The Exciting New 2022 Releases From Duncan Savage Reviewed…

I recently caught up with South African rock star producer Eben Sadie in London and enjoyed a fantastic masterclass with him. After the tasting we had a good chat where I asked him who he thought was currently one of the most exciting winemaking talents on the South African wine scene making some of the very best wines? His answer, unequivocally, was Duncan Savage. It came as no surprise to me as Duncan has consistently been among the leading pack of fine wine producers in the Cape for several years now. But what I think elevated his standing further in the eyes of Eben Sadie was Duncan’s unerring commitment and single-minded labours in his vineyards, very much like Eben himself.

There is a small but growing number of top winemakers in South Africa who are slowly but surely recognizing that the quickest route to increasing quality and making even better wines now lies in the vineyards, not in the winery. Quality for many of these producers has now reached a level where additional incremental increases in bottled quality can only be achieved by harvesting higher quality grapes. There will of course always be vintage variation, which is a good thing, and better or lesser vintages, but the ultimate endeavour for many winemakers now lies in improved viticulture.

No where can this commitment of Duncan Savage to viticulture be witnessed more clearly than with his new extreme vineyard plantings in the Karibib vineyard in southern Stellenbosch. At great expense, Duncan has planted what he hopes and believes will be one of the highest quality, extreme vineyard Syrahs in South Africa, that will hopefully yield a quality of grapes not seen before in Stellenbosch. We will watch this project with great interest. In the meantime, its time to top your cellars up with some of his latest releases.

The new extreme Syrah plantings in the Karibib vineyard in the Polkadraai Hills in southern Stellenbosch.

Savage New Releases 2022:

Savage White 2021, WO Western Cape, 13.8% Abv.

1.7 g/l RS | 6.3 g/l TA | 3.24 pH

This is the second vintage of the Savage White after returning to a pure orthodox white Bordeaux style blend with 69% Sauvignon Blanc and 31% Semillon from trellised and bush vine vineyards around the Western Cape. The whole bunch pressing and oxidative handling of the must followed by a natural fermentation, with the Semillon portion going through malolactic fermentation, are undoubtedly part of the secret to Duncan’s rich, opulent style. 2021 was another cracking white wine vintage and this release sees the Savage White reach new levels of textural lavishness and palate breadth. The aromatics are rich and expressive with multiple layers of grapefruit preserve, peach tea, green apple pastille and delicate hints of chamomile, honey and pineapple. In the mouth the wine rolls across the palate with an impressively dense glycerol weight of fruit together with the most delicious tangy mouth-watering acids. The wine spent 10 months in oak, 20% new, which adds a very attractive but subtle lick of crystallised tangerines, vanilla pod spice and a waxy liquid minerality on the finish. Piercing and impressively intense, this wine has arguably never been better and serves as a liquid tribute to the quality of the vintage drinking well from release and over 8 to 10+ years. (8,300 bottles produced.)

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

Savage Never Been Asked to Dance Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Paarl, 13.3% Abv.

2.1 g/l RS | 5.4 g/l TA | 3.35 pH

If the Girl Next Door Syrah vineyard is hard to farm, this 68-year-old organically dry farmed Chenin Blanc bush vine vineyard grown on decomposed granite soils in Paarl has to be the white equivalent with both birds and baboons taking a liking the to the fruit almost as much as obsessive wine collectors have around the world. The wine was whole bunch pressed with oxidative juice handling before a natural fermentation and 100% malolactic fermentation followed by 10 months ageing in old 600 litre Stockinger barrels. The emphasis on this wine is always purity of terroir, varietal typicity and that glorious liquid minerality you get from the decomposed granite soils. In this exceptional vintage, all the classical aromatics are on show with layers of complex crushed granite, struck flint, wet stones together with pithy white peach, dried baking herbs, fynbos and dry summer bushveld. On the palate there is an incredibly fresh, energising acidity that adds a wonderful frame to the rich textural concentration of yellow summer orchard fruits, pineapple pastille, toasted almonds, white peach and apple puree nuances. Only in its fourth vintage, this pure Chenin Blanc wine seems to grow in cult status year after year, with this 2021 release rising to yet new incredible heights of quality making this wine just about as serious as any premium old vine white coming out of South Africa! Drink on release and over 15+ years.

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

Tasting Duncan’s new releases in London in May 2022.

Savage Red 2020, WO Stellenbosch, 13.7% Abv.

2.4 g/l RS | 5.2 g/l TA | 3.69 pH

The Savage Red 2020 is a pure Syrah sourced exclusively from prime organically grown Stellenbosch vineyards planted on decomposed granite soils. Rich, textured and powerful, this flagship red undergoes an extra year of bottle ageing before release allowing the full complexity of the wine to shine. The grapes were spontaneously fermented from wild yeasts using 50% whole clusters with two workings per day while the must spent 3 to 4 weeks on skins before being basket pressed into old 500 litre barrels for 12 months ageing followed by a further 10 months in foudre. Despite all the dark youthful broody density, the wine displays a gloriously perfumed aromatic profile that rises out the glass effortlessly to reveal expressive notes of lavender, sweet lilies, ripe red plum, stewed mulberries and strawberry compote before singed sandalwood, dried rosemary and thyme herbal nuances. The palate is broad and elegantly textured with plenty of sweet, sumptuous upfront red and black berry fruits, a savoury steak tartar meaty complexity, black peppercorns and a granitic infused mineral finish. Wonderfully polished sweet plush tannins make this a seriously generous wine that will offer rewarding drinking on release but that will undoubtedly be cellar worthy for another 10 to 12+ years of development. (13,469 bottles produced.)

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

Savage Follow the Line 2021, WO Darling, 13.1% Abv.

1.7 g/l RS | 5.0 g/l TA | 3.74 pH

One more vintage after the 2021 release and Duncan Savage will be able to present a decade on vertical of this extraordinary wine that will no doubt tantalise its ardent fans while converting any final sceptics of the true premium gravitas of well sited old vine Cinsault. Sourced from 40+ year old dry farmed bush vines in the ward of Darling grown on decomposed granite soils, the wine underwent spontaneous fermentation using 50% whole clusters before spending two weeks on its skins before being basket pressed into neutral foudre for 10 months of ageing. The 2021 reaches 93% Cinsault with a modest 7% of Syrah blended in to yield a wine that is deep, dark and very serious on the nose, boasting layers of raisined cranberries, dried strawberries, red currants and subtle perfumed hints of rose petals and violets. While the aromatics might be slightly shyer than usual, the palate displays a wonderfully toasty, savoury depth of red and black berry fruits, cherry cordial, wild strawberry and a sappy, spicy finish. There is plenty of depth with supporting structure but also an accessibility with a delicious dark fruited opulence. This looks like a Follow the Line that will be ready to rock n roll on release but will of course prove cellar-worthy for at least another 10 to 12+ years. (10,617 bottles produced.)

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

Savage Thief in the Night 2021, WO Piekenierskloof, 13.6% Abv.

2.2 g/l RS | 4.8 g/l TA | 3.74 pH

The Thief in the Night cuvee is a wine that increasingly pushes the solo message of premium Grenache despite still having minor blend components of 7.5% Syrah and 6.5% Cinsault, the ‘salt and pepper’ of the wine. This beautifully pristine Piekenierskloof Grenache from dry farmed bush vines grown on sandstone soils underwent spontaneous fermentation with 10 to 20% whole clusters before being basket pressed after two weeks on the skins into neutral foudre for 10 months ageing. Always striving for freshness and purity, Duncan Savage has created another beautiful expression with pristine aromatics of pressed rose petals, earthy bramble berries, freshly cut hedgerow, strawberry compote and dried thyme. On the palate, the acids are taut and fresh creating a glassy, linear tension with notes of red liquorice, blood and iron and salty kelp over savoury, sappy red currant and pomegranate fruit nuances. This is a wine with impressive focus and intensity, suave tannins and a crunchy freshness that invigorates the palate and invites one sip after the next. 2021 signals a return to more Rhone-like characters on a wine that will drink well on release and over the next 8 to 10+ years. (4,624 bottles produced.)

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

Duncan pouring his current releases in London for the trade in May 2022.

Savage Girl Next Door Syrah 2021, WO Cape Town, 13.4% Abv.

2.2 g/l RS | 4.9 g/L TA | 3.72 pH

Very few red wine vineyards in the Cape are more famous than this salty, windswept 0.38 hectares near Fishhoek in Cape Town that is home to the meagre amounts of organically grown Syrah grapes from this site. Made from 16-year-old trellised vines grown on sandy gravelly soils that were originally planted for ornamental purposes, this 100% Syrah underwent spontaneous natural fermentation using 50% whole clusters with two workings per day followed by two weeks on the skins before being basket pressed into neutral foudre for 10 months of ageing. This 2021 expression shows plenty of attention to detail with lofty perfumed aromatics of pressed violets and cherry blossom followed by pure pristine notes of black cherries, black plum, pink musk, graphite and subtle cherry cola nuances. Already beautifully intense and generously fruit forward, there is also incredible clarity and focus on the palate with an overwhelmingly salty maritime twang that combines with a juicy mouth-watering acidity to give the wine striking drive and power, all executed in the most elegant and harmonious manner. Not too savoury or meaty, this fine boned wine excels on its purity of fruit and textural finesse in the same way the world’s greatest Cote Rotie Syrahs do. A truly incredible cool climate coastal Syrah that simply shoots the lights out! Drink from release and over the next 10 to 15+ years. (2,845 bottles produced.)

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

Savage Are We There yet 2021, WO Malgas, 13% Abv.

1.4 g/l RS | 5.8 g/l TA | 3.64 pH

This delightful Malgas red blend has really found its own personality over the past 2 or 3 vintages becoming one of the fastest selling wines in the Savage range. Settling into a 50% Touriga Nacional and 50% Syrah blend from 16-year-old bush vines grown on a unique river pebble on shale soil terroir. The 2021 saw a spontaneous natural fermentation using 10% of whole clusters and spent two weeks on its skins before being basket pressed into old 500 litre barrels where it was aged for 10 months. On the nose the aromatics are delightfully dark and brooding, slowly revealing notes of black cherry, blue berry and black currant intertwined with hints of nori seaweed, salty liquorice, cured meats and graphite minerality. As with many of the 2021 reds, there is at once fabulous fruit depth, intensity and freshness together with a seamlessly harmonious textural palate with the most creamy of tannins enlivened by a tangy, juicy acidity that simply melts away slowly into the dark fruit opulence. Some vintages of this wine can tend towards more Douro’esque characteristics while others lean towards more Northern Rhone Cote Rotie stature. This 2021 does neither, preferring instead to find a harmonious equilibrium between these two dominant premium red varieties. A very grown up, sophisticated expression of this cuvee that possess great confidence and stature. Drink this on release and over the next 8 to 10+ years. (2,310 bottles produced.)

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

Savage Not Tonight Josephine 2021, WO Piekenierskloof, 7.5% Abv.

352 g/l RS | 9.8 g/l TA | 3.35 pH

First produced in 2018, the 2021 is only the third release of this sweet straw wine elixir made from 100% Chenin Blanc grapes from vines grown on rocky sandstone soils on the Piekenierskloof farm of Tierhoek. The grapes were dried for circa three weeks and then foot stomped for 5 days before being basket pressed into 225 litre barrels for fermentation. The wine was aged for 14 months in old 225 litre French oak barrels with a small portion aged in large demijohns. Made in incredibly small quantities, this specialty dessert wine offers up a profusion of fruit and floral aromatics ranging from dried apricots, honey, caramelized mango, tarte tatin and a hint of salted caramel. On the palate the wine is sumptuous and weightlessly silky soft, rolling over the tongue like melted honey infused with notes of dried peaches, crystallised mango and caramelized pineapples in liquor. Fabulously luxurious and decadent, this wine is also beautifully balanced with the perfect acid – sugar symmetry. The perfect wine to spoilt yourself with! Drink now and over the next 20+ years. (959 x 37.5cl bottles produced.)

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

Wines are available to the UK trade on allocation from Swig Wines.

Recommended retail prices are circa £32.99 for the Savage whites and £34.99 for the Savage reds.

Klein Constantia’s Stellenbosch Winery Anwilka Releases Its 2018 Red Blend…

The Anwilka Winery owned by Klein Contantia Estate, is based at the southern end of Stellenbosch with close proximity to the False Bay and is planted with 40 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot. Its proximity to the sea provides a specific maritime microclimate that, together with the old ferricrete soils, are perfectly suited for producing rich, opulent wines with freshness, salinity and balance.

Under the guidance of internationally renowned Bordeaux wine personalities Hubert de Boüard (co-owner of Château Angélus in Saint-Emilion) and Bruno Prats (former owner of Château Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estèphe), Anwilka has established a worldwide reputation for its flagship red blend which has in years gone by been famously described by international wine critic Robert Parker Jr. as “…the finest red wine I have ever had from South Africa”.

With Klein Constantia group winemaker Matt Day recently taking over full winemaking responsibilities at Anwilka, you can certainly expect to see the true latent potential of this well positioned estate realised in the coming years.

Anwilka 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.36% Abv.

3.4 g/l RS | 5.0 g/l TA | 3.70 pH

A blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Syrah and 5% Petit Verdot which was aged for 19 months in French oak, 50% new 400 litre barrels and 50% second fill. The colour is a deep, dark, opaque black plum with a black cherry rim. The aromatics are fresh and perfumed with notes of mocha, black cherry, bramble berries, melted tar and kelp emerging on the nose. The palate too shows archetypal 2018 vintage character with nuances of poached black plums, sun dried black cherries, melted black liquorice, saline cassis and hints of cedar spice. The textural frame is slightly more foursquare with glassy crisp acids and grippy mineral tannins padded out by an ample, inky black fruit concentration. While not quite as silky, seamless and effortless as the distinguished 2017, this is nevertheless an impressive red blend that should reward 8 to 10+ years of cellaring, being kept fresh and vital by its crunchy, mouth-watering acidity.

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

Van Biljon Wines – The Undiscovered Fine Wine Gem in the Heart of the Polkadraai Hills of Stellenbosch…

This beautiful small boutique farm is situated in the famed Polkadraai Hills region of Stellenbosch, sitting alongside famous neighbours like Reyneke Wines, Raats Family Wines and De Toren. While most of these excellent wines rose to fame for originating in Stellenbosch, more recently, as collectors and connoisseurs have started to scratch a little deeper into the finer details of the individual wards and terroirs of the region, the Polkadraai has risen to new heights of fame globally. Known for its deep fertile soils and well drained decomposed granitic soils and moderating sea breezes off the False Bay lying to the South, the terroir has formed a perfect home to the classic Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

As if the wonderful terroir wasn’t enough, the wines are made by one of the great winemakers of the Cape, Chris Keet, creator of the legendary Cordoba Crescendo 1995 Cape Bordeaux Red that lights up the Cape fine wine auction houses with big R8000+ prices (£400) when bottles occasionally come on the market for sale. Chris is a master with Bordeaux varieties and meticulously crafts an impressive Cape Bordeaux Blend using traditional winemaking techniques combined with modern technology to produce wines with intensity, concentration, balance and structure.

Tasting the Van Biljon 2017 and 2018 and the Keet First Verse 2018 Bordeaux blend with Chris Keet at the winery in March 2022.

I first became acquainted with the Van Biljon CINQ after tasting the 2013 vintage which I rated 93/100 back in October 2016. Subsequent vintages like the 2014 seemed to just get better and better, rating 94+/100 when tasted in October 2018. I sadly missed the epic 2015 vintage which sold out very quickly to an airline group I understand but was thrilled to taste the fabulous 2017 new release again when Julia Van Biljon was over in London recently. This is definitely a wine that flies under the fine wine radar but undoubtedly deserves to be far better know as it stands among the great Bordeaux Blends produced in the Western Cape winelands.

Van Biljon Wines CINQ 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.4% Abv.

2.3 g/l RS | 5.8 g/l TA | 3.5 pH

The 2017 CINQ is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 11% Merlot, 6% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot and spent 18 months maturing in selected French oak barrels. This is a seductive and enticing Cape Bordeaux blend that utilises all five red Bordeaux varieties to great effect. On the nose there is initially a pronounced sweet cedar and sappy red fruited spiciness from the Cabernet Franc before notes of dried herbs, chai tea, black currant and dusty graphite come to the fore. The well-honed palate shows considerable elegance and harmony with a fine grained textural balance revealing layers of spicy red and black berry fruits, notes of cherry tobacco and a tart, tangy acidity on a long, weightlessly concentrated finish. Stony drying tannins lend a further air of seriousness, structure and age ability on the long sleek finish. An attractive offering that must rank among the finest releases from Chris Keet and the Van Biljon winery to date. Drink this from release or over the next 10 to 15+ years.

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

For stock availability, please contact Woodwinters UK for trade allocations.

The Hemel-en-Aarde Cabernet Sauvignon that Continues to Defy Expectations – Tasting the Restless River Main Road & Dignity 2018…

Cabernet Sauvignon is not supposed to be this successful in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in the Walker Bay region. But like innovators before him, think Tim Hamilton-Russell, Craig Wessels has never been one to settle for conformity or pre-set industry parameters of quality with his wine styles. The track record is now so firmly established for the Restless River Cabernet Sauvignon that Craig certainly has no problem selling out of allocations of this exceptional expression.

Many of the 2017 reds reached heights of quality not seen for many years (2015 aside), so expectations for 2018 and the last drought vintages were understandably very high. This is a premium priced wine (circa £55 to £59pb retail) which consumers expect to reach certain quality heights every vintage. Craig Wessels has done a sterling job with the 2018 and while the main release in South Africa was already at the beginning of 2022, the wine is only now being offered seriously in the UK. If you have not tried this stunner, treat yourself. It’s a fascinatingly individual expression of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Restless River Main Road & Dignity Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 14.5% Abv.

A 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from two single vineyards, namely Main Road (1.59 hectares) and Dignity (0.71 hectares) in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley matured for 23 months in 225 litre barriques with approximately 25% new oak. Located five kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean in the heart of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir country, this exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon red continues to confound the sceptics. Coming from the last of the proper drought vintages, Craig Wessels has captured a wonderfully opulent and heady expression of Cabernet Sauvignon with plenty of exoticism and ripeness while never losing a certain feeling of classicism and elegance. Tasted over two days, the wine shows an impressive depth of black and blue berry fruits with initial notes of plum skins, pressed violets, wet leaves, sapidity and sweet cedar spice followed by tilled earth, salty black liquorice and cherry kirsch liquor nuances. On the palate the fruit depth is broad and plush with a dark cherry and black currant intensity, hints of graphite and iodine and finishing with a fine-grained mineral tannin grip and yet more salty liquorice notes. The 2018 vintage seems more Napa Valley than Stellenbosch / SA in style but certainly a very well honed, opulent expression. Drink this now and over the next 10 to 15 years. (7,765 bottles produced.)

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

Available to the trade in the UK from SWIG wines. (

Stars in the Dark Syrah 2020 From Minimalist Wines Shines Brightly…

I was recently asked why no one had reviewed the 2020 Stars in the Dark Syrah from the dynamic young talent Sam Lambson. I replied that the wine had arrived in the UK basically all pre-sold and there was none “to be had” for general drinking. And then, as if by magic, a friend joined me for lunch and brought along a bottle of the 2020, the third vintage release from Minimalist Wines.

This fabulous red comes from Cape Agulhas, one of the coldest and most inhospitable wine regions in the Western Cape … so certainly not an easy spot to grow vines. There is very little rain, the winds howl incessantly and the shallow, layered shales and koffieklip-littered soils of Elim provide little nourishment for the vines. The ripening season is cool and lengthy yet, with their roots driven deep, the tenacious Syrah vines on this 21-year old parcel yields minute, concentrated berries with electric natural acidity. As Sam Lambson often points out, “some of the best things in life emerge from tough times and dark places.”

The 2020 growing season began with a balmy spring which ensured both a successful budburst and flowering. A moderate summer then settled in bringing fine winds through the vineyards, which helped keep the vines fresh and disease-free while the steady heat helped concentrate the grapes. Although temperatures were definitely warm, they seldom spiked, which helped keep drought conditions in check. Towards the harvest, some welcome rain fell providing a respite from what had been a period of intense drought, although the humid conditions did then see a surge of rot and disease, which producers had to work hard to mitigate.

Minimalist Wines Stars in the Dark Syrah 2020, WO Cape Agulhas, 13.5% Abv.

A 100% pure Syrah red, the 2020 once again reveals a piercing black berry fruit aromatic profile that shares so much with the greatest Syrah examples from the Northern Rhone and Cote Rotie in particular. With the complex melange of black berry fruits come nuances of dried violets, potpourri and lavender together with dried herbs, garrigue, peppercorns and pithy cherry spice. The palate shows wonderful poise and precision, real intensity of fruit together with purity, minerality and telltale coastal salinity expressed with a kelpy, oyster shell reductive hint. Still tightly coiled and full of tension, this will be a fine Syrah to bury in the cellar for 5+ years but can be coaxed to display some of its finery with an hour or so in a decanter. A truly splendid wine that builds on the successes of the previous two drought affected vintages.

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

Prime Stellenbosch Winery Waterford Estate Release An Exceptional New Value for Money Cape Bordeaux Red Blend – Tasting the Antigo Red 2019…

The Waterford Estate is probably best known for their great red blend, The Jem. But recently, Waterford have released another little Bordeaux blend to minimal fanfare despite its sexy packaging and exceptional quality in bottle. A superb Cape Bordeaux Blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec, this is a wonderful addition to the ranks of Stellenbosch’s affordable premium reds that will find a thirsty and willing clientele as the cost-of-living squeeze starts to bite. Why compromise on quality when you can buy fabulous wines like this!?

Waterford Antigo Red 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.

A flamboyant and extroverted wine brimming with lifted aromatics of sweet cedar, cherry tobacco, black currant, ground nutmeg and graphite spice. The palate is as bright as the aromatics are lifted with a wonderfully creamy, supple mouthfeel layered with tart black currant, brûléed coffee beans, dried herbs and pithy black cherry on the suave, sleek but densely fruited finish. Elegant and beautifully accessible but also deceptively complex and serious. An impressive and expressive red wine packed full of class. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8 years.

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

Bordeaux Opulence at Its Very Best – Tasting the De Mour Pomerol 2017 Red…

The De Mour Pomerol is a special Cuvee Bordeaux produced by the Belgian De Schepper – De Mour family and whose wines are for the most part sold in the Benelux, Scandinavia and the UK. The De Schepper family commenced a large scale investment spree in the mid to late 1990’s, bringing the various Chateaux under their ownership into the modern winemaking era, combining Bordeaux’s various sought after terroirs with high-end technology and traditional know-how to create a range of authentic artisanal wines with great opulence, finesse, modernity and personality under the watchful eye of highly respected head winemaker, Jean-Michel Garcion.

The De Schepper – De Mour Bordeaux portfolio now includes several flagship Chateaux in the Haut Medoc, Margaux and St Emilion appellations. Respected for their excellent quality and value for money, their portfolio is now a go-to source for merchants seeking out top quality, direct shipment Chateaux wines from Bordeaux.

De Mour Pomerol 2017, Bordeaux, 13.5% Abv.

This is a fabulously big, bold, opulent Pomerol with an enticing ruby / purple colour and an extravagant and extroverted aromatics of stewed black plums, cherry kirsch liquor, black currant and cherry confit with just a hint of vanilla essence, kelp and subtle top notes of bonfire smoke. The palate is fleshy, showy, rich and boldly ostentatious showing lush, creamy tannins generously supported by sweet black currant fruit intensity, salty cassis, black liquorice and an assortment of other exotic flavours straight from a Michelin Star restaurant’s dessert trolley. Full and fleshy but also finely balanced with fresh acids and spicy mineral tannins, you can drink this wine in its precocious youth to experience its full, succulent personality or age for 6 to 8+ years to experience some tertiary delights. Definitely one for the Bordeaux hedonists.

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

For more information or direct shipment prices ex-cellar, contact: Anthony Crameri –

Vassaltis Vineyards Breaking the Mould with Their Experimental Reds – Tasting the New Kaloupi 2020 Red Blend…

If it’s not South African wines international wine critics are raving about these days then there’s a very good chance they will be writing about all the exciting new wines coming out of both the Greek mainland and its many idyllic Mediterranean islands. But that’s not where the similarities end.

Both countries have experienced a revolution in wine quality, South Africa in the early 2000s onwards and Greece more latterly. Both countries have also been quick out the blocks with their exceptional white wines, many in Greece based around the premium flagship varieties of Assyrtiko or Malagousia, just as Chenin Blanc was used in South Africa to lead the charge. For top quality red wines however, both countries have faced more of a challenge elevating wine quality across styles and varieties.

Visiting old vine vineyards in Vourvoulos, Santorini with owner Yannis Valambous and winemaker Yiannis Papaeconomou.

South Africa is now reaping the benefits of two decades of experimentation, precision viticulture and striving for terroir driven wine quality. In Greece, the greater red wine project is still regarded as a work in progress, but there are top producers like Vassaltis making steady leaps in quality with new experimental reds like this Mavrotragano blend. As so often is the case, the answer to refinement and elegance lies in making wines where less is more, built around earlier picking times, fruit purity and natural acid freshness. The revolution in quality is well underway.

This new Red is a field blend of 30% Mandilaria, 30% Mavrotragano and 40% Assyrtiko, co-fermented with some semi-carbonic on the Mavrotragano, sun-drying on the Mandilaria and whole bunch on the Assyrtiko. Vassaltis used the Mavrotragano for the aromatics, fruit and structured tannis, the Mandilaria for the glycerol, alcohol and acidity and the Assyrtiko essentially for the part of the blend that brings all these elements together to give the wine a characteristic balance and roundness. The wine saw no oak ageing.

100 to 120 year old vine Assyrtiko in the kouloura training system in Vourvoulos.

Vassaltis Vineyards Kaloupi Red Blend 2020, Santorini, 14% Abv.

Made very much in the less is more philosophy, the aromatics are initially dark, mineral, basaltic and spicy before layers of sappy black berries, crushed gravel, dried herbs and notes of forest bramble berries and sun raisined cranberries. Texturally, this has more in common with the Loire, Burgundy or dare I say it, the Swartland, with a tight knit fruit density displayed with effortless elegance, weightless fruit concentration and vibrantly fresh, energetic acids. If I tasted this wine blind, Greece would be among my last possible options indicating what a paradigm shifting, well honed quality Red this wine really is. With its underlying basaltic terroir, the wine finishes with an impressively elegant, restrained classicism draped in a delicately mineral tannin veil. There is a hint of warmth on the end of the finish but is not enough to detract from the overall impression of excellence that this wine offers. Drink it slightly chilled, but certainly decanted, and the pleasure will follow. (250 bottles produced in 2018 and 1,250 in the follow up 2022.)

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

Glenelly Estate Establish the Lady May Cape Bordeaux Blend As One of South Africa’s True Icon Reds – Reviewing the 2016 and 2017 Releases…

In some of the biggest wine industry news of the year, it was recently announced that winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain would be leaving the Glenelly Estate to replace the retiring Andre Van Rensburg at Vergelegen Wine Estate. Luke will take up his appointment around September 2022 this year, following in the footsteps of another legendary giant of the Cape wine industry, André van Rensburg (1998-2022) and Martin Meinert (1989-1998).

But Luke O’Cuinneagain, who has been winemaker at Glenelly Estate in Ida’s Valley, Stellenbosch, since 2008, and previously worked for Rustenburg Estate for five years, leaves Glenelly in rude health having recently presided over the release of three of their greatest wines to date: Lady May 2015, 2016 and the soon to be released 2017 Cape Bordeaux red blend.

Luke tasting with Neal Martin from Vinous Media in London recently.

With both estates reaching new heights of quality recently, thanks to extensive virus free replantings at Vergelegen together with maturing vineyards at Glenelly, the future looks very exciting for both wineries, especially when you consider that Luke recons the Lady May 2018, 2019 and 2020, all still in the estate’s cellars, should be better wines than either of the 2015, 2016 or 2017 blends. Of course, only time will tell, but in the meantime, the 2017 Lady May is certainly a creation to behold! Make room in your cellars for this one!

Glenelly are big fans of benchmarking their wines against the very best producers in the world.

Glenelly Estate Lady May 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc.

The 2016 blend throws a particularly dark, opaque red/black colour in the glass. Dark and foreboding but also ever so inviting at the same time. The aromatics are quite defined with perhaps the Cabernet Franc component currently punching way above its weight of 6% with seductive notes of freshly shaved cedar lead pencil spice, graphite, iron filings, iodine and the now hallmark Lady May character of dark, black, menthol cassis and peppermint crisp milk chocolate nuances. The palate is wonderfully suave and sleek, creamy and mouth coating with an accessibility and generosity of black and blueberry fruits that is very comforting and familiar. But just when you think the mouthfeel is all about silky tannins and fleshy black fruit concentration, the delicious tangy acids kick in to land this Hercules of a wine cleanly and effortlessly on the runway without even a hiccup. Like so many 2016 super-premium Cape Bordeaux blends from Stellenbosch, this wine thrills, seduces the senses and certainly impresses for the vintage. Drink from release or cellar for 10 to 15 years.

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

Glenelly Estate Lady May 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot.

If the 2015 Lady May blockbuster resembles a powerful, dense, Pauillac-styled Cabernet Sauvignon led red blend, then the 2017 is pretty much the antithesis, boasting the most elegant, silky, seamlessly harmonious texture combined with an attractively fragrant, Margaux-esque delicacy and graceful precision. While super youthful, the wine inevitably displays some of the lush, alluring and reassuringly expensive new oak creaminess, boasting layers of warm buttered brown toast smothered in black currant preserve, fresh espresso, hints of mocha dust and delicate vanilla pod spice notes. But probably the most pleasing element about this wine is the way winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain has absolutely captured the truest essence of the 2017 vintage with its extreme purity, weightless fruit concentration that dances across the palate together with a focused, piercing intensity on the long, luxurious finish. This is class personified and I for one am completely smitten. Drink on release and over 25+ years.

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

Glenelly Estate wines are available to the trade in the UK through Seckford Wine Agencies. RRP is circa £40 to £45 per bottle.