Leeu Passant ~ The Most Exciting New Releases From South Africa in Years…

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines have always been all about bottling the great vineyard expressions of site and soils of the Swartland. This week saw the first new vinous additions to the growing Mullineux legacy in the form of Leeu Passant. 


The new range consists of two terroir specific Chardonnays and a dry red blend, which is a deconstruction and reconstruction of the venerable Cape wines of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s with almost equal portions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and a “modern” twist of Cabernet Franc.With the European Launch of Leeu Passant set to take place in London on the 5th April, when I’ll be in Bordeaux tasting En-primeur 2016 wines, it was fortuitous that I was staying with Chris and Andrea in the Swartland at just the right moment to experience these wines pre-release.


Below are my initial impressions and ratings of this profound new threesome of whites and reds…


Leeu Passant Elandskloof Chardonnay 2015, 14 Abv.

Very rich intense opulent nose, layers of pineapple pastille fruits, green apple and green citrus crunch. All natural ferment with indigenous yeasts, and all natural malolactics. Complex sweet green fruits, subtle creamy oak from 12 months ageing and another 10 months in bottle. The palate is taught, fresh and crunchy, some waxy white peach notes, flinty minerality and a noticeably cool, restrained dry finish. Plenty of power with animated subtlety. 

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


Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2015, 14 Abv.

This is a blockbuster wine. Sweet green quince, crunchy pears and pineapple pastille fruits, Bon Bon green apple crunch and subtle hints of struck match reductive complexity and gravelly, saline pithy fruit. Incredible acidity showing real power and drive, and incredible precision. High acid, bottled at 8 TA. Also such subtle, considerate oak use, fine integration of fruit and acids and again, like the Elandskloof version, finishes bone dry and elegantly restrained. A very impressive, complex Meursault’esque Stellenbosch Chardonnay illustrating the grandeur and terroir of this premium SA region. Superb… A must buy for Chardonnay obsessives! 

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


Leeu Passant Dry Red Blend 2015, 13.5 Abv.

36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 31% Cinsaut. 

The Wellington Cinsault at 117 years old is the oldest recorded Cinsault vineyard in SA, blended with a more youthful 91 year old vineyard from Franschhoek. The Helderberg Cabernet Sauvignon is 36 years old and the Cabernet Franc 18 to 20 years old. Lovely peppery, spicy leafy nose of plum, peppercorns, sweet bramble berries, hedgerow, bergamot and sappy cherry spice. There’s a real opulent confit fruit character, impressive ripeness, fragrant but simultaneously mineral and restrained. There is also a real dusty granitic vein, a chalky, spicy texture and sweet red currant and raspberry sappy fruit. Punchy, intense, really focused but with real mouthwatering drinkability. Beautifully fine harmonious texture, and tight polished tannins. A true testament to South Africa’s red winemaking heritage. A very classy wine.

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

Volumes PER wine: Elandskloof  Chardonnay ~ 2000 bottles, Stellenbosch Chardonnay ~ 3000 bottles, and 4,000 bottles of Leeu Passant Dry Red. 

 (UK RRP IS £72 – £75 pb Inc.)

My First Encounters at Roundstone, the Mullineux Family Farm in the Swartland

The Swartland is a beautiful and wild spot off the beaten track. The landscape is a series of dry rolling hills with a few significant outcrops of rock that form the Paardeberg, Kasteelberg and Piketberg mountains. This is also the region winemakers Chris and Andrea Mullineux chose to make their home.

The 7 – 8 year old Grenache Blanc vines being returned to bush vines after being trellised to begin with.

This is my first visit to Roundstone, the original farm from where Chris and Andrea started buying the famous fruit for their iconic Schist Syrah in 2007. This fruit has now also become a key component of their award winning “signature range” Mullineux Syrah. Roundstone’s own vineyards now represent around 30% of their Syrah production. 

On a clear bright day like today, you can see all the way to Table Mountain, around one and a half hours away heading south down the N7.



Chris and Andrea finally acquired the property in 2014 and, together with their viticulturist Rosa Kruger and farm manager Jeandre, started an exciting planting program that will run until 2018. 

They will be planting more Syrah, and also Chenin blanc, Grenache (noir and blanc), Cinsault, Clairette Blanche, Carignan, Semillon Gris, Roussanne, Maccabeu, and some more esoteric varieties.


I look forward to tasting their new Leeu Passant wines tomorrow. Very exciting. Now it’s time for a cold glass of Chenin! 

South African Winemaker Eben Sadie’s Greatness is Recognized Internationally at Prowein…

The Institute of Masters of Wine and international trade publication The Drinks Business are delighted to announce Eben Sadie as the winner of the 2017 Winemakers’ Winemaker Award.The honour, which has been given annually since 2011, recognises outstanding achievement in the field of winemaking. The winner is chosen each year by Master of Wine Winemakers and previous winners of the award.


Eben was revealed as the Winemakers’ Winemaker at ProWein today, in front of Masters of Wine and industry professionals. On receiving his award Eben said, “It is a major honour to be receiving this award and I would like to dedicate this to the great team of people I have by my side that have helped me over the years to grow closer to a dream. For a great wine is not the work of one.”
Eben graduated from Elsenburg College, Stellenbosch in 1994, and worked various harvests in Germany, Spain, France, United States and South Africa. He ventured out on his own in 2000 to pursue his passion for blends and terroir in his Swartland home. From what Eben describes as a ‘little shack’ in the Paardeberg, he began creating The Sadie Family Wines’ two signature wines – Columella (a red blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Tinta barocca) and Palladius (a white blend of Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Semillon, Clairette, Verdellho and others).

After a decade of producing these signature wines the Family released the Old Vine Series, a bottling of eight single vineyard old vine parcels; Skerpioen, Skurfberg, Voetpad, Mev. Kirsten, Kokerboom, Pofadder, Soldaat and Treinspoor.

Jane Masters MW, Chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine said, “Eben’s determined search to produce outstanding wines has put Swartland and South Africa on the map. I am delighted that the Master of Wine Winemakers have rewarded his dedication and talent – it’s truly well deserved.”


Eben now joins Peter Sisseck (2011), Peter Gago (2012), Paul Draper (2013), Anne-Claude Leflaive (d) (2014), Egon Muller (2015) and Alvaro Palacios (2016) as winners of the Winemaker’s Winemaker Award. 

Tasting the Spanish Priorat Icon L’Ermita Pre-Release with Álvaro Palacios…

Álvaro Palacios arrived in Grattallops, Priorat, in 1989, invited by a group of local producers and intent on extracting the very best from the land of llicorella grey slate soils.


The steep amphitheatre vineyards of L’Ermita extend around the village of Grattallops, where the broken, open slatey llicorella soils bring outstanding clarity to wines. 


The old Granacha and Samso (Carignan) vines receive more than 4,000 hours of sunshine per year and less than 380mm of annual rainfall, leaving a decisive mark on the character of their wines.


The 2016 L’Ermita is comprised of 85% Garnacha, 14% Carignan, 1% mixed Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, and Pedro Ximenez. The people who harvest pick the grapes off the stems one by one and discard whatever is not perfect, resulting in a total production of 2,000 bottles in 2016 from an area of 1.4 hectares.


Tasting Note: The L’Ermita 2016 Priorat is something special, all class and subtlety. The nose is effusive, bursting with dark fragrant parma violets, sweet sun raisined black berries, fig confit, black plums, spicy black peppercorns, and subtle grape jelly nuances. The palate is lush, broad, expansive, coating every inch of the mouth with crunchy, fleshy red and black berry fruits. Such impressive complexity, opulence and dense, sweet, seamless tannins. There is correspondingly massive concentration and intensity, yet flavours never stray to the spectrum of over ripeness. Everything is so perfectly judged. Just lovely precise acids, very fine balance and a real assured feel to the wine. So distinguished… a wine deserving its icon status.

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

Catching Up With the Legendary Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira in London…

It’s been a long week with moderate jeg lag after arriving back from San Francisco last Sunday. By Friday, I felt I was just about back to normal, only waking up at 5am… instead of 3am. But there can certainly be no better pick-me-up than some bubbles, and today I had a lovely visit from Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira himself, the master of Cape MCC.


As someone who did their MW dissertation on MCC Production in Constantia Valley, I am of course a great lover and eternal ambassador of fine Cape Methode Champenoise sparking wines, or Methode Cap Classique as they are classified in South Africa. And there are no greater names in MCC circles than Bubbles Ferreira, who makes some of the greatest examples of bottle fermented sparkling wine outside of Champagne.


Interesting to hear from Pieter that MCC sales continue to grow around 14% per year for them in SA and I suspect this is probably only slightly higher than the overall category average. For three quarters of the year, South Africa is almost too hot to drink too much red wine, so beer, white wine and of course chilled bubbles are the order of the day. South Africa has developed into a serious producer and quality of MCC across the board is very high on average. Not surprisingly, South Africa is now also the largest market for French Champagne on the African continent.


So it was great to have another look at the famous Graham Beck Cuvee Clive 2009, the most prestigious cuvee in the Graham Beck portfolio and an absolute personification of Pieter’s passion and obsession for creating the perfect sparkling wine. Grab a bottle if you can get your hands on some of the tiny allocation that has made it to the UK for the first time.


Tasting Note: A blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, both were whole bunch pressed and only the tete de cuvee was used, being mostly fermented in stainless steel but with a small percentage in Piece Champenoise 205 litre oak barrels. The wine is pale straw and wonderfully vibrant and fresh. The nose is rich, subtly savoury and exceptionally complex, showing wonderful opulence and attractive notes of biscuit, dusty limestone, shitake mushrooms, and white truffles. The whole while, the nose and palate are underpinned by vibrant, creamy citrus fruit purity. Lemon and dried herbs, yellow grapefruit and white citrus blossom. The texture is hedonistic and luxurious with a real salty, briney sea breeze character coming through on the long, toasty, nutty finish. Beautiful creamy mousse is perfectly assembled and in fine balance with fresh acids and elegant mineral finesse. A truly world class expression. Bravo Bubbles Ferreira.

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

The 4 New Masters of Wine… 

The Institute of Masters of Wine is delighted to announce four new Masters of Wine. The new Members of the Institute are Mark Andrew MW (UK), Jeremy Cukierman MW (France), Emma Dawson MW (UK) and David Forer MW (USA).


The Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) is a professional body with an unsurpassed international reputation. The Masters of Wine (MWs) hold the most respected title in the world of wine. The IMW promotes excellence, interaction and learning across all sectors of the global wine community. There are currently 356 Masters of Wine today, working in 29 countries. The Membership encompasses winemakers, buyers, journalists, shippers, business owners, consultants, academics, and wine educators. There are over 340 students in the MW Study Programme from 40 countries.

The new Members have proved their understanding of all aspects of wine by passing the Master of Wine Examination, recognised worldwide for its rigour and high standards. The MW Examination consists of three stages, including Theory and Practical Exams, and culminates in the submission of a final Research Paper, an in-depth study on a wine related topic from any area of the sciences, arts, humanities, or social sciences.

THE NEW MASTERS OF WINE

Mark Andrew MW

Mark is based in Bloomsbury, Central London, where he is co-founder of Noble Rot magazine and the wine bar / restaurant of the same name. The magazine was launched in early 2013 as an alternative to traditional wine media, and is now distributed in over twenty countries around the world. The wine bar/restaurant followed in 2015 and won ‘Best Wine List’ at the National Restaurant Awards and Harden’s Awards within a year of opening. Before launching Noble Rot, Mark was Head Buyer at London-based retailer and importer Roberson Wine for eight years, where he developed deep affection for the traditional, artisanal, terroir-driven wines of the world. Before that, there was a vintage in Burgundy and three years of running the wine program for a group of London restaurants to whet his appetite for working in the wine industry.

Research Paper: How can dry Assyrtiko from Santorini establish itself as a recognised ‘fine wine’ in the eyes of London’s premium on-trade?

Jeremy Cukierman MW

Jeremy Cukierman MW was born and raised in Paris. After a short experience in advertising agencies, the passion for wine quickly prevailed. Co-founder and co-CEO of Des Mets des Vins, Jeremy runs two wine shops in Paris, a wine event agency and a wine school. Through his wine business he is working with more than 200 top producers. He also consults for private customers and wine companies, lectures across all levels of WSET certification and trains future wine professionals in customised courses. He is writing for the French magazine Vigneron and for his own blog (www.intothewinewithjeremy.com). He is married, with two children and particularly loves Northern Rhône, Burgundy, Riesling, Italian and fortified wines.

Research Paper: The prospects for Syrah in the vineyards of Hermitage: A climate assessment in the Northern Rhône AOP

Emma Dawson MW

Emma Dawson MW entered the wine world after a first career in film and media. Learning about wine started as a hobby. But this changed after she took a chance move into the retail world and started working in Sainsbury’s supermarket. Whilst completing her WSET diploma she joined their wine department. She was awarded two scholarships from WSET during these studies; the Champagne Academy scholarship and Worshipful Company of Distiller’s scholarship. She also started to run a new type of wine tasting called the ‘Naked Grape’ for charity. From then, Marks & Spencer asked her to join their team as a buyer and she was offered the WSET Derouet Jameson scholarship to study on the Master of Wine Study Programme. In the seven years since she joined Marks & Spencer she has worked in several buying areas; across wine and spirits. Among her specialism is a focus on lesser known wine regions, bringing new wines to their range from; Greece, Lebanon, Israel, Georgia, Turkey, Bolivia, Japan, India and Brazil. She also buys Burgundy, Bordeaux, Italy, South America and Fine Wine for the company.

Research Paper: How did Lebanese wine emerge as a territorial wine brand in the 25 years that followed the civil war ending in 1990? Mistakes made and lessons learnt 

David Forer MW

A San Francisco resident, David’s intense passion for wine was propelled by that city’s close proximity to California’s best wine regions and by his involvement with the local community of wine and food professionals. Catalysed by passing the WSET Diploma with Merit in 2011, David became increasingly active in the wine industry through projects like consulting for on premise wine programs and creating exclusive tours of Napa. He helps everyday consumers enhance their enjoyment of wine by providing guidance on grocery store wines as founder of DaveTheNeighbor.com. More recently, influenced by the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley, he focuses on unique ways to connect people and wine by utilising technology. David is also working on a book about cult wines of the world all while maintaining a full time career in the pharmaceutical research industry.

Research Paper: An analysis of the impact of declining farm labour immigration on vineyard operations in Sonoma and Napa counties over the last decade

 Congratulations to them all!!

Visiting Napa Valley and Sonoma with the Wine Institute of California – Day 1 in San Francisco…

For the past 10 years I’ve tried to make a habit of visiting the US wine lands of either California, Oregon or Washington State at least every 2 years to keep up to speed. With my last two trips being in Washington State and Oregon for Pinot Camp, it’s great to finally make it back to California. 


Along with the French classics, Italian wine and of course South African wine, I have a massive passion for American wines. I love their precision, polish, opulence, structure, and age worthiness. I rarely ever meet a customer who does not enjoy a mature Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, Russian River Pinot Noir or Sonoma Zinfandel! 


So today was Day 1 and touch down in San Francisco ahead of a jam packed schedule of lectures, visits and tastings in Napa Valley and Sonoma. What a beautiful city it is too. Much excitement awaits in the week ahead.

The Bay Bridge, not to be confused with the Golden Gate Bridge.


The AT&T Baseball Stadium on the Waterfront. Home of the San Francisco Giants.