Winemaker Corlea Fourie and Bosman Family Vineyards Creating Some Profound Benchmark Wines in Wellington…

The extensive Bosman Family vineyard holdings are based primarily in the Wellington region although a new winery in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near Hermanus was added to the portfolio in the last few years. As well as owning large swathes of vineyards, the Bosman Family are also one of the leading nurseries for vine rootstocks in South Africa. Under the lead of head winemaker Corlea Fourie, they make some fantastic white and red wines.

But two whites that really stand out head and shoulders above the rest of the wines in their range are the Fides Grenache Blanc and the Optenhorst Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc. The Fides was first produced in 2013 as a ‘project of passion’ for Corlea who is certainly regarded as one of the most talented and precise winemakers in South Africa. This wild ferment skin contact Grenache Blanc has certainly allowed Corlea to ‘let her hair down’ and experiment with her ‘wild side’.

The second wine of note  is the Optenhorst Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc from bush vines planted in 1952. In 2010 the Chenin Blanc Association funded research into the old vineyards of the Cape and it turned out that this was the 4th oldest registered Chenin Blanc vineyard in South Africa.

Bosman Fides 2016 Grenache Blanc, WO Wellington, 14 Abv.

An alluring old gold colour with just the faintest copper tinge. The aromatics are super complex and a little more ‘wild’ than previous vintages. One almost gets the feeling that Corlea has loosened her winemaker grip slightly and allowed this skin contact Grenache Blanc vintage to really express its own personally a little more. The nose is packed with ginger biscuit spice, tangerine peel, bruised yellow orchard fruits, furry yellow apricots, spearmint and complex savoury herbal nutty notes. The palate is sleek, focused and taught, displaying delicious fresh bristling acids, pithy phenolics, bitter orange peel, sweet pineapple and mango pastille fruits, and finishes with a lovely long, textural, harmonious length. A superb effort if not the best to date. Drink now to 2026+

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

Bosman Optenhorst Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2015, WO Wellington, 14.04 Abv.

The 2015 is an even more profound wine than the excellent 2014 Optenhorst. This superb new vintage plays to this wine’s style perfectly. The big rich bold bouquet is brimming with white peaches, tinned pineapple nuances, Golden Delicious apple puree, waxy pear skins and a fine vein of stony minerality. The palate possesses the most explosive concentration and intensity, coating all corners of the mouth with honied apples, yellow citrus, pineapple pastille and orange peel zest while all the while kept tightly under the firm reins of a mouth watering acidity. This is really one of South Africa’s top Chenin Blancs from one of the oldest vineyards in the country. This wine certainly does this heritage vineyard site justice. A real WOW wine. Drink now to 2035+ (RS 2.1 g/l, TA 7.8 g/l, pH 3.0)

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

A Superb Amphora White Burgundy Sure to Make Wine Geeks Weak at the Knees – Tasting Jean Marc Millot’s New Aligote 2017…

Jean Marc has been in charge of his family’s small domaine for nearly two decades now. He has combined his experience with a relatively new chai at Nuits Saint Georges and is coming out with some very solid wines indeed.

There is a tendency to pick a little later (though never the last for the Cotes de Nuits Villages), use careful selection and then vinify in the natural way. There is just a little new oak on the Grand Crus and the Suchots but the wines rely on a very natural feel and intensity of fruit.

The Cotes de Nuits Villages has been a great value wine for some years. Jean Marc and Christine’s second daughter, Alix is making her mark … this is her fourth vintage and the wines have now become highly prized both in Europe, America and Asia.

Jean Marc is also dabbling with a delicious new Amphora wine made with bought-in Aligote grapes and was kind enough to include a sample bottle in his 2016 red Burgundy sample shipment sent over for his annual London En-primeur tasting.

Jean Marc Millot Bourgogne Aligote 2017, Burgundy, France

Still bright lemon yellow with a hint of haze, this is an exotic Aligote brimming with energy and character. The aromatics are quite lifted and phenolic, showing notes of baked apples, apple skins, pear purée and a savoury, earthy, white pepper, yellow pastille fruit intensity. This wine is still in amphora and so retains a vibrant crunchy green fruit concentration, plush fleshy depth, nervy energy, and a most delicious sweet apple bon bon finish. While not a finished wine yet, if Jean Marc can preserve the impressive textural breadth at bottling, this is going to be an absolute cracker that should make natural wine geeks week at the knees.

(Wine Safari Score: 88-90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Possibly the Greatest Value Red Wine in Piedmont ~ Tasting Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2016…

There are not many certainties in the world of fine wine, but there are some. One is that Cantina Terlaner is the greatest white wine Co-operative in the world. The second is that Produttori del Barbaresco is the greatest red wine Co-operative in the world! It is also one of the most innovative, consistent and highly acclaimed producers in Piedmont, making exquisite traditional Barbarescos that are among the best examples of the appellation.

This famed co-operative in Piedmont dates back to 1894; forced to close in the 1920s because of fascist economic rules, it was regenerated and revived in 1958 by the village priest of Barbaresco who recognized that the only way the small properties could survive long term was by joining forces and combining their efforts. Today the cooperative has 56 members and 100+ hectares of Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco appellation, which amounts to almost 1/6 of the vineyards of the area.

Their Langhe Nebbiolo in particular has long been one of the greatest and most profound value reds on the market, recognised and lauded buy critics far and wide. The 2016 is no exception and once again pushes the boundaries of red wine quality even further.

Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2016, 14.5 Abv.

This is a super attractive 100% Nebbiolo wine sourced from DOCG certified Barbaresco vineyards. Grapes were picked from both younger vines, lower aspect sites and vineyard spots that don’t quite meet the high standards of the Produttori Barbaresco co-operative. There are beautiful aromatics of sappy red cherry, red liquorice, star anise and tarry spice. The palate is gorgeously pure, finely poised and elegantly harmonious. It seems almost inconceivable that a wine so attractive can cost less the £20. It possesses such wonderful core focus and finishes with tender, sleek fine grained tannins and deliciously fresh mouth watering acids. Such a pleasure to drink and impressively, you’d never detect the 14.5 alcohol such is it’s cool, polished refinement. A truly tantalising release. Drink now to 2026+

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

Laura Lorenzo and Daterra Viticultores Creating Breath-Taking Wines in the Val do Bibei, North West Spain…

Hailing from Allariz in the province of Ourense, Laura Lorenzo enrolled in the local enology school at the tender age of 16 with definite ambition to become a winemaker. Upon graduation, she worked at the nearby Adega Cachín, and then overseas with Eben Sadie in South Africa and Achaval Ferrer in Argentina. After her various apprenticeships, Laura took over the reins at Dominio do Bibei, a dynamic, pioneering producer of fine wine in the Quiroga-Bibei subzone of Ribeira Sacra.

Laura worked there for 10 years developing an attractive style of winemaking that was fine-tuned and focused on the hillsides of the region, specifically to the terruño around the village of Manzaneda. In 2014 Laura and her partner, chef & artist partner Alvaro Dominguez, branched out on their own and formed Daterra Viticultores to cultivate the mountainside vineyards of the Bibei Valley.

Gavela da Vila is comprised of 100% old vine Palomino organically farmed at a variety of elevations, expositions, and soil types in the Val do Bibei. 90% of the grapes were destemmed, with the must seeing just a few hours of skin contact before pressing.

The wine was fermented with wild yeast in used 225 liter French oak barrels, and then raised on the lees in the same barrels for 6 months. Small amounts of sulfur were added after fermentation and at bottling. The wine was not clarified, cold stabilized or filtered.

Daterra Viticultores Gavela da Vila Palomino 2015, Manzaneda, Val do Bibei, 12.5 Abv.

A bright pale gold straw colour, there are plenty of tell tale signs of the wine’s short skin contact. The nose is rich and very expressive with complex notes of savoury pithy yellow citrus, yellow blossom, hazelnut and walnuts, dried orange peel and the most seductive saline, baked apple, aldehydic and oxidative Sherry-Manzanilla notes. The palate entry is electric and vibrant challenging the palate and provoking thought, but most certainly makes your mouth salivate with a saline briney zest, fresh zippy acids and a delicious spicy oxidative leaning yellow fruited finish laced with baked pears and vermouth spices. A really tantalising effort from an incredible new talent in Spain. Only 1,590 bottles produced. Drink now to 2026+.

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

English Red Wines Coming of Age ~ Tasting the Superb New Release Hush Heath Manor Pinot Noir 2016 from Kent…

This historic estate dates back to 1503 with the exquisite Tudor-framed Hush Heath Manor serving as the family home of the Balfour-Lynn’s. The Manor nestles into the hill, overlooking the vineyards and estate with magnificent views across the Weald of Kent. The 160 hectares situated in an ancient oak woodland is impressive and a fitting setting for the Balfour wines.

The 2016 Pinot Noir is sourced from 16 hectares of vines planted on Wealden Clay over Tunbridge Wells Sand. Farmed environmentally friendly, the Burgundian Clones of Pinot Noir are trellised to the double guyot vertical shoot positioning system with a planting density of 3,300 vines per hectare. The 2016 harvest was hand picked between the 12th and 13th of October 2016.

Winemakers Owen Elias and Victoria Ash over saw the relatively cool fermentation’s at 26 to 28 degrees C on de-stemmed skins resulting in vibrant colour extraction and a lively fruit structure. The wine also underwent full malolactic fermentation before being aged for several months in American and French oak barrels.

Hush Heath Manor Pinot Noir 2016, Kent, English Quality Wine, 12 Abv.

An attractively vibrant crystalline ruby red colour, this wine possesses all the elegant perfumed beauty you’d expect from world class Pinot Noir. There are plenty of fragrant violets, cherry blossom and freshly plucked rose petals over scents of sappy spice, crushed red cherries, blackberries, pepper corns and resinous wood spice. Medium bodied and taughtly structured with a fine core of sweet / sour red plum fruits and vibrant, tart crunchy mouth watering acids. But unlike some cooler vintages, this wine’s palate shows ample flesh, a sweet depth of cherry and cranberry fruit and a complex array of exotic baking spices and raspberry herbal tea infusions on the long, persistent finish. Delicious to drink now already, this serious effort should show even more harmony and elegance in 1 to 2 years time.

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

A Photographic Record of My Year in Wine – 2017 – Part Four: October to December

So with my final instalment of my year in wine in photographs, I’d like to thank all my friends for helping to make 2017 such a rich and exciting year full of treasured experiences. Long may they continue in 2018!!

Happy New Year!

Pieter Ferreira from Graham Beck was back over in the UK to host an incredibly interesting and enjoyable food and wine matching lunch. Plenty of their premium Cuvee Clive was poured. We were joined by Gary and Cathy Jordan who are also in the process of planting and planning their own English sparkling wine.

One of the most enjoyable tastings of the year involved the highly talented Reenen Borman giving a sell out crowd an excellent masterclass on all the wines and projects he is involved with. We were joined by his successful and dynamic UK importer Preet from Edgmond Wines, who represent some top young stars.

Hot on the heels of the Reenen Borman tasting was the highly anticipated Eben Sadie Masterclass showing a packed room multiple back vintages of both Columella and Palladius. We all know Eben is not big on travelling overseas too often so it becomes all the more special when he does visit us in London. Needless to say, the tasting attracted big guns like Steven Spurrier.

Then finally, it was time to welcome all the South Africans back to London again for the SA New Wave Tasting including Ryan Mostert, Chris Alheit, Craig Wessels, Duncan Savage and Donovan Rall.

The slightly shy, soft spoken Callie Louw who makes the incredible wines of Porseleinberg in the Swartland was certainly one of the big draw cards at the New Wave Tasting. The greatness of these wines will only truly be appreciated in 20 years time.

I was so pleased Chris Williams won the Platter Guide SA White Wine of the Year 2017 with his delicious Foundry Grenache Blanc. Such a talented winemaker crafting his magic equally with whites and reds. I love all his wines.

The following evening after the SA New Wave Tasting, Handford Wines took the opportunity to host its South Africa Icon Tasting at the SA High Commission with the support of WOSA UK. Lovely having several winemakers in attendance including Adam Mason, Carl van der Merwe and of course Schalk Burger Snr… though James Handford MW might beg to differ!

Yet another lovely fine wine lunch punctuated the year this time with Neal Martin and my ex-colleague Mick O’Connell MW who flew in from Dublin specially.

One of the biggest success stories of the year has been the resurgence of Greek wines in the UK and especially the wines of Santorini. There are none better than Yiannis Valambous and his incredible Assyrtiko expressions from Vassaltis Winery!

October also saw one the most fantastic fine wine lunches at Michelin Starred Chez Bruce to toast the departure of Keith Prothero back to the Cape! Great having Neal Martin join once again and owner Bruce Poole on hand to curate a fantastic lunch menu!

Not all Saffers visiting London make South African wine! Manfred Ing is making some wonderful expressions in Chianti Classico at Querciabella and on the island of Giglio.

With Xito Olazabal passing through London for the New Douro Tasting, we were very fortunate enough to grab him to present a sell out Quinta do Vale Meao Douro Masterclass for private clients followed by a lovely dinner. Had to introduce Xito to Eben’s amazing Old Vine Series Treinspoor Tinta Barroca red.

Next up, a wonderful evening at Vintners’ Hall in November to celebrate the graduation of the new Masters of Wine including the Noble Rotter, Mark Andrews. A big congrats.

Of course, always lovely to catch up with South African MW No.3 and Chair of the Education Committee, Cathy van Zyl MW.

November saw two more significant wine trade events, the first being the superb Wines of California Napa Valley Vintners Tasting. Always fun tasting with talent like Mike Turner and the legend Oz Clarke.

The other big gathering was the International Wine and Spirits Competition Awards ceremony which saw Joe Fattorini honoured as best communicator of the year and Abrie Beeslaar and Kanonkop winning Winery of the Year and Winemaker of the Year! What an coup for SA!

With December near, there was still time to host legendary SA Winemaker Jeremy Walker for a top tasting in London.

Many fine oyster lunches were enjoyed with my good friend Anthony Crameri from St Emilion. He is officially one of the founding members of the #handfordoysterclub

But there was still time to inaugurate Car Boot Ruth Spivey into the #handfordoysterclub. She seemed suitably impressed with the honour!

Here’s hoping that in 2018 I will be able to lure Mr Zalto UK Daniel Primack to South Kensington so that he can be inaugurated into the #handfordoysterclub!

End of November also saw a rarified gathering of global wine talent to celebrate the 50th birthday of Jamie Goode at the Winemakers Club wine bar in London. Thank you to all the Winemakers who flew in for the party… Rajat Parr, Dirk Niepoort, Duncan Savage, Mick Craven, Brian and Marion Smith, Norm Hardie just to mention a few. What an epic night of fine wine.

Finally, a last throw of the dice celebrating Andrew Johnson’s birthday at the best restaurant in London and possibly the UK… the Ledbury. Farewell to Sam Lucas who has worked at the Ledbury for longer than I can remember and who takes up a top job in New York at Per Se Restaurant. You will be missed.

Oh, and thank you to Ledbury regular and Richmond neighbour Gareth Birchley for the photo! You scraped in Gazza! 😂🍷

A Photographic Record of My Year in Wine – 2017 – Part Three: July to September

After a very busy year, the Summer always seems a good time to catch ones breath and rest ones palate. Well, that is very much wishful thinking. July kicked off with a bang and the calendar was as fully packed as at any other time of the year. There seems to be no off switch anymore. All the more reason to make sure you enjoy your job, whatever it is that you do.

Part 3: July to September 2017

In July I arranged to join Neal Martin on a fun trip down to Wales to visit Ancre Hill Estates the fabulous high quality organic and biodynamic winery producing some of the best bubbles in the United Kingdom. Neal had received such a good response from his first English wine review in the Wine Advocate that it seemed a jolly good idea to go and visit!

A great picture of David Morris, son of owner and wine maker at Ancre Hill. I was thrilled when “Star & Furrow Magazine – The Journal of the Biodynamic Association” asked to use this picture for their January 2018 Edition profiling this talented young winemaker.

Always fun to catch up with Mike Ratcliffe in London, this time for a pre-release tasting of the Vilafonte Series C 2015 which rightfully made it on to my Top 10 most memorable reds from South Africa in 2017.

Thelema wines remain some of South Africa’s most iconic and it is wonderful to see Thomas Webb doing such a great job promoting them in the UK.

Summer time properly kicked off with another BBQ summer party gathering of the TW Wine Club… open to members of the wine trade (and VIP guests by invitation) who live in the Twickenham TW post code. Anne Burchett volunteered her lovely garden again and the weather obliged. Great to catch up with the whole gang including Jamie Goode, Oddbins MD Ayo Akintola, Telegraph journalist Victoria Moore and many others.

August heralded my first trip back to Tenerife since the mid 1980’s to catch a bit of sunshine and visit some of the wonderful wineries on the island, documented in my Fine Wine Safari series titled “The Tenerife Wine Odyssey”.  Great to visit one of the best, Suertes del Marques near La Orotava and be hosted by owner Jonatan Garcia Lima. Some amazing wines made on the island as confirmed by the high scores of Wine Advocate writer Luis Gutierrez’s recent Spanish Report covering the new releases from Suertes del Marques and Envinate, the islands two best producers.

Another great summer bash, this time generously hosted by David Clawson, owner of the Remedy Wine Bar. Plenty of fine wine enjoyed late into the night.

Never a dull moment when Ian Naude is around. He hosted numerous Masterclasses for us and really opened the eyes of a lot of consumers on the quality of old vine Chenin Blanc and Cinsaut coming out of South Africa.

One of the most highly anticipated Champagne tastings of the year was held in the late summer with the unveiling of the new release Krug 2004 vintage. Amazing wines tasted with Olivier Krug.

Plenty of fine wine drunk with Gary Jordan and Ian Naude on the occasion of their UK importer ABS’s new release portfolio tasting. A few cleansing ales wrapping up a fun day.

It’s not often a tasting of a Chilean producer includes a 100 point wine. Errazuriz’s Vina Chadwick cracked a 100 points last year and this year it was the turn of their Sena Bordeaux blend. Winemaker Francisco Baettig hosted us at 67 Pall Mall to sample the 2015 vintage new release as well as a vertical of several older vintage of both Sena and Vina Chadwick. Such distinguished wines.

With Wines of South Africa’s Intrepid Tasting just around the corner, it was time for the Saffers to decent upon London once again. Lovely to catch up again with Martin Meinert and Gottfried Mocke from Boekenhoutskloof.

The Intrepid Tasting was a great success despite the slight scheduling disconnect with The New Wave South Africa Tasting happening one month later. All the top journalists were there in force and the Tim Atkin MW 95+ Point table was a great draw card. Always fun to taste with Joe Wadsack, Neal Martin, Jo Wehring, Victoria Moore, Rosie Davenport etc.

In the gap between the Intrepid Tasting and the South African New Wave Tasting, there were a few moments to concentrate on “other” wines from around the world. Mark Savage MW, who has been importing Tertre Roteboeuf from St Emilion since the late 1970s, was on hand to present a fascinating vertical of wines from the current release all the way back to the late 1980s. A truly rare and fascinating occasion.

Another incredible vertical, written up on the Fine Wine Safari, was Luis Pato’s amazing Bairrada Baga vertical featuring some very rare single vineyard wines back to the mid 1980s.

The late summer was commandeered by Wines of California again starting with an amazing tasting tour of Sonoma wineries around London’s top steak houses organised by The Buyer’s Richard Siddle (above) and Peter Dean. A really innovative event and also very successful as well as enjoyable. Below, with my wing man for the day, Roger Jones.

Part of the entourage for the Sonoma Vintners Tasting was Joe Fattorini, presenter of The Wine Show, which is due to screen its second season soon.

The excellent Wines of California Tasting in Westminster allowed for a little reunion of our group that visited California in March. Above picture, myself with organiser Justin Knock MW and merchant Noel Young from Cambridge. Below, Noel Young, Amelia Singer and Peter Ranscombe.

Always lovely to have big Schalk Burger Senior visit when he is over in London, on this occasion for the Dunhill Invitational Pro/Am Golf Tournament at St Andrews … as well as several obligatory wine merchant visits with new Welbedacht vintages.

To end the third instalment of my year in wine through photographs, here’s a corker of our ex-manager Mick O’Connell MW over from Dublin to give us a preview of his super second vintage of Garnacha not Guerra 2016, which he produces in small quantities (1000 bottles) with his wife in Sardinia. 🍷