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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
I recently caught up with Chris and Andrea Mullineux over Zoom for an intimate tasting of their new Leeu Passant releases. South African wineries were once again allowed to send out samples as of the 1st of May as lockdown started to be eased, and after tasting through their new releases, it is clear and evident that fine wine lovers are in for a considerable treat with these new single varietal reds.
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. Starting with the seductive Old Vine Lotter vineyard Cinsault from Franschhoek, this is a vineyard Andrea has gotten to know more and more intimately after producing a 2015 and 2016 mono-varietal wine from this site for her Cape Winemakers Guild submission. The Lotter vineyard also forms a key part of the Leeu Passant flagship Dry Red Blend.
For many years, Franschhoek got a bum rap for producing wines that supposedly just weren’t up to the high levels of Stellenbosch, Paarl and the Swartland. Substandard terroir or lazy winemaking? Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, a fact highlighted by the production of exceptional white wines like those incredible Semillons from the La Colline old vine vineyard and of course reds like this Old Vine Lotter Cinsault sourced from a vineyard planted in 1932 but farmed by the Mullineux duo since 2015.
As Andrea points out, it is fascinating to walk through the wonky rows of the Lotter vineyard which have only ever been farmed by hand and horse, with the deep rich brown clay soils adding gravitas and density to the Cinsault grapes harvested from this 2 hectare vineyard. The plot was originally 4 hectares but by the time the Mullineuxs had managed to contract the fruit, over half the vines had already been grubbed up to make way for fruit trees. Andrea works with whole bunch clusters and only natural yeast fermentations for grapes from these eastern slopes of this south west facing vineyard planted with an ancient field blend of 90% Cinsault, 2% Cinsault Blanc, 6% Cinsault Gris and 2% Palomino. The grapes are harvested and fermented all together.
Leeu Passant Franschhoek Old Vines Lotter Cinsault 2018, WO Franschhoek, 14 Abv.
The large Cinsault berries in the Lotter vineyard develop thick dark skins and yield a skin to juice ratio not dissimilar to small Cabernet Sauvignon berries. This wine was matured for 20 months in 500 litre French oak barrels and shows a fascinatingly different expression to their Basson Old Vine Cinsault from Wellington. Fabulously red fruited, the bouquet shines with crushed rose petals, sweet red plums, sun ripened red currants, macerated cherries and exotic Turkish delight nuances. Fuller, rounder and more opulently fleshy on the palate, the generosity of fruit belies a density, depth and concentration supported by a plump, textured mouth feel enlivened with hints of sapidity, hedgerow herbaceousness and mulled wine Christmas spices. Beautifully sweet, well honed tannins leave a lasting impression on the long plush finish. A wine still playing its cards close to its chest, but suggests great rewards lie in store for those willing to cellar their bottles for a further 5 to 8+ years before revisiting.
Wildehurst Wines is a small boutique wine cellar in the small Swartland town of Koringberg. Together, owner Joanne Hurst and winemaker Sheree Nothnagel, produce wines that attempt to capture the essence of their unique terroir in the Swartland wine region in the Western Cape, South Africa.
Joanne planted her “garden vineyard” in 2006 consisting of 90% Shiraz and 10% Viognier producing her first wines in 2009. At the end of 2013 the business grew to the point where it was necessary to appoint a full time winemaker and with a degree in Oenology and Viticulture, Sheree Nothnagel, joined the winemaking team. All grapes are hand harvested and wines are produced as naturally as possible with minimal intervention. Wildehurst Wines currently produce 16,000 bottles annually.
This 2018 Chenin Blanc was produced from 30 year old vines in the Swartland. After being whole bunch pressed, the must was barrel fermented with minimal intervention using natural yeasts and no acidification. The finished wine was racked and transferred back to old French oak barrels where it was aged for a further six months before bottling. Only 865 bottles were produced. Alcohol: 12.5% Residual Sugar: 1.8g/L, TA: 5.1g/L, pH: 3.43
Wildehurst Wines Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Swartland, 12.5 Abv.
A bright medium straw yellow colour, this wine has a very expressive nose of classic Swartland Chenin Blanc. There are complex notes of spicy orange peel, pineapple pastille, crushed granite, wet thatch and white peach stone fruits on the nose. The palate shows an initial piquant bite with a light to medium bodied mouthfeel, pithy peach skins and a subtle phenolics grip. There is plenty of elegance and subtlety together with nuanced flavours, a sleek accessibility and distinct lemon and peach iced tea characters on the finish. Perhaps not quite the palate weight or concentration of some of the more illustrious Swartland examples, but this delicious, well balanced little boutique white certainly captures many of the most attractive characteristics of Swartland Chenin Blanc.
I have been following the outstanding work of John Seccombe from the very beginning of his Thorne & Daughters label which was started in 2012 by John and wife Tasha with the aim to produce authentic wines in the beautiful Western Cape. John works with grapes from all over the Cape peninsula and seems to have honed a particularly refined aesthetic when it comes to his winemaking. His Thorne and Daughters family concern is truly pushing the boundaries with old vines and simple, natural winemaking techniques.
Sometimes other producer’s wines have been more highly lauded or more vocally praised but this certainly has nothing to do with the quality of John’s wines. Indeed, John must be one of the most modest, humble and intelligent winemakers plying his trade in the Cape… silently and brilliantly. John’s 2018 Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse Cape white blend incorporates several old vine heritage vineyards that looks more to Burgundy rather than the Rhône for its stylistic compass.
With the release of John’s 2019 Rocking Horse hitting the airwaves at the moment, I thought it would be the perfect time to retaste the impressive 2018 blend, a wine that got a lot of wine trade tongues wagging at the New Wave 2019 tasting in London last year. As the current release and the wine most widely available, the 2018 is certainly worth further examination.
Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2018 wWhite Blend, WO Western Cape, 13.2 Abv.
The 2018 is an exotic Mediterranean blend of 25% Roussanne, 22% Semillon, 19% Chardonnay, 18% Clairette Blanche and 16% Chenin Blanc. A rich straw yellow colour, the aromatics are complex and expressive brimming with notes of leesy lemon biscuits, white citrus, dried baking herbs, fynbos and thatch and dried tangerine peel. On the palate, the textural intricacy is notable as you would expect from a wine with 25% Roussanne in the blend, which lends extra dimensions of fleshy white stone fruit and marzipan depth. Naturally fermented in old oak, the 2018 shows the classical crystalline purity of the vintage framed by a tart lemon lime acidity and a stony, liquid mineral granitic complexity. Beautifully sensual and pristinely balance, every mouthful stimulates the senses and gives the drinker additional flavours to contemplate… crisp white peaches, crunchy green pears, granny smith apples, bay leaf herbal notes and yet more green mango and saline twang on the long exhilarating finish. Impressively intense and taut for the vintage, this must be one of the most drop dead gorgeous white blends produced in the Cape at the moment. Drink now or age for 10+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Thorne & Daughters wines are distributed in the UK by Liberty Wines.