Leeu Passant ~ The Most Exciting New Releases From South Africa in Years…

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines have always been all about bottling the great vineyard expressions of site and soils of the Swartland. This week saw the first new vinous additions to the growing Mullineux legacy in the form of Leeu Passant. 


The new range consists of two terroir specific Chardonnays and a dry red blend, which is a deconstruction and reconstruction of the venerable Cape wines of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s with almost equal portions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and a “modern” twist of Cabernet Franc.With the European Launch of Leeu Passant set to take place in London on the 5th April, when I’ll be in Bordeaux tasting En-primeur 2016 wines, it was fortuitous that I was staying with Chris and Andrea in the Swartland at just the right moment to experience these wines pre-release.


Below are my initial impressions and ratings of this profound new threesome of whites and reds…


Leeu Passant Elandskloof Chardonnay 2015, 14 Abv.

Very rich intense opulent nose, layers of pineapple pastille fruits, green apple and green citrus crunch. All natural ferment with indigenous yeasts, and all natural malolactics. Complex sweet green fruits, subtle creamy oak from 12 months ageing and another 10 months in bottle. The palate is taught, fresh and crunchy, some waxy white peach notes, flinty minerality and a noticeably cool, restrained dry finish. Plenty of power with animated subtlety. 

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


Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2015, 14 Abv.

This is a blockbuster wine. Sweet green quince, crunchy pears and pineapple pastille fruits, Bon Bon green apple crunch and subtle hints of struck match reductive complexity and gravelly, saline pithy fruit. Incredible acidity showing real power and drive, and incredible precision. High acid, bottled at 8 TA. Also such subtle, considerate oak use, fine integration of fruit and acids and again, like the Elandskloof version, finishes bone dry and elegantly restrained. A very impressive, complex Meursault’esque Stellenbosch Chardonnay illustrating the grandeur and terroir of this premium SA region. Superb… A must buy for Chardonnay obsessives! 

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


Leeu Passant Dry Red Blend 2015, 13.5 Abv.

36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 31% Cinsaut. 

The Wellington Cinsault at 117 years old is the oldest recorded Cinsault vineyard in SA, blended with a more youthful 91 year old vineyard from Franschhoek. The Helderberg Cabernet Sauvignon is 36 years old and the Cabernet Franc 18 to 20 years old. Lovely peppery, spicy leafy nose of plum, peppercorns, sweet bramble berries, hedgerow, bergamot and sappy cherry spice. There’s a real opulent confit fruit character, impressive ripeness, fragrant but simultaneously mineral and restrained. There is also a real dusty granitic vein, a chalky, spicy texture and sweet red currant and raspberry sappy fruit. Punchy, intense, really focused but with real mouthwatering drinkability. Beautifully fine harmonious texture, and tight polished tannins. A true testament to South Africa’s red winemaking heritage. A very classy wine.

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

Volumes PER wine: Elandskloof  Chardonnay ~ 2000 bottles, Stellenbosch Chardonnay ~ 3000 bottles, and 4,000 bottles of Leeu Passant Dry Red. 

 (UK RRP IS £72 – £75 pb Inc.)

My First Encounters at Roundstone, the Mullineux Family Farm in the Swartland

The Swartland is a beautiful and wild spot off the beaten track. The landscape is a series of dry rolling hills with a few significant outcrops of rock that form the Paardeberg, Kasteelberg and Piketberg mountains. This is also the region winemakers Chris and Andrea Mullineux chose to make their home.

The 7 – 8 year old Grenache Blanc vines being returned to bush vines after being trellised to begin with.

This is my first visit to Roundstone, the original farm from where Chris and Andrea started buying the famous fruit for their iconic Schist Syrah in 2007. This fruit has now also become a key component of their award winning “signature range” Mullineux Syrah. Roundstone’s own vineyards now represent around 30% of their Syrah production. 

On a clear bright day like today, you can see all the way to Table Mountain, around one and a half hours away heading south down the N7.



Chris and Andrea finally acquired the property in 2014 and, together with their viticulturist Rosa Kruger and farm manager Jeandre, started an exciting planting program that will run until 2018. 

They will be planting more Syrah, and also Chenin blanc, Grenache (noir and blanc), Cinsault, Clairette Blanche, Carignan, Semillon Gris, Roussanne, Maccabeu, and some more esoteric varieties.


I look forward to tasting their new Leeu Passant wines tomorrow. Very exciting. Now it’s time for a cold glass of Chenin! 

South African Winemaker Eben Sadie’s Greatness is Recognized Internationally at Prowein…

The Institute of Masters of Wine and international trade publication The Drinks Business are delighted to announce Eben Sadie as the winner of the 2017 Winemakers’ Winemaker Award.The honour, which has been given annually since 2011, recognises outstanding achievement in the field of winemaking. The winner is chosen each year by Master of Wine Winemakers and previous winners of the award.


Eben was revealed as the Winemakers’ Winemaker at ProWein today, in front of Masters of Wine and industry professionals. On receiving his award Eben said, “It is a major honour to be receiving this award and I would like to dedicate this to the great team of people I have by my side that have helped me over the years to grow closer to a dream. For a great wine is not the work of one.”
Eben graduated from Elsenburg College, Stellenbosch in 1994, and worked various harvests in Germany, Spain, France, United States and South Africa. He ventured out on his own in 2000 to pursue his passion for blends and terroir in his Swartland home. From what Eben describes as a ‘little shack’ in the Paardeberg, he began creating The Sadie Family Wines’ two signature wines – Columella (a red blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Tinta barocca) and Palladius (a white blend of Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Semillon, Clairette, Verdellho and others).

After a decade of producing these signature wines the Family released the Old Vine Series, a bottling of eight single vineyard old vine parcels; Skerpioen, Skurfberg, Voetpad, Mev. Kirsten, Kokerboom, Pofadder, Soldaat and Treinspoor.

Jane Masters MW, Chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine said, “Eben’s determined search to produce outstanding wines has put Swartland and South Africa on the map. I am delighted that the Master of Wine Winemakers have rewarded his dedication and talent – it’s truly well deserved.”


Eben now joins Peter Sisseck (2011), Peter Gago (2012), Paul Draper (2013), Anne-Claude Leflaive (d) (2014), Egon Muller (2015) and Alvaro Palacios (2016) as winners of the Winemaker’s Winemaker Award. 

Catching Up With the Legendary Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira in London…

It’s been a long week with moderate jeg lag after arriving back from San Francisco last Sunday. By Friday, I felt I was just about back to normal, only waking up at 5am… instead of 3am. But there can certainly be no better pick-me-up than some bubbles, and today I had a lovely visit from Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira himself, the master of Cape MCC.


As someone who did their MW dissertation on MCC Production in Constantia Valley, I am of course a great lover and eternal ambassador of fine Cape Methode Champenoise sparking wines, or Methode Cap Classique as they are classified in South Africa. And there are no greater names in MCC circles than Bubbles Ferreira, who makes some of the greatest examples of bottle fermented sparkling wine outside of Champagne.


Interesting to hear from Pieter that MCC sales continue to grow around 14% per year for them in SA and I suspect this is probably only slightly higher than the overall category average. For three quarters of the year, South Africa is almost too hot to drink too much red wine, so beer, white wine and of course chilled bubbles are the order of the day. South Africa has developed into a serious producer and quality of MCC across the board is very high on average. Not surprisingly, South Africa is now also the largest market for French Champagne on the African continent.


So it was great to have another look at the famous Graham Beck Cuvee Clive 2009, the most prestigious cuvee in the Graham Beck portfolio and an absolute personification of Pieter’s passion and obsession for creating the perfect sparkling wine. Grab a bottle if you can get your hands on some of the tiny allocation that has made it to the UK for the first time.


Tasting Note: A blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, both were whole bunch pressed and only the tete de cuvee was used, being mostly fermented in stainless steel but with a small percentage in Piece Champenoise 205 litre oak barrels. The wine is pale straw and wonderfully vibrant and fresh. The nose is rich, subtly savoury and exceptionally complex, showing wonderful opulence and attractive notes of biscuit, dusty limestone, shitake mushrooms, and white truffles. The whole while, the nose and palate are underpinned by vibrant, creamy citrus fruit purity. Lemon and dried herbs, yellow grapefruit and white citrus blossom. The texture is hedonistic and luxurious with a real salty, briney sea breeze character coming through on the long, toasty, nutty finish. Beautiful creamy mousse is perfectly assembled and in fine balance with fresh acids and elegant mineral finesse. A truly world class expression. Bravo Bubbles Ferreira.

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

Making an Intimate Acquaintance with the Sadie Family Mev. Kirsten Chenin Blanc 2015… 

The rarest wine in the Sadie Family Old Vine Series, and the only wine Eben makes from Stellenbosch. The Late Mrs Kirsten owned a tiny 1ha block of Chenin Blanc, planted between 1905 and 1920, and is now regarded as the oldest Chenin Blanc vineyard in South Africa. 


Based in the Jonkershoek Valley at the foot of the Bothamaskop Mountain, this nearly one hundred year old vineyard is slowly dying. Eben has worked with the site for 10 years and nurtures it as carefully as he can but inevitably losing some old vines each year, which are carefully replanted to ensure the rejuvenation of the overall vineyard.


Eben picks early to preserve the fine natural Chenin acidity and then gives the grapes a gentle, but unusual, carbonic maceration to extract richness and oxygen defying compounds, but then ferments the wine conventionally. 


Tasting Note: Pulling the cork on a Sadie wine is a near religious affair now days. Medium straw yellow colour, the nose is effusive with rich honied, pithy orange peel, taught minerality, tangerine peel, peach skins and pithy lemon citrus. Subtle pineapple and waxy, incense laden exotism make this an expansive, complex wine. Medium to full bodied, this profound wine is so rich and textural and intensely focused with fresh acids and wonderful honey suckle, orange peel nuances, and a beautiful chalky mineral wet slate touch. The finish is so long and elegantly powerful, regal, statesmanlike. A wine that challenges your palate, provokes discussion, and inspires your senses. A truly epic once in a lifetime wine experience. 

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

Tasting the new South African Wines from Lukas van Loggerenberg…

I just can’t get the ringing out my ears! The LLLLLL of Lukas. Who!? Well, I have not met Lukas van Loggerenberg in person…yet, but his wines certainly precede himself. The owner of no vines, Lukas is the producer of several whites and reds that are stirring a lot of commotion. So, with my acknowledged limited knowledge of these wines… here are my reviews.


Kameraderie Chenin Blanc 2016, 13.5 Abv

Unlike many other Chenin Blanc, this wine is unashamedly opulent and exotic. Rich, textured and jam packed with pineapple pastille, dusty chalk and green apple cream soda notes. The fruit is pure, crystalline and crisp showing plenty of green apple, honeydew melon and an elegant, dusty, sherbety finish. A thoroughly intriguing, characterful Old Vine white.

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


Geronimo Cinsaut 2016, Stellenbosch, 13 Abv. 

The label cries Geronimo… and this lush, opulent red is certainly a frontal assault on your senses. The nose is rich, fleshy and ripe with sweet strawberry compote, raspberry ripple and exotic paprika spice. The subtle hint of dried mango and quince confit add plenty of extra intrigue. The palate does what most cinsaut say on the tin… Crisp, fresh fruited, crunchy bright vibrancy, with the most pure, focused, linear finish. Classy, mineral and very juicy. What not to love about this gem!??? 

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


Breton Cabernet Franc 2016, Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

Just a fleeting look at the back label shows an Abv of 12.5. So? Yes, I want to smash this wine. The nose is intriguing and seductive with macerated strawberries, red berry coulis, red apple skins and a vibrant stalky, sappy, spice. The palate is bright, vibrant and sophisticated. I love the blueberry crispness and cherry pithe spice! A very impressive Cab Franc effort! Lovely.

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

Tasting the Profound Sadie Family Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2013 Tinta Barroca… 

Eben Sadie is a super intelligent, obsessive winemaker who has always focused on mastering the terroir in his individual vineyards, believing that ultimately, great wine will be easier to make if you pay detailed attention to the farming of your vines. 


The Sadie Family Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2013, named after the railway line that runs alongside the vineyard, is 100% Tinta Barocca from 40+ year old vines. Eben noted that “In 2013 the Treinspoor, with cooler weather, a bit of rain and later ripening just seemed to be a perfect fit to this parcel.” As a result, he succeeded in making one of the best Treinspoor vintages to date.


Tasting Note: With already 4 years age, the colour remains a vibrant bright cherry red with a black plum core. The nose is also still very youthful showing a pronounced cherry sherbet bon bon zesty lift, freshly crushed red currants, fragrant rose petals, strawberry shortbread, and pretty parma violets. There is such wonderful, profound aromatic complexity that has developed in bottle since I first tasted this wine on release in 2014. The palate reveals an incredibly sleek fleshy balance, showing textured layers of mulberry and raspberry fruits, powdery slatey mineral tannins in perfect harmony and fine acids with great definition. After a little more time in the glass, darker, spicy sappy hedgerow notes develop adding to this beautiful wine’s complexity. Incredibly pure in character, this 13 Abv wine is a very special expression of the Swartland.

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