Negociant Wine Merchant Wade Bales Capitalises on the Strength of the 2017 Vintage in Stellenbosch…

An interesting and unique project in the South African context. Wine merchant Wade Bales has managed to secure premium Cabernet Sauvignon from several icon producers to create a single blend of wines from Ernie Els, Kanonkop, Delaire-Graff, Nico vd Merwe and Stark Conde. Aged in 100% French oak, 60% new for 18 month this is a new and intriguing addition to the world of top Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wade Bales Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.9 Abv.

This wine shows the vibrancy and intensity of the superb 2017 vintage. It is positively brimming with youthful aromas of sweet sandalwood, violets, Christmas cake, sun raisined black berries and a touch of sweet chew tobacco. The acids are crunchy and fresh, framing the sweet red and black bramble berry fruits in a confident fashion. Fabulous dusty Cabernet Sauvignon typicity that is seamlessly blended to offer up a very fine example from multiple Stellenbosch terroirs. However much I like this wine now, you just know it’s going to be so much better in 5 to 6 years time. Buy now and pop in your cellar. A really delightful wine.

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

Alheit Family Wines Cartology 2018 Staking a Solid Quality Marker For The Vintage…

When I was was out on the town in London with Chris Alheit in 2017, he voiced his uncertainty over the long term future of the Cartology brand versus the more niche single vineyard cuvee expressions in his portfolio.

I told him in no uncertain terms that to kill off this super strong Cartology brand would be madness due to its established cult following in Europe and beyond. Of course the dilemma lay with some of the unique old vine vineyard parcels that were going into the blend that realistically merited their own cuvees.

Thankfully, the Cartology project continues and the quality remains super high and expressive. 2018 is another deliciously individual, expressive white wine that speaks of the unique personality of the last drought vintage in South Africa in 2018.

Alheit Family Wines Cartology 2018, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

The traditional Cartology blend with a dominant 90% Chenin Blanc and 10% Semillon in support. As previous, this is a multi-vineyard, multi-regional blend to produce one of South Africa’s strongest white wine brands. The nose resonates with notes of fresh stable straw, honey on white toast, freshly squeezed peach juice, dusty granitic minerality and a subtle leesy, smoky touch of reduction. The palate shows an impressively spikey fresh acidity twinned with a crystalline yellow orchard fruit concentration so typical of so many 2018 South African whites. There is something so familiar about this Cartology yet also some intriguingly unique vintage characters of hawthorn, quince and unripe tangerines. This wine shows more focus, linearity and salinity than bigger previous vintages and strikes another powerful note for the premium white wines from the 2018 vintage.

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

A Veritable Garden of Eden – Tasting the New Raats Family Wines Eden High Density Chenin Blanc 2018…

The Eden 2018 Chenin Blanc is made from fruit grown in a beautifully manicured 10 to 14 year old Chenin Blanc vineyard alongside the Raats Family Winery in Stellenbosch on the Vlaeberg Road in the Polkadraai. When Bruwer Raats released the first vintage of his high density planted Montpellier Clone Chenin Blanc in 2014, the wine represented a culmination of years of planning and work to produce a wine unlike anything else that had been produced in South Africa.

What Bruwer, known as ‘the Chenin King’ achieved with his young vines back then is genuinely astonishing. But the fine tuning and understanding of these young vineyards has never stopped and with the UK release of the fourth vintage imminent (there was no 2017), this wine has clearly built up an impressive cult following among serious wine lovers, collectors and connoisseurs… for what is found inside a bottle of Eden Chenin Blanc is nothing short of profound.

Raats Family Winery High Density Eden Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Stellenbosch

This high density vineyard planted to the Montpellier Chenin Blanc clone has become more and more established year after year, enough so to already start to display unique vineyard terroir features in the same way you would see in the greatest single vineyards of the Loire or Burgundy. The 2018 exhibits an impressively tight, taut and focused aromatic profile that teases the senses with the most intricate and intense mineral nuances while simultaneously offering up a veritable kings banquet of the most complex array of yellow orchard fruits and white citrus. Regal and noble in every sense, this is a wine born from the fruit of a vineyard planted with the most meticulous planning and precision viticulture. The resulting complexity is clear for all to see with layer upon layer of liquid minerality, wet grey slate, peach skins, wet thatch and sweet orange pastille candied notes wafting effortlessly out of the glass. On the palate, there is certainly no lack of vigour either with a bright, vibrant acidity from the 100% decomposed granite soils that lend an extra dimension of linearity that has become another hallmark of the Eden style of Chenin Blanc and is just one of the factors which helps guarantee this wines age worthiness. The palate of this 2018 radiates a crystalline flesh and depth, Lalique-like fruit purity and accessibility combined with an impressive mandarin orange, white peach, fresh fennel and a salty, briney finish twined with a resurgent granitic minerality. Slightly more open knit on release that either the 2015 or 2016, this new expression is nevertheless a thing of wonder and beauty.

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

Doolhof Wine Estate Launches Their New Super Premium Lemietberg Ward Wines…

Doolhof Wine Estate, in the Lemietberg Ward of the Wellington region, is a winery I have followed over the years with one of my favourite wines in their portfolio being their expressive Malbec red. Their current winemaker Gielie Beukes has now been making the wines at the estate for around five years and has just released an impressive selection of super premium single vineyard wines.

The Doolhof vineyards lie in a valley with varying aspects and differing soil types forming some interesting micro climates for single vineyard wines. The estate lies between Bain’s Kloof and the Groenberg Mountain Range. The result is soils that are finer, more balanced and deeper than in the surrounding countryside with clay content evenly distributed. A combination of Malmesbury shale, homogenic Glenrosa and Clovelly soils ensure that the vine’s roots are able to descend to four metres of depth or more.

While Doolhof has more than adequate irrigation, natural water retention is also very good, without any sign of permanent dampness. While the shape and exposure (topography) of the various parts of the Doolhof Estate allow for several distinct microclimates, generally, Doolhof experiences cooler winters and moderate summers compared with the Wellington norm.

Roughly 40 of the farm’s 380 hectares are planted to vine. Soils, growing conditions and microclimates vary considerably across this large expanse (which reaches up into Bain’s Kloof), and each grape varietal is carefully matched to its ideal terroir. The white varietals are planted on the eastern slopes of the Groenberg, which allow the grapes cooler days and less direct sunlight.

The vineyard plots around the Doolhof Wine Estate.

Their export manager Johan Fourie recently visited me in London to taste through these seriously impressive new single vineyard wines from the farm. They are certainly not cheap but then again they are very fine terroir expressions and definitely worth seeking out.

 

Doolhof Riviersteen Chenin Blanc 2017, 13 Abv.

Second vintage produced. 1600 bottles from small batch single vineyard. 2 x 500 litre and 2 x 300 litre barrels. Dusty nose of dry summer bushveld, fresh thatch, honied white peaches, quince and apple pastille fruits with a subtle high tone note of leesy blossom fragrance. A very complex, intriguing wine with rich, focused intensity, stony minerality, orange peel, crunchy apples, bright tart acidity and incredible length. Very impressive indeed.

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

 

Doolhof Morestond Chardonnay 2017, 12 Abv.

1700 bottles from small batch single vineyard. 2 x 500 litre and 2 x 300 litre barrels. Barrel fermented, the nose is taut, restrained and dusty with lemon biscuit, vibrant lime cordial, lemon peel and white citrus with the faintest of vanilla oak spice notes. Glassy bright fresh acids, there is a real linearity to the texture, tension yet fleshiness from partial malo, toasted nuts, green apple confit and a very long vanilla pod and savoury green melon finish showing lovely verve and vigour with a pronounced saline bite.

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

 

Doolhof Bloedklip Malbec 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Only 1200 bottles produced. Deep dark broody nose of black fruits, sappy plum, vanilla oak spice and winter black fruit compote. Plenty of fragrant lift and spice, this has a more serious structured leafy complexity supported by stony mineral tannins and a crunchy, tart acidity. Still very youthful and finding its inner balance, this should flesh out and relax and put on extra palate weight with 2 or 3 years in bottle. A fine effort for this variety that seems very at home in South Africa.

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

Ridge Vineyards Prepares For An Iconic Monte Bello Chardonnay 2016 Release…

Ridge produced its first Chardonnay in 1962 from mature vines planted in the late 1940s on the Monte Bello estate vineyard. Production has never exceeded ten barrels, and Monte Bello Chardonnay was sold principally at the winery cellar door. Several great vintages, among them the 1973, ‘74, ‘79, and ‘84, showed that the cool climate and fractured limestone sub-soils were well suited to this varietal.

By 1985, the old vines were producing less then a half-ton per acre and were pulled out. The younger vines, planted in the 1970s, provide the majority of grapes today. Initially these newer plantings were on the “lower” vineyard, not yet farmed as part of the Monte Bello estate, so the wine was called “Santa Cruz Mountains” but these vines have long since been included in Monte Bello. Since 2009 the wine has been designated Ridge Estate Chardonnay. In years when differences among the multiple lots are sufficient to warrant a separate bottling, Ridge produce a limited amount of Monte Bello Chardonnay as well.

From a superb vintage, the Ridge Estate Chardonnay 2016, now sold out ex-cellar, garnered some massive scores from US wine critics on release further helping to build the expectations for the premium Monte Bello Chardonnay 2016, due for release in August/September 2019.

Tasting with Eric Baugher from Ridge Vineyards in London.

Winter 2015/16 was long and cold and for a second year, crop size was reduced by Spring rains at bloom. Cool weather in August slowed ripening and stretched the Chardonnay harvest out to mid-September 2016.

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Chardonnay 2016, Santa Cruz Mountains, 14.4 Abv.

Deadly serious expression of Chardonnay from this famed vineyard. Nose is ultra complex and mineral with smokey yellow citrus fruits, hints of struck match reduction and a alluring yellow grapefruit and pear purée note. The palate shows such wonderful balance and harmony, piercing white citrus pastille fruit intensity, crushed limestone minerality and pithy lemon grass spice leading to the most memorable, seductive fresh finish punctuated with delicious saline nuances. Another profound Burgundian Chardonnay expression from Ridge Vineyards that is unquestionably a drop dead gorgeous wine to rival any Grand Cru white from the Cote d’Or.

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

An Exciting New South African Chenin Blanc Project From Carl van der Merwe and Betz Family Winery in Washington State Hits the Streets…

I had a wonderful tasting of Betz Family Wines in London recently looking at their delicious 2015 Bordeaux based varietal reds from Washington State. Bob Betz is of course a fellow Master of Wine who graduated in 1997 and made a name for himself making some truly superb wines across primarily micro sites in Yakima Valley AVA, Red Mountain AVA and Walla Walla AVA. Bob Betz sold his winery around 6 years ago to Steve Griessel and still acts for the winery occasionally in a consulting capacity.

However, I was very surprised to learn of their exciting new project in South Africa where Steve Griessel has taken a 50% shareholding in a new project with Carl van der Merwe of The Great South African Wine Co. (part owned between Wendy Applebaum and winemaker Carl van der Merwe).

 

A new Chenin Blanc venture of which Carl is the head winemaker, uses four old vine vineyard sites in Stellenbosch that are on long term leases – one 40 year old vineyard in the Bottelary Hills, two 35 to 40 year old vineyards in the Helderberg and one 38 year old vineyard in Faure. All vines are unirrigated to produce a fantastic Chenin Blanc that is fermented with 100% wild yeasts in barrel, 20% new French oak for nine months, with the total ageing of the 2017 vintage lasting for around 13 months with the remaining wine in used neutral oak. Around 20% of the 2017 underwent malolactic fermentation in barrel.

Based on Chenin Blanc from some sandy and rocky sites, the vines are located primarily on granitic soils only 9km from the sea, conditions that help deliver fruit with a wonderful maritime salinity and bright freshness. Carl van der Merwe is one of South Africa’s most talented winemakers and never one to enter into new projects lightly. The end goal of this venture is undoubtedly to produce some truly profound Chenin Blanc wines which will be sold exclusively in the USA. So something to look out for in the States to bring back home. Everyone loves a unicorn… especially if it’s old vine Chenin!!

 

Quinta Essentia Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

This really is an impressive wine and once allowed a little time in the glass explodes on your palate like an avalanche of flavours. The aromatics are loaded with sweet pineapple pastille, orange blossom, lemon cordial, sweet yellow nectarine nuances before a final reprise of tangerine zest and Seville orange confit. Intricately multi-layered between granitic minerality and sweet yellow fruit intensity, there is also a subtle hint of lactic vanilla oak spice but it is already beautifully integrated. The palate is incredibly intense and fleshy with more wet thatch notes, pineapple pastille, crunchy white peach and honey drizzled on warm white toast. The acids bristle on the palate and perfectly balance the rich, fleshy fruit concentration leading to a very long, bold, complex finish. Not quite in the league of Carl’s epic Diva Chenin Blanc produced at De Morgenzon but certainly a show stopper in its own kind of way.

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

Quintuplet of South African Quaffers That You Just Can’t Go Wrong With…

It’s the question that occupies the minds of most wine consumers and also many wine buyers… which wines offer great value!?

Today we opened up a selection of excellent value wines for a visiting UK wine journalist and I snuck in after lunch to taste and review five of my favourites.

Welbedacht Estate Bohemian Syrah, WO Wellington 2016 – 92+/100

A big, bold, impressive creation not unlike its owner Schalk Burger Senior. Packed full of sweet blueberry, baking spices, grilled herbs, black olive, black cherry and pithy plum skins. Fleshy and broad, this wine has grown in stature and acquired extra balance and depth in the past 6 months. Ready to go now. Braai optional!

Mullineux Family Wines Kloof Street Red 2017, WO Swartland, 14 Abv. – 91/100

A blend of 90% Syrah, 4% Carignan, 2% Grenache, 2% Cinsault, 1% Tinta Barroca, 1% Mourvèdre. Beautiful sweet grilled herbs, barbecued meat fat and fleshy, sappy black berry fruits. Plenty of cured meat nuances, black olive and a deliciously distinguished long finish. Real class for the money.

Bosman 8 Generations 2018, WO Wellington, 12 Abv. – 88+/100

Clean direct and pure, this shows grassy thatch, dry bush veld and sweet resinous sappy notes. Definite dried lemon peel, herbs and gravel minerality and a cool, stony finish. Impressive price / quality ratio.

Alheit Family Flotsam & Jetsam 2017, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv. – 91+/100

Fabulously sappy, stemmy, grassy, wet thatch and mineral yellow orchard fruits. Classy depth and superb concentration. Lovely wine with a sprinkle of Chris Alheit magic.

Sumaridge Chardonnay 2014, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13 Abv. – 92/100

Instant Meursault-like richness and exoticism, liquid minerality, resinous sap and spice and an underlying core of smokey, peachy, spicy apple and citrus pastille fruits. Old world ringer. Just tastes so Burgundian! An intriguing cool climate Walker Bay wine that packs a really complex punch.