Assessing a Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Vertical Ahead of the 2023 Judgement of Wimbledon Grenache Tasting…

Sadie Family Wines are located in the Swartland region of South Africa and is without doubt one of South Africa’s most sought-after producers. But it wasn’t always like this. Before Eben Sadie settled down to carve out his career as a winemaker, he travelled and worked extensively in several major wine regions of the world, including Germany, Austria, Italy, Oregon and Burgundy. After returning to South Africa, he found employment alongside South African icon Charles Back, at The Spice Route in 1998. Sadie Family Wines, as we know it today, was founded in 1999, with the first two vintages produced at Charles Back’s Spice Route facilities.

While everything Eben puts his hand to nowadays becomes instantly collectable, his personal winemaking focus remains his signature wines, namely his white blend Palladius and his red Syrah based blend, Columella. But the fine wine world often has other designs, relentlessly craving his small production single vineyard wines made from some of South Africa’s oldest vineyards in the Cape. One of these, the Soldaat Old Vine Series, is made from ungrafted and unirrigated old bush vines that are planted at 708m altitude on decomposed granite soils on a 6-hectare site that Grenache shows such a great affinity for, and it really shows on this incredible wine. After manual harvesting, fermentation occurs spontaneously with indigenous yeasts. Maceration and fermentation is carried out in concrete tanks for 30 days and aging lasts on average 12 months in old oak barrels.

Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2012

Pronounced earthy, sappy, green leaf style with notes of dried herbs, fynbos, sandalwood and leafy red currant tangy berry fruits. The acids are electric, cool and glassy. Just a measured amount of tertiary complexity developing. 92/100? (95/100 Jan 2023 Tasting)

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

Note: In the original vertical tasting, this wine seemed more evolved and savoury, but on tasting again in January 2023 from a different batch, the wine positively radiated energy and freshness, implying that the 2012 bottle initially assessed was perhaps not in top condition. Even my note on this wine in 2016 said… “you best bury a few bottles away if you have any left! (Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW) – This could potentially be a 95, 96, 97 point classic one day when it nears maturity. Yes, it’s that good!”

Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2016

Lovely warming nose of strawberry jam on warm scones, crushed gravel and sweet fynbos herbal notes before bramble berry fruits with a distinct savoury, meaty finish.

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

Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2017

Definite note of reduction evident with hints of wet slate, crushed chalk, black currant, oyster shell and bramble berry spice. The palate is taut and compact, sappy and intense with a creamy textural balance and a herby, brambly, savoury finish.

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

Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2018

Lovely bright red fruited nose with red currant, crushed strawberry and bramble berry spice. Palate is glycerol, dense and super serious with stony tannins, graphite spice and a savoury red berry finish.

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

Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2019

Offers a beautiful melange of fynbos, crushed granite, dried herbs and red currant spice. Plush, opulent and seductive, this is a very impressive wine with superb power, precision and balance.

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

Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2020

Dense, bright, pure red fruited nose with delicious creamy depth, layers of red currant, strawberry and seductive red cherry fruit together with a complexing sapidity, tobacco leaf and a stony minerality. Beautiful harmony, seamless balance, and a long, pristine finish. Wow!

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

Wines are available on strict allocation to the trade in the USA from Broadbent Selections and in the UK from FMV. Retail is circa £50 per bottle on release.

The Highly Sought After New Alheit Vineyards 2021 Wine Releases Tasted and Reviewed…

In September, Chris “Butch” Alheit returned to the United Kingdom to present his new 2021 vintages at his importer’s portfolio tasting. With over 120+ wines from South Africa being poured, most with their producers in attendance, I decided to write up a series of “snap-shot” tastings for drinkers and collectors to use as a quick and easily accessible reference for a whole series of new releases. I fortuitously had another opportunity only a few weeks later to retaste the entire Alheit range again with Chris in Cape Town at the Cape Wine 2022 wine show in October. So my below scores are an aggregate of the two tastings.

Chris explained that in general, his vineyards ripened around 10 days later in 2021 than the previous year, with low yields but very high quality across the board. In 2021, no Huilkrans Chenin Blanc was made as the crop from this Skurfberg “lieu dit” vineyard was simply too small. Then there was the Magnetic North catastrophy which saw the entire tank of Chenin Blanc from this famous vineyard ruined by a faulty tank gasket seal that imparted an unpleasant bitterness to the wine. As if Alheit demand and supply is not strained enough in a regular vintage, 2021 with its exceptional white wine quality will create even more severe headaches for collectors and drinkers looking for allocations of these incredible wines. But I recommend you persevere as the wines are once again truly outstanding.

Alheit Vineyards Hereafter Here 2021, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.

Made from young vine Chenin Blanc vineyards from Upper Blaauwklippen, Polkadraai and the Swartland, the idea is that some of these grapes will eventually be channelled into Cartology in years to come as the vines age. Deliciously cool, silky and taut with green fruits, white flowers, white citrus, green apple and crunchy peach nuances. Acids are mouth-wateringly tangy and the fruits crystalline and pure with impressive clarity and balance. A clear step up in quality and intensity on the maiden 2020 release.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW) RRP £28

Alheit Vineyards Cartology 2021, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.

A blend of 90% Chenin Blanc and 10% Semillon from circa nine dryland bush vine parcels around the Cape with a minimum age of 35 years but with most between 40 to 80 years old. The entry shows a massive vibrant concentration of white citrus, peach and tangerine with complexing notes of wet thatch, fynbos and struck flint reduction. The palate is rich and textured, plush and fleshy, showing the true class and pedigree of the 2021 vintage. This must be among the finest Cartology releases produced to date. Do not miss it!

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW) RRP £37

At Cape Wine 2022

Alheit Vineyards Fire By Night Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

Previously known as Broom Ridge, this wine has reverted back to its original name and label due to popular demand. From vineyards on the property Chris bought in the Swartland, the vines were planted between 1971 and 1985 on decomposed granitic soils. The aromatics are predictably stony, dusty and pithy with white peach, crunchy pear, green tea, fynbos and tangerine undertones. The palate shows its usual tell-tale reductive flinty hints together with an incredible liquid minerality that is supported by crystalline pure fruits and pinpoint fresh acids. Once again, a very impressive showing from this Paardeberg vineyard.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW) RRP £50

Alheit Vineyards Nautical Dawn Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Helderberg, Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.

Grapes for this single vineyard wine come from a beautiful higher altitude site in the Helderberg planted in 1978 that overlooks False Bay. The soils are weathered decomposed granite that look like caster sugar in texture. True to this vineyard’s terroir, there is an incredibly pronounced rock salt salinity on the wine with an overt maritime sea breeze complexity that combines with notes of peach, pear, lime peel, tangerine and a savoury liquid minerality on the finish. Intense, complex and certainly quite profound. Wow!

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) RRP £42

Alheit Vineyards Monument Semillon 2021, WO Franschhoek, 13% Abv. (Ex-La Colline)

The grapes from this famous La Colline vineyard were planted in 1936 and offer up complex notes of melted bee’s wax, incense, sweet baking herbs, black currant, lemon rind and tangerine. There is a generous, concentrated fleshy savoury fruit core all held in perfect equilibrium by fresh taut acids. Still showing a complexing hint of smoky reduction, this is undoubtedly a profound Semillon offering from one of the most famous vineyards in the country. Pop this in your cellar for 3 to 5 years and then drink over 8 to 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) RRP £68

Alheit Vineyards Hemelrand Vine Garden 2021, WO Hemel-en-Aarde, 13.5% Abv.

A blend of 36% Chardonnay, 27% Roussanne, 18% Chenin Blanc, 16% Verdelho and 3% Muscat. This field blend offers up rich earthy, peachy fruit notes with yellow orchard fruits, white flowers, citrus oil and lychee with subtle baking spice nuances. The palate is fresh and full fruited with a fruit salad melange enlivened by juicy, tangy acids and a delicately savoury, mineral finish. Plenty of intensity on display here but also a fine purity and a harmonious balance. One of the best Hemelrand Vine Garden releases to date.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW) RRP £32

Alheit Vineyards Lost and Found Hanepoot Straw Wine 2019, WO Breedekloof, 7% Abv.

Looking at this rich, unctuous wine in the glass is akin to gazing through an ancient piece of Jurassic fossilized amber – ripe, captivating and most definitely warmly inviting. But this is no normal sweet wine and one sniff of the rich, ripe, potent aromatics reveals an enchanting bouquet of freshly boiled marmalade jam, green mango preserve, barley sugar, sweet herbs, wet straw and dried apricots. Give the dense, glycerol wine another slow swirl in a big Zalto Bordeaux bowl and it shifts gears again to offer yet more pithy orange peel nuances and seductive notes of quince jelly, pressed grapes and burnt caramel. Like some of South Africa’s other truly great sweet wines, the aromatics are so complex and seductive that you almost forget to sip the wine! Incredibly viscous and fleshy on the palate with a round glycerol opulence, there is no suggestion at any point that this wine is going to be overly sweet and clawing with its 450 g/l RS. In fact the sweetness is kept smartly in check by a searing acidity that scythes through the caramel and barley sugar laden fruit layers with samurai sword precision. The finish is gloriously mouth coating, hedonistic and persistent with just the most subtle sappy, pithy, bitter orange peel vermouth twang.

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) RRP £75 per 37.5cl

Trade allocations available in the UK through their exclusive importer Dreyfus Ashby or retail from South African fine wine specialist Museum Wines.

Tasting a Beautiful Pair of Wines from the Jasper Wickens Swerwer Range…

Jasper Wickens started working with Adi Badenhorst at the Kalmoesfontein property in the Paardeberg in 2009 and was a central character in the whole Swartland Revolution movement. As the dynamic Swartland movement gathered pace, Jasper met his now wife, Franziska Wickens (néé Schreiber), who is the third generation of a Swartland farming family in the Siebritskloof Valley in the Paardeberg and studied viticulture at Elsenberg with a focus on cellar management. Their relationship grew at a similar pace to the popularity of the Swartland’s red and white wines and were finally married in 2016 on Franziska’s Waterval farm.

Exactly 10 years after he first moved to the Paardeberg, Jasper completed his final harvest at AA Badenhorst Family Wines in 2018 as he prepared to move full time into the repurposed wine cellar at his Waterval farm next door to focus on his own Swerwer range that was established back in 2012 with the sole purpose of creating authentic “wines of place” that represented the true essence of their local terroirs. Franziska owns and manages extensive family vineyard plantings and now supplies some of the most sought after Swartland grapes to producers such as JH Meyer, AA Badenhorst, Blacksmith Wines, Paul Jordaan’s Bosberaad, John Seccombe, Samantha Suddons’ Vinevenom label and Martin Lamprecht’s Marras label.

Jasper’s Swerwer range is now quite extensive and includes, among others, a Chenin Blanc, an old vine skin contact Tiernes Chenin Blanc, a Semillon Gris, as well as reds made from Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Tinta Barocca and Touriga Nacional. Jasper is undoubtedly making some of the most exciting wines in the Swartland that will surely become a lot harder to buy as his reputation for quality continues to grow year by year. So if you haven’t tasted the wines from his Swerwer range yet, the Chenin Blanc and his Red Blend made from Cinsault, Grenache, and Tinta Barocca are the perfect place to start your discovery. Jasper is definitely a Swartland producer to follow closely.

JC Wickens Swerwer Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

This is another beautifully expressive Chenin Blanc from warm granitic mountain slopes in the Swartland region. Jasper and Franziska Wickens own and farm some truly profound vineyards in the Paardeberg area and this Chenin Blanc is a classically styled steely white shaped by its decomposed granitic terroir. The aromatics are cool and supremely mineral with layers of crushed gravel, dried green herbs, oatmeal biscuits, lemon rind, yellow orchard fruits and sweet wet hay nuances. The palate reveals lovely textural tension and fruit / acid intensity without losing any elegance and precision, showing plenty of pineapple pastille, bruised yellow orchard fruits, wet river pebble minerality and a pithy, leesy finish. This is a wine that speaks volumes of its origin, expresses its unique terroir and seduces the drinker in doing so. There are many far more expensive Swartland Chenin Blancs on the market but few which reach this level of complexity and palate-appeal for a similar price. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8 years.

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

The Cinsault and Grenache were sourced from vineyards growing on well drained, granite soils. Cinsault was often known as the workhorse variety and of the rare Grenache only very few old vineyards remain. Tinta Barocca has proved itself in the Swartland already for decades and completes this traditional blend. Here it is sourced from a warmer clay–rich vineyard.

JC Wickens Swerwer Red Blend 2020, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

An eclectic blend of Cinsault, Grenache, and Tinta Barocca make for a truly delicious Swartland red blend. The deep, dark aromatic base notes of the Grenache and Tinta Barocca are raised out the glass by the delicate rose petal perfumed lift of the Cinsault before more complex notes of cured meats, bramble berries, red cherries, cola, and Turkish delight come to the fore. The palate is both compact, concentrated, and sleek but also wonderfully light on its feet, enlivened by a mouth-watering red berry acidity, hints of cranberry, wild strawberry and smoky, meaty charcuterie savoury nuances. This certainly is a very impressive versatile red that can be sipped on its own or paired with almost any food dishes. Jasper Wickens is truly a master craftsman and this fabulous red is a tribute to his winemaking skills. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5+ years.

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

Wines available in the UK through Museum Wines.

https://www.museumwines.co.uk/shop/?_sft_wine_brand=swerwer

Eben Sadie Delivers a Columella and Palladius Masterclass in London in His First Visit for Several Years…

Earlier this year, Eben Sadie made his first trip to London in several years and with so any new projects and developments taking place in the world of Sadie Family Wines, a visit to explain all the exciting new developments was considered long overdue. With Eben producing the most sought-after selection of red and white wines in South Africa, every change he makes in the winery or in the vineyards is closely watched and examined.

Starting in the early 2000s, Eben started to strive to improve the freshness on all his whites and reds with the effects of climate change becoming more and more apparent vintage after vintage. Over the past years, Eben has planted a range of esoteric white and red grapes, many with their origin around the Mediterranean – Agiorgitiko, Mencia, Cinsault Blanc, Grillo, Assyrtiko, Picpoul de Pinet, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouchet, Cunoise, Mavrotragano, etc. all on specially chosen sites with suitable soil types that allow the grapes to express freshness, brightness and elegance.

Following a policy of only making large scale changes once every 10 years, Eben firmly believes that what needs to be learnt takes time even if the actions you took and the changes you made end up ultimately being unsuccessful. The wines tasted in this masterclass reflect the learning and changes that have occurred at Sadie Family Wines over the past 20 years. To complement this fascinating masterclass, I followed it up with a visit to the winery in October to see some of the new developments first hand.

Eben Sadie surveying the new wine cellar building works.

Walking through the newly acquired old vine Rotsbank Chenin Blanc vineyard.

Top of the “to do list” was visiting the Rotsbank Old Vine Chenin Blanc vineyard that Sadie Family Wines recently acquired. This vineyard previously supplied some Chenin Blanc for blending into the Palladius, but following the purchase, Eben will release his first new Old Vine Series wine in 13 years and also his first single varietal Swartland Old Vine Chenin Blanc with the 2022 vintage. Also on display, were the extensive building works which mark the building of a new winemaking facility and archive cellar on the farm. So plenty to look forward to!

Columella Vertical: 2004 to 2018

Sadie Family Wines Columella 2004, WO Swartland

A beautifully cool, precise year that is an exceptional vintage for the wine but with Eben giving most of the credit to vintage conditions – “they merely didn’t mess it up in the winery, preserving the greatness of the vintage”. Wonderfully pure and perfumed with potpourri, garrigue, bramble berry spice and cured meats. The tannins are polished and silky, precise and pin point with fabulous mineral layering supported by bright tangy, crunchy acids with just the most subtle, reductive, saline cassis nuance on the finish. A supremely classy, classical expression.

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

Sadie Family Wines Columella 2007, WO Swartland

A warm, dry vintage that led to many vines shutting down and thus offering long hang times on paper but with out the corresponding ripening. So a difficult vintage known for its pyrazines, especially on the whites. The nose shows rich, plumy, earthy characters with cured meats, black olive, plum compote and hints of tannery leather. The tannins are sweet and plush, creamy and opulent with a fine line of acidity wrapped in voluptuous layers of sweet red and black berry fruits. An impressive offering for the vintage and drinking beautifully at the moment.

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

Sadie Family Wines Columella 2010, WO Swartland

Semi-warm vintage, less warm and dry than 2007. The aromatics are earthy and savoury with plenty of tannery leather, tilled earthy, stewed plums and spicy grilled herb notes. The palate shows a stony minerality together with a more restrained fruit depth, spicy graphite, bramble berry and pithy black currant. Tannins are soft and quite polished, finishing with a subtlety and elegance. A fascinating, mineral driven expression.

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

Pre-Masterclass interview with Jancis Robinson OBE MW.

Sadie Family Wines Columella 2018, WO Swartland

The end of the drought vintages, this shows an incredibly old world, Rhone style aromatics with savoury black fruits, garrigue, grilled herbs, black currant, black cherry, raspberry compote, and a meaty, chargrilled component. The palate shows a delicious crunchy, raspberry fruited vibrancy with hints of red bramble berries, wild strawberry and red cherries combined with a beautifully precise fresh acidity, impressive fine grained tannins and a wonderfully elegant, harmonious, poised finish. Very classy indeed.

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

Palladius Vertical: 2007 to 2019

Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2007, WO Swartland

Dry and hot vintage, the aromatics show a defined, honied yellow fruited oxidative complexity with layers of grapefruit jam, melted honey on buttered white toast. Massive glycerol texture with oxy fig and caramelised peach nuances, tangy acids and a deliciously exotic, saline, tropical finish. Offers a lot of wine and leaves it out there for all to see, leaving little to the imagination.

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

Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2010, WO Swartland

Warm vintage again, the 2010 shows almost like a white Tondonia from Rioja with oxy yellow peach and condensed milk notes, tart tatin, and caramelised apples. The texture is creamy and dense, plush and opulent wth peach stone fruit, bruised yellow orchard fruits and a lactic, oaky, vanilla pod finish. But it’s ever so funky, luscious and delicious.

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

Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2016, WO Swartland

The second very hot and dry vintage for the Cape, yet miraculously, many of the Chenin Blanc based blends defied the conditions to produced superb wines. A lot earthier and honied showing savoury characteristics with a much more aromatic, phenolic expression. But fabulously glycerol and balanced, seamless and focused with finely intertwined acids. Really delicious now. A triumphant wine.

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

Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2019, WO Swartland

The vineyards and blend reach a nice equilibrium in this vintage. The aromatics are pure and pinpoint with a pronounced pithy, mineral, crushed granite dust on the nose, intertwined with pithy yellow orchard fruits. The texture boasts great intensity along with harmonious balance and an ever present power. Hints of peach pastille and green apple cordial carry the full, textural palate weight effortlessly to a long and incredibly harmonious finish. Really impressive vinous architecture on display here.

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

The Old Vine Colombard Movement Gathers Pace – Tasting the Exciting Maiden Release of Sakkie Mouton’s Old Vine Vloedvlak Colombard 2022…

Sakkie Mouton is undoubtedly one of the Cape wine industries bright young talents. But he has come a long way in a very short period of time since the first solo release of his Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc 2018, which has since been joined by his delicious Full On Misfit White Blend, the Sand Erf Vermentino and now his newest addition, the Vloedvlak Colombard. Despite this growing selection of wines, soon to be joined by an accomplished red Syrah, Sakkie’s wines remain impossibly difficult to track down and buy, seemingly selling out before they are even released! But considering the excitement surrounding his winemaking style and wine quality, the scarcity is hardly unexpected.

The new Vloedvlak 2022 is a 100% Colombard white wine made from Old Vine vineyards planted in 1978 by Mr Karel Voigt’s father on the farm Dwarsdeur located 35 kilometres from the cold Atlantic Ocean, just outside the small town of Vredendal on the West Coast of South Africa. The name Vloedvlak is Afrikaans for Flood Level, being a tribute to the old irrigation methods still in use today where whole vineyards are flooded until they reach their ‘Vloedvlak.’

Grapes were picked early in the morning to preserve freshness, then cooled down before being crushed early the following day. Grapes were destemmed and crushed into an old basket press without the addition of any enzymes, then left overnight to settle in a stainless steel tank, before being racked to another stainless steel tank for natural fermentation to commence. Fermentation started after two days and lasted for about one month with the temperature at fermentation kept at 14⁰C to preserve fruit and purity.

Flood irrigation in the vineyards.
Old Vine Colombard planted in 1978.

After fermentation, the wine was racked into 500 litre barrels for ageing on its gross lees. Aging in barrel lasted four months with regular stirring of the lees. The wine was finally bottled unfined and unfiltered with a small addition of sulphur. This new release carries a Wine of Origin Olifantsriver designation being sourced from Old Vine vineyards planted on sandy silty soils next to the banks of the Olifantsriver. Cold nights and warm days along with the traditionally cooler silty soils gave the grapes a longer natural ripening period.

Sakkie Mouton Family Wines Vloedvlak Old Vine Colombar 2022, WO Olifantsriver, 11.68% Abv.

This new addition to the ranks of the Old Vine Colombard movement is another striking example of what is possible with this once ‘work horse’ variety. Super young and packed full of primary aromatics, this wine will evolve and unfurl its full complex offering over the coming years. In its vibrant youth the nose resonates with embryonic notes of dusty perfumed talc, lime peel, crunchy white peaches, pear drop, honeydew melon rock candy, West Coast maritime sea breeze, Nori seaweed and subtle hints of dried green herbs and fynbos. The palate is tantalisingly taut and linear with a concertina’d concentration of sour yellow plum, savoury brine, white peach, tangy yellow apple and layer upon layer of salty, tangy acidity. Razor sharp and brilliantly crisp now, this wine will start to round out and put on additional leesy glycerol mid-palate weight with another 3 to 6 months in bottle. While there are already a few stunning examples of Old Vine Colombard on the market now, Sakkie Mouton once again succeeds in expressing his own unique winemaking genius with a wine that boasts a classic West Coast terroir character. Snap this rarity up on release but pop a few bottles in your cellar for at least two to three years before revisiting.

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

Recommended Retail Price expected to be circa £27 to £29 per bottle inc.

Revisiting a Ground-breaking Cape White Wine – Tasting the Naude Family Wines Langpad 2021 Old Vine Colombard…

The sun may be shining here in London but there is most certainly a crisp Autumnal note in the air as another phenomenally warm and sunny summer across Europe starts to fade into a mere memory. And what a summer it was! But Autumn for me is always a time of reflection and when it comes to fine wine, there were certainly a few splendid examples that have helped define the past year. One of these important wines was undoubtedly the second release of the Langpad Colombard from Old Vine maestro Ian Naude.

Almost everything Ian does seems to be ground-breaking, whether it was championing Old Vine Cinsault, helping with the Cape revival of Old Vine Semillon or redefining elegance and finesse in Provencal-style Grenache. So many producers follow in Ian’s footsteps that it sometimes becomes hard to even remember where all the excitement started. With Ian Naude’s Old Vine Langpad Colombard 2020, South Africa witnessed the birth of the first boutique production Old Vine Certified heritage wine from this traditional ‘work horse’ variety. Which is probably a good time to remind readers that South Africa also had another under appreciated work horse variety a few years ago – Chenin Blanc – which is now regarded as one of South Africa’s Grand Cru white offerings.

As I look ahead to visiting the Cape again in October 2022, I can confidently look back at my recent visit there in March when I met up with Ian Naude and tasted his new 2022 Langpad Colombard from tank before bottling. Another riveting example that is sure to continue in the footsteps of the maiden 2020 and the phenomenal 2021, which was awarded 5 Stars in the Platter’s South African Wine Guide and also, more importantly, Platter’s Wine of the Year.

I tasted and reviewed the 2021 almost a year ago, and after hearing that it was now sold out in South Africa, with the last remaining stocks heading to the thirsty UK market, it seemed the perfect time to retaste this benchmark white wine again and sing its praises for any wine collectors and connoisseurs that have not discovered its joys yet.

Naude Family Wines Old Vines Langpad Colombard 2021, WO Western Cape, 12% Abv.

1.3 g/l RS | 6.1 g/l TA | 3.3 pH

This second vintage of Naude’s Old Vine Colombard is certainly something very special. The aromatics are lifted and expressive with rich intense notes of green apple pastille, white peaches, green pear, dried herbs, sea breeze and a seductive rich seam of crushed stone minerality. On the palate there is even more concentration and mouth coating flavour intensity than maiden 2020 with enchanting layers of crunchy white peach, seductive hints of ripe guava, pear, green mango and an underlying basaltic stony minerality that combines with a pronounced maritime rock salt character and a tangy, bright acid freshness. After over a year in bottle, the wine has shed the subtle rock candy and cream soda puppy fat hints and swopped these for additional layers of salinity, minerality and mouth-watering fruit purity. Often regaled as reminding drinkers of premium Assyrtiko from Santorini, with time in bottle the similarities simply become more and more pronounced. But whatever comparisons are made, this wine never loses its crystalline Cape West Coast maritime terroir nuances that help make it so distinct and so utterly delicious. Enjoy its complexity now or fill your cellar for drinking over the next 3 to 5+ years.

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

Last allocations of this wine are available in the UK and EU from Museum Wines for £29.99pb.

https://www.museumwines.co.uk/product/naude-wines-langpad-colombard-vredendal-south-africa-2021/

Assessing the New Releases from Mullineux Wines – Part 3: Tasting the Olerasay 3º Solera Straw Wine…

Every year since 2008 the Mullineuxs have made a vintage Straw Wine. The two vineyards they chose to make this very sweet but incredibly special Straw Wine are naturally very high in acid, flavour and structure. This way, when they pick the grapes at normal ripeness and then dry them outside during the desiccation process, they are not just concentrating sugar and flavour but also increasing the intense, zesty acidity that is so critically important when making a balanced Straw Wine.

After drying the grapes for several weeks, the grapes are crushed and pressed into barrel where a long, slow natural fermentation takes place. Along with the concentration of acids in the wine, there is a concentration of specifically the malic acid. This high level of malic acid prevents the onset of Malolactic fermentation, which of course seems counter intuitive. The wine always stops its slow fermentation naturally after 8-10 months, so no additional intervention takes place and (here’s where the difference is), while the vintage Straw Wine is bottled, a few barrels are selected that go into a special Solera system of barrel aging that was started with their first Mullineux vintage back in 2008. They decided to bottle the first iteration of OLERASAY (1º) that was a fractional blend of 2008 to 2014, when it was different enough from the regular vintage straw wine. The 2º bottling then took place five years later when the 2008-2019 OLERASAY was considered different enough from the first release.

Now they are releasing the OLERASAY 3º which has not only completed the original drying process off the vine but has continued to concentrate and stabilise in barrel over all of those years, concentrating again in sugar, flavour and natural acidity but also in extract, layers of mouthfeel and additional complexity. As Andrea confidently says… “this wine is bulletproof.” The maiden release was a real revelation and took the market by storm. In a world where apparently fine wine drinkers don’t buy sweet wine anymore, the wine received a rapturous welcome from consumers and collectors alike. The 5,000+ plus bottle production did not last very long in the market making the five year long wait until the second release a very thirsty and gruelling period of time for sweet wine lovers. The second release was rated 99/100 by A FINE WINE SAFARI and an astonishing 100/100 by Neal Martin at VINOUS Media. All eyes are now on the third, smaller bottling, and if initial mutterings from critics are anything to go by, this wine should continue the incredible success the OLERASAY brand has enjoyed since its inception.

Mullineux OLERASAY 3º, WO Swartland, 8.42% Abv.

375 g/l RS | 11.2 g/l TA | 3.3 pH

Picked with yields around 4 tons per hectare with a balling of 22 at harvest, the concentration and intensity of this wine is clear to see from the word go. The aromatics on opening initially were slightly more boldly fruity with youthful nuances of peaches and dried apricot, marmalade, passion fruit and honey. But with a little time and exposure to air, the nose becomes a lot more perfumed and intricate as it starts to unfurl to show more of its solera complexity. The aromatics display notes of dried rose petals, peach tea, chamomile and honey and an underlying note of dried straw, freshly baked apple strudel pastries and crème brulee. On the palate the texture is dreamy and plush, superbly balanced with a silky soft glycerol texture that glides off the tongue like a drop of oil on a block of ice. The intensity is focused and fabulously potent with incredible depth and breadth without ever becoming too unctuous, overwhelming, or too sweet thanks to a deliciously intense, invigorating tangy acidity. The finish is splendidly long and persistent leaving an attractive aftertaste of caramelized almonds, marzipan and dried guava roll. Simply pitch perfect. What else can one say other than this truly is an extraordinary and unique vinous creation. Drink now and over the next 40+ years. (1,800 x 375cl bottles released.)

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

Assessing the New Releases from Mullineux Wines – Part 2: Tasting the Single Terroir 2020 Syrah Reds…

The Mullineuxs have put an immense amount of blood, sweat and tears into creating their Mullineux Old Vine White Blend and their Mullineux Syrah. With the latest releases in 2022, we see both wines rising to unseen level of quality and the 2021 Old Vine White is definitely their most distinguished creation to date. But these wines only tell half the story. Much of the rise in quality of these larger production “estate” wines from a blend of vineyard sites can be attributed to the knowledge and expertise acquired over the past decade of producing the more niche Mullineux Single Terroir wines.

With the 2020 red Syrah releases, the Mullineuxs have been granted permission from all farmers and vineyard owners involved to use the actual farm names on all the labels for the first time across the range. Previously, only the Mullineux Schist wines carried the Roundstone designation on the front labels. With all the experience and expertise has also come an extra confidence for the Mullineuxs to trumpet the site-specific origin of these wines, all of which now show noticeably specific vineyard traits and similarities from their terroirs year after year. I caught up with the Swartland power couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux recently and tasted through their new range of wines together.

The Single Terroir Reds:

Granite Syrah Jakkalsfontein (100% of a set block from the Jakkalsfontein farm recently bought by Eben Sadie and Adi Badenhorst)

Schist Syrah Roundstone (the Mullineuxs own farm vineyard)

Iron Syrah Kasteelsig (Using same 18 rows that have been contracted since 2008)

The 2020 vintage had more warm spells with a roughly one week later picking start date than usual with more warmth than 2021, but which still saw very even ripening across all vineyards with absolutely no pressure to pick according to Andrea Mullineux.

Mullineux Granite Jakkalsfontein Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 13.86% Abv.

1.8 g/l RS | 5.5 g/l TA | 3.67 pH

The deep GRANITE soils on this Jakkalsfontein farm allow for deep root growth and a larger natural canopy. This is incredible for allowing the grapes to retain acidity and purity which ultimately leads to tight, yet fresh tannins and a more lifted perfume. Like all 3 Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks the wine was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled. This allows the tannins to develop, which are very long when Syrah is grown on Granite, one of the prime distinguishing characteristics of the soil type, and then lets the natural fresh and fragrant perfumes develop, and amazing blossoming of soil type-derived personality.

Same block has been bought for over 10 years from 21+ year old vines growing on deep sandy decomposed granite soils with a hint of clay. The aromatics reveal a lovely spicy, floral array with an expressive lavender lift intertwined with sweet black peppercorns, red currants, black cherries and a dusty dry straw and fynbos herbal complexity. On the palate, the incredibly powerful but very fine-grained, drying mineral tannins lend a real classicism to the wine’s mouthfeel and finish. The red and black berry fruits are subtle and restrained showing real precision, purity and focused finesse. While it is probably more of an illusion created by the tannins and the fresh acids, the lasting impression of the wine is its incredible minerality and old world restraint. The sour cherry picante finish just puts the final finishing touches to a very classical and classy expression of Syrah. This is one for collectors and connoisseurs, drinkers who want to age their wines and then sip them slowly in lengthy contemplation. World class Syrah in every sense of the word. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.

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

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 13.34% Abv.

1.8 g/l RS | 5.1 g/l TA | 3.81 pH

These very special and characterful grapes grown on the brown schisty Kasteelberg showcase the Mullineux’s own estate, Roundstone, and its ability to define Syrah grown on SCHIST Soils. These rocky soils limit vine size and so the clusters and individual grapes, in turn remain smaller with a higher skin to juice ratio, offering denser, more brooding tannins. Like all three Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for completely gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks it was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled.

While a higher skin to juice ratio offers a denser, broodier tannic complexity, this wine is always very suave and plush, generous and alluring with complex layers of delicious black berry fruits. The aromatics show hints of lavender and violets, blueberry and black cherries, sweet grilled herbs and fynbos spice and a subtle black olive tapenade nuance. On the palate there is plenty of fleshy weight and texture with a balancing acid freshness and natural fruit concentration boasting vermouth spices, salty nori seaweed, blood oranges and an opulent, rich, meaty finish. A lot of premium wines have sex appeal and allure, it’s just that the Schist Syrah really knows how to flaunt it. A wine that is appealing to drink on release but will age gracefully for 15 to 20+ years.

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

Mullineux Iron Kasteelsig Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 12.66% Abv.

2.0 g/l RS | 5.2 g/l TA | 3.77 pH

Grown on the IRON soils on the rolling red hills that surround Malmesbury, this organic vineyard grows on the clay and gravel rich Koffieklip that is very good at holding water and very generous during primary growth in the sprint, but then around verasion, the clay in the soil stops releasing moisture and the vine compensates during this quick ripening phase by making the smallest grapes out of all the three single terroirs, but because of the canopy, the skins are not too thick. This gives us wines that are rich and round, with gravely but plush tannins, and yet for some reason, always the lowest alcohol conversions for similar sugars across the Single Terroir range (they are all picked at the same ripeness). Like all 3 Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for completely gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks it was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled.

The Mullineuxs have been working with this specific vineyard for 18 vintages making it one of their most well know sites (this includes several years prior for Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards). On the nose there are pronounced notes of scorched earth, tapenade, broody black berry and black cherry fruits together with some red fruit brightness. The slightly reductive palate boasts a great depth of fruit with rich round tannins leading the way structurally. A wine that always has the highest natural extract but like this 2020 release, shows itself with the most generosity, harmony and balance. In common with both the Granite and the Schist Syrah expressions, this wine definitely has its own very unique personality derived from its terroir and typified by its very Northern Rhone physique, its savoury cured meat and irony complexity, the bright fresh acids and the suave powdery tannins. Tasted over three days, this is the wine that unfurled and fanned its peacock tail the most. Another very age worthy expression that is a true testament to the Mullineux’s winemaking prowess. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.

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

Wines available to the wine trade in the UK from the Mullineux Wines importer Liberty Wines and in the USA from Skurnik Wines. RRP in the UK circa £49pb for whites and £78pb for the reds. In South Africa, R1,175pb for the reds and R630pb for the whites cellar door.

Assessing the New Releases from Mullineux Wines – Part 1: Tasting the Single Terroir 2021 Chenin Blanc Whites…

The Mullineuxs have put an immense amount of blood, sweat and tears into creating their Mullineux Old Vine White Blend and their Mullineux Syrah. With the latest releases in 2022, we see both wines rising to unseen levels of quality and the 2021 Old Vine White is definitely their most distinguished creation to date. A wine not to be missed. But these wines only tell half the story. Much of the rise in quality of these larger production wines from a blend of vineyard sites can be attributed to the knowledge and expertise acquired over the past decade of producing the more niche Mullineux Single Terroir wines.

With the 2021 whites and 2020 red releases, the Mullineuxs have been granted permission from all farmers and vineyard owners involved to use the actual farm names on all the labels for the first time across the range. Previously, only the Mullineux Schist wines carried the Roundstone designation on the front labels. With all the experience and expertise has also come an extra confidence for the Mullineuxs to trumpet the site-specific origin of these wines, all of which now show noticeably specific vineyard traits and similarities from their terroirs year after year. I caught up with the power couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux recently and tasted through their new range of wines with them.

The Single Terroir Whites:

Wines were tasted from Zalto Bordeaux glasses and reviewed over the course of three days.

Mullineux Granite Eikelaan Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 13.98% Abv.

1.9 g/l RS | 6.5 g/l TA | 3.27 pH

These grapes grown on the Paardeberg showcase everything the Mullineuxs are looking for in wines that hail from Granite Soils. The roots grow deep, so the canopy remains very full, protecting it from sun and temperature fluctuations. The grapes then retain more freshness and perfume. At the winery, the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its life. All of the juice is racked to barrel (0% new because they want all of the elements of this wine’s terroir to show through so consumers are tasting the soil and not the barrel, but older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred (the texture is coming from the South African Sun and Old Vines) until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months. Andrea leave’s the barrels full as long as possible because a full barrel is a happy barrel. The wine is bottled unfiltered to further showcase the Swartland Granite terroir.

The 2021 vintage in the Swartland was late because it was such a slow, cool and balanced vintage which shows in the wines, especially with the Granite Chenin Blanc due to longer hang times adding extra texture and mouthfeel to compliment the Granite’s racy acidity and linear tension. Across the range, the ripening of the Iron vineyard came first, followed by the Schist vineyard, ending with the Granite vineyard, picked over a 10-day period of time differentiation with no heatwaves. With the two weeks of extra hangtime, the wine displays more alluring yellow orchard fruit notes together with aromatic layers of tangerine, greengage plums and yellow citrus nuances. While there may be ample exotic fruit notes on the nose, all the intense granitic liquid minerality that is so typical for this wine are clear to be seen on the palate, supported by a zippy but tangy fresh acidity, an impressively sleek, sumptuous palate texture and the most delicious mouth-watering intensity on the finish. A super fine expression of how a taut, linear Chenin Blanc can also be so incredibly multi-dimensional in a top vintage. Simply a majestic drop of wine to drink now and over the next 20+ years.

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

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 13.95% Abv.

1.7 g/l RS | 5.8 g/l TA | 3.40 pH

These very special and characterful grapes grown on Kasteelberg showcase the essence of the Mullineux estate, Roundstone, and its ability to define Chenin Blanc grown on Schist soils. These rocky soils limit vine size and so the clusters and individual grapes, in turn remain smaller with a higher skin to juice ratio, offering positive white-wine tannins and texture. At the winery the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its life. All of the juice is racked to barrel (0% new because Andrea wants all of the elements of this wine’s terroir to show through so drinkers are tasting the soil and not the barrel, but older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months.

Coming from fruit from a young vineyard of seven years old which was picked almost two to three weeks later than normal. The shallower, rockier soils of the Roundstone vineyard traditionally yield more stone fruit aromatic nuances with the 2021 expression also boasting multiple layers of white and green citrus, pear puree, golden delicious apples and complex white peach notes intertwined with savoury dried herbs and subtle struck flint reductive hints. On the palate the wine is full and expansive but wonderfully precise and seamless, gliding over the palate with hints of honey of white toast, quince, white peach puree and an incredible concentration before melting away slowly to leave a dry, picante, phenolic tinged impression on the finish. A wine with striking depth, concentration and generosity. Drink now and over the next 15+ years.

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

Mullineux Iron Rondomskrik Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 12.65% Abv.

1.5 g/l RS | 5.7 g/l TA | 3.49 pH

Grown on the Iron soils on the rolling red hills that surround Malmesbury, these vineyards grow on the clay and gravel rich Koffieklip that is very good at holding water and very generous during primary growth in the sprint, but then around verasion, the clay in the soil stops releasing moisture and the vine compensates during this quick ripening phase by making the smallest of grapes, but because of the canopy, the skins are not too thick. This gives us wines that are rich and round, yet for some reason, always the lowest alcohol conversions for similar sugars across the Single Terroir Range (they are all picked at the same ripeness). At the winery the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its evolution. All of the juice is then racked into used oak barrels (older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months.

Only the second white single terroir expression produced from this white vineyard, the aromatics boast and incredibly reductive character with notes of struck flint, wet river stones and wet hay. Always a wine that tends toward reduction making it a real characteristic of the vineyard, even with oxidative handling. The palate is smoky and chalky, thoroughly mineral driven at the moment but with big mid-palate weight and concentration from a high dry extract. There is plenty of inherent detail and precision, an incredibly fine line of acidity supporting distinct notes of quince, chamomile, green herbs, savoury bruised yellow orchard fruits and a dried mint leaf nuance on the long intense finish. This is a wine that will need some extra time in bottle to show at its best but should be a stunner when it approaches its peak maturity. Drink from 2024 to 2035+.

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

Wines available to the wine trade in the UK from their importer Liberty Wines and in the USA from Skurnik Wines. RRP in the UK circa £49pb for whites and £78pb for the reds. In South Africa, R1175pb for the reds and R630pb for the whites cellar door.

An Outstanding Follow-up Vintage from Naude Family Wines – Tasting the Oupa Willem Cape Heritage Red Blend 2019…

New wines from top South African producers like Naude Family Wines are a bit like London buses, nothing for ages and then all of a sudden two or three new wines introduced onto the market. The Langpad Old Vine Colombard, the Groendruif La Colline Old Vine Semillon and the Oupa Willem Old Vine Cape Heritage Red Blend have all been released to great acclaim, further cementing Ian Naude’s status as one of the most admired producers in South Africa.

Deeply involved with the Old Vine Project from the very beginning, the Oupa Willem red blend is perhaps the most nostalgic of his new releases paying tribute to the historic old Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon blends of the 1950s and 1960s that came to define the South African wine industry for many decades.

Tasting with Ian Naudé at his cellar in March 2022.

I remember tasting the maiden 2018 vintage many months before commercial release and thinking that Ian Naude had created something very special indeed. The combination of the ethereal elegance and perfume of the Cinsault seamlessly married with the power and authority of Cabernet Sauvignon made for an incredible wine and my high ratings mirrored this excitement in every way. It was only a matter of time before the word “got out” and sure enough the 2018 was subsequently awarded a massive 5 Stars in the John Platter South African Wine Guide. Few pure Cinsaults or Cinsault blends ever achieve this regal accolade making the award even more significant.

With the Oupa Willem 2020 already in bottle, my review for the follow up 2019 vintage was long overdue.

Naude Family Wines Oupa Willem Cape Heritage Blend 2019, WO Western Cape, 11.5% Abv.

1.2 g/l RS | 5.65 g/l TA | 3.5 pH

This premium red blend draws on the unique South African expressions of 77% Darling old bush vine Cinsault planted in 1978 blended with prime Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon and fermented naturally using 40% whole bunches. Reduced yields in 2019 reminded everyone of the hangover the vines were still experiencing after four years of severe drought despite most regions receiving good rainfall during the season. Grape quantities may have been compromised but the quality was exceptional, and this 2019 red blend shows fabulously lifted notes of pink musk, red cherry, rose petals, violets and Turkish delight with some darker black berry fruit hints together with subtle nuances of raspberry herbal tea, graphite and cherry tobacco. The palate displays a wonderfully linear acid driven structure with a real mouth-watering verve and vigour, a magically textural plushness and weightless elegance. Trying to comprehend the intensity, fruit concentration and glycerol mouthfeel all delivered at an astonishing 11.5% abv. is simply mind blowing. This is another incredible vinous creation that will take its place in the history books of South African winemaking. Sure to be very long lived, the irony is that this wine is also unbelievably drinkable right now and many will find it impossibly hard to resist pulling the cork. Drink now to 2045+.

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