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 – anthony_crameri@orange.fr

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.

New Release Preview – Tasting the Raats Family Wines Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2020…

Bruwer Raats has been at the forefront of premium Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc production in South Africa for over 20 years. Now that these two varieties are riding high on a wave of global collector popularity, it is easy to forget the hard yards that were navigated all those years ago when critics wondered why Bruwer Raats persisted with championing two varieties that were broadly speaking unfashionable with little to no mainstream popularity.

Nowadays, Bruwer is lauded for his premium creations of Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, none more so than for the small production Eden Cabernet Franc produced with extreme precision viticulture, or “quality by design” as Bruwer likes to describe his viticulture and winemaking. I recently caught up in London with Bruwer to taste his new releases.

Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8000 vines per hectare) meticuously planned and planted 11 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, 5% of the grapes were whole bunch fermented before being aged for 8 months in new French oak, followed by a further 10 months elevage in older oak barrels.

Raats Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2020, 14% Abv.

The Raats Eden Cabernet Franc is always classical and impressively premium in feel and this 2020 is certainly no different. The aromatics are initially tight and compact at this embryonic stage of development before slowly blossoming into a pristinely pure, precise and wonderfully perfumed offering showing notes of violets, lilac, rose petals, pink musk, sweet sandalwood and subtle hints of crème de cassis, earthy mulberry and sweet vanilla pod spice. The palate displays an incredible tensile linearity together with fabulously compact, tight grained tannins and a sleek graphite laden minerality. This small production wine flaunts its premium pedigree, its supremely manicured textural elegance and effortless finesse to perfection. There is no mistaking that the high-density planting lends an extra dimension of intensity and concentration to the wine. Allow this wine a few more years in the cellar before enjoying over the next 15 to 20+ years. (359 bottles produced.)

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

Wines available to the trade in the UK from Alliance Wines.

Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 12: Petit Cantenac St Emilion Grand Cru 2018…

Clos Cantenac is a three hectare wine property on Bordeaux’s right bank with vines planted on a combination of deep gravel, sand and clay over limestone soils. It is situated close to the pre-historic “Megalith de Pierrefitte” in the Saint Emilion wine appellation and was purchased in 2007 by Martin Krajewski, the owner of Chateau de Sours and Chateau Seraphine in Pomerol.

Both Clos Cantenac in St Emilion and Château Seraphine in Pomerol – the properties are barely 5 km away from each other – follow similar strategies in the vineyard and winery having reintroduced cover crops to the vineyards and using only sustainable products and viticultural practices in order to protect the vines and the vineyard environment. With this Petit Cantenac, you certainly get the same feel of care and precision that goes into the Clos Cantenac Grand Vin but with greater accessibility for earlier drinking.

2018 vintage will be remembered as an exceptional year in Bordeaux with a glorious summer that extended long into harvest. However, the year began with many challenges and was initially characterised by a wet winter followed by a seriously cold and damp spring with the threat of mildew from spring onwards the strongest for decades. During this period there were also localised hailstorms in May and July, but the flowering in May and June was largely successful and was followed by good weather with just enough rain in early July to sustain the vines through even the hottest spells. In conclusion 2018 was an unusual vintage with extraordinary amounts of winter rain followed by a humid early growing season and an exceptionally long, hot, dry summer, which finally produced perfect harvest conditions.

Petit Cantenac St Emilion Grand Cru 2018, 13.5% Abv.

The 2018 Petit Cantenac is a blend of 90% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in 40% new French oak and 60% 2nd & 3rd fill barrels for 12 months. The appearance is a classic medium dark red / black plum garnet colour with an open and attractive aromatics of scorched earth, rose petals, red bramble berries, raspberries, red cherries and hints of hedgerow spice, sweet cloves and sandalwood. As so often with second wines from Bordeaux, less is often more and for this Petit Cantenac 2018, the supple medium bodied weight and soft fleshy texture make for an incredibly delicious wine. The palate boasts creamy layers of black currant, black cherry and blue berry fruits finishing with soft sweet tannins, invigorating but harmonious acids and a long, powdery, earthy vanilla pod finish. The over riding impression one is left with is that this is an opulent right bank wine that over delivers big time, offering the savvy Bordeaux drinker a lot of bang for their buck. Drink now and over the next 4 to 6+ years. (12,000 bottles produced.)

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

Available in the UK from Museum Wines.

https://www.museumwines.co.uk/

The Exciting Young Talent Putting the Helderberg On the Global Fine Wine Map – Tasting the Phenomenal Wines of Bernhard Bredell…

As someone who is very fortunate enough to have access to almost any winery and winemaker in South Africa, I often get asked who I think are the most exciting new talents emerging on the South African wine scene. Of course, there are so many phenomenal young producers emerging in the colourful wine industry landscape of the Western Cape that it makes picking out one or two almost seem foolish. But every now and then you meet special personalities and taste new releases that leave you contemplating the wines days or even weeks after tasting. One such producer is Bernhard Bredell.

The Granietsteen Chenin Blanc tastes and smells just like the vineyard from whence it comes!

Bernhard Bredell is the 7th generation of a family that has farmed in the Lower Helderberg area of Stellenbosch for over 160 years and his own Scions of Sinai label is a project he started in 2016 in an effort to save old vineyards that were planted by his grandfather Koos Bredell around a particular granitic hill known as Sinai. Bernhard’s winery now processes 20 tons of fruit producing around 1,250 cases of wine that are incredibly exciting, premium in quality and distinctly terroir driven.

The view from Sinai across the valley towards the Helderberg Mountain range.
Old Vine Chenin Blanc planted in 1978.
Bernhard tasting the Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2021 in the vineyard it’s grapes come from with friend and mentor Ian Naudé in March 2022.

I myself grew up buying and drinking the excellent fortified wines of Anton Bredell, Bernhard’s father, made under the JP Bredells Cape Port label. But over the years, with fortified wines falling out of favour with the mass market, and after a series of unsuccessful still wine brands together with expensive marketing projects going awry, the family winery was eventually closed and sold off in 2011.

But Bernhard Bredell has winemaking in his DNA and coursing through his veins, so any notions of opting out of the wine industry to pursue other interests was never an option. The Scions of Sinai winery was launched with the 2017 vintages made from grapes sourced from vineyards grown on Firgrove, 4kms from the Atlantic Ocean. Bernhard currently uses five single vineyards and then some smaller half hectare plots. These include a Grenache Blanc made from a vineyard located in the Klein Karoo near the Swartberg Mountains and Meiringspoort, planted in 2009 on Schist and Shale soils, producing 600 bottles called the Gramadoelas; the Granietsteen Chenin Blanc; the Heldervallei Cinsault; the Swanesang Syrah; the Feniks Pinotage and the Nomadis Cinsault / Pinotage Blend. All vineyards are secured on contracts and have been farmed organically for over 5 years.

Scions of Sinai Range Tasting:

Scions of Sinai Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2019, Helderberg (1978)

Sourced from a Chenin Blanc vineyard planted in 1978 on decomposed granite soils with very low fertility, high drainage and very low cropping levels that helps create intense flavour development in the grapes. There is a pre-fermentation maceration for around 3 nights for 70% on skins, 30% wholebunch pressed. Grapes are picked when they express the purity of the vineyard site while retaining naturally high acids. After fermentation, the wine is aged in large 400 litre barrels and kept on its lees for 9-10 months before being bottled unfiltered and unfined.

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

After tasting the excellent maiden 2017 vintage a few years ago, Bernhard delivers another very self-assured performance with this delightful 2019 Chenin Blanc. Made from another seriously good white vintage from 43 year old vines planted in 1978, this wine is rich and expressive and boasts fabulous aromatics of pear puree, white flowers, yellow orchard fruits and seductive top notes of freshly baked apple strudel. The palate is fresh and bright with hints of toasted hazelnuts and walnuts, pithy peach stone fruits, pineapple pastille and a delicate note of maritime salinity and brine on the finish. Wonderfully textural and concentrated, this wine makes your mouth water with its deliciously tangy acids and enticing umami characters. Dry, intense and packed full of liquid minerality from the decomposed granite soils, this wine is already building up a solid cult following among the hardcore Chenin Blanc cognoscente. Drink now or enjoy over 8 to 10 years.

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

Scions of Sinai Feniks Pinotage 2019, Helderberg (1976)

In 2018 Bernhard moved into the old Helderberg farm called Klein Helderberg and has since produced four vintages there from old vine dry farmed bush vines yielding 3.5 to 4 tons per hectare. The vines produce tiny grapes on very small bunches. The soils are high in silica (fine sand) making for very fragrant wines compared to those made from vines grown on heavier clay soils. 70% of grapes are whole bunch and 30% destemmed, with around 10% undergoing semi-maceration carbonique in tank. Basket pressed after 12-13 days on the skins into 400 litre oak barrels that are normally a minimum of 4 years old for 12 months of ageing.

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Feniks Pinotage 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 12% Abv.

There are many styles of Pinotage being produced in South Africa, but it is perhaps the fresher, earlier picked, brighter style that has started to resonate the loudest with international fine wine consumers and this is another of these vibrant examples that simply bristles with crunchy red cherry fruited energy. Fabulously energetic and intense, the aromatics boast mouth-watering notes of black cherry, black currant, lavender, dried herbs, incense and a hint of bramble berry spice. Despite its lower alcohol and bright super fresh acids, this wine manages to retain an impressive depth of fruit, ample concentration and a fine, linear texture. I’m hesitant to say this is the future of Pinotage in the fine wine market as there are so many who pour scorn on the lighter, crunchy Pinot Noir-styled Pinotages, but there is certainly a massive following already developing for this purer style of wine. Drink this on release or you can certainly expect some flavour fireworks after 5 to 8+ years of bottle ageing. Very much worth seeking out. (864 bottles produced.)

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

Scions of Sinai Swanesang Syrah 2019 (1996) – SH1A Clone

Produced from apparently the last known bushvine Syrah in the Helderberg that yields spicy dark fruits loaded with rosemary and thyme herbal nuances.The fruit also retains a very low pH and crisp acids… 12.5% to 13.2% Abv. Combination of whole cluster, 30% stems intact, used for the very slow fermentation followed by 5 to 6 days maceration on the skins before being pressed to 400 litre barrels for 12 months ageing with an additional 2 to 3 months ageing in bottle.

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Swanesang Syrah 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

There is no doubt that Syrah is the hot property on the South African market garnering high critical praise and scores from international critics far and wide. Of course there is Syrah, but then there is Syrah on decomposed granite… a soil profile that definitely raises the perfumed aromatic profile of a wine while simultaneously dropping the pH levels and adding incredible freshness and tension. The Swanesang is made from fruit from a young vineyard ‘only’ planted in 1996 and the profile of these single clone SH1A vines is definitely on the purer, fresher, more perfumed red fruited spectrum of the scale. Once again, the granitic soils perform their transformative magic on the vines. In this specific cuvee, between 30 to 50% of whole bunches were employed delivering a fabulously expressive nose of violets, sweet baking herbs, red cherry, cranberry and alluring liquid mineral notes. The palate is super fresh and bright with intense red fruited concentration, revealing tart Victoria plum, cranberry sours and yet more red cherry fruit with just a smattering of black pepper and granitic minerality. A thoroughly engaging wine. Drink now and over 10 to 12+ years. (1,204 bottles produced.)

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

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

Another real terroir expression from old vine Chenin Blanc planted in 1978. Harvested on the 29th of January, this single vineyard expression from bush vines displays an impressive aromatic intensity with layers of peppery white citrus, white flowers, crushed granite, dried herbs green herbs and subtle fynbos notes. Like many Chenins grown on decomposed granite that aren’t picked too late, the nose and palate are dominated by an intense liquid minerality that dances across the palate with fresh zippy Sherbety acids, notes of almond skins, tart green pears, citrus peel and yet more liquid minerality. If ever a wine expressed the terroir of the vineyard it’s sourced from, this is it. Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years. (1,950 bottles produced.)

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

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Heldervallei Cinsault 2020, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

Produced from beautiful old bush vine Cinsault vines planted in 1988, situated right next door to Bernhard’s Chenin Blanc vineyard. The aromatics are powerful and intense unfurling with layers of red and black berry fruits, sweet exotic grilled spices, damson plum, rose petals, grey slate and smoky crushed granitic minerality with a hint of juniper. On the palate there is real precision and focus but also Bernhard’s trademark liquid minerality, dried herbs, pithy cranberry, hints of cherry pips and phenomenal dry, stony fine grained tannins. Quite a unique style that has more in common with a young premier cru Cotes de Nuits Pinot Noir tasted from barrel than a Cinsault. This wine is fabulously delicious but also shows serious ageworthy depth and intensity. Drink now to 2030+.

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

Wines are available in the UK market from merchant Indigo Wines.

Assessing the New Releases from Mullineux Wines – Part 3: Tasting the Olerasay 3º Solera Straw Wine…

Every year since 2008 the Mullineuxs have made a vintage Straw Wine. The two vineyards they chose to make this very sweet but incredibly special Straw Wine are naturally very high in acid, flavour and structure. This way, when they pick the grapes at normal ripeness and then dry them outside during the desiccation process, they are not just concentrating sugar and flavour but also increasing the intense, zesty acidity that is so critically important when making a balanced Straw Wine.

After drying the grapes for several weeks, the grapes are crushed and pressed into barrel where a long, slow natural fermentation takes place. Along with the concentration of acids in the wine, there is a concentration of specifically the malic acid. This high level of malic acid prevents the onset of Malolactic fermentation, which of course seems counter intuitive. The wine always stops its slow fermentation naturally after 8-10 months, so no additional intervention takes place and (here’s where the difference is), while the vintage Straw Wine is bottled, a few barrels are selected that go into a special Solera system of barrel aging that was started with their first Mullineux vintage back in 2008. They decided to bottle the first iteration of OLERASAY (1º) that was a fractional blend of 2008 to 2014, when it was different enough from the regular vintage straw wine. The 2º bottling then took place five years later when the 2008-2019 OLERASAY was considered different enough from the first release.

Now they are releasing the OLERASAY 3º which has not only completed the original drying process off the vine but has continued to concentrate and stabilise in barrel over all of those years, concentrating again in sugar, flavour and natural acidity but also in extract, layers of mouthfeel and additional complexity. As Andrea confidently says… “this wine is bulletproof.” The maiden release was a real revelation and took the market by storm. In a world where apparently fine wine drinkers don’t buy sweet wine anymore, the wine received a rapturous welcome from consumers and collectors alike. The 5,000+ plus bottle production did not last very long in the market making the five year long wait until the second release a very thirsty and gruelling period of time for sweet wine lovers. The second release was rated 99/100 by A FINE WINE SAFARI and an astonishing 100/100 by Neal Martin at VINOUS Media. All eyes are now on the third, smaller bottling, and if initial mutterings from critics are anything to go by, this wine should continue the incredible success the OLERASAY brand has enjoyed since its inception.

Mullineux OLERASAY 3º, WO Swartland, 8.42% Abv.

375 g/l RS | 11.2 g/l TA | 3.3 pH

Picked with yields around 4 tons per hectare with a balling of 22 at harvest, the concentration and intensity of this wine is clear to see from the word go. The aromatics on opening initially were slightly more boldly fruity with youthful nuances of peaches and dried apricot, marmalade, passion fruit and honey. But with a little time and exposure to air, the nose becomes a lot more perfumed and intricate as it starts to unfurl to show more of its solera complexity. The aromatics display notes of dried rose petals, peach tea, chamomile and honey and an underlying note of dried straw, freshly baked apple strudel pastries and crème brulee. On the palate the texture is dreamy and plush, superbly balanced with a silky soft glycerol texture that glides off the tongue like a drop of oil on a block of ice. The intensity is focused and fabulously potent with incredible depth and breadth without ever becoming too unctuous, overwhelming, or too sweet thanks to a deliciously intense, invigorating tangy acidity. The finish is splendidly long and persistent leaving an attractive aftertaste of caramelized almonds, marzipan and dried guava roll. Simply pitch perfect. What else can one say other than this truly is an extraordinary and unique vinous creation. Drink now and over the next 40+ years. (1,800 x 375cl bottles released.)

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

The Age of Bourgogne Aligote: Part 7 – Domaine Sylvain Bzikot Bourgogne Aligote 2020…

Like one of my other favourite producers in Burgundy Francois Mikulski, Sylvain Bzikot is also the descendant of Polish immigrants and is a large broad-shouldered man who was known to enjoy playing the odd bit of rugby back in the day. Some say his wines resemble him, often being rich, full-bodied and expansive. But while I have heard of this producer and his highly respected wines, this was my first opportunity to make a humble acquaintance with his wines via his Bourgogne Aligote.

Sylvain is based in the heart of the Côte de Beaune village of Puligny-Montrachet making wines with real personality. His 13-hectare estate was originally created by his grandparents in the 1940s who had arrived as Polish immigrants to work in the vineyards around the neighbouring village of Meursault. After a few years working in the fields they were able to buy small parcels of land which they subsequently planted. Third generation vigneron Sylvain is traditional and respectful in his approach to winemaking and the effect really shows in the end product. The grapes for this modest Aligote were organically grown and the emphasis in bottle is all about minerality, purity and freshness, and ultimately, allowing the grapes to express their terroir.

Domaine Sylvain Bzikot Bourgogne Aligote 2020, 12% Abv.

This is another thrilling expression of Aligote that leans firmly in the direction of restraint and reserve. The aromatics are stony and mineral with notes of crushed limestone, white citrus and stone fruits intertwined with dried herbs, dried hay and a fresh fennel leaf complexity. The palate shows wonderful balance and poise, a medium textural weight enlivened by pithy rasping acids, lime peel zest, lemon bon bons and subtle yellow grapefruit nuances on the stony, phenolic, slightly grippy finish. So much energy and an abundance of mouth-watering tangy freshness with a classic wet river pebble stony finish. There are riper and sweeter fruited expressions than this Bzikot Aligote, but my money would be on throwing this into an opulent seafood and oyster dinner extravaganza for full effect! Drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

De Toren Continue to Make Some of South Africa’s Best Cape Bordeaux Blends – Tasting the De Toren Z 2018…

As I penned the finishing touches to my tasting notes on the De Toren Z 2018, an email from the estate fortuitously popped into my inbox announcing that the highly rated De Toren Z 2017 vintage was about to run out! But fear not! The 2017 might have been the highest rated Z vintage to date, but the 2018 is a more than worthy follow up expression.

The 2018 vintage was much smaller than average. Extreme drought, which some considered the worst in a hundred years, made the growing season particularly difficult. A cold winter saw bouts of damaging frost which reduced yields early in the season. When the summer did come bringing the usual heat, it also brought the drought and water shortages. Although, one advantage of the dry weather was that it helped prevent the spread of vineyard diseases. However, despite the tough conditions and hugely reduced harvest, some very good wines like the De Toren Z were made.

De Toren Z 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.72% Abv.

2.5 g/l RS | 5.1 g/l TA | 3.55 pH

A blend of Merlot: 54%, Cabernet Franc: 17%, Cabernet Sauvignon: 12%, Malbec: 12% and Petit Verdot: 5%. Always an expressive and more opulent blend, this De Toren Z 2018 combines the rich, fleshy, exotic plummy characters of Merlot with the more structured, black fruited nuances of prime Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine displays lofty aromatics of raisined black cherries, wet tobacco, damson plums and dusty graphite with a sweet sandalwood kiss. The palate is rich and generous with a well honed balance, a full and broad mouthfeel and seductive notes of mocha-laced blueberry, graphite and vanilla pod spice. This characteristically dark horse will undoubtedly challenge the established thinking that Cabernet Sauvignon must lead. The Merlot driven De Toren Z blend is certainly one of the great revelations of the past decade of South African premium red winemaking delivering pure hedonistic palate pleasure with a right bank Bordeaux philosophy. Drink from release and over the next 8-10+ years. (RRP In UK circa £39pb.)

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

Assessing the New Releases from Mullineux Wines – Part 2: Tasting the Single Terroir 2020 Syrah Reds…

The Mullineuxs have put an immense amount of blood, sweat and tears into creating their Mullineux Old Vine White Blend and their Mullineux Syrah. With the latest releases in 2022, we see both wines rising to unseen level of quality and the 2021 Old Vine White is definitely their most distinguished creation to date. But these wines only tell half the story. Much of the rise in quality of these larger production “estate” wines from a blend of vineyard sites can be attributed to the knowledge and expertise acquired over the past decade of producing the more niche Mullineux Single Terroir wines.

With the 2020 red Syrah releases, the Mullineuxs have been granted permission from all farmers and vineyard owners involved to use the actual farm names on all the labels for the first time across the range. Previously, only the Mullineux Schist wines carried the Roundstone designation on the front labels. With all the experience and expertise has also come an extra confidence for the Mullineuxs to trumpet the site-specific origin of these wines, all of which now show noticeably specific vineyard traits and similarities from their terroirs year after year. I caught up with the Swartland power couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux recently and tasted through their new range of wines together.

The Single Terroir Reds:

Granite Syrah Jakkalsfontein (100% of a set block from the Jakkalsfontein farm recently bought by Eben Sadie and Adi Badenhorst)

Schist Syrah Roundstone (the Mullineuxs own farm vineyard)

Iron Syrah Kasteelsig (Using same 18 rows that have been contracted since 2008)

The 2020 vintage had more warm spells with a roughly one week later picking start date than usual with more warmth than 2021, but which still saw very even ripening across all vineyards with absolutely no pressure to pick according to Andrea Mullineux.

Mullineux Granite Jakkalsfontein Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 13.86% Abv.

1.8 g/l RS | 5.5 g/l TA | 3.67 pH

The deep GRANITE soils on this Jakkalsfontein farm allow for deep root growth and a larger natural canopy. This is incredible for allowing the grapes to retain acidity and purity which ultimately leads to tight, yet fresh tannins and a more lifted perfume. Like all 3 Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks the wine was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled. This allows the tannins to develop, which are very long when Syrah is grown on Granite, one of the prime distinguishing characteristics of the soil type, and then lets the natural fresh and fragrant perfumes develop, and amazing blossoming of soil type-derived personality.

Same block has been bought for over 10 years from 21+ year old vines growing on deep sandy decomposed granite soils with a hint of clay. The aromatics reveal a lovely spicy, floral array with an expressive lavender lift intertwined with sweet black peppercorns, red currants, black cherries and a dusty dry straw and fynbos herbal complexity. On the palate, the incredibly powerful but very fine-grained, drying mineral tannins lend a real classicism to the wine’s mouthfeel and finish. The red and black berry fruits are subtle and restrained showing real precision, purity and focused finesse. While it is probably more of an illusion created by the tannins and the fresh acids, the lasting impression of the wine is its incredible minerality and old world restraint. The sour cherry picante finish just puts the final finishing touches to a very classical and classy expression of Syrah. This is one for collectors and connoisseurs, drinkers who want to age their wines and then sip them slowly in lengthy contemplation. World class Syrah in every sense of the word. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.

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

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 13.34% Abv.

1.8 g/l RS | 5.1 g/l TA | 3.81 pH

These very special and characterful grapes grown on the brown schisty Kasteelberg showcase the Mullineux’s own estate, Roundstone, and its ability to define Syrah grown on SCHIST Soils. These rocky soils limit vine size and so the clusters and individual grapes, in turn remain smaller with a higher skin to juice ratio, offering denser, more brooding tannins. Like all three Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for completely gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks it was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled.

While a higher skin to juice ratio offers a denser, broodier tannic complexity, this wine is always very suave and plush, generous and alluring with complex layers of delicious black berry fruits. The aromatics show hints of lavender and violets, blueberry and black cherries, sweet grilled herbs and fynbos spice and a subtle black olive tapenade nuance. On the palate there is plenty of fleshy weight and texture with a balancing acid freshness and natural fruit concentration boasting vermouth spices, salty nori seaweed, blood oranges and an opulent, rich, meaty finish. A lot of premium wines have sex appeal and allure, it’s just that the Schist Syrah really knows how to flaunt it. A wine that is appealing to drink on release but will age gracefully for 15 to 20+ years.

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

Mullineux Iron Kasteelsig Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 12.66% Abv.

2.0 g/l RS | 5.2 g/l TA | 3.77 pH

Grown on the IRON soils on the rolling red hills that surround Malmesbury, this organic vineyard grows on the clay and gravel rich Koffieklip that is very good at holding water and very generous during primary growth in the sprint, but then around verasion, the clay in the soil stops releasing moisture and the vine compensates during this quick ripening phase by making the smallest grapes out of all the three single terroirs, but because of the canopy, the skins are not too thick. This gives us wines that are rich and round, with gravely but plush tannins, and yet for some reason, always the lowest alcohol conversions for similar sugars across the Single Terroir range (they are all picked at the same ripeness). Like all 3 Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for completely gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks it was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled.

The Mullineuxs have been working with this specific vineyard for 18 vintages making it one of their most well know sites (this includes several years prior for Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards). On the nose there are pronounced notes of scorched earth, tapenade, broody black berry and black cherry fruits together with some red fruit brightness. The slightly reductive palate boasts a great depth of fruit with rich round tannins leading the way structurally. A wine that always has the highest natural extract but like this 2020 release, shows itself with the most generosity, harmony and balance. In common with both the Granite and the Schist Syrah expressions, this wine definitely has its own very unique personality derived from its terroir and typified by its very Northern Rhone physique, its savoury cured meat and irony complexity, the bright fresh acids and the suave powdery tannins. Tasted over three days, this is the wine that unfurled and fanned its peacock tail the most. Another very age worthy expression that is a true testament to the Mullineux’s winemaking prowess. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.

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

Wines available to the wine trade in the UK from the Mullineux Wines importer Liberty Wines and in the USA from Skurnik Wines. RRP in the UK circa £49pb for whites and £78pb for the reds. In South Africa, R1,175pb for the reds and R630pb for the whites cellar door.