The Kanonkop estate in Stellenbosch is synonymous with not only one of the most premium Cabernet Sauvignon based Bordeaux blends in South Africa, the Paul Sauer, but also the most serious expression of Old Vine Pinotage produced in the country.
This super premium Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage is made from one of the oldest Pinotage vineyards in South Africa planted in 1953 on a site that has over the years continued to produce fruit of specific excellence, deemed special enough to be bottled under its own label.
This new Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage 2018 was matured for 18 months in French oak, of which 100% was new.
Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.
Fantastically dense, brûléed and opulent, this plush textural expression shows complex notes of black plum compote, mulberry, powdered mocha, cinnamon powder and a sweet sappy cedar spice. With the senses reeling, the palate gets assaulted by a plush, fleshy, round weight of black and red berry fruits, spicy brûléed vanilla notes, charred barrel spice and a grippy, youthful tannin on the finish adding a perfect frame and structure for the fruit concentration. Beautifully open and upfront, round and expressive, this wine shows a real accessibility, a soft cool acidity and a perfect amount of grip. Not quite the precision and fresh perfumed purity of the 2017 but certainly not far off. Another very well endowed beauty. Drink from 2022 to 2040+.
The focus of the De Toren estate has always been centred around the iconic Fusion V Cape Bordeaux blend made in a Left Bank leaning expression with a dominance of Cabernet Sauvignon. But the De Toren Z has slowly but surely started to catch the attention of wine critics and connoisseurs around the world with on-trade buyers and sommeliers taking a particular fancy to this blend.
While the debate continues as to whether this Merlot based Right Bank blend was born out of the quality Fusion V off-cuts or whether it was individually designed around specific varieties and terroirs on the Polkadraai estate, one thing is certain – the De Toren Z Cape Bordeaux blend is a premium wine to be reckoned with and taken seriously as it enters a small select group of top red blends coming out of South Africa.
With the 2016 Z currently selling great guns in South Africa and around the world, I thought I’d take a sneak peek at the highly anticipated 2017 that looks set to take the world by storm.
De Toren Estate Z 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.
This wine personifies the De Toren journey of initially making one premium wine that ultimately heralded two iconic wines due to the estate’s attention to detail, terroir and focus on quality. This Merlot based blend is another absolute blinder revealing a rich, intense, brûléed aromatic array of saline cassis, nori seaweed, pithy black cherry, savoury black plum, roasted coffee beans and hints of open fire grilled winter chestnuts. The palate is super sleek and beautifully silky and suave bolstered by the most opulent, plump, hedonistic black fruit concentration, brûléed wood spice nuances and a long, mouth coating, vibrant finish. This wine speaks of the vintage with its weightless concentration and seamless balance and will appeal to Right Bank Bordeaux lovers who especially enjoy the iconic vintages. This wine is certainly right up there with the sensational 2015 De Toren Z and must surely rate as one of the best vintages of Z produced from the estate to date. Drink from 2022 to 2036+
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Watch out for the launch of this 2017 beauty in SA around the end of 1st Quarter 2021.
It all started a few years ago when Roland Peens of Cape Town wine merchant Wine Cellar held a blind Grenache Taste-Off with some of the most famous expressions from around the world. In an astonishing result, the Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014 trumped the competition coming out top against examples that included several wines from French icon producer Chateau Rayas. This was a result that would go a long way in establishing the cult status of the maiden Naude 2014 Grenache.
After only one vintage, Ian unfortunately lost the contract to the fruit from this vineyard and with the maiden Naude Grenache 2014 red riding high in the market, no further releases were forthcoming… that is until 2019, when Ian managed to once again agree access to the fruit from this vineyard that was now nearing 24 years old. With a December 2020 release of this new wine scheduled by Ian Naude, myself together with two of the original judges from the Judgement of Chiswick decided it was time to put the new 2019 vintage to the test against some of the most sturdy international Grenache competition available.
In the past few years since the original tastings, the extraordinary Grenache wines from the Sierra de Gredos situated west of Madrid have seduced the world’s top wine critics with their precision, perfume, old vine structure and purity. Spain in general has seen a notable Grenache wine revolution unfold to include high altitude, old vine expressions from Rioja, Navarra, Priorat and Madrid. The blind line up this year would include some spectacular examples including the 100 RP Comando G Rumbo al Norte 2018, the 100 RP Les Manyes 2016 from Terrior Al Limit and also a 98 RP Les Amis 2015 Grenache from Australia’s Torbreck estate in the Barossa. Of course no line up would be complete without the original Naude Grenache 2014 as well as a young vine expression Ian Naude made in 2017 as an entry level offering primarily for the UK market, under the A Naude Wine label.
Below are my own notes and scores on the wines tasted blind:
1 – Bernabeleva Garnacha de Vina Bonita 2016, DO Vinos de Madrid, 14% Abv.
Intense aromatics of liquid minerality, crushed granite with notes of dried herbs and sappy oak spice with an underlay of supporting vermouth botanical herbs. Palate is cool and precise, layered with chalky tannins, some chewy grip and a wild herb, red candied cherry and wet river stone finish. 92+/100 GSMW
2 – Naude Family Wines A Naudé Grenache 2017, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.
Deep rich and broody with bold dark fruited berry aromatics, graphite, pithy red plum and botanical spices. The palate is crystalline and pure, vibrant and lifted with bright juicy acids, creamy caramelised cranberry and red cherry and a cool, harmonious finish. Dense ripe tannins but seamless. Each sip beckons another. 95-96/100 GSMW
3 – Terroir Al Limit Les Manyes 2016, DOC Priorat, 14% Abv.
A little more complexity and evolution on the nose with hints of bramble berry, sweet kirsch liquor, sweet tobacco, wet tannery leather and wild stewed black plums. Fabulously seamless snd fleshy, there is incredible harmony and balance, depth and breadth on the palate. The finish focused and intense with subtle sweet red currant, graphite, brambly spice and fine powdery dusty tannins. Classy. 96+/100 GSMW
4 – 4 Monos Cien Lanzas Cenicientos 2016, Vino de Pueblo, Sierra de Gredos, 14.5% Abv.
This wine has pretty aromatics with showy sweet red berry fruits, stewed red cherries and red plum confit. Generous, fleshy and suave this has a wonderful harmonious texture, glycerol weight and a spicy, sappy bramble berry finish. Not quite the extreme complexity of the other wines but absolutely delicious. 93/100 GSMW
5 – Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat 2017, WO Piekenierskloof, 13.5% Abv.
Another deep and complex nose with broody bramble berry fruit, sappy spice, rose water and subtle botanical herbal spice. Full, round and expressive, it shows intensity and richness without sweetness or showy extravagance. Lovely weight and balance, this is another classy Grenache. 94/100 GSMW
6 – Comando G Viticultores Vino de Parcela Rumbo al Norte 2018, Villanueva de Avila, Valle de Alto Albereche, Sierra de Gredos, 14% Abv.
This red shows exotic spicy lift with subtle reductive hints of graphite, tar, black cherry, pink musk, green olive and smoky, spicy dried lavender. Palate shows lovely weight and depth, a glycerol opulent weight, smoky spicy fruits, powder tannin and a waxy liquid mineral finish. Intense, focused expression. 95-96/100 GSMW
7 – Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.
Big expressive aromatic profile with sweet cherry kirsch liquor, sweet vermouth herbs, spicy red plums and caramelised red berries. There is an oak influence but more than adequately balanced by a sweet red fruit intensity, vermouth sweetness, dried mint leaf, bramble berry herbal notes and then a more purer fruit expression emerging on the finish. 97/100 GSMW
8 – Aseginolaza & Leunda Camino de Otsaka 2018, Vino de la Tierra, 14.5% Abv.
Lovely lush dark berry fruited nose with lactic red & black berry complexity, milk chocolate and a Logan berry complexity. Perhaps a subtle lick of oak mingling with creamy cherry kirsch liquor, bright tangy acids and a finish that seems perfectly endless. Massive intensity, concentration and finesse tied together with delicious acids. This is just lovely if not a little more extrovert and opulent than the others. 94/100
9 – Naude Family Wines Grenache 2019, WO Western Cape, 12% Abv.
This shows a fascinating aromatic profile of crystalline red berry fruits, pure cranberry boiled sweets, hints of saline creme de cassis and tart red cherry coulis. Fabulous freshness, purity and linearity follows to the palate that shows well judged reductive spicy graphite hints, chalky stony tannins and a liquid mineral finish with a polished, accessible structure. Lighter touch style with elegance and finesse chosen over horsepower. 94+/100
10 – Torbreck Les Amis Grenache 2015, Barossa Valley, 15.5% Abv.
A big, full opulent expression with deep broody black berry fruit notes, sweet caramelised red plums, sweet kirsch liquor and a slightly brûléed edge. The palate follows the nose with slightly brûléed, caramelised notes, with hints of coffee bean, vanilla spice and creamy oak. Slightly obvious but fabulously punchy. 95+/100
The Judges’ Individual Blind Results:
Judge 1 (BvB)
1 – No 7
2 – No 6
3 – No 2
Judge 2 (RPot)
1 – No 6
2 – No 3
3 – No 2
1 – No 7
2 – No 5
3 – No 2
Judge 4 (GSMW)
1 – No 7 97
2 – No 3 96+
3 – No 2 95-96
4 – No 6 95-96
5 – No 10 95+
6 – No 9 94+
7 – No 5 94
8 – No 8 94
9 – No 4 93
10 – No 1 92+
Overall Group Results:
1st Place Wine – Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014 (No.7)
2nd Place Wine – Terroir Al Limit Les Manyes 2016 (No.3)
3rd Place Wine – A Naude Wine Grenache 2017 (No.2)
When the grand reveal was made at the end of the tasting after the scores were collated, all judges were surprised how well the Naude Grenache 2014 performed yet again, however, it was the almost unanimous third place for Ian’s ‘baby Grenache’ from 2017 that really blew everyone’s mind. Nobody expected this wine to feature in the top half of the ratings due to the formidable brands tasted alongside it. But this wine was of course rated 94 points in Decanter Magazine last year and also received a very solid 92 points from the world’s most famous reviewer, Neal Martin, writing in his 2019 South Africa Report for Vinous.com – His note for this wine was…
“The 2017 Grenache, from young Wellington vines with 80% whole bunches, is more reticent on the nose than the Cinsault 2017, offering dark berry fruits, fynbos and light rose petal scents. It needs a little more coaxing than I expected. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins that frame the maraschino cherry and strawberry fruit. There is moderate depth and a fleshy, sous-bois-tinged finish. Very fine.” 92/100 Neal Martin, Vinous
As for the new Naude Family Wines Grenache 2019, for such a young wine, it performed exceptionally well, lining up just behind some of the highest rated Grenaches in the world. With only a half point difference between my blind rating (94+) and my sighted review (95), I think this wine will equal and probably surpass the heights achieved by the 2014 as I truly believe that the 2019 is a more focused and accomplished wine. It has just been commercially released in South Africa, so do order some for your cellar!
This was a fabulously fun event to take part in and a special word of thanks should go to Barry van Bergen for hosting the tasting in Wimbledon and to Riaan Potgieter for helping to put together a seductive range of wines. Congratulations Ian and Merry Christmas!!
Duncan’s previous life at Cape Point Vineyards is certainly well documented, for it was during his tenure there as head winemaker that he pretty much perfected the art of producing iconic Sauvignon Blanc. In 2019 Duncan happened to stumble upon a 32 year old block of bush vine Sauvignon Blanc in Stellenbosch. The elevation, wind and vine age all pointed in the right direction and after a bit of experimentation, the Salt River Sauvignon Blanc label was born.
It seems Duncan fell in love with the wine and vineyard and along with his UK importer Swig Wines, decided to create a new brand and style separate from the rest of the Savage Wines range. Salt River is in the heart of the city of Cape Town, and is of course where Duncan’s trendy urban winery can be found. As Duncan’s UK importer Swig Wines points out, “Salt River is very reminiscent of an edgy Shoreditch in London a few years back.”
This Sauvignon Blanc was fermented in a combination of stainless steel tanks, concrete eggs and old barrels. The wine spent four months in these vessels before being bottled, followed by a further two months in bottle prior to release. Only 500 cases of this wine were produced.
Savage Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2020, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.
RS 2 g/l | pH 3.3 | TA 6.4 g/l
This has all the hallmarks of an expert Sauvignon Blanc master negotiating the ripeness and pungency of this variety with extreme precision. Beautifully complex and intense, the aromatics show notes of freshly cut fennel, green asparagus, yellow baking apples, waxy lemon peel and hints of fresh wet thatch. On the palate, it’s just as impressive with nervy, pithy yellow grapefruit peel zest, white citrus spice, tangerine and glycerol peach liquor nuances on the saline finish. This is next level Sauvignon Blanc that will appeal to novices and connoisseurs alike. Pop and pour!
This is a journey that all started in 2014 with one experimental tank of Grenache from a special 18 year old vineyard parcel in the Agter Paardeberg, that Rosa Kruger had identified for Ian Naude. I just happened to be visiting Ian to taste his new Chenin Blanc and Cinsault vintages in barrel when I noticed this large stainless steel tank fermenting away in the corner of Ian’s cellar. When I enquired what it was and whether I could taste it, Ian suddenly appeared rather nervous and seemed quite reluctant. In the end, I did taste this magical wine that finally blossomed into one of the finest Grenache single varietal wines ever produced in South Africa.
But don’t take my word for it. There have been at least three large blind tastings carried out that I know of where the Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014 trumped the competition, coming out top against some of the finest Grenache examples from not only South Africa but also France and Spain, including twice beating the legendary Chateau Rayas in a blind line up. So the credentials of this vineyard as well as Ian’s winemaking prowess cannot be doubted. But not all stories have a happy ending. After only one vintage, Ian unfortunately lost the contract to the fruit from this vineyard, and with the maiden Naude Grenache 2014 red riding high in the market, no further releases were forthcoming… that is until 2019, when Ian managed to once again agree access to the fruit from this vineyard that was now nearing 24 years old.
In 2019, the Grenache crop was unfortunately one of the smallest ever due to the ongoing effects of a four year drought. Severe weather fluctuations during bud break and flowering also contributed to an already challenging season. There were some small positives however, with the small crop yielding exceptional fruit quality. Ian points out that the winter preceding the 2019 harvest received a high, drought busting rainfall allowing the vineyards and soils to start their long road to recovery after almost half a decade of drought conditions.
With healthy fruit beckoning, Ian consciously wanted to produce a red that moved away from the jammy, heavy, earthy ‘barnyard’ style that Grenache wines so easily orientate towards. After many visits to the vineyard and picking at a ripeness that would make a lighter, more elegant style of Grenache, the grapes were naturally fermented with minimal intervention. A combination of whole bunch, destemmed grapes and stalks where utilised during a natural fermentation in stainless steel tanks. After one or two soft pump-overs per day, the wine was left to settle for two weeks before being pressed and transferred into older 225 litre small French oak barrels where the wine was aged for 12 to 15 months.
Due for general release in mid-December 2020, this wine will almost certainly find an instant fine wine audience not just from those Grenache lovers that were lucky enough to savour Ian’s legendary 2014 release, but also from new consumers who have subsequently got to know Ian through his exceptional Chenin Blanc and white blends as well as his highly lauded Old Vine Cinsaults from Darling. This is yet another tantalising new release from a winemaker that is currently reaching new heights of fame and popularity both at home in South Africa but also internationally.
Naudé Family Wines Grenache 2019, WO Western Cape, 12% Abv.
RS 1.2 g/L | TA 6.1 g/L | pH 3.2 g/L
There are many wonderful styles of Grenache around but one thing you can be assured of is the “Naude style” will always offer plentiful notes of perfume and fragrance, tart bright lively acids, red earthy fruits, pinpoint precision and above all, pronounced purity. This 2019 is vibrantly youthful allowing the aromatics to sing in unison with complex notes of violets and rose petals, bright red berry fruits and subtle notes of ruby grapefruit and red bramble berry spice. Cool, crystalline and wonderfully pure, the palate is steely and classically focused with a tart tangy acidity, zesty hints of blood orange citrus, cranberry and red plums and a backing mineral undertone of stony grey slate and fine grained gravelly tannins. Comparisons with Ian’s iconic 2014 Grenache expression will be inevitable but in many ways, the 2019 release is more polished, fine boned, focused and self-assured with more of the signature Naudé purity, tautness and light touch intensity in evidence. Once again, this impressive new release ranks amongst the finest single varietal Grenache reds produced in the Cape. Drink on release or age for 10-15+ years.
KWV was founded in 1918, the same year South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, was born. In the space of just over a century, the country and its wine industry have seen many changes, and KWV, as the company who united wine farmers during the industry’s fledgling years, is now one of South Africa’s leading international wine brands.
When I was growing up all around the world as the son of a diplomat, the letters K-W-V were enough to lend a massive amount of reassurance and a total stamp of quality. Needless to say, post-1994, the KWV brand was inevitably promoted to great heights in the home market with varying amounts of success. Today, the company produces a very broad array of wines and brands under multiple wine makers with their Mentors range leading the quality charge.
KWV The Mentors Orchestra 2017, WO Western Cape, 14.5% Abv.
This 2017 shows full opulent aromatics with rich notes of blueberry and black berry fruits, creme de cassis and cherry kirsch liquor spice. The palate shows multiple layers of plush black creamy fruits with subtle nuances of liquorice, graphite and a salty bite on the finish. Textural, generously fruity but also displays a classical minerality, muscular tannins and a long expressive finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
KWV The Mentors Pinotage 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.
This wine seems to exhibit a more narrow, tightly focused array of aromatics and flavours. The more overt, exotic Pinotage characters seem to have been reigned in somewhat to show much purer black berry fruits, black currant, blueberry with a stony wet river pebble minerality. Sumptuous, plush and textured, given a good decant, this wine becomes very generous, creamy, seamless and approachable. If only they made Pinotage like this in the 1980s and early 1990s, it may have become far more of a signature variety for South Africa.
(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
KWV The Mentors Petit Verdot 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.
Rich and savoury on the nose, this expression shows layers of black and blue berry fruits, black olive, black plum and freshly tilled earth. Dense and sleek, the tannins are muscular yet supremely polished lending a full glycerol mouthfeel with all the tell tale glassy, tart crunchy acids of Petit Verdot balanced by ample fruit concentration. Not surprisingly, this wine is profound and intense in its youth but should potentially blossom into something really special with 5-8 years of extra bottle age!
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
KWV The Mentors Canvas 2018, WO Coastal, 14.5% Abv.
This KWV ‘blank canvas’ is decorated with 38% Shiraz, 19% Grenache Noir, 12.5% Petite Syrah, 12.5% Tempranillo, 12% Carignan, 3% Mourvedre and 3% Tannat sourced from Wellington, Paarl, Swartland and Stellenbosch. The aromatics are pure, clean and delicately black fruited with hints of blueberry, sour black plum, cassis and savoury mulberry without any standout aromatic pungency. But on the palate, the wine and its blending really come into their own with an intense concentration, piercing crunchy acids and a cool, seamless, slightly saline tart black berry finish. A complex blend executed with precision. Might be a bit of a fruit salad blend but it is certainly a lot more drinkable than many Cape blends on the market.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
KWV The Mentors Orchestra 2018, WO Western Cape, 14.5% Abv.
A blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 6% Carmenere aged for 18 months in 70% new French oak barrels. The youthful nose displays opulent notes of cocoa and mocha, vanilla spice, black plum, tannery leather, sweet tobacco and floral hints of violets. On the palate, the wine exhibits its more flamboyant style with soft creamy tannins, dense textural black fruits with bright acids, a buttered brown toast complexity and a sleek, harmonious, vibrant black and blue berry fruited finish. This is ready to go now but will improve with 3 to 5+ more years ageing.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
KWV The Mentors Petite Syrah 2018 Limited Release, WO Paarl, 14.5% Abv.
Another well made wine from KWV and the Mentors range. But this limited release, 1000 bottle Cuvee of Petite Syrah is a little more wild and exotic than some of the more traditional blends in the range. This wine is full of multiple layers of black berry, blueberries and tart sappy plums with a wonderful supportive aromatic floral note of lavender and rose petals and a tease of black pepper spice. The palate is assuredly dense and textured with plenty of zesty acidity, pithy sandy tannins and a spicy but tart leafy finish. Plenty of polished density and opulent fruit intensity make this a very enjoyable glass of red. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
KWV Abraham Perold Tributum 2015, WO Coastal, 14.5% Abv.
This Perold Cuvee is an exotic Cape blend consisting of Pinotage, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. As you’d expect from a premium cuvee, it is dense, ripe and punchy with notes of sweet stewed plums, molasses, Christmas cake, tilled earth and earthy red currant notes. This bold density is carried to the palate where the rich, slightly baked plum notes announce their presence and flirt with stewed black currants, winter fruit compote notes and an oak spice finish. Super plush, opulent and generous, this is a very impressive “Cape Blend” in the context of the current market’s offerings.
The Roodeberg brand plays a mythical part in the South African wine industry’s history. Often used as a spearhead for brand South Africa in international markets during the height of the apartheid years meant that it was not readily available in the home market and accordingly, became a bit of a unicorn red wine.
Indeed, for the first 55 years, Roodeberg was exclusively made for export after Canada paved the way in the 1950s. Although not readily available locally in South Africa until 2004 without an acquaintance with a KWV quota, Roodeberg always enjoyed iconic status in the hearts and minds of South Africans.
So with the brand primarily focused on export markets, it did seem to lose some of its mystique and allure when KWV finally chose to launch it as a brand in the local South African market. With resulting changes to its style and inevitably, its quality level, it faded slightly to become yet another historical brand of times gone by.
The new 1949 Roodeberg Red Blend is a return to the original premium Roodeberg tradition and philosophy attempting a universal fine wine appeal. The excellent maiden 2017 vintage was produced from premium Stellenbosch grapes grown on the Grondves Farm, one of the primary sites for the development of mother plant material for the South African wine industry.
“Roodeberg 1949 is a dedicated collaborative effort harnessing some of the finest plant material along with our combined viticultural and winemaking expertise,” says winemaker Louwritz Louw, who worked closely with viticulturist Marco Ventrella and former KWV Cellarmaster and renowned wine educator Prof. Charl Theron in seeing this exclusive commemorative blend come to life.
Roodeberg 1949 embraces the revival of exciting French and Spanish varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon (38%) forms the foundation of the blend supported by Tempranillo (29%), Carignan (20%) and Carménère (13%). After fermentation, the different components were left to mature for 18 months in new French oak barrels with only the best barrels selected for blending and bottling for this maiden commemorative wine.
The original Roodeberg red blend was the brainchild of Dr Charles Niehaus, a legendary pioneer of the South African wine industry, who crafted the first vintage from the 1946 harvest. Dr Niehaus was the successor of Dr Abraham Izak Perold, the KWV’s chief wine scientist and revered father of Pinotage. Inspired by a glorious sunset over the Paarl mountains, the name Roodeberg, harks back to the vineyards of Rothenberg near Geisenheim in Germany where Dr Niehaus studied winemaking. He retired in 1971 leaving a rich legacy of winemaking prowess in his wake.
KWV 1949 Roodeberg Red Blend 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.
This wine shows a very attractive aromatic profile of ripe red and black berries, caramelised notes of pecan pie, black liquorice, kirsch liquor and brûléed coffee beans. It’s certainly very inviting and seductive and doesn’t disappoint on the palate. Sleek and very suave, this has a wonderfully elegant texture as you’d expect from a well made 2017 red, with a fresh crunchy bright acidity that dances on the front of your tongue before being coated by a luxurious wave of silky soft red strawberry and black berry fruits, creamy soft chocolatey tannins and a tangy, sweet sour plummy finish. Weightless concentration with a cool defined line of acidity is accompanied by oaking that is superbly integrated and really adds to the wine like a chef’s deft sprinkle of salt and pepper without leaving a marked imprint. An impressive wine that grew in stature as it was allowed to open up in the glass over two plus hours. So elegant, silky and mouth-wateringly fresh, it will take plenty of will power not to drink this wine on release… as I suspect it will be at its best after 5 to 8 years and drink well for 15+ years. An impressive maiden release.
This famous winery is situated on the premium slopes of the Helderberg Mountains in the heart of South Africa’s most famous wine region Stellenbosch. Over the years the range of top quality wines from Ken Forrester has acquired a massive national following along with a bountiful amount of international acclaim with literally hundreds of awards and accolades amassed over time.
Ken Forrester’s philosophy has always been to create a range of handcrafted, individually made wines that suitably complement a wide variety of lifestyles and food styles especially with the restaurant trade being another industry very close to Ken’s own heart.
The Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2019 from Ken Forrester Wines is an impressive allrounder that exhibits concentration, intensity and depth. The grapes come from 39-year-old vines which are fermented in both tank and barrels of which approximately 20% were new, followed by a further maturation of circa nine months before bottling.
Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.
This pretty Chenin Blanc shows fabulous tension and minerality from the start with complex aromatics of crunchy white peach, quince, yellow grapefruit and sweet green herbs. The palate is full and dense, tight knit but fresh and admirably chiseled with intense notes of green apple pastille, peach and white citrus. Glycerol and round, this wine shows very impressive purity, balance and focus. A really delicious mouth watering offering. Drink now to 2028+.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Ken Forrester’s iconic FMC is widely considered one of the country’s leading examples of old vine Chenin Blanc and is fermented and aged for 12 months in 400 litre French oak barrels creating a profound expression that is wonderfully rich and layered with ripe stone and tropical fruit flavours and just a subtle hint of botrytis on the finish.
Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.
The 2019 FMC Chenin Blanc is yet another monumental effort from Ken Forrester and co. Superbly rich, layered and wonderfully textured, this new release with an exotic RS of 8.9g/l boasts a complex aromatic profile with notes of honeysuckle, white peaches, warm buttered white toast with honey and an exotic hint of wet straw, dried herbs and mint leaf. Considered by many as one of the finest examples of old vine Chenin Blanc in South Africa, year in and year out, the 2019 expression boasts an opulent rich palate layered with hints of botrytis, fleshy textural yellow orchard fruits, intense apricot, nectarine, passion fruit and white peach purée together with a pronounced granitic minerality on the rich, long unctuous finish. Very impressive benchmark quality as you’d expect! Drink now to 2030+
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
The Dirty Little Secret first release made its mark in the premium Chenin Blanc category with its punchy price tag raising a few eyebrows but with its quality ultimately silencing the critics. The second edition changes to a 2016-2017 dual vintage blend made from grapes sourced from a very old dryland vineyard in the Piekenierskloof region planted in 1959. The wine making was handled as gently as possible using 7 x 400 litre barrels with the resulting wine bottled unfiltered and unfined.
Dirty Little Secret Chenin Blanc Two NV, WO Piekenierskloof, 14% Abv.
Not to be confused with the vastly different style of the FMC Chenin with its hints of RS and botrytis exoticism, the Dirty Little Secret is a serious, rich, dry and textural wine with aromatics of toffee apples, apple crumble, baked pears and subtle yeasty, bready nuances. The palate adds further notes of pithy tangerine, yellow peaches, old honey and bruised apples with a well rounded glycerol balance. But impressively, the finish remains taut, tight and mineral with a bright tangy acidity and a peachy, stony finish.
The message seems to be getting out – the 2018 vintage in the Western Cape produced some seriously good wines. Or should the emphasis be on some of South Africa’s top producers who produced some very impressive new releases? Either way, the final results in bottle are impressing the critics and when the new edition of the South African wine bible, the Platter South African Wine Guide is released, I predict that the 2018 vintage will boast a broad new array of vinous treasures.
I recently started reviewing the various 2018 releases from one of my favourite Stellenbosch estates, Thelema Mountain Vineyards, and once again, the final results are head turning, none more so than the new Merlot Reserve.
Thelema Estate Merlot Reserve 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.
After the super impressive 2017 Reserve Merlot, who could possibly have thought that the 2018 vintage would serve up such a classic Merlot expression. The aromatics are rich and intense with complex notes of violets and sweet lavender, freshly collected sea shells, sweet red and black berries, blue berry compote, wet tobacco, graphite and subtle sweet sappy notes. The palate is medium to full-bodied and also boasts a pronounced maritime salinity supported by leafy black cherry notes, roasted coffee beans, black tea, tangy rose hips and spicy black plum nuances. This Reserve Merlot shows the power and density of a cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon with the suave, plump mineral tannins of a serious Right Bank Bordeaux Merlot icon wine. Concentrated, muscular but fleshy and finely balanced, this is yet another stand out red wine from one of South Africa’s true first growth estates and should evolve beautifully in the coming years. Drink from 2022-2038+
The Waterford Estate is situated in the picturesque Blaauwklippen Valley, in the world-renowned Stellenbosch region and consists of around 60 hectares of vines on a 120 hectare farm that was originally based around two smaller properties joined together on the Helderberg, one of the closest mountain ranges to the sea.
Owned by the Ord Family and developed under the watchful eye of Kevin Arnold, Cellar Master and Managing Partner, since 1998, the iconic Waterford The Jem cuvee stands as the winery’s flagship wine showcasing a multi-varietal blend concept which Kevin believed to be the very best wine that Waterford’s terroir could create.
Possessing a complex flavour profile encompassing the 8 varietals of its blend, this wine is a truly complex creation retaining an elegance and focus with seamless integration between its many component parts.
The 2004 was the first Jem vintage produced and until this special trade tasting in London in June 2019, the Waterford Estate had never shown a complete Jem vertical anywhere before. It was also the wine that drew winemaker Mark Le Roux to Waterford originally and has subsequently allowed him to develop and hone his winemaking skills and experiences.
There is a thought process that is followed when putting the wine blend together. When Kevin Arnold planted the various varieties on the different soil types it was to showcase the diversity of terroir at Waterford.
Built around Cabernet Sauvignon, it has always been the backbone of the wine at around 40%, followed by Shiraz at 20%, with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot in the teens and Mourvèdre and Barbera in single digit percentages. With eleven varieties on the farm, the Jem normally used eight of these varieties to build up the layers of the wine.
Waterford Estate Jem Vertical:
Waterford Estate The Jem 2014, 14.6% Abv.
Aromatics of creamy, plush black berry fruits, black cherry, black plum and bramble berry spices with undertones of liquorice, cassis, sweet tobacco and vanilla prod spice. Palate possesses multiple layers of opulent fruit, black and blue berry complexity, sour cherry, graphite within a fine, polished tannin frame. The entry is hedonistic and opulent but the finish is long, dry spicy and mineral driven. Wonderfully textured and harmonious, this is one of the smartest and most distinguished blends from Waterford to date.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Waterford Estate The Jem 2012
Lifted, perfumed nose full of red cherry spice, dried cranberries, dried herbs and savoury plum notes underpinned by a stony, crushed grey slate minerality. The texture is beautifully polished, focused and sleek with the same creamy signature balance and harmony. Tannins are very fine and mineral and the finish spicy and classical with volume, weight and depth on the palate. Very old world in feel combined with a new world fruit purity.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Waterford Estate The Jem 2011
Dark broody aromatic profile with a savoury, earthy plummy depth, sweet cherry confit, pithy spice and dried herbs. Plum and fleshy with a pronounced sweet spot on the front of the palate supported by sweet cassis, cedar spice and a bright red cherry brightness. Lovely purity and beautiful textural harmony with a fine, dry, velvety tannin finish. Classical and classy.
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Waterford Estate The Jem 2010
35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Possesses a complex nose of savoury, brambley black fruits, sweet tobacco, cigar box and grilled herbs. Wonderfully complex and savoury but also quite vibrant and piquant. Cool, sleek and impressively balanced, this wine is sleek, sweet fruited and fabulously balanced with seamless transitions between the multiple varietals. The finish is laden with pithy red cherry and chalky powery tannins but very distinguish and classically polished.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Waterford Estate The Jem 2009
35% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. Big, bold broody nose with plenty of sweet tobacco, savoury black berry fruits, earthy plum and spice and a pronounced, herbal, pencil shavings and cedar spice complexity. On the palate there is a fine savoury depth with stewed black fruit compote, Christmas pudding, coffee beans and a classically dry, slightly austere mineral tannin finish. Showing more evolution in fruit profile than the 2010. Texturally polished and pin point, this shows all the signature harmony and balance of the Jem with more tertiary layers.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Waterford Estate The Jem 2007
60% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend making it the highest percentage ever used. The nose show the classical herbal notes of the vintage with aromatics of wood spice, cedar, green herbs and pencil shavings underpinned by black currant fruit pastille ripeness.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Waterford Estate The Jem 2006
Sweet earthy savoury nose with layers of coffee bean, green herbs, blackberry compote, tannery leather and cured meats. Sleek and plush, this 2006 shows evolution and tertiary development, creamy lactic savoury fruits and a round, plump finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 88/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Waterford Estate The Jem 2005
Darker, tighter, broody nose with smokey graphite, black berry pastille, black cherry and sweet tobacco spice. Creamy, texturally plush of polished with lovely purity, fruit clarity and seamless balance. Holding together beautifully and still showing wonderful integrity, freshness and character.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Waterford Estate The Jem 2004
Earthy and savoury, full of forest fruits, Christmas pudding, tannery leather, green bean and sweet leaf and grilled herbs. Sweet and textural, plush and creamy with the tannins possibly borrowing extra grip and spice from the oak ageing.