A Super Premium Expression of Cabernet Franc from South Africa… Tasting the ‘The’ Cabernet Franc 2014 from Walker Bay…

Dark and alluring, this wine is packed with expression and intrigue. It’s not everyday you get to taste the newest and most expensive super premium wine produced in South Africa! But D-day has arrived and it’s time to put the ‘The Cabernet Franc ‘ 2014 through its paces! This delicious, tantalising effort produced by Brian and Marian Smith of Elgin Ridge, in partnership with Niels Verburg of Luddite Wines, is the smartest new Bordeaux’esque premium wine to emerge from the Cape since the creation of MR de Compostella in 2004.

The nose is lush and seductive and oozes the aromatics of a super polished, finely tuned red wine. The oaking is rich, perfumed and ultra sophisticated. Tasted over a few hours, the nose remains tight and broody, compact and focused. You need to coax the genie out the bottle, but once it awakens, wow, you are inundated with a complex bouquet of liquorice stick, oregano, graphite, blueberry, cassis leaf and pronounced crushed gravel and limestone minerality. I poured this wine in both a Riedel Bordeaux glass and a Zalto Universal to make sure I could examine every element of its burning ambition.

The palate weight is creamy, textural and dense but remains fresh, vital and powerful with excellent varietal typicity. This effort is certainly more Napa Valley than Loire in style, but having said that, it wears its DNA proudly on its sleeve and represents pretty much every thing that’s great about South African wine at the moment. What’s perhaps most impressive about this wine is the way it holds its shape, vigour and presence in the glass over several hours… and then almost seems to tire of examination and starts to close up again.

I know Brian and Niels intimately and understand their passion and drive to not only get this wine ‘right’, but also make sure that it represents a wine genre that changes perceptions, opens eyes, shatters glass ceilings and helps premium South African wines climb another couple of steps up the competitive global fine wine ladder.

I have no doubt this wine will impress as many people with its quality, as it will upset with its price. But pause, take a deep breath, look around the market and you will see that there are so many wines from California, Bordeaux and coastal Tuscany that command similar or higher prices, but that are actually not as good as this very fine effort. Quality comes at a price. Be brave and tuck a 3 pack of this superb wine in your cellar!

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

Is There a Silver Lining in the 2013 Bordeaux Vintage Cloud? Tasting Tertre Roteboeuf 2013…

Is there ever a modern vintage from a premium global wine region that can be written off as totally unsaleable!? When you think of the 2013 Bordeaux harvest, it is not exactly a vintage many collectors and connoisseurs can envisage buying and cellaring. Indeed, the 2013 vintage was one of the coldest and wettest growing seasons in the past 40 years. 


In a normal vintage, Bordeaux would be expected to produce 5.5 million hectoliters of red wine. In 2013, this figure was closer to 3.9 million hectolitres, one of the lowest yields since 1970. But was the quality of the wines produced so horrendously below par as wine critics have made out? Personally, I remember returning from Bordeaux after tasting the En-primeur 2013 wines thinking what a delicious, elegant, light, fresh, “bistro vintage” this was going to be and how easy the wines would be to sell if the Bordelais priced them low “to move”. 


But of course, the Bordelais never do what is expected and the 2013 pricing was unreasonably high, out of touch generally, and the wines remained predictably unsold. Fast forward 4 years and it’s a sorry tale hearing of the large, unsold, unsaleable mountains of 2013 Bordeaux clogging up the balance sheets of negociants and Chateaux alike.


So when the opportunity arose for me to drink a bottle of 2013 Tertre Roteboeuf Grand Cru St Emilion, I approached the prospect with a fair amount of circumspection. What should I expect?

Chateau Tertre Roteboeuf St Emilion Grand Cru, 13.5 Abv.

The 2013 has a seductively perfumed nose that shows a wonderfully expressive bouquet of red cherries, red plums, red salty liquorice stick, cedar oak spice and sweet jasmine blossom. The typical Tertre Roteboeuf tasting note always alludes to the wine’s Burgundian characteristics. But with the 2013 Grand Vin, there is not only the pretty fragrant aromatics, but also the lighter, more ethereal texture more reminiscent of a Cotes de Nuits Burgundy than St Emilion Grand Cru. The palate shows beautiful balance and great depth of flavour with nuances of raisined cranberries, strawberry confit, dried figs, earthy red currant and pithy, spicy, picante tannins. Acids are fresh, slightly angular, taught and vibrant, lifting the palate concentration and highlighting its front palate opulence and immediacy before finishing with slightly peppery, spicy, chalky tannin drip. A very pretty wine, yet there is no frivolity in evidence, only focused, elegant, precise winemaking. Drink now to 2027+.

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

Ground Breaking South African Bordeaux Blend ~ Rating the Epic 2015 MR de Compostella…

Mvemve Raats is a critically acclaimed collaboration between friends and winemakers Mzokhona Mvemve and Bruwer Raats. Bruwer is of course the owner and winemaker of Raats Family Wines, where he has earned a reputation for top notch Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Mzokhona Mvemve, the first Indaba Scholarship recipient, is a graduate of Stellenbosch University and one of South Africa’s first qualified black oenologists.


On Friday the 8th September, Bruwer Raats joined us to launch the 2015 vintage of the MR de Compostella. The grapes for this extremely limited production of MR are sourced from Stellenbosch, widely recognized as the Cape’s premier red wine-producing region, especially when it comes to Bordeaux style varieties. With the 2015 vintage currently being lauded in South Africa as possibly the best all-round vintage in South African viticultural history ever, the stage was perfectly set for Bruwer to perform his magic.


MR de Compostella 2015 Blend, WO Stellenbosch,14.5 Abv.

I have been one of Bruwer Raats’ biggest MR de Compostella followers in the UK market since the maiden 2004 vintage release, and we have tasted the MR pre-release every year together since then, discussing the wine’s blend and vintage complexities over a few bottles of MR and fine left bank claret. So after a great amount of anticipation, we got to taste the MR 2015 together last Friday. This is an absolutely gorgeous, coming of age wine. A blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec, the 2015 is genuinely a compelling wine with a classic nose more reminiscent of a fine, opulent Cru Classe Pauillac than a Stellenbosch Bordeaux blend. There are beautiful perfumed notes of assorted purple flowers and fresh violets that melt away to reveal ripe, intense notes of crème de cassis, blueberry crumble, cherry kirsch liquor and damson plum. The wine has gravitas, intensity and a room-silencing presence that is neither heavy nor overpowering. Like all MR vintages, it has impressive laser-like precision, a fine grained focus and an amazing fruit purity and concentration that is a hedonistic pleasure to experience. What extract, what fine piercing acids, what power, but all delivered in a sublimely harmonious chorus of black cassis fruits, blueberry confit and graphite spice. It is impossible to tire of this wine, with its palate freshness reigniting your senses continuously. More structured and intense than its riper, plumper predecessor 2014, the 2015 delivers more intensity, with tannic restraint and brooding classical Pauillac’esque depth. Drink this young if you will, but this MR is the closest Bruwer and Mvemve have come to perfection since they started this project in 2004. I expect the 2015 to be going strong in 30 to 40 years time and continuing to seduce connoisseurs  and collectors globally. 

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Quality By Design ~ Tasting the Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2015…

Just a week or so after Bruwer Raats released both his 2015 MR de Compostella and 2015 Eden Cabernet Franc in South Africa, he was in London presenting both of these wines to the fine wine trade. The 2014 Eden Cabernet Franc scored an impressive 96 points here on the Fine Wine Safari site when reviewed in February 2017. With the follow up 2015 coming from an even better vintage that is being widely touted as the greatest modern-era vintage in South African wine making history, it’s an understatement to say the anticipation pre-tasting was high. 


Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8000 vines per hectare) meticuously planned and planted 6 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, 5% of the grapes were whole bunch fermented before being aged for 8 months in new French oak, followed by a further 10 months elevage in older oak barrels. (UK recommended retail £65 per bottle).


Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2015


Tasting the second vintage release of the Eden Single Vineyard High Density Cabernet Franc after the Raats Dolomite and Raats Family Cabernet Franc cuvees illustrates graphically the power, precision and intensity of this profound wine. Piercing lifted perfumed notes of blueberry, cassis, violets, cherry blossom, cedar spice and liquid minerality all play at full volume. Real intensity of fruit, showing red cherry, kirsch liquor, powerful grippy tannins, delicious salinity and an impressively bold structure define this impressive wine, which simultaneously wears its elegance and finesse proudly on its sleeve. All the building blocks for greatness are present. This is certainly one of the most accomplished red wines conceived in South Africa and looks set to not only age extremely well but also improve in bottle for 15 to 20 years, and drink well for over 30 years. Well done Bruwer. A towering achievement in the context of fine wine.

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

The Epic Raats Family Wines Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2014 Reviewed…

When it comes to the Loire varieties of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, no one in South Africa delivers quite like Bruwer Raats of Raats Family Wines in Stellenbosch. A passionate obsessive, Bruwer has dedicated most of his winemaking career to mastering these two varieties. 


In the Eden High Density Cabernet Franc, Bruwer has conjured up such vinous brilliance, producing probably the finest pure varietal version South Africa has ever seen. 300 vines in a single vineyard produced just 260 bottles, making this probably one of the rarest “new release” wines out of the Cape. But trust me, making the effort to hunt a bottle down will definitely be worthwhile!


Tasting Note: A mysterious dark opaque black plum colour that’s every bit as deep and alluring as the wines bouquet. At first, when poured, there are broody Cabernet Franc notes of cassis leaf, capsicum, graphite and cedar spice. But given five minutes of air, this wine blossoms like a Namaqualand wild flower field after August rains. Lush black peppercorns, cassis, saline briney black berry complexity. There are so many layers of orange blossom, orange peel and black  forest berries. The palate is tight and pin point on the entry, layered, with dusty silky tannins, tart linear acids and a cool 13.5 Abv. The fruit concentration seems at once dense but also weightless, as the dark earthy fruits dance across the palate with such elegance. The peacocks tail of fruit complexity fans out on the mid-palate and then constricts again, leading to a focused, taught, fresh, long vibrant finish. The pieces of this vinous puzzle fit together seamlessly. One can only imagine how profound this wine will be in 10-15 years time. Bravo Bruwer! 

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


Gabrielskloof Cabernet Franc 2015 ~ An Exclusive Tasting Preview…

A real privilege to do an exclusive world preview on a fantastic new South African red wine like this. With a hand delivered sample from Peter-Allan Finlayson, I was excited to be the first wine merchant to taste the new 2015 Gabrielskloof Cabernet Franc, recently bottled and due for release in South Africa in May/June 2017.


Made from a single vineyard, only 4,099 bottles have been produced from whole bunch clusters, fermented with wild yeasts. Clocking in at 14.4 Abv., this wine delivers a very classy, seductive, light handed, elegant version of Cabernet Franc.


This red was aged in 500L barrels, using 30% new French oak, for 18 months. On opening, this wine has taught, spicy, stalky, sappy, Loire complexity written all over it. But with 10 to 15 minutes in the glass, it reveals a more overt, sensual, opulent melange of sweet black fruits, barbecued meets, savoury foresty red bramble fruits, blood oranges, cedar spice, dusty led pencil, and a superbly pure sweet black current and blue berry intensity. Wonderful varietal typicity of cassis leaf, black plum, sweet soft textured concentration, coffee bean spice and a rich, long persistent finish. I love this wine’s intensity of fruit, light weight precision across the palate, and its cool, Cabernet Franc finesse. Peter-Allan is on to something very special here. A wine to watch out for. (Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)