Reimagining the Iona Elgin Wines – Tasting the Iona Monopole New Releases in London with Rosie Gunn…

I have been following Iona and their delicious cool climate wines for many years. So naturally, I was thrilled to be contacted in February 2020 by owner Andrew Gunn, who invited me to join him for an exciting new release tasting in London profiling their new single vineyard wines that have been vinified to specifically portray the unique micro climates and soil types of the Iona Elgin Highlands.

Just a few weeks before we were due to meet, I received an email from Rosie Gunn, Andrew’s wife and partner in the Iona winery, to inform me that Andrew had unfortunately had a terrible fall off a ladder on the farm and had broken a number of bones, so she would be making the trip to London in his place. On the 5th March, I met up with Rosie and Marketing Manager Brad Gold at Trivet, one of London’s most exciting new restaurant openings, to taste through their fantastic new range of wines.

Tasting with Rosie Gunn in London.

From each main red and white wine selection, Iona has teased out two single vineyard Pinot Noirs and two Chardonnays, with only 500 bottles of each wine produced. This range is also joined by the Iona Elgin Highlands range of whites and reds along with the Solace Syrah produced from the nearby Brocha farm, where Rosie used to live and which is farmed organically with its ultra rocky soils, warmer growing temperatures and a lower rainfall.

Iona Monopole Elgin Highlands Pinot Noir 2018, WO Elgin, 13.74 Abv.

10 barrels were produced from mostly younger vines. Using 115, 667, 777 Pinot Noir clones, the wine was aged 11 months in barrel with a low solids content to avoid too much racking.

Bright tart aromatic profile full of crushed cranberry and rose petals, Turkish delight and potpourri perfume. Pristine, linear and pin point in the mouth, the acids frame the palate beautifully with attractive red berry fruits, cherry and hints of pomegranate. Pure, intense but with sufficient open, accessible fruit depth and lovely complexing minerality on the finish.

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

The new single vineyard wines all come from the dry 2017 vintage. A cool winter ensured good vine dormancy and rainfall was low, similar to 2015 and 2016. Flowering took place a little earlier than usual in warm sunny conditions, with the vines cropping slightly higher than usual but producing exceptional fruit quality and concentration. Grapes were harvested from late February to mid-March and yielded exceptional quality with pristine fruit purity, high natural acidity, real intensity of fruit flavour and a signature elegance that marked all the wines of 2017.

Iona Monopole Kloof Limited Release Pinot Noir 2017, WO Elgin, 13.57 Abv.

Clones 667, 115 and 777. Around 5 to10% of whole bunches used from soils with large deposits of silica quartz with underlying clay with a North facing aspect and East / West row direction.

A more pronounced minerality of chalk board duster and crushed limestone that comes through on the aromatics as spice and complex sapidity. It melts into dried potpourri, raisined cranberry, pithy red cherry and wild strawberry notes. Cool, sleek, crystalline, this is grown up Pinot Noir that opens up in the glass to display beautiful notes of red cherry sherbet and pink musk together with struck quartz minerality. Polished texture, harmonious and super classy effort from a great vintage.

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

Iona Monopole Kroon Pinot Noir 2017, WO Elgin, 13.63 Abv.

Clones 115 and 777. Around 5 to10% of whole bunches used from soils with alluvial gravel beds, sandstone and ferrocrete (iron) with underlying clay with a South facing aspect and North / South row direction.

A slightly deeper, darker, bloodier aromatic expression with notes of pomegranate, blood orange, spiced red cherries with a fabulous mineral under vein of wet river stones. Hints of sweet and sour together with intense salinity meet your palate on the entry. This wine displays the same high pedigree polished marble tannins as the Kloof cuvee but with a touch more flesh and savoury, pithy red fruit on the finish. Another very impressive Pinot Noir expression.

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

Whites

Iona Monopole Elgin Highlands Chardonnay 2018, WO Elgin, 13.25 Abv.

Dusty, smoky, spicy yellow fruits blend into wet river stone minerality, rain on grey slate and pithy green apple and yellow grapefruit intensity. Fleshy, glycerol but fabulously concentrated, piercing and intense. The oaking is super intelligent and the integration of crystalline fruit and acidity vibrancy perfectly judged. A really delicious Chardonnay that will get a lot of drinkers very excited.

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

Iona Monopole Kloof Chardonnay 2017, WO Elgin, 13.64 Abv.

Clones CY95, CY96 and 548 from soils with large deposits of silica quartz with underlying clay with a North facing aspect and East / West row direction.

Classic complex mix of liquid minerality, struck flint and crushed gravel melt gently away into nuances of lemon citrus peel, spicy lemon grass and earthy papaya skins. Bold, brazen and super focused, this wine has wonderful lines of acidity and cool, white citrus tension backed by an enthralling chalky limestone mineral pithy complexity. Exquisite intensity and concentration make for a very serious glassful. A truly outstanding South African Chardonnay expression!

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

Iona Monopole Fynbos Chardonnay 2017, WO Elgin, 13.72 Abv.

Clones CY95, CY96 and Rustenburg from soils with alluvial gravel beds, sandstone with underlying clay with a North facing aspect and North West / South East row direction.

Made from grapes grown on a slightly heavier soil with more northerly aspect, this wine shows a bolder, richer, riper expression on the nose with lemon and lime cordial, lemon bon bons, apple pastille and green rock candy seduction. Plush and beautifully textured with more savoury, stony, green plum notes layered with lemon herbs, citrus spice and a splendidly long, concentrated green stone fruit finish. Very showy and confident.

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

Iona Solace Syrah 2017, WO Elgin, 14.1 Abv.

Saline, purple bright fruits full of black saline intensity, salty black liquorice and supple, glassy, tart savoury intensity. Classy, classical and very cool and refined packed with black cherry, black pepper corns and blueberry pie nuances. A real evolution in style that perhaps works better for Elgin’s cooler vineyards than previous bigger, more extracted styles of Solace. This wine seems perfectly judged on so many levels.

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

Iona Monopole Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2018, WO Elgin, 13.55 Abv.

A super exotic complex Sauvignon Blanc nose packed full of tangerine, grapefruit, dusty white peach, quince and a tropical papaya fruit finish. Fleshy, delicious and super distinguished, this wine ups the ante and delivers an impressively complex, serious glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

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

Iona Sauvignon Blanc 2019, WO Elgin, 13.63 Abv.

The aromatics are filled with lemon grass and tangerine peel complexity, this wine has mouth watering vigour and enthralling allure and focus. Fabulous notes of mango and papaya, yellow citrus and green apple blend imperiously, building to a vinous crescendo on the palate with delicious, bright, fresh Sauvignon Blanc grassy nuances. This is benchmark cool climate Elgin Sauvignon Blanc that really ticks all the pleasure boxes.

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

Pici pasta, Cornish crab and artichokes
Chicken with vinegar sauce
The delicious dessert – A house speciality!
Hokkaido PotatoBaked potato Mille feuille, sake and white chocolate mousse, butter and sake gelato.

The two main concerns you think about when producers shake up their range of wines in the way Iona have, is whether the new single vineyard wines will detract from the overall quality of the larger blends that came before them and whether the new single vineyard wines will be sufficiently different and interesting enough to merit the whole vineyard partitioning exercise. While I certainly had my favourites, I can confirm that the whole new range is very well conceived and the wines are truly unique in their own ways. They are also exceptionally good quality.

In London pricing, they are also not ridiculously priced, making them accessible to both restaurant buyers and Chardonnay aficionados alike. Exciting times indeed for Iona wines. By the time Andrew reads these reviews, I certainly hope he will be well on his way to recovery. Catch you in London on your next trip!

Return of the Crayfish… The Revenge Continues – Tasting the New Release 2019 Revenge of the Crayfish Barrel Sample…

With only a third of 2020 ticked off on the calendar and a very uncertain next six months lying ahead, I thought that the 29th March would be the perfect moment to release my initial review for Sakkie Mouton’s second vintage of Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc. Happy Birthday Sakkie!

Sakkie and I met up in Stellenbosch in mid February to taste the second edition of this cult Chenin Blanc from Koekenaap near Vredendal, made from a 25 year old vineyard with fruit from the same site as the 2018 maiden vintage.

What a journey it has been. With the sell-out 2018 turning heads, blowing minds and agitating the bureaucrats, the anticipation (and pressure) on Sakkie surely grew every day as the 2019 harvest approached. But a valuable stint in Oregon from June to the end of November at Carlton Winemaker Studio winery undoubtedly added to Sakkies further winemaking experience and overall maturity. 

The 2019 vintage Chenin Blanc grapes were taken in a lot earlier than 2018 resulting in an acidity of 8.2 versus 7.2 for the 2018 grapes. 

Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc 2019, 12.5 Abv. (Barrel Sample)

While still super youthful and vibrant, this Chenin Blanc expresses itself as boldly and characterfully as the incredible maiden release 2018. There are beautiful notes of crystalline white peach, green melon draped in salty Parma ham, white citrus, hard fig and saline sea breeze notes. On the palate, the alka seltzer spritzy minerality comes to the fore, shining brightly and melting beautifully into a subtle leesy white granitic wet stone mineral austerity tempered by a plush mid palate richness of yellow orchard fruits, wet straw and a mouth watering tart linear line of acidity, finishing with the most incredible intensity and saline persistence. This wine will tighten up further in bottle, but I envisage this 2019 offering an incremental generosity, concentration and finely textured mouthfeel. I am smitten yet again!

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

Post Script – We finished off the tasting with three new unfinished components who’s end destinations are still undecided. An interesting but characterful 2020 Chenel from Vredendal, a 2020 Palomino from Lutzville and then an incredible, unusual, highly expressive Chenin Blanc from a vineyard in Vredendal planted in 1989. More exciting treats from talented Sakkie Mouton coming soon.

Profiling Some of the World’s Greatest Cabernet Sauvignon Terroir With the Stellenbosch Cabernet Collective…

The story of the Stellenbosch Cabernet Collective begins with a tale of passion and creativity. Rising out of an alluring landscape, rich history, vibrant culture and unparalleled architecture, Stellenbosch is one of South Africa’s most prominent wine producing regions and desirable tourist destinations. Today, the region has become the focus of many profoundly adept oenologists and agronomists who use their unique premium local African terroir to produce top quality Cabernet among other wines.

A love for country, community and producing fine wine has given rise to a collaborative group of 35 members that desire to see this regions Cabernet Sauvignons performing against the best on a global platform. To highlight this groups excellent work, I recently revisited South Africa’s “Vintage of the Century” and tasted through 28 excellent Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 reds from the Stellenbosch Cabernet Collective members.

Delaire Graff Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2015 – 96/100 GSMW

Smooth, sweet fruited, pure and suave. Very impressive.

Jordan The Long Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 92+/100 GSMW

Earthy, savoury black fruit. Classical.

Waterford Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 94+/100 GSMW

Black fruited, plush and sweet cedar and tobacco. Very nice.

Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2015 – 96/100 GSMW

Dark, classical and suave Cabernet Sauvignon. Super sophisticated wine.

Kanonkop Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 97/100 GSMW

Violets and perfume. Sleek blueberry and cassis magic.

Kaapzicht Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – N/S

Faulty Bottle.

Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 93/100 GSMW

Cool, dusty Cabernet Sauvignon packed full of mineral and tobacco notes. Pure and full of finesse.

Neil Ellis Jonkershoek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 93/100 GSMW

Cedar and savoury spice, cherry cola and black bramble berry fruit spice.

Webersburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 90+/100 GSMW

Black berry and graphite melange. Sweet, plummy, savoury length.

Fleur du Cap Series Privee Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 91/100 GSMW

Leafy black fruits with sleek, polished graphite tannins.

Rust en Vrede Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 93/100 GSMW

Cool, rich and very polished with seamless black fruits and sweet mineral tannins.

Warwick Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 95/100 GSMW

Modern, creamy and plush with a pure fruited core and a long black cherry fruited finish. Very classy.

Oldenburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 94/100 GSMW

Dark, savoury sweet fruited core, showing tobacco spice and tannery leather nuances on the finish.

Mooiplaas Tabakland Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 89/100 GSMW

Riper style with notes of stewed black fruits, cedar, fruit cake and a long, plush ripe finish.

Glenelly Estate Glass Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 94/100 GSMW

Cool, sleek and spicy with classical cedar and tobacco notes and a classical, dense powerful Cabernet finish.

Villiera Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 93/100 GSMW

Full of black berry fruits and graphite minerality, earthy black currants and sweet, lithe tannins. Smart wine.

Lanzerac Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 91/100 GSMW

Dense and dark, packed with spice and freshly cut hedge row, earthy black fruits and a long sweet fruited, intense finish.

Ernie Els Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 94/100 GSMW

Reductive cassis notes, saline black currant and oyster shell , graphite, cedar spice and a complex, concentrated finish.

Bartinney Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 94/100 GSMW

Earthy savoury black fruits, plush fruit core, with notes of brûléed coffee beans, cherry confit and a long plush, opulent finish.

Spier 21 Gables Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 94+/100 GSMW

Notes of gunpowder and graphite spice. Palate is sleek, fleshy and pure fruited showing plenty of classy wine making.

Muratie Martin Melck Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 91/100 GSMW

Sweet plum and cherry tobacco notes melt into black cassis and freshly tilled earth with hints of fruit cake spice.

Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 95+/100 GSMW

Sleek, suave, classical Cabernet with masses of elegance and power, purity and very sweet, fine tannins.

Peter Falke Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 93/100 GSMW

Dusty black fruits complemented by mineral notes, black cassis, cherry and graphite spice. Very precise fruit flavours and a long sleek, focused power.

Neethlingshof Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 89/100 GSMW

Shows hints of fruit cake, cedar spice and bruised black orchard fruits.

Simonsig The Garland Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 93/100 GSMW

Cool and creamy texture with dry mineral graphite tannins, a sleek polished styling loaded with cassis, black plum and sweet fruit cake length.

Starke-Conde Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 94+/100 GSMW

Full of dark black and blue berry fruits with a creamy, plush, opulent, generous concentration. Very smart wine.

Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 91/100 GSMW

Aromatics of freshly tilled earth, tannery leather and Christmas pudding, fleshy and suave with an elegant texture, chalky tannins and a sweet and sour berry finish.

Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 91+/100 GSMW

Dusty earthy black berry fruits resound with a hint of smoky oyster shell reduction. Impressively polished texture full of sleek mineral tannins and a restrained, pure fruit length.

This tasting was attended by over 30 private clients as well as several high profile wine journalists including Jancis Robinson OBE MW. At the end of the evening there seemed to be a solid consensus that 2015 was without doubt one of the greatest vintages Stellenbosch has ever witnessed. I look forward to doing this tasting again in a couple of years time looking at all the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignons! 🍷

Upfront and Showy – Tasting the New Release Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2019…

It seems almost every year one corner of the Cape winelands or another is touched by bush fires. As a hangover of the long regional drought, wildfires have taken their toll in the Western Cape just as they have in California. Sadly, 2019 was no different and during this harvest, fires managed to wreak havoc across the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

The large wildfires which burnt along the borders of the Hamilton Russell Vineyards estate on January 11th 2019, necessitated the rejecting of almost all the 2019 Pinot Noir grown on site as a result of minor but noticeable smoke taint to the fruit. However, Hamilton Russell were luckily able to harvest their full Chardonnay crop before any smoke damage occurred and produced another very impressive expression.

Extremely warm, hot weather in May, June and July 2019 lead to uneven bud break and resulted in a -44% reduction in yields. Overall the vintage temperature averages were cooler than in both 2017 and 2018 and final quality was high amongst harvested grapes.

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.2 Abv.

This wine shows the true pretty, overt appeal of the 2019 vintage without any of the usual youthful reduction and broody mineral austerity. The aromatics are bright, pure and lifted, ultra expressive, offering up seductive notes of Spring flowers, lemon cordial, green apple, yellow grapefruit confit and honeydew melon pastille sweets. The palate mirrors the aromatic succulence and generous fruit forward concentration boasting hallmark notes of sweet citrus fruit intensity, crystalline purity, tangy acids and a fleshy, glycerol harmonious persistence. A little more showy fruit immediacy will surely see this vintage race off the shelves with new and old Hamilton Russell collectors alike. Total production 2812 x 12.

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

Triumph from Tragedy – Tasting the New Release Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2019…

It seems almost every year one corner of the Cape winelands or another is touched by bush fires. As a hangover of the long regional drought, wildfires have taken their toll in the Western Cape just as they have in California. Sadly, 2019 was no different and during this harvest, fires managed to wreak havoc across the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

The large wildfires which burnt along the borders of the Hamilton Russell Vineyards estate on January 11th 2019, necessitated the rejecting of almost all the 2019 Pinot Noir grown on site as a result of minor but noticeable smoke taint to the fruit.

In a testament to the true spirit of the wine trade, local neighbours rallied around Hamilton Russell to offer quality parcels of fruit from unaffected areas to allow a 2019 wine to be produced. Grapes came in from the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and were, for the first time ever, blended into a Hamilton Russell WO Walker Bay Pinot Noir cuvee by winemaker Emul Ross.

Those with a sharp eye will notice the subtle label change from Hamilton Russell Vineyards to merely Hamilton Russell together with a Walker Bay branded capsule over the closure. This is a fabulous wine that truly is a triumph forged out of tragedy. Anthony’s only worry is that consumers might enjoy the wine’s extra forward, showy opulence too much and demand more of the same next year. Nevertheless, this is definitely a deliciously pure Pinot Noir wine worth buying!

Tasting the new Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir with Anthony Hamilton Russell in London recently.

47% Ridge (Babylon / Creation)

37% Upper (Sumaridge)

16% Valley (Hamilton Russell)

Winemaking changes involved: Less skin contact; More gentle extraction; Inoculation with Hamilton Russell Sauvage wild yeast strain.

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2019, WO Walker Bay, 13.5 Abv.

Having only been bottled a couple of months ago, this 2019 cuvee is wonderfully generous and opulent with layered aromatics of ripe blood oranges, bruleed wood spice, sun raisined red cherry, red bramble berries and subtle hints of pomegranate spice. The palate is perhaps more fleshy, supple and open than a normal Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir would be at this youthful stage in its life but it is certainly no less juicy, mouth watering and seductive. The bright fruit forward expression, however attractive, does perhaps obscure some of the usual structure and mineral restraint found on most vintages of Hamilton Russell new releases, however as Anthony commented, “it’s almost like we have just changed coopers or barrel toasting as the fruit quality is still exceptional.” There is fabulous earthy red berry fruit complexity bolstered by fine creamy tannins and soft, tangy acids that steer the wine to a long, glycerol, textured finish packed with oodles of sex appeal. This may be a once-off cuvee born out of tragedy but it is certainly a triumphant wine with great character and upfront appeal. Drink from release or cellar for 6 to 8+ years.

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

Damascene Wines – New Kid on the Block Rocking the Cape Wine Scene…

I first heard about Damascene Wines last year when a few big scores in the local South African home market hit the headlines including a mammoth 97/100 from Winemag.co.za editor Christian Eedes. The young blood behind the venture focusing on producing high quality vinous expressions from unique Cape vineyards is Jean Smit, also known for his work at Boekenhoutskloof as well as a brief spell at Iona some years back.

Damascene Wines is now in the process of securing distribution in several key global markets including the UK for their limited volumes of fine wine, but as Jean was very quick to point out to me, “it is really important that global distribution partners share our attitude and philosophy that is the driving force behind the whole Damascene project.”

With a sell-out Semillon 2018 already in the bag, this white is joined in the range by a fine Pinot Noir, an accomplished Cabernet Franc and an exceptional benchmark Stellenbosch Syrah. Damascene is undoubtedly one of the most exciting new producers to come onto the South African wine seen for some time.

Damascene Semillon 2018, WO Franschhoek, 14 Abv.

The fruit for this vintage was picked from a venerable old vineyard in the Franschhoek valley. Planted in 1942 on alluvial soils of decomposed Table Mountain sandstone, a portion – roughly 15 percent – of the bush vines have naturally mutated into Semillon Gris. Both variants were harvested and co-fermented to add further complexity to the wine. Approximately one-third of the way through fermentation the grape must was transferred to second- and third-fill French oak barriques, for 11 months of sur lie barrel maturation. No lees stirring took place, and the prevention of malolactic fermentation ensured the wine retains its excellent natural acidity. Total production: 707 x 750ml | Bottling date: 8 February 2019 Alc: 14.06%Vol | pH: 3.32 | TA: 5.5 g/L | RS: 3.2 g/L | VA: 0.51 g/L.

Such beautiful subtle aromatics of white citrus, wet chalk and dusty grey slate lead to a fabulously sleek, creamy textured Semillon palate full of glycerol lanolin mouthfeel layered with pithy orange peel zest and tangerine oil complexity. The acids are supple and well integrated with spicy, piquant, mellow yellow fruits. Full, broad, super stony and mineral, this wine is beautifully harmonious, textural and focused! Keep it for 2-3 years before opening and then drink over 5 to 10.

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

Damascene Pinot Noir 2018, WO Elgin, 14.1 Abv.

When David and Genevieve Curl purchased an apple farm in the Elgin valley in 2010, they immediately planted a 3.12-hectare parcel of Pinot Noir on a ridge with ancient of clay-rich Bokkeveld shale. Clones 667 and 777 on rootstock 101-14 were chosen to capitalise on Elgin’s cool climate terroir. Focused on the ultimate goal of crafting small quantities of premium Pinot Noir, the vineyard’s planting density of 6250 vines per hectare encourages stiff competition between the vines, resulting in better flavour and concentration in the fruit. Low disease pressure in the vineyards assisted the desired spontaneous fermentation in the cellar, with only two batches inoculated with a locally isolated yeast strain to fully express the character of the two Pinot Noir clones. To capture the elegance of the fruit, and avoid excessive extraction, the wine spent just 10 days on the skins, with a combination of short pump-overs and punch-downs twice per day. Malolactic fermentation occurred spontaneously in 300- litre French oak barrels, 30% of which were new. The oak barrels were carefully selected from five leading Burgundian coopers, with a range of toasting levels – mostly Light and Blonde. Total production: 3600 x 750ml | Bottling date: 8 February 2019 Alc: 14.1 %Vol| pH: 3.39 | TA: 5.4 g/L | RS: 1.5 g/L | VA: 0.53 g/L.

Rich, character filled nose with plenty of promise. Opening in the glass, the wine reveals hints of mocha and chocolate, cherry liquor, black berries, savoury cured meats, forest floor, freshly tilled earth, black bramble berries with positive green aromatic complexing notes. Warming luxurious inviting style, the palate is obvious and generous with a fine plush glycerol texture, spicy pin point tannins, seductive wild strawberry, kirsch liquor and baking spices, before darker berry fruit nuances take over to carry this wine over the finishing line. 

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

Damascene Cabernet Franc 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 12.87 Abv.

Situated on the cooler east-facing slopes of the Bottelary Hills, this trellised vineyard was planted in 2004 with the CF1 clone of Cabernet Franc. On soils of decomposed granite, and at an altitude of 260-metres above sea level, this lowyielding vineyard produces smaller bunches that offer incredible concentration, structure and ripeness at lower sugar levels. Bunches were de-stemmed directly into stainless steel tanks where whole berries were coldsoaked for three days before being inoculated with a carefully selected yeast strain. For optimum extraction pump-overs took place up to three times per day, with fermentation temperatures peaking at 28˚C. Spontaneous malolactic fermentation took place during the 11 months of maturation in a single 1000-litre oak foudre. The wine was racked just once, two weeks prior to bottling. Total production: 1175 x 750ml | Bottling date: 8 February 2019 Alc: 12.87 %Vol| pH: 3.32 | TA: 4.9 g/L | RS: 1.5 g/L | VA: 0.46 g/L.

An inviting aromatic offering shows classic varietal Cabernet Franc perfume, spice and lift. The nose suggests delicious notes of black currant pastille, crushed black cherry, graphite and lead pencil complexity. The palate has a very focused black currant wine gums intensity with subtle vegetal, stemmy cedar spice notes. Despite the impressively low alcohol level, this wine has a beautiful texture and mouthfeel with a lithe elegance, bright acids and a superbly harmonious finish. Incredibly well designed, this wine shows a lot of appeal and will seduce a lot of Cabernet Franc lovers. 

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

Damascene Syrah 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 13.4 Abv. 

100% Syrah from Polkadraai and Bottelary Hills, Stellenbosch. While both vineyards are situated higher than 300-metres above sea level, planted with SH9 and SH22B Syrah clones, and with soils dominated by decomposed granite, they each bring their own nuance and complexity to the wine. The vineyard on the Polkadraai Hills was planted on a south-east slope in 1996, and contributes most of the perfume and spice. Structure and fruit intensity comes from a vineyard of low-yielding granitic soils in the Bottelary Hills, a ‘mother unit’ planted on a north-west aspect in 2001. To showcase the impact of site in Stellenbosch Syrah, the harvested fruit was separated into numerous smaller fermentation batches, with whole-cluster fraction of each batch ranging from nil to 100 percent per vessel. Open top fermenters and two 1000-litre oak foudres received a combination of pump-overs and pigéage (punch-downs) two or three times per day. The remaining two 1000-litre oak foudres were treated with the ‘submerged cap’ technique to enhance the body and fruit concentration of the wine.

A unique element in the final blend came from a portion kept as 100% intact whole clusters, that underwent carefully-controlled carbonic fermentation. These were sealed in a stainless steel tank and stored under pressure for 30 days before pressing. Without pump-overs or pigéage during fermentation, this carbonic macerated component contributes enormous purity of fruit and silky tannins to the final blend. All fermentations took place spontaneously with naturally occurring yeast. Malolactic fermentation also occurred spontaneously, with maturation in 1000-litre oak foudres for 11 months. The wine was bottled without fining, to ensure a more complex and authentic expression of Syrah. Total production: 2728 x 750ml | Bottling date: 8 February 2019 Alc: 13.4 %Vol| pH: 3.8 | TA: 5.4 g/L | RS: 1.5 g/L | VA: 0.65 g/L.

Beautiful intensity and perfume, the nose screams classism and aromatic complexity with an open inviting modern allure. This wine turns the volume up but there is no distortion, only purity and then more purity. Herbal and Rhoney, there are wonderful savoury earthy meaty notes loaded with black berry and blue berry fruits, olive tapenade and hints of German-deli smokey, meaty brilliance. The texture is incredibly fine and focused and personifies the ‘Jean Smit’ wine making style that shines right through his entire range of wines. This Syrah hits a special zenith of quality and brilliance that only a select few South Africa wineries manage to achieve. 

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

The End of a Golden Era in Wine – Goodbye Michael Broadbent MW 1927-2020…

Very sad to hear of the passing of the legend Michael Broadbent MW. One of the people who put fine wine on the global map when wine was an unknown niche category. Feel so privileged to have know him. RIP Michael Broadbent 1927-2020 🍷🙏🏼

Born in Yorkshire in 1927, Michael studied architecture at Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London before joining the Royal Artillery where he was 2nd Lieutenant from 1945 to 1948. He joined Laytons Wine Merchants as a trainee in 1952 where his wine career started. After a two year stint at Saccone & Speed Michael joined John Harvey & Sons Ltd Bristol in 1955. He was initially in charge of the North region both in shops and marketing, before becoming a director and finally the UK sales director.

Michael passed the MW exam in 1960, and a few years later he joined Christie’s in July 1966 where he created their first specialised wine department. He was responsible for starting Christie’s wine auctions, which he conducted worldwide. Until 1992 he was the senior director of Christie’s wine department, and he remained a senior consultant with the firm until 2009.

A wine writer and critic, Michael produced an extraordinary amount of tasting notes from his life in wine which are widely available to read. He published many books, including Michael Broadbent’s Wine Tasting and The Great Vintage Wine Book.

I had the pleasure of celebrating Michael’s 90th birthday with him at the new IMW office opening and again at a private celebration at Vintners’ Hall while many industry friends and colleagues also joined him last year at Vintners’ Hall for the launch of his last book.

With Michael at Vintners Hall to celebrate his 90th Birthday in London.