Nothing More Fun Than the Second Time – Tasting the New Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay 2020 Release…

Berene Sauls is a testament to hard work, belief, faith, and a simmering vision for greatness. I feel so utterly privileged to be one of the wine trade professionals who tasted her early vintages and identified her passion and vision.

But making a top Pinot Noir was never going to be enough for her so roll on the challenge of making a premium Chardonnay. The maiden 2019 was pretty impressive with its steely tension and crystalline purity. But of course it’s always the second release, the second album, that is always the hardest challenge. I recently tasted the second release from Berene and was suitably impressed!

Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay 2020, WO Hemel en Aarde Ridge

This is another accomplished Chardonnay from Tesselaarsdal that boasts a breath and depth of textural opulence making the maiden 2019 vintage look more like a chiselled Premier Cru Chablis in comparison. The 2020 nose boasts classic notes of spicy yellow citrus, green honeydew melon, white peach and a bold limestone mineral vein. The wine coats your mouth with a fine glycerol weight and delicious mouth-watering green apple pastille notes enlivened with pronounced tangy acids. Seamless and harmonious, Berene Sauls has created another attractive expression of premium Chardonnay that is ready to drink on release.

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

Tasting the Special Limited Release Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2020 from Duncan Savage…

Duncan’s previous life at Cape Point Vineyards is certainly well documented, for it was during his tenure there as head winemaker that he pretty much perfected the art of producing iconic Sauvignon Blanc. In 2019 Duncan happened to stumble upon a 32 year old block of bush vine Sauvignon Blanc in Stellenbosch. The elevation, wind and vine age all pointed in the right direction and after a bit of experimentation, the Salt River Sauvignon Blanc label was born.

It seems Duncan fell in love with the wine and vineyard and along with his UK importer Swig Wines, decided to create a new brand and style separate from the rest of the Savage Wines range. Salt River is in the heart of the city of Cape Town, and is of course where Duncan’s trendy urban winery can be found. As Duncan’s UK importer Swig Wines points out, “Salt River is very reminiscent of an edgy Shoreditch in London a few years back.”

Duncan in his Salt River winery in Cape Town’s city centre.

This Sauvignon Blanc was fermented in a combination of stainless steel tanks, concrete eggs and old barrels. The wine spent four months in these vessels before being bottled, followed by a further two months in bottle prior to release. Only 500 cases of this wine were produced.

Savage Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2020, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

RS 2 g/l | pH 3.3 | TA 6.4 g/l

This has all the hallmarks of an expert Sauvignon Blanc master negotiating the ripeness and pungency of this variety with extreme precision. Beautifully complex and intense, the aromatics show notes of freshly cut fennel, green asparagus, yellow baking apples, waxy lemon peel and hints of fresh wet thatch. On the palate, it’s just as impressive with nervy, pithy yellow grapefruit peel zest, white citrus spice, tangerine and glycerol peach liquor nuances on the saline finish. This is next level Sauvignon Blanc that will appeal to novices and connoisseurs alike. Pop and pour!

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

The Phoenix Rises Once Again – Tasting the New Release Naude Family Wines Grenache 2019 Red…

This is a journey that all started in 2014 with one experimental tank of Grenache from a special 18 year old vineyard parcel in the Agter Paardeberg, that Rosa Kruger had identified for Ian Naude. I just happened to be visiting Ian to taste his new Chenin Blanc and Cinsault vintages in barrel when I noticed this large stainless steel tank fermenting away in the corner of Ian’s cellar. When I enquired what it was and whether I could taste it, Ian suddenly appeared rather nervous and seemed quite reluctant. In the end, I did taste this magical wine that finally blossomed into one of the finest Grenache single varietal wines ever produced in South Africa.

But don’t take my word for it. There have been at least three large blind tastings carried out that I know of where the Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014 trumped the competition, coming out top against some of the finest Grenache examples from not only South Africa but also France and Spain, including twice beating the legendary Chateau Rayas in a blind line up. So the credentials of this vineyard as well as Ian’s winemaking prowess cannot be doubted. But not all stories have a happy ending. After only one vintage, Ian unfortunately lost the contract to the fruit from this vineyard, and with the maiden Naude Grenache 2014 red riding high in the market, no further releases were forthcoming… that is until 2019, when Ian managed to once again agree access to the fruit from this vineyard that was now nearing 24 years old.

In 2019, the Grenache crop was unfortunately one of the smallest ever due to the ongoing effects of a four year drought. Severe weather fluctuations during bud break and flowering also contributed to an already challenging season. There were some small positives however, with the small crop yielding exceptional fruit quality. Ian points out that the winter preceding the 2019 harvest received a high, drought busting rainfall allowing the vineyards and soils to start their long road to recovery after almost half a decade of drought conditions.

With healthy fruit beckoning, Ian consciously wanted to produce a red that moved away from the jammy, heavy, earthy ‘barnyard’ style that Grenache wines so easily orientate towards. After many visits to the vineyard and picking at a ripeness that would make a lighter, more elegant style of Grenache, the grapes were naturally fermented with minimal intervention. A combination of whole bunch, destemmed grapes and stalks where utilised during a natural fermentation in stainless steel tanks. After one or two soft pump-overs per day, the wine was left to settle for two weeks before being pressed and transferred into older 225 litre small French oak barrels where the wine was aged for 12 to 15 months.

Due for general release in mid-December 2020, this wine will almost certainly find an instant fine wine audience not just from those Grenache lovers that were lucky enough to savour Ian’s legendary 2014 release, but also from new consumers who have subsequently got to know Ian through his exceptional Chenin Blanc and white blends as well as his highly lauded Old Vine Cinsaults from Darling. This is yet another tantalising new release from a winemaker that is currently reaching new heights of fame and popularity both at home in South Africa but also internationally.

Naudé Family Wines Grenache 2019, WO Western Cape, 12% Abv.

RS 1.2 g/L | TA 6.1 g/L | pH 3.2 g/L 

There are many wonderful styles of Grenache around but one thing you can be assured of is the “Naude style” will always offer plentiful notes of perfume and fragrance, tart bright lively acids, red earthy fruits, pinpoint precision and above all, pronounced purity. This 2019 is vibrantly youthful allowing the aromatics to sing in unison with complex notes of violets and rose petals, bright red berry fruits and subtle notes of ruby grapefruit and red bramble berry spice. Cool, crystalline and wonderfully pure, the palate is steely and classically focused with a tart tangy acidity, zesty hints of blood orange citrus, cranberry and red plums and a backing mineral undertone of stony grey slate and fine grained gravelly tannins. Comparisons with Ian’s iconic 2014 Grenache expression will be inevitable but in many ways, the 2019 release is more polished, fine boned, focused and self-assured with more of the signature Naudé purity, tautness and light touch intensity in evidence. Once again, this impressive new release ranks amongst the finest single varietal Grenache reds produced in the Cape. Drink on release or age for 10-15+ years.

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

Creation Shifts Into Rhone Gear with the Release of Their New Grenache 2019 Red…

JC and Carolyn Martin, the owners of the Creation winery situated in the picturesque Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge region, are synonymous with the production of world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. But slightly less well known is that they also produce a deliciously seductive Grenache red that is made from grapes harvested from mature, virus-free vines which allows them the opportunity to create a wine with greater fruit purity, focus and precision.

I recently sampled the wonderful new 2019 expression of this impressive wine and can confirm that there is definitely a new Rhone ranger in town. The traditional skin fermentation was followed by malolactic fermentation in barrels with around 2-3 rackings over circa 14 months maturation with just a rough filtration before bottling.

Creation Sumac Grenache 2019, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

This bright and lively Grenache comes from another exceptional vintage across the country for both reds and whites, delivering impressively expressive aromatics, a surfeit structural tension, delicious fruit purity and the classic 2019 mineral backbone. Still youthful and full of vigour, the nose boasts hints of crushed rose petals, Chinese five spice, black currant liquor, juniper, black cherry and savoury black bramble berry nuances. The melted black liquorice and crème de cassis complexity mingles with notes of roasted earth, bruleed oak, black olive tapenade and freshly cracked black peppercorns. The palate shows an impressively fleshy weight, an intensity of salty black fruits, sleek fine grained tannins and finishes with a slightly raw, mineral youthfulness. While the mid-palate remains quite tightly wound and a little shy, this wine should grow into its skin with another 6 to 12 months of bottle ageing. Yet another cracking red wine from this leading light producer in the Walker Bay. Oh, and a better braai / barbeque red wine you’ll struggle to find!

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

Henschke Current Release Tasting with Stephen and Prue Henschke – 150 Years of Winemaking History…

Like many fine wine lovers in the UK, I probably don’t drink enough top end Australian wines these days because the best stuff is either difficult to get hold of or very expensive or both. Australia suffers from having a small number of very top end power brands that are incredibly sought after by locals and international buyers alike. So when considering the most famous quality wine brands, Henschke must be right up there with others like Penfold’s Grange, Jim Barry’s Armagh, Torbreck’s The Laird and of course the super sought after cult producer Wendouree’s Clare Valley Shiraz.

I recently got the opportunity to catch up with Stephen and Prue Henschke in Australia over Zoom to taste through an impressive array of their current releases. But it’s amazing to think that this “new world” estate first produced wine in 1868 and six generations later, the quality has never been higher.

As innovators, Henschke first adopted screwcap closures in 1996 starting with their Julius Riesling and more latterly, adopted the vinolock closure in 2004 for certain red wines. Henschke also only use organic and biodynamic viticulture and winemaking for their wines.

Henschke Croft Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2018

Lovely yellow citrus driven aromatics with delicate notes of biscuits, leesy white toast, green apple pastille and gentle kiss of vanilla oak spice. Acids are crunchy, tangy and bright framing steely white citrus notes with stony minerality, pithy yellow grapefruit, hints of white peach and a taut, crystalline green apple finish. Lovely focus and purity.

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

Henschke Giles Lenswood Pinot Noir 2018

First produced in 1989. Ripe generous nose packed full of baking spices, sweet exotic herbs, bramble berry, sun-dried cranberries, pink musk, candied strawberry, blood orange and subtle raspberry and pomegranate. The palate shows a polished, moderately dense texture with powdery tannins, chalky grip and a round, bold plummy red forest berry fruit character.

(Wine Safari score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Henschke Henry’s Seven Barossa Shiraz / Grenache / Mataro / Viognier 2018

Named after Henry Evans who planted the first 7 acres of vineyards in Keyneton in 1853, the nose is packed with black fruits, black berries but also lovely complex notes of sage, black pepper and spicy plum. The palate is vibrant and grippy with attractive rustic hints, sweet savoury black currant intensity, finishing with focus and persistence. Very attractive.

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

Henschke Johann’s Garden Barossa Valley Grenache / Mataro / Shiraz 2017

Made from Low yielding old vine bush vines that are dry grown and trellised on limestone soils. This wine shows rich opulent characteristics of sweet Chinese five spice mixed with notes of blueberries, black berries and raspberry coulis. Palate texture is super bright and juicy, light on its feet but with delicious concentration, powdery tannins and a succulent blueberry crumble finish with a beguiling lick of grey slate dust. Compact and very complete.

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

Henschke Keyneton Euphonium 2015

Previously called Keyneton Estate, this is a blend of 50 year old vine Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from vineyards planted by Cyril Henschke in the Eden Valley in the 1960s. The aromatics are complex and dense, packed full of sage, baking herbs and earthy peppery spice. From the great 2015 vintage, the Cabernet Sauvignon reveals notes of sweet black tea, tannery leather, sweet cherry tobacco and bramble berry spice and combines beautifully with savoury Shiraz nuances and just a kiss of hoisin plum sauce on the finish.

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

Henschke Mount Edelstone Eden Valley Shiraz 2015

From the historic Mt Edelstone vineyard planted in 1912. Low yielding, dry-grown Shiraz vines produced a wine first bottled in 1952 and is the longest consecutively produced single vineyard Shiraz in Australia. The nose boasts layers of Chinese five spice, dried violet perfume, sage, dried mint leaf, camphor and black plum with a sprinkling of black pepper spice. The palate is generously fruited but dense and muscular while remaining texturally polished and precise with fine supporting mineral tannins. The palate is very expressive with layers of creme de cassis, savoury sweet black plum and shows a fabulous harmony and balance together with power and poise. A class act yet again.

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

Wines are available in the UK from importer Liberty Wines.

The Fine Wine Safari’s KWV ‘The Mentors’ New Release Range Review…

KWV was founded in 1918, the same year South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, was born. In the space of just over a century, the country and its wine industry have seen many changes, and KWV, as the company who united wine farmers during the industry’s fledgling years, is now one of South Africa’s leading international wine brands.

When I was growing up all around the world as the son of a diplomat, the letters K-W-V were enough to lend a massive amount of reassurance and a total stamp of quality. Needless to say, post-1994, the KWV brand was inevitably promoted to great heights in the home market with varying amounts of success. Today, the company produces a very broad array of wines and brands under multiple wine makers with their Mentors range leading the quality charge.

KWV The Mentors Orchestra 2017, WO Western Cape, 14.5% Abv.

This 2017 shows full opulent aromatics with rich notes of blueberry and black berry fruits, creme de cassis and cherry kirsch liquor spice. The palate shows multiple layers of plush black creamy fruits with subtle nuances of liquorice, graphite and a salty bite on the finish. Textural, generously fruity but also displays a classical minerality, muscular tannins and a long expressive finish.

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

KWV The Mentors Pinotage 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

This wine seems to exhibit a more narrow, tightly focused array of aromatics and flavours. The more overt, exotic Pinotage characters seem to have been reigned in somewhat to show much purer black berry fruits, black currant, blueberry with a stony wet river pebble minerality. Sumptuous, plush and textured, given a good decant, this wine becomes very generous, creamy, seamless and approachable. If only they made Pinotage like this in the 1980s and early 1990s, it may have become far more of a signature variety for South Africa.

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

KWV The Mentors Petit Verdot 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

Rich and savoury on the nose, this expression shows layers of black and blue berry fruits, black olive, black plum and freshly tilled earth. Dense and sleek, the tannins are muscular yet supremely polished lending a full glycerol mouthfeel with all the tell tale glassy, tart crunchy acids of Petit Verdot balanced by ample fruit concentration. Not surprisingly, this wine is profound and intense in its youth but should potentially blossom into something really special with 5-8 years of extra bottle age!

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

KWV The Mentors Canvas 2018, WO Coastal, 14.5% Abv.

This KWV ‘blank canvas’ is decorated with 38% Shiraz, 19% Grenache Noir, 12.5% Petite Syrah, 12.5% Tempranillo, 12% Carignan, 3% Mourvedre and 3% Tannat sourced from Wellington, Paarl, Swartland and Stellenbosch. The aromatics are pure, clean and delicately black fruited with hints of blueberry, sour black plum, cassis and savoury mulberry without any standout aromatic pungency. But on the palate, the wine and its blending really come into their own with an intense concentration, piercing crunchy acids and a cool, seamless, slightly saline tart black berry finish. A complex blend executed with precision. Might be a bit of a fruit salad blend but it is certainly a lot more drinkable than many Cape blends on the market.

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

KWV The Mentors Orchestra 2018, WO Western Cape, 14.5% Abv.

A blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 6% Carmenere aged for 18 months in 70% new French oak barrels. The youthful nose displays opulent notes of cocoa and mocha, vanilla spice, black plum, tannery leather, sweet tobacco and floral hints of violets. On the palate, the wine exhibits its more flamboyant style with soft creamy tannins, dense textural black fruits with bright acids, a buttered brown toast complexity and a sleek, harmonious, vibrant black and blue berry fruited finish. This is ready to go now but will improve with 3 to 5+ more years ageing.

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

KWV The Mentors Petite Syrah 2018 Limited Release, WO Paarl, 14.5% Abv.

Another well made wine from KWV and the Mentors range. But this limited release, 1000 bottle Cuvee of Petite Syrah is a little more wild and exotic than some of the more traditional blends in the range. This wine is full of multiple layers of black berry, blueberries and tart sappy plums with a wonderful supportive aromatic floral note of lavender and rose petals and a tease of black pepper spice. The palate is assuredly dense and textured with plenty of zesty acidity, pithy sandy tannins and a spicy but tart leafy finish. Plenty of polished density and opulent fruit intensity make this a very enjoyable glass of red. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years.

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

KWV Abraham Perold Tributum 2015, WO Coastal, 14.5% Abv.

This Perold Cuvee is an exotic Cape blend consisting of Pinotage, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. As you’d expect from a premium cuvee, it is dense, ripe and punchy with notes of sweet stewed plums, molasses, Christmas cake, tilled earth and earthy red currant notes. This bold density is carried to the palate where the rich, slightly baked plum notes announce their presence and flirt with stewed black currants, winter fruit compote notes and an oak spice finish. Super plush, opulent and generous, this is a very impressive “Cape Blend” in the context of the current market’s offerings.

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

Exploring KWV’s Impressive Maiden Release Roodeberg 1949 Anniversary Red Blend 2017…

The Roodeberg brand plays a mythical part in the South African wine industry’s history. Often used as a spearhead for brand South Africa in international markets during the height of the apartheid years meant that it was not readily available in the home market and accordingly, became a bit of a unicorn red wine.

Indeed, for the first 55 years, Roodeberg was exclusively made for export after Canada paved the way in the 1950s. Although not readily available locally in South Africa until 2004 without an acquaintance with a KWV quota, Roodeberg always enjoyed iconic status in the hearts and minds of South Africans.

So with the brand primarily focused on export markets, it did seem to lose some of its mystique and allure when KWV finally chose to launch it as a brand in the local South African market. With resulting changes to its style and inevitably, its quality level, it faded slightly to become yet another historical brand of times gone by.

The new 1949 Roodeberg Red Blend is a return to the original premium Roodeberg tradition and philosophy attempting a universal fine wine appeal. The excellent maiden 2017 vintage was produced from premium Stellenbosch grapes grown on the Grondves Farm, one of the primary sites for the development of mother plant material for the South African wine industry.

“Roodeberg 1949 is a dedicated collaborative effort harnessing some of the finest plant material along with our combined viticultural and winemaking expertise,” says winemaker Louwritz Louw, who worked closely with viticulturist Marco Ventrella and former KWV Cellarmaster and renowned wine educator Prof. Charl Theron in seeing this exclusive commemorative blend come to life.

Roodeberg 1949 embraces the revival of exciting French and Spanish varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon (38%) forms the foundation of the blend supported by Tempranillo (29%), Carignan (20%) and Carménère (13%). After fermentation, the different components were left to mature for 18 months in new French oak barrels with only the best barrels selected for blending and bottling for this maiden commemorative wine.

Dr Charles Niehaus

The original Roodeberg red blend was the brainchild of Dr Charles Niehaus, a legendary pioneer of the South African wine industry, who crafted the first vintage from the 1946 harvest. Dr Niehaus was the successor of Dr Abraham Izak Perold, the KWV’s chief wine scientist and revered father of Pinotage. Inspired by a glorious sunset over the Paarl mountains, the name Roodeberg, harks back to the vineyards of Rothenberg near Geisenheim in Germany where Dr Niehaus studied winemaking. He retired in 1971 leaving a rich legacy of winemaking prowess in his wake.

KWV 1949 Roodeberg Red Blend 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

This wine shows a very attractive aromatic profile of ripe red and black berries, caramelised notes of pecan pie, black liquorice, kirsch liquor and brûléed coffee beans. It’s certainly very inviting and seductive and doesn’t disappoint on the palate. Sleek and very suave, this has a wonderfully elegant texture as you’d expect from a well made 2017 red, with a fresh crunchy bright acidity that dances on the front of your tongue before being coated by a luxurious wave of silky soft red strawberry and black berry fruits, creamy soft chocolatey tannins and a tangy, sweet sour plummy finish. Weightless concentration with a cool defined line of acidity is accompanied by oaking that is superbly integrated and really adds to the wine like a chef’s deft sprinkle of salt and pepper without leaving a marked imprint. An impressive wine that grew in stature as it was allowed to open up in the glass over two plus hours. So elegant, silky and mouth-wateringly fresh, it will take plenty of will power not to drink this wine on release… as I suspect it will be at its best after 5 to 8 years and drink well for 15+ years. An impressive maiden release.

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

Another Surprise From the De Schepper Family – Tasting Chateau Lacombe Cadiot Bordeaux Superieur 2019…

I generally don’t review that many small, petit Chateau wines from Bordeaux unless they are second wines from larger, more well-known Grand Cru Classe estates that hold a lot of interest and intrigue for consumers, whether they are a straight second wine selection from left-over off cuts or “made” second wines from specific vineyards. The key point of interest for the reviewer and the consumer is of course trying to find the holy grail of classy wine that punches way above its price or reputational weight.

But here I am looking at a petit chateau wine produced by one of the most talented winemakers in Bordeaux at the moment. This wine, made by Jean-Michel Garcion, is sourced from a 13 hectare vineyard blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot from vines that are on average 15 years old and grown on classic loam and clay soils just down the road from the famous Chateau Cantemerle Haut Medoc estate.

It has to be said, my interest was slightly more piqued for this wine after it received a 97/100 Best In Show score at the recent Decanter World Wine Awards 2020. Some might raise eyebrows at the score but as a Decanter World Wine Awards Panel Chair for South Africa, I know exactly how difficult tasting blind can be. But for Bordeaux, it’s extra complicated as so much rests on the Chateau name and brand tasted, not the actual terroir of the grapes or the name and skill of the winemaker. But this one’s a cracker no doubt!

Chateau Lacombe Cadiot 2019, Bordeaux Superieur, 14% Abv.

An attractive deep dark garnet colour, the 2019 Lacombe Cadiot is a wonderfully precise expression with crisp, fresh, pure notes of black currants, blueberries, buttered brown toast, graphite and gravelly mineral nuances. Medium-bodied, the wine’s palate shows a crunchy vibrancy, a strict line of crisp acidity, blueberry, black cherry and smoky crème de cassis with an exotic note of hoisin plum sauce, wood spice, cloves and hints of Chinese five spice. What makes this wine a real head turner is the exceptional balance, suave cool elegance, attractive blackberry fruit concentration with a most attractive powdery, grippy, mineral tannin note on the finish. A wine that certainly punches way above its reputation, whatever your expectations from a Bordeaux red. Drink now to 2025+.

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

An Iconic White Rioja – Tasting the Current Release Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia 2011 Rioja Blanco…

I will never forget my Vina Gravonia vertical tasting evening with Maria-Jose and Jose Luis in November 2018. Beforehand, Jose Luis had apologised that Maria-Jose would unfortunately have to go to Hong Kong and would not be attending the tasting with him. Fair enough, they are one of the most high demand power wine couples in the world. So when the evening eventually arrived, it was an extra wonderful surprise for Maria-Jose to arrive, announcing her schedule had changed. This augured well for an exciting evening.

One of the most interesting points taken from the evening was that Vina Gravonia blanco, while not one of their most expensive wines, is certainly one of their rarest, especially the old vintages, as it is the only wine in the Tondonia range that the estate does not really hold back any archive stock. So for Maria-Jose to taste older back vintage verticals is quite a true rarity.

So her advice was buy all you can and cellar them as they can age equally as well as many Reserva or Gran Reserva whites! After this evening, the Vina Gravonia earned an even more special place in my icon ranks and remains one of my favourite food whites.

Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Vina Gravonia 2011 Rioja Blanco, 12.5% Abv.

This is yet another wonderful Vina Gravonia white Rioja. It just seems this estate can do no wrong. Coming from a warmer year with lower yields, the wine still retains its hallmark freshness, saline dried orange peel zest and an incredibly complex aromatic array of crushed almonds and walnuts, waxy lemon peel, oxidative rancio notes, dusty grey slate minerality, chamomile and a faint kerosene touch. The palate is fairly taut and nutty, showing a fine textural polish, a bitter saline nutty melange, hints of brine, sherry, honey, bruised yellow orchard fruits and a piquant finish of stony bitter orange. Perhaps not quite as intense or piercing as some previous vintage expressions, this 2011 is nevertheless a slightly more serious, austere, mineral driven food focused wine that should continue to develop further mouth-watering complexity over the next 8 to 12+ years. Buy every bottle you can find!

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

Naudé Family Wines Prepares For The Release of One Of Their Boldest Wines Yet – The 84 Year Old Vine ‘La Colline’ Rooigroendruif Franschhoek Semillon Gris…

There are few places more beautiful than an ancient old vine vineyard perched high in the mountains above a beautiful hamlet like Franschhoek. But that’s where you’ll find the magical 84 year old vines that have produced the fruit that made the new release Naudé Family Old Vine Semillon Gris 2019 bottled exclusively in magnum. In fact that’s actually a godsend as the wine is so delicious, at 12% Abv, one regular 75cl bottle will hardly touch sides!

This famous vineyard has over the years supplied fruit to such iconic producers as Alheit Family Wines, Boekenhoutskloof, John Seccombe of Thorne & Daughters and Adam Mason of Raised By Wolves. Now Naudé Family Wines joins this elite club. When chatting to Ian Naudé, he requested that I taste and review the wine over several days. Having done exactly that with incredible results for some of the Leeu Passant old vine reds recently, I had no objections what so ever in doing so. Also, tasting from magnum surely demands it!?

My impressions of this profound wine are captured below over three days of tasting.

Naude Family Wines La Colline Groendruif Semillon Gris 2020, WO Franschhoek, 12% Abv. (Bottled in Magnum)

Day 1…

Rich and fleshy with a broad glycerol weight and textural harmony. Lots of white peach and yellow orchard stone fruits with a spicy, grassy, herby peppery finish. There’s a lot going on here. Certainly a contemplative wine.

Day 2…

The wine seems to have really tightened up to show nervy white citrus, white pepper, liquid minerality, pithy peach stone, lemon iced tea with textural spice, phenolic grip, grape skin tannins and a dry bitter lemon persistence. Lovely wound spring tension with a stony pure focus on the finish.

Day 3…

Super excited to taste this again on day three and see what direction the wine has travelled. The nose is now full of pithy citrus and hints of crunchy green fruits with exotic notes of unripe tangerines and naartjies. The palate remains steely and crisp, bright and super taut with tart green apple, white peach and complexing layers of dried herbs and crushed granite minerality. Piercing and super focused, this is a very serious fine wine expression of majestic old vine Semillon bottled exclusively in magnums. Drink now and over the next 10-15+ years.

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