Andre Bruyns Meets the Classic 2017 Vintage Head On – Tasting the City On A Hill 2017 Chenin Blanc…

David and Nadia Sadie’s assistant winemaker André Bruyns is really starting to make his own mark in the wider world of fine wine. Yes, I’m sure being referred to as ‘the assistant winemaker’ is a moniker that will eventually start to get annoying for André, but hey, there are certainly worse places to cut your winemaking teeth than working with the gentle giant David Sadie!

André wants his wines to be specific to their site and soil type with his white grapes coming from 35 year old dryland vineyards in the Paardeberg Mountain, planted mainly with Chenin Blanc. Farmed sustainably with some organic and biodynamic practices used, the granitic soils enhance the ‘liquid minerality ’ of the grapes leading to a more focused, taut, linear style of wines.

André kicked off the City on a Hill project with his fabulous 2015 white blend made from 85% Chenin Blanc, but he now also makes a 100% Chenin Blanc white using a selection of his best barrels that reflect the restraint and linearity of the unique Paardeberg style of Chenin Blanc. I recently got my hands on a bottle of the 2017 and true to form, André has produced another cracking wine! This is a great little project to watch closely!

André Bruyns in the cellar.

City On A Hill Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland, 12.5 Abv.

This is a fascinating expression of Chenin Blanc created by André Bruyns. It’s the liquid equivalent of an enigma wrapped in a mystery that’s wrapped in a conundrum. The aromatics show crystalline white peach and yellow citrus, early season crunchy yellow orchard fruits but also pronounced salty, briney oxidative saline sea breeze notes. Underneath it all is this profound sense of liquid granitic minerality that pervades the wine. On the palate the tug of war continues, being taut but rich, salty but peachy, stony and thoroughly citric. Delicious oxidative notes of brine and dry roasted nuts rub shoulders with crisp bright acids, yet more overt minerality and an ample fleshy Chenin palate that retains a tight, crisp tension-laden finish. Intellectually, this wine is exhausting; hedonistically, it possesses the palate excitement of an eight year old child’s birthday and Christmas rolled into one! Still super youthful so drink a few bottles now but be sure to cellar at least a few for revisiting over 8-15+ years. A deliciously intriguing white!

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

Naude Family Wines… The Journey Continues – Tasting Their 2018 Concrete Egg Chenin Blanc Limited Release…

One of my life long mantras has always been that nice people make nice wines. After 11 years hard graft at Adoro Wines, in 2018 Ian finally followed his dreams and branched out with his own venture, launching Naude Family Wines. Focusing primarily on his old vine parcels of Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Cinsault and Grenache, Ian has also been teaching old dogs new tricks experimenting with some younger vine parcels of Swartland Chenin Blanc, Koekenaap Colombard and Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon.

The world’s most respected wine critic, Neal Martin, recently featured the Naude Family Wines Old Vine Series Chenin Blanc 2013, describing Ian as one of South Africa’s great unsung heroes of the Cape wine industry. For those that have been following Ian’s exceptional wines, they will know all too well of his incredible talent for bottling a vineyard’s unique terroir signature like capturing a liquid photograph.

Naude Family Wines A Naude Egg Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

Sourced from a prime vineyard in the Swartland, this more accessibly priced baby Chenin Blanc from younger vines was naturally fermented with wild yeasts in a concrete egg without any additions whatsoever. The resulting wine is wonderfully balanced and bristles with energy and vivacity by way of a fine line of acidity. True to its Swartland origins, this impressive Chenin Blanc is understated and classical with a fine linear textural focus that builds in the mouth to reveal layers of pineapple pastille fruits, yellow orchard fruits, morning dew on fresh bales of hay, crunchy green apples and a complex stony granitic minerality on the finish. A truly versatile wine for all cuisines and all occasions, you can drink this baby Chenin on release or cellar for another 3 to 5+ years for added complexity.

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

Tasting Lismore Reserve Syrah 2018 – The Evolution of Greatness…

By now we all know the tragedy that befell Samantha O’Keefe at her Greyton winery in 2019 when wild bushfires destroyed her winery and homestead together with her entire 2019 vintage. Fortunately, her 2018s were stored at another location and survived.

Samantha is thankfully back up and running in temporary cellar space and with the help of many in the SA wine industry, has produced wines from the superb 2020 vintage. With the 2018 vintages arriving in the UK in March, escaping the shackles of the South African export lockdown, I thought it was the perfect time to post this stellar review.

I tasted the 2018 Reserve Syrah for the first time in October 2019 and kept a second bottle until May 2020 to watch it settle further. This wine is a towering achievement and in one glassful, summarises the greatness being achieved with all the wines at Lismore, especially the Reserve ranges made from Greyton estate fruit, but also makes the pain of losing the entire 2019 production that much more heartfelt and tragic.

Tasting with Sam O’Keefe in London in September 2019.

If you can get your hands of some of this wine, you absolutely must!

Lismore Reserve Syrah 2018, WO Greyton, 12.5 Abv.

This suave, sophisticated Syrah offering made from 100% Greyton estate fruit used 50% of whole bunches in the fermentation before being aged in both 500 and 700 litre French oak barrels with roughly a third of new oak. After following this wine from its maiden release, the 2018 towers above anything that has come before. The bouquet is mesmerising, lifted, intricate, showing perfumed violets and fragrant dried lavender with striking notes of pink musk, dusty limestone minerality, grilled winter chestnuts, bonfire cinders and an attractive savoury, earthy black berry, black cherry complexity. The palate is so incredibly lithe and elegant, pure, fresh and linear with fabulous luminosity and brightness of fruit. Wonderfully intense and focused yet simultaneously light on its feet, this stellar release is a dead ringer for the finest, most elegant Cote Roties from the Northern Rhône. A truly epic, spellbinding creation from Samantha O’Keefe. Drink on release or cellar for 10+ years.

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

A Petit Chateau Bordeaux That Impresses – Tasting Château Tayet’s Cuvée Amiral de Cadiot 2011 Bordeaux Superieur…

Amiral de Cadiot is produced by Château Tayet which has been owned by the de Schepper family since 1994, the former owner, Mr. Marc Raymond, was director at de Schepper’s Chateau Haut-Breton-Larigaudière until 1993, selling his own estate to his previous employer when he retired. Tayet has an excellent terroir in Macau, very close to the AOC Margaux, which has grown by the acquisition of further high quality plots with a high plant density and today consists of 10 hectares of vines.

Chateau Tayet located near Soussans where the wines are bottled – Chateau Tayet, 3 Rue des Anciens Combattants, 33460 Soussans.

The “Amiral de Cadiot” by Château Tayet is considered to be one of the best Bordeaux Superieur and is one of the few wines of this class that ages 12 months in 20% new and 50% second fill barriques. The vines for this particular selection are at least 25 years old.

Chateau Tayet and De Mour Group winemaker Jean-Michel Garcion.

The Château Tayet Cuvée Amiral de Cadiot offers a whole lot of red Bordeaux magic at a truly excellent price point, something often sorely missing in these days of over ambitious, stratospherically priced icon Cru Classe wines. Wines like this in many ways represent the true heart and soul of authentic, consumer orientated classical Bordeaux. In the post Covid-19 lockdown era, wines like this are going to take on a much greater significance in the market place.

Château Tayet Cuvée Amiral de Cadiot 2011, Bordeaux Superieur, 14 Abv.

A wonderfully classical blend of 60% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot, this wine has the most intricate textured layers of blueberry and cassis fruit, mocha, brown toast, vanilla pod spice and a supple, plush, sweet fruited core with bright refreshing acids, ripe fine grained tannins and complexing peripheral notes of tannery leather, cigar box and graphite spice. A whole lot of wine that will impress the staunchest of discerning wine connoisseurs. Drink now to 2024+

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

De Mour Group owned by the de Schepper family.

Stellenbosch Harvest 2020 Snapshot – The World Continues to Turn…

During all the Covid-19 lockdown madness around the world, it’s easy to forget that the world continues to turn, the vines of the Western Cape continue to grow and grapes continue to be harvested. There is certainly no “off button” when it comes to our flora and fauna.

Old Vines at Kanonkop Estate.

I was lucky enough to spend almost two weeks in the Cape at harvest time in mid-February and witnessed a lot of very healthy fruit coming into various cellars. So while many in the wine trade are thinking about the impending new release whites and reds from 2019, it’s always valuable to reflect on the latest 2020 harvest, one that will undoubtedly be remembered in years to come as the “lockdown vintage”. In essence, bottled liquid memories.

Kanonkop harvest.

KANONKOP

Throughout the season the different grape varietals were picked between 7 and 10 days earlier than normal. Both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were picked at lower sugar levels than the long-term average, which will result in wines with elegant structures and moderate alcohol levels.

The crop was only slightly bigger than the small 2019 harvest, but the overall small berry size will deliver wines with intense flavour and aromatic spectrums. Kanonkop obtained beautifully ripe tannins throughout the season, and they expect that the 2020 vintage will deliver elegant, classical wines with extended ageing potential.

RUSTENBERG

“2020 has been super” Murray Barlow proclaims. The crop is up for most varietals and the vintage is around +15% larger than average so a welcome year as we recover from the drought years of the past four years.

Rustenberg at sunset.

Quality wise the Rustenberg grapes have superb acids and more moderate alcohols in the white wines and wonderful fruit concentration and intensity in the reds with good colour and again moderate alcohols.

Murray Barlow’s son Tom, the 4th generation of Barlow’s at Rustenberg, inspecting red grapes before the 2020 harvest.

“So 2020 is a good vintage by our estimations quality wise. Whether it is a great vintage will be seen in the coming months” winemaker Murray Barlow concluded.

Fine Wine Safari Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Vintage Series: Part 4 – Valdicava…

The 2015 vintage is a historical year for Brunello di Montalcino that nobody should miss. The wines show impressive precision of vivid fruit, fine tannins and freshness in acidity despite their ripeness and richness which makes them some of the most exciting releases since 2010.

Winemakers in Montalcino were never better prepared to produce outstanding wines in a year like 2015 with their exactness in their vineyards and cellars from fine-tuned canopy management and crop thinning to optical sorting and soft fermentations. So many wine producers in Montalcino made excellent wines in 2015.

Tasting in very jovial circumstances with the Valdicava team.

A small handful of the wines I tasted are a little bit closed at this early stage, and these will benefit from more cellar ageing. However, the majority of the samples tasted showed softly textured, generous and accessible characteristics that make them beautiful to drink straight out of the gate or with very little aging required. Bottles from the versatile 2015 vintage can go into your cellar for safekeeping or onto your dinner table for near- to medium-term consumption. The choice is yours, and that’s one of the top selling points of 2015 Brunello reds.

The Riserva version of the Valdicava Brunello.

Valdicava – The Valdicava estate dates back to 1953 when Bramante Abbruzzese was offered the opportunity to return to the property in Montalcino where his ancestors were sharecroppers centuries before. From that time, Abbruzzese started the family vision to cultivate Sangiovese Grosso and to eventually bottle under the family name. In 1967 Bramante founded the Consorzio di Brunello. The Valdicava property lies on a high plane close to Montalcino. Wines from this area have as their signature characteristics a great balance between body and perfume.

Valdicava is the actual name of the valley in which the greatest single-vineyard wines of Brunello are produced. In the middle of this valley sits the grand Madonna del Piano vineyard along with the Valdicava estate. In 1987, the grandson of Bramante, Vincenzo Abbruzzese began to work in the vineyards and the cellar and has since transformed Valdicava into one of the most collectible and sought-after Brunello di Montalcinos in existence today. All Valdicava grapes are organically grown and no chemical pesticides or fertilizers are used in the vineyards.

Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Valdicava 2015, 14 Abv.

Rich opulent expressive nose with plenty of ripe exotic aromatics of sweet cherry, kirsch cherry liquor, crème de cassis and sweet cherry rock candy. Palate is ripe, creamy and supple with unusually sweet fleshy fine grained tannins, massive depth of fruit, electric freshness and incredible elegance, balance and harmony. Very impressive already with clear age ability potential but also unusually for Valdicava, a beautiful approachability right now.

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

The Fairytale White Wine Variety From Galicia – Tasting the Newton Johnson Vineyards Albariño 2018…

Albariño… a vibrant Spanish/Portuguese grape variety that is undoubtedly characterised by a uniquely palate-tingling freshness, a light-bodied purity and a crystalline clarity. Saline, zingy and always zippy, where ever grown, it’s the natural partner of a raw ceviche, sushi or any classic seafood pairings. But who would have thought it would settle into South Africa so well!? Assyrtiko… ok, that seemed a no brainer, but this cool climate variety has yielded fantastic results for not only Newton Johnson but also Springfield Estate.

Albariño is a thick skinned grape variety that can thrive in moist, high-altitude vineyards by the sea – in a Spanish context that means the Galician region of Rías Baixas in the North West near Santiago de Compostela – without succumbing to mould or rot unlike some other more delicate varieties. Higher altitude vineyards generally means a cooler climate, stopping the grapes from over-ripening in the Spanish heat but instead allowing them to retain their own fresh, bright acidity that gives this grape its own characteristic mouth-watering style.

First planted in South Africa by Newton Johnson Vineyards in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, the first unofficial bottling was, I believe, the 2014 vintage which was served at an “alternative varieties seminar” at Cape Wine 2015, and since then, this grape has continued to impress meriting more producers to invest in plantings.

Bevan Newton Johnson in jovial mood at the 2019 New Wave Tasting in London.

Newton Johnson Vineyards Albariño 2018, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13 Abv.

The 2018 Albariño was matured in 55% stainless steel together with a concrete egg portion with some also in 2,000 litre foudres. Another outstanding Albariño effort, this 2018 shows fabulous crystalline vintage purity and minerality that’s finely embellished and enhanced by notes of crunchy white peaches, lime peel, wet river pebbles and ruby grapefruit zest. The palate shows an impressive harmony and fleshy balance enlivened by beautiful saline notes of the sea shore, bitter yellow grapefruit confit and complex Riesling-like kerosene hints. Fresh but not tart and deliciously piquant. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5 years.

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