One Of The Most Exciting Talents Since Eben Sadie Hit The Wine Scene – Tasting Sakkie Mouton’s Revenge Of The Crayfish Chenin Blanc 2018…

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to taste some of the world’s greatest wines on a daily basis. Occasionally I even get to sit down with some of these talented winemakers of said wines and drink a few bottle in a relaxed convivial environment. Which is why I often try and visit the premier winemaking college Elsenburg to share my experiences with the highly talented resident students. You just never know where and when these young stars are going to surface in the future landscape of the global wine industry.

Well, one of these ex-students has indeed just risen from the frothy surf of the commercial winemaking world of Stellenbosch. Hailing from Vredendal originally, Sakkie Mouton was born and bred up the west coast and went to school locally there before moving to Elsenburg college to study winemaking. Now aged 27, Sakkie graduated from Elsenburg in 2014. 

Sakkie Mouton, an exceptional raw young talent! The label gets its name from Sakkie’s passion for west coast crayfish diving.

While working at the Muratie winery for the past few years, Sakkie has become obsessed with making his own wines sourced from vineyards near his homelands of Vredendal. Finally his vision and dreams have met reality after making his maiden release white wine… which for me is one of the most profound Chenin Blancs produced in South Africa since Eben Sadie conjured up Skurfberg and Skerpioen in his old vine series.

Sourced from a single block from a grower based in Koekenaap, a small hamlet 20 to 25 kilometres north west of Vredendal up the west coast, the vines are already around 12 years old and just starting to come into their prime.

This single block was picked at 22 balling in order to show a clean, fresh, natural acidity with the grapes being destalked and destemmed before fermentation in barrel with natural yeasts for approximately three weeks. There was no skin contact. Post ferment, there was no racking and the wines were left on their gross lees for eight months with some batonage for the first two weeks. If there was any chance of reduction during fermentation, they performed a delistage into a fibreglass vats before returning the wine to barrel with its lees.

The wine was bottled directly from gross lees in barrel with only a 30 micron rough filtration. There was no cold or protein stabilisation. Bottled on the 10th November 2018. Only 370 bottles were produced.

Sakkie Mouton Family Wines, Revenge of the Crayfish 2018, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

Tasted initially from both a Burgundy bowl glass and a white Chablis style Riedel, the aromatics are markedly different as I expected but are fascinating nevertheless. The Burgundy Montrachet-style bowl emphasises the lifted primary fruit notes of green melon, waxy green apples and crunchy green quince. But it is only in the Chablis-style small bowl glass where the true depth and mineral focus is revealed. Wow, the tart yellow bruised orchard fruits notes are firmly grounded by the most incredible granitic minerality, wet river pebble umami nuances and a sublime crystalline purity that really starts to speak boldly on the palate. With impressive energy and tart vibrant acids, one is so captivated by the intensity of saline green apple, tart yellow plum, fynbos spice and again, more and more wet slate and river pebble minerality. A fascinating wine that is incredibly precise, you would be wrong to think this expression is just all about freshness and minerality because the textural glycerol weight of fruit speaks volumes about the precise wine making, the superb fruit quality and the intelligent and passionate winemaking behind this cuvée. If quality like this can be repeated, future greatness and fame seems very close within reach for young Sakkie. Drink from 2020 to 2040+

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

“Probably the most exciting new comer to the South African wine scene that I have tasted since Eben Sadie, Donovan Rall and Duncan Savage!” ~ Ian Naude, winemaker and owner at Naude Family Wines.

The Dawn of a New Vintage – Tasting the Component Parts of the 2017 Vintage Port With Dirk Niepoort…

After selective Port house vintage declarations in 2015 including Niepoort and Quinta do Noval, Niepoort then decided not to declare a 2016 Vintage Port when most others did, as the quality of the provisional 2017 vintage component parts were considered some of the highest quality wines Dirk had ever seen, showing similarities in style to his excellent 2015 and possibly even surpassing 2015’s exceptional final quality. 

It seems to me, after tasting almost all the 2015 single Quinta Vintage Ports as well as all the 2016 Vintage Ports, that some houses got themselves into a bit of a muddle. In the end, the 2015s appear to have turned out better than most expected and then of course the pressure was automatically on to declare the ripe 2016s. The problem remained that most producers had by then already realised that 2017 was going to be a small but exceptional vintage, creating the unusual dilemma of whether or not to break the unspoken Oporto rule of never declaring two consecutive vintages in a row.

Today, in early April, the declarations for 2017 Vintage Port started and later this week, I will taste the final completed bottled expression of the Niepoort Vintage 2017 Port with Dirk Niepoort. According to Dirk, 2017 was a great year in all aspects, with the harvest promising perfection and the weather during the harvest helping to achieve this. Up until this point, 2015 was considered the best Vintage Port he’d made. 2017 follows in the same vein as the 2015, but with a touch more perfection according to Dirk … 

“It is possibly our finest Vintage Port since 1945. This is a Port that is concentrated and intense with beauty and perfection shining through. Perfect tannins with a fruit component that is austere, precise and alive. The spirit is perfectly integrated, and the resulting finish is long, seductive and persistent. All its components are wonderfully balanced, a veritable orchestra in harmony. A fatal attraction with an insane potential for ageing, yet unbelievably perfect in its youth. This 2017 Vintage Port is unquestionably a King of Ports.”

The 2017 Vintage

2017 will be remembered for the intense heat and record low levels of rainfall. In-spite of the dry weather, flowering and bud burst developed under good conditions and in August and September the high temperatures during the day and cold nights allowed an even and gradual ripening. The decision to start harvesting early, at the perfect moment of ripeness, allowed grapes to be received in ideal conditions with fantastic natural acidity. Harvest at the Vale de Mendiz winery, began on 24th of August under perfect weather conditions, with musts displaying an intense colour and a powerful character. The last grapes were harvested on 26th of September. The yields were approximately 30% down on a normal year essentially due to dehydration.

I look forward to seeing Dirk Niepoort again soon when he launches his newest creation. But as the perfect entrée, I have typed up my tasting notes from the fascinating masterclass he presented in London in May 2018, where he presented eight individual 2017 Vintage Port blend components taken from barrel, alongside a his final “indicative blend”. 

A Snapshot of the 2017 Niepoort Vintage Port In Component Parts: 1 to 8

Component parts 1 all came from very old vines, the majority over 100 years old, with component parts 2 also coming from very old vines from between 80 and 100 years old. Both wines deliver incredible intensity and concentration adding real gravitas and length to the blend. Blend component 3 showed fine harmony and balance while component 4 came from the Pisca vineyard and was fortified with organic spirit. As is often the case with the Pisca wines, there was a youthful aroma of bananas before melting away into sweet black berry fruits. Ripe and very concentrated, “it tastes like where it comes from so you need to use it in moderation” according to Dirk. This cuvee also showed a very fine tannin structure indeed. Component 5 was a little more vinous in weight, lighter and shorter as a wine acting to help lift the concentration of all the other component parts coming from 100% Souzao fruit. A superb blending component at 2-3% normally. Component 6 was cooler and earlier picked from the Charmes vineyard, with some of the juice going into the Niepoort Charmes unfortified red wine with the remainder being worked harder and going into the Port blend. Component 7 was rich, opulent, grippy and gravelly with savoury tannins that added a whole extra dimension to the wine. Component 8 was from a small parcel made by a small grower producing fruit and wines in a very individual style, allowing 10% to make the final preliminary blend. 

Preliminary Niepoort Vintage Port 2017 Indicative Blend – (Barrel sample taken in May 2018)

Dense, long and profound with great precision, tannins and fruit power that you can savour and chew with an incredibly long finish. So many aromatic layers of graphite, sweet black berry, mulberry and nuances of blueberry preserve. Suave and elegant yet utterly imposing, powerful and masculine, very well honed and chiselled. Creamy, powerful, with powdery mineral grippy tannins, showing such fresh vibrant acid perfection, textural seamlessness and sublime harmony. Pronounced classical bramble berry fruit profile loaded with hedgerow spice, incredible intensity and precision and a very long, block-buster finish that goes on and on and on! Classy benchmark Port, this really is an inspired creation. 

(Wine Safari Score: 97-99+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Reverie Chenin Blanc 2016 – A Masterful Skin Contact White Creation From Jacques de Klerk…

I think I first met Jacques de Klerk of The Winery of Good Hope a few years ago at a ‘very liquid’ casual fine wine dinner in Stellenbosch organised by Ryan Mostert and Samantha Suddons of Silvervis / Terracura fame. While I’m quite familiar with the Radford Dale wines, Jacques’s own pet side project, the Reverie skin contact Chenin Blanc, was a new one for me.

I recently enjoyed another bottle of the 2016 in London. Sourced from an old vine Chenin Blanc vineyard in the Swartland, this wine is made in a savoury oxidative style with several days skin contact before being aged for over a year in older oak. With the 2017 vintage already released and en route to Europe, grab the last few bottles of this exceptional 2016 if you can find it. This really was a superb vintage in South Africa specifically for older vine Chenin Blanc.

Jacques de Klerk Reverie Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Swartland, 11 Abv.

Rich and spicy, pithy and candied with an incredible lemon sherbet zing, enchanting white citrus, lime cordial and grapefruit length. The aromatics show the spicy lift of skin contact but it melts harmoniously into a grassy, fynbos and granitic complexity. Taut, concentrated and fresh but certainly does not lack any weight or archetypal Chenin Blanc punch despite the impressively low alcohol level. A very intelligently made wine that is very true to its Chenin Blanc roots in the Swartland but also displays its characterful eccentricities proudly.

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

It’s Evolution Versus Revolution at Tesselaarsdal – Tasting the Third Release of their Elegant Pinot Noir…

The brand that is Tesselaarsdal was established in 2015 by long time employee Berene Sauls who started at Hamilton Russell as an au pair originally. With higher vinous aspirations and then valiant  support financially and emotionally from Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell, Berene was cast adrift to fend for herself in the wide world of fine wine after her first release in 2015. Proudly, one of my claims to fame is that I was the first to taste the maiden release 2015 in January 2016 at breakfast, as you do in the trade, at Hamilton Russell when I was invited over to be the panel chair and guest speaker for the Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir Celebration 2016.

As delicious as it was, the 2015 now starts to pale into insignificance along side newer releases like the 2017 and 2018 vintages. With the 2018 about to land in the UK, I took an opportunity to reacquaint myself with the 2017 that has had a nice amount of time to settle in storage.

Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir 2017, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

A winemaking collaboration hand in hand with Emul Ross, the winemaker at Hamilton Russell, Tesselaarsdal 2017 is made from fruit 100% sourced from a vineyard leased from La Vierge in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge from totally unirrigated vineyards. A style of wine that always shows a little bit of sulky reduction early in its evolution, the 2017 seems to have blow most of this off and now starts to up the ante with notes of wild fraises de bois, red bramble berry fruits, freshly cut hedgerow and an interesting melange of sappy red berry fruits, limestone minerality and dried herb spice. On the palate there is a real luminescent brightness, crisp freshness, salinity, and purity of crunchy red berry fruits. Tannins are soft and supple, very elegant as you would expect from the sultry 2017 vintage in Hemel-en-Aarde making the wine very friendly, accessible and opulent already. Ultimately, what I love about this wine is its completeness, its textural harmony, its fruit intensity and of course its saline bite. Only the third vintage, this remains one of my favourite Pinot Noirs produced in South Africa.

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

Great Wines Are Born Through Innovation and Experimentation and Few New World Wines Illustrate This Better Than The Jem From Waterford Estate…

Named after Waterford Estate’s owner, Jeremy Ord, or Jem as he is known, this is a red blend that has often seduced but also confounded critics over the years in equal measure since its first release in 2004. Indeed visitors to Waterford Estate often wonder if the different varietals that go into The Jem are aged separately. “They aren’t,” says winemaker Mark Le Roux.

A slightly exotic blend in the South African context, shortly after undergoing malolactic fermentation, about 20 different batches of the eight various varietals are meticulously blended to make up The Jem. “This is done to give the wine the maximum amount of time to integrate and bond” says Mark.

It is certainly a wine I have grappled with over the years and is perhaps one I have often failed to fully understand. So when in doubt, crack another bottle and explore further is what they say! With noticeable style changes occurring under Mark Le Roux’s watch towards greater elegance and freshness with real changes really being effected over the past 3 to 5 years, it certainly was time to open and reflect on the contents of a bottle of the newest release – The Jem 2014.

 

Waterford The Jem Red Blend 2014, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

Made from a warm, moderate growing season, 2014 as a vintage is best remembered as the last normal year before four drought seasons. The 2014 Jem blend is made up of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Shiraz, 14% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot, 4% Mourvedre, 3% Sangiovese and 2% Barbera. According to winemaker Mark Le Roux, the Jem is based on both red and black berry fruits with spicy aromatic tones and a polished, textured mouthfeel. The nose does indeed reveal opulent layers of fruit and spice with pronounced notes of oregano, thyme and dusty stony minerality. It certainly invokes notes of high octane wine making that thrives on the exotic. This wine could so easily be another Bordeaux blend based around Cabernet Sauvignon and it would no doubt excel under the watchful eye of Mark Le Roux. But there is a higher striving involved with this wine and since its inception, it has never embraced the establishment but rather courted the esoteric. It is on the palate that the idiosyncratic blend components reveal themselves, showing spicy black olive, red cherry spice, red peppercorns and red currant bramble berry fruits that buffer a darker, denser core of earthy black currant and saline cassis depth. In the past, this wine was perhaps a little too big and bold for me but now with the more recent vintages I can see the evolving tannin elegance, the textured nuances, interwoven acidity and exotic herbal Italianesque spices that set this icon wine apart from its competitors. If you like bold, modern, adventurous red wines, I suggest you crack a couple of these with your Sunday roast beef. Satisfaction is guaranteed. Drink now to 2034+

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

25 Great South African Wines Under £25 Retail – Red and Whites Not to Miss…

Value versus quality. It’s the eternal debate with all New World wine producing nations. Peg your marker in the sand and stand up for top premium quality at the price you think the wine deserves or take perhaps the long view and sell your wine at a more affordable price level with more market accessibility. Who knows what’s right?

All I know is that some of the cracking whites and reds in my 25 for £25 selection could easily sell for a lot more money and no consumers would blink an eye. So does that mean the producers are under pricing themselves? No, not necessarily. Everybody produces different quantities, works from a different cost base and has a different long term business sales vision.

This eclectic collection of reds and whites does not stand alone to make a statement or indeed even seek to provoke discussion but merely serves to illustrate to consumers that South Africa is not only about £35-£75 bottles of white and red from trendy producers. Crack open any of these below wines with absolute confidence!

White Wines 

Fram Grenache Gris 2017, WO Voor-Paardeberg, 11 Abv.

Pithy bramble berry, stalk spice and sap with a zesty tart strawberry pip fruit note, crushed stone minerality and grippy tannin. Class. (£24)

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

Winterhoek 2015, WO Ceres, 13.5 Abv.

Earthy savoury quince, cassis leaf, sweet sour plum and oxidative notes. A different take on Sauvignon more in the Pouilly Fume style. Unique but a bit of a marmite wine. (£8.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Foundry Roussanne 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Fragrant white peach, citrus, orange peel zest with a creamy core and yellow pastille fruit finish. Superb! World class. (£15.99)

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

The Foundry Grenache Blanc 2017, 13.5 Abv.

White peach, yellow citrus and pithy stony fruits. Juicy to its core. Incredible quality with a nutty marzipan finish. Wow! (£15.99)

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

Naudé White Blend 2009, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc Blend. Packed full of white citrus, white pepper, stalk spice and bruised orchard fruits on a finish with bright acids. Delicious and super classy. (£17.99)

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

Craven Clairette Blanche 2015, WO Stellenbosch, 11.5 Abv.

Quince, wet grass, apple peel, leesy white peach Bon Bon finish. Drinking very well. (£17.99)

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

Hannes Storm Wild Air Sauvignon Blanc 2017, 13 Abv.

Quince, tropical yellow fruits, gooseberry and a hint of green mango peel. Creamy, mineral, super concentration. Old World style at its best! (£18.99)

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

Craven Chenin Blanc 2017 Karibib Vineyard, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

Dusty, stony mineral fruits, hints of wet bushveld, white peach stone and crushed gravel on the finish. Very youthful. (£20.99)

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

Elgin Ridge Chardonnay 2017, WO Elgin, 13 Abv.

Grapefruit Bon Bon concentration, citrus pastille, lime peel and a toffee apple kiss. Vibrant, intense, incredible piercing length. Really very very special and worthy of an upgraded score since my last tasting note! (£22.95)

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

Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2016, 13 Abv.

Semillon, Chardonnay, Roussanne, Clairette Blanche, Chenin Blanc, and Viura Blend. Creamy, complex and such interwoven intrigue. Flavours melt into one another. Fabulously complex, harmonious effort. (£24.99)

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

Julien Schaal Confluence Chardonnay 2017, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13 Abv.

Pithy, citric, mineral and super energetic. Overtones of expensive fresh white Burgundy. Among South Africa’s best Chardonnays no doubt. (£24.99)

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

Rall Grenache Blanc 2017, WO Piekenierskloof, 13.5 Abv.

Piekenierskloof fruit selection. Deliciously stony with pithy white citrus, peach stone and crushed granite minerality. Very pure and elegant. Lovely subtle yellow sour plum finish. Fabulous. (£23.49)

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

Red Wines

Primordial Soup 2017 Blend, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

Light fresh sappy red bramble berry fruits. Bright, savoury stewed strawberry hints and a long juicy finish. Great value for money. (£7.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 86+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Zorgvliet Silver Myn Argentum 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec blend. Shows sweet plum, cassis and tannery leather. Classical notes with sweet black fruited savoury depth. Well-proportioned and great value. (£9.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 87/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Kaapzicht Cinsault Skuinsberg 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

Stewed winter fruits, damson plum and raisined cranberry with a hint of marzipan and rose petals. Soft, sleek with a granitic minerality. Very fine. (£18.99)

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

Bohemian Syrah 2016, WO Wellington, 14.5 Abv.

Rich savoury, bramble berry black fruits, sweet cassis, cured meats and crushed coriander and peppercorns. V8 Chevy engine under a Porsche bonnet. Plush, smokey savoury finish. Punchy style. (£18.99)

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

Cricket Pitch Red Blend 2013, WO Wellington, 14.5 Abv.

Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc blend. Super perfumed notes of rose petals, violets, lilies with sweet cassis fruit. Sleek, classical Bordeaux Blend expression with fine pedigree. (£19.99)

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

Hat Trick 2012 Cape Blend, WO Wellington, 14.5 Abv.

Pinotage, Merlot, Grenache Blend. Sweet sappy bramble berry savoury black fruited nose. Exotic with hints of peach juice and black currant and a long, musk laden finish. (19.99)

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

La Vierge The Affair Pinot Noir 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

Savoury bramble berry fruits, pomegranate exoticism, tilled earth and blood orange. Fresh, cool and precise. Lovely. (19.99)

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

Crystallum Peter Max Pinot Noir 2016, WO Coastal, 14 Abv.

Starts a bit reductive so give it air. Packed full of cherry stone and cranberry with hints of Victoria plum and pink rock candy. Cool, creamy, sublime balance and delicious depth with typicity. (£24.99)

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

Naude Adoro Red Blend 2007, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz blend showing classic notes of sweet tannery leather, raisined plums, winter stewed compote and earthy black bramble berry fruits with ample spice, salinity and cured meat complexity. A real consumer favourite! (£20.95)

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

David & Nadia Pinotage 2016, WO Swartland, 12.5 Abv.

Deliciously light, lithe and fresh with perfumed, chalky red fruits and luscious, sappy red apple and cranberry intensity on the long, pure finish. Fabulous expression. (£22.99)

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

Thorne & Daughters Wanderer’s Heart 2016, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

Stony granitic cranberry and sweet tart red cherry. Super pure and precise with amazing freshness and depth with a light weight texture. (£24.99)

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

Kottabos Grenache Syrah 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

Lifted dried rosemary and oregano herbal notes melt into sweet red berry fruits, liquorice, dried mint leaf, peppercorn and a subtle eucalyptus kiss. Delicious. (£24.99)

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

Savage Thief in the Night 2017, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah blend showing wonderfully expressive perfumed nose with crystallised cherries, cranberry, Turkish delight and red bramble berry fruits. Such purity, class and distinction. Just wow! (£24.99)

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

Brunia Pinot Noir From Cold Mountain Vineyards – A New Side Project from Wade Sander…

Wade Sander is the assistant winemaker at the Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines cellar in Franschhoek. That snippet you might know. But what you probably didn’t know is that he makes a very accomplished Pinot Noir on the side.

In 2017, only 960 bottles were produced from nine year old vines. The wine was then aged 10 months in 228 litre old French oak barrels. The results are impressive for this ‘heart-break variety.’

Cold Mountain Vineyards Brunia Pinot Noir 2017, WO Sondagskloof, 13.5 Abv.

This is definitely a cool, light touch Pinot Noir with a bright, lively cherry ruby red colour. The aromatics are perfumed, lifted and refined showing notes of violets, fresh raspberries, red currant, red cherry combined with a complexing sappy spice. The palate too is equally clean, pure and refined and displays a taught, sappy resinous red cherry and red bramble berry intensity with subtle oak spice notes. There is a lightness and elegance to the texture but also a noticeable core of wound spring tension. This is an eminently classy delicious expression without being profoundly complex in its youth. Effortless to drink, this wine is another fine addition to the ongoing and developing tapestry of Pinot Noir in the new South Africa. Drink now and over the next 10+ years.

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