Glenelly Estate Establish the Lady May Cape Bordeaux Blend As One of South Africa’s True Icon Reds – Reviewing the 2016 and 2017 Releases…

In some of the biggest wine industry news of the year, it was recently announced that winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain would be leaving the Glenelly Estate to replace the retiring Andre Van Rensburg at Vergelegen Wine Estate. Luke will take up his appointment around September 2022 this year, following in the footsteps of another legendary giant of the Cape wine industry, André van Rensburg (1998-2022) and Martin Meinert (1989-1998).

But Luke O’Cuinneagain, who has been winemaker at Glenelly Estate in Ida’s Valley, Stellenbosch, since 2008, and previously worked for Rustenburg Estate for five years, leaves Glenelly in rude health having recently presided over the release of three of their greatest wines to date: Lady May 2015, 2016 and the soon to be released 2017 Cape Bordeaux red blend.

Luke tasting with Neal Martin from Vinous Media in London recently.

With both estates reaching new heights of quality recently, thanks to extensive virus free replantings at Vergelegen together with maturing vineyards at Glenelly, the future looks very exciting for both wineries, especially when you consider that Luke recons the Lady May 2018, 2019 and 2020, all still in the estate’s cellars, should be better wines than either of the 2015, 2016 or 2017 blends. Of course, only time will tell, but in the meantime, the 2017 Lady May is certainly a creation to behold! Make room in your cellars for this one!

Glenelly are big fans of benchmarking their wines against the very best producers in the world.

Glenelly Estate Lady May 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc.

The 2016 blend throws a particularly dark, opaque red/black colour in the glass. Dark and foreboding but also ever so inviting at the same time. The aromatics are quite defined with perhaps the Cabernet Franc component currently punching way above its weight of 6% with seductive notes of freshly shaved cedar lead pencil spice, graphite, iron filings, iodine and the now hallmark Lady May character of dark, black, menthol cassis and peppermint crisp milk chocolate nuances. The palate is wonderfully suave and sleek, creamy and mouth coating with an accessibility and generosity of black and blueberry fruits that is very comforting and familiar. But just when you think the mouthfeel is all about silky tannins and fleshy black fruit concentration, the delicious tangy acids kick in to land this Hercules of a wine cleanly and effortlessly on the runway without even a hiccup. Like so many 2016 super-premium Cape Bordeaux blends from Stellenbosch, this wine thrills, seduces the senses and certainly impresses for the vintage. Drink from release or cellar for 10 to 15 years.

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

Glenelly Estate Lady May 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot.

If the 2015 Lady May blockbuster resembles a powerful, dense, Pauillac-styled Cabernet Sauvignon led red blend, then the 2017 is pretty much the antithesis, boasting the most elegant, silky, seamlessly harmonious texture combined with an attractively fragrant, Margaux-esque delicacy and graceful precision. While super youthful, the wine inevitably displays some of the lush, alluring and reassuringly expensive new oak creaminess, boasting layers of warm buttered brown toast smothered in black currant preserve, fresh espresso, hints of mocha dust and delicate vanilla pod spice notes. But probably the most pleasing element about this wine is the way winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain has absolutely captured the truest essence of the 2017 vintage with its extreme purity, weightless fruit concentration that dances across the palate together with a focused, piercing intensity on the long, luxurious finish. This is class personified and I for one am completely smitten. Drink on release and over 25+ years.

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

Glenelly Estate wines are available to the trade in the UK through Seckford Wine Agencies. RRP is circa £40 to £45 per bottle.

New Release Preview – Tasting the Raats Family Wines Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2020…

Bruwer Raats has been at the forefront of premium Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc production in South Africa for over 20 years. Now that these two varieties are riding high on a wave of global collector popularity, it is easy to forget the hard yards that were navigated all those years ago when critics wondered why Bruwer Raats persisted with championing two varieties that were broadly speaking unfashionable with little to no mainstream popularity.

Nowadays, Bruwer is lauded for his premium creations of Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, none more so than for the small production Eden Cabernet Franc produced with extreme precision viticulture, or “quality by design” as Bruwer likes to describe his viticulture and winemaking. I recently caught up in London with Bruwer to taste his new releases.

Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8000 vines per hectare) meticuously planned and planted 11 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, 5% of the grapes were whole bunch fermented before being aged for 8 months in new French oak, followed by a further 10 months elevage in older oak barrels.

Raats Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2020, 14% Abv.

The Raats Eden Cabernet Franc is always classical and impressively premium in feel and this 2020 is certainly no different. The aromatics are initially tight and compact at this embryonic stage of development before slowly blossoming into a pristinely pure, precise and wonderfully perfumed offering showing notes of violets, lilac, rose petals, pink musk, sweet sandalwood and subtle hints of crème de cassis, earthy mulberry and sweet vanilla pod spice. The palate displays an incredible tensile linearity together with fabulously compact, tight grained tannins and a sleek graphite laden minerality. This small production wine flaunts its premium pedigree, its supremely manicured textural elegance and effortless finesse to perfection. There is no mistaking that the high-density planting lends an extra dimension of intensity and concentration to the wine. Allow this wine a few more years in the cellar before enjoying over the next 15 to 20+ years. (359 bottles produced.)

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

Wines available to the trade in the UK from Alliance Wines.

The Exciting Young Talent Putting the Helderberg On the Global Fine Wine Map – Tasting the Phenomenal Wines of Bernhard Bredell…

As someone who is very fortunate enough to have access to almost any winery and winemaker in South Africa, I often get asked who I think are the most exciting new talents emerging on the South African wine scene. Of course, there are so many phenomenal young producers emerging in the colourful wine industry landscape of the Western Cape that it makes picking out one or two almost seem foolish. But every now and then you meet special personalities and taste new releases that leave you contemplating the wines days or even weeks after tasting. One such producer is Bernhard Bredell.

The Granietsteen Chenin Blanc tastes and smells just like the vineyard from whence it comes!

Bernhard Bredell is the 7th generation of a family that has farmed in the Lower Helderberg area of Stellenbosch for over 160 years and his own Scions of Sinai label is a project he started in 2016 in an effort to save old vineyards that were planted by his grandfather Koos Bredell around a particular granitic hill known as Sinai. Bernhard’s winery now processes 20 tons of fruit producing around 1,250 cases of wine that are incredibly exciting, premium in quality and distinctly terroir driven.

The view from Sinai across the valley towards the Helderberg Mountain range.
Old Vine Chenin Blanc planted in 1978.
Bernhard tasting the Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2021 in the vineyard it’s grapes come from with friend and mentor Ian Naudé in March 2022.

I myself grew up buying and drinking the excellent fortified wines of Anton Bredell, Bernhard’s father, made under the JP Bredells Cape Port label. But over the years, with fortified wines falling out of favour with the mass market, and after a series of unsuccessful still wine brands together with expensive marketing projects going awry, the family winery was eventually closed and sold off in 2011.

But Bernhard Bredell has winemaking in his DNA and coursing through his veins, so any notions of opting out of the wine industry to pursue other interests was never an option. The Scions of Sinai winery was launched with the 2017 vintages made from grapes sourced from vineyards grown on Firgrove, 4kms from the Atlantic Ocean. Bernhard currently uses five single vineyards and then some smaller half hectare plots. These include a Grenache Blanc made from a vineyard located in the Klein Karoo near the Swartberg Mountains and Meiringspoort, planted in 2009 on Schist and Shale soils, producing 600 bottles called the Gramadoelas; the Granietsteen Chenin Blanc; the Heldervallei Cinsault; the Swanesang Syrah; the Feniks Pinotage and the Nomadis Cinsault / Pinotage Blend. All vineyards are secured on contracts and have been farmed organically for over 5 years.

Scions of Sinai Range Tasting:

Scions of Sinai Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2019, Helderberg (1978)

Sourced from a Chenin Blanc vineyard planted in 1978 on decomposed granite soils with very low fertility, high drainage and very low cropping levels that helps create intense flavour development in the grapes. There is a pre-fermentation maceration for around 3 nights for 70% on skins, 30% wholebunch pressed. Grapes are picked when they express the purity of the vineyard site while retaining naturally high acids. After fermentation, the wine is aged in large 400 litre barrels and kept on its lees for 9-10 months before being bottled unfiltered and unfined.

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

After tasting the excellent maiden 2017 vintage a few years ago, Bernhard delivers another very self-assured performance with this delightful 2019 Chenin Blanc. Made from another seriously good white vintage from 43 year old vines planted in 1978, this wine is rich and expressive and boasts fabulous aromatics of pear puree, white flowers, yellow orchard fruits and seductive top notes of freshly baked apple strudel. The palate is fresh and bright with hints of toasted hazelnuts and walnuts, pithy peach stone fruits, pineapple pastille and a delicate note of maritime salinity and brine on the finish. Wonderfully textural and concentrated, this wine makes your mouth water with its deliciously tangy acids and enticing umami characters. Dry, intense and packed full of liquid minerality from the decomposed granite soils, this wine is already building up a solid cult following among the hardcore Chenin Blanc cognoscente. Drink now or enjoy over 8 to 10 years.

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

Scions of Sinai Feniks Pinotage 2019, Helderberg (1976)

In 2018 Bernhard moved into the old Helderberg farm called Klein Helderberg and has since produced four vintages there from old vine dry farmed bush vines yielding 3.5 to 4 tons per hectare. The vines produce tiny grapes on very small bunches. The soils are high in silica (fine sand) making for very fragrant wines compared to those made from vines grown on heavier clay soils. 70% of grapes are whole bunch and 30% destemmed, with around 10% undergoing semi-maceration carbonique in tank. Basket pressed after 12-13 days on the skins into 400 litre oak barrels that are normally a minimum of 4 years old for 12 months of ageing.

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Feniks Pinotage 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 12% Abv.

There are many styles of Pinotage being produced in South Africa, but it is perhaps the fresher, earlier picked, brighter style that has started to resonate the loudest with international fine wine consumers and this is another of these vibrant examples that simply bristles with crunchy red cherry fruited energy. Fabulously energetic and intense, the aromatics boast mouth-watering notes of black cherry, black currant, lavender, dried herbs, incense and a hint of bramble berry spice. Despite its lower alcohol and bright super fresh acids, this wine manages to retain an impressive depth of fruit, ample concentration and a fine, linear texture. I’m hesitant to say this is the future of Pinotage in the fine wine market as there are so many who pour scorn on the lighter, crunchy Pinot Noir-styled Pinotages, but there is certainly a massive following already developing for this purer style of wine. Drink this on release or you can certainly expect some flavour fireworks after 5 to 8+ years of bottle ageing. Very much worth seeking out. (864 bottles produced.)

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

Scions of Sinai Swanesang Syrah 2019 (1996) – SH1A Clone

Produced from apparently the last known bushvine Syrah in the Helderberg that yields spicy dark fruits loaded with rosemary and thyme herbal nuances.The fruit also retains a very low pH and crisp acids… 12.5% to 13.2% Abv. Combination of whole cluster, 30% stems intact, used for the very slow fermentation followed by 5 to 6 days maceration on the skins before being pressed to 400 litre barrels for 12 months ageing with an additional 2 to 3 months ageing in bottle.

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Swanesang Syrah 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

There is no doubt that Syrah is the hot property on the South African market garnering high critical praise and scores from international critics far and wide. Of course there is Syrah, but then there is Syrah on decomposed granite… a soil profile that definitely raises the perfumed aromatic profile of a wine while simultaneously dropping the pH levels and adding incredible freshness and tension. The Swanesang is made from fruit from a young vineyard ‘only’ planted in 1996 and the profile of these single clone SH1A vines is definitely on the purer, fresher, more perfumed red fruited spectrum of the scale. Once again, the granitic soils perform their transformative magic on the vines. In this specific cuvee, between 30 to 50% of whole bunches were employed delivering a fabulously expressive nose of violets, sweet baking herbs, red cherry, cranberry and alluring liquid mineral notes. The palate is super fresh and bright with intense red fruited concentration, revealing tart Victoria plum, cranberry sours and yet more red cherry fruit with just a smattering of black pepper and granitic minerality. A thoroughly engaging wine. Drink now and over 10 to 12+ years. (1,204 bottles produced.)

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

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

Another real terroir expression from old vine Chenin Blanc planted in 1978. Harvested on the 29th of January, this single vineyard expression from bush vines displays an impressive aromatic intensity with layers of peppery white citrus, white flowers, crushed granite, dried herbs green herbs and subtle fynbos notes. Like many Chenins grown on decomposed granite that aren’t picked too late, the nose and palate are dominated by an intense liquid minerality that dances across the palate with fresh zippy Sherbety acids, notes of almond skins, tart green pears, citrus peel and yet more liquid minerality. If ever a wine expressed the terroir of the vineyard it’s sourced from, this is it. Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years. (1,950 bottles produced.)

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

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Heldervallei Cinsault 2020, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

Produced from beautiful old bush vine Cinsault vines planted in 1988, situated right next door to Bernhard’s Chenin Blanc vineyard. The aromatics are powerful and intense unfurling with layers of red and black berry fruits, sweet exotic grilled spices, damson plum, rose petals, grey slate and smoky crushed granitic minerality with a hint of juniper. On the palate there is real precision and focus but also Bernhard’s trademark liquid minerality, dried herbs, pithy cranberry, hints of cherry pips and phenomenal dry, stony fine grained tannins. Quite a unique style that has more in common with a young premier cru Cotes de Nuits Pinot Noir tasted from barrel than a Cinsault. This wine is fabulously delicious but also shows serious ageworthy depth and intensity. Drink now to 2030+.

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

Wines are available in the UK market from merchant Indigo Wines.

De Toren Continue to Make Some of South Africa’s Best Cape Bordeaux Blends – Tasting the De Toren Z 2018…

As I penned the finishing touches to my tasting notes on the De Toren Z 2018, an email from the estate fortuitously popped into my inbox announcing that the highly rated De Toren Z 2017 vintage was about to run out! But fear not! The 2017 might have been the highest rated Z vintage to date, but the 2018 is a more than worthy follow up expression.

The 2018 vintage was much smaller than average. Extreme drought, which some considered the worst in a hundred years, made the growing season particularly difficult. A cold winter saw bouts of damaging frost which reduced yields early in the season. When the summer did come bringing the usual heat, it also brought the drought and water shortages. Although, one advantage of the dry weather was that it helped prevent the spread of vineyard diseases. However, despite the tough conditions and hugely reduced harvest, some very good wines like the De Toren Z were made.

De Toren Z 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.72% Abv.

2.5 g/l RS | 5.1 g/l TA | 3.55 pH

A blend of Merlot: 54%, Cabernet Franc: 17%, Cabernet Sauvignon: 12%, Malbec: 12% and Petit Verdot: 5%. Always an expressive and more opulent blend, this De Toren Z 2018 combines the rich, fleshy, exotic plummy characters of Merlot with the more structured, black fruited nuances of prime Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine displays lofty aromatics of raisined black cherries, wet tobacco, damson plums and dusty graphite with a sweet sandalwood kiss. The palate is rich and generous with a well honed balance, a full and broad mouthfeel and seductive notes of mocha-laced blueberry, graphite and vanilla pod spice. This characteristically dark horse will undoubtedly challenge the established thinking that Cabernet Sauvignon must lead. The Merlot driven De Toren Z blend is certainly one of the great revelations of the past decade of South African premium red winemaking delivering pure hedonistic palate pleasure with a right bank Bordeaux philosophy. Drink from release and over the next 8-10+ years. (RRP In UK circa £39pb.)

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

Assessing the Current Releases from the De Grendel Winery in Durbanville…

Charles Hopkins has been at De Grendel since the very beginning of winemaking on this famous Durbanville farm in 2005, when Sir David Graaff lured him away from Graham Beck’s red wine production. Charles is a lifelong student of wine and even after 30 years’ experience in the industry and multiple local and international accolades, he remains studious and curious to learn yet more on his winemaking journey.

In November 2019, he achieved a major milestone on this journey, with the award of his first five-star rating in the Platter’s South African Wine Guide, for the 2017 Elim Shiraz from De Grendel – a wine that is especially close to his heart as Charles was born in Somerset West and grew up in Bredasdorp and Strand.

With the accolades growing ever more frequent of late, I thought it was time to assess the current releases on the Fine Wine Safari.

De Grendel Rose 2021, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.

An attractive pale salmon pink colour, this new release dry Rose boasts seductive aromatics of wild strawberries, cranberry and subtle hints of dried herbs and wet slate minerality. There is lovely clarity and purity on the palate with crystalline hints of boiled raspberry candy, red cherry pastilles and a crunchy strawberry fruit complexity. Dry and mineral, light bodied but intense, this is a sophisticated Rose that ticks all the boxes. Drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years.

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

De Grendel Merlot 2017, WO, 14.5% Abv.

2.1 g/l RS | 5.8 g/l TA | 3.47 pH

This is a classic Merlot that shows a deep garnet-purple colour and displays a highly evocative nose of black cherry kirsch liquor, tart black plums, black currant nuances and a pronounced maritime saline complexity. Notes of black berry fruit melt into layers of violets, graphite and sweet, sappy sandalwood spice making this a very impressive Merlot expression that draws extra gravitas from the exceptional vintage conditions in 2017. Pinpoint and precise, the palate reveals a delightful freshness and a medium bodied fleshy weight of fruit that boasts energetic concentration but also a weightless, mineral laced length. This wine must surely rank among the top Merlot expressions in the Cape. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years.

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

De Grendel Shiraz 2017, WO Coastal Region, 14.5% Abv.

2.2 g/l RS | 6.1 g/l TA | 3.44 pH

This 2017 reveals a very impressive aromatic lift that leaves no doubt about its true pedigree. The poise and intricately perfumed aromatics are thoroughly seductive with scents of violets, saline black currant, crushed blueberries, subtle black liquorice, brûléed coffee beans and vanilla pod spice. The palate shows an intense yet effortless complexity of salty black berry, tart pithy black cherry, hints of crunchy strawberry and a weightlessly elegant finish infused with sweet black peppercorns and a delicately savoury, smoky finish. This is a classy wine that is carving out a tangible reputation vintage after vintage.

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

De Grendel Rubaiyat 2017, WO Coastal Origin, 14.5% Abv.

2.3 g/l RS | 6 g/l TA | 3.49 pH

Always an impressive blend, the Rubaiyat 2017 performs yet again with a complex blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The aromatics are rich, alluring and seductive with sweet savoury notes of stewed black plums, black currant, wet cherry tobacco, sweet sandalwood and resinous leafy oak spice top notes. The palate is archetypal 2017 vintage in character with sublime elegance but also all the hallmark weightless concentration of black and blue fruits with soft silky tannins underpinned by bright acids on a wonderfully light touch, focused, finely honed harmonious palate. This has all the building blocks to age comfortably for 10+ years and reward patience.

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

De Grendel Proposal Hill Pinot Noir Brut Rose Cap Classique 2016, WO Cape Town, 12.5% Abv.

6.3 g/l RS | 5.7 g/l TA | 3.25 pH

An impressive highly accomplished 100% Pinot Noir Cap Classique, this wine shows exotic notes of ginger, rose water, sun dried strawberries, botanical herbs, blood orange and subtle vermouth spices. The palate is rich, fleshy and opulent with a concentrated crystallised orange peel fruit intensity and an incredibly fine creamy mousse that points the way to a long, persistent dry finish. This wine oozes class. Simply delicious.

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

De Grendel Sir David Graaff Red 2014, WO Coastal Region, 14% Abv.

2.2 g/l RS | 6.1 g/l TA | 3.5 pH

This premium red is a blend of 58% Shiraz, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot that is aged for up to 16 months in 100% new French oak barrels before the components are blended and returned back to barrel for a further 6 months to integrate. Despite being already 8 years old, this wine is bold and confident portraying an incredibly youthful character of saline cassis, blueberry and mulberry aromas, red cherry kirsch liquor and subtle notes of salty liquorice, kelp and iodine. On the palate the expensive oak is splendidly integrated offering a kiss of sweet cedar spice, notes of vanilla pod, liquorice, tart black cherry and yet more layers of salty cassis and sweet tobacco. While the texture is wonderfully harmonious and balanced, there is massive intensity and a toned muscular depth that conveys the wines pedigree. It must be said that if I tasted this wine blind, I’d almost certainly place it as a super premium Chilean or Australian red blend. The signature magic created by the synergy of the Shiraz and Cabernet makes this a very attractive wine indeed. But of course, this type of premium quality comes with a matching price tag. Drink now or over the next 15-20+ years.

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

De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2017, WO Ceres Plateau, 13.97% Abv.

2.4 g/l RS | 5.7 g/l TA | 3.4 pH

This Pinot Noir shows impressive clarity and purity undoubtedly from the cool climate high altitude Ceres terroir. The aromatics reveal dark black berry fruits with hints of raisined black cherry, black plum, black berry compote and an earthy, foresty sappy, resinous complexity. The oak influence seems fleeting with little to no influence allowing the pronounced black berry fruit concentration to shine, embellished by hints of black salty liquorice, kelp, stewed strawberries and a long, finely balanced creamy finish. Drink on release or age 3 to 8 years in your cellar.

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

Stellenbosch Icon Winery Kanonkop Prepare for the Release of Their Paul Sauer Cape Bordeaux Blend 2019…

The new releases of Kanonkop Paul Sauer and Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon are regarded as two of the wine highlights of the year with merchants scurrying around for trade allocations, collectors chasing their merchants for stock and enthusiastic drinkers waiting for the first bottles to hit the retail shelves of their local fine wine shops. While the reputation within the local home market can hardly be higher, internationally, every year sees a new crop of fine wine collectors discovering the exceptional Kanonkop brands and making space in their cellars for these classical age worthy wines. It is no different for the 2019 Paul Sauer new release which has already created a lot of excitement and anticipation in multiple markets.

Winemaker Abrie Beeslaar was recently in London and I had an opportune moment to taste and discuss the new 2019 Paul Sauer release with him. Abrie remembers the vintage being cast in the shadow of the previous years of drought leading to a challenging growing season but one which ultimately yielded a very classically-styled Paul Sauer with plenty of focused refinement.

The cold fronts that arrived during the winter of 2018 were greatly welcomed with spring and early summer temperatures nudging the deep 20°C for a day or three before dropping again. From February 2019 a hot spell settled in but by the time the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were ready to harvest, the weather had turned uncharacteristically cool again which helped produce one of the lowest alcohol Paul Sauers in many years. With Kanonkop’s new(ish) optical berry sorter hard at work, only the healthiest berries made it to the concrete fermenters. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc components were blended after malolactic fermentation where after the wine was placed in new 225l French oak barrels for 24 months ageing.

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2019 Cape Bordeaux Blend, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, 13.02% Abv.

3.3G/l RS | 5.8g/l TA | 3.45 pH

This classically styled Paul Sauer 2019 is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc and 11% Merlot. After noticeably more fruit forward aromatics on the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 on release, this 2019 represents somewhat of departure in style with a decidedly tight, broody aromatic profile of inky dark berry fruits, iodine, crushed gravel, Bouquet Garni, dried herbs, sweet clove and graphite before subtle hints of pithy black currant and black cherry join the party and mingle with perfumed notes of pressed violets and lilac. Despite its 24 months in 100% new French Never oak 225 litre barriques, there is only a mere suggestion of wood influence with a beautifully refined cedar spice and unsmoked cigar nuances. On the palate, the results of a cooler and smaller harvest manifest themselves through a distinctly classical Old World restraint, purity, wound spring tension and supremely refined tannins that linger on the palate with seamless precision. As with many longer, cooler Bordeaux vintages, there is more a sense of concentration and power rather than an actual overt textural display, with sinewy black fruits, cocoa powder and earthy, brambly layers concertinaed by lively acids and yet more overt minerality. An impressive creation indeed that will benefit from a good 8 to 10 years in the cellar to fully blossom despite its textural finesse, balance and accessibility.

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

Raats Family Wines Releases Their New Jasper Red Blend 2019 After Declassifying the MR de Compostella 2019 Flagship Red…

The Raats Jasper Red Blend was first created in 2010 when Bruwer Raats declassified the MR de Compostella for the very first time, and named it the Red Jasper after his father, Jasper Raats Senior, who was one of the founders and first viticulturists of Raats Family Wines. The wine then became a permanent edition to the Raats range establishing its own unique following amongst consumers. Now, for the first time since the 2010 vintage, Bruwer has taken the decision to declassify the MR de Compostella 2019 and blend the component parts into the Jasper Red Blend.

The ethos behind the MR de Compostella always dictates that the final blend needs to pack enough structural muscle and depth of fruit to ensure an age ability of at least 20 to 30+ years if cellared correctly. The declassification is certainly not based on a lesser quality of wines but more on their structural integrity that may not be quite sufficient for the long haul. So once again, the Jasper Red Blend is a super charged baby MR selling at a fraction of the price of the MR de Compostella Grand Vin.

Tasting new releases at Raats Family Wines in March 2022 with Bruwer Raats.

Back at the end of 2019, when I hosted Bruwer Raats in London and presented the world’s first full MR de Compostella vertical from 2004 to 2017, we included a very rare bottle of the Raats Red Jasper 2010 in the line up. The wine had aged beautifully but comparing the 2010 to even some of the older vintages, it did not have quite the density, structure and power that the other MR de Compostella blends had, vindicating Bruwer’s decision to declassify the wine. Having tasted the Jasper 2019 twice in recent weeks, I can’t help feeling that the wine is more serious and more structured than the 2010 was on release, but I trust that Bruwer’s judgement to declassify will be vindicated in years to come. Nevertheless, the Jasper 2019 is a fabulous red blend loaded with Cabernet Franc elegance and should find a willing home in most price savvy collectors’ cellars. So fill your boots I say!

Raats Family Wines Jasper Red Blend 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

The 2019 is a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 43% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% Merlot creating an elegant, generous offering packed full of charm and finesse. The aromatics are delightfully subtle yet complex with notes of sweet allspice, blueberries and black raspberries, dark chocolate, dried cigars, sandalwood and freshly tilled earth nuances. As you would expect from a blend that is half Cabernet Franc, there is a seriously fine pin point texture that is both expansive and creamy but also shows an impressive weightless concentration. Medium bodied, the palate is supple and polished revealing a thirst-quenching freshness and approachable tannins on a long, persistent finish. Ready to drink now, this turbo charged Jasper will undoubtedly benefit from a few more years in the cellar. This is a very classy Cape Bordeaux blend indeed. Drink from 2023 to 2035+.

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

Boekenhoutskloof’s New Release 2019 Reds and Whites Impress at their London Launch…

While some of Boekenhoutskloof’s headlines might have been stolen by its successful Swartland Porseleinberg Syrah project in recent years, its new releases remain a highlight on the wine calendar especially in the South African home market. With much of the fruit for the range now coming from several top properties in the Swartland as well as Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, quality can always be assured to hit an impressively high nouveau.

The 2019 vintage involved one of the earliest pickings to date with their Swartland Syrah vineyards exposed to extremely dry conditions during flowering resulting in earlier than normal bud break. The dry 2019 conditions also resulted in smaller berry clusters and reduced overall yields without compromising quality.

Good to catch up with Marc Kent.

Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2019, WO Franschhoek, 13.2% Abv.

Pristinely pure nose displays all the complexity and exoticism that collectors have grown to know and love on this benchmark white. There are beautiful layers of wax and incense, subtle notes of muscat and multi-dimensional layers of lanolin, white peach and buttered white toast. The palate offers excellent balance and a vibrantly fresh, taut texture with yellow pithy citrus, lemon oil, almond skins and orange peel on the long, bright, concentrated finish. A very classy rendition of this classical grape. Drink now and over the next 15 to 20+ years.

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

Boekenhoutskloof Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 14.86% Abv.

Always a wine with depth and power but this 2019 also displays wonderful precision with pure perfumed aromatics of violets and sappy cassis leaf, sweet tobacco and hints of blackberry, fynbos and cedar spice. Deliciously cool and fresh, this wine shows a lovely acid frame on which there are opulent fruit layers of black currant, black cherry and black chocolate generously draped. An extremely elegant, classy fine wine. Drink from 2024 to 2040+

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

Boekenhoutskloof Franschhoek Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Franschhoek, 14.86% Abv.

Distinctly different to the Stellenbosch cuvee, the aromatics are fleshy and plush, overtly generous on the nose with purple flowers, mulberry, black currant and subtle hints of milk chocolate, salted toffee and creme brûlée. The palate is elegant and polished with fine gravelly tannins, soft black berry compote and a long, chalky finish with espresso and graphite nuances. Deliciously regal as always. Drink now to 2035+.

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

Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2019, WO Swartland, 13.95% Abv.

The aromatics are initially shy, slowly releasing notes of brûléed coffee beans, grilled herbs, cured meats and underlying hints of garrigue and sweet red and black berries. The palate is cool and broody with notes of liquorice and tar, barbecued meats and sun raisined cherries and a touch of smoky bacon fat and coffee beans on the finish. A slightly more restrained expression than other previous drought vintages. Drink now and over 10 to 15+ years.

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

Boekenhoutskloof Noble Late Harvest 2018, WO Franschhoek, 10.85% Abv.

Made from grapes grown along the Franschhoek river on alluvial soils, this 100% Semillon achieves excellent levels of botrytis every year from its own unique meso-climate. Using several traditional tries or passes through the vineyard to pick the fruit, the results are impressive revealing a nose of lime and grapefruit marmalade, honeycomb, buttered warm brioche and cool creamy pineapple pastille with creme brûlée notes on the finish. Certainly shows a punchy sweetness that is more than adequately tempered by fresh tangy acids and harmonious vanilla pod oak spice. Drink now and over 10+ years.

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

Assessing the Ken Forrester 2021 Reserve Chenin Blanc That Won Big at the Decanter World Wine Awards…

As results for the 2022 Decanter World Wine Awards start to be released, it was revealed that the Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2021 from Ken Forrester Vineyards was awarded a show stopping 97/100 points. Tasting a wine blind under competition conditions is always difficult but sometimes does throw up some unique results. As a previous panel chair for South Africa in 2020 and 2021, I know that to receive a 97 point score the wine would have to have been tasted two or three times by different judges as part of the thorough assessment process. So results cannot and should not be viewed as “flukes.”

I recently caught up in London with the legend himself, Ken Forrester, and we tasted the 2021 Chenin Blanc among other wines. Always a wine that represents outstanding quality for the money (circa £14-£15 per bottle retail), it remains one of the great “recession-busting” bargains of the South African wine industry. Imported into the UK by Enotria & Coe.

Ken Forrester Vineyards Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

A wonderfully expressive Old Vine Chenin Blanc for the money with intriguing aromatic layers of rock salt and tangerine peel, white citrus, green fig, yellow grapefruit and green granny smith apple pastille. The palate follows with lovely glycerol layers of pear and white peach, apple bon bons and chalky cream soda melon notes, finishing with yet more salinity and subtle granitic minerality. A delicious wine with great intensity and concentration that will leave drinkers with a smile on their face! Drink now and over the next 8 to 10 years.

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

Taaibosch – One of the South African Wineland’s Most Exciting New Wineries Releases Their Crescendo 2019 Second Vintage…

There have arguably been few more exciting new releases on the South African wine scene recently than the resurrection of the fabled Crescendo Cape Bordeaux red blend by winemaker Schalk Willem Joubert and the team at Taaibosch, the Helderberg wine farm previously known as Cordoba.

One of the most striking features about their maiden release from the 2018 vintage was the wines notable structure, power and tannic frame which suggested that the owners were not particularly bothered about pandering to a modern aesthetic of instantaneous accessibility with an early drinking styling.

Read my 2018 review here… https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2021/07/03/taaibosch-crescendo-2018-recreating-a-legendary-stellenbosch-wine/

Tasting the maiden 2018, 2019 and 2020 Crescendo red blends with Schalk in the Taaibosch winery.
Revisiting the highly acclaimed 2018 Crescendo.

Classically constructed, the Crescendo 2018 is an age worthy creation that will reward extended cellaring in a style that many modern-day wineries have actively shied-away from recently in search of instant opulence and high critical ratings on release.

Walking the Taaibosch vineyards in the Helderberg where they are among the last to pick red grapes.
The view from the top of the Taaibosch farm overlooking newly planted vineyards.

In my most recent visit to the Cape winelands in March 2022, one of my first ports of call was of course the Taaibosch winery to see cellar master Schalk Willem Joubert to learn more about their vineyard replanting programme and to see their impressive new cellar on the farm. This is a winery experience not to be missed if visiting the Cape.

Visit: http://www.taaiboschwines.com

The impressive new Taaibosch winery.

Taaibosch Crescendo 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.2% Abv.

pH 3.55 | RS 1.8g/l | 13.2% Abv

Fermented in cement and stainless steel followed by full malolactic in 100% cement. After the base blend is made the wine is aged 13 months in 225 litre French oak barriques with a 30% new oak component, where after 70% is moved to large oak foudre for 12 to 13 months and 30% to cement for additional ageing. Once the final blend is assembled, the wine returns to concrete for 3 months. After being bottled unfiltered and unfined, the wine is then aged for a further 5 to 6 months in bottle with a target pre-release offer date of the 1st of May annually.

The large foudre where the Crescendo blend is married and aged.

A right bank blend of 65% Cabernet Franc, 26% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2019 Crescendo shows a big, dense, complex nose with deep dark aromatics of black berries, creme de cassis, sweet cedar and grilled herbs intertwined with graphite, macerated black cherries and a dusty crushed gravel minerality. On the palate the wine is incredibly cool, broad and creamy showing immense power and dry extract concentration on the mid-palate together with wonderfully fine grained spicy mineral tannins and a very long, harmonious focused finish. A superbly complete and texturally pinpoint Cape Bordeaux red blend with a truly Grand Vin classical footprint. An iconic block-buster of the future. Make space in the cellar!

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

The Taaibosch open top fermenters.