Tasting and Assessing the The Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction Super Lot Wines in London…

I was recently invited to preview the individual wines of the CF&RA super lot in London at the Goodman Gallery. After a very instructive introduction and overview by Michael Fridjhon, we were let loose on some iconic South African whites and reds.

The Super Lot Auction took take place on Thursday 28th November 2019 at Christie’s London.

 

With Michael Fridjhon in front of a magnificent William Kentridge work of art.

Full list of wines, with The Fine Wine Safari scores from the preview tasting in brackets:

LOT A

Sparkling

Graham Beck, Méthode Cap Classique Blanc de Blancs, Robertson, Western Cape 2009 (92/100 GSMW)

Whites

Alheit Vineyards, Cartology Bush Vines, Western Cape 2011 (96/100 GSMW)

DeMorgenzon, The Divas Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch 2013 (96+/100 GSMW)

Jordan Wine Estate, Nine Yards Chardonnay, Stellenbosch 2015 (93+/100 GSMW)

Ken Forrester Wines, The FMC, Stellenbosch 2009 (92+/100 GSMW)

Reds

De Toren Private Cellar, Fusion V, Stellenbosch 2004 (92/100 GSMW)

Kanonkop Wine Estate, Pinotage, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch 2006 (91+/100 GSMW)

Rustenberg Wines, Peter Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2009 (95/100 GSMW)

LOT B

Whites

David & Nadia, Hoë-Steen, Swartland 2016 (96/100 GSMW*)

*This is my recent tasting score from my sit down archive tasting with David Sadie as the bottle on show here showed slight cork taint.

Kaapzicht Wine Estate, 1947 Chenin Blanc, Bottelary, Stellenbosch 2014 (93/100 GSMW)

Richard Kershaw Wines, Clonal Selection Chardonnay, Elgin 2015 (95/100 GSMW)

Reds

Bartinney, Cabernet Sauvignon, Banghoek, Stellenbosch 2011 (90/100 GSMW)

Eikendal Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2015 (92/100 GSMW)

Plaisir de Merle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paarl 1995 (93/100 GSMW)

Spioenkop Wines, 1900 Pinotage, Stellenbosch 2011 (91/100 GSMW)

Morgenster, Estate Reserve, Stellenbosch 2004 (93+/100 GSMW)

Fortified

Boplass Family Vineyards, Cape Vintage Reserve, Western Cape 2006 (92/100 GSMW)

What this archive selection showed was the incredible age worthy character of South Africa’s Chenin Blanc whites, not too dissimilar to Grand Cru Burgundy, and the classical complexity and elegance of South Africa’s top reds. Considering the cost price of many of these wines on release, these wines represent “fine wine bargains.”

Watch out for further up coming rare South African wine auctions at Strauss & Co Fine Wine Auctions in Johannesburg and Cape Town and further Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auctions in Cape Town.

Vega Sicilia’s New Release Tasting 2019 in London with Antonio Menendez Puente…

The Ribera del Duero is located in Spain’s northern plateau and is one of eleven Quality Wine regions within the autonomous community of Castile and Leon. It is of course also one of the most recognised and admired high quality fine wine producing regions to be found along the course of the Duero river. A largely flat, hot, dry rocky terrain that is centred around the town of Aranda de Duero, the region was upgraded from DOC to DOCa (denominacion de origen calificada) status in 2008 helped in large part by the global reputation and quality of the wines of Bodegas Vega Sicilia.

 

Undoubtedly considered the “first growth” of Spain and one of the most prestigious and respected wineries in Europe, this incredible producer located in the Ribera del Duero east of Valladolid, covers over 1000 hectares with around 230 under vine. Founded in 1864 by Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, who arrived from Bordeaux with cuttings of local grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, and planted them together with Spain’s signature grape Tinto Fino, a local clone of Tempranillo.

 

The nearby Bodegas Alion estate is the final piece in the Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero puzzle, producing superb high quality wines that can normally be enjoyed in their youth or aged for at least a decade or more. Completing the portfolio selection is their Pintia from D.O. Toro and finally the new(ish) Macan Rioja wines made under the Bodegas Benjamin de Rothschild Vega Sicilia joint venture.

Macan Clasico 2016, Rioja DOCa

The hallmark opulent exotic Macan nose is beautifully marked by sweet lavender, black berry fruits, creme de cassis and a plush brûléed veil of vanilla pod and buttered brown toast. The palate texture is fabulously pinpoint and polished with very fine grained stony tannins offset against a fairly classical, medium bodied weight of fruit. Plenty of succulence and appeal.

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

Macan 2015, Rioja DOCa

The Macan big brother shows a noticeably darker tone of berry fruits with lifted notes of black cherry, blue berry and raisined damson plums that combine synergistically with nuances of grey slate, graphite and molasses. Sleek and lush on the entry, the palate is held tightly in check by a fine, noble framing acidity that lends tension and a feel of linearity to the texture. Tannins are very fine, powdery and grippy but we’ll balanced with the intense, saline black berry fruits. A really classy edition that needs nothing more than a few more years in the cellar before drinking.

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

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Pintia 2015, DO Toro

A wine that grows in stature every successive vintage release. This great Spanish vintage offers up a deep, ripe, broody melange of molasses, raisined black plum, black currant reduction and smokey graphite spice. The palate is plump and glycerol with fruit opulence that is slightly clipped in its youth but which shows fine developmental promise with its crystalline acids and super sleek slatey mineral tannins. A lovely expression.

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

Bodegas Alion 2016, DOCa Ribera del Duero

This Alion has a fabulously dark fruited exotic nose with plenty of alluring blue and purple berry fruits, Parma violets and pink rock candy. The wonderful aromatic purity and precision continues on to a super lithe, supple, elegantly textured palate braced with fresh cool acids and tart black berry and black cherry intensity. The oak is impressively integrated already and the palate fruit weighted in the favour of finesse and creamy elegance. A really regal expression of Alion and possibly one of my favourite vintages in several years.

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

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Valbuena No.5 2015, DOCa Ribera del Duero

Initially the aromatics on this Valbuena are tight, classical and ever so slightly broody with subtle notes of brown toast, vanilla pod, molasses and a caramelised plum note. The palate is bold and sleek, finely textured and notably elegant and fine boned. There is also plenty of ripe black fruit, cassis reduction, caramelised nuts and Christmas pudding exoticism. The sleek mid weight concentration and polished, sweet tannins point to possibly a slightly earlier drinking version but certainly no rush to open as usual.

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

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva 2010, DOCa Ribera del Duero

Another finely layered, rich expressive Unico that is just starting to blossom after almost a decade. The nose is deep, dark fruited and earthy with sweet tannery leather, Christmas pudding, molasses and milk chocolate coated raisin nuances. Plummy, sweet fruited and wonderfully complex, this has the acid frame, glycerol concentration and baked black fruit intensity and power for the long haul. A very classy, well balanced sumptuous Unico.

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

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Reserva Especial NV (2020), DOCa Ribera del Duero

Like the Unico, this Reserva Especial is entrancingly deep and savoury with earthy black fruits concertinaed between tannery leather, wet river stones and graphite minerality. The palate is dense, weighty and glycerol with layers of earthy black brambly fruits that coat the mouth. So fabulously full, expansive, plump and concentrated yet it never loses its freshness or textural frame or shape. Lovely intensity and complexity, this is quite simply another blockbuster with youthful purity, glycerol unctuousness and sublime harmony and balance.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Excellence in the Unusual – Tasting LYSA, a New Benchmark for Verdelho in South Africa…

I often say that the best new wine finds are made through wine maker referrals. With the Lysa Verdelho from Guillaume Nell, it is no different. I only got to catch up with Guillaume at the New Wave Tasting in London in September but my friend Ian Naude had already alerted me to his wines many months before.

This note is now perhaps a bit late in the day as Guillaume has sold out most of his wines in the UK after a rock star mention from Jancis Robinson MW in the Financial Times, but nevertheless, I just wanted to document this excellent wine so if for no other reason, I can look back on my tasting notes in years to come and bookend the moment in time that a great new winemaking talent came on to the scene in South Africa! Guillaume is one to watch. If you missed the 2019… I have no doubt his future wines will be every bit as impressive.

 

Lysa Verdelho 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

A fabulously crystalline bright colour suggests real purity and clarity of fruit flavours. So it’s no surprise that when you stick your nose in the glass you are assaulted but a complex aromatic array of white citrus, green apple pastille, cream soda, wet straw, honeysuckle blossom, tangerine peel and crunchy white peach fruit notes. Thoroughly seductive. The palate doesn’t let up either with an electric acidity that is plugged straight into the mains, intelligently balanced by pristine, crystalline, pure green Granny Smith apple fruit zest, taut sleek white citrus zing, pithy yellow grapefruit and sour nectarine nuances. The concentration is turbo charged and the structure clean, linear and oh so pure with just the right amount of crushed rock minerality on the salty, candied finish. Yes, it’s mind blowingly delicious.

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

Naude Family Wines Launches the New Oupa Willem Old Vine Cinsault / Cabernet Sauvignon Heritage Blend 2018…

Fully appreciating a wine region’s heritage is one of the most important building blocks for long term future success. This premium Old Vine red from Naude Family Wines draws on the unique South African expression of Darling bush vine Cinsault blended with prime Cabernet Sauvignon from Durbanville to create something quite magical in the context of cool, classical, linear styles of premium South African red wine. 

Fermented dry naturally to 12% Abv. using 40% whole bunches, this elegant red wine displays a fabulous brightness and a weightless concentration of red and black berry fruits that are embroidered with classical fragrant notes of red cherry, rose petals, violets and marzipan underpinned by a mouth watering acidity.

Indeed all the amazing old historical South African red wines of the 1950s and 1960s exploited this incredible synergy between the elegance, finesse and lithe supple purity of Cinsault and the plushness, power, flesh and textural concentration of the Cabernet Sauvignon. Once these varieties join hands in union, the whole is immediately incrementally greater than the sum of its individual parts. Having tasted and reviewed every wine Ian has ever made, this incredible Oupa Willem 2018 release represents a new pinnacle of quality in the next chapter of Naude Family Wines. Drink now or cellar for 20+ years.

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

Premium Napa Valley Estate Diamond Creek Release Another Iconic Trio of Wines in 2017…

Owner Phil Ross stands at the helm of this iconic estate being only the second generation to run this winery in its 52 year history. As Napa’s foremost Cabernet estate, Diamond Creek continues to produce wines of heroic character and definition, whose promise with age is simply breath-taking. The three single vineyards – Volcanic Hill, Gravelly Meadow and Red Rock Terrace – are revered by connoisseurs the world over. 

These three, distinctly different vineyards are tucked away in a cavernous hillside surrounded by thick forest on secluded Diamond Mountain. It really is a remarkable place. Even more remarkable considering the visionary Al Brounstein had no idea what lay beneath the dense woodland when he happened to make room for vines in the late 1960s. Al famously borrowed tractors from Robert Mondavi and the Heitz family to prepare the virgin soil vineyards only to reveal three distinct terroir soils. So he decided he couldn’t blend them together like many encouraged him to do at the time. The original vineyards were planted in 1968 and 1972 with some additional plantings in 1995.

Diamond Creek produces on average 24,000 bottles per year or around 6,000 bottles per vineyard with 15 permanent employees working in the vineyards and cellar. 1971 was the first vintage but 1972 is considered the first official, commercial vintage release.

We have all heard about the famous 60 Minutes US news TV show that documented the “French Paradox” – one of the pivotal moments in Californian wine history and one of two events that Phil Ross states as being an absolute game changer for Diamond Creek and its sales. The other was of course The Judgement of Paris in 1976, though regrettably, Steven Spurrier did not ask Diamond Creek to submit a wine.

Phil Ross considers 2017 another great vintage in a similar mould to the epic 2016 as the drought was over with beneficial spring weather. There were some unfortunate fires at the end of the season but luckily 95% of Diamond Creek and their Napa neighbours had already finished harvesting. Quality at Diamond Creek is considered to be very good.

Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace 2017, 14.5 Abv.

Fabulous hallmark elegance and opulence with defined notes of blueberry and liquorice tinged with black currant, saline creme de cassis and a hedonistic, youthful kiss of salted caramel vanilla pod spice. Palate is supremely elegant with saline, intense, piquant notes of red berry confit reduction, blueberry spice, tart crunchy acids and a super intense, long graphite laced finish. Elegance and power, precision and purity. Fantastic!

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

Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow 2017, 14.5 Abv.

The Gravelly Meadow is altogether darker and more broody with pronounced notes of crushed granite, black cherry, blueberry spice, violets and cherry blossom. The palate follows with creamy, gravelly, stony piquant black berry fruits, cherry stone, graphite, salted caramel and drying, suave mineral tannins. Broader, denser and more four-square, this is much more masculine in frame and texture and noticeably more broody, restrained and mineral in a more Paulliac / St Estephe style.

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

Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill 2017, 14.5 Abv

A massive wine that eats up the 100% new French oak but still reveals fabulously intense perfumed aromas of black cherry, kirsch liquor, blueberry reduction, creme de cassis and subtle notes of musk, violets and purple flowers. So fabulous expressive and complex already, showing a palate of incredible generosity, sweet blue and black fruited concentration framed by intense, sweet tannins dusted with nuances of blueberry jam on brown toast and vanilla pod sweet spice. Fantastic power, plush concentration and genuinely impressive depth and breadth! Wow, such a complete wine!

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin Producing Magical, Authentic, Traditional Bordeaux Reds…

I have to admit that I have a love – hate relationship with Bordeaux. On the one hand I am intoxicated by the history, the grandeur and the incredible quality this amazing region is capable of producing. Yet on the other hand, I often find the mentality and commercial strategies of so many Chateaux owners and their chosen négociant channels infuriatingly difficult to comprehend. As a result, buying from Bordeaux has really started to evolve and over the past years, I find myself buying more and more wines directly from the Chateaux themselves, from genuine, rational, modest people who are just trying to run honest businesses making the very best wines their terroirs can deliver.

 

So when a good friend in Bordeaux recommended Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin, I stopped and took notice as most of the best buying decisions I have ever made have been as a result of friendly producers recommending the wines of friends, neighbours or colleagues. Château Cap Léon Veyrin has been family-owned since 1810 when the Château Cap Léon and the Veyrin estates were joined together. The word ‘Cap’ originally meant ‘head’. The vineyard of Cap Veyrin actually lies on the higher grounds of Listrac Médoc on Gravelly marl soils to the north and thus boasts ideal natural drainage and sun exposure.

 

With Julien in the Cap Ferret tasting wine and enjoying the Bordeaux summer sunshine.

Nathalie and Julien Meyre are now the 6th generation of this Médoc family of winegrowers to manage the property where family traditions are perpetuated with care. Their Chateau wines are dominated by an indicative blend of 60 % Merlot, 35 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 % Petit Verdot with ageing for 12 months in French oak barrels, 60% of which are normally new barrels. In addition to Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin, the Meyre family also own a fine little 15 hectare property in the Haut-Medoc near Cussac Fort Medoc called Chateau Julien where the average age of the vines are 40 years old.

 

The fabulous beaches of the Cap Ferret.

Over the summer, I managed to meet up with Julien Meyre on a sunny day in Cap Ferret on the Bordeaux coast where I tried to learn more about his family, the wines they produce and their future ambitions. The evolution of their wines is now happening at a swift pace with the more recent vintages receiving added guidance and fine tuning with the help of Michel Rolland, certainly one of the greatest tasters and blenders in the whole of Bordeaux. Just when I thought I was starting to lose faith in the “Bordeaux Project” then I meet another wonderful vigneron like Julien Meyre and taste some beautiful, characterful wines that serve to rekindle my love affair with one of the greatest wine regions in the world.

Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin 2015, Listrac Medoc, 13.5 Abv.

A fabulously serious expression from this up and coming Cru Bourgeois Chateau. The powerful 2015 blend shows an attractive nose of dark bramble berry fruits, blackberries infused with wood smoke, briary and dark black chocolate notes. The palate reveals fine structure and delineation, a cool medium body and lovely gravelly mineral tannins. Dense, compact and youthfully grippy, this wine shows a fine pedigree, an impressive tobacco-tinged length and a spicy, grainy textured finish. Drinking well now or cellar for 8 to 10 years.

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

Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin 2016, Listrac Medoc, 14 Abv.

The 2016 vintage is one of the greatest vintages in Bordeaux in 2 or 3 decades. With a little air, this wine starts to unwind and reveal a great aromatic presence with lifted layers of sweet violets and purple lavender perfume. The palate is rich, linear and super classical with an initially taut, powerful structure which relents with around 30 minutes of air to reveal a most suave, polished graphite mineral complexity with incredibly fine grained tannins, sleek fresh acids and a wonderful overall harmony. Grace and power for sure. The sweet black and blueberry fruits are opulent and fleshy yet held in perfect posture by the wine’s crisp acids and regal structure. A really beautiful expression of classical, mineral laden Listrac. Drink from 2021 to 2030+

(93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Chateau Julien 2015, Haut Medoc, 13.5 Abv.

This petit chateau is a real work of brilliance offering up the most seductive, fleshy, fragrant blueberry scented aromatics with a subtle kiss of vanilla pod and mocha spice. Medium to deep garnet purple, this wine is packed with fleshy bramble berry fruits, baked plums, blueberry crumble and a dusty, dried baking spice complexity. The tannins are soft and generous, plump and inviting adding extra ballast to the long, creamy, dense length. A very impressive wine for the price. Great to see that Bordeaux can still make wines that over deliver at a price point. Bravo Julien!

(91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Cape Winemakers Guild Classic Red From Groot Constantia’s Boela Gerber…

Formed in 1982, the Guild is an association of some of South Africa’s finest winemakers and has evolved into a body of 45 members who jointly represent the pinnacle of South African wine achievement. 

While the point of the guild’s existence is sometimes questioned by voices in the South African industry, it seems clear to me that the experimentation and creativity the CWG promotes is a valuable and unique part of the wine industry in South Africa and should be cherished. In the guild’s own words… “Innovation, benchmarking and the sharing of knowledge spanning over thirty seven years of winemaking excellence, is the proud accomplishment of the Cape Winemakers Guild.”

Another key point of the CWG is that individual winemakers are invited to join, not wineries, and the membership remains with the individual even if they move to another winery. I recently caught up with long time Groot Constantia winemaker Boela Gerber to taste his exciting new 2017 red CWG release along side Duncan Savage, another popular guild member.

Boela Gerber Groot Constantia CWG Red Bordeaux Blend 2017, 14 Abv.

A classical blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon and 46% Cabernet Franc.

What lovely opulence and hedonistic power right from the start offering incredibly lavish blueberry and black berry intensity, finely lifted violet, sweet tobacco leaf and iris perfume with plenty of vanilla pod spice. On the palate there is a beautifully vivid plushness showing cola and cherry spice notes, brûléed sweet cedar oak and a fabulously focused intensity and freshness. Very expressive and luxurious, this is impressive winemaking in action for people looking for a show stopper. This really is what special edition CWG wines are all about.

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