Another Sensational Run of Boutique Wines from Carsten Migliarina – Tasting His Impressive New Releases…

I recently caught up with winemaker Carsten Migliarina to taste through his new releases. Always working on a variety of different wines that usually includes a Grenache and a Syrah, Carsten also normally has at least one new one-off boutique experimental bottling on the go at any time. One year it may be a dry Riesling, this year it’s a fabulous Pinot Gris. Most impressively, the quality across the board is of such a high standard that when Carsten talks about tweaking a wine to improve it, it means no more than freshening up the label!

But sommelier turned winemaker Carsten also manages to consistently capture and bottle such impressive varietal purity and typicity that I can only put this down to his hidden Germanic subconscious that unrelentingly demands absolute precision without loosing any excitement, character or drinkability. Cartsten’s newest releases once again follow this characterisation and are definitely worth tracking down on release as almost 70% of his wines are exported globally.

Pinot Gris 2017 Grey Matters, WO Stellenbosch, 13.9 Abv.

50% Barrel fermented – wild, 50% Tank – wild and inoculated. Just 2,500 bottles. Cool, vibrant, super fresh style. Loaded with crystalline white peach, green apple and cream soda but with extra complex spicy pithy aromatics from 30 mins skin contact in the rolling press. There is very little tooty fruity frivolity but more mineral lemon and lime intensity and incredibly fine purity. Great balance and impressive intensity, this is a fabulous expression of this rare variety in SA!

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

Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13.1 Abv.

Just 2,500 bottles produced. Roughly 35 year old vines from a single vineyard, 100% barrel fermented with older shaven oak. Wild yeast ferment. An intense nose with lemon biscuit, vanilla pod spice and dusty yellow apples, aniseed and pineapple confit. Beautifully textured, massive concentration of apple pastille, pink musk, white peach, dusty talc minerality and exotic quince and yellow citrus depth. A classic cool style signature Migliarina wine that when you open it, it’s hard to stop until the bottle is finished. This is very special and very impressive.

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

Chardonnay Single Vineyard 2016, 13.5 Abv. WO Elgin

2,500 bottles produced. Barrel fermented, 35% new oak from France, Romania, Hungary and USA. A beautifully sleek fine Chardonnay with great breadth and depth and superb complexity. Nose is multi-dimensional with creamy vanilla pod, lemon biscuits, creme brûlée and toffee able with 14 months in oak with no malo. Expert oak interaction, beautiful acidity and chalky minerality that doesn’t seek to be bludgeoned to death with oak. This Elgin fruit screams cooler climate, minerality, subtlety with no fining and no filtration. Lovely lime cordial tension, linearity and a long, harmonious, classical finish. A supremely distinguished effort.

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

Grenache 2017, WO Wellington, 13.5 Abv.

100% Varietal Grenache, single vineyard aged 7 months in shaven oak, untoasted. Inoculated, whole berry, destemmed, cold fermented (max 13 to 20 deg) taking 3 weeks to finish fermentation. Incredibly pretty wine with fragrant raspberry, strawberry, red cherry perfume notes with an almost Cinsault-like Turkish delight, marzipan, parma violets and blood orange lift. Carsten’s mantra is not to “spoil” the wine with too much savoury sappy spice and oak, hence no whole bunch and the obsessive focus on purity, precision and perfume. The saline, cassis, oyster shell notes are incredible. A profound expression.

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

Parquet 2016 Syrah – Carignan – Grenache, 13.5 Abv.

84% Syrah, 7% Carignan, 9% Grenache. Syrah 8 to 10 weeks on skins, 2017 Grenache blended in. One barrel of Swartland Carignan 2016. Beautiful dark, alluring wine with sweet black pepper corns, savoury cured meats, black berry spice, black olive and black plum style that eventually meanders back to brightness and purity with the use of the 2017 Grenache addition. Another crystalline style, total focus and purity, with component parts beautifully pieced together. So cool, pure and fresh, with great precision that is a manifestation of Carstens own personality. Lovely wine.

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

Syrah 2015 WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

10 weeks on the skins. 14 months in old oak, inoculated, unfined, unfiltered, destalked, destemmed, with initially whole berry cold fermentation in tank allowing malo on skins in tank. Pure Helderberg expression with delicious blackberry, iodine, coriander and lavender and subtle hints of fraise des bois. A medium bodied, classical old world European style wine with subtle restrained fruit, black berry salinity, some accessibility in young but embroidered with complex mineral pithy tannins and a fresh linear finish. Still taut, broody and tight, the finish will become naturally embellished with extra time in bottle. A great vintage and a very serious, “adults only” top shelf effort.

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

Benchmark Cool Climate Constantia – Tasting Boela Gerber’s Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve White 2017…

One of the classic blends of the Constantia Valley made by one of its best Winemakers. Boela Gerber is the consummate winemaker’s winemaker… now also the current Chairman of the Cape Winemakers Guild.

This is always one of Boela’s pride and joy wines, the quintessential cool climate, pithy, grassy Sauvignon / Semillon blend. True to form, the nose bristles with sweet lemon grass, wet straw, salty brine and crunchy white peach nuances. An excellent white vintage in the Cape, the 2017 affords Constantia whites an impressive herbaceous depth of cut grass, dusty, herby capsicum, Cape gooseberry complexity and a bright, crunchy yellow orchard fruit length. A really fine aromatic vintage for whites and Boela delivers here once again. Drink now or cellar past 2030+

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

The Young Gun Still Blazing – Tasting the Alheit Family Cartology 2017…

As most producers are getting ready to press their 2018 grapes post fermentation, I’ve been tasting the incredible offerings from Chris Alheit. Still a leading light in South Africa, look no further than Dreyfus Ashby for an allocation of Chris’s incredible Cartology white blend. A Cape legend!

Alheit Family Vineyards Cartology 2017

Big expectations as ever and this blend does not disappoint. Big, broad expansive yellow orchard fruit aromatics, subtle yellow blossom and then an overriding dusty gravel quarry minerality. The palate shows amazing depth, typical Alheit pineapple fruit pastille concentration, lemon grass and an incredible saline, grassy, herbal pithy length. Another epic effort from Butch. Drink 2019-2038+

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

Andrea Mullineux – The Latest Cape Winemakers Guild Superstar…

The Cape Wine Makers Guild represents innovation, benchmarking and the sharing of knowledge spanning over thirty three years of winemaking excellence. The Guild, an association of some of South Africa’s finest winemakers, has evolved into a body of 49 members who jointly represent the pinnacle of South African winemaking.

So of course, when I recently hooked up with Chris and Andrea Mullineux at their Roundstone farm, no prizes for guessing which unicorn bottle I liberated out of their cellar!!🍷

Cape Winemakers Guild Andrea Mullineux Leeu Passant Old Vine Cinsault 2015, WO Franschhoek, 13.5 Abv. 

A beautiful expression from this 91 year old vineyard in Franschhoek. Andrea affords this grand old vineyard its due respect handling the fruit in a more serious crushed berry whole bunch style instead of a whole bunch carbonique style. Broad and texturally very complex, the wine unfurls in layers of sweet cherry, Turkish delight, marzipan and sappy oak spice. Full and distinguished, this medium bodied wine is an expertly crafted, supremely elegant version of Cinsault that turns a touch more serious and tannic on the firm, focused finish. Superb poise, impressive refinement and very precise and self assured. What else would you expect from Andrea Mullineux? Give it a year or 5 in bottle and drink over 20+.

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

Reinventing The Original Cape Red Blend – Tasting the New Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines Leeu Passant 2016 Dry Red Release…

I recently caught up with Swartland rock star wine couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux at their Roundstone farm to taste their new Leeu Passant releases. Of all the new wine brands released on to the South African and international wine market of late, few have generated as much discussion and debate as the Leeu Passant Dry Cape Red.

Too much of this discussion has perhaps superficially centred around the wine’s ultra premium pricing of £95-£100 per bottle and whether this pricing is merited instead of around the wine’s exceptional quality, its old vine fruit sources and it’s philosophical interpretation of a wine style synonymous with the early years of the 20th century Cape wine industry.

But new innovative wines that push the boundaries usually make easy targets for wine trade sceptics. It is without doubt the success of wines like this that will open new doors and pathways to financial viability and success for the whole of the South African wine industry. In the meantime, indulge yourself and savour some true precision winemaking with the Leeu Passant Dry Red.

Leeu Passant Dry Red Wines 2016, WO Western Cape, 14 Abv.

A blend of 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc and 31% Cinsault using 100% whole bunch for the Cabernet Franc and Cinsault portions. 100% new oak was used for the Cabernet Franc fermentation. Lifted and aromatic, this wine initially displays a pronounced sweet leaf, red currant, cedar and red berry fruit character. Intensely focused concentration from low yields and super small berries in 2016 makes for a wine brimming with overt notes of earl grey tea, bergamot spice, pithy citrus peel, spicy red bramble berries and a broody, earthy red currant depth. A fine wine with ample structure and seriousness, impressive minerality, precision and power. This red will certainly be a great keeper that’s destined for many a collectors’ cellar. Hats off to Chris and Andrea Mullineux for succeeding in creating yet another collectable vinous gem in only year two of this new project. Drink on release if you are flamboyant, drink after 10 years if you are patient, and drink after 30+ if you are youthful and have time on your side.

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

Jessica Saurwein Applying Her Feminine Touch to Another Great Kaaimansgat Pinot Noir…

I have known Roland Peens, head of one of South Africa’s top wine merchant / importers for many years, starting when he was embroiled in his gruelling Master of Wine studies. But as they say, behind every successful man is a woman. In this case, the woman in question is his wife Jessica Saurwein, who after working as the Marketing Manager for wine farm Kleinood / Tamboerskloof for many years, decided to branch out and swop selling for making wine. The result is Saurwein Pinot Noir with the 2015 her maiden vintage.

This new Pinot Noir addition to the Cape Wine scene is made from fruit sourced from a Kaaimansgat (Crocodile’s Lair) vineyard near Villiersdorp. There was a portion of whole bunch fruit employed in the fermentation and the wine was aged for approximately 9 months in French oak barrels. I am not sure how much 2016 was made, but only 3 barrels of the maiden 2015 were produced. Nom stands for the nombulelo, or gratitude in South Africa’s native Xhosa language and also Nomkhubulwane, a forgotten African goddess of agriculture.

This is an impressive Pinot Noir that has been reviewed in the local market to fairly high acclaim. After tasting both the 2015 and the 2016, it is fair to say the 2016 is definitely the more distinguished and classically proportioned of the two vintages. Already carrying a cult following, I fell in love with the 2016 and drank a bottle over two days to give it a proper chance to display all its wares. Well done Jessica. I would be very happy to make a Pinot Noir of this quality and I suspect the wine will only improve with extra time in bottle. I look forward to tasting the 2017 soon!

Saurwein Nom Pinot Noir 2016, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

This Pinot Noir possesses the most clear translucent ruby red colour almost resembling a glass of cranberry juice. But what lies in the glass is far more seductive and complex than mere fruit juice! The aromatics are perfumed and beautifully lifted, slowly revealing notes of sun dried cranberries, red cherries, pithy red plum skins, bloed lemoen and a hint of dusty crushed gravel with a pinch of wood spice seasoning. The mouthfeel too shows great precision, seamless purity and finesse but not at the expense of intensity and core tension. The melange of pure crystalline red fruits follows to the palate, all delivered with great restraint and subtlety. The 2016 shows the character of the dry vintage with more core tannin structure, dry extract and mineral nuances than the lush, opulent, more fruit forward 2015 maiden release. But this is no bad thing. The wine is delicious but serious, bordering on intellectual even, and allows the drinker time to ponder its breadth and depth. The finish is super elegant, dare I say feminine?, leaving your mouth savouring the most succulent earthy red cherry, ruby grapefruit and pomegranate fruit notes on the finish. Give this wine a few more years in the cellar to unwind a little more and then drink comfortably over 10 to 12+ years.

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


The Savvy Swartlanders Putting Stellenbosch Chardonnay on the World Map – Tasting a Pre-Release Bottle of Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016…

As I near the end of my March trip to South Africa, one of my favourite visits and tastings lay ahead at the Roundstone farm of Chris and Andrea Mullineux in the Swartland. With the new Leeu Passant wines due for imminent release, it was great to get a sneak peak of one of my favourite new white wines on the South African wine scene, the Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay.

As it becomes apparent that the Elandskloof Chardonnay Cuvee will no longer be made, the Mullineux’s have instead decided to focus on their Stellenbosch Chardonnay Cuvee from the Helderberg, which they believe offers the best future potential for premium quality and cellar ageability.

In the past few years, the debate has certainly hotted up in Europe and the USA around the collectability and quality of premium new world Chardonnay versus expensive top white Burgundy. New challengers to the holy Burgundy grail will certainly emerge, and I’m putting my money on this wine being in the mix for top honours.

Mullineux Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016, 14 Abv.

Another incredibly serious, focused, grown up release from the Mullineuxs. Regal, refined and linear, the fruit comes from the same 26 year old Helderberg vineyard as the 2015 release. Beautiful lime and white citrus pastille fruit notes are very pure and pithy with an alluring wet limestone and waxy lemon rind edge. Very tight grained, tightly wound and taut, far more so than even the very serious 2015 release. The intense lemon and lime cordial freshness is supremely balanced and harmonious performing a sophisticated, choreographed Burgundy styled routine with an expertly judged amount of struck match reduction complexity. The finish has a dusty, gravelly dry mineral length that will impress the most educated fine wine collector. Cellar this beauty for 2 to 3 years before opening, and drink over 20+ years.

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