Memorable South African Reds of 2017” coming soon as well as “My Year in Wine 2017 in Pictures.”

Merry Christmas! 🎅🏼