Creating A Future Icon Wine ~ Tasting the Incredible Naude Grenache 2014 Blind with Chateau Rayas at The Judgement of Chiswick…

Already described as one of the finest and most exciting Grenache reds made in South Africa, 2017 saw this wine introduced to some of my biggest collectors and connoisseur clients in London. Many had heard of the blind tasting held in South Africa pitching the Naude Grenache against the world famous Chateau Rayas from the Southern Rhône. So after a certain amount of planning and diary co-ordinating, the Naude Grenache was again pitched against two Chateau Rayas wines in a small blind line up at one of London’s top Michelin Star restaurants, La Trompette in Chiswick, West London, owned by restauranteurs Nigel Platts-Martin and Bruce Poole.

In the blind line up with the Naude Grenache 2014 was the David & Nadia Grenache 2013, Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape Pignan Reserve 2007, and Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve 2004.

The grapes for the Naude Grenache come from an 8 year old vineyard in the Paardeberg in the Swartland which was renowned for its 2 to 3 week slower ripening in previous seasons, allowing the fruit to mature and ripen more slowly and evenly. A combination of whole bunch, destemmed grapes and stalks were fermented in a stainless steel tank with one or two gentle pump overs per day before being pressed off into 225L French oak barrels for 12 to 15 months. The wine was first released in 2015 with a 14 Abv., 1.3 RS g/L, 6g/L TA, and a 3.37 pH.

Naude Grenache 2014, Swartland, 14 Abv.

The wines colour seems to have gained a little extra depth of colour in the past year showing a crystalline red plum and red cherry glow. The nose is spectacular with a most complex and evocative perfume of violets, lavender, cherry blossom, polished oak, frais des boisses, cured meats, marzipan, red plums and red cherry confit. Just so much going on and so much depth and earthy complexity. The palate shows a fine sleek medium bodied texture, impressive tension and delicious expressive wild strawberry, bramble berries, cut hedge row, Chinese five spice and subtle sappy peppery spice on the finish. Such lovely cool freshness, intensity, focus and polish, without being at all heavy at 14 Abv. A wonderfully classic Grenache with subtle mineral balance and real personality. This wine is a towering achievement in the unfolding history of South African Grenache. Drink now and over the next 20+ years.

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

Over a fantastic meal, the reds were served blind by the sommelier in his chosen order. The Naude was served first followed by the David & Nadia 2013 Grenache which showed great purity, linearity, polished granitic tannins and crystalline red fruits. While the mid palate felt a little flat footed some guests commented, overall this was another accomplished wine. (92+/100 GS).

Next up was the Rayas Pignan 2007. This instantly showed great ripeness, fruit weight and some earthy, jammy, bruleed red fruit notes. Perhaps in hind sight, a little more evolved than we would expect such a youthful Pignan to be. (91/100 GS) Finally, the Chateau Rayas 2004. Along with the Naude, these two wines were considered the most profound and impressive of the flight. Despite the 13 years of age, the 2004 was youthful, taught, focused and beautifully balanced with real black cherry and stony raspberry fruit precision, mineral tannins and bright pure acids. True class evident for all to see. (94+/100 GS)

La Trompette’s famous sour dough waffle with egg, chanterelle mushrooms and truffle.

With the blind results in, the Naude Grenache 2014 came out on top again by a whisker … and “the Judgement of Chiswick” was forever etched into the history of South African fine wine.

Langoustine tails and butternut.

The amazing recently disgorged Ca del Bosco Dosage Zero 2001 method champenoise sparkling wine.

Etienne Sauzet Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2001 Burgundy.

Wonderful Welsh salt marsh lamb.

Reyneke Natural Chenin Blanc 2016 ~ Quite Simply One of the Best Chenin Blancs Tasted in 2017…

Natural wines do sometimes struggle to preserve purity and varietal typicity on the finished product. However, this superb Chenin Blanc from Reyneke Wines not only combines minimalist natural zero sulphur winemaking with great organic and biodynamic certified fruit but also conjures up a wine with wonderful purity, expression and energy.

The maiden 2016 Reyneke Natural Chenin Blanc comes from a vineyard parcel almost 70 years old next to Johan Reyneke’s house in Stellenbosch. Another recently acquired adjacent vineyard that also contains Chenin Blanc of around 38 years old was also used in this release.

The grapes were fermented in French barriques with no lees stirring and with a pH of approximately 2.9 and an alcohol of 12.5 Abv, no sulphur additions were required, making this a Bona Fide natural wine.

Reyneke Wines Natural Chenin Blanc 2016, Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

On the nose there are complex notes of pithy yellow peach stone fruit, honey, bruleed oranges, tangerine peel and seductive salty briney notes. Positively bursting with energy and vibrancy, the palate is the near perfect portrait of mouth watering yellow citrus and pithy summer orchard fruit intensity with delicious crystalline acids, citrus peel zest, spicy ginger and a stony granitic minerality on the finish. This wine is beautifully conceived and expertly executed. Natural or not, this is one of the most enjoyable Chenin Blancs I have drunk in 2017.

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

Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks ~ Tasting a Pair of Memorable Grenache Reds from Vriesenhof Vineyards…

A legend on and off the rugby pitch, Vriesenhof Vineyards’ owner has been crafting sturdy classical wines since the early 1980’s when Jan “Boland” Coetzee purchased his farm in the Paradyskloof Valley and planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinotage and Pinot Noir.

The south facing slopes of the vineyards allow Jan and head winemaker Nicky Classens to produce wines of exceptional character and quality. Situated at varying altitudes, the vineyards are exposed to the cool coastal breezes from False Bay, their soils consisting mostly of decomposed granite and Malmesbury shale. The hilltop is home to Pinotage bush vines where the rich shale soils enhance the fruit purity in the Pinotage grapes.

But it is the wines produced from Grenache grapes sourced in the Piekenierskloof that has been turning heads and raising eyebrows of late. So I was pleased to taste two vintages together including Jan’s new 2016 release.

Vriesenhof Vineyards Grenache 2014, Piekenierskloof, 14 Abv.

Lovely translucent and bright colour. There is a wonderful lifted perfume of dried rose petals, hedge row and cherry blossom mixing with smokey, earthy red berry and bramble berry spice. The palate is laser like with crisp acids and plenty of bright crunchy red fruits. Wonderful focus and intensity for this vintage. The finish is zesty, concentrated and long with a seductive tart cranberry finale. Really quite impressive. Drink now to 2028+

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

Vriesenhof Vineyards Grenache 2016, Piekenierskloof, 14 Abv.

Crystalline bright ruby, this wine shines in the glass. The nose is rich and warming with notes of cherry confit, cured meats, strawberry jam and raisined cranberries. There is also a complexing earthy, peppery savoury depth counter balancing the lifted jasmine blossom perfume. Fleshy and sweet fruited, there is similar palate concentration to the 2014 Grenache but is delivered in a more opulent style with softer, rounder acids and suave creamy powdery tannins. A warmer, riper, dryer vintage executed with class and flair. Drink now to 2026+

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

Oldenburg Vineyards ~ Big Plans, Big Ambition and Unbelievable Potential at this Stellenbosch Winery…

Oldenburg is one of those wineries that has big plans and equally big ambitions for its wines. Today I met up with owner Adrian Vanderspuy to taste through a small selection of their unreleased 2015 reds over lunch at private members club 67 Pall Mall.

With winemaker Phillip Constandius finally hitting his stride at this Banghoek property, the future looks very bright for this dynamic winery. Quality and focus can only be improved further when Oldenburg finally gets its own winery, hopefully in the next 18 to 24 months.

After a delicious glass of 2013 Chenin Blanc, it was time for the first red, the Syrah 2015 with its impressive purity, spicy black berry fruits and wonderful harmonious texture. The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon was a bit more of a gawky teenager, but showed plenty of intensity of dark berry fruit, herbal spice, cassis leaf and spicy cedar and graphite. This needs a few years of slumber before approaching again but should turn into a real cracker.

Finally, a real treat…The Oldenburg Rhodium 2015 Merlot – Cabernet Franc Bordeaux blend. Youthfully confident, this red is still showing a lick of creamy vanilla pod spice, cedar and bruleed coffee beans, with sweet tobacco nuances. There is also some really delicious, compact black and blueberry fruit complexity embroidered with a fresh, piercing, crystalline acidity. Massive intensity, focus and power, this is a really beautiful wine with real poise, balance and concentration. When it is finally released, possibly in 2019, it should be even more integrated and harmonious. A thoroughly distinguished blend.

(Wine Safari Score: 94-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Silent Operator… Master Winemaker Adam Mason Really Knows His Stuff…

I was so pleased to catch up with Adam Mason recently to taste the ex-Klein Constantia winemaker’s delicious range of wines produced outside of his day job at Mulderbosch. The Raised By Wolves selection is really quite awesome and definitely worth tracking down, being made from different old vine vineyards across the Cape. Adam has crafted some very serious wines and while the La Colline Semillon is a benchmark classic, the Chenin Blanc represents a real classical expression that has massive punter-appeal.

Adam Mason Raised By Wolves 2016 Chenin Blanc Driehoek, Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

Another fine expression of South African Chenin Blanc made from the rare Montpellier clone, resurrected and made famous (again) by Bruwer Raats with his high density Eden Chenin Blanc. This 2016 is elegant, rich and opulent showing creamy yellow fleshy fruit, lemon biscuits, salty sea breeze notes, brine, and pithy white peach and pear fruit. Lovely concentration, excellent core tension, and impressive complexity and focus. A wine that conveys confidence and precision. The finish is long, vibrant and intense with attractive dried herb notes and mint leaf spice which combine well with the most seductive orange blossom and tangerine peel depth. This is one to buy now and drink, or even cellar for 5 to 8 years for more complexity.

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

The Ageability of South African White Wines ~ Tasting Meerlust Chardonnay 2006…

I’ve been meaning to organise a grand blind South African aged wine challenge in London with Wine Advocate journalist Neal Martin for some years. But life just seems to get busier and busier and time shorter and shorter for both Neal and myself. Profiling aged South African whites is a tricky endeavour, but when you pick the right wines, the results can be a revelation. But of course, the “right wines” are hard to come by, even in South Africa itself.


I had this bottle of Meerlust Chardonnay 2006, bought on release, on my cellar rack for many years and while I thought it would probably be stoically solid, I had no idea how impressive it would actually be on opening. Well, today it was accidentally opened in error by my wife after I was out at rugby practice with my son all afternoon. But, once opened, I certainly decided to indulge and revel in its sublime youthful brilliance. 


The Burgundians often seem annoyed when buyers ask them about their opinion on premox in white Burgundy, in quite the same way many South African producers used to roll their eyes at continual questions over the burnt rubber characteristics perceived in some wines. But it’s only when you taste a wine like this Meerlust 2006 that your blood really starts to boil at the many white Burgundy failures tasted oxidised at only 6 to 8 years old. 


Meerlust Chardonnay 2006, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

Deep golden yellow lemon colour, there is wonderful clarity and rich allure here. The nose is opulent and complex showing buttered sweet corn, lemon marmalade and salted caramel popcorn. So vital, youthful, vibrant, taught and fresh, showing almost no tertiary development at all. Incredible at 11 years old. As the wine opens, subtle notes of dried basil and thyme herbal spice develop mixed with sweet chalk and wet slate notes. The palate reveals amazing tension, maritime salinity, lemon zest and chalky granitic pithy depth. Wow, so tight and citric with youthful breadth and depth. It’s wines like this that make premoxed white Burgundy inexcusable at any price point. This wine could hardly be more fresh, complex or youthful at 11 years old. A real revelation. Absolutely delicious… for a South African benchmark wine.

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

Ground Breaking South African Bordeaux Blend ~ Rating the Epic 2015 MR de Compostella…

Mvemve Raats is a critically acclaimed collaboration between friends and winemakers Mzokhona Mvemve and Bruwer Raats. Bruwer is of course the owner and winemaker of Raats Family Wines, where he has earned a reputation for top notch Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Mzokhona Mvemve, the first Indaba Scholarship recipient, is a graduate of Stellenbosch University and one of South Africa’s first qualified black oenologists.


On Friday the 8th September, Bruwer Raats joined us to launch the 2015 vintage of the MR de Compostella. The grapes for this extremely limited production of MR are sourced from Stellenbosch, widely recognized as the Cape’s premier red wine-producing region, especially when it comes to Bordeaux style varieties. With the 2015 vintage currently being lauded in South Africa as possibly the best all-round vintage in South African viticultural history ever, the stage was perfectly set for Bruwer to perform his magic.


MR de Compostella 2015 Blend, WO Stellenbosch,14.5 Abv.

I have been one of Bruwer Raats’ biggest MR de Compostella followers in the UK market since the maiden 2004 vintage release, and we have tasted the MR pre-release every year together since then, discussing the wine’s blend and vintage complexities over a few bottles of MR and fine left bank claret. So after a great amount of anticipation, we got to taste the MR 2015 together last Friday. This is an absolutely gorgeous, coming of age wine. A blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec, the 2015 is genuinely a compelling wine with a classic nose more reminiscent of a fine, opulent Cru Classe Pauillac than a Stellenbosch Bordeaux blend. There are beautiful perfumed notes of assorted purple flowers and fresh violets that melt away to reveal ripe, intense notes of crème de cassis, blueberry crumble, cherry kirsch liquor and damson plum. The wine has gravitas, intensity and a room-silencing presence that is neither heavy nor overpowering. Like all MR vintages, it has impressive laser-like precision, a fine grained focus and an amazing fruit purity and concentration that is a hedonistic pleasure to experience. What extract, what fine piercing acids, what power, but all delivered in a sublimely harmonious chorus of black cassis fruits, blueberry confit and graphite spice. It is impossible to tire of this wine, with its palate freshness reigniting your senses continuously. More structured and intense than its riper, plumper predecessor 2014, the 2015 delivers more intensity, with tannic restraint and brooding classical Pauillac’esque depth. Drink this young if you will, but this MR is the closest Bruwer and Mvemve have come to perfection since they started this project in 2004. I expect the 2015 to be going strong in 30 to 40 years time and continuing to seduce connoisseurs  and collectors globally. 

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)