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)

An Exciting New South African Chenin Blanc Project From Carl van der Merwe and Betz Family Winery in Washington State Hits the Streets…

I had a wonderful tasting of Betz Family Wines in London recently looking at their delicious 2015 Bordeaux based varietal reds from Washington State. Bob Betz is of course a fellow Master of Wine who graduated in 1997 and made a name for himself making some truly superb wines across primarily micro sites in Yakima Valley AVA, Red Mountain AVA and Walla Walla AVA. Bob Betz sold his winery around 6 years ago to Steve Griessel and still acts for the winery occasionally in a consulting capacity.

However, I was very surprised to learn of their exciting new project in South Africa where Steve Griessel has taken a 50% shareholding in a new project with Carl van der Merwe of The Great South African Wine Co. (part owned between Wendy Applebaum and winemaker Carl van der Merwe).

 

A new Chenin Blanc venture of which Carl is the head winemaker, uses four old vine vineyard sites in Stellenbosch that are on long term leases – one 40 year old vineyard in the Bottelary Hills, two 35 to 40 year old vineyards in the Helderberg and one 38 year old vineyard in Faure. All vines are unirrigated to produce a fantastic Chenin Blanc that is fermented with 100% wild yeasts in barrel, 20% new French oak for nine months, with the total ageing of the 2017 vintage lasting for around 13 months with the remaining wine in used neutral oak. Around 20% of the 2017 underwent malolactic fermentation in barrel.

Based on Chenin Blanc from some sandy and rocky sites, the vines are located primarily on granitic soils only 9km from the sea, conditions that help deliver fruit with a wonderful maritime salinity and bright freshness. Carl van der Merwe is one of South Africa’s most talented winemakers and never one to enter into new projects lightly. The end goal of this venture is undoubtedly to produce some truly profound Chenin Blanc wines which will be sold exclusively in the USA. So something to look out for in the States to bring back home. Everyone loves a unicorn… especially if it’s old vine Chenin!!

 

Quinta Essentia Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

This really is an impressive wine and once allowed a little time in the glass explodes on your palate like an avalanche of flavours. The aromatics are loaded with sweet pineapple pastille, orange blossom, lemon cordial, sweet yellow nectarine nuances before a final reprise of tangerine zest and Seville orange confit. Intricately multi-layered between granitic minerality and sweet yellow fruit intensity, there is also a subtle hint of lactic vanilla oak spice but it is already beautifully integrated. The palate is incredibly intense and fleshy with more wet thatch notes, pineapple pastille, crunchy white peach and honey drizzled on warm white toast. The acids bristle on the palate and perfectly balance the rich, fleshy fruit concentration leading to a very long, bold, complex finish. Not quite in the league of Carl’s epic Diva Chenin Blanc produced at De Morgenzon but certainly a show stopper in its own kind of way.

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

Quintuplet of South African Quaffers That You Just Can’t Go Wrong With…

It’s the question that occupies the minds of most wine consumers and also many wine buyers… which wines offer great value!?

Today we opened up a selection of excellent value wines for a visiting UK wine journalist and I snuck in after lunch to taste and review five of my favourites.

Welbedacht Estate Bohemian Syrah, WO Wellington 2016 – 92+/100

A big, bold, impressive creation not unlike its owner Schalk Burger Senior. Packed full of sweet blueberry, baking spices, grilled herbs, black olive, black cherry and pithy plum skins. Fleshy and broad, this wine has grown in stature and acquired extra balance and depth in the past 6 months. Ready to go now. Braai optional!

Mullineux Family Wines Kloof Street Red 2017, WO Swartland, 14 Abv. – 91/100

A blend of 90% Syrah, 4% Carignan, 2% Grenache, 2% Cinsault, 1% Tinta Barroca, 1% Mourvèdre. Beautiful sweet grilled herbs, barbecued meat fat and fleshy, sappy black berry fruits. Plenty of cured meat nuances, black olive and a deliciously distinguished long finish. Real class for the money.

Bosman 8 Generations 2018, WO Wellington, 12 Abv. – 88+/100

Clean direct and pure, this shows grassy thatch, dry bush veld and sweet resinous sappy notes. Definite dried lemon peel, herbs and gravel minerality and a cool, stony finish. Impressive price / quality ratio.

Alheit Family Flotsam & Jetsam 2017, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv. – 91+/100

Fabulously sappy, stemmy, grassy, wet thatch and mineral yellow orchard fruits. Classy depth and superb concentration. Lovely wine with a sprinkle of Chris Alheit magic.

Sumaridge Chardonnay 2014, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13 Abv. – 92/100

Instant Meursault-like richness and exoticism, liquid minerality, resinous sap and spice and an underlying core of smokey, peachy, spicy apple and citrus pastille fruits. Old world ringer. Just tastes so Burgundian! An intriguing cool climate Walker Bay wine that packs a really complex punch.

Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Blazing It’s Own Trail of Greatness in the World of Fine Wine…

I can’t deny that I have said it many times across many media platforms that when it comes to truly great, great red wines, nothing beats a blend. Well, ok… maybe a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee Conti Grand Cru Romanee Conti is about as famous and site specific as you can get for a single varietal icon.

But with Bordeaux blends, the whole is almost always greater than the sum of its parts. So when you consider a phenomenal wine like Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015, rated 98/100 GSMW on this site (and also South Africa’s first 100/100 point wine from critic Tim Atkin MW), it does make you ponder the greatness of the Cabernet Sauvignon component of this famous wine. Always set for a release at least 12+ months or more after the Paul Sauer blend, I managed to get a sneak peak of the newly bottled Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon… set for general release in October 2019 in the local South African market.

 

Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Stellenbosch

A wine with this level of anticipation needs time and consideration. This wine was opened and tasted several times over a matter of hours and my conclusions were all the same. We are in the presence of greatness, a creation that is an absolute thing of vinous beauty that is certainly unrivalled in quality since the famous 2004 Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon that controversially trumped the Paul Sauer 2004 to win the Platter Red Wine of the Year. At this super youthful stage of its development, this wine is all about the future potential and not many other South African red wines have the track record that Kanonkop has. From the block buster 2015 vintage, the newly bottled Cabernet Sauvignon reveals an incredibly restrained and self assured bouquet of black raspberries, fallen leaves, wet tobacco, freshly tilled earth and a tantalising note of graphite, Chinese black tea, dried violets and cigar box. Despite its intensity in the mouth, the wine retains a classy and classical textural demeanour with a medium bodied weight but also silky smooth sweet tannins and layer upon layer of crunchy red and black fruits. Incredibly finely proportioned and crisply chiselled, the palate slowly shows extra dimensions of saline cassis, baking chocolate, espresso roast, sweet cedar spice and just the most subtle hints of red plum skins and thyme spice on the finish. Architecturally, this has the shape and precision of a majestic Sir Norman Foster sky scraper that towers above its neighbours. Never over worked, never over oaked, this is surely one of the greatest single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon’s produced in South Africa.

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