Having just tasted Duncan Savage’s new 2016 Are We There Yet? Touriga Nacional based blend, reinforced again what great potential these “alternative” warm climate varieties have in a future South African wine landscape. While this was Duncan’s first release, Eben Sadie on the other hand is already half a decade into the Treinspoor releases.
Made from 42 year old Tinta Barocca sourced from a vineyard in the Swartland, the 2016 new release appears to have reached a nouveau of quality not seen before for this variety in South Africa. This latest bottling rides on a wave of lifted perfumed perfection, with intense red cherry pastille, parma violets, rose water and sweet jasmine all mingling with seductive, piecing red and black bramble berry fruits. The palate shows a vibrant focus and purity of fruit I don’t recall ever seeing to this degree on this wine before. There are lashings of sweet cherry sherbet bon bons, pink musk sweets, red currant confit , purple nastergal (African nightshade berry), and tart Victoria plums. Wonderful concentration, palate tingling acidity freshness and superb harmonious depth. The ‘poor cousin’ in the Old Vine Series has just hit the jackpot and is riding high. Drink now to 2030+
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
I guess it makes complete sense then when Eben says he feels that this red grape Tinta Barocca “might well transport the Swartland Terroir best into liquid form, purely because it captures the soils and the earthiness of the place.”
Eben regarded his 2015 as the most refined version ever, but for me, the 2016 I tasted surpasses even this monumental achievement.
Yet again we are approaching one of the most exciting moments of the year… the launch of the new releases of Duncan Savage’s sought after wines. It was only after I started compiling an archive list of all the past Savage wine scores, featured below, that I realised how quickly time passes and why so many winemakers feel under so much pressure to learn, grow and utilise their incremental knowledge in each consecutive vintage release. After all, we don’t measure winemakers in age, we measure them in how many vintages they’ve made and how many more they realistically have left, all going well.
But as I write this post, our fleeting, finite time on this planet is made all the more stark as I learnt today of the sad passing of Boetie van Reenen, one of the young vineyard owners and growers responsible for much of the fruit that goes into many of Duncan Savage’s wines. Let’s hope his memory lives on in the age worthy wines of Duncan and his fellow winemakers.
On a more cheerful note, 2017 was the year that Savage Wines found a permanent home in a wonderful winery space in Salt River, just outside the city bowl suburbs of central Cape Town. Securing these premises was a massive coup for Duncan and his future growth plans. Quality can only get better with the extra focus his own winery will afford him.
Savage Wines’ 2017 Releases:
Savage White Blend 2016
After producing one of the most memorable Savage white blends in the 2015 vintage, the 2016 offering was always going to come under ever closer scrutiny. From the second of the drought vintages, this white from Duncan Savage is a blend of 54% Sauvignon Blanc, 29% Semillon and 17% Chenin Blanc with a 14% Abv. A brilliant lime straw yellow, this wine has a bold and expressive aromatic profile of pithy grated lemon peel, pineapple pastille fruits, crushed limestone minerality, pear drops and sugar dusted marshmallows. Pause for too long to appreciate the complexity in the glass and before you know it the wine has evolved further, offering up yet more intricate notes of white citrus blossom, crunchy green pears and dried baking spices of basil and thyme. With the sizeable chunk of 17% Chenin Blanc asserting itself in the blend, the 2016 has a much more distinctive Cape feel rather than the white Bordeaux Graves expression of previous vintages. There is an intense, piercing concentration to the palate, with powerful glycerol notes of white citrus, yellow grapefruit, crunchy white peaches, and tangerine peel, underpinned by a herby, dusty, wet chalk minerality. Rich, unctuous and roundly textured, this wine coats every corner of the drinker’s palate and asserts its exceptional quality, complexity and winemaking pedigree. Drink now to 2027.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Savage Follow the Line Red Blend 2016
For the previous two vintages of this wine, one could wonder whether perhaps it’s exceptional quality and intensity was perhaps the result of a lucky synergistic blend or the product of a very complex, generous vintage. But this 2016 is probably the vintage that looks set to impress the critics yet again and seduce the consumer even more so than the crunchy 2015 vintage. A blend of 44% Cinsaut, 37% Grenache and 19% Syrah at 13% Abv, this wine sings a lofty melodic chorus the moment the cork is pulled. The riper, dryer vintage evidently plays to the strengths of these red varieties with the most seductive perfumed nose of parma violets, sweet cherry blossom, bathroom soaps, rose petals and potpourri sweet spice. The brilliance of this wine lies in the synergy created marrying the vibrant marzipan laden Cinsaut with the sappy, mineral, red fruited Grenache, leaving the Syrah to lend a tantalising depth of structure and peppery savouriness. The palate is so seamless, harmonious and elegant with sweet boiled raspberry bon bons, red current herbal tea infusions, ripe cranberries, and a crunchy, vibrant, strawberry fruited finale. Such sweet, silky, fleshy tannins linger on a creamy, opulent, energetic finish. Perhaps less of the exotic, crunchy hubris of the 2015, but the 2016 is certainly a far more self assured, confident red wine that looks set to once and for all, cement its global icon status as one of the truly great fine wines to follow, year in, year out. Drink now to 2030+.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Savage Are We There Yet? Red Blend 2016
A new wine in the Savage range, anyone who knows Duncan well will know that Touriga Nacional is a grape that has impressed him more and more over the years. Starting with small amounts blended into his Savage red, this new expression is a bold blend of 85% Touriga Nacional, 8% Cinsaut and 7% Grenache at 14.5 Abv. The dominant variety of the Douro Valley in Portugal, this big bold red shows a heady, lifted nose of violets, earthy mulberry, red currants, liquorice, and macerated damson plums, with complexing notes of tannery leather, sappy hedgerow, and sweet cedar and clove spice. Despite the opulent, seductive, confit fruit notes, there is a dusty, crushed grey slate mineral vein that starts on the nose and continues right through the palate. Full and fleshy, the Touriga Nacional from Malgas is supple, opulent and sweetly fruited. The Cinsaut lends both an exotic, marzipan and violet fragrant lift, but more importantly adds freshness and extra acidity cut. An intriguing wine from a very warm, dry vintage, this wine could become the natural counter-foil to the Savage Follow the Line and its crunchy, nervy energy. This bold red will find a large, welcoming audience in both the local and international markets when released. Drink now to 2026+.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Savage Red Blend 2016
If there is one wine in the Savage range that would have embraced the warm, dry growing conditions of 2016, then it must surely be the Savage red. In 2016, it is comprised of 81% Syrah, 11% Grenache and 8% Cinsaut at 13.5 Abv. Perhaps the most classically proportioned of all the Savage reds, this Syrah dominated blend has a beautifully complex nose of perfumed dried roses, black berry fruits, grilled herbs, cured meats, garrigue, fynbos and dusty granitic minerality. Very forward and opulent, the 2016’s are showing wonderful overt confidence and composure already at this early stage. Indeed the Savage red is often the one specific wine that demands a few extra years in bottle before showing you its full potential. The palate is so fleshy and forward with accessibly soft, harmonious tannins and sleek vibrant acids that elevate the red cranberry and strawberry fruit flavours and highlight the wines impressive palate concentration and depth. This seductive Savage red is going to be a hard one to keep away from your corkscrew! Drink now to 2030+.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
The South African launch of these wines is scheduled for 1st August 2017. You can email email@example.com or ring +27 21 785 4019 to request an allocation.
The Savage Wines Score Archive Since Maiden Release:
Savage White Blend 2016 – 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Follow the Line Red Blend 2016 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Are We There Yet Red Blend 2016 – 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Red Blend 2016 – 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage White Blend 2015 – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Red Blend 2014 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Follow the Line Red Blend 2015 – 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Girl Next Door Syrah 2015 – 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage White Blend 2014 – 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Red Blend 2013 – 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Follow the Line Red Blend 2014 – 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Girl Next Door Syrah 2014 – 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Red Blend 2012 – 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage White Blend 2013 – 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Red Blend 2011 – 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage White Blend 2012 – 94-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Thelema Mountain Vineyards is an absolute Cape classic, located high on the slopes of the picturesque Simonsberg Mountain in the heart of Stellenbosch, the true Kingdom of Cabernet. With vineyards grown at elevations of between 370m and 530m above sea level, Thelema is one of the highest and coolest estates in the area with 100 percent of the fruit used coming from their own vineyards.
For the last few years, Thomas Webb has taken over the reigns from his father Gyles Webb, who established Thelema in 1983 by purchasing a run down fruit farm. The first wines were released in 1988 and they soon became some of the most sought after wines in the Cape winelands and pretty soon came to typify the new quality and modern style parameters that were being pursued in the post 1990 South Africa, ahead of the first democratic elections in 1994.
Chatting to Thomas at our recent 2013 red vintage horizontal tasting, I recalled how in the mid 1990’s I used to battle to secure even just a few bottles of their Chardonnay, Merlot Reserve and their famous Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines, despite their fame, we’re not produced in huge quantities and were actually quite a defined, limited boutique offering. Today, Thelema still sells a healthy 70 percent of their wines in the local home market, a revealing sign of their continued fame and fashion among local South African fine wine consumers.
Thelema Merlot 2013, Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.
Cool dark spicy nose showing black fruits, dried herbs, baking spices and macerated black plums. Also a noticeable dried bush veld and cherry skin pithiness. The palate is sleek, tight knit and cool, packed with fleshy black berry fruits, black plum, and black current. There is tension here and classical fine grained mineral tannins lurking underneath the elegant creamy texture. A Merlot definitely on the more serious end of the spectrum.
This wine shows evidence of a step up in quality and intensity with 100% new French oak being used for maturation. The nose is sweet and savoury revealing an alluring earthy vein along with blueberries, tannery leather, dried herbs, and a Cabernet-like cedary oak spice lift. The palate is rich and intense, showing very polished, textured and suave luxurious sweet tannins. There is extra power here and harmonious fleshy depth with cassis leaf, subtle herbal notes and sweet tobacco on the long vibrant finish. Impressive wine with only approximately 3000 bottles produced from vines planted in the mid-1980’s.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon The Mint 2013, Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.
A really individual style with a dusty lift of pronounced peppermint and sweet cassis spice together with cedary, mineral spice and boiled black currant sweets, pastille, and herbal mint tea notes. The palate is full and fleshy, rich and round, with fine purity and creamy, caressed tannins. The finish is modern and opulent, with black currant leaf, reductive saline cassis notes and that characteristic eucalyptus lick. Very enjoyable to drink. A real crowd pleaser.
There is officially no reserve Cabernet Sauvignon in the Thelema range, but this classic black label Cabernet Sauvignon is a serious piece of kit. Aged 20 months in 40% new French oak, there is lovely varietal typicity here (despite the sneaky splash of Petit Verdot in the blend), with a dusty mineral nose of dried basil and thyme, hints of fynbos, graphite, and perfumed potpourri dried herb spice. Beautifully textured, the palate shows great purity and precision and intelligent winemaking. Like all the Thelema wines, there are fine polished tannins, real elegance, focus and finesse. Classy and classical, this is an impressive expression of Stellenbosch Cabernet with complexity, age-ability, and confidence of style. Benchmark in everyday.
Alternatively called the Thelema Cape Winemakers Guild blend, this wine changed to the Rabelais label with the 2007 vintage, being produced originally from only Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. From 2009, Petit Verdot started to replace the Merlot portion and now the blend appears fairly settled on a 90% Cab / 10% PV mix. Dark, cool, broody black fruits reveal hints of cassis leaf, saline oyster shell, graphite, iodine and blueberry crumble. Palate is taught and fresh, with real precision and incredibly fine, pin point velvety tannins. A very elegant package, the acids give this wine extra tension and real steely cut. Classy and restrained, the Rabelais will improve immeasurably with at least another 10 years in the cellar.
A really super tasting tonight with proprietor Mike Ratcliffe, looking at the pre-release Vilafonte Series C 2015 as well as other back vintages. A classical Bordeaux blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 9% Malbec, and 15% Cabernet Franc, this wine was aged 22 months in 67% new French Oak barrels, with the balance being older 2nd fill barrels.
Vilafonte has risen through the fine wine ranks with Phil Freese and Zelma Long keeping a steadying hand on the rudder. Mike Radcliffe has always been a driving force of quality and market direction and seems intent on elevating this fine wine winery to yet loftier levels of success. With the quality seen today, there seems little doubt that this will be a mere formality.
Vilafonte Series C Blend 2015, Paarl, 14.5 Abv.
Dark mulberry plum colour, this wine has a most seductive nose of blueberry, cassis, and mulberry fruits interwoven with violets, graphite, mocha and cedary oak spice. A very measured, classical style of wine that fawns its Cabernet Sauvignon dominated credentials. Rich, seductive and opulent in its youth as you’d expect, but the extra broody layers of white pepper, dusty minerality and black cherry pith suggest a more serious, complex side to the wine. The palate is dense and creamy, but also so beautifully proportioned like a chiselled, well honed athlete. Great depth, Cab power and harmonious balance, finely polished tannins and sleek integrated fresh acids, this is a very impressive blend from a fantastic vintage. Power and pedigree, a wine that demands your attention and engages your senses.
A warm balmy evening in London with a fish braai in prospect called for an appropriate white wine match. With my sea bass marinating away and my prawn skewers primed for the BBQ, a saline, mineral driven white was called for.
This beauty from Eben Sadie is a field blend of interplanted Chenin Blanc and Palomino vines. These unirrigated old bush vines were planted between the years 1958 to 1967 in extremely chalky soils in one of the coolest locations in the Swartland.
Of all Eben Sadie’s Old Vine Series wines, the Skerpioen white is perhaps the most intriguing of the lot. Often austere in youth, this wine is so mineral driven and restrained that it often confounds the critics. As Christian Eedes from South Africa’s Wine Magazine comments…. “a perplexing wine…” with a minerality and austerity that is often “mesmerising”.
Sadie Family Old Vines Series Skerpioen 2015, Swartland, 14 Abv.
Pale straw yellow, this expressive 2015 has a spicy pithy nose of lime peel, lemon grass, dried herbs, liquid minerals and wet chalk. Very grown up and old-worldy. Layer upon layer of granite, crushed gravel and briney sea breeze salinity notes resonate. But there is a white peach, grassy, aromatic, savoury buttery note riding in tandem with the intense liquid minerality. The nose follows to the palate in a very precise, pin point manner. There is plenty of glycerol depth, pithy, dusty phenolic aromatics, and a rasping dry lemon, apple purée and a mineral austerity finish. From start to finish, the palate is electric and fresh with racy acids and remains thoroughly linear and focused. This wine’s greatness is firmly embedded in the philosophy of ‘less is more’.
The 28th of June was a momentous day in the history of South African wine. The Old Vines Tasting at South Africa House in London presented by Andre Morgenthal and Jo Wehring of Wines of South Africa, profiled 77 of the most profound red and white wines produced in South Africa’s diverse winelands.
The debate surrounding the identification, preservation and promotion of South Africa’s old vines has long been championed by viticulturalist Rosa Kruger, and now with Ex-Wosa marketing specialist Andre Morgenthal on board, the project has moved into a higher gear.
Most of the top old Vine wines are made in very small quantities, so it was heartening to see the support given to this tasting from South Africa’s top producers, who provided some true rarities and highly sought after fine wines. Only by drinking these gems, and understanding the blood, sweat and tears that go into making these labours of love, can consumers understand why these wines cost more to buy but offer something very special qualitatively.
No, old vines alone don’t guarantee quality. But the producers involved in the Old Vine Project, and the related certification for 35+ year old vines that will follow imminently, will serve as an important seal of authenticity and commitment to both the quality of old vine wine production and the preservation of these historic vineyards.
But as Andre Morgenthal pointed out, the the Old Vine Project’s work will also extend to the greater protection, preservation and healthy vine husbandry promotion of 20 to 30 year old vineyards that will be the old vines of the future. This can surely only be a good thing for the industry as a whole.
Some of the Fine Wine Safari highlights of the tasting are illustrated below. This was certainly one of the most exciting array of South African wines presented in London in our generation. High praise indeed, but the scores speak for themselves. Old Vine Tasting:
Raats Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016 – 94+/100 GS
In case you read my below write up of the De Toren Z blending session at 67 Pall Mall recently thinking it was a fun but slightly pointless affair… think again.
The results are in, announced today and the vote of the people is final. Viva De Toren democracy….
Here is the official announcement released today:
After months of meticulous crafting, duteous tweaking to the potential blends and the valued input from the tastings, the concluding results of the De Toren Z 2016 Blend Tastings are in…
As an honorary guest of De Toren at the recent De Toren Z 2016 Blend Tasting, we want to use this opportunity to personally inform you of the final results.
We are proud to announce the outcome of the 2016 vintage of De Toren Z, for the very first time. The winner, i.e. the blend for the De Toren Z 2016 vintage is, blend number 7!
This blend scored exceptionally well in all three rounds of the Blend Tastings and stood out from the overall blend line-up with a stellar 8 more points and the least controversial comments or feedback.
Please see below the varietal breakdown of the De Toren Z 2016:
· Merlot 54%
· Cabernet Sauvignon 12%
· Malbec 12%
· Cabernet Franc 16%
· Petit Verdot 6%
Once again, we would like to thank you for being part of this integral process, in helping us define our De Toren Z blend for the 2016 vintage.
Your input and time are valued a great deal. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the 2016 vintage, after some further ageing, when released in 2018.