Niels Verburg’s Monumental 2018 Bot River Luddite Chenin Blanc Finally Launched in the UK Market…

Here in the UK, the wine trade is usually always a vintage behind a wine’s home market. That can be great luck when a wine scores highly and sells out quickly locally but then resurfaces weeks or months later as a new release in an international market. That’s pretty much the scenario with Niels Verburg’s 2018 Luddite Chenin Blanc.

I only recently retasted and reviewed the 2014 vintage but was very pleased to fast forward this week and taste his delicious and hugely impressive 2018 that is just landing in the UK. There are so many exceptional Chenin Blanc whites around South Africa at the moment, most coming from Stellenbosch, Paarl and the Swartland. But this Bot River expression is different, showing an exotic complexity with an extra little je ne sais quoi. I can only put that down to the terroir of the Bot River region. Quantities are small so you’ll need to be quick off the mark to secure stock.

Luddite Chenin 2018, WO Bot River, 11.5 Abv.

Fabulously powerful aromatics of honeysuckle, lemon cordial, freshly sawn acacia, Seville oranges, pineapple pastille and a wet river stone minerality. The palate is super sleek and focused, vibrantly fresh with a sweet / sour acidity, fine textural fleshy breadth and a bold savoury saline bite on the finish. Lovely expression of premium Chenin Blanc that has its own unique character.

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

Marelise Niemann Making Waves in the Bot River – Tasting the Anysbos Maiden Releases…

Marelise Niemann officially launched her own Momento label in 2013 when she was still working for Beaumont winery in the Bot River region. She has recently taken up wine making duties at Anysbos Winery in the Bot River owned by Peter-Allan Finlayson’s uncle-in-law. Marelise has been making her Momento wines at Gabrielskloof along side Peter-Allan and John Seccombe (Thorne & Daughters) but will move production of these to Anysbos as well.

I recently tasted the two new releases from Anysbos here in London with their newly appointed importers Woodwinters and was totally blown away by the very high quality of both the white and red. There is no doubting Marelise’s expert winemaking skills, but you do need good fruit to make great wines and judging from these new releases, this is definitely a winery to follow if you are a wine connoisseur!

Tasting with Marelise in London in 2018.

Anysbos Disdit 2017, WO Bot River, 13.5 Abv.

A Chenin Blanc 61%, Roussanne 21% and Grenache Blanc 18% blend fermented with natural yeasts and aged 10 months in old oak barrels. Wonderfully opulent and expressive from the first pour over flowing with aromatic notes of tangerine, sweet pineapple pastille and green apple peel. So voluptuous, generous and fleshy with superb textural balance, impressive fruit concentration and a singing blood orange and mango flesh finish! Very impressive.

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

Anysbos Grenache Noir 2017, WO Bot River,13.5 Abv.

Super complex and expressive nose that is very precise, detailed and perfumed with notes of cherry confit, botanicals, vermouth spice and a striking line of blood orange and pomegranate spice. The balance and weight is super fine, concentrated and harmonious, quite discreet and feminine in its own kind of way. If this is the quality Marelise has achieved with her maiden Anysbos vintages, it makes the mind boggle at the end game potential. Really delicious!

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

Tasting the New Gabrielskloof Landscape Series Cabernet Franc 2017 Pre-Release…

You wait for a bus for hours and then suddenly a whole tranche of them come along all at once. This is what the past few days have felt like with Cabernet Franc from South Africa. Within a matter of days, I had tasted the new Warwick Cabernet Franc 2015, the iconic Raats Family Cabernet Franc 2015, the Raats Dolomite 2016 (and sensational 5 Star Platter winner), and also the delicious new 2017 vintage from Gabrielskloof in the Bot River … due for release on the 1st April 2019.

I vividly remember reviewing the 2015 vintage a couple of years back after winemaker Peter-Allan Finlayson had given me a “clean skin” sample to taste. Of course it was a very impressive wine from a stellar red vintage and many months later, unsurprisingly, the 2015 Gabrielskloof Cabernet Franc made it into Tim Atkin MW’s South Africa Report as his “Red Wine Discovery of the Year.” The 2017 comes from the same Cabernet Franc vineyard in the Bot River region.

Tasting with Peter-Allan recently in London.

In this third consecutive drought vintage, Peter-Allan decided to do less extraction during fermentation with 20% whole bunches, so using only three pump overs (remontage) during active fermentation and thereafter a longer 23 day post-fermentation maceration followed by ageing the wine in larger 500 litre oak barrels to retain freshness and fruit expression.

Gabrielskloof The Landscape Series Cabernet Franc 2017, WO Bot River, 14.1 Abv.

Made using fruit from 16 year old vines, the 2017 has a very attractive nose displaying a super complex perfumery of black berry, tart cassis, milk chocolate and cherry liquor. Beautifully complex wine expertly balancing piercing violet fragrance and sweet sappy cedar spice with hints of boxwood, spiced meats, melted wax and eastern incense. On the palate one is struck by the wine’s lithe, sleek mid-weight silky balance, delicious blueberry and oak spice harmony together with nuances of sweet dried herbs, plum spice, another last dusting of mocha choc spice and a very fine, long, fresh lingering piquant finish. A thoroughly confident, vibrant expression of Cabernet Franc expertly delivered in a vintage shaping up to be another very impressive high quality year for both reds and whites. Drink from 2019 to 2030+.

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

(Wines are distributed to the trade in the UK by Liberty Wines)

Another New White Variety in South Africa that Points to the Future Instead of the Past – Tasting the Momento Grenache Gris 2017…

Marelise Niemann officially launched her Momento label in 2013 when she was still working for Beaumont winery in the Bot River region. She has recently taken up wine making duties at Anysbos Winery in the Bot River owned by Peter-Allan Finlayson’s uncle-in-law. Marelise has been making her previous wines at Gabrielskloof along side Peter-Allan and John Seccombe (Thorne & Daughters) but will now move her production to Anysbos aswell.

Following 4 drought years in the Cape and a continuing uncertain future for winemaking using many cooler climate varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Merlot etc., it is great to see that Marelise has become a real champion for varieties like Grenache, Grenache Gris, Verdelho, Tinta Barocca and Chenin Blanc, some of which may possibly point the way forward in future to more dry grown plantings as water becomes an ever scarcer commodity.

This new release is made from young Grenache Gris vines planted on the decomposed granite soils of Willie Mostert’s farm in the Voor-Paardeberg area. Grapes were destemmed and crushed and followed by a 7 day cold soak on the skins before a natural yeast fermentation commenced. The wine was then aged for 10 months in old French oak barrels. Only 4 barrels were produced.

Momento Grenache Gris 2017, WO Voor Paardeberg, 12.5 Abv.

The wine is beautifully mineral and dusty with pronounced notes of crushed granite, fynbos, dried thatch and hints of white citrus, soap stone and pithy, peppery green apples. The palate is impressively focused, texturally tight grained and super saline with intense liquid minerality marrying layers of white peach stone fruit, nougat glacé, tangerine peel and waxy green apples. An expertly proportioned white that is chiselled, concentrated and strictly linear in the mouth. There really is something special here and all from young vines. Wow! This is a new wine to track down and buy.

Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Only 90 bottles made their way to the UK.

A Wonderful Maiden Red Release from Thorne & Daughters ~ Tasting the Wanderer’s Heart 2016 Red Blend…

John and Tasha Seccombe operating out of space at the Gabrielskloof Winery have established a massive international following for their deliciously opulent white wines over the past 5-6 years. So of course … that meant it was time for a red!

This maiden vintage was released in mid-2017 and has been met with high critical acclaim internationally. So with some very expensive Welsh lamb cutlets on the menu for Sunday lunch, this red seemed the perfect match! Oh, and what a beautifully designed label.

Thorne & Daughter’s Wanderer’s Heart 2016, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

An interesting red blend made from fruit sourced from all over the Cape including 69% Voor Paardeberg Grenache, 21% Bottelary Cinsault and 10% Bot River Mourvèdre. Unfined and unfiltered, this maiden vintage red was aged in old French oak barrels to create a wine with great purity. What immediately strikes you is an intensely perfumed nose full of violets, dried cranberries, red cherries, tart red plums and hints of black raspberries. A delectable melange of peppery red and black forest berries. The palate is crunchy and fresh with a complex, textured fleshy red berry fruited weight that also reveals savoury hints of dried herbs, raspberries, cranberry coulis and a defined underlying minerality of river pebbles and chalky tannins. The acids are pure and fresh adding a vibrancy and crystallinity without being tart. Light and fresh enough to drink slightly chilled, this impressive Grenache based blend is going to seduce a lot of drinkers now and over the next 10+ years.

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

Building A New South African Legacy ~ The Iconic Wines of Peter-Allan Finlayson and Crystallum…

On my recent trip to the Cape in March, I paid an important visit to the Gabrielskloof Winery in the Bot River, home to not only the Gabrielskloof Wines but also Peter-Allan Finlayson’s Crystallum wines. 

As a supporter of Peter-Allan’s wines from the very beginning, I’ll never forget his big frame manning the small 1.5 meter long bar top counter at the Wines of South Africa tasting, displaying his 2007 white Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnays, and his 2008 Peter Max and Cuvee Cinema Pinot Noirs from the Walker Bay. I recognised the quality immediately and guided numerous potential importer / agents to his stand to taste with view to finding him an agent and UK importer. Liberty Wines were the lucky fellows in the end.


Fast forward to 2017, and I have just returned from tasting his 8th red vintage of Pinot Noir. Peter-Allan is building a true legacy indeed, just as his father did before him at Bouchard-Finlayson. But I loved reading Crystallum’s philosophy in their own words…

“We seek to produce classic wines in a new world context that reflect a traditional, age-old way of working coupled with the new world vineyards which we source our fruit from. The only varieties that we work with are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with multi vineyard blends and single vineyard wines making up the collection.” ~ Andrew and Peter-Allan Finlayson, the team behind Crystallum.

The Crystallum Pinot Noirs are fermented in small stainless steel tanks and aged in French oak sourced from a single Burgundian cooper. The barrels are stored in a straw bale cellar and left for circa 16 months before bottling.


Crystallum Mabalel Pinot Noir 2016, Elandskloof, 14 Abv.

This pretty wine shows spicy sappy lift from 10% whole bunch fermentation. The wine is bright, lifted, sweet fruited and attractively sappy showing cranberry, cherry fruits with cedary oak spice and a mineral, gravelly finish. There’s definitely a sweet quince exoticism, that’s quite tantalising, leading you to a super fresh, long, vibrant Pinot Noir finish. 

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


Crystallum Cuvee Cinema Pinot Noir 2016, Hemel-En-Aarde Ridge, 14 Abv.

This is a beauty, made from Pinot clones 115 and 667. Again, like the Mabalel Cuvee, there are wonderful bright fleshy sweet cherry fruits with a thick underlay of wild forest strawberries, red musky perfume, dusty powdery tannins and textured fine grained grip. There is such alluring, elegant concentration and long fleshy finish of blood oranges and pomegranate vibrancy. Very classy indeed. Very impressive.

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


Such a wonderful visit and lunch at Gabrielskloof with Peter-Allan, joined by fellow Zoo Buscuit John Seccombe and Non biscuit Viking, Donovan Rall, who’s own new releases will be reviewed separately in the near future. Thanks chaps!