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/

Klein Constantia’s Stellenbosch Winery Anwilka Releases Its 2018 Red Blend…

The Anwilka Winery owned by Klein Contantia Estate, is based at the southern end of Stellenbosch with close proximity to the False Bay and is planted with 40 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot. Its proximity to the sea provides a specific maritime microclimate that, together with the old ferricrete soils, are perfectly suited for producing rich, opulent wines with freshness, salinity and balance.

Under the guidance of internationally renowned Bordeaux wine personalities Hubert de Boüard (co-owner of Château Angélus in Saint-Emilion) and Bruno Prats (former owner of Château Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estèphe), Anwilka has established a worldwide reputation for its flagship red blend which has in years gone by been famously described by international wine critic Robert Parker Jr. as “…the finest red wine I have ever had from South Africa”.

With Klein Constantia group winemaker Matt Day recently taking over full winemaking responsibilities at Anwilka, you can certainly expect to see the true latent potential of this well positioned estate realised in the coming years.

Anwilka 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.36% Abv.

3.4 g/l RS | 5.0 g/l TA | 3.70 pH

A blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Syrah and 5% Petit Verdot which was aged for 19 months in French oak, 50% new 400 litre barrels and 50% second fill. The colour is a deep, dark, opaque black plum with a black cherry rim. The aromatics are fresh and perfumed with notes of mocha, black cherry, bramble berries, melted tar and kelp emerging on the nose. The palate too shows archetypal 2018 vintage character with nuances of poached black plums, sun dried black cherries, melted black liquorice, saline cassis and hints of cedar spice. The textural frame is slightly more foursquare with glassy crisp acids and grippy mineral tannins padded out by an ample, inky black fruit concentration. While not quite as silky, seamless and effortless as the distinguished 2017, this is nevertheless an impressive red blend that should reward 8 to 10+ years of cellaring, being kept fresh and vital by its crunchy, mouth-watering acidity.

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

Van Biljon Wines – The Undiscovered Fine Wine Gem in the Heart of the Polkadraai Hills of Stellenbosch…

This beautiful small boutique farm is situated in the famed Polkadraai Hills region of Stellenbosch, sitting alongside famous neighbours like Reyneke Wines, Raats Family Wines and De Toren. While most of these excellent wines rose to fame for originating in Stellenbosch, more recently, as collectors and connoisseurs have started to scratch a little deeper into the finer details of the individual wards and terroirs of the region, the Polkadraai has risen to new heights of fame globally. Known for its deep fertile soils and well drained decomposed granitic soils and moderating sea breezes off the False Bay lying to the South, the terroir has formed a perfect home to the classic Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

As if the wonderful terroir wasn’t enough, the wines are made by one of the great winemakers of the Cape, Chris Keet, creator of the legendary Cordoba Crescendo 1995 Cape Bordeaux Red that lights up the Cape fine wine auction houses with big R8000+ prices (£400) when bottles occasionally come on the market for sale. Chris is a master with Bordeaux varieties and meticulously crafts an impressive Cape Bordeaux Blend using traditional winemaking techniques combined with modern technology to produce wines with intensity, concentration, balance and structure.

Tasting the Van Biljon 2017 and 2018 and the Keet First Verse 2018 Bordeaux blend with Chris Keet at the winery in March 2022.

I first became acquainted with the Van Biljon CINQ after tasting the 2013 vintage which I rated 93/100 back in October 2016. Subsequent vintages like the 2014 seemed to just get better and better, rating 94+/100 when tasted in October 2018. I sadly missed the epic 2015 vintage which sold out very quickly to an airline group I understand but was thrilled to taste the fabulous 2017 new release again when Julia Van Biljon was over in London recently. This is definitely a wine that flies under the fine wine radar but undoubtedly deserves to be far better know as it stands among the great Bordeaux Blends produced in the Western Cape winelands.

Van Biljon Wines CINQ 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.4% Abv.

2.3 g/l RS | 5.8 g/l TA | 3.5 pH

The 2017 CINQ is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 11% Merlot, 6% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot and spent 18 months maturing in selected French oak barrels. This is a seductive and enticing Cape Bordeaux blend that utilises all five red Bordeaux varieties to great effect. On the nose there is initially a pronounced sweet cedar and sappy red fruited spiciness from the Cabernet Franc before notes of dried herbs, chai tea, black currant and dusty graphite come to the fore. The well-honed palate shows considerable elegance and harmony with a fine grained textural balance revealing layers of spicy red and black berry fruits, notes of cherry tobacco and a tart, tangy acidity on a long, weightlessly concentrated finish. Stony drying tannins lend a further air of seriousness, structure and age ability on the long sleek finish. An attractive offering that must rank among the finest releases from Chris Keet and the Van Biljon winery to date. Drink this from release or over the next 10 to 15+ years.

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

For stock availability, please contact Woodwinters UK for trade allocations.

The Hemel-en-Aarde Cabernet Sauvignon that Continues to Defy Expectations – Tasting the Restless River Main Road & Dignity 2018…

Cabernet Sauvignon is not supposed to be this successful in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in the Walker Bay region. But like innovators before him, think Tim Hamilton-Russell, Craig Wessels has never been one to settle for conformity or pre-set industry parameters of quality with his wine styles. The track record is now so firmly established for the Restless River Cabernet Sauvignon that Craig certainly has no problem selling out of allocations of this exceptional expression.

Many of the 2017 reds reached heights of quality not seen for many years (2015 aside), so expectations for 2018 and the last drought vintages were understandably very high. This is a premium priced wine (circa £55 to £59pb retail) which consumers expect to reach certain quality heights every vintage. Craig Wessels has done a sterling job with the 2018 and while the main release in South Africa was already at the beginning of 2022, the wine is only now being offered seriously in the UK. If you have not tried this stunner, treat yourself. It’s a fascinatingly individual expression of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Restless River Main Road & Dignity Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 14.5% Abv.

A 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from two single vineyards, namely Main Road (1.59 hectares) and Dignity (0.71 hectares) in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley matured for 23 months in 225 litre barriques with approximately 25% new oak. Located five kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean in the heart of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir country, this exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon red continues to confound the sceptics. Coming from the last of the proper drought vintages, Craig Wessels has captured a wonderfully opulent and heady expression of Cabernet Sauvignon with plenty of exoticism and ripeness while never losing a certain feeling of classicism and elegance. Tasted over two days, the wine shows an impressive depth of black and blue berry fruits with initial notes of plum skins, pressed violets, wet leaves, sapidity and sweet cedar spice followed by tilled earth, salty black liquorice and cherry kirsch liquor nuances. On the palate the fruit depth is broad and plush with a dark cherry and black currant intensity, hints of graphite and iodine and finishing with a fine-grained mineral tannin grip and yet more salty liquorice notes. The 2018 vintage seems more Napa Valley than Stellenbosch / SA in style but certainly a very well honed, opulent expression. Drink this now and over the next 10 to 15 years. (7,765 bottles produced.)

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

Available to the trade in the UK from SWIG wines. (www.swig.co.uk)

Stars in the Dark Syrah 2020 From Minimalist Wines Shines Brightly…

I was recently asked why no one had reviewed the 2020 Stars in the Dark Syrah from the dynamic young talent Sam Lambson. I replied that the wine had arrived in the UK basically all pre-sold and there was none “to be had” for general drinking. And then, as if by magic, a friend joined me for lunch and brought along a bottle of the 2020, the third vintage release from Minimalist Wines.

This fabulous red comes from Cape Agulhas, one of the coldest and most inhospitable wine regions in the Western Cape … so certainly not an easy spot to grow vines. There is very little rain, the winds howl incessantly and the shallow, layered shales and koffieklip-littered soils of Elim provide little nourishment for the vines. The ripening season is cool and lengthy yet, with their roots driven deep, the tenacious Syrah vines on this 21-year old parcel yields minute, concentrated berries with electric natural acidity. As Sam Lambson often points out, “some of the best things in life emerge from tough times and dark places.”

The 2020 growing season began with a balmy spring which ensured both a successful budburst and flowering. A moderate summer then settled in bringing fine winds through the vineyards, which helped keep the vines fresh and disease-free while the steady heat helped concentrate the grapes. Although temperatures were definitely warm, they seldom spiked, which helped keep drought conditions in check. Towards the harvest, some welcome rain fell providing a respite from what had been a period of intense drought, although the humid conditions did then see a surge of rot and disease, which producers had to work hard to mitigate.

Minimalist Wines Stars in the Dark Syrah 2020, WO Cape Agulhas, 13.5% Abv.

A 100% pure Syrah red, the 2020 once again reveals a piercing black berry fruit aromatic profile that shares so much with the greatest Syrah examples from the Northern Rhone and Cote Rotie in particular. With the complex melange of black berry fruits come nuances of dried violets, potpourri and lavender together with dried herbs, garrigue, peppercorns and pithy cherry spice. The palate shows wonderful poise and precision, real intensity of fruit together with purity, minerality and telltale coastal salinity expressed with a kelpy, oyster shell reductive hint. Still tightly coiled and full of tension, this will be a fine Syrah to bury in the cellar for 5+ years but can be coaxed to display some of its finery with an hour or so in a decanter. A truly splendid wine that builds on the successes of the previous two drought affected vintages.

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

Prime Stellenbosch Winery Waterford Estate Release An Exceptional New Value for Money Cape Bordeaux Red Blend – Tasting the Antigo Red 2019…

The Waterford Estate is probably best known for their great red blend, The Jem. But recently, Waterford have released another little Bordeaux blend to minimal fanfare despite its sexy packaging and exceptional quality in bottle. A superb Cape Bordeaux Blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec, this is a wonderful addition to the ranks of Stellenbosch’s affordable premium reds that will find a thirsty and willing clientele as the cost-of-living squeeze starts to bite. Why compromise on quality when you can buy fabulous wines like this!?

Waterford Antigo Red 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.

A flamboyant and extroverted wine brimming with lifted aromatics of sweet cedar, cherry tobacco, black currant, ground nutmeg and graphite spice. The palate is as bright as the aromatics are lifted with a wonderfully creamy, supple mouthfeel layered with tart black currant, brûléed coffee beans, dried herbs and pithy black cherry on the suave, sleek but densely fruited finish. Elegant and beautifully accessible but also deceptively complex and serious. An impressive and expressive red wine packed full of class. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8 years.

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

Bordeaux Opulence at Its Very Best – Tasting the De Mour Pomerol 2017 Red…

The De Mour Pomerol is a special Cuvee Bordeaux produced by the Belgian De Schepper – De Mour family and whose wines are for the most part sold in the Benelux, Scandinavia and the UK. The De Schepper family commenced a large scale investment spree in the mid to late 1990’s, bringing the various Chateaux under their ownership into the modern winemaking era, combining Bordeaux’s various sought after terroirs with high-end technology and traditional know-how to create a range of authentic artisanal wines with great opulence, finesse, modernity and personality under the watchful eye of highly respected head winemaker, Jean-Michel Garcion.

The De Schepper – De Mour Bordeaux portfolio now includes several flagship Chateaux in the Haut Medoc, Margaux and St Emilion appellations. Respected for their excellent quality and value for money, their portfolio is now a go-to source for merchants seeking out top quality, direct shipment Chateaux wines from Bordeaux.

De Mour Pomerol 2017, Bordeaux, 13.5% Abv.

This is a fabulously big, bold, opulent Pomerol with an enticing ruby / purple colour and an extravagant and extroverted aromatics of stewed black plums, cherry kirsch liquor, black currant and cherry confit with just a hint of vanilla essence, kelp and subtle top notes of bonfire smoke. The palate is fleshy, showy, rich and boldly ostentatious showing lush, creamy tannins generously supported by sweet black currant fruit intensity, salty cassis, black liquorice and an assortment of other exotic flavours straight from a Michelin Star restaurant’s dessert trolley. Full and fleshy but also finely balanced with fresh acids and spicy mineral tannins, you can drink this wine in its precocious youth to experience its full, succulent personality or age for 6 to 8+ years to experience some tertiary delights. Definitely one for the Bordeaux hedonists.

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

For more information or direct shipment prices ex-cellar, contact: Anthony Crameri – anthony_crameri@orange.fr

Vassaltis Vineyards Breaking the Mould with Their Experimental Reds – Tasting the New Kaloupi 2020 Red Blend…

If it’s not South African wines international wine critics are raving about these days then there’s a very good chance they will be writing about all the exciting new wines coming out of both the Greek mainland and its many idyllic Mediterranean islands. But that’s not where the similarities end.

Both countries have experienced a revolution in wine quality, South Africa in the early 2000s onwards and Greece more latterly. Both countries have also been quick out the blocks with their exceptional white wines, many in Greece based around the premium flagship varieties of Assyrtiko or Malagousia, just as Chenin Blanc was used in South Africa to lead the charge. For top quality red wines however, both countries have faced more of a challenge elevating wine quality across styles and varieties.

Visiting old vine vineyards in Vourvoulos, Santorini with owner Yannis Valambous and winemaker Yiannis Papaeconomou.

South Africa is now reaping the benefits of two decades of experimentation, precision viticulture and striving for terroir driven wine quality. In Greece, the greater red wine project is still regarded as a work in progress, but there are top producers like Vassaltis making steady leaps in quality with new experimental reds like this Mavrotragano blend. As so often is the case, the answer to refinement and elegance lies in making wines where less is more, built around earlier picking times, fruit purity and natural acid freshness. The revolution in quality is well underway.

This new Red is a field blend of 30% Mandilaria, 30% Mavrotragano and 40% Assyrtiko, co-fermented with some semi-carbonic on the Mavrotragano, sun-drying on the Mandilaria and whole bunch on the Assyrtiko. Vassaltis used the Mavrotragano for the aromatics, fruit and structured tannis, the Mandilaria for the glycerol, alcohol and acidity and the Assyrtiko essentially for the part of the blend that brings all these elements together to give the wine a characteristic balance and roundness. The wine saw no oak ageing.

100 to 120 year old vine Assyrtiko in the kouloura training system in Vourvoulos.

Vassaltis Vineyards Kaloupi Red Blend 2020, Santorini, 14% Abv.

Made very much in the less is more philosophy, the aromatics are initially dark, mineral, basaltic and spicy before layers of sappy black berries, crushed gravel, dried herbs and notes of forest bramble berries and sun raisined cranberries. Texturally, this has more in common with the Loire, Burgundy or dare I say it, the Swartland, with a tight knit fruit density displayed with effortless elegance, weightless fruit concentration and vibrantly fresh, energetic acids. If I tasted this wine blind, Greece would be among my last possible options indicating what a paradigm shifting, well honed quality Red this wine really is. With its underlying basaltic terroir, the wine finishes with an impressively elegant, restrained classicism draped in a delicately mineral tannin veil. There is a hint of warmth on the end of the finish but is not enough to detract from the overall impression of excellence that this wine offers. Drink it slightly chilled, but certainly decanted, and the pleasure will follow. (250 bottles produced in 2018 and 1,250 in the follow up 2022.)

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