Benchmark Sauvignon Blanc to Die For – Tasting the Impressive Neil Ellis Amica 2017…

Even though I love a great Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, New Zealand or South Africa, I still need to be in the mood for it whereas a great Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay will tick all my boxes any day of the week and accompanying almost any food. However, acting as host and moderator for a recent 67 Pall Mall Zoom Tasting with Warren Ellis gave me the opportunity to revisit this incredible barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc from the Neil Ellis winery. Wow, what a revelation!

The source of the fruit for this wine is a little single vineyard site from the Jonkershoek Valley. The soil consists of decomposed granite and quartz. Grapes were harvested at 21.8 – 22.4ºB with a total acidity of 8.69 g/ and pH of 3.18. The grapes were whole bunch pressed using a Champagne pressing cycle to ensure only the finest quality juice being used. The fermentation was occurred naturally in 500 litre puncheons of which 20% was new. The wine spent 9 months in barrel. (500l).

Neil Ellis Amica Sauvignon Blanc 2017, WO Jonkershoek Valley, 13% Abv.

What a cool. intense, complex glassful. Just brimming with notes of sweet bread fruit, white citrus, white blossom, gooseberry and yellow grapefruit. The wine is rich but exotic evolving slowly in the glass while the palate is power packed, intense and electric with intense, savoury, grassy notes of green quince, green plum, tart yellow grapefruit and savoury, leesy, gooseberry notes. There is oak there but to mention it as a specific descriptive is to deny it’s all encompassing, broad-armed embrace that imbues the wine with extra elegance and grace. This has got to be the most interesting, mouthwatering, juicy, complex Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted in a long time, from anywhere! Superb now, but will age well for another decade or more!

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

Available in the UK from distributor Gonzales Byass.

Tasting Three Vintages of One of South Africa’s Greatest Icon Cabernet Sauvignons – Reviewing the New Release Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017…

In the words of winemaker Christo le Riche… “2017 was a great vintage!” The stand out factor that links it to 2015, and the possible reason these two vintages are putting up their hands as some of the greatest ever in modern South African winemaking history, is the moderate yet consistent weather the winelands experienced during ripening. Chatting to Christo, he feels confident that “…pre-veraison, the drought worked its magic, but it seems that having few to no heat waves and a long autumn was certainly the key to greatness even though evenings were slightly warmer on average.”

While many wineries are super proud of the final in-bottle quality of their wines, it was by no means an easy vintage. Christo explains… “In the winery it was a complete nightmare. All the Cabs, except one block, ripened within eight days. In 2020 we picked over 29 days in comparison. In 2017 we ran out of tank space, forcing me to become creative with fermentation vessels. But luckily, everything worked out in the end and the quality is exceptional. The IPT (total tannin levels) on the wines were the highest I have seen. It was also the year I met my wife!” In many ways, Christo reminded me of the comments from Bordeaux winemakers during both the 2009 and 2010 harvests, two of the greatest vintages in the region since the epic 1989-1990 duo. All that the winemakers could talk about was the highest IPT readings they had ever recorded, yet the wines were still silky, smooth and soft with delicious balancing ripeness and fabulous finesse.

So when it came to tasting and reviewing the exciting new Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, I thought I would do my tasting a little bit differently. Christo kindly sent me a bottle of the 2016, which I had not tasted yet either, along with the new 2017 which is only due for release towards the end of the year, and then I added one of my last 2015s to the line up. Finally, inspired by Christo’s comments about the wines IPTs, I decided to add a top bottle of Bordeaux red from a similar vintage into the line up to help calibrate all the scores. I chose the classic Leoville Barton 2016 because not only is it unquestionably a benchmark winery, but the wine has been scored 95+/100 from The Wine Advocate and 97/100 from the Wine Spectator magazine and was also crowned their Number 1 Wine of the Year in 2019! Big kudos indeed.

The Mini Le Riche Vertical Tasting

Wine 1:

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

The generosity of the epic 2015 vintage has without question of doubt produced a really beautiful expression of pure Cabernet Sauvignon… as well as possibly one of the greatest red wine vintages ever in South Africa. What is most striking about this wine is its incredible purity and perfume that rises out of the glass imperiously in multiple waves of fragrant cherry blossom, violets, potpourri and crushed rose petals. It possesses copious amounts of mocha, sweet tobacco leaf, dried herbs, cedar spice, black currant coulis and a delicious earthy, brambly, wild forest berry complexity. The palate continues to show such sophistication and textural seduction with classical Cabernet flavours filling every corner of the mouth. Still beautifully charming, but a little less open-knit and expressive than it was even last year as it starts to perhaps enter its slumber and shut down a little. Undoubtedly, this wine reveals the class of a truly great vintage with a full bodied fleshy weight, a finely delineated purity and the most charming harmonious balance and intensity. Start drinking this wine in 3-5 years time and over the next 25+ years. It’s a true thing of beauty.

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

Wine 2:

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

The 2016 Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was always going to be a highly scrutinised creation following the incredible 2015. But hats off to Christo Le Riche, he has conjured up another exceptional effort. When you are talking about one of the leading proponents of Cabernet Sauvignon in the country, I guess there aren’t really “off vintages” in any real sense. Where the 2016 departs from the 2015 is in its plumper, rounder, fleshier texture and palate weight. Still fabulously pure fruited and approachable, the nose boasts wonderful overt aromatics of cedar spice, plumy richness, violets and vanilla pod, exotic blackberry preserve, sweet tobacco leaf and complexing mineral graphite notes. Full bodied, plump and showy, the palate has very attractive curves and stands out as an exceptional effort in a hot, dry vintage. The tannins are svelte, soft and silky and the mouthfeel fleshy, creamy but intense, with an admirable salinity and freshness on the long, pure black fruited finish. The wine is not as strict or linear as the 2015 but more generous already at this young age. It’s an exceptionally attractive pure Cabernet nevertheless. Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years. (Le Riche has created only 4,500 bottles of this particular reserve, marking their second smallest vintage to date.)

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

Wine 3:

Chateau Leoville Barton 2016, Deuxieme Cru Classe Saint Julien, 13% Abv.

The Château Léoville Barton comprises 48 hectares of vines on the north side of Saint Julien, with south-facing hillsides with elevation. The 2016 is a classic blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest of the blend made up by Merlot. The result is a wine that displays all the classic Left Bank Bordeaux notes with a strong graphite core but also vivid notes of dried violets, rose petals and potpourri spice. Regarded as one of the top wines in a vintage that is now considered benchmark on the Left Bank, the palate is a little tight and subdued to start but once you warm up the engine, this wine reveals a lot of horse power of blue and blackberry fruit flavours, dusty graphite and liquid minerality, salty oyster shell nuances and an intense, saline, crème de cassis finish with just the finest hint of liquorice candy. The tannins are still bold and powerful as you would expect on a young Bordeaux of this quality, but the whole package is tight, compact and super impressive. Opened for the purpose of benchmarking the quality of the Le Riche Reserve Cabernets, but otherwise, its certainly not a wine I would anticipate drinking for another 10+ years at least. (Technically speaking, at 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, this could be labelled a varietal Cabernet.)

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

Wine 4:

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

Tasted alongside the 2015 and 2016 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon for added perspective reveals a wine that is quite simply drop dead gorgeous. While 2017 is of course another excellent vintage for reds in the Cape and the quality of this icon was always expected to be high, I was not anticipating it being this good! The aromatics are super fragrant and exuberant, showing intricate perfumed notes of violets and lilacs, cinnamon stick, cedar and sandalwood, cigar box and wonderfully complex herbal hints of thyme, dried fennel seeds and Chinese five spice. There is an impressive elegance and gravitas to the silky, finely textured palate which boasts all the classical Cabernet notes of black currants and black plum, crème de cassis, graphite and savoury, earthy nuances of freshly tilled earth. A beautifully proportioned, multi-dimensional wine that shows such a harmonious balance and sophisticated composure reserved for only the finest red wines around the world. Medium bodied, super elegant and weightlessly intense, the fruit flavours are perfectly ripe and precise, growing in the mouth and energised by an exhilarating freshness that holds everything in place so effortlessly. Certainly one of the most ‘complete’ wines I have tasted from the 2017 vintage so far. Drink this beauty on release but be sure to hold back a couple of cases for long term cellaring of 10, 15 or 20+ years.

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

The 2017 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is scheduled for release at the end of 2020.

The Meerlust Estate Prepares For Another Momentous New Release – Tasting the Meerlust Rubicon 2017 Red Blend…

The 2017 release of the Meerlust Rubicon represents another classical expression of this fabulous Cape Icon wine. The high critical praise heaped upon the 2015 vintage helped it to become the fastest selling Rubicon release on record. Indeed, one cannot even begin to imagine a South African fine wine landscape that does not feature this wine prominently. Great expectations are placed on every new release and year after year, this Cape heritage estate delivers.

The 2017 vintage was surprising in that from the very beginning, the estate felt that the wines were very similar to the excellent 2015 reds. A cold winter in 2016 followed by a warm spring ensured early and even bud break. Although comparatively dry, as the Cape was still experiencing a drought, the 2017 crop was greatly enhanced by the estate’s ability to irrigate strategically, ensuring steady ripening and eventual phenolic ripeness across all varieties.

Tasting at Meerlust in March 2018 with Hannes Myburgh, Chris Williams and viticulturalist Roelie Joubert who sadly passed away in April 2020 from a sudden heart attack.

The 2017 is again a Cabernet Sauvignon dominated four grape blend with each of the varieties fermented separately before being aged in 300 litre French Nevers oak barrels, 60% new and 40% second fill. After 8 months in barrel, the components were blended and given another 10 months in barrel for harmonization before bottling. I first tasted this wine in its component parts back in March 2018 with the then winemaker, Chris Williams. I knew instantly that we were in for another exceptional release of Rubicon. Then in January 2020, I met up with owner Hannes Myburgh in London and got my first taste of the Meerlust Red 2017, the second wine made up of components not used in the Rubicon blend. I was bowled over by the beauty of this wine and while it is only really sold in export markets, it served to raise my quality expectations for the Rubicon 2017 even higher.

In November 2019, winemaker Wim Truter joined Meerlust, taking over from Chris Williams to become only the third winemaker to take the reins at this historic estate. Chris finally followed his calling and agonisingly decided to move on to the next chapter of his winemaking career, to pursue his own Foundry wine project full time.

The old Meerlust farmstead with some of Hannes’s beloved dogs.

Meerlust Estate Rubicon 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13.6% Abv.

The 2017 Rubicon is a classical blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, each vinified separately before undergoing malolactic fermentation in 300 litre French Nevers oak barrels, 60% new and 40% second fill. Deep purple-black in colour, the intensity and gravitas of this vintage is highlighted by the tight, dense, dark broody aromatics that require more than a little coaxing out the glass before revealing a very focused, slightly introverted bouquet of complex, tightly interwoven notes of violets, black currant preserve, black plum, Black Forest gateaux and hoisin sauce with backing notes of dried fennel, salty black liquorice, spicy cedar and an exotic Asian 5 spice nuance. While 2017 certainly stands out as another classical year of exceptional quality, the vintage will surely be remembered for its stand-out elegance, seamless palate textures and its signature weightless intensity and concentration. This Rubicon does of course possess plenty of stuffing and dazzles with gentle waves of blackberry crumble, crème de cassis, macerated black cherries, freshly tilled earth, unsmoked smoked cigars and a finely textured, powdery tannin frame that dries the palate on the finish and reminds the drinker that this wine, however enjoyable in its youth, is also built for extended ageing. This really is another exquisite vintage with charm and poise, Grand Vin potency and an overt, unbridled determination to deliver long-term drinking pleasure. Drink from 2022 to 2040+

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

The Leeu Passant New Releases – Part 3: Tasting the Stellar New Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2018…

I recently caught up with Chris and Andrea Mullineux over Zoom for an intimate tasting of their new Leeu Passant releases. Instead of running through all the wines in one foul swoop, I thought I would afford each wine the time and respect they deserve by profiling each new release in three separate reviews. So following on from Part 1 profiling the delicious Franschhoek Old Vine Lotter Cinsault and Part 2 reviewing the grand old Wellington Old Vine Basson Cinsault, the final instalment features probably one of my favourite new Leeu Passant wines… their Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chris and Andrea Mullineux have spent years trying to fine tune a style of Cabernet Sauvignon with ripe fruit flavours, intensity and structure. After working with over 20 vineyards around Stellenbosch, they have focused on five vineyards including two in the Helderberg, two in the Polkadraai Hills and one 39 year old parcel in Firgrove close to False Bay. Three of these five vineyards already contribute fruit that goes into their flagship Leeu Passant Dry Red Blend together with components of the Lotter Cinsault, the Wellington Basson Cinsault and a splash of Cabernet Franc.

With vines grown on a mix of alluvial soils and decomposed granite soils, the grapes produce a sleek, crystalline, elegant style of Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon that the Mullineuxs admit has a certain Swartland tilt to the approach and style. Using French oak 500 litres barrels of which only around 30% are new, the wines are aged for 12 months before being moved to larger 2000 and 5000 litre upright oak vats for another year of aging. The wine spends a final six months in bottle prior to release.

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

These cooler sites for Cabernet Sauvignon definitely perform well in this new release for the Leeu Passant red repertoire. The nose is magnificently perfumed, complex and utterly compelling, teasing the senses with violets and cherry blossom, lavender, pithy red cherry, sour black plums, black currant and a deep dark vein of spicy graphite minerality with just the slightest veneer of dried cedar and tarragon herbal spice. The palate texture is harmonious, tender, lightly saline and utterly seductive, displaying a fleshy medium bodied weight with bright fresh tart black berry acids, creamy milk chocolate tannins and a spicy crystalline blueberry fruited finish that is positively loaded with invigorating energy. Like the other two new releases, I obediently drank this bottle over three nights and while the majority of my score was cemented within the first few sips on day one, the expressive and energetic nature of this wine really did start to show with further air, confirming my complete adoration for this wine. This surely has got to be one of the most exciting ‘new’ pure expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon to come out of Stellenbosch in recent years? Drink now and over the next 20+ years.

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

The Leeu Passant New Releases – Part 2: Tasting the Wellington Old Vines Basson Cinsault 2017…

I recently caught up with Chris and Andrea Mullineux over Zoom for an intimate tasting of their new Leeu Passant releases. Instead of running through all the wines in one foul swoop, I thought I would afford each wine the time and respect they deserve by profiling each new release in three separate reviews. So following on from Part 1 profiling the delicious Franschhoek Old Vine Lotter Cinsault, it’s time for the Basson Old Vine Cinsault to get its moment in the spotlight.

This lauded dry farmed Cinsault vineyard is the oldest certified red wine vineyard in South Africa, planted in 1900 and farmed by the Mullineuxs since 2014. One of the original Old Vine Project “Certified Heritage Vineyards” that has been held up as a shining beacon of education and preservation, these gnarled deep rooted old Cinsault bush vines are planted on deep, weathered sandy Table Mountain sandstone alluvial soils which yield wines deceptively light in colour but also impressively structured, taut and rich boasting almost Cabernet-like minerally spicy tannin structures.

The famous Old Vine Basson Cinsault vineyard next to the Wellington highway. A true national treasure.

Regardless of the natural structure from the terroir, Andrea Mullineux also makes very precise wines that will age a long time and as such, she always recommends giving the wines plenty of air or decanting before drinking, especially for new releases like this.

Indeed, the Basson vineyard is another very important component of their flagship Leeu Passant Dry Red Blend which the Mullineuxs have started to age longer in bottle before release. The Basson Old Vine Cinsault will also be released a year later than their Lotter Cinsault.

Leeu Passant Wellington Old Vines Basson Cinsault 2017, WO Wellington, 13.5 Abv.

The grapes for the Basson Cinsault were crushed and destemmed into tanks with fermentation starting spontaneously with indigenous yeasts with pigeage twice a day. After 11 days of fermentation, the wine was given a further three weeks of skin maceration before being drained and pressed to barrel where it matured for 20 months in 500 litre French oak barrels. The aromatics are distinctively spicy and complex showing top notes of potpourri, dried rose petals, freshly trimmed hedge row spice and wild herb notes of fynbos and thyme. Imposing yet silky textured with beautifully polished dry tannins, there is plenty of broody depth and power lurking behind the bright red fruits of pithy cherry, raisined cranberries, blood oranges and sweet lingering peppercorn spice. The fabulously dense, focused, tight knit texture finishes with an impressively pure, dry, mineral tannic restraint reinforcing the stature of these grand old 120 year old Cinsault vines.

Andrea encouraged me to have a secondary taste of the Basson on day two (and day three if possible!) and I am glad she did. While the structure and sappy spice remained resolute, multiple extra layers of juicy red fruits enlivened with bright cherry acids had surfaced to make the wine a little less broody and stern. Certainly one of the most serious and breathtaking renditions of premium Cinsault produced in South Africa without a doubt.

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

The Crystalline Brilliance of John Seccombe – Tasting the Exceptional Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2018 White Blend…

I have been following the outstanding work of John Seccombe from the very beginning of his Thorne & Daughters label which was started in 2012 by John and wife Tasha with the aim to produce authentic wines in the beautiful Western Cape. John works with grapes from all over the Cape peninsula and seems to have honed a particularly refined aesthetic when it comes to his winemaking. His Thorne and Daughters family concern is truly pushing the boundaries with old vines and simple, natural winemaking techniques.

Sometimes other producer’s wines have been more highly lauded or more vocally praised but this certainly has nothing to do with the quality of John’s wines. Indeed, John must be one of the most modest, humble and intelligent winemakers plying his trade in the Cape… silently and brilliantly. John’s 2018 Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse Cape white blend incorporates several old vine heritage vineyards that looks more to Burgundy rather than the Rhône for its stylistic compass.

With the release of John’s 2019 Rocking Horse hitting the airwaves at the moment, I thought it would be the perfect time to retaste the impressive 2018 blend, a wine that got a lot of wine trade tongues wagging at the New Wave 2019 tasting in London last year. As the current release and the wine most widely available, the 2018 is certainly worth further examination.

Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2018 wWhite Blend, WO Western Cape, 13.2 Abv.

The 2018 is an exotic Mediterranean blend of 25% Roussanne, 22% Semillon, 19% Chardonnay, 18% Clairette Blanche and 16% Chenin Blanc. A rich straw yellow colour, the aromatics are complex and expressive brimming with notes of leesy lemon biscuits, white citrus, dried baking herbs, fynbos and thatch and dried tangerine peel. On the palate, the textural intricacy is notable as you would expect from a wine with 25% Roussanne in the blend, which lends extra dimensions of fleshy white stone fruit and marzipan depth. Naturally fermented in old oak, the 2018 shows the classical crystalline purity of the vintage framed by a tart lemon lime acidity and a stony, liquid mineral granitic complexity. Beautifully sensual and pristinely balance, every mouthful stimulates the senses and gives the drinker additional flavours to contemplate… crisp white peaches, crunchy green pears, granny smith apples, bay leaf herbal notes  and yet more green mango and saline twang on the long exhilarating finish. Impressively intense and taut for the vintage, this must be one of the most drop dead gorgeous white blends produced in the Cape at the moment. Drink now or age for 10+ years.

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

Thorne & Daughters wines are distributed in the UK by Liberty Wines.

A Legacy of Cabernet Sauvignon Excellence – Tasting the New Release Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon 2017…

The new release Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 from Le Riche is an incredible creation made with expertise honed over two generations. With Christo Le Riche really starting to hit his stride following decades of hard work by his father Etienne, he has expertly leveraged the excellence of the 2017 vintage to create a superbly supple and elegant wine with weightless fruit concentration and layers of sleek textural balance.

The grapes for the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon were sourced from Stellenbosch vineyards in the Simonsberg, Jonkershoek and Helderberg wards. Each vineyard block was separately vinified for one year, blended and subsequently aged for another 12 months. The result is a complex multi-dimensional wine with excellent maturation potential.

While not everyone can ultimately afford to stock their cellar with the lauded Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon releases that continue garner massive reviews, high scores and ongoing global acclaim, they certainly can access the exceptional Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon releases at very affordable prices. Who would not want to buy this incredible wine in a truly iconic vintage like 2015 or 2017.

Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon from Le Riche may only be their “entry level” edition, but it displays many of the impressive complex characteristics that have made their Reserve wines so iconic and collectable internationally. The 2017 colour is an alluring deep garnet-purple on this youthful wine. The bouquet lifts out the glass little by little with a delicate violet perfume but also with significantly more overt and expressive notes of black cherries, red currants, dark chocolate and spicy underbrush tones that melt into nuances of freshly tilled earth. The minerality is very subtle and chimes with faint notes of freshly cut cedar and graphite. On the palate, the soft, sleek, velvety tannins glide over the palate with well trained precision. Such a fine, elegant, polished texture that shows fabulous approachability, a supple fleshy savoury black currant fruit intensity and an earthy black plum fruit length. Wonderful poise and balance in the mouth, this wine demonstrates all the masterful winemaking skills of Christo Le Riche! Drink it from release or cellar for 10+ years. A “must have” for the cellar!

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

Andre Bruyns Meets the Classic 2017 Vintage Head On – Tasting the City On A Hill 2017 Chenin Blanc…

David and Nadia Sadie’s assistant winemaker André Bruyns is really starting to make his own mark in the wider world of fine wine. Yes, I’m sure being referred to as ‘the assistant winemaker’ is a moniker that will eventually start to get annoying for André, but hey, there are certainly worse places to cut your winemaking teeth than working with the gentle giant David Sadie!

André wants his wines to be specific to their site and soil type with his white grapes coming from 35 year old dryland vineyards in the Paardeberg Mountain, planted mainly with Chenin Blanc. Farmed sustainably with some organic and biodynamic practices used, the granitic soils enhance the ‘liquid minerality ’ of the grapes leading to a more focused, taut, linear style of wines.

André kicked off the City on a Hill project with his fabulous 2015 white blend made from 85% Chenin Blanc, but he now also makes a 100% Chenin Blanc white using a selection of his best barrels that reflect the restraint and linearity of the unique Paardeberg style of Chenin Blanc. I recently got my hands on a bottle of the 2017 and true to form, André has produced another cracking wine! This is a great little project to watch closely!

André Bruyns in the cellar.

City On A Hill Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland, 12.5 Abv.

This is a fascinating expression of Chenin Blanc created by André Bruyns. It’s the liquid equivalent of an enigma wrapped in a mystery that’s wrapped in a conundrum. The aromatics show crystalline white peach and yellow citrus, early season crunchy yellow orchard fruits but also pronounced salty, briney oxidative saline sea breeze notes. Underneath it all is this profound sense of liquid granitic minerality that pervades the wine. On the palate the tug of war continues, being taut but rich, salty but peachy, stony and thoroughly citric. Delicious oxidative notes of brine and dry roasted nuts rub shoulders with crisp bright acids, yet more overt minerality and an ample fleshy Chenin palate that retains a tight, crisp tension-laden finish. Intellectually, this wine is exhausting; hedonistically, it possesses the palate excitement of an eight year old child’s birthday and Christmas rolled into one! Still super youthful so drink a few bottles now but be sure to cellar at least a few for revisiting over 8-15+ years. A deliciously intriguing white!

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

Naude Family Wines… The Journey Continues – Tasting Their 2018 Concrete Egg Chenin Blanc Limited Release…

One of my life long mantras has always been that nice people make nice wines. After 11 years hard graft at Adoro Wines, in 2018 Ian finally followed his dreams and branched out with his own venture, launching Naude Family Wines. Focusing primarily on his old vine parcels of Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Cinsault and Grenache, Ian has also been teaching old dogs new tricks experimenting with some younger vine parcels of Swartland Chenin Blanc, Koekenaap Colombard and Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon.

The world’s most respected wine critic, Neal Martin, recently featured the Naude Family Wines Old Vine Series Chenin Blanc 2013, describing Ian as one of South Africa’s great unsung heroes of the Cape wine industry. For those that have been following Ian’s exceptional wines, they will know all too well of his incredible talent for bottling a vineyard’s unique terroir signature like capturing a liquid photograph.

Naude Family Wines A Naude Egg Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

Sourced from a prime vineyard in the Swartland, this more accessibly priced baby Chenin Blanc from younger vines was naturally fermented with wild yeasts in a concrete egg without any additions whatsoever. The resulting wine is wonderfully balanced and bristles with energy and vivacity by way of a fine line of acidity. True to its Swartland origins, this impressive Chenin Blanc is understated and classical with a fine linear textural focus that builds in the mouth to reveal layers of pineapple pastille fruits, yellow orchard fruits, morning dew on fresh bales of hay, crunchy green apples and a complex stony granitic minerality on the finish. A truly versatile wine for all cuisines and all occasions, you can drink this baby Chenin on release or cellar for another 3 to 5+ years for added complexity.

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

Stellenbosch Harvest 2020 Snapshot – The World Continues to Turn…

During all the Covid-19 lockdown madness around the world, it’s easy to forget that the world continues to turn, the vines of the Western Cape continue to grow and grapes continue to be harvested. There is certainly no “off button” when it comes to our flora and fauna.

Old Vines at Kanonkop Estate.

I was lucky enough to spend almost two weeks in the Cape at harvest time in mid-February and witnessed a lot of very healthy fruit coming into various cellars. So while many in the wine trade are thinking about the impending new release whites and reds from 2019, it’s always valuable to reflect on the latest 2020 harvest, one that will undoubtedly be remembered in years to come as the “lockdown vintage”. In essence, bottled liquid memories.

Kanonkop harvest.

KANONKOP

Throughout the season the different grape varietals were picked between 7 and 10 days earlier than normal. Both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were picked at lower sugar levels than the long-term average, which will result in wines with elegant structures and moderate alcohol levels.

The crop was only slightly bigger than the small 2019 harvest, but the overall small berry size will deliver wines with intense flavour and aromatic spectrums. Kanonkop obtained beautifully ripe tannins throughout the season, and they expect that the 2020 vintage will deliver elegant, classical wines with extended ageing potential.

RUSTENBERG

“2020 has been super” Murray Barlow proclaims. The crop is up for most varietals and the vintage is around +15% larger than average so a welcome year as we recover from the drought years of the past four years.

Rustenberg at sunset.

Quality wise the Rustenberg grapes have superb acids and more moderate alcohols in the white wines and wonderful fruit concentration and intensity in the reds with good colour and again moderate alcohols.

Murray Barlow’s son Tom, the 4th generation of Barlow’s at Rustenberg, inspecting red grapes before the 2020 harvest.

“So 2020 is a good vintage by our estimations quality wise. Whether it is a great vintage will be seen in the coming months” winemaker Murray Barlow concluded.