Meerlust Rubicon 2016 – Slow and Steady Outlook Assures Another Great Vintage…

Meerlust Estate has been the pride of the Myburgh family since 1756. Today, the dedication to quality winemaking continues under the guidance of 8th generation, Hannes Myburgh. Cellar Master, Chris Williams has worked on the estate since 1995 and has been in charge of winemaking since 2004.

 

The Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on low yielding, predominantly biotite partially decomposed granite gravel topsoil rich in quartz and feldspar to a depth of approximately 600mm with a loamy clay subsoil. The Merlot vineyards are planted on more clay rich, yet well drained soils to ensure moisture retention and availability to the vines roots right through the summer. There are considerable deposits of iron-rich Laterite in the Merlot vineyards which accentuates the fruit definition and mineral profile of the wine.

The Cabernet Franc Vineyard is situated on very well drained, stony Vilafontes soil with approximately 20% clay which is ideal for this variety.The Petit Verdot is on Oakleaf 3 soils on a northerly aspect to ensure full phenolic ripeness. The 2016 growing season was unusually cool but quite dry, presenting unique problems of fruit set and ripening. Irrigation was used strategically even on the mature vineyards to ensure slow ripening and proper flavour and tannin development. The Merlot and the Cabernets were extensively suckered from early in the season, and during veraison ‘vendage vert’ was applied extensively to ensure an evenly ripe crop.

 

Meerlust Rubicon 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

The Rubicon component parts were transferred to barrel early for malolactic fermentation in 55% new Nevers French oak, 25% second fill barrels and the remaining 20% in older French oak barrels. The final blend of the 2016 is indicative of the vintage and its impact on the estate’s vineyards with 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, the lowest in Rubicon history, with 28% Merlot, exhibiting this varieties great expression in the unusual 2016 vintage, 20% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. The wine was barrel aged for 16 months before bottling. Having tasted this wine a few weeks after bottling in 2018 at the winery, it has certainly settled down beautifully and first impressions suggest further ageing in bottle will only be beneficial. It is pure, bright and generous with sweet notes of plump ripe black plums, sweet cherry tobacco, sappy sandalwood, graphite and cedar spice. The palate is still a touch taut on the entry but quickly fans out onto the mid-palate with sappy sweet black plum fruits from the high percentage of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Thoroughly honest in style, generous and approachable, this wine is both vibrantly fresh and charmingly drinkable now on release with impressively integrated creamy oak. A wine that recognizes its vintage limitations but still succeeds in delivering a wonderfully delicious and gregarious Bordeaux blend expression. Drink now until 2028+.

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

The Winery Putting Super Premium Second Wines on the South African Map – Tasting the Seriously Old Dirt 2017 New Release…

The essence of a great second wine always starts with premium fruit. When it comes to Vilafonté, very few South African Bordeaux blends can rival this producer’s wines for critical acclaim or consistency of premium quality, vintage after vintage. But a great second wine like Seriously Old Dirt not only has to leverage its own inherent fruit quality but also its own innate vintage conditions to shape a wine representative of its vineyard surroundings, its terroir as well as its ultimate ambition. 2017 has been the dark horse vintage in South Africa that has taken everyone by surprise, producing whites and reds of unimagined high quality when growers were grappling with peak drought conditions in the Cape.

 

For Vilafonte, 2017 yielded an abundant crop of high quality. Yields rose by 57% percent, despite the fourth year in a sequence of below-average rainfall for the Western Cape winelands. This follows Vilafonte’s smallest per-hectare crop in 2016 and moves back to long-term average yields. Welcome post-harvest rains in the preceding year before leaf fall, coupled with well-timed nutrient applications, allowed the vines to build up reserves before going into winter dormancy.

Winter rains in 2016 approached normal levels but fell below average in late winter to spring. Bud-break in the spring was very even, with rapid shoot growth which ceased well before bloom, allowing excellent fruit-set. Weather leading up to harvest was warm and fair with perfect ripening conditions. Harvest commenced on the 6th of February with a few short pauses and concluded on the 1st of March 2017.

 

Seriously Old Dirt 2017 by Vilafonte, WO Paarl, 13.5 Abv.

This sixth edition was matured for twenty-one months in older French oak barriques with the Seriously Old Dirt 2017 being a blend of 37% Malbec, 36% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc producing 89 barrels. The wine succeeds in displaying a truly graceful elegance, freshness and the saline intensity of the vintage while never losing sight of its core role of delivering generosity, purity and sleek textural harmony and precision. Beautifully fragrant and perfumed, the aromatics reveal no less distinction than is found on the Vilafonte Series M or C with opulent layers of mocha, cocoa power, espresso, sour plum and sappy blue berry vanilla crumble. The palate and tannins are finely polished and as sleek and elegant as the chiselled lines on a Florentine white marble Adonis displaying the seductive allure of red cherry, sweet tobacco and red currant allspice. Deceptively light to medium bodied, this five star vintage red packs an inconceivable amount of pleasure into a small bottle. Luxurious and hedonistic, this is definitely a wine for the educated vinous bargain hunter who is unwilling to compromise on quality.

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

MR de Compostella 2017 – An Iconic Wine That Flirts With Perfection…

Mvemve Raats is a critically acclaimed collaboration between friends and winemakers Mzokhona Mvemve and Bruwer Raats. Bruwer is of course the owner, winemaker and mastermind behind Raats Family Wines, where he has earned a reputation for top notch Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc over the past 20+ years.

Mzokhona Mvemve, the first Indaba Scholarship recipient, is a graduate of Stellenbosch University and one of South Africa’s first qualified black oenologists. Together they have created, since the 2004 maiden MR vintage, one of South Africa’s most consistently high scoring premium quality icon Bordeaux blends in the Cape.

The 2017 is due for release in the South African market at the end of August 2019.

MR de Compostella 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

The highly anticipated MR de Compostella 2017 red blend is composed of 43% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot. A very deep garnet-purple colour, the nose chimes with the beautiful aromatics of the Cabernet fruits, both Franc and Sauvignon. Superbly bright and lifted, this classy wine reveals attractive perfumed notes of cherry blossom, violets, lilacs and fresh rose petals underpinned by seductive chocolate coated red cherries, crème de cassis, sweet sappy sandalwood spice, bay leaves, fresh pencil shavings and crushed granite rocks. On the palate, the wine is more medium bodied but very refined striking an instant resemblance to the perfumed precision and seductive caressing texture of a Chateau Margaux first growth Bordeaux. There is power, there is intensity and there is focus aplenty but it is all delivered with such majestic elegance and finessed structure to be awe inspiring. Super fine and minerally tightly focused, the vivacious palate shows layers of cigar box, maraschino cherry, crushed black berries, cedar spice and fine-grained mineral sandy tannins. Already possessing incredible poise and focus, this wine shows clarity of purpose and an attention to detail very rarely seen on South African red wines. With little to no perceptible oak character, this impressive blend finishes with a very long, minerally accented persistence that is both compelling and incredibly pretty. A profound wine of beauty and certainly this winery’s most noteworthy release since its blockbuster 2015. Cellar for another 5 years from release and drink over the next 30+ years.

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

The wines of Raats Family Wines and MR de Compostella are distributed in the UK by Alliance Wines.

Raats Family Wines Releases Their Benchmark Eden High Density Cabernet Franc from the Epic 2017 Vintage…

It is rather refreshing to engage with the master winemaker Bruwer Raats for many reasons but primarily because of his obsessive and unerring quality focused approach to making wines from two specific varieties – Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. With his skills and expertise he could undoubtedly pull rabbits out of any varietal hat but instead he has always gone about resolutely trying to make the greatest wines he can from these two Loire Valley premium varieties. An admirable quest indeed.

 

No two single wines in South Africa signal a higher quality striving than the production of the Raats Family Wines’ Eden high density red and white. Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8,000 vines per hectare) meticulously planned and planted 8 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 oak barrels. The 2017 Eden Cabernet Franc is due for release on the 28th August 2019 in South Africa.

 

Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2017, 13.5 Abv.

While the 2015 Eden Cabernet Franc was undoubtedly an awesome thing of beauty, the 2017 release feels intuitively like the fruit comes from a vintage even more suited to this variety. Perfume, elegance, purity, intensity and freshness are the calling cards of this wine. Lifted high toned perfume notes waft endlessly from the glass confounding the senses with a complex aromatic offering of saline cassis, sour black cherry, cedar and cinnamon spice, wet thatch and the most mouth watering notes of granny’s freshly baked blue berry pie newly out the oven. Fabulous varietal purity and typicity follow to a pristinely focused, vibrant, electric palate that shows incredible concentration, piercing intensity and high voltage acidity. The linearity and tension on the wine are classic hallmarks of the decomposed granitic soils of the vineyard with the 2017 vintage lending an extra tart brightness, precision and finesse. Cabernet Franc is never about brute force and while the 2015 certainly carried a bigger arsenal of tannin fire power, this wine is understated and supremely classical in construction but also finely chiselled and delineated. Finishing with dusty graphite, sweet baking spices and satin mineral tannins, this wine has to stand alongside the greatest Cabernet Francs ever produced in South Africa to date. Drink this incredible wine at as many points of its evolution as possible over the next 25+ years.

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

Another Amphora Wine from Thierry Germain – Tasting the Exotic Domaine des Roches Neuves Outre Terre Qvevri Saumur Champigny…

Thierry Germain’s domaine Roches Neuves, whose vineyards are planted in Saumur for white wines and the Saumur-Champigny appellation for red wines, has rightfully become one of the greatest examples of biodynamic vine growing throughout France. His total dedication to site specific wines producing “parcellaires” wines from Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc often with the added exotism of flor or amphora ageing, has allowed him to produce some of the most exciting wines in the entire Loire Valley.

Thierry relocated to the Loire from Bordeaux in the early 1990s and soon fell under the influence of his spiritual father, Charly Foucault of Clos Rougeard. Thierry would ultimately convert his entire domaine to biodynamic viticulture. His incredibly diverse terroirs are translated into wine in bottle with utter clarity and precision making Thierry arguably one of the top producers in the Loire Valley and certainly one of the most highly sought after by Loire wine lovers and collectors alike.

Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves Outre Terre Cabernet Franc Amphora 2014, Saumur Champigny, Loire, 13 Abv.

From one of my favourite Loire producers, the Outre Terre is among his rarest and smallest production reds. Fermented and macerated for 8 months in 800 litre Georgian Qvevri (amphora), this 2014 is still opaque and dark with a purple black plum rim. Initially on opening the bottle, the wine reveals some lifted notes of sweet plum, earthy bramble berries, dried herbs and a sweet raisined black currant note. But interestingly this slightly stewed berry note blows off fairly quickly to reveal the real inner workings of an intricate amphora engine. There are all the mineral, rocky, gravelly tell tail signs of amphora ageing complemented by piquant black cherry skin spice, thyme, potpourri, violets and bath soap perfume. There is certainly a clarity, purity and minerality that carries over to the palate which is tart and crystalline, refreshing and electric, showing off Cabernet Franc’s fine powdery tannins but supported by a linear, crunchy line of acid. Wonderfully energetic and fabulously balanced, this wines only fault at this stage is that it’s too youthful still. The finish is spicy, pithy and slightly savoury with sweet black currant, tart Victoria plum, graphite spice and a weightless concentration and focus. Give this superb 2014 another few years to uncoil its tension and flesh out. A truly classy, nuanced expression of Cabernet Franc.

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

Andrea Mullineux Reveals the New Leeu Passant Wine Releases at Roundstone Farm in the Swartland…

With the Mullineux brand more than a decade old now, it has firmly been established as one of South Africa’s top fine wine labels with every new release highly anticipated. Their Leeu Passant brand on the other hand is only three vintages down but also seems to have garnered its own more individual, eclectic wine following among old vine collectors and connoisseurs.

I recently visited the Mullineux’s Leeu Passant winery in Franschhoek where Chris Mullineux showed me the ropes and I also got to meet Wade Sander, Andrea Mullineux’s assistant winemaker who works solely on the Leeu Passant wines.

The Leeu Passant winery in Franschhoek with assistant winemaker Wade Sander (below).

With the 2015 vintage certainly very famous now, the 2017 releases from all of South Africa’s top producers, look set to once again take local and international markets by storm and fill the cellars of a new thirsty generation of South African fine wine lovers.

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Single vineyard on the maritime slopes of the Helderberg where temperatures seldom rise above 28 degrees C. One of the rare sites that the Mullineux’s actually have to wait for the acidity to drop before picking. The aromatics are pure and lifted expressing the usual crystallinity of the style and site. Bottled in October 2018, the wine is still super youthful, taut and fresh but with a touch of creamy malo to take the edge off the electric acidity. Beautifully intense and citrus driven, the wine has a wonderful textural balance and freshness with incredible poise and focus. Long and pin point, superb harmony and purity, this wine has impressive salinity and tart lemon / lime brilliance and brightness to invigorate the palate. A great effort.

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

Leeu Passant Dry Red 2017, 14.5 Abv.

This red blend of 56% Cabernet Suavignon, 26% Cinsautl and 18% Cabernet Franc spent 12 months in 500 litre barrels and around 10 months in neutral foudre. Explosive and expressive, this wine literally leaps out the glass to greet you. Hugely aromatic, it unfurls with intense black berry, red currant, bramble berry and raspberry jam nuances. Such opulence and freshness, on the palate there is an incredible balance and harmony. Fabulous layers of red and black berry, strawberry confit, sweet tobacco, leafy spice and the most alluring foresty bramble berry seduction. A truly beautiful, complex and expressive red blend that changes in the glass continuously. What a super classy red wine that really is worthy of its collectible fine wine status.

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

Mullineux Old Vines White 2018, 14 Abv.

A blend of 69% Chenin Blanc, 12% Clarette Blanche, 9% Grenache Blanc, 7% Viognier and 3% Semillon. Rich and opulent, the nose is broad and ultra aromatic with complex notes of dry grass, wet thatch, soap stone, lemon rind and apple skins. Deliciously ripe and intense, the palate is sleek but fleshy, crystalline and super pure… a feature emerging as a characteristic of the 2018 vintage. The last of the drought vintages, this wine really shows beautiful minerality and dry extract, concentration and intense yellow fruit focus. Really impressive, broad and powerful, this is going to be another super classical white blend for medium to long term ageing.

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

Mullineux Chenin Blanc Straw Wine 2018, 9% Abv.

Liquid gold, this has the classical nose of sweet caramelised orchard fruits, quince preserve, dried guava and a savoury, sweet peach brightness. Glycerol and rich, powerful and intense, it is more in the marmalade and citrus rind character than the tropical passionfruit style. Textural and finely balanced this is an incredibly well honed and focused sweet wine style that is certainly a benchmark for this genre.

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

Acte de Chateau Lafleur by Guinaudeau Vignerons – Tasting 2009 to 2016…

Acte de Chateau Lafleur is a unique wine… “an idea that had been simmering for a few years now in a back corner of our wine-grower’s head. We finally took action in 2009 with the first vintage of this new cru. With Acte we hope to fulfil the dream of creating a new Grand Vin of the right bank. Acte started as a blank sheet, a passionate and ambitious project where everything had to be created from scratch.” – Omri Ram

 

Terroir is clearly the foundation with this new wine and Lafleur embarked on a search for the “ideal” terroir for Acte, taking as reference the best parcels of their Grand Village, and only after preforming profound soil studies, they started acquiring new parcels which corresponded with their rigorous criteria, situated on the poor and shallow soils of the Fronsac region. These new parcels consist of a Saint-Emilion-like clay-limestone terroir, which they compliment with a small proportion of Molasse du Fronsadais soils.

 

The vineyards were planted with equal parts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, favouring above all the Bouchet clone originating from their own massale selection at Lafleur. Clearly, Acte is not a 2nd wine of anything that has come before it or indeed a prestige cuvee. It’s a creation of a new vineyard and a new Cru by the Guinaudeau family who have owned Chateau Lafleur since 1872, with the current family members taking over the reins fully in 1985.

The Guinaudeau family wanted to create a new mythical Cru that in 50 or 80 years time could be another Lafleur. Great terroirs in Fronsac lie on clay-limestone soils. In 2006 they started looking for great parcels with the first vintage released in 2009.

In Fronsac, prime slopes looked good but were too heavy in clay. But they managed to find 10 parcels of shallow clay over limestone on a plateau in the centre of Fronsac. They managed to buy some of these suitable sites that showed great potential.

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2009

60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc

Precise, pure fragrant perfumes nose. Violets, loganberry and pink blossoms with a kiss of vanilla spice, graphite and pink musk. Palate is equally cool and suave, sleek and beautifully balanced with chalky black berry fruits, blueberry hints and a long, opulent, harmonious finish. Seamless and perfectly proportioned and drinking well already.

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

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2010

56% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Franc

Finer, slightly higher tone aromatics with black and blueberry fruit notes, black cherry and a violet and cherry cola complexity. Palate is broad, expansive, silky soft with very finely polished tannins, gentle generous chalky mineral black fruits and a tight core of fruit intensity and concentration. A really impressive show stopper.

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

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2011

56% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Franc

Sweet nutty black fruit notes with a really noticeable liquid chalk mineral note with leafy black fruits and sappy oak spice nicely integrated. Palate is genteel and soft, elegant and medium light weight with creamy dry chalky mineral tannins framing pure black cherry and saline cassis fruit. Very light on its feet with real finesse and balance without any muscle.

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

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2012

51% Merlot, 49% Cabernet Franc

More exotic and wild bramble berry fruit aromatics with spice and sap, charcoal and burnt wood embers. There is an underlying darkness and saline liquorice note with a light fluffy texture, creamy powder-fine tannins and a light bodied finish. No great concentration or depth on this vintage but the flavour are pure, delicate, vibrantly juicy and finely assembled making for a very attractive “restaurant-style” Claret.

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2013

70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc

A challenging vintage in the region where Cabernet Franc struggled to ripen. This nose reveals a much more traditional “premium Bordeaux” nose with creamy black fruits, buttered brown toast and mocha oak spice complexity. Palate shows an incredibly fine, pinpoint textural precision and balance, plenty of finesse, delicate black currant and sappy black berry fruits and a focused, sleek delicately long finish. Certainly a triumph for the vintage! Still youthful, ageing gracefully but simultaneously utterly delicious.

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

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2014

50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Franc

An enticing, complex spicy black bramble berry fruit nose laced with sap and resinous, leafy berry fruit notes with a high note of graphite and limestone minerality. Palate is suave and elegant, still quite youthful and tightly wound with opulence and generosity interwoven with chalky tannins, acid freshness and classical black fruited restraint. A fine effort for the vintage that shows the complexity of 100% massale selection vines after clonal material has been removed.

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

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2015

50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Franc

The aromatics immediately suggest a serious glassful loaded with chalky sappy spice, resinous black berry hints and a dusty chalky minerality. A wine finally revealing a real affinity to Lafleur with sweet plump tannins, ballerina like elegance and finesse, fruit sweetness and black berry concentration. Plenty of baby fat but with unquestionably fine integrity with a very fine fresh acid balance. Classy effort.

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

Acte de Guinaudeau Vignerons 2016

50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Franc

A vintage that really has risen like a phoenix to become instantly revered and collectible among most top producers. This wine also shows the piercing fruit concentration, intense fragrance and accompanying complexity. Layers of blackberry confit, cherry kirsch liquor and seamless chalky minerality with a confident suave fruit concentration, precise intensity and a very friendly generous opulence. So pure, so delicious but will improve further with age. Top drawer!

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

A very fine selection worth tracking down. Wines represented in the UK by Armit Wines.