The Seductive Power of Appellation Margaux ~ Tasting the Over-Performing Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudieres…

End September sees the Bordeaux Cru Bourgeois Trade Tasting return to London. Last year’s tasting was described by the Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin as a very fertile hunting ground for great value, affordable quality, drinking red Bordeaux. 


If the region of Bordeaux is to retain its admired status as the most collectable wine by connoisseur’s, it is crucial that smaller, lesser classifications are bought and drunk by regular consumers. The love affair with Bordeaux has to start somewhere, and for many wine enthusiasts, it starts with drinking tantalising Cru Bourgeois wines. So tonight I’m getting into training for the tasting by drinking a delicious bottle of appellation Margaux Cru Bourgeois. 


Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudiere 2012 Margaux, 13 Abv.

A blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, this is an absolute cracker from the Margaux appellation. Sweet red plum and blueberry fragrance lift effortlessly out of the glass. Violets, jasmine, dried mint leaf, pot pourri herbs and seductive musk notes add massive complexity. There is also plenty of rich earthy cassis and lush red cherry exotism to excite even the most reluctant Bordeaux connoisseur. Palate concentration is very impressive yet you never lose sight of the wine’s Margaux’esque elegance, allure, perfume and seductive beauty. Creamy, powdery tannins are the order of the day making this a top notch Margaux that is both precise and pretty, yet deceptively powerful and intense. True to the vintage, there is ample accessible upfront fruit, fine balance and harmony and bright pure freshness. This is a fantastic offering that cannot fail to excite. Drink now to 2030.

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

An Exciting New Release From B-Vintners ~ Tasting the Terroir Specific 2016 Fire Heath Chardonnay From Walker Bay…

Bruwer Raats and Gavin Bruwer Slabbert have really raised a lot of eyebrows both in South Africa and abroad with some of their exciting releases in the B-Vintners vine exploration range. With the Strandwolf Chardonnay already in the range, this new addition is another wonderful site specific, terroir expression from the boys, joining two of my favourites, the delicious Liberte Pinotage and the highly lauded Hope to Harlem Chenin Blanc blend in the growing range.


B-Vintners Fire Heath Chardonnay 2016, Walker Bay, 12.5 Abv.

Made from vines grown on calcareous soils, this Chardonnay has an impressively low 12.5 Abv but is positively bursting with flavour. The nose is incredibly dusty, pithy and mineral laced, with prominent notes of fynbos, dried herbs, lemon peel, dried straw and lime sherbet. Great vibrancy and vitality lie at the heart of the liquid aromatics. On the palate, there is real restraint and dusty, gravelly, minerality. If ever there was a wine that tasted of wet river pebbles, here it is. The white citrus fruits are pithy and mesmerisingly austere, showing alka seltzer zip, dry bitter lemon, briney salinity, fresh acids and again, multiple layers of wet grey slate and crushed gravel minerality. A wonderfully pure, steely Chardonnay expression with the most subtle use of oak. A fabulous addition to South Africa’s cool climate coastal Chardonnay landscape.

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


Ground Breaking South African Bordeaux Blend ~ Rating the Epic 2015 MR de Compostella…

Mvemve Raats is a critically acclaimed collaboration between friends and winemakers Mzokhona Mvemve and Bruwer Raats. Bruwer is of course the owner and winemaker of Raats Family Wines, where he has earned a reputation for top notch Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Mzokhona Mvemve, the first Indaba Scholarship recipient, is a graduate of Stellenbosch University and one of South Africa’s first qualified black oenologists.


On Friday the 8th September, Bruwer Raats joined us to launch the 2015 vintage of the MR de Compostella. The grapes for this extremely limited production of MR are sourced from Stellenbosch, widely recognized as the Cape’s premier red wine-producing region, especially when it comes to Bordeaux style varieties. With the 2015 vintage currently being lauded in South Africa as possibly the best all-round vintage in South African viticultural history ever, the stage was perfectly set for Bruwer to perform his magic.


MR de Compostella 2015 Blend, WO Stellenbosch,14.5 Abv.

I have been one of Bruwer Raats’ biggest MR de Compostella followers in the UK market since the maiden 2004 vintage release, and we have tasted the MR pre-release every year together since then, discussing the wine’s blend and vintage complexities over a few bottles of MR and fine left bank claret. So after a great amount of anticipation, we got to taste the MR 2015 together last Friday. This is an absolutely gorgeous, coming of age wine. A blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec, the 2015 is genuinely a compelling wine with a classic nose more reminiscent of a fine, opulent Cru Classe Pauillac than a Stellenbosch Bordeaux blend. There are beautiful perfumed notes of assorted purple flowers and fresh violets that melt away to reveal ripe, intense notes of crème de cassis, blueberry crumble, cherry kirsch liquor and damson plum. The wine has gravitas, intensity and a room-silencing presence that is neither heavy nor overpowering. Like all MR vintages, it has impressive laser-like precision, a fine grained focus and an amazing fruit purity and concentration that is a hedonistic pleasure to experience. What extract, what fine piercing acids, what power, but all delivered in a sublimely harmonious chorus of black cassis fruits, blueberry confit and graphite spice. It is impossible to tire of this wine, with its palate freshness reigniting your senses continuously. More structured and intense than its riper, plumper predecessor 2014, the 2015 delivers more intensity, with tannic restraint and brooding classical Pauillac’esque depth. Drink this young if you will, but this MR is the closest Bruwer and Mvemve have come to perfection since they started this project in 2004. I expect the 2015 to be going strong in 30 to 40 years time and continuing to seduce connoisseurs  and collectors globally. 

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

Errazuriz ~ Single Handedly Putting Chilean Fine Wine On The Global Map…

Vinedo Chadwick and Sena have been at the forefront of world class Chilean wine for over 20 years. Indeed I feel very privileged to have studied my Master of Wine with Errazuriz owner Eduardo Chadwick, starting back in 2003. A wonderful character, a great visionary, and highly ambitious ~ both for himself and his country, Chile. So it’s probably not surprising that the key estate brands in the Errazuriz portfolio have captured the world stage with fine wine quality never before seen out of Chile. 


Vina Chadwick, Sena and Don Maximiano (along with fellow industry high achievers Almaviva, Lapostolle Clos Apalta and Montes Alpha) have redefined the meaning of fine wine in the South American context. Congratulations Eduardo and of course group chief winemaker Francisco Baettig!

With Francisco Baettig at the UK launch of Vinedo Chadwick 2015 and Sena 2015.


Last year, Vinedo Chadwick was the first Chilean wine to crack a 100 point score when James Suckling rated the 2014 vintage. This year, it was the turn of Sena 2015 to reach this prestigious pinnacle of 100 points, with Vinedo Chadwick 2015 close behind on 99 points, both scores again  coming from critic James Suckling. 


The 2015 Sena is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Carmenere, 12% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc, aged 22 months in 65% new French oak and 12% in foudre, with the remaining 23% aged in used oak barrels. 


Errazuriz Sena 2015, 13.5 Abv.

Always a personal favourite of mine within the Errazuriz premium range, the Sena 2015 is a beautifully elegant and utterly refined expression of a Bordeaux blend. The very alluring, pretty aromatics of red cherry stone fruits, mulberry, black currant and blue berry almost seem boundless, with notes of saline cassis, cherry bon bons, and salty red liquorice developing in the glass as the wine unfurls. The palate is as vibrant and pin point as the wine’s aromatics, revealing incredible intensity, mouth watering acidity freshness and super sweet tart red cherry and stick candy complexity. There is profound precision and focus, admirable balance, and the finest powdery, lacy red cherry pithy tannins on the generous finish. Winemaker Francisco has nailed this above average warm vintage with earlier picked, fragrant, fresh acidity grapes. This is a wine worthy of major accolades. Make space in your cellar!

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


Quality By Design ~ Tasting the Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2015…

Just a week or so after Bruwer Raats released both his 2015 MR de Compostella and 2015 Eden Cabernet Franc in South Africa, he was in London presenting both of these wines to the fine wine trade. The 2014 Eden Cabernet Franc scored an impressive 96 points here on the Fine Wine Safari site when reviewed in February 2017. With the follow up 2015 coming from an even better vintage that is being widely touted as the greatest modern-era vintage in South African wine making history, it’s an understatement to say the anticipation pre-tasting was high. 


Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8000 vines per hectare) meticuously planned and planted 6 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, 5% of the grapes were whole bunch fermented before being aged for 8 months in new French oak, followed by a further 10 months elevage in older oak barrels. (UK recommended retail £65 per bottle).


Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2015


Tasting the second vintage release of the Eden Single Vineyard High Density Cabernet Franc after the Raats Dolomite and Raats Family Cabernet Franc cuvees illustrates graphically the power, precision and intensity of this profound wine. Piercing lifted perfumed notes of blueberry, cassis, violets, cherry blossom, cedar spice and liquid minerality all play at full volume. Real intensity of fruit, showing red cherry, kirsch liquor, powerful grippy tannins, delicious salinity and an impressively bold structure define this impressive wine, which simultaneously wears its elegance and finesse proudly on its sleeve. All the building blocks for greatness are present. This is certainly one of the most accomplished red wines conceived in South Africa and looks set to not only age extremely well but also improve in bottle for 15 to 20 years, and drink well for over 30 years. Well done Bruwer. A towering achievement in the context of fine wine.

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

Another Blockbuster Vintage Release of Bordeaux Blend Icon Meerlust Rubicon…

Whenever I visit South Africa, my eye is always drawn to the latest vintages of Bordeaux blend Icon Meerlust Rubicon on the Duty Free shelves. They always amazingly seem to be two vintages ahead of us here in the UK. So today I cracked into the 2014 to see what this current release holds in store for drinkers and collectors alike.


Meerlust Rubicon 2014, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv. 

An invitingly youthful, opulent nose bursting with blueberry pie, vanilla pod spice, violets, cedar wood and polished mahogany. Very impressive with lifted black currant and raisined cranberry notes, the complexity of this wine is mesmerising. The palate is wonderfully suave, fleshy and elegant, showing superb harmony and balance combined with Cabernet Sauvignon backbone, power and breadth. There are lashings of delicious sweet cassis, black currant pastille, blueberries, and seductive creamy oak vanillins. Such a polished example, finely tuned, and positively oozes with class and pedigree. This impressive 2014 should drink well now and for another 25+ years if well cellared. Bravo Hannes Myburgh and winemaker Chris Williams. 

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

Verdict: Buy and fill your cellar! 

A Winery On Top of Their Game ~ Tasting De Morgenzon DMZ Sauvignon Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

To be clear, 2016 was not an easy vintage, with drought conditions gripping the Western Cape. But any winemaker worth their salt would have watched their grape’s veraison even more carefully than normal in order to preserve that all important acidity. With Carl van der Merwe on top of his game, there is not a lot this fella can do wrong and this wonderful Stellenboschkloof white bears testament to Carl’s skill and precision.


The DMZ range is a more affordable, accessible range from the winery and this Sauvignon Blanc 2016 is very well executed and thoroughly attractive. Such perfumed, multi-dimensional aromatics rise imperiously out of the glass. There are wonderful notes of green Granny Smith apples, freshly cut grass, thatch, green boiled Bon Bon sweets, dusty granite, and cream soda notes. On the palate, there is just enough of the sweet confectionary shop and stick candy notes mingling with dusty chalky minerality to make this a finely poised offering with delicious, vibrant acids and succulent, green melon and green apple zip on the finish. It’s all so tightly packaged, so well put together that I just can’t imagine anyone not finding this bottle an absolute pleasure to quaff. Drink now and over the next 3+ years.

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