If it’s Pure Hedonistic Pleasure You Are Looking For, the New Vilafonté Series M 2016 Release is Probably For You…

I recently tasted and reviewed the 2016 Vilafonté Series C Cabernet Sauvignon based blend in London before its acclaimed launch in South Africa. What struck me with this wine as well as the Series M 2016 which I am tasting ahead of its 1st March release, is the distinctive quality evident in the wine. We all know 2015 was a red wine block buster but we were somehow led to believe that the drought conditions perhaps got the better of the wines in 2016?

Indeed 2016 was characterized by substantial drought conditions through the preceding winter and into the growing season. Warm, dry conditions in Spring were extremely favourable for a compact one week bloom period, leading to outstanding evenness of maturity in all vineyard blocks. The hot pre-harvest weather conditions and early picking, combined with concerns of fire risk, made for a uniquely demanding vintage. The Simonsberg mountain suffered fire damage, but fortunately, Vilafonté was not directly affected by fire nor smoke. Strategies implemented by the Vilafonté team protected the vines against heat, resulting in a surprisingly healthy vineyard with bright green leaves through harvest.

Harvest commenced on the 3rd of February and concluded on the 8th of March. In mid-February, the weather cooled and the Cabernet Sauvignon ripened under consistently cooler, more favourable circumstances than the early-season Merlot and Malbec, resulting in an unusually extended picking window. Severe drought conditions led to Vilafonté’s smallest per-hectare crop on record.

Vilafonté Series M 2016 Red Blend, WO Paarl, 14 Abv.

This red blend saw 22 months in 21% new French oak barrique with the balance aged in older French oak. The 2016 blend consists of 50% Malbec, 36% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc with 75 barrels or around 22,500 bottles produced. Lush and plush, this wine reveals a deep dark purple-garnet colour. While initially quite sweet, sappy and resinous on opening, a little time in glass allows the wine to gracefully compose itself and push its shoulders back to boldly reveal a beautiful nose of blackberry pie, cola, blueberry crumble, Ceylon tea, sweet cherry tobacco, sun raisined cranberry, a sweet toffee apple opulence and a gravelly, blackberry compote complexity. This wine is quite unlike many of the 2016 reds I have tasted, instead showing incredible aromatic lift, sweet berry fruited concentration, purity and a sense of utter winemaking control. With 50% of Malbec in the blend, the wine was always destined to resemble the more profound expressions of old vine La Consulta Malbecs from the Uco Valley in Argentina than any straight laced right bank blend dominated by Merlot or Cabernet Franc. But as I have learned over the last few years tasting the Vilafonté wines, this estate has taken Malbec to its heart and learnt to cherish the sappy sweet seductive opulence that this variety has offered as it has bedded into the local terroir. Indeed, its success can be regarded as one of the most significant fine wine phenomenons in the past 15 years and Vilafonté Series M personifies the potential of this grape married to the other classical Bordeaux varieties. My past experience of the Series M wines has taught me not to underestimate the satisfying underlying tension in the wines that sometimes take a few years to assert itself. This is no doubt an incredibly well crafted wine from one of the most up and coming wineries in South Africa and delivers a gorgeously honed hedonistic glass of vinous pleasure. Allow this wine to settle and gain more structural delineation with extra time in bottle, but if you simply can’t wait, pop it in a decanter for 2 hours and let the bouquet light up your life! Drink now to 2038+.

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

Watch out for the South African release on the 1st of March 2019. For further information, click here: https://www.vilafonte.com/members/

Putting the 2019 Platter 5 Star Wines through Their Paces – The Fine Wine Safari Assessment…

The Platter Wine Guide is the undisputed wine bible of South African wines. While this multi-award winning wine guide is not totally faultless in its approach to rating new release wines, it certainly is still the best all round annual informational resource guide a tourist or local South African wine enthusiast can buy.

So when Wines of South Africa UK presents the annual Platter Wine Guide 5 Star Tasting at the South African High Commission, it is always one of the most eagerly anticipated and well attended events for wine professionals whether they be journalists, a blogger, a wine commentator, restauranteur or a wine buyer.

Here is the Fine Wine Safari assessment of the 2019 Guide’s 5 Star wines. Over 70 wines were tasted and I have only listed the wines I rated 94 points or higher.

Whites:

Vergelegen G.V.B White 2015 

Varieties: 60% Schaapenberg Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon 

Region: Stellenbosch

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016

Varieties: 100% Chardonnay

Region: Stellenbosch

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Restless River Ava Marie Chardonnay 2016

Varieties: 100% Chardonnay

Region: Upper Hemel-enAarde Valley

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Bot River, Overberg

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Botanica Mary Delany Chenin Blanc 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Citrusdal Mountain

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

David & Nadia Hoe-Steen 2017 

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Swartland

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

David & Nadia Skaliekop 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Swartland

96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

De Morgenzon The Divas 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Stellenbosch

97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Thistle & Weed Duwweltjie Chenin Blanc 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Paarl

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

B Vintners Haarlem to Hope white blend 2017 

Varieties: 64% Chenin Blanc, 28% Semillon, 4% Muscat d’ Frontignan and 4% Muscat d’ Alexandrie 

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Old Vines 2017

Varieties: 65% Chenin Blanc, 13% Grenache Blanc, 10% Viognier, 10% Clairette Blanche, 2% Semillon Gris

Region: Swartland

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sadie Palladius 2016

Varieties:  Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, ClairetteBlanche , Viognier, Verdelho, Roussanne, Semillon Gris, Semillon Blanc and Palomino

Region: Swartland

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Savage white blend 2017

Varieties:  Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chenin Blanc

Region: Western Cape

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Stark-Condé The Field Blend 2017 

Varieties:  36% Chenin Blanc, 36% Roussanne, 17% Viognier, 11% Verdelho

Region: Stellenbosch, Jonkershoek Valley

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse white blend 2017

Varieties:  Roussanne, Chardonnay, Semillon, Clairette Blanche and Chenin Blanc

Region: Western Cape

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Red Wines:

Elemental Bob Graveyard Tinta Barocca 2017

Varieties:  100% Tinta Barocca

Region / WO: Stellenbosch

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Crystallum Cuvée Cinéma Pinot Noir 2017

Varieties:  100% Pinot Noir

Region: Hemel-enAarde

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Thelema Sutherland Petit Verdot Reserve 2015

Varieties:  100% Petit Verdot

Region: Elgin

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Raats Cabernet Franc 2016

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Franc

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Raats Dolomite Cabernet Franc 2016

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Franc

Region: Stellenbosch

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Stellenbosch 

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Reyneke Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Stellenbosch 

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Warwick The Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Stellenbosch 

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Hartenberg CWG Auction Reserve Shiraz 2015

Varieties:  100% Shiraz

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2016

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Swartland

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Leeuwenkuil Heritage Syrah 2015

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Swartland

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Porseleinberg Syrah 2016

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Swartland

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Rust en Vrede Single Vineyard Syrah 2015

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Stellenbosch

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Erika O Syrah-Grenache Noir-Cinsault 2016

Varieties: 53 % Syrah, 28 % Grenache Noir and 19 % Cinsault

Region: Western Cape 

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Saronsberg Full Circle Red 2016 

Varieties: 82% Shiraz, 11% Grenache, 6%  Mourvèdre, 1% Viognier

Region: Tulbagh

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015

Varieties: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot

Region: Stellenbosch

98/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Beeslaar Pinotage 2016 

Varieties:  100% Pinotage

Region: Stellenbosch

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2016 

Varieties:  100% Pinotage

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Kanonkop Black Label 2016

Varieties:  100% Pinotage

Region: Stellenbosch

97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sweet Wines:

Klein Constantia Estate Vin de Constance 2014 

Varieties:  100% Muscat de Frontignan

Region: Constantia

97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest 2017

Varieties:  100% Riesling

Region: Elgin

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Straw Wine 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc 

Region: Swartland

97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2016 

Varieties: 74% Touriga Nacional, 18% Tinta Barocca, 8% Tinta Roriz

Region: Calitzdorp

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Kaapzicht Winery in Safe Hands with the Next Generation – Tasting with Winemaker Danie Steytler Junior…

Kaapzicht has been a family owned estate since 1946 producing high quality wines from their Bottelary Hills fruit. With the winemaking reins now firmly handed over from patriarch Danie Steytler Snr to next generation Danie Steytler Jnr, some incredibly exciting new wines are already being produced.

I recently caught up with Danie Steytler Jnr in London to talk wine, Stellenbosch politics, old vines, the future of Kaapzicht and also taste some of his exciting current releases.

Kaapzicht Estate Skuinsberg Bush Vine Cinsault 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

80 to 380 metres aspect vineyard. All 1991 dry land bush vine on 3.3 hectares. Lovely dense earthy savoury sun dried strawberry and bramble berry fruit nose. Full and fleshy, this is showy, bright and mouth watering, displaying a crunchy edge, saline acidity and a fine sweet macerated red currant finish. Delicious.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Kaapzicht Estate The 1952 Bush Vine Cinsault 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

This wine was made by Danie using grapes sourced from a 1952 block planted on Bellevue. One ton with 30% whole bunch in two 500 litre barrels for fermentation. A much more fragrant, lifted perfumed nose with sweet cherry, sun dried cranberry, rose petals and Turkish delight. Very pretty and deliciously complex with a tantalising sappy, stalk spice character. Palate speaks confidently but softly and is beautifully nuanced, vibrant and premium in feel. Another wine that shows the great potential of Cinsault.

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

Tasting with the talented winemaker Danie Steytler Junior.

Kaapzicht Estate Pinotage 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

Dark deep depth of black plum with an opulent, slightly reductive nose of black cherry, mulberry and stewed plum. The oak is very subtle and integrated playing to the strengths of the fruit purity and precision emphasising the wines wild edge. Texturally there is impressive focus, balanced finesse and a classy, cool, elegant mouthfeel punctuated with soft supple black fruits and oak spice. This is an impressive expression of this uniquely South African variety.

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

Kaapzicht Estate Kliprug Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Grapes from Bottelary, Stellenbosch. 6000 bottles produced, 60% in 500 litre oak, 20% in concrete egg and 20% stainless steel tank. Rich, deep, complex nose of bruised yellow fruits, white peach, creamy and plush, showing honied pineapples, leesy yellow fruits. Plenty of gravitas, fruit weight, focus and textural complexity.

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Kaapzicht Estate The 1947 Chenin Blanc, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

From 70 year old vines, the aromatics are super complex and spicy with lovely nuances of wet straw, dusty white citrus, honied yellow peaches, fynbos and sweet pineapple confit. There is such focused depth, full bodied plump texture and complexity with fabulous nuances of tangerine peel, naartjie pulp, lychee concentrate and a honied bon bon intensity. A super impressive wine with power, breadth and weight but a balancing harmonious acidity. The true personification of delicious old vine Chenin Blanc statesmanship. World class from every angle. Drink now and over the next 25 years.

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

The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable “Off-Piste” Red Wines of the Year 2018…

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Red Wines of the Year was a modest attempt to illustrate South Africa’s finest benchmark wines and styles for all to see and to give international collectors and drinkers a handful of names and labels to look out for. However, one of the absolute cornerstones of the recent global success of the South African wine category has been its incredible diversity and in many cases it’s inspired eccentricity combined with outright quality.

So in an attempt to show the more experimental and alternative “off-piste” face of South African wine, I have enjoyed compiling my Top 10 list of most memorable reds, truly outstanding wines produced by producers that do not necessarily aspire to 100 point ratings or mass market appeal. Nevertheless, these wines are all more than worthy of a slot in your cellar!

Sadie Family Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2017, Swartland

Franco Lourens Howard John Red Blend 2017, WO Western Cape

David & Nadia Pinotage 2017, Swartland

Fram Grenache Gris 2017, Swartland

Kleine Zalze Amphora Grenache 2017

Craven Wines Cinsault 2017, Stellenbosch

Restless River Wanderlust Grenache 2017, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Scions of Sinai Feniks Pinotage 2017, Stellenbosch

Sutherland Petit Verdot Reserve 2015, Elgin

Welbedacht Estate Patriot Cape Blend 2014, Wellington

The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable “Off-Piste” White Wines of the Year 2018…

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Whites and Reds of the Year was a modest attempt to illustrate South Africa’s finest benchmark wines and styles for all to see and to give international collectors and drinkers a handful of names and labels to look out for. However, one of the absolute cornerstones of the recent global success of the South African wine category has been its incredible diversity and in many cases its inspired eccentricity combined with outright wine quality.

So in an attempt to show the more experimental and alternative “off-piste” face of South African wine, I have enjoyed compiling my Top 10 list of most memorable whites and reds of truly outstanding wines produced by producers who do not necessarily aspire to 100 point ratings or mass market appeal. Nevertheless, these wines are all more than worthy of a valued slot in your cellar!

(In the true spirit of these wines, they are not scored here and are presented in no particular order of preference!)

Alheit Family Wines Vote For Pedro 2017

Francois Bezuidenhout Leenders Baviaan White Blend 2018, 13 Abv.

Pieter Walser Blank Bottle Winery Epileptic Inspiration Semillon 2016, Elgin

Terracura Smiley V4 Chenin Blanc NV, Swartland

Donovan Rall Grenache Blanc 2017, Swartland

Andre Bruyns City on a Hill Dry Muscat de Alexandrie 2017, Swartland

Bosman Family Wines Fides Skin Contact Grenache Blanc 2016, Wellington

Iona 8 + 8 Riesling 2017, Elgin

A.A.Badendorst Family Wines Geelkapel Dry Muscat de Frontignan 2017, Swartland

Momento Grenache Gris 2017, Voor-Paardeberg

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 South African Red Wines of the Year 2018…

What a fascinating and historical year 2018 was for red wines in South Africa. With the exception of only a few wineries, most premium producers released their incredible 2015 wines made from what is generally being regarded as probably the best quality vintage in South Africa’s modern post-apartheid era of winemaking.

Having already released the Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Whites of the Year, I have been overwhelmed with the comments of agreement and support for my selections. But then again, many will argue that the list included a multitude of excellent 2017 vintage wines and that the “white category” still remains South Africa’s strongest talent. While all of this may be true, 2018 saw the release of multiple red wines that pushed quality boundaries like never before. We’ll hand some of that to the vintage conditions of 2015 and 2017 but I’d also like to credit the growing confidence, expertise, knowhow and ambition of winemakers across the South African landscape.

If you are a seasoned veteran of premium South African wines, you will nod knowingly and expectantly at many of my red selections. If you are new to the South African category, perhaps living in the USA, Europe or Asia, make an effort to track these wines down now as many might still be available and all are definitely worth buying, even at their sometimes lofty price points! In my mind, they all represent relative value for money for what they are. Enjoy!

Kanonkop Paul Sauer Red Blend 2015, Stellenbosch – 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Meerlust Rubicon Red Blend 2015, Stellenbosch – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Vilafonte Series C 2016 Red Blend, Paarl – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Boekenhoutskloof Journeyman Red Blend 2015, WO Western Cape – 97+/100 GregSherwood MW

Donovan Rall Ava Syrah 2017, Swartland – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Tokara Telos Red Blend 2015, Stellenbosch – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

MR de Compostella Red Blend 2016, Stellenbosch – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Iron Syrah 2016, Swartland – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Stellenbosch – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Duncan Savage Red Blend 2015, WO Western Cape – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone who helped make 2018 such a memorable year! 🍷🎄 🦄

Don’t miss my “Year in Photographs” coming up before New Years Eve 2018.

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 South African White Wines of the Year 2018…

What a fabulous year for South African wine it has been! Of course for many 2018 was extra special because a lot of people who may not normally go to South Africa regularly made the pilgrimage down to Cape Wine 2018 in September. Personally, I made four separate visits to South Africa this year including a mammoth 10 day mega session that covered both the Nederburg Auction and the entire week of the Cape Wine trade fair.

— 🥁🥁🥁🥁🥁 …. drum roll ….

So for 2018, my Top 10 South African White Wines of the Year are as follows:

Alheit Family Wines Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017, Swartland – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sadie Family Wines Old Vines Series ‘T Voetpad 2017, Swartland – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Lukas Van Loggerenberg Kameraderie Chenin Blanc 2017 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sadie Family Wines Palladius White Blend 2016, Swartland – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Alheit Family Wines Magnetic North Chenin Blanc 2017, Skurfberg – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2017, Swartland – 96+/100 GregSherwood MW

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Radicales Libres White Blend 2012, Swartland – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Restless River Ava Maria Chardonnay 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Naude Family Wines Old Vines Semillon 2016, Western Cape – 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015, Constantia – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

A huge heartfelt congratulations to all the distinguished producers who made my Top 10 Whites this year. Merry Christmas! 🎄🍷

Coming up next before the New Year… the ultimate Fine Wine Safari Top 10 South African Red Wines of the Year 2018. Definitely not to be missed!