One From the Cellar – Tasting the Iconic Porseleinberg Syrah 2016 From the Swartland…

When one talks about fine wine in a South African context, several key names instantly spring to mind, none more so than Porseleinberg especially when contemplating world class Syrah expressions. The ever so slightly reclusive, enigmatic brand that hides away in the sleepy Swartland has slowly, quietly but resolutely risen to the top over the past decade.

Porseleinberg is of course the famous Swartland property owned by iconic South African winery Boekenhoutskloof which has always been managed separately allowing it to express its very own individual brilliance, authenticity as well as eccentricities. With the extreme, dry schistous terroir where the Syrah vines of Porseleinberg are planted, comes an exceptional quality that is often only found globally in the most extreme, marginal fine wine vineyards.

This revolutionary long-term project inspired by Rhoneaphile Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof, brought Callie Louw in as the vineyard farmer as well as the the winemaker to produce a dense, classical, powerfully tannic, age worthy Northern Rhône inspired red Syrah wine.

Winemaker Callie Louw on his last trip to London.

Now appreciated and revered the world over by collectors and connoisseurs alike who admire Callie Louw’s unwavering old-school commitment to producing powerfully structured terroir driven Syrahs that at the very least demand 5 to 8+ years ageing from release before drinking. After having tasted all their vintage releases since their maiden 2010, all the wines appear to still be on a steady upward maturity curve with years of potential development lying ahead. Having said that, the 2014 and 2016 do seem to be slightly more approachable examples for the impatient.

Porseleinberg Syrah 2016, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

An impressive offering generously loaded with aromatics of black plum, baked earth, molasses, charcoal and savoury black fruits with a piquant black peppercorn hint. The palate is slightly grainy but soft, sumptuous and creamy textured, showing what an opulent, forward, extroverted offering this 2016 is. Far more accessible, overtly hedonistic and plush in the mouth with a broad, expansive mouthfeel, vibrant focused extract and intensity, a subtle but elegantly fresh acidity and a dense, compact mineral-laden olive tapenade tinged finish. Drink this vintage now and over the next 8 to 15+ years. (12,000 bottles produced.)

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

Marc Kent and Gottfried Mocke Extending Their Winemaking Portfolio in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley – Tasting the New Cap Maritime 2017 Releases…

The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley seems to be a popular region for brand extensions. Producers like Wellington based Bosman Family Wines has recently branched out there and now so too has Franschhoek / Swartland based producer Boekenhoutskloof under the Cap Maritime label.

With no vineyards currently in the ground, viticulturist Rosa Kruger has been tasked with designing and planting the new Cap Maritime vineyards for Marc Kent and winemaker Gottfried Mocke, who will lease vineyards nearby until their own plantings come on stream. In the meantime, the 2017 and 2018 vintages have already been vinified at their Franschhoek winery, although there will be no brand association of Cap Maritime with the parent company, in a similar way to which Porseleinberg operates and is marketed separately.

Cap Maritime Chardonnay 2017, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.5 Abv.

Making great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir come naturally to Gottfried Mocke and however successful he is at Boekenhoutskloof with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, it is Chardonnay specifically that shows off his true talents. The new release Cap Maritime Chardonnay is overtly mineral and stony with layers of limestone, crushed rocks and wet river pebble nuances melting into a melange of yellow citrus, white blossom, grape jelly, green melon preserve and the most sublte kiss of French oak spice. The palate displays a full plump mouthful with hints of ginger bread, grapefruit peel, wet chalk, green honeydew melon, pithy apple skins and a complex vanilla pod spice finish. Seamless and fresh with a harmonious texture from start to finish, this wine shows great refinement and would not look out of place standing amongst some of the finest young Pouilly Fuisses of Burgundy. Drink on release or cellar for 2 to 3+ years before opening.

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

Cap Maritime Pinot Noir 2017, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 14 Abv.

This 2017 release is a wonderfully classically proportioned Pinot Noir true to its terroir of the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Sensual and fleshy, sleek and beautifully perfumed, the aromatics are lifted and opulent, brimming with crushed maraschino cherries, pink musk, parma violets, dusty limestone and a sappy resinous complexity. There is none of the structural tannic frame as seen on many 2016 Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir wines but rather more elegant mineral laden red and black berry fruits that show delicious purity together with mouth watering acidity. I don’t think you would confuse this expression for Old World Burgundy, like you could for the Chardonnay, but there is nevertheless all the tell tail hallmarks of a very fine terroir combined with intelligent winemaking. Drink this on release and over the next 6 to 8 years.

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

Boekenhoutskloof Journeyman Red Blend 2015 – Tasting Another Epic Red From The Belle Époque…

In the past few months I have reviewed a lot of 2015 South African Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet based red blends, many of which have admittedly received rather impressive scores. Some commentators have raised eyebrows and questioned if these wines are really individually exceptional or whether I’ve just had a rush of blood to the head. But time and time again I simply point out that an exceptional vintage like 2015 comes along maybe only once in a decade, or with global warming bearing down on us, perhaps only once in twenty years?

I am certainly not prone to hubris or score inflation but merely look, taste and assess the quality in the glass put in front of me and judge it in an international quality context. Which brings me to another of the top 2015 wines I have been waiting to taste… the Journeyman red blend from Marc Kent and Gottfried Mocke at Boekenhoutskloof.

Produced from grapes off the Franschhoek estate, this wine possesses a slightly mythical reputation, being almost unobtainable internationally and only irregularly by the bottle at cellar door. Mostly Cabernet Franc with a 10% splash of Merlot, this wine has been one of winemaking talisman Marc Kent’s pet projects for the past 10 years (when he’s not obsessing about Swartland Syrah!)

Boekenhoutskloof The Journeyman 2015, WO Franschhoek, 14 Abv.

Thoroughly distinguished, this wine whispers class from the moment you pull the cork. Dark, deep and broody, it tantalisingly suggests a lot but tries to hide its hand like a sneaky poker player. But with enough coaxing the nose reveals aromatics of cedar, sweet wet tobacco, subtle rose petal perfume and potpourri spice, raisined cranberries interwoven with mineral graphite depth. On the palate, there is a surfeit of classy cherry and black cassis fruit, powdered chew tobacco, vanilla pod spice, mocha coffee espresso and buttered brown toast. So incredibly elegant, a tight rope walker that is so assured and focused, brimming with confidence. This is certainly up there with some of the finest 2015 wines produced in South Africa. Buy it IF you can find it. Drink now to 2030+

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

The Changing Face of Fine Wine Consumers in the UK…

Last night I attended a lovely dinner at the superb 1 star Michelin restaurant Harwood Arms, with a group of private clients who are all high flying corporate lawyers in the city. I was invited to attend their quarterly get-together where they choose a fine wine theme and then all bring a few top bottles.


Nothing unusual about this gathering, which must be replicated daily across the city. What was slightly unusual was the fine wine theme they chose… top South African whites and reds. A few years ago, these sort of gatherings would be exclusively dedicated to fine Bordeaux, Burgundy or Rhone wines.

But the South African fine wine scenery has changed dramatically and so too has consumers’ perceptions of the wines. South Africa’s best wines now regularly rub shoulders at fine wine lunches and dinners with the most accomplished Cru Classe Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundy.


The dinner theme had been set as South African fine wines and I was tasked with bringing the “controversial” grape… using my clients words, being a Pinotage of course. I don’t drink a massive amount of Pinotage, but when I do, it will surely be one of a handful including Kanonkop, Beeslaar, Chamonix, David Sadie, B Vintners or something similar.

The evening’s wines were set against a backdrop of some fantastic game food dishes from the kitchen of Brett Graham, better known for his flagship 2 star Michelin site The Ledbury in Notting Hill. 


First up two Boekenhoutskloof Semillon whites … the awesome 2004 and a more youthful 2010. The 04 showed brilliant honey, wax and yellow peach nuances with pear purée and a most impressive, dense tight knit texture (94+/100). The 2010 took a while to blow off its hallmark reduction, but eventually revealed sweet root veg notes, swedes, turnips, and savoury yellow waxy lanolin lemon butter depth. (92+/100)


Biggest excitement and subsequent disappointment revolved around the Sadie Family Old Vine Series Mev. Kirsten 2011. Sadly the wine was corked. We were all gutted and tried to look beneath the taint. Such a shame! 


Legal eagle lawyers never travel without backups! In this case a Mullineux Granite 2014 that showed austere, taught, tight crushed gravel notes, and mineral driven white fruits (94/100). The Rall White blend 2014 was open, expressive, rich, textural, with orange peel, yellow pastille fruits, and real Burgundian grand cru weight (94+/100). Noted by the tasters as not more impressive than the Mullineux but just more ready to drink.


Next up a fantastic red pair… Hamilton-Russell Pinot Noir 2006 and 2009 from their archive box sets. The 2006 was dense and forest floor laden (92/100) while the 2009 started initially with choc peppermint crisp, and fresh foresty black fruits but opened up beautifully to reveal a really seductive side (92+/100).


Then the “controversial” grape came next. My Pinotage from Abrie Beeslaar. The 2012 maiden release. Wow. This was a rich, bright, sappy, stoney, earthy wine with a dusty gravelly note. Very pure, spicy, elegant and balanced with a seductive mulberry fruit core and a harmonious finish (94/100).


Making up numbers were the beautifully bright, youthful Simonsig Redhill Pinotage 2005 laden with wood smoke and cedary red cherry fruit (91+/100), a vibrant Rust en Vrede Estate Red 2003 with rich spicy peppery black fruits and a powerful depth (94/100), and last but not least, a seductively sweet fruited Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2006 endowed with rich black currant and raspberry fruits, forest berry complexity and a superbly elegant finish (93/100).

Well, all in all a night of fantastic food, amazingly accommodating staff and a few very attractive wines paired with amazing Michelin starred food. If anyone was left in any doubt about the quality of SA wines, the final glass of Mullineux Olerasay No.1 would have silenced any doubters. An epic wine of intriguing complexity (98/100).

South African fine wine has hit the big time… and is now enjoying its moment in the bright lights! Long may it last.