When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going – Tasting the Phenomenal New Release Savage Wines 2019 Vintages…

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.)

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

The Hidden Gem in the Heart of Barolo – Tasting the New Release Francesco Rinaldi Dolcetto d’Alba Roussot 2019…

Barolo, Castiglione Falletto and La Morra are three of the most important villages in the Barolo area and also three sites where Nebbiolo expresses itself to its maximum potential. The soils in Barolo close to the Cannubi Cru sub-region are compact and sandy lying on slopes overlooking the hill of La Morra. The vineyards dominated by Nebbiolo plantings are joined by this unusually sited one hectare Dolcetto single vineyard of Roussot which lies on a South Western facing exposure. The vines are properly old now having been planted between 1975 and 1977.

Vinification of the Dolcetto grapes was carried out in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with skin contact fermentation for approximately 15 days. Further elevage or “refinement” was carried out by ageing the wine for several more months in stainless steel enhancing the characteristics of the grape variety and helping to accentuate Dolcetto’s natural freshness and fragrance. Many might have pulled up these quirky old Dolcetto vines to plant more Nebbiolo, but thankfully, the Rinaldi family continue to nurture this special vineyard and sell the small but high quality production at very reasonable prices. A true treasure of Piedmont.

Francesco Rinaldi et Figli Dolcetto d’Alba Roussot 2019, 13% Abv.

The 2019 Roussot Dolcetto is a real rarity being made in a traditional style from fruit grown on prime Nebbiolo soils, something seldom seen in Piedmont. The bouquet boasts wonderfully vinous notes of lilac, white flowers, crushed rose petals over complex nuances of blackberries, wild strawberries, forest berry notes with a subtle limestone and graphite dusty minerality. The palate is sleek, finely polished and impressively fleshy with hints of tart black plum, black currants and black cherry, finishing with a subtle note of melted salty black liquorice and roasted almonds. Delicate but confident in stature and structure, this superb Dolcetto has power and intensity but also fabulous drinkability and mouth-watering vivacity. An incredibly charming wine that will drink well now and over 3 to 5+ years.

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

Benchmark Sauvignon Blanc to Die For – Tasting the Impressive Neil Ellis Amica 2017…

Even though I love a great Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, New Zealand or South Africa, I still need to be in the mood for it whereas a great Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay will tick all my boxes any day of the week and accompanying almost any food. However, acting as host and moderator for a recent 67 Pall Mall Zoom Tasting with Warren Ellis gave me the opportunity to revisit this incredible barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc from the Neil Ellis winery. Wow, what a revelation!

The source of the fruit for this wine is a little single vineyard site from the Jonkershoek Valley. The soil consists of decomposed granite and quartz. Grapes were harvested at 21.8 – 22.4ºB with a total acidity of 8.69 g/ and pH of 3.18. The grapes were whole bunch pressed using a Champagne pressing cycle to ensure only the finest quality juice being used. The fermentation was occurred naturally in 500 litre puncheons of which 20% was new. The wine spent 9 months in barrel. (500l).

Neil Ellis Amica Sauvignon Blanc 2017, WO Jonkershoek Valley, 13% Abv.

What a cool. intense, complex glassful. Just brimming with notes of sweet bread fruit, white citrus, white blossom, gooseberry and yellow grapefruit. The wine is rich but exotic evolving slowly in the glass while the palate is power packed, intense and electric with intense, savoury, grassy notes of green quince, green plum, tart yellow grapefruit and savoury, leesy, gooseberry notes. There is oak there but to mention it as a specific descriptive is to deny it’s all encompassing, broad-armed embrace that imbues the wine with extra elegance and grace. This has got to be the most interesting, mouthwatering, juicy, complex Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted in a long time, from anywhere! Superb now, but will age well for another decade or more!

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

Available in the UK from distributor Gonzales Byass.

One From the Cellar – Tasting the Iconic Porseleinberg Syrah 2016 From the Swartland…

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.

Winemaker Callie Louw on his last trip to London.

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.)

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

Fine Wine Safari New Release Tasting Notes – Champagne Dom Perignon 2010 Cuvee…

The 2010 harvest in Champagne was a big contrast to the previous two massively successful vintages in 2008 and 2009 released from most major houses in Champagne.

In 2010, big rains hit the region in mid-August leading to some swelling in the berries and even possible botrytis. The crop then ripened very rapidly with serious worries about rot spreading especially among the more susceptible Pinot varieties as damp mild conditions persisted into mid-September. But the saving grace was the change in weather halfway through the harvest with very warm days and cool nights helping to ripen the cooler vineyards as well as restrict any further spread of rot.

“It was a year of contrasts with fragile, painstakingly-sorted Pinots and triumphant Chardonnay.”

Champagne Dom Perignon 2010, 12% Abv.

This fabulous 2010 release is a super complex and intricate expression showing an immediacy and upfront appeal with delicious brioche notes you just wish you could find on every bottle of Champagne you opened. Aromatics are intense and piercing with a real citric, briney sea breeze sour dough immersion followed by a zippy, rich nuanced palate that sings with a well orchestrated performance of pear purée, brioche hints, crisp acidity and a harmonious, comforting apple strudel finish. Leave the 2008 in your cellar and embrace this lovely 2010 Champagne now and over the next 10+ years.

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

Revisiting a Unicorn Red – Tasting the Maiden Savage Wines Girl Next Door Syrah 2014…

Duncan Savage has just released his very impressive 2019 vintages to the market. Yet again he has created an impressive line up of whites and reds that continue to earn him new fine wine followers the world over.

To mark his new releases, I thought I’d pull something special out the cellar and revisit one of his rarest wines… the maiden vintage of the Girl Next Door Syrah 2014. Chatting to Duncan recently during lockdown, I tried to discover a little bit more about this fabled vineyard that produces one of the most profound expressions of Syrah in South Africa.

Tasting the Savage Girl Next Door 2014 along side a Jean-Luc Jamet Syrah 2017.

Running through recent vintages… “2015 was super light and I had to pick early! The birds totally fucked us…” Duncan explains in his own gregarious style. “2017 probably delivered as good as this block gets and 2018 revealed a more black olive, savoury character with a much more overt saline note perhaps due to the smaller water stressed canopy. But in 2019 the vines looked great after a massive mulching exercise, and the finished wine is incredible. Looking ahead, 2020 is probably the best yet and will be released in June/July 2021. In my mind, quality definitely tracks the vineyard health, the vintage and ones overall understanding of the two” says Duncan.

From a vineyard yielding a notoriously tiny production volume of around 2 x 500L barrels, Duncan produced two barrels in 2014, similarly small amounts in 2015, nothing at all in 2016, only 700 bottles in 2017, just over 1000 bottles in 2018, 1400 odd bottles in 2019 and around 1600 bottles in 2020. “It’s slowly getting better with the use of nets to protect the fruit against the birds and as we get to know the block better and better. We also weened the vineyard off water from 2017 and it is completely dry-land grown now” explains Duncan.

Savage Girl Next Door Syrah 2014, WO Cape Peninsula, 12.5 % Abv.

A mythical wine in so many ways that creates extra expectations. When freshly opened, it shows a tight concertinaed aromatic profile. Slowly and gently, the wine unfurls to reveal notes of roasted Autumn chestnuts, savoury cured meats, liquorice and stewed winter berries. There’s a creamy, lactic, brûléed black berry compote note with spicy hints of sweet black pepper, olive tapenade, grilled herbs and pureed black berry fruits. The palate is tight knit, taut and supremely composed showing a classical, earthy, restrained fruit concentration and an elegance that only the great Syrah wines of Cote Rotie, Hermitage and the Northern Rhône can offer. With 6 years of age there is very little evolution to speak of and only the most subtle, complex suggestion of secondary tertiary evolution. In my cellar, I’d happily leave extra bottles to slumber for a further 5-8 years with full confidence this wine will continue to age elegantly for 10 to 15+ years or more. A true unicorn wine produced in such small quantities that I can only suppose that very few of the original 1,300 bottles produced are still hiding in collectors’ dark cellars.

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

Fine Wine Safari New Release Review – Tasting the Catherine Marshall Fermented in Clay Chenin Blanc 2019…

I first came across Catherine Marshall’s Fermented in Clay Amphorae Chenin Blanc a couple years back with the 2017 example that really impressed me and if I am not mistaken, was one of my favourite whites of the year. I love the expression of authenticity that wines take on when fermented in clay amphorae vessels and Cathy has done a fabulous job on this wine year after year.

The 2019 vintage in the Cape is another exceptional year and for all the wines I have already tasted, not one has not lived up to my high expectations. This specific Chenin Blanc was made from Elgin fruit grown on a combination of deep clay soils and old bush vines on Laterite soils. Once fermentation was completed in the clay amphorae, 500 litres was decanted to oak casks for further maturation.

The wine in the French coopered barrels was partially allowed to go through malolactic fermentation and further matured for 11 months. The clay amphorae portion had no malolactic fermentation so that the fresher flinty characters would be maintained. After 11 months, the two components were blended and lightly filtered before bottling.

Catherine Marshall Chenin Blanc Fermented in Clay 2019, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.

(2.6 RS g/l, 3.32 pH, 5.8 g/l Acidity)

This beautiful Chenin Blanc really is a gorgeous wine. I loved the 2017 and 2018 but this 2019 seems to reach an even higher, more honed level of quality and purity. The aromatics combine intense notes of crushed gravel, dusty baked granite, dried straw and hints of fynbos and white lilies with nuances of dried pineapple slices, fresh yellow orchard fruits and a delicate pinch of fresh lemon peel. The palate is fabulously broad, glycerol and mouth coating with multi-layers of tart bright pineapple pastille, crunchy green pears, lemon cordial and a subtle hint of tart juicy tangerine fruit. Lovely stone fruit characters resonate on the palate with an incredible intensity, a piercing line of acidity and the most agreeable, integrated liquid minerality on the finish. Undoubtedly a great vintage handle expertly by Cathy with just that extra little je ne said pas added by the fermentation in the clay amphorae. I’m utterly smitten by this delicious, soulful wine. Drink from 2020 to 2030+.

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

Fine Wine Safari New Release Notes – Tasting the Impressive New Gaja Barbaresco 2017…

July 2020 sees the new release of the famed Gaja Barbaresco 2017 vintage produced from 14 vineyards situated in the municipality of Barbaresco. The land, at a height between 250 and 330m above the sea level, covers a surface of 21.4 hectares and vines are between 40 and 45 years old on average.

After the abundance of rainfall at the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017, a suitable amount of water combined with the warm spring, led to an earlier than anticipated bud break, which occurred 15 days earlier than usual. By mid-April 2017, three days of frost had hit the Barbaresco area, leading to a strict selection in the vineyards which resulted in the loss of -10% of the overall production.

However, the sudden drop in temperatures led to a positive slow-down of the vegetative growth cycle, whereas the summer proved to be one of the warmest in the last 10 years. Overall, 2017 will be remembered for the healthiness of the grapes, due to the dry growing season and for the overall drop in the production which the Gaja estate estimated at up to -20% to -30% by the time of picking. The harvest began on September 13th with the Merlot, followed by the Barbera and ending with the late ripening Nebbiolo grapes on October 20th.

Gaja Barbaresco DOP 2017, 14.2 % Abv.

The 2017 Barbaresco is a vintage of low quantity but undoubtedly high quality. After the warm dry vintage, the final expression is one of concentration of fruit as well as acidity and tannins from grapes with a low juice to skin ratio. The nose is perfumed and inviting from the first pull of the cork, showing a complex bouquet of cherry blossom, rose petals, red liquorice, sour red and black cherries, sun raisined strawberries and a classical, cranberry and aniseed root spice. Powerful in the mouth yet notably fine grained in texture and classically mineral with sweet velvety tannins balancing the fruit concentration of red cherries, sour plums and hints of ripe blood orange. Despite the heat of the vintage, the wine retains impressive linearity and classical restraint more reminiscent of a vintage like 2015 while the fruit of the 2017s are purer, more elegant and harmonious and a little less plump, fleshy and rounded in comparison. A beautifully expressive wine showing fabulous freshness, precise and considerate extraction and a grand Nebbiolo intensity and persistence. Drink from release until the aromatics and palate start to tighten up and then over the next 15+ years.

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

(The Gaja wines are imported and distributed to the UK wine trade by Hatch Mansfield.)

Fine Wine Safari New Release Tasting Notes – Crystallum Cuvée Cinema Pinot Noir 2019…

This small boutique winery was established in 2007 by brothers Peter-Allan and Andrew Finlayson. Their father, Peter, was of course one of the pioneers in the production of cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at Bouchard Finlayson, laying the perfect foundations for Peter-Allan and Andrew to follow in his footsteps but with their own new label, Crystallum.

Crystallum is now regarded as one of the top wineries in South Africa with fruit sourced from some new vineyards. All of the wines are fermented using indigenous yeasts and new oak has gradually been reduced to focus on the wines’ brightness and fruit purity.

The 2019 Cuvée Cinema Pinot Noir was produced from fruit grown in a single vineyard – one of the highest in the Hemel-en-Aarde region. This region is characterised by a moderate climate which results in delayed ripening and a late harvest. The soils are clay and shale in composition, which allows optimum fruit development while naturally restricting vigour and keeping crop levels low.

Once a location for a film based on the life of Napoleon, the ‘Cuvée Cinema’ vineyard produces some of the most intense, age worthy Pinot Noir in South Africa from Dijon clones.

Crystallum Cuvée Cinema Pinot Noir 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5% Abv.

This wine is always one of the most opulent and expressive wines in the Crystallum line up and this 2019 is another exceptional offering produced from 100% Ridge fruit with 70% whole-bunch fermentation. The bouquet is super fragrant and exotic with notes of Indian spices, violets and rose petals, dried leaves and subtle hints of forest floor and the most attractive melange of red currants, sour cherry and black bramble berries. The signature plushness and elegance of the palate is well measured and beautifully pure with marked notes of pink musk, red cherries, hints of cranberry brightness and a kiss of cinnamon spice on the finish. The tannins are suave and velvety lending enough structure and frame to give this wine a wonderful shape in the mouth. A really fabulous expression of Pinot Noir that could comfortably rub shoulders with some of Burgundy’s finest wines. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years. (6,744 bottles produced)

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

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines End an Agonising 5 Year Wait with the Release of Olerasay Segundo…

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.

Straw Wine Chenin Blanc before pressing.

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.

Mullineux Olerasay No.2 Straw Wine Chenin Blanc NV, 8.3% Abv.

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.)

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