The Ups and Downs of Great Sauvignon Blanc – Tasting the Thorne & Daughters Snakes & Ladders 2019…

Made from fruit sourced from another Skurfberg vineyard owned by grower Basie van Lill, this Sauvignon Blanc vineyard planted in 1997 used to be sold off to a co-operative winery before John Seccombe secured the fruit for his maiden vintage of the Thorne & Daughters Snakes & Ladders Sauvignon Blanc.

Made from tiny yields of around 2.2 tons per hectare, the grapes were whole bunch pressed and fermented with wild yeast in mix of 225 and 600 litre old oak barrels where the wines remain on their gross lees for 9-10 months before blending and bottling. John Seccombe favours malolactic fermentation over early additions of sulphur dioxide, and the wines only see a first addition of SO2 in the early winter as they look for wines that show tension without losing their suppleness and core, and wines that will reward time in the cellar. The finished wines were bottled unfined.

John Seccombe succinctly sums up… “My natural inclination was to have little interest in working with Sauvignon Blanc, but seeing the vineyard and the soils, I felt compelled to work with it.”

Thorne & Daughters Snakes & Ladders 2019, WO Citrusdal Mountain, 13.5% Abv.

From the first sniff, you know this is something special in the glass showing a beautifully complex nose of lemon grass, lime peel, white citrus and black currant leaf, crunchy white pear and subtle hints of bergamot. The palate is equally unique and utterly mesmerising showing a nervy steely liquid mineral core, oyster shell water and West Coast sea breeze nuances, a grassy sappy textural wood spice intensity and a fabulously tart complex finish with subtle hints of granadilla, naartjie peel and briney rock salt. Not really like any other Sauvignon Blanc on the South African market. Drink now to 2026+.

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

Now distributed in the UK market by Liberty Wines.

Wine Safari Cellar Notes – Revisiting the Sadie Family Old Vine Series Skurfberg Chenin Blanc 2012…

I recently watched another zoom interview with Eben Sadie after his new 2019 vintage releases and it became crystal clear that he has now officially joined the exclusive global ranks of iconic wine producers who don’t actually have to “sell” their wines but merely allocate them on a spreadsheet, thus joining the likes of Coche-Dury, Romanee Conti, JL Chave, Thierry Allemande etc., as one of the most sought after producers in the world.

But with this fame comes the added clamour from customers to drink his wines on release, highlighting and indeed exacerbating one of Eben’s greatest disappointments – that not enough people cellar his wines long enough to allow them to reach their true drinking potential. So, with the recent 2019 Skurfberg Chenin Blanc garnering a lofty 100 points from Tim Atkin MW in his recent South Africa 2020 report, I thought I’d revisit an older vintage of this iconic wine to check on its evolution.

Made from unirrigated parcels of old bush vines planted between 1940 and 1955 on decomposed sandstone in the Oliphants River Region, these knarled dry grown old vines struggle to survive with only the sparse local rainfall to rely on. But it is precisely this struggle that makes these old vines produce such sumptuously expressive grapes. So if you have the ability to cellar any wines, save some of your allocation and follow Eben’s advice.

Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Skurfberg Chenin Blanc 2012, WO Olifantsrivier, 14.5% Abv.

Drunk over 3 nights, just incredible to see this wine slowly unwind and unfurl over time. At its height of expressiveness, the bouquet positively bursts forth with lemon and lime marmalade, tangerine peel zest, pressed oranges, sweet dried herbs, honeysuckle, nougat and a fantastically expressive granitic mineral under vein. The breadth, depth and complexity of flavour on the palate is just mind boggling, with multiple layers of lime preserve, caramelised figs, grapefruit jelly and an intense finish of lemon cream biscuits and spicy, pithy gravelly minerality punctuated by a final zippy acid reprise. A wine that encapsulates perfectly why Eben Sadie’s wines are so sought after the world over! Start drinking this one now but certainly no rush. A true white icon wine for a new generation of drinkers.

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

Tasting the Impressive Wines Selected for the 2020 Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction…

The 2020 Nedbank CWG Auction hosted by Bonhams London will be held online on Saturday 3rd October from 12h00 (BST). Due to Coronavirus, there were no public tastings prior to sale making the limited tastings by a select group of wine journalists even more important this year. The line-up comprises 28 wines with total cases on offer amounting to 564 cases (6 x 750ml) compared to 45 wines and 1,932 cases in 2019.

One of the eye catching wines in 2020…

In support of one of the Guild members, buyers will have the opportunity to bid on smaller lots – the funds raised by the first case of six bottles of every wine will be given as financial assistance to Samantha O’Keefe, whose Lismore property in Greyton was devastated by fire in December last year. The CWG will also be hosting a 50 – item Vinotheque Auction made up of select older wines donated by members with express objective being to raise funds to assist employees within their businesses whose livelihoods have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 CWG Selection:

CWG host and Jordan Winery owner Gary Jordan taking us through the 2020 CWG wines.

Graham Beck Cuvée 129 Extra Brut 2009, WO Western Cape

Winemaker: Pieter Ferreira. 51% Pinot Noir, 49% Chardonnay. Cuvée 129 refers to the number of months on the lees aging – 10 years and 9 months.

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

Silverthorn Big Dog VI Méthode Cap Classique 2015, WO Robertson

Winemaker: John Loubser. 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. Chardonnay fermented and aged in old French oak, Pinot Noir in steel. 50 months on lees.

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

De Grendel Wooded Sauvignon Blanc 2019, WO Darling.

Winemaker: Charles Hopkins. Crushed, 18 hours skin contact, then settled and fermented in old oak.

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

Bartho Eksteen Vloekskoot Sauvignon Blanc 2019, WO Cape Coast

Winemaker: Bartho Eksteen. Whole bunch pressed, no settling. Naturally fermented in older, big wood.

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

Simonsig Mediterraneo 2015, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Johan Malan. 66% Roussanne, 28% Grenache Blanc, 6% Verdelho. Whole bunch pressed, mix of wild and cultured yeast.

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

Miles Mossop Wines Saskia-Jo 2018, WO Swartland

Winemaker: Miles Mossop. 65% Chenin Blanc, 25% Clairette Blanche, 10% Grenache Blanc. Decomposed granite soils.

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

Rijk’s CWG Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Tulbagh

Winemaker: Pierre Wahl. 14-year-old bush vines, fermented in new and used French oak.

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

Raats Family Wines The Fountain Terroir Specific Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Bruwer Raats. Rich, creamy but super bright with leesy, peachy fruit complexity and incredible precision and vibrant intensity.

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

Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2018, WO Elgin

Winemaker: Andries Burger. From the oldest Chardonnay vineyard on the Estate, planted in 1987 (the oldest vines in Elgin).

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

Leeu Passant Radicales Libres Chardonnay 2015, WO Klein Karoo

Winemaker: Andrea Mullineux. 100% Chardonnay, long elevage inspired by Jura and Rioja. From the incredibly cool Barrydale Valley in the Klein Karoo, after fermentation this Chardonnay was aged in barrel for five years.

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

Ataraxia Under The Gavel Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Winemaker: Kevin Grant.  Cool and Crystalline with a stony minerality, pithy peachy yellow citrus concentration and a long, pure brilliance.

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

Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Windansea Pinot Noir 2017, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Winemaker: Gordon Newton Johnson. Stoniest, most clay-rich parts of the vineyard used for this. No sulfites in the winemaking. 11 months in barrel then six months in large oak.

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

Neil Ellis Wines Amper Bo Tempranillo 2015, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Warren Ellis. Whole berry fermentation then 18 months in 60% new French oak barrels and 40% in second fill.

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

Rust en Vrede CWG Auction Estate 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Coenie Snyman. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah.

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

Ernie Els CWG 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Louis Strydom. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Shiraz, 10% Cinsault. Fermentation in small 300 litre open top oak barrels with three weeks extended maturation.

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

Luddite The Lone Stranger Mark II 2018, WO Bot River

Winemaker: Niels Verburg. 50% Mourvèdre, 40% Shiraz, 10% Grenache Noir. Small open fermenters then pressed to barrel for two years.

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

Delaire Graff Estate Banghoek Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Morné Very. 55% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec. Whole berry fermentation with limited punch downs. Four weeks post-ferment maturation on skins before being basket pressed. Matured in 40% new French 225 litre barrels for 16 months.

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

Spier Frans K Smit Auction Selection 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Frans K Smit. 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Organic.

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

Strydom Family Wines The Game Changer 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Rianie Strydom. 80% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot. North facing slopes on the Helderberg.

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

Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Abrie Beeslaar. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot. From Simonsberg. Fermented in open top ‘kuipe’ for six days, then malolactic fermentation in tank, and matured in new French oak for two years.

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

Groot Constantia CWG Gouverneurs Reserve 2018, WO Constantia

Winemaker: Boela Gerber. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Cabernet Franc. 75% new oak.

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

Villiera Drip Barrel Cabernet Franc 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Jeff Grier. 18 months in new and used French oak.

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

Edgebaston Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: David Finlayson. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. From the clay-heavy section of their GS vineyard, picked five days earlier than the rest of the vineyard. New French oak for two years.

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

Hartenberg CWG Auction Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Carl Schultz. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bottelary Hills. 20 days on skins, 20 months in 50% new 225 litre French oak barrels.

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

Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Jacques Borman. Harvested in three tranches, 30% whole bunch. Some matured in concrete, some in barrel (30% new).

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

Cederberg Teen Die Hoog Shiraz 2018, WO Cederberg

Winemaker: David Nieuwoudt. Red slate soils. 85% new oak.

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

Saronsberg Die Erf Shiraz 2017, WO Tulbagh

Winemaker: Dewaldt Heyns. The best barrel of Block 27. Aged for 20 months in a new French Allier oak barrel.

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

Boplaas Cape Vintage CWG Reserve 2015, WO Western Cape

Winemaker: Carel Nel. 80% Touriga Nacional, 10% Touriga Franca, 6% Souzão, 4% Tinta Barocca. Fermented and fortified in small lagares and barrel matured in large seasoned oak barrels.

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

The CWG dinner at the River Cafe London.

Fine Wine Safari Vertical Masterclass with David & Nadia – Tasting Elpidios Red Blend 2011 to 2017…

While David Sadie has made a serious name for himself with his single vineyard Chenin Blancs and his white blends, he is of course a crafty expert with red varieties like Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, blended together in his classy red called Elpidios.

On David’s last trip to London, we cracked open a lovely little vertical of his Elpidios with his importer Justerini & Brooks. “Syrah is the most important grape variety for the Swartland… the next range of wines I feel tell our story the best” David told the guests, addressing the table in front of a delicious vertical of the Elipidios from 2011 to 2017.

David Sadie… a giant not only in winemaking circles.

This Rhône-inspired red blend from David & Nadia was interestingly a Syrah based red blend from vintages 2011 to 2014, a Carignan based red blend in 2015 and 2016 before changing to a Grenache based blend in 2017. “This wine feels like a tip of the hat to a more experimental mindset that I love to attribute to the Swartland.” ~ David Sadie

David & Nadia Elpidios Red Blend Vertical:

David & Nadia Elpidios 2011, WO Swartland,14% Abv.

3 barrels. Earthy, brambly, cheese cloth notes with supporting notes of tar, black olive, cured meats and black berry fruit. Very northern Rhône in character, this wine is fresh and vibrant, layered with boiled red berries, sweet black currant, granitic grainy tannins and a long, fresh, crunchy, sleek old world finish. Very classy indeed.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2012, WO Swartland,14% Abv.

A more savoury, richer, earthy aromatic profile with sun baked red berry fruits, sweet plum, creamy plum confit, red liquorice and a stony, piquant graphite finish. Slightly stewed, but again a very old world Rhône style.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2013, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

A darker expression with plenty of bramble berry fruit, black plum, saline cassis reduction, sweet black berry, sweet black plum, graphite and soft, dry powdery tannins. Acids are soft and finely integrated making for a well rounded, brambly wild finish.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2014, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Beautifully perfumed lifted nose with pink flowers, red cherry zest, cranberry and sour red plum. Palate is very fresh, pure and crystalline with Parma violets, red berry crunch, red forest berries and an alluring brambly finish. Polished, satin tannins and a long vibrant finish.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2015, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Carignan based wine. Lifted perfumed nose of black berries, graphite, black kalamata olives, cured meats and sweet peppercorns. Tightly coiled, focused compact texture, super polished texture with enticing spicy red cherry concentration, glassy acids, bramble berries and sweet / sour plums. Very serious effort from a great vintage. Still super youthful.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2016, WO Swartland,13% Abv.

Lovely saline cassis and black berry aromatics, sea breeze, iron filings and bloody meat. The palate is fuller, grippy and rustic with black olive, wildness, sweet grilled herbs and sweet red plum, black olive, bresaola meaty finish. Fine effort in a very hot, dry vintage.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2017, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

Interesting lactic, red cherry, meaty, red currant nose with plenty of spicy, pithy, plummy depth. Superb elegance, classy old world granitic mineral tannins, fine grip and tension but fabulous length and concentration. Intense, vibrant and focused. A very fine effort showing not only the quality of the 2017 vintage but the influence of a growing Grenache proportion.

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

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Release a Trio of Benchmark 2018 Single Terroir Syrahs…

With the allocation list opening for the Mullineux single terroir wines, casual drinkers, connoisseurs and collectors alike are going to be in for a big treat with the new 2018s. These three superb single terroir Syrah expressions have over the past eight years garnered almost every possible award available to South African producers reaffirming their exceptional quality but also the foresight, vision and attention to detail that has become a relentless crusade for Chris and Andrea Mullineux.

The five new single terroir releases.

I tasted these three unique single terroir expressions with Chris and Andrea recently and was very, very impressed by the consistently excellent quality of these 2018 Swartland Syrahs. So much hype and media attention has rightly centred around the 2017 vintage reds primarily thanks to the incredible Cabernets and Cabernet based blends from Stellenbosch. But 2018 represents something very special in the Swartland and finally we are able to see the results. So get on to the Mullineux allocation hotline pronto!

Mullineux Granite Syrah 2018, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

RS 2.1 g/l  – TA 5.1 g/l  – pH 3.672

Sourced from a single parcel of 24 year old dry land grown Syrah planted on decomposed granite in the Paardeberg, the grapes were foot trodden in 500 litre French oak barrels to break the berries and release the juices. After 4 days of macerating, the fermentation begun naturally with indigenous yeasts and lasted around 10 days. After fermentation, the wine saw a further 4 weeks of skin maceration before being pressed into barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. Pigeage was performed once a day before, during and after fermentation. In the Spring, the wine was racked after 21 months in barrel and was bottled unfiltered and unfined. The wine saw 12 months in French oak 500 litre barrels, 25% new, followed by 9 months in 2nd fill foudre. A final 9 months of ageing in bottle was carried out before release.

Syrah vines in the Granite vineyard.

Just as Andrea Mullineux always enthuses, this Granite Syrah is yet again just so exquisitely perfumed with fragrant lifted notes of lavender and lilac, hints of violets and subtle notes of cherry blossom. A veritable Rhoney Garden of Eden. There is a wonderous beauty to the wine that teases the senses with multiple complex aromatic layers of wet gravel, fresh black currants, sun baked strawberries and hints of savoury cured meats, subtle juniper berry notes and sweet red and black peppercorn nuances. Intricately crafted and sublimely expressive, the palate shows a very pure and focused precision with silky, powdery almost creamy tannins that combine with dense, concentrated, tight knit red and black berry fruits, red currant compote, pithy blood orange zest and a long, fine-grained lingering finish that leaves you feeling so utterly charmed. The purity of fruit and compact textural focus and concentration is almost faultless and suggest that this wine is going to evolve into one hell of a Syrah beauty if allowed to age 10 to 15 years for starters. While always fabulous on release, these wines are built to reward extended ageing and so 6 to 8 years should be considered the minimum ageing requisite if you really want to start seeing some of the extra hidden dimensions of this wine. (5,376 bottles produced.)

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

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2018, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

RS 1.9g/l  – TA 4.9 g/l  – pH 3.72

The grapes for the 2018 Schist Syrah were sourced from 21 year old vines planted on stony shale and schist soils on the Roundstone farm where the Mullineux winery is based next door to the Kasteelberg. As with the Granite and Iron cuvees, the grapes were foot trodden in 500 litre French oak barrels to break the berries and release the juices. After 4 days of macerating, the fermentation begun naturally with indigenous yeasts and lasted around 10 days. After fermentation, the wine saw a further 4 weeks of skin maceration before being pressed into barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. Pigeage was performed once a day before, during and after fermentation. In the Spring, the wine was racked after 21 months in barrel and was bottled unfiltered and unfined. The wine saw 12 months in French oak 500 litre barrels, 25% new, followed by 9 months in 2nd fill foudre. A final 9 months of ageing in bottle was carried out before release.

The brown Schist soils of the Roundstone farm.

While the Mullineux’s are adamant that the Schist Syrah is always one of the most structured wines out of their single terroir reds range, the density and structure always seems to translate into extreme finesse, plush concentration and a seductive elegance, making this one of the most sought after cuvees by the “man in the street.” But like all great fine wines, when supreme quality is present, these wines can be drunk literally from the barrel with equal pleasure offered in youth as with bottle age. The 2018 Schist continues the vintage theme of mid-palate concentration and fruit density with an incredibly rich, plummy, fragrant aromatics laced with lavender and incense, savoury barbequed meats, charcoal embers, olive tapenade and earthy blackberry fruits. The palate is cool and velvety with a massive mouth coating concentration of red and black berry fruits, powdery dry tannins and all the depth and breath you’d expect from a wine of this pedigree. Decant and drink this beauty on release or bury away in your cellar for a good 10 to 15 years. (5,340 bottles produced.)

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

Mullineux Iron Syrah 2018, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

RS 2.2 g/l  – TA 5.1 g/l  – pH 3.78

Grapes for the 2018 Iron Syrah were sourced from a single parcel of 19-year old organically farmed dry land bush vines on the rolling iron-rich soils west of Malmesbury. This parcel of Syrah gives one of the best expression of the “koffieklip” terroir – notably broadness and mid-palate concentration. As with the Granite and Schist cuvees, the grapes were foot trodden in 500 litre French oak barrels to break the berries and release the juices. After 4 days of macerating, the fermentation begun naturally with indigenous yeasts and lasted around 10 days. After fermentation, the wine saw a further 4 weeks of skin maceration before being pressed into barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. Pigeage was performed once a day before, during and after fermentation. In the Spring, the wine was racked after 21 months in barrel and was bottled unfiltered and unfined. The wine saw 12 months in French oak 500 litre barrels, 25% new, followed by 9 months in 2nd fill foudre. A final 9 months of ageing in bottle was carried out before release.

The dry grown Syrah vines of the Iron vineyard.

Often described as one of the most intellectually challenging wines in the Mullineux line up, the Iron Syrah also happens to be the most powerful, dense, concentrated and broody of the single terroir Syrah releases. Perhaps it is my love for the classical Northern Rhone Syrah expressions of France that make this wine so singularly and utterly seductive and beguiling. The aromatics are indistinguishable from a top Cote-Rotie Syrah with fabulous layers of sweet heady lavender perfume, rooibos, garrigue and savoury grilled herbs, barbequed meats and hints of iron and blood, iodine, bruleed earth and hedonistic notes of sweet oak spice, roasted coffee beans and a kiss of mocha complexity. So impressively compact, dense and concentrated, every component seems to add synergy to the seamless balance with the tannin management excelling yet again. This is truly a wine of impressive power and beauty within an international fine wine context. Drink from release after decanting or age for 15 to 20+ years. (2,628 bottles produced.)

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

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Release Another Incredible Pair of Whites – Tasting the 2019 Quartz and Granite Single Terroir Chenin Blancs…

Always a highly anticipated white wine new release, the Single Terroir cuvees from Chris and Andrea Mullineux continue to generate a lot of excitement year after year. With just two white cuvees this year, the Mullineux Old Vine white becomes the lucky beneficiary of the Schist portion yet again.

With a lot of discussion surrounding the incredible quality of the 2019s, I asked Andrea if she saw any similarities with their 2017 releases. Both vintages showed general character traits of intense liquid minerality and tight wound-spring tension though Andrea pointed out that not only does the 2019 Granite have a noticeably higher acidity at 7.2 TA, it also possesses an incredibly concentrated and intense density of glycerol fruit at a meagre 13% Abv.

The 2019s are definitely going to impress collectors looking to buy wines to lay down. Look out for the SA release in mid-September through Méridien Wines or across Europe in the Autumn.

Mullineux Quartz Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

RS 1.1 g/l  – TA 5.1 g/l  – pH 3.49

The grapes for the 2019 Quartz Chenin Blanc were sourced from a single parcel of sustainably farmed 38 years old vines planted in a quartz kloof on the Kasteelberg on the Leliefontein farm. This parcel of Chenin gives the best expression of the quartz terroir on the Kasteelberg, always displaying a fresh minerality and a lovely textural breadth. The grapes for the 2018 were whole-bunch pressed before settling and then racked into barrel for fermentation with indigenous yeasts which lasts around 4 weeks. The wine is then left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation is completed. The barrels are racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. Total maturation was 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels.

The rocky Quartz soils

Tasting the Quartz Chenin Blanc with the Mullineuxs recently, Chris described how their customers are finely divided by their preferences for either the tension and minerality of the Granite Chenin Blanc and the broader, richer, more texturally opulent Quartz Chenin Blanc which almost resembles a 1er Cru Meursault in character with overt flesh and opulence, a broad mouthfeel and a focused concentration of white citrus and green orchard fruits. The aromatics are certainly as expressive as the best wines out of the Swartland with clear, defined aromas of crunchy green apples, white pear pastille and a thrilling melange of orange peel and naartjie zest all under pinned by a chain gang dusty crushed rock minerality. The palate is fabulously crystalline and pure with a slightly saline green melon and granny smith apple concentration and a cool, fine focused finish that suggests plenty of textural generosity. Drink from release and over the next 8 to 10+ years. (2,880 bottles produced.)

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

Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 13% Abv

RS 2.1 g/l  – TA 7,2 g/l  – pH 3.36

The grapes for the 2019 Granite Chenin Blanc were harvested from a 43 year old parcel of dry farmed bush vines planted in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg. These very deep decomposed Granite soils tend to produce wines with great acidity and a flinty, stony aromatic profile with notes of sea salt and brine. The grapes for the 2018 were whole-bunch pressed before settling and then racked into barrel for fermentation with indigenous yeasts which lasts around 4 weeks. The wine is then left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation is completed. The barrels are racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. Total maturation was 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels.

Traditional old vine Chenin Blanc bush vines in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg.

While yields in 2018 were decimated by the drought, down by up to -80%, the 2019 season also suffered a -30% reduction in yields resulting in another vintage with a dense glycerol texture, depth and intensity of fruit. The 2019 Granite is certainly classically proportioned displaying all the intense liquid minerality, crushed gravel and granitic spice that is so typical of the finest terroir wines grown on ancient decomposed granitic soils. With this minerality come layer upon layer of complex dried green herbs, green apple bon bon rock candy, crunchy white peach and salty, briney notes of a Cape west coast sea breeze. But unlike some previous vintages, this wine not only displays an incredibly piercing nervous acidity, picante white citrus and crunchy green fennel notes, it also impresses with an unbelievably expressive glycerol palate concentration with intricate notes of quince, greengage, rock salt and pear puree. With one of the highest total acidities yet registered for this cuvee, combined with its mind blowing depth of fruit, this is going to make Chenin collectors shiver with excitement. Drink from release and enjoy this wine’s evolution over 20+ years.

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

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going – Tasting the Phenomenal New Release Savage Wines 2019 Vintages…

Thankfully I managed to visit South Africa just before lockdown in February 2020. While I had limited access to Duncan Savage who was deeply ensconced in his Salt River urban cellar busy pressing his 2020 grapes coming in, I did get sufficient opportunity to drill down on the phenomenal new 2019 vintage releases and the conditions that shaped Duncan’s newest and possibly greatest wines.

With allocations imminent, and after a lengthy 3 month lockdown in the UK, these wines are undoubtedly one of the most exciting releases of the calendar year along with Eben Sadie and Chris Alheit’s sought after old vine single vineyard wines. If you are lucky enough to get offered an allocation, the signal is BUY BUY BUY!

Savage White Blend 2019, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.

In 2019 the Savage White Blend is made up of 64% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon and 16% Chenin Blanc with the Sauvignon portion increasing +10% on the 2018 due to the yields from the individual component blocks. Fruit was sourced from Kaaimansgat, Villiersdorp, Piekenierskloof and Stellenbosch. After being whole bunch pressed, the fermentations for various batches lasted from between 1 and 6 months with all components finishing secondary malolactic fermentation. The wine was aged for 10 months in old 500 litre French oak barrels along with a portion in concrete eggs. But certainly the 2019 whites are turning out to be as distinctive and expressive as Duncan’s 2018 wines were in their own characterful way but perhaps having more in common stylistically with the 2017 vintage. The 2019’s taut, smoky bouquet shows a slightly reductive liquid minerality that is utterly captivating, slowly unfurling layer upon layer in the glass. The initial petrichor notes of wet slate give way to crushed granite and dusty gravel nuances underpinned by aromatics of waxy green apples, dried fynbos, peach stone fruits and pithy white citrus. Initially dominated by the Sauvignon Blanc and creamy grapefruit notes of the Semillon, a little time in the glass eventually sees the Chenin Blanc component assert itself with hints of bruised yellow orchard fruits and a soft, pineapple pastille kiss. On the palate, the unmistakable Duncan Savage hallmark brilliance again shines with an outstanding balance and harmony, highlighting his masterful blending of these three white varieties. At once fresh, bright and supremely pure fruited, the 2019 Savage white is all about textural finesse, seamless equilibrium and pinpoint precision. The finish is long, persistent and intensely concentrated throwing out yet more teasing notes of passion fruit, white peach and candied pineapple. A very, very smart white blend in anyone’s language. Drink from release and over 10-12+ years. (9,900 bottles produced.)

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

Savage Follow the Line 2019, 13% Abv.

I always joke that this wine from Duncan has one of the biggest cult followings globally only because no one can ever buy any Girl Next Door Syrah! But seriously, this wine has joined a very elite group of Cinsault dominant wines produced in the Cape that speak authoritatively year after year. In 2019, the blend is made up of 89% Cinsault from 39 year old dry farmed Darling bush vines together with 11% Syrah, a percentage that would easily allow Duncan to bottle this wine as a mono-varietal. It spent 3 to 5 weeks on its skins with 50% whole bunches employed. Ageing took place over 10 months in an oval foudre of 1,500-2000 litre capacity. True to form, this wine is ultra perfumed and incredibly pretty with soft seductive aromatics of crushed rose petals, spring cherry blossoms, dried lavender, a melange of red summer berry fruits and an exotic Turkish delight twist. The palate shows a fabulously self assured, compact core of bright red fruits, intense zippy red cherry Kool Aid, candied red berry notes and a super dense yet supple core of purity rarely seen on modest Cinsault. The tannins are fleshy, silky soft and almost imperceptible with the harmonious finesse of the sublime palate texture grabbing all the drinker’s attention. Superbly balanced, subtly piquant and saline, this wine has such a dreamy, creamy finish, breath taking purity of fruit and the most well honed, elegant Grand Cru poise to suggest that this could be one of Duncan’s finest expressions of Cinsault to date. A truly profound wine. Wow! Drink this from release and over the next 10 to 15+ years. (8,000 bottles produced.)

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

Thief in the Night 2019, 13% Abv.

Only three years into this grandiose “Grenache project” and the quantity of the old, dry land Grenache in this blend has already grown to 61%, supported by 26% Cinsault and 13% Syrah. The wine spent 2 weeks on its skins employing only 20% of whole bunches this year to maximise the fruit’s true terroir expression. All components were picked on the same day and co-fermented from the same property in Piekenierskloof before spending 11 months in 3,400 litre conical foudre. Every vintage I have tasted of this wine has been a step up on the previous year’s effort and of course I wondered whether this would be possible again in 2019. Having a fabulously crystalline, translucent ruby red colour, this wine is sassy and confident from the get go, showing a rich, deep, savoury spicy aromatic depth of autumnal leaves, freshly cut hedge row, sappy earthy black cherry fruits and a subtle peppery broody depth. Yet again, the compact, signature 2019 palate texture density and harmony is unambiguous, with a seamless fruit – acid balance and a savoury earthy red currant and bramble berry spice complexity asserting itself on the long, plush, polished finish. I don’t know if Duncan is just simply mastering his Grenache fine tuning evermore or if 2019 was just an incredible vintage for this style of blend? But needless to say, this is his most confident and accomplished expression of the Thief in the Night cuvee produced to date. Drink from release and over 8 to 10+ years. (4,400 bottles produced.)

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

Are We There Yet 2019, WO Malgas, 13% Abv.

Last year I noted early on that the 2018 Are We There Yet cuvee had really found another quality gear on previous vintages. Looking back, this was genuinely born out in the real world as this slightly quirky Malgas red blend ended up selling out in the UK market even faster than many of the other more prestigious Savage red cuvees with only the exception of the Girl Next Door Syrah. But results like this are to be expected as Duncan strives to fine tune the winemaking of this wine year on year to match the style of this wine to its unique river pebble on shale terroir and its unique blend of varieties. The 2019 is again a blend of 14 year old bush vines from 50% Touriga Nacional and 50% Syrah, which spent 2 weeks on their skins before being aged 11 months in neutral oak foudre. A lot of the work done to fine tune this cuvee, like the 100% destemming, has resulted in one of the most plush, opulent and seamlessly harmonious reds in Duncan’s entire range. The aromatics retain their underlying dark, plumy, black fruit complexity with intriguing nuances of blueberry pie, black currant confit and sweet melted black liquorice candy. The palate incredibly shows a level of refinement that is more reminiscent of a Grand Vin from Cote Rotie, with tangy acids, sweet savoury velvet tannins, a fleshy luxurious core of black currant and blue berry fruits and a finish with the most suave, fine grained mineral texture possible. All in all, the 2019 shows a little more refinement, a pinch more plushness and a polished finesse that marks this wine as a very smart effort once again. Drink from release as you won’t be able to resist its overt charms, and then over the next 10+ years. (2,100 bottles produced.)

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

Girl Next Door Syrah 2019, WO Cape Town, 13.5% Abv.

Unless you are completely new to Duncan Savage’s range of wines, this incredible cuvee will need no introduction at all. Made in miniscule quantities from the most salty, wind swept and battered 0.38 hectare Syrah vineyard plot near Fishhoek, these gnarled 14 year old trellised vines planted on sandy gravel soils for ornamental value originally, have latterly provided some of the finest Syrah grapes in the entire Western Cape. This labour of love for Duncan sees 50% whole bunches employed in fermentation followed by two weeks maceration on skins, malolactic fermentation in 600 litre neutral French oak barrels and finally a further 11 months maturation in barrels. The aromatics are suggestive but initially offer up a shy, retiring bouquet of dark damson plums, Kalamata olives, sweet savoury cured meats, Tuscan wild bore sausage nuances, sweet green peppercorns, dried coriander and a lovely subtle waft of lavender blossom perfume. The front and sides of the palate bristle with mouth watering crystalline pure fresh acids, a seamlessly plump fleshy opulence and the most suave, sophisticated, lithe concentration and fruit density. While many high quality premium wines become sought after purely based on scarcity, I would suggest that the overriding factor for the Girl Next Door’s cult following is the undeniable knowledge that if Duncan is going to bother making this wine in such small quantities, he has to believe heart and soul that this vineyard has something very, very special to offer in the context of world class Syrah. Mouth coating and utterly entrancing, this is next level Syrah indeed. Drink from release and over the next 12+ years. (1,500 bottles produced.)

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

Savage Red 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv. 

Duncan Savage is unquestionably proudest of both his eponymous signature white blend and of course his Savage red, and rightly so. These wines represent the true essence of the Savage brand however many new labels may be added to the range now or in years to come. Since 2017, this flagship wine has been made exclusively from 100% pure Syrah, and from 2018, 100% pure Stellenbosch Syrah! Produced from fruit grown on the famous Polkadraai Hills decomposed granite soils of Southern Stellenbosch, these organically farmed grapes spent three weeks on their skins with 50% whole bunches employed in fermentation. After secondary malolactic fermentation, the wine spent 13 months in 500 litre French oak barrels and then a further 9 months in 3,200 litre conical foudres. The aromatics chime a different tune to those of the meaty Swartland Syrahs. More base than treble, this wine’s aromatics show an impressively deep, compact red berry fruit concentration, a savoury, brambly, damson plum palate breadth that’s delicately massaged by a soft, pure granitic acidity. There is a real translucent, weightless, purity of flavour to the fruits, a true crystalline 2018 elegance and a supple, fleshy, seamless talcum powder fine tannin texture on the finish. True to the vintage, this wine will give immense drinking pleasure from release and probably hit its quality zenith at 8 to 10+ years of age. (11,400 bottles produced.)

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

One From the Cellar – Tasting the Iconic Porseleinberg Syrah 2016 From the Swartland…

When one talks about fine wine in a South African context, several key names instantly spring to mind, none more so than Porseleinberg especially when contemplating world class Syrah expressions. The ever so slightly reclusive, enigmatic brand that hides away in the sleepy Swartland has slowly, quietly but resolutely risen to the top over the past decade.

Porseleinberg is of course the famous Swartland property owned by iconic South African winery Boekenhoutskloof which has always been managed separately allowing it to express its very own individual brilliance, authenticity as well as eccentricities. With the extreme, dry schistous terroir where the Syrah vines of Porseleinberg are planted, comes an exceptional quality that is often only found globally in the most extreme, marginal fine wine vineyards.

This revolutionary long-term project inspired by Rhoneaphile Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof, brought Callie Louw in as the vineyard farmer as well as the the winemaker to produce a dense, classical, powerfully tannic, age worthy Northern Rhône inspired red Syrah wine.

Winemaker Callie Louw on his last trip to London.

Now appreciated and revered the world over by collectors and connoisseurs alike who admire Callie Louw’s unwavering old-school commitment to producing powerfully structured terroir driven Syrahs that at the very least demand 5 to 8+ years ageing from release before drinking. After having tasted all their vintage releases since their maiden 2010, all the wines appear to still be on a steady upward maturity curve with years of potential development lying ahead. Having said that, the 2014 and 2016 do seem to be slightly more approachable examples for the impatient.

Porseleinberg Syrah 2016, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

An impressive offering generously loaded with aromatics of black plum, baked earth, molasses, charcoal and savoury black fruits with a piquant black peppercorn hint. The palate is slightly grainy but soft, sumptuous and creamy textured, showing what an opulent, forward, extroverted offering this 2016 is. Far more accessible, overtly hedonistic and plush in the mouth with a broad, expansive mouthfeel, vibrant focused extract and intensity, a subtle but elegantly fresh acidity and a dense, compact mineral-laden olive tapenade tinged finish. Drink this vintage now and over the next 8 to 15+ years. (12,000 bottles produced.)

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

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines End an Agonising 5 Year Wait with the Release of Olerasay Segundo…

For many, 2020 will undoubtedly be a year to forget, an annus horribilis of pandemics, economic crises and lockdown blues. But while it might be marked for being a challenging year all-round, it will also hopefully be remembered in fine wine circles for the highly anticipated second release of the famed Mullineux sweet wine, the Olerasay Straw Wine made from air dried Chenin Blanc grapes.

The Olerasay No.1 or “Primiero” as Chris and Andrea call it, was an inspired creation that fractionally blended multiple vintages of their prestigious Chenin Blanc Straw Wine into a mellow, ultra complex multi-vintage blend covering components parts from 2008 to 2014. With the reputation for the Mullineux Straw Wine already well established, the Olerasay Primiero took the wine world by storm and garnered sky high scores such as 99/100 from Neal Martin at Vinous but also a rare 99/100 from the Fine Wine Safari.

A truly incredible wine, the Primiero Olerasay sadly came and went all too quickly in the retail market and by the time many consumers woke up to the greatness of this wine, it was completely unobtainable except at auction. Five years later we are finally being treated to the release of Olerasay No.2 or “Segundo” which is made up of component vintages from 2008 to 2019.

Straw Wine Chenin Blanc before pressing.

Grapes are sourced from the Mullineux’s own vineyards (owned or leased), primarily from the Schist based soils of the Kasteelberg and the decomposed Granite based soils of the Paardeberg. Vineyards are picked at the normal time with around 22-23 Brix sweetness but are then dried outdoors in the shade under nets for three to four weeks allowing the moisture in the grapes to evaporate naturally, concentrating sugars, acids and the natural Chenin Blanc flavours.

However, the vineyards selected every year are always the blocks showing higher acids at full ripeness, very healthy clean bunches of just the right size with grapes not too tightly packed together to avoid any problems with Rot.

Mullineux Olerasay No.2 Straw Wine Chenin Blanc NV, 8.3% Abv.

Always 100% Chenin Blanc, the Segundo was bottled on the 17th of January 2020, producing 6,180 375cl bottles or 515 cases of 6. The total RS at bottling was 331 g/l balanced by a TA of 11.3 g/l and a pH of 3.36. The final blend is bottled unfiltered and unfortified from 225 litre French oak barrels in the solera. Beautiful old gold yellow, the aromatics on this wine are spectacular! Every time you take a sniff, the wine offers up yet another layer of complexity. Always vibrant and fresh, the nose shows truly delicious notes of lemon cordial, passion fruit, sweet white peaches, honey on warm white toast, grapefruit preserve and zesty piquant notes of tangerines and Seville Orange marmalade. Utterly mesmerising, you could easily sit and nose a glassful for an age before even contemplating taking a sip. The rich fruit aromatics are followed by yet more dried fruit characteristics with pronounced nuances of dried apricots and pineapple slices, grilled nuts, dusty granite and blood oranges. The palate too is enthralling and delivers on all the expectations. Dense, creamy and textured, the wine remains fresh to the very end with the help of a razor sharp balancing acidity. This may have 331 g/l residual sugar but at no point does the palate feel clawing or over the top. It really is the luxurious complexity combined with the vibrant freshness and purity of fruit that make this wine a real knockout. No oxidative sherry or toffee notes to speak off, just a beautiful intensity of candied fruit. As this is a solera style sweet wine, you can certainly drink it on release without any guilt but it will of course age practically forever! Drink from 2020 to 2060+. (6,180 bottles produced.)

(Wine Safari Score: 99/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Leeu Passant New Releases – Part 2: Tasting the Wellington Old Vines Basson Cinsault 2017…

I recently caught up with Chris and Andrea Mullineux over Zoom for an intimate tasting of their new Leeu Passant releases. Instead of running through all the wines in one foul swoop, I thought I would afford each wine the time and respect they deserve by profiling each new release in three separate reviews. So following on from Part 1 profiling the delicious Franschhoek Old Vine Lotter Cinsault, it’s time for the Basson Old Vine Cinsault to get its moment in the spotlight.

This lauded dry farmed Cinsault vineyard is the oldest certified red wine vineyard in South Africa, planted in 1900 and farmed by the Mullineuxs since 2014. One of the original Old Vine Project “Certified Heritage Vineyards” that has been held up as a shining beacon of education and preservation, these gnarled deep rooted old Cinsault bush vines are planted on deep, weathered sandy Table Mountain sandstone alluvial soils which yield wines deceptively light in colour but also impressively structured, taut and rich boasting almost Cabernet-like minerally spicy tannin structures.

The famous Old Vine Basson Cinsault vineyard next to the Wellington highway. A true national treasure.

Regardless of the natural structure from the terroir, Andrea Mullineux also makes very precise wines that will age a long time and as such, she always recommends giving the wines plenty of air or decanting before drinking, especially for new releases like this.

Indeed, the Basson vineyard is another very important component of their flagship Leeu Passant Dry Red Blend which the Mullineuxs have started to age longer in bottle before release. The Basson Old Vine Cinsault will also be released a year later than their Lotter Cinsault.

Leeu Passant Wellington Old Vines Basson Cinsault 2017, WO Wellington, 13.5 Abv.

The grapes for the Basson Cinsault were crushed and destemmed into tanks with fermentation starting spontaneously with indigenous yeasts with pigeage twice a day. After 11 days of fermentation, the wine was given a further three weeks of skin maceration before being drained and pressed to barrel where it matured for 20 months in 500 litre French oak barrels. The aromatics are distinctively spicy and complex showing top notes of potpourri, dried rose petals, freshly trimmed hedge row spice and wild herb notes of fynbos and thyme. Imposing yet silky textured with beautifully polished dry tannins, there is plenty of broody depth and power lurking behind the bright red fruits of pithy cherry, raisined cranberries, blood oranges and sweet lingering peppercorn spice. The fabulously dense, focused, tight knit texture finishes with an impressively pure, dry, mineral tannic restraint reinforcing the stature of these grand old 120 year old Cinsault vines.

Andrea encouraged me to have a secondary taste of the Basson on day two (and day three if possible!) and I am glad she did. While the structure and sappy spice remained resolute, multiple extra layers of juicy red fruits enlivened with bright cherry acids had surfaced to make the wine a little less broody and stern. Certainly one of the most serious and breathtaking renditions of premium Cinsault produced in South Africa without a doubt.

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