Meerlust Rubicon 2016 – Slow and Steady Outlook Assures Another Great Vintage…

Meerlust Estate has been the pride of the Myburgh family since 1756. Today, the dedication to quality winemaking continues under the guidance of 8th generation, Hannes Myburgh. Cellar Master, Chris Williams has worked on the estate since 1995 and has been in charge of winemaking since 2004.

 

The Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on low yielding, predominantly biotite partially decomposed granite gravel topsoil rich in quartz and feldspar to a depth of approximately 600mm with a loamy clay subsoil. The Merlot vineyards are planted on more clay rich, yet well drained soils to ensure moisture retention and availability to the vines roots right through the summer. There are considerable deposits of iron-rich Laterite in the Merlot vineyards which accentuates the fruit definition and mineral profile of the wine.

The Cabernet Franc Vineyard is situated on very well drained, stony Vilafontes soil with approximately 20% clay which is ideal for this variety.The Petit Verdot is on Oakleaf 3 soils on a northerly aspect to ensure full phenolic ripeness. The 2016 growing season was unusually cool but quite dry, presenting unique problems of fruit set and ripening. Irrigation was used strategically even on the mature vineyards to ensure slow ripening and proper flavour and tannin development. The Merlot and the Cabernets were extensively suckered from early in the season, and during veraison ‘vendage vert’ was applied extensively to ensure an evenly ripe crop.

 

Meerlust Rubicon 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

The Rubicon component parts were transferred to barrel early for malolactic fermentation in 55% new Nevers French oak, 25% second fill barrels and the remaining 20% in older French oak barrels. The final blend of the 2016 is indicative of the vintage and its impact on the estate’s vineyards with 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, the lowest in Rubicon history, with 28% Merlot, exhibiting this varieties great expression in the unusual 2016 vintage, 20% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. The wine was barrel aged for 16 months before bottling. Having tasted this wine a few weeks after bottling in 2018 at the winery, it has certainly settled down beautifully and first impressions suggest further ageing in bottle will only be beneficial. It is pure, bright and generous with sweet notes of plump ripe black plums, sweet cherry tobacco, sappy sandalwood, graphite and cedar spice. The palate is still a touch taut on the entry but quickly fans out onto the mid-palate with sappy sweet black plum fruits from the high percentage of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Thoroughly honest in style, generous and approachable, this wine is both vibrantly fresh and charmingly drinkable now on release with impressively integrated creamy oak. A wine that recognizes its vintage limitations but still succeeds in delivering a wonderfully delicious and gregarious Bordeaux blend expression. Drink now until 2028+.

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

MR de Compostella 2017 – An Iconic Wine That Flirts With Perfection…

Mvemve Raats is a critically acclaimed collaboration between friends and winemakers Mzokhona Mvemve and Bruwer Raats. Bruwer is of course the owner, winemaker and mastermind behind Raats Family Wines, where he has earned a reputation for top notch Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc over the past 20+ years.

Mzokhona Mvemve, the first Indaba Scholarship recipient, is a graduate of Stellenbosch University and one of South Africa’s first qualified black oenologists. Together they have created, since the 2004 maiden MR vintage, one of South Africa’s most consistently high scoring premium quality icon Bordeaux blends in the Cape.

The 2017 is due for release in the South African market at the end of August 2019.

MR de Compostella 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

The highly anticipated MR de Compostella 2017 red blend is composed of 43% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot. A very deep garnet-purple colour, the nose chimes with the beautiful aromatics of the Cabernet fruits, both Franc and Sauvignon. Superbly bright and lifted, this classy wine reveals attractive perfumed notes of cherry blossom, violets, lilacs and fresh rose petals underpinned by seductive chocolate coated red cherries, crème de cassis, sweet sappy sandalwood spice, bay leaves, fresh pencil shavings and crushed granite rocks. On the palate, the wine is more medium bodied but very refined striking an instant resemblance to the perfumed precision and seductive caressing texture of a Chateau Margaux first growth Bordeaux. There is power, there is intensity and there is focus aplenty but it is all delivered with such majestic elegance and finessed structure to be awe inspiring. Super fine and minerally tightly focused, the vivacious palate shows layers of cigar box, maraschino cherry, crushed black berries, cedar spice and fine-grained mineral sandy tannins. Already possessing incredible poise and focus, this wine shows clarity of purpose and an attention to detail very rarely seen on South African red wines. With little to no perceptible oak character, this impressive blend finishes with a very long, minerally accented persistence that is both compelling and incredibly pretty. A profound wine of beauty and certainly this winery’s most noteworthy release since its blockbuster 2015. Cellar for another 5 years from release and drink over the next 30+ years.

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

The wines of Raats Family Wines and MR de Compostella are distributed in the UK by Alliance Wines.

Raats Family Wines Releases Their Benchmark Eden High Density Cabernet Franc from the Epic 2017 Vintage…

It is rather refreshing to engage with the master winemaker Bruwer Raats for many reasons but primarily because of his obsessive and unerring quality focused approach to making wines from two specific varieties – Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. With his skills and expertise he could undoubtedly pull rabbits out of any varietal hat but instead he has always gone about resolutely trying to make the greatest wines he can from these two Loire Valley premium varieties. An admirable quest indeed.

 

No two single wines in South Africa signal a higher quality striving than the production of the Raats Family Wines’ Eden high density red and white. Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8,000 vines per hectare) meticulously planned and planted 8 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, the grapes were fermented in tank and then aged for 9 months in new French oak followed by a further 9 months elevage in older oak barrels. The 2017 Eden Cabernet Franc is due for release on the 28th August 2019 in South Africa.

 

Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2017, 13.5 Abv.

While the 2015 Eden Cabernet Franc was undoubtedly an awesome thing of beauty, the 2017 release feels intuitively like the fruit comes from a vintage even more suited to this variety. Perfume, elegance, purity, intensity and freshness are the calling cards of this wine. Lifted high toned perfume notes waft endlessly from the glass confounding the senses with a complex aromatic offering of saline cassis, sour black cherry, cedar and cinnamon spice, wet thatch and the most mouth watering notes of granny’s freshly baked blue berry pie newly out the oven. Fabulous varietal purity and typicity follow to a pristinely focused, vibrant, electric palate that shows incredible concentration, piercing intensity and high voltage acidity. The linearity and tension on the wine are classic hallmarks of the decomposed granitic soils of the vineyard with the 2017 vintage lending an extra tart brightness, precision and finesse. Cabernet Franc is never about brute force and while the 2015 certainly carried a bigger arsenal of tannin fire power, this wine is understated and supremely classical in construction but also finely chiselled and delineated. Finishing with dusty graphite, sweet baking spices and satin mineral tannins, this wine has to stand alongside the greatest Cabernet Francs ever produced in South Africa to date. Drink this incredible wine at as many points of its evolution as possible over the next 25+ years.

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

B Vintners Starts Pushing Terroir and Quality Boundaries With Their New Terroir Specific Range…

Founded by cousins Gavin Bruwer and Bruwer Raats, B Vintners have always had an innovative approach to winemaking while simultaneously trying keeping things simple and authentic, nurturing the grapes from vine to bottle and allowing the wines to express their sense of place. All the vineyards across the range are distinct, mostly from high-lying areas, close to the ocean and planted on ancient weathered soils with the aim of capturing the Cape’s true heritage and terroir in the bottle.

With the launch of the Terroir Specific series, this is when you really get to see Gavin and Bruwer’s philosophy at work. Quality by design, leveraged from the unique terroir sites of the Sondagskloof in the Walker Bay region and a unique old vine Cinsault site in Stellenbosch.

The estate where the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes are sourced is owned by the family of assistant winemaker at Leeu Passant, Wade Sander. Indeed the Pinot Noir vineyard is shared between Gavin and Wade and while their wines are slightly different stylistically, they definitely share a common terroir note. This really is one of the rising stars of the new South Africa and most definitely a winery worth following closely.

 

A contemplative Gavin Bruwer tasting the range with me at the Raats Family Winery.

B Vintners Fire Heath Chardonnay Terroir Specific 2017, WO Sondagskloof, Walker Bay, 12.5 Abv.

Taut steely nose shows the altitude and the rocky limestone and sandstone soils. There’s a cool, stony, lemon and lime pithy white citrus freshness, leesy biscuit depth and a subtle sweet dried herb complexity. Acids are bracing and fresh yet cushioned by a deliciously tart, zippy sweet / sour fleshy concentration that electrifies the palate. The oak is delicately integrated already from a 75% oaked portion including 25% new 500 litre barrels. Wonderfully linear and restrained in style, this fabulous 2017 signals a massive step up in Chardonnay quality for B Vintners and the region.

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

 

B Vintners Black Bream Pinot Noir Terroir Specific 2017, WO Sondagskloof, Walker Bay, 12.5 Abv.

Aged in 500 litre barrels, 15% new with a small portion in used 300 litre barrels. As is typical to the higher elevation terroir, there is a real crystalline purity and salinity to the fruit profile which shows wonderfully lifted perfumed notes of sweet fynbos, lavender, cherry blossom and cranberry cordial. There is a subtle restrained sappy, freshly cut hedge row note that adds complexity to the nose and palate while the acids remain linear and pure, the mineral tannins crisp and ever so slightly edgy. A fine wine with good structure, restrained gravelly mineral breadth and a certain kind of ‘old world’ classical austerity.

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

 

B Vintners Lone Wolf Cinsault Terroir Specific 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

60 x 6 cases total production – About a ton of Cinsault from the bottom of a Pinotage vineyard at Bellevue in the Bottelary Hills planted in the early 1950’s on granite and schist soils. Fabulously lifted and finely perfumed, this wine screams individuality, with potpourri spice, rose petals, dried violets, Turkish delight and cranberry reduction. Suave and cool, there is lovely liquid minerality, piercing concentration and a long, restrained red currant berry fruit length. A wonderful old vine expression of Cinsault that really is noteworthy. Minute production that might just possibly have been exported all to the UK.

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

Imported and distributed in the UK by Alliance Wines.

Negociant Wine Merchant Wade Bales Capitalises on the Strength of the 2017 Vintage in Stellenbosch…

An interesting and unique project in the South African context. Wine merchant Wade Bales has managed to secure premium Cabernet Sauvignon from several icon producers to create a single blend of wines from Ernie Els, Kanonkop, Delaire-Graff, Nico vd Merwe and Stark Conde. Aged in 100% French oak, 60% new for 18 month this is a new and intriguing addition to the world of top Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wade Bales Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.9 Abv.

This wine shows the vibrancy and intensity of the superb 2017 vintage. It is positively brimming with youthful aromas of sweet sandalwood, violets, Christmas cake, sun raisined black berries and a touch of sweet chew tobacco. The acids are crunchy and fresh, framing the sweet red and black bramble berry fruits in a confident fashion. Fabulous dusty Cabernet Sauvignon typicity that is seamlessly blended to offer up a very fine example from multiple Stellenbosch terroirs. However much I like this wine now, you just know it’s going to be so much better in 5 to 6 years time. Buy now and pop in your cellar. A really delightful wine.

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

Alheit Family Wines Cartology 2018 Staking a Solid Quality Marker For The Vintage…

When I was was out on the town in London with Chris Alheit in 2017, he voiced his uncertainty over the long term future of the Cartology brand versus the more niche single vineyard cuvee expressions in his portfolio.

I told him in no uncertain terms that to kill off this super strong Cartology brand would be madness due to its established cult following in Europe and beyond. Of course the dilemma lay with some of the unique old vine vineyard parcels that were going into the blend that realistically merited their own cuvees.

Thankfully, the Cartology project continues and the quality remains super high and expressive. 2018 is another deliciously individual, expressive white wine that speaks of the unique personality of the last drought vintage in South Africa in 2018.

Alheit Family Wines Cartology 2018, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

The traditional Cartology blend with a dominant 90% Chenin Blanc and 10% Semillon in support. As previous, this is a multi-vineyard, multi-regional blend to produce one of South Africa’s strongest white wine brands. The nose resonates with notes of fresh stable straw, honey on white toast, freshly squeezed peach juice, dusty granitic minerality and a subtle leesy, smoky touch of reduction. The palate shows an impressively spikey fresh acidity twinned with a crystalline yellow orchard fruit concentration so typical of so many 2018 South African whites. There is something so familiar about this Cartology yet also some intriguingly unique vintage characters of hawthorn, quince and unripe tangerines. This wine shows more focus, linearity and salinity than bigger previous vintages and strikes another powerful note for the premium white wines from the 2018 vintage.

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

A Veritable Garden of Eden – Tasting the New Raats Family Wines Eden High Density Chenin Blanc 2018…

The Eden 2018 Chenin Blanc is made from fruit grown in a beautifully manicured 10 to 14 year old Chenin Blanc vineyard alongside the Raats Family Winery in Stellenbosch on the Vlaeberg Road in the Polkadraai. When Bruwer Raats released the first vintage of his high density planted Montpellier Clone Chenin Blanc in 2014, the wine represented a culmination of years of planning and work to produce a wine unlike anything else that had been produced in South Africa.

What Bruwer, known as ‘the Chenin King’ achieved with his young vines back then is genuinely astonishing. But the fine tuning and understanding of these young vineyards has never stopped and with the UK release of the fourth vintage imminent (there was no 2017), this wine has clearly built up an impressive cult following among serious wine lovers, collectors and connoisseurs… for what is found inside a bottle of Eden Chenin Blanc is nothing short of profound.

Raats Family Winery High Density Eden Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Stellenbosch

This high density vineyard planted to the Montpellier Chenin Blanc clone has become more and more established year after year, enough so to already start to display unique vineyard terroir features in the same way you would see in the greatest single vineyards of the Loire or Burgundy. The 2018 exhibits an impressively tight, taut and focused aromatic profile that teases the senses with the most intricate and intense mineral nuances while simultaneously offering up a veritable kings banquet of the most complex array of yellow orchard fruits and white citrus. Regal and noble in every sense, this is a wine born from the fruit of a vineyard planted with the most meticulous planning and precision viticulture. The resulting complexity is clear for all to see with layer upon layer of liquid minerality, wet grey slate, peach skins, wet thatch and sweet orange pastille candied notes wafting effortlessly out of the glass. On the palate, there is certainly no lack of vigour either with a bright, vibrant acidity from the 100% decomposed granite soils that lend an extra dimension of linearity that has become another hallmark of the Eden style of Chenin Blanc and is just one of the factors which helps guarantee this wines age worthiness. The palate of this 2018 radiates a crystalline flesh and depth, Lalique-like fruit purity and accessibility combined with an impressive mandarin orange, white peach, fresh fennel and a salty, briney finish twined with a resurgent granitic minerality. Slightly more open knit on release that either the 2015 or 2016, this new expression is nevertheless a thing of wonder and beauty.

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