Chateau Tour Baladoz Produces Another Stand-Out Saint Emilion Grand Cru in 2018…

Château “Valados” first appeared in “Le Producteur” in 1841, and was included in the first edition of “Cocks and Feret” (Bordeaux and its Wines) in 1850 under the name of “Baladoz”. From 1874 to 1922, the estate was known as Château Baladoz until a tower was erected and adopted into the name.

In certain parts, vines are grown at an altitude of up to ninety metres, almost the highest in the appellation, with more vines planted on the clay and limestone plateau that dominates the estate. Originally categorised as between the first and second crus of St Emilion, the estate later settled in the Grand Cru category.

Anthony Crameri from Chateau Tour Baladoz alongside the Chateau’s ancient limestone cliffs.

The property, located in Saint-Laurent-des-Combes, was purchased by Belgian wine trader Emile De Schepper in May 1950 and included 5.56 hectares of vines. The new owner spent his first year renovating the cellars and making improvements to the vineyard. In the early years, the wine was exclusively exported to Belgium, in barrel, where it was bottled in the owner’s cellars in Ghent. The current cellar master and manager is the ultra talented Jean-Michel Garcion, who was appointed in 1992 and now also overseas production at sister estates Chateau La Croizille next door and Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudiere in Margaux.

The 2018 is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

70% of the Tour Baladoz vineyard is planted on the plateau, with the remaining 30 % situated on the slopes of the valley over deeply submerged rocks. Here, the challenge lies in making a wine that is as mineral as the geological environment in which the vines grow. The soil base varies from pure chalk and marl, which reminiscent of certain terroirs in the Champagne region, to freestone that appears occasionally and is noticed because of the colour variation in the clay. Here, the Merlot grape thrives and comprises 70% of the vineyard planting with Cabernet Franc (20%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) making up the remainder.

Chateau Tour Baladoz 2018 Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 14.5% Abv.

A beautiful vineyard with a few pre-phylloxera vines, a collection of ancient Bordeaux varieties and spectacular limestone caves with vine roots growing through the ceilings. This 2018 is garnet purple and already quite explosive in the glass revealing waves of violets and lilac, black plum, mulberry, salty black currant and buttered brown toast nuances. On the palate it shows an accessible opulence of red and black berry fruits, fine chalky mineral tannins and a steely vein of acidity that guides you to a long, fresh, nervy finish with further notes of vanilla spice, graphite and crème de cassis. A really wonderful, high quality expression of Saint Emilion that will seduce a legion of Bordeaux lovers. Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years.

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

New Release Review – Tasting the Exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 From Kanonkop…

The Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is another classical example of this varietal grown on the prime slopes of the Simonsberg ward. Exuding a sense of compact density, balance and harmony, its coolness in character is truly impressive considering the warm, dry vintage conditions of 2016.

With the 2016, Abrie Beeslaar handles this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine with a masterfully deft touch drawing out every drop of prime Simonsberg terroir. These Stellenbosch vines are on average 27 years old and grown on dry land vineyards located on decomposed granite, hutton and clovelly soils. Yields in 2016 were a mere 4 tons per hectare and only 8,000 cases of 6 were produced.

Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

On opening, this 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon was initially surprisingly taut, tight and broody with reductive aromatics of oyster shell, salty creme de cassis, black currant leaf, black chai tea, iodine and maritime salinity. But as I’ve discovered repeatedly over the past 12 months, the hot dry 2016 drought vintage did produced some really excellent red wines proving that exceptional terroir handled intelligently by an accomplished winemaker can trump even difficult vintage conditions. Given ample time to breath, the nose starts to reveal a growing intensity of black cherry, salty cassis and vibrant blueberry hints with a seductive underlay of cherry kirsch liquor. On the palate, the texture is sleek and polished with multiple waves of creme de cassis and blackberry fruits rising like a tide, finishing with a tangy concentration burst of acidity and mouthwatering fruit. Tannins are understated and powdery suggesting optimal phenolic ripeness. A really beautifully constructed wine with elegance, balance and supple accessibility. Drink on release with a bit of decanting or over 10 to 12+ years.

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

Seriously Old Dirt 2019 – Vilafonte Release the Newest Edition of Their Sought-After Second Wine…

The success and popularity of the Seriously Old Dirt label by Vilafonte has undoubtedly been one of the most significant success stories within the South African wine industry over the past 5 years. Just when you thought the global wine market, both locally and internationally, was over traded and over supplied, along comes an incredibly exciting brand that has been crafted with expertise and vision and constructed around the basic principles of accessible structure, youthful intensity and an underlying feel and character of uncompromising quality from premium Stellenbosch and Paarl terroirs.

While the Seriously Old Dirt second wine from premium boutique cellar Vilafonte based in Paarl, can no longer lay claim to only use the off-cuts from its bigger brothers Series M and Series C, the growth in the demand for this label can nevertheless be directly linked to the stylistic precision and expertise honed and perfected within the Vilafonte winery. With unused blending components from the Vilafonte vineyards forming the basic building blocks now joined by additional specially selected premium parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon fruit, the Seriously Old Dirt production has been allowed to grow in order to meet an insatiable demand.

Following on from three drought affected vintages in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the preceding winter to the harvest 2019 had a late start with good rainfall with fluctuating weather conditions resulting in an uneven budbreak. Weather conditions improved at the onset of summer and by November, warmer weather was conducive to healthy vineyard growth.

Malbec grapes being off-loaded at Vilafonte from the 2020 harvest.

As a testament to vineyard resilience, wines from the 2019 vintage from across the Cape winelands show impressive freshness, concentration and elegance but also an underlying minerality and structural classicism. The 2019 Seriously Old Dirt blend was matured for 18 months in older French oak barriques and consists of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec, 5% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. The wine is scheduled for a mid-February release date in the home market.

Vilafonte Seriously Old Dirt 2019, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.

This wine casts an attractive plummy purple-black colour and offers up vibrant notes of candied Parma violets, crème de cassis, sun raisined black cherries and hints of blueberry confit with an overlay of graphite and cedar spice. There is a lovely youthful maritime salinity and black liquorice nuance that melts into notes of iodine and Chinese five spice. The palate is medium bodied, fresh and supple but slowly unfurls to reveal a solid frame of creamy mineral tannins, ample Cabernet Sauvignon extract and a long, pleasingly drying grippy structure that is bolstered by salty cassis, taut black orchard fruits, stewed black cherries and hints of complexing bay leaf herbal spice. The 2019 vintage yielded wines with freshness, structural classicism, mineral tension and harmony and this superb new release from Vilafonte speaks honestly of the vintage and continues to fly the flag for premium second wines that offer exceptional quality, value for money and age-ability. Drink this on release with some lovely slow roasted lamb or age for 2 to 3+ years to allow it to open its shoulders further. A great wine for the savvy fine wine drinker.

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

Thelema Mountain Vineyards Releases Their New Rabelais 2018 Icon Cape Bordeaux Blend…

The Thelema Rabelais red blend originally started out as the prestigious Thelema Cape Winemakers Guild blend before evolving into the Rabelais label with the 2007 vintage, being produced originally from only Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. From 2009, Petit Verdot started to replace the Merlot portion and now the blend appears fairly settled at approximately a 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot mix. The Rabelais represents the very best Bordeaux components from the Thelema range where the wines clearly show concentration, polished ripe tannins and obvious refinement.

The last in a trilogy of drought vintages, the 2018 harvest produced fruit of sufficient quality for Thelema to produce their iconic Rabelais blend again. This year, the Cabernet Sauvignon portion comes in at 85% with the remaining 15% devoted to Petit Verdot yet again. After fermentation, the wine was left for 12 hours on the skins before pressing and racking into 100% new 225 litre French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and further ageing for 20 months.

Thelema Rabelais 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 13.32% Abv.

RS 1.8 g/l | pH 3.46 | TA 5.9

Quite an individual wine, this 2018 Rabelais is beautifully characterful and expressive with vivid notes of sour black plum compote, saline black currant, kelp and oyster shell, unsmoked cigars and freshly cracked black pepper all tightly smothered beneath an aromatic iron curtain of graphite and cedar spice. The palate shows an impressively polished texture with sleek marble like tannins… firm but super tight knit and precise, a medium bodied harmonious weight of red and black berry fruits and an incredibly long, saline, rock salt finish. Plenty of attractive wet river pebble minerality combines with graphite, lead pencil and complexing brûléed wood spice nuances to offer all the ‘salt & pepper’ complexity that should evolve in bottle to one day make this a truly classy, complex Cape Bordeaux blend. Crack the odd bottle after 5+ years but keep the rest for at least 10+. A fabulous 2018 blend that speaks of the vintage.

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

Recent praise from UK wine critic Matthew Jukes, after tasting the 2017 release.

The De Toren Z Cape Bordeaux Blend Becoming a Real Force to be Reckoned With – Tasting and Assessing the Iconic New Z 2017 Release…

The focus of the De Toren estate has always been centred around the iconic Fusion V Cape Bordeaux blend made in a Left Bank leaning expression with a dominance of Cabernet Sauvignon. But the De Toren Z has slowly but surely started to catch the attention of wine critics and connoisseurs around the world with on-trade buyers and sommeliers taking a particular fancy to this blend.

While the debate continues as to whether this Merlot based Right Bank blend was born out of the quality Fusion V off-cuts or whether it was individually designed around specific varieties and terroirs on the Polkadraai estate, one thing is certain – the De Toren Z Cape Bordeaux blend is a premium wine to be reckoned with and taken seriously as it enters a small select group of top red blends coming out of South Africa.

With the 2016 Z currently selling great guns in South Africa and around the world, I thought I’d take a sneak peek at the highly anticipated 2017 that looks set to take the world by storm.

De Toren Estate Z 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

This wine personifies the De Toren journey of initially making one premium wine that ultimately heralded two iconic wines due to the estate’s attention to detail, terroir and focus on quality. This Merlot based blend is another absolute blinder revealing a rich, intense, brûléed aromatic array of saline cassis, nori seaweed, pithy black cherry, savoury black plum, roasted coffee beans and hints of open fire grilled winter chestnuts. The palate is super sleek and beautifully silky and suave bolstered by the most opulent, plump, hedonistic black fruit concentration, brûléed wood spice nuances and a long, mouth coating, vibrant finish. This wine speaks of the vintage with its weightless concentration and seamless balance and will appeal to Right Bank Bordeaux lovers who especially enjoy the iconic vintages. This wine is certainly right up there with the sensational 2015 De Toren Z and must surely rate as one of the best vintages of Z produced from the estate to date. Drink from 2022 to 2036+

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

Watch out for the launch of this 2017 beauty in SA around the end of 1st Quarter 2021.

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)

Tasting the Impressive Wines Selected for the 2020 Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction…

The 2020 Nedbank CWG Auction hosted by Bonhams London will be held online on Saturday 3rd October from 12h00 (BST). Due to Coronavirus, there were no public tastings prior to sale making the limited tastings by a select group of wine journalists even more important this year. The line-up comprises 28 wines with total cases on offer amounting to 564 cases (6 x 750ml) compared to 45 wines and 1,932 cases in 2019.

One of the eye catching wines in 2020…

In support of one of the Guild members, buyers will have the opportunity to bid on smaller lots – the funds raised by the first case of six bottles of every wine will be given as financial assistance to Samantha O’Keefe, whose Lismore property in Greyton was devastated by fire in December last year. The CWG will also be hosting a 50 – item Vinotheque Auction made up of select older wines donated by members with express objective being to raise funds to assist employees within their businesses whose livelihoods have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 CWG Selection:

CWG host and Jordan Winery owner Gary Jordan taking us through the 2020 CWG wines.

Graham Beck Cuvée 129 Extra Brut 2009, WO Western Cape

Winemaker: Pieter Ferreira. 51% Pinot Noir, 49% Chardonnay. Cuvée 129 refers to the number of months on the lees aging – 10 years and 9 months.

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

Silverthorn Big Dog VI Méthode Cap Classique 2015, WO Robertson

Winemaker: John Loubser. 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. Chardonnay fermented and aged in old French oak, Pinot Noir in steel. 50 months on lees.

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

De Grendel Wooded Sauvignon Blanc 2019, WO Darling.

Winemaker: Charles Hopkins. Crushed, 18 hours skin contact, then settled and fermented in old oak.

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

Bartho Eksteen Vloekskoot Sauvignon Blanc 2019, WO Cape Coast

Winemaker: Bartho Eksteen. Whole bunch pressed, no settling. Naturally fermented in older, big wood.

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

Simonsig Mediterraneo 2015, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Johan Malan. 66% Roussanne, 28% Grenache Blanc, 6% Verdelho. Whole bunch pressed, mix of wild and cultured yeast.

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

Miles Mossop Wines Saskia-Jo 2018, WO Swartland

Winemaker: Miles Mossop. 65% Chenin Blanc, 25% Clairette Blanche, 10% Grenache Blanc. Decomposed granite soils.

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

Rijk’s CWG Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Tulbagh

Winemaker: Pierre Wahl. 14-year-old bush vines, fermented in new and used French oak.

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

Raats Family Wines The Fountain Terroir Specific Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Bruwer Raats. Rich, creamy but super bright with leesy, peachy fruit complexity and incredible precision and vibrant intensity.

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

Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2018, WO Elgin

Winemaker: Andries Burger. From the oldest Chardonnay vineyard on the Estate, planted in 1987 (the oldest vines in Elgin).

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

Leeu Passant Radicales Libres Chardonnay 2015, WO Klein Karoo

Winemaker: Andrea Mullineux. 100% Chardonnay, long elevage inspired by Jura and Rioja. From the incredibly cool Barrydale Valley in the Klein Karoo, after fermentation this Chardonnay was aged in barrel for five years.

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

Ataraxia Under The Gavel Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Winemaker: Kevin Grant.  Cool and Crystalline with a stony minerality, pithy peachy yellow citrus concentration and a long, pure brilliance.

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

Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Windansea Pinot Noir 2017, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Winemaker: Gordon Newton Johnson. Stoniest, most clay-rich parts of the vineyard used for this. No sulfites in the winemaking. 11 months in barrel then six months in large oak.

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

Neil Ellis Wines Amper Bo Tempranillo 2015, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Warren Ellis. Whole berry fermentation then 18 months in 60% new French oak barrels and 40% in second fill.

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

Rust en Vrede CWG Auction Estate 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Coenie Snyman. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah.

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

Ernie Els CWG 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Louis Strydom. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Shiraz, 10% Cinsault. Fermentation in small 300 litre open top oak barrels with three weeks extended maturation.

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

Luddite The Lone Stranger Mark II 2018, WO Bot River

Winemaker: Niels Verburg. 50% Mourvèdre, 40% Shiraz, 10% Grenache Noir. Small open fermenters then pressed to barrel for two years.

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

Delaire Graff Estate Banghoek Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Morné Very. 55% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec. Whole berry fermentation with limited punch downs. Four weeks post-ferment maturation on skins before being basket pressed. Matured in 40% new French 225 litre barrels for 16 months.

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

Spier Frans K Smit Auction Selection 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Frans K Smit. 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Organic.

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

Strydom Family Wines The Game Changer 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Rianie Strydom. 80% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot. North facing slopes on the Helderberg.

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

Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Abrie Beeslaar. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot. From Simonsberg. Fermented in open top ‘kuipe’ for six days, then malolactic fermentation in tank, and matured in new French oak for two years.

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

Groot Constantia CWG Gouverneurs Reserve 2018, WO Constantia

Winemaker: Boela Gerber. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Cabernet Franc. 75% new oak.

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

Villiera Drip Barrel Cabernet Franc 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Jeff Grier. 18 months in new and used French oak.

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

Edgebaston Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: David Finlayson. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. From the clay-heavy section of their GS vineyard, picked five days earlier than the rest of the vineyard. New French oak for two years.

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

Hartenberg CWG Auction Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Carl Schultz. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bottelary Hills. 20 days on skins, 20 months in 50% new 225 litre French oak barrels.

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

Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Jacques Borman. Harvested in three tranches, 30% whole bunch. Some matured in concrete, some in barrel (30% new).

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

Cederberg Teen Die Hoog Shiraz 2018, WO Cederberg

Winemaker: David Nieuwoudt. Red slate soils. 85% new oak.

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

Saronsberg Die Erf Shiraz 2017, WO Tulbagh

Winemaker: Dewaldt Heyns. The best barrel of Block 27. Aged for 20 months in a new French Allier oak barrel.

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

Boplaas Cape Vintage CWG Reserve 2015, WO Western Cape

Winemaker: Carel Nel. 80% Touriga Nacional, 10% Touriga Franca, 6% Souzão, 4% Tinta Barocca. Fermented and fortified in small lagares and barrel matured in large seasoned oak barrels.

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

The CWG dinner at the River Cafe London.

Wine Safari New Release Review – Tasting the Resplendent New Vilafonte Series C 2018 Red Blend…

I am very fortunate that despite almost a year of minimal international travel and intermittent lockdowns, I have been able to taste many of the best wines of South Africa both blind and sighted in my capacity as the lead reviewer for the Fine Wine Safari as well as in the capacity of South African Panel Chair for the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards. As a result, I have luckily had ample opportunity to get up close and personal with many of the new release 2018 Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet based blends and formulate my opinions on the wines that this fourth drought year yielded.

The 2018 vintage was certainly marked by one of the worst droughts on record and presented some significant challenges for all vine growers and winemakers in the Western Cape. With water resources at an all time low and strict rationing in effect, reduced water availability for irrigation led to reduced vine vigour and canopy sizes. Some unseasonable rains and low temperatures in October and November disrupted fruit set and further reduced the number and size of berries on grape clusters.

In the end, harvest timings were close to normal, beginning on February 2nd and continuing uninterrupted until February 27th. Overall, the vintage saw yields contract by -24% following a very generous crop in 2017 and the fruit was marked by berries being on average -25% smaller in size than normal leading to wines with an intense inky colour, piercing concentration and striking fruit richness – the perfect building blocks for another impressive Vilafonte Series C blend.

Vilafonte Series C 2018, WO Paarl, 14.5% Abv.

This new release Series C 2018 is a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 14% Malbec and 11% Cabernet Franc and saw 22 months in 69% new French oak barriques with the balance aged in older French oak. Following in the footsteps of three fantastic vintages in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the 2018 boldly asserts its own character and persona not wanting to live in the shadow of any of its predecessors. The aromatics are opulent and richly fruited with extroverted, evocative notes of violets and black cherry kirsch liquor, crème de cassis, ripe sloes and fresh juniper berries. The youthful fruit brightness is gently caressed by a creamy, seductive veil of subtle vanilla oak spice, cocoa powder, warm brown toast and lightly roasted coffee bean nuances. What many of the very best red 2018 blends show in glimpses, this wine reveals with generous excess. Softly textured and impressively suave and harmonious, the palate is filled with a piercing black currant concentration, salty black liquorice and an attractive vanilla pod spice complexity that coats the palate and grows slowly and persistently in volume, depth and breadth. Not only is one of the true signs of great winemaking marked by allowing a wine to express its terroir, but this must inevitably go hand in hand with the ability of a wine to truly illustrate its vintage in as many vivid colours and flavours as possible. 2018 reds have always shown an incredible translucent purity and sweet fruited concentration, extreme elegance with a compact core of power from day one with the more detailed finery never being obscured by any one single component in the glass. This beautiful Series C is a tremendous piece of winemaking resulting from an ongoing mission of vinous refinement. When all is said and done and we eventually look back on the 2018 wines objectively, I predict that this Series C will stand amongst the top wines of the vintage. Drink on release or cellar with confidence for another 10 to 15+ years.

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