Another Vintage and Another Iconic Cabernet Franc Release – Tasting the New Raats Eden Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2018…

No two single wines in South Africa signal a higher quality ambition than the production of the Raats Family Wines’ Eden high density red Cabernet Franc and white Chenin Blanc. Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8,000 vines per hectare) meticulously planned and planted 9 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, the grapes were fermented in tank and then aged for 9 months in new French oak followed by a further 9 months elevage in older French oak barrels.

Ever since tasting a barrel sample with Bruwer Raats back Cape Town in February 2020, I have been awaiting this impressive new wine release. It is now quite simply the leading single varietal Cabernet Franc in South Africa and continues to gain an obsessive following among collectors and connoisseurs across the globe.

In reality, the only thing holding back its even faster success and popularity is the impossibly tiny quantity of wine produced. One single barrel or 365 bottles. This is a true unicorn wine offering and certainly a fine wine that should find a happy home in any of the greatest wine cellars around the world.

Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2018, 13% Abv.

The 2018 vintage yielded another impressive expression of Cabernet Franc and who better than Bruwer Raats to perform his own kind of magic and conjure up another enchanting, seductive rendition of this iconic single vineyard wine. The nose is initially discreet and classical, leaning towards a purer, black and blue berry fruit driven expression with delicate floral notes of violets and rosemary with a youthful backing chorus of fresh brown toast, mocha, sweet tobacco, black currant and sappy cedar notes. Medium bodied but fabulously concentrated and intense, this sleek textured wine shows plenty of power with smooth mineral granitic tannins, mouth watering vitality and simply awesome persistence. This has all the finesse and pedigree you could ever want from a benchmark Cabernet Franc. Give this wine 3 to 5 years to mellow and then enjoy over another 10 to 15+.

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

A Decade on From the Iconic 2008 Vintage, Bruwer Raats Releases the Impressive MR de Compostella 2018…

It seems quite fortuitous that the very week Bruwer Raats and Mzokhona Mvemve choose to release their new vintage of MR de Compostella 2018, the most famous and influential wine reviewer in the world, Neal Martin chose their MR de Compostella 2008 as his Vinous Cellar Selection and scored it 96/100, matching the original rating he gave this iconic wine exactly 10 years ago.

I was of course lucky enough to host Bruwer Raats in London in October 2019 when we tasted through the first ever complete vertical of MR vintages from the maiden 2004 until the 2017. Then, when I managed to visit Bruwer at the winery in Feb 2020, long before the pandemic struck, he was already talking about another exceptional vintage that was different to many of the others but was perhaps one that clearly reminded him of the famed 2008 vintage. As it turned out, the 2018 ended up spending approximately 27 months in barrel compared to the usual 22 to 24 months for an MR de Compostella, creating another similarity with the famed 2008 vintage.

Whether this extended ageing enhanced the 2008 or whether it was just an exceptional vintage to start with, what I do see are the clear similarities between the 2018 and the 2008 vintages. This is sure to be a very stable, slow burning vintage and undoubtedly, a release you are going to want to have in your cellar.

MR de Compostella 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

The 2018 MR de Compostella is a blend of 54% Cabernet Franc, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 5% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot. Deep garnet-purple in colour, one sniff of the bouquet reveals another truly towering effort with incredible perfume lift, a complex melange of red and black berry fruits and the most fabulously integrated oaking imaginable. The nose is loaded with black cherry kirsch liquor, black truffle, crushed violets, crème de cassis, mulberries, graphite and freshly tilled earth nuances. Despite an extensive elevage in French oak barriques, the sweet cedary wood spice and vanilla pod notes play very much a subtle supporting role allowing the bold multi-dimensional fruit intensity to take centre stage. While only medium-bodied, the palate is super sleek, laser focused and intense, washing over the senses in energetic waves of saline cassis, black cherries, black plum and baked blueberries. This is classical winemaking at its very best where a harmonious freshness combines with beautifully silky poised tannins to deliver a wine with not only overt mouth-watering appeal but also plenty of latent structural depth. Undoubtedly another individually monumental wine that displays the brilliance of the special Mvemve-Raats winemaking partnership clearly for all to see. Old School and New World all at the same time, this is a wine that will appeal to the classicists as much as to the New World connoisseurs. Drink it on release or bury it in your cellar for 25+ years for further rewards.

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

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)

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)

Sassicaia 2018 – A Cool Classical Vintage at Its Very Best…

Faced with tasting and assessing the new 2018 Sassicaia, it is almost impossible not to recall the significance of the great past Sassicaia vintages ending in “8”. From the very beginning with the first commercial release in 1968 up to the 1988 that was thought by many influential critics to rival the great 100 point 1985. One thing all the greatest vintages of Sassicaia do have in common is the way the wines really excel and hit their zenith of quality in the cooler, more classical vintages.

With their exceptional fruit grown in their own ‘monopole’ territorial delimitation of DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia, it is perhaps fitting that the name Sassicaia itself means stones in the local dialect and leads you directly to the exceptional terroir that lies at the heart of one of the greatest red wines in Italy.

The Cabernet Sauvignon vines on the galestro soils.

The 2018 vintage was undoubtedly a classical year for Tenuta San Guido. With the cold winter characterised by lengthy periods of rain and an unusually cold snowy period at the end of February, which those across the UK and Western Europe will remember as the “Beast from the East”, a chilling weather pattern that descended across Europe from icy Siberia, all the elements were in place for perfect vineyard dormancy and the elimination of pests and parasites.

The Sassicaia barrel ageing cellar in Bolgheri.

While Spring was cool and constant with slowly rising temperatures and sunny days, May saw the return of rain and wind. The growing season from Spring to Summer was very favourable with ample ground water supplies, normal constant temperatures without any excessive heat spikes and importantly, cool temperatures in the night. With longer than normal hanging times for the grapes, the season allowed for the slow progressing of phenolic ripeness and the development of intricate aromatics and vibrant acidities.

Harvest began on average 7 to 8 days later than normal on the 6th of September and ended on October 4th with the collection of Cabernet Sauvignon fruit in the Vigna di Castiglioncello and Vigna del Quercione vineyards located at higher altitudes of around 360 metres above sea level.

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2018, DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia, 13.5% Abv.

One of the true signs of a wine’s greatness is its ability to capture the very essence of every changing vintage through its liquid terroir representation. This long cool vintage is captured beautifully in this latest Sassicaia release that is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. While showing plenty of taut, wound spring tension and aromatic restraint, the finery of this vintage slowly but surely reveals itself in slow, subtle, delicate perfumed waves of violets, cherry blossom and lavender hints all supported by intense mouth-watering notes of small black cherries, cranberries, earthy blueberries, cola and stony dark notes of blood and graphite. The oak use is almost imperceptible, melting into the fruit concentration like cherry cordial into water. On the palate, the mouthfeel shows incredible purity, density, intensity and focus with impressively creamy, compact, velvety ripe tannins that buttress the red and black berry fruits and the vibrant energetic acidity. But if there is one true stand out feature of this wine in its youth, it’s the wine’s incredible harmony and seamless balance in the mouth that points to perfect phenolic ripeness, expertly managed tannin extraction and the true benefits of longer, stress-free hang times of the grapes. Despite the abundant finesse and accessibility, this wine possesses restrained power, classical tension, liquid minerality and a fabulously long, persistent finish that is reminiscent of Grand Cru Burgundy in the finest years. A deeply seductive Sassicaia shaped by its classicism, linearity and balance. How can you not enjoy a few bottles of this classy wine in its youth? Drink from 2022 to 2045+.

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

Thierry Germain Releases Another Benchmark Loire Cabernet Franc…

Owner and winemaker Thierry Germain is one of the most respected producers in the Loire Valley and is an avowed practitioner of biodynamic viticulture where from his estate near the town of Saumur he makes some of the most highly regared red and white wines in the region. This Saumur Champigny red is his domaine cuvée and represents incredible quality and value for money, retailing in the UK for only circa £20 per bottle.

Harvesting at the domaine is all manual and vinification is done in small batches with optimally ripe grapes which leads to wines with plump and generous Cabernet Franc fruit flavours. Wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined. His painstaking attention to detail and quality has earned Thierry an enviable reputation around the world especially with Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc obsessives.

Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny 2019, 13.5% Abv.

The 2019 Saumur Champigny from Thierry Germain is such an exciting, beguiling wine. While I tasted this new release knowing relatively little about the Loire vintage conditions in that year, the wine has succeeded in bowling me over like a full length yorker pitched on middle stump. A beautifully dark dense purple colour, the 2019 offers up expressive notes of pure crushed black berry fruits, a most elegantly refreshing and fragrant bouquet of black cherries, black tea, charcoal embers, boxwood, blue berries and a subtle leafy sweet Chinese five spice complexity. On the palate the wine is moderately dense, medium bodied but supremely cool and creamy with a fleshy texture, tart black currant fruits, generous mouth watering acids and a long, slightly stony mineral finish that has just the right amount of leafy, brambly, herbal sappy spice to combine with the suave graphite tannins. A wine with a lot of personality that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on the drinker. Drink now and over the next 6-8+ years.

(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.

The Meerlust Estate Prepares For Another Momentous New Release – Tasting the Meerlust Rubicon 2017 Red Blend…

The 2017 release of the Meerlust Rubicon represents another classical expression of this fabulous Cape Icon wine. The high critical praise heaped upon the 2015 vintage helped it to become the fastest selling Rubicon release on record. Indeed, one cannot even begin to imagine a South African fine wine landscape that does not feature this wine prominently. Great expectations are placed on every new release and year after year, this Cape heritage estate delivers.

The 2017 vintage was surprising in that from the very beginning, the estate felt that the wines were very similar to the excellent 2015 reds. A cold winter in 2016 followed by a warm spring ensured early and even bud break. Although comparatively dry, as the Cape was still experiencing a drought, the 2017 crop was greatly enhanced by the estate’s ability to irrigate strategically, ensuring steady ripening and eventual phenolic ripeness across all varieties.

Tasting at Meerlust in March 2018 with Hannes Myburgh, Chris Williams and viticulturalist Roelie Joubert who sadly passed away in April 2020 from a sudden heart attack.

The 2017 is again a Cabernet Sauvignon dominated four grape blend with each of the varieties fermented separately before being aged in 300 litre French Nevers oak barrels, 60% new and 40% second fill. After 8 months in barrel, the components were blended and given another 10 months in barrel for harmonization before bottling. I first tasted this wine in its component parts back in March 2018 with the then winemaker, Chris Williams. I knew instantly that we were in for another exceptional release of Rubicon. Then in January 2020, I met up with owner Hannes Myburgh in London and got my first taste of the Meerlust Red 2017, the second wine made up of components not used in the Rubicon blend. I was bowled over by the beauty of this wine and while it is only really sold in export markets, it served to raise my quality expectations for the Rubicon 2017 even higher.

In November 2019, winemaker Wim Truter joined Meerlust, taking over from Chris Williams to become only the third winemaker to take the reins at this historic estate. Chris finally followed his calling and agonisingly decided to move on to the next chapter of his winemaking career, to pursue his own Foundry wine project full time.

The old Meerlust farmstead with some of Hannes’s beloved dogs.

Meerlust Estate Rubicon 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13.6% Abv.

The 2017 Rubicon is a classical blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, each vinified separately before undergoing malolactic fermentation in 300 litre French Nevers oak barrels, 60% new and 40% second fill. Deep purple-black in colour, the intensity and gravitas of this vintage is highlighted by the tight, dense, dark broody aromatics that require more than a little coaxing out the glass before revealing a very focused, slightly introverted bouquet of complex, tightly interwoven notes of violets, black currant preserve, black plum, Black Forest gateaux and hoisin sauce with backing notes of dried fennel, salty black liquorice, spicy cedar and an exotic Asian 5 spice nuance. While 2017 certainly stands out as another classical year of exceptional quality, the vintage will surely be remembered for its stand-out elegance, seamless palate textures and its signature weightless intensity and concentration. This Rubicon does of course possess plenty of stuffing and dazzles with gentle waves of blackberry crumble, crème de cassis, macerated black cherries, freshly tilled earth, unsmoked smoked cigars and a finely textured, powdery tannin frame that dries the palate on the finish and reminds the drinker that this wine, however enjoyable in its youth, is also built for extended ageing. This really is another exquisite vintage with charm and poise, Grand Vin potency and an overt, unbridled determination to deliver long-term drinking pleasure. Drink from 2022 to 2040+

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

Vilafonte Prepare to Release Their New Seriously Old Dirt Red Blend – Tasting the 2018 Vintage of the Most Desirable Second Wine On the South African Market…

It seems an age ago now, visiting with Phil Freese and Zelma Long at the Vilafonte Winery on the 13th February in Stellenbosch. Who could possibly have known what lay just around the corner! Nevertheless, my brief visit to South Africa was very productive with one of the highlights being able to visit the Vilafonte Winery again together with the iconic duo of Phil and Zelma, the US partners in crime with Mike Ratcliffe at one of the most exciting premium quality wineries in South Africa.

Right from the very beginning with the 2012 Seriously Old Dirt vintage, I championed the vision of a truly special super premium second wine that over delivers in bucket loads. When I tasted the Seriously Old Dirt way back then, I knew that this ‘Members Only’ blend was a wine I needed to push on behalf of consumers and indirectly encourage owner Mike Ratcliffe to do the right thing and unleash this fabulous blend onto the wider wine world.

Seven vintages in to the project and Seriously Old Dirt is surely the number one premium selling second wine in South Africa. The consumer uptake and affinity has been exceptional both in South Africa and internationally. The new 2018 release was marked by the worst drought on record and the challenges that accompany such a vintage. After a drought spell from 2015 to 2018, water resources were at an all time low and rationing was put in place in the Western Cape.

Tasting with Phil Freese, Zelma Long and Chris de Vries.

Low moisture in spring and limited water availability led to a reduced vigour and canopy size. Some unseasonable rains and low temperatures in October and November disrupted fruit set and reduced the number and size of berries on each cluster. Harvest time proceeded on schedule, commencing February 2nd and continuing uninterrupted through to February 27th. In 2018, yields were down -24% following a generous 2017 crop. (However, production was increased as parcels of premium fruit were bought in to up the production and meet demand. This in all likelihood will be the practice going forward.)

The Seriously Old Dirt was matured for 21 months in older French oak barriques and 135 barrels were produced or approximately 40,000 bottles which is indeed a big jump up in quantity from the previous vintages of 8 to 10,000 bottles. But as always, quality is at the forefront of the Vilafonte operation and this is another exceptional release of Seriously Old Dirt. Due for earlier than planned release on the 25th June 2020.

Vilafonte Seriously Old Dirt 2018, 13.5 Abv. (Bottled Dec 2019)

89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, 4% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. A Cabernet Sauvignon driven blend this vintage, the 2018 sees a pronounced spicy aromatic lift of sweet black berry fruits, leafy cassis, sweet sandalwood and spicy damson black plums. Cool, focused and fairly linear at this youthful stage, the tannins are satin smooth and the texture generous yet structured. Finely layered and fresh, attractive black cherry, blue berry and black currant notes melt into mineral nuances of graphite and wet granite. Wonderfully polished and sophisticated as you’d expect from Vilafonte, this wine will be ready to drink on release but will undoubtedly benefit from a few years extra cellaring to allow the large Cabernet Sauvignon component to mellow and reveal further tertiary treats for the drinker. Seriously Old Dirt is on a seriously good run of form!

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

A Petit Chateau Bordeaux That Impresses – Tasting Château Tayet’s Cuvée Amiral de Cadiot 2011 Bordeaux Superieur…

Amiral de Cadiot is produced by Château Tayet which has been owned by the de Schepper family since 1994, the former owner, Mr. Marc Raymond, was director at de Schepper’s Chateau Haut-Breton-Larigaudière until 1993, selling his own estate to his previous employer when he retired. Tayet has an excellent terroir in Macau, very close to the AOC Margaux, which has grown by the acquisition of further high quality plots with a high plant density and today consists of 10 hectares of vines.

Chateau Tayet located near Soussans where the wines are bottled – Chateau Tayet, 3 Rue des Anciens Combattants, 33460 Soussans.

The “Amiral de Cadiot” by Château Tayet is considered to be one of the best Bordeaux Superieur and is one of the few wines of this class that ages 12 months in 20% new and 50% second fill barriques. The vines for this particular selection are at least 25 years old.

Chateau Tayet and De Mour Group winemaker Jean-Michel Garcion.

The Château Tayet Cuvée Amiral de Cadiot offers a whole lot of red Bordeaux magic at a truly excellent price point, something often sorely missing in these days of over ambitious, stratospherically priced icon Cru Classe wines. Wines like this in many ways represent the true heart and soul of authentic, consumer orientated classical Bordeaux. In the post Covid-19 lockdown era, wines like this are going to take on a much greater significance in the market place.

Château Tayet Cuvée Amiral de Cadiot 2011, Bordeaux Superieur, 14 Abv.

A wonderfully classical blend of 60% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot, this wine has the most intricate textured layers of blueberry and cassis fruit, mocha, brown toast, vanilla pod spice and a supple, plush, sweet fruited core with bright refreshing acids, ripe fine grained tannins and complexing peripheral notes of tannery leather, cigar box and graphite spice. A whole lot of wine that will impress the staunchest of discerning wine connoisseurs. Drink now to 2024+

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

De Mour Group owned by the de Schepper family.