Restless River’s New 2020 Releases Raise the Quality Bar Yet Again…

Craig Wessels took the South African wine scene by storm with his first 2012/2013 red and white releases. Although his range has grown to include a spectacular 2019 Pinot Noir and a superb Grenache and Sauvignon Blanc, it has always been the Restless River Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon that have been the stand out wines that have helped redefine quality in the entire Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

With the 2017 vintage yielding a blockbuster Chardonnay last year, this year it’s the moment for Craig’s spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon to take centre stage. From the moment Hemel-en-Aarde nobility Anthony Hamilton Russell shared some of his father’s early 1980’s Grand Vin Noir Bordeaux blends from the valley, I knew many producers were missing a real trick forgetting the cool climate opportunities for Bordeaux varieties in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. The 2017 Main Road & Dignity Cabernet from Craig captures all the grandeur possible in this region renowned for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Restless River Main Road & Dignity Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 14% Abv.

This attractive Hemel-en-Aarde Cabernet Sauvignon is fabulously dense and textured with multiple layers of creamy tannins coating the opulent fruit concentration. Full and glycerol in the mouth with refreshing acids, bright creme de cassis, black cherry and earthy baked plum fruit nuances. This vintage shows all the classic 2017 vintage elegance, focus and intensity with impressive mouthfeel and superb balance. You know this is something very special from the very first sip and certainly could be Craig Wessel’s finest Cabernet effort to date. Drink now and over 15+ years.

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

Restless River Ava Marie Chardonnay 2018, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13% Abv.

This is a classically structured Ava Marie 2018 with crystalline tangy acids, generous green and yellow citrus fruit flesh, intricate mineral flintiness and an intensity of lemon and green melon candy on the long, persistent, noticeably concentrated finish. Less steely, malic and severe in style than the impressively taut 2017 (96/100 GSMW), but certainly carries on the Ava Marie tradition of freshness, bright acidity and wonderfully focused purity. Drink now and over the next 10-15+ years.

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

(Tasted 27th November 2020)

Henschke Current Release Tasting with Stephen and Prue Henschke – 150 Years of Winemaking History…

Like many fine wine lovers in the UK, I probably don’t drink enough top end Australian wines these days because the best stuff is either difficult to get hold of or very expensive or both. Australia suffers from having a small number of very top end power brands that are incredibly sought after by locals and international buyers alike. So when considering the most famous quality wine brands, Henschke must be right up there with others like Penfold’s Grange, Jim Barry’s Armagh, Torbreck’s The Laird and of course the super sought after cult producer Wendouree’s Clare Valley Shiraz.

I recently got the opportunity to catch up with Stephen and Prue Henschke in Australia over Zoom to taste through an impressive array of their current releases. But it’s amazing to think that this “new world” estate first produced wine in 1868 and six generations later, the quality has never been higher.

As innovators, Henschke first adopted screwcap closures in 1996 starting with their Julius Riesling and more latterly, adopted the vinolock closure in 2004 for certain red wines. Henschke also only use organic and biodynamic viticulture and winemaking for their wines.

Henschke Croft Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2018

Lovely yellow citrus driven aromatics with delicate notes of biscuits, leesy white toast, green apple pastille and gentle kiss of vanilla oak spice. Acids are crunchy, tangy and bright framing steely white citrus notes with stony minerality, pithy yellow grapefruit, hints of white peach and a taut, crystalline green apple finish. Lovely focus and purity.

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

Henschke Giles Lenswood Pinot Noir 2018

First produced in 1989. Ripe generous nose packed full of baking spices, sweet exotic herbs, bramble berry, sun-dried cranberries, pink musk, candied strawberry, blood orange and subtle raspberry and pomegranate. The palate shows a polished, moderately dense texture with powdery tannins, chalky grip and a round, bold plummy red forest berry fruit character.

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

Henschke Henry’s Seven Barossa Shiraz / Grenache / Mataro / Viognier 2018

Named after Henry Evans who planted the first 7 acres of vineyards in Keyneton in 1853, the nose is packed with black fruits, black berries but also lovely complex notes of sage, black pepper and spicy plum. The palate is vibrant and grippy with attractive rustic hints, sweet savoury black currant intensity, finishing with focus and persistence. Very attractive.

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

Henschke Johann’s Garden Barossa Valley Grenache / Mataro / Shiraz 2017

Made from Low yielding old vine bush vines that are dry grown and trellised on limestone soils. This wine shows rich opulent characteristics of sweet Chinese five spice mixed with notes of blueberries, black berries and raspberry coulis. Palate texture is super bright and juicy, light on its feet but with delicious concentration, powdery tannins and a succulent blueberry crumble finish with a beguiling lick of grey slate dust. Compact and very complete.

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

Henschke Keyneton Euphonium 2015

Previously called Keyneton Estate, this is a blend of 50 year old vine Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from vineyards planted by Cyril Henschke in the Eden Valley in the 1960s. The aromatics are complex and dense, packed full of sage, baking herbs and earthy peppery spice. From the great 2015 vintage, the Cabernet Sauvignon reveals notes of sweet black tea, tannery leather, sweet cherry tobacco and bramble berry spice and combines beautifully with savoury Shiraz nuances and just a kiss of hoisin plum sauce on the finish.

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

Henschke Mount Edelstone Eden Valley Shiraz 2015

From the historic Mt Edelstone vineyard planted in 1912. Low yielding, dry-grown Shiraz vines produced a wine first bottled in 1952 and is the longest consecutively produced single vineyard Shiraz in Australia. The nose boasts layers of Chinese five spice, dried violet perfume, sage, dried mint leaf, camphor and black plum with a sprinkling of black pepper spice. The palate is generously fruited but dense and muscular while remaining texturally polished and precise with fine supporting mineral tannins. The palate is very expressive with layers of creme de cassis, savoury sweet black plum and shows a fabulous harmony and balance together with power and poise. A class act yet again.

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

Wines are available in the UK from importer Liberty Wines.

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)

Chateau Haut-Breton Larigaudieres – Tasting the 2018 Vintage From this Margaux Chateau on the Rise…

I first visited this Chateau in September 2014 in what seems an absolute age away now. Tucked away on the D2 main road in Soussans, I must have driven past this sleepy little Chateau on the bend in the road over 100 times over the years. But to finally visit and taste their wines made by the talented winemaker Jean Michel Garcion was a revelation.

In the UK, merchants are always on the lookout for new, exciting but affordable Bordeaux wines that show ambition and quality but also a pronounced degree of classicism together with supreme drink ability. Haut Breton is just such a Chateau and with its extensive 15 hectares of vineyards planted on sandy gravelly clay soils with an average age of 20 years old, Jean Michel crafts blends dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon with supporting roles played by Merlot and Petit Verdot.

I recently re-tasted the 2018 vintage in bottle ahead of its arrival in the UK market and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Chateau Haut-Breton Larigaudieres 2018 Cru Bourgeois, Margaux, Bordeaux, 13.5 Abv.

The 2018 Margaux from Chateau Haut Breton is a really seductive temptress encompassing a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot aged for between 15-20 months in 70% new French oak barriques. Full of intrigue and complexity, this wine has classic Margaux elegance written all over it. The aromatics boast notes of warm plums, exotic Christmas pudding, creme de cassis and delicate notes of crushed violets, vanilla and freshly tilled earth. The palate shows all the subtlety and elegance you’d expect with smooth, suave silky tannins, a pronounced “light on its feet” concentration, piquant notes of brûléed coffee beans, buttered brown toast and a long, cool, fresh spicy graphite laden blueberry finish. This wine just keeps growing in the glass and suggests the best glory years are still to come! Drink now to 2030+.

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

A New Californian Icon Estate Launches their Wines in the UK – Tasting the Daou Estate 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Release…

The greatest challenge any producer in today’s fine wine world can submit themselves to is a comparative tasting pitching their pride and joy against their primary piers. For those participating, it is an announcement of confidence and intent. That is exactly what the brothers George and Daniel Daou (pronounced Dao… like the Portuguese Region) did to pitch their impressive estate to the UK market.

Coming from the Lebanon, the first rockets from the civil war in the 1970s landed in front of their house, leading to the family deciding to flee to France and then to the USA. George and Daniel eventually started a business, Daou Systems, an intranet system for the US health care system and so created the financial means to realised their American dream.

They recently launched their wines in London to a discerning crowd of journalists and aficionados with full confidence, pitching their wines against the world’s very best! Here’s how their wines performed against the competition!

Cyril Henschke 2015, Eden Valley, 14.5% Abv.

Warm broody black fruited nose full of sweet tobacco, tannery leather and stewed black plums. Sleek and polished texture with bright glassy acids, intense concentration yet admirably light on its feet. An ambitious wine that succeeds through superb restraint and balance.

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

Cullen Diana Madeline 2017, Margaret River, 13% Abv.

81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec. Cool dusty nose with blueberry and black berry fruits, hints of graphite and a slight leafy, sappy vegetal note. The palate is cool and sleek, ultra restrained and fine with gravel, graphite and wood spice nuances on the long finish.

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

Leoville Lases Cases 2017, Saint Julien, 13.28% Abv.

79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot. Shows beautiful aromatics of blueberry, sweet cedar, aniseed root, cedar spice, hedgerow and a brambly undertone. Dense and compact, the textured layers are folded over one another with seamless transition and a long, dense core of rich, taut black fruit. Very classy, sophisticated showing great potential.

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

Chateau Montrose 2017, St Estephe, 13.5% Abv.

76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Dense dark and broody, this is archetypal Montrose with taut layers of creamy black fruits, creme de cassis, black cherry and hoisin plum sauce. Incredible tannins, fabulous blueberry length and a fabulous supple freshness. Very classy but approachable now.

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

Vina Sena 2017, Aconcagua, Chile

52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 15% Carmenere, 10% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot aged for 22 months in oak. Rich and lifted, this has a much more intense aromatic overt attack with opulent layers of cassis, salted black currant and an intense finish lined with kelp, blue berry and black cherry.

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

Vina Chadwick 2017, Maipo, 13.5% Abv.

96% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot. Deep savoury aromatics revealing forest floor, black currant, blueberry and graphite restraint. Cool and elegantly textured, this must have the most sophisticated palate balance in South America.

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

Opus One 2016, Oakville, Napa Valley

77% Cabnernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec aged 18 months in French oak barriques.Sure dense dark and compact, it smells expensive and tastes expensive. Subtle hints of creamy blue and black berry fruits coat the palate and overwhelm the senses. Sublime acids, a subtle mint leaf lift and a long, creamy opulent finish. Serious effort.

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

Daou Soul of a Lion 2017, Paso Robles, Adelaida District, 15% Abv.

Rich dark broody expression with plenty of opulent rich Cabernet fruit characters with notes of sweet black currant, blueberry, vanilla pod spice and a plush long length showing hints of molasses, blackberry compote and an exotic caramelised fig complexity. Multi-layered and textural, this is a serious Californian offering.

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

The Ultimate Waterford Estate Complete Jem Vertical Tasting in London with Mark Le Roux…

The Waterford Estate is situated in the picturesque Blaauwklippen Valley, in the world-renowned Stellenbosch region and consists of around 60 hectares of vines on a 120 hectare farm that was originally based around two smaller properties joined together on the Helderberg, one of the closest mountain ranges to the sea.

Owned by the Ord Family and developed under the watchful eye of Kevin Arnold, Cellar Master and Managing Partner, since 1998, the iconic Waterford The Jem cuvee stands as the winery’s flagship wine showcasing a multi-varietal blend concept which Kevin believed to be the very best wine that Waterford’s terroir could create.

Possessing a complex flavour profile encompassing the 8 varietals of its blend, this wine is a truly complex creation retaining an elegance and focus with seamless integration between its many component parts.

The 2004 was the first Jem vintage produced and until this special trade tasting in London in June 2019, the Waterford Estate had never shown a complete Jem vertical anywhere before. It was also the wine that drew winemaker Mark Le Roux to Waterford originally and has subsequently allowed him to develop and hone his winemaking skills and experiences.

There is a thought process that is followed when putting the wine blend together. When Kevin Arnold planted the various varieties on the different soil types it was to showcase the diversity of terroir at Waterford.

Built around Cabernet Sauvignon, it has always been the backbone of the wine at around 40%, followed by Shiraz at 20%, with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot in the teens and Mourvèdre and Barbera in single digit percentages. With eleven varieties on the farm, the Jem normally used eight of these varieties to build up the layers of the wine.

Waterford Estate Jem Vertical:

Waterford Estate The Jem 2014, 14.6% Abv.

Aromatics of creamy, plush black berry fruits, black cherry, black plum and bramble berry spices with undertones of liquorice, cassis, sweet tobacco and vanilla prod spice. Palate possesses multiple layers of opulent fruit, black and blue berry complexity, sour cherry, graphite within a fine, polished tannin frame. The entry is hedonistic and opulent but the finish is long, dry spicy and mineral driven. Wonderfully textured and harmonious, this is one of the smartest and most distinguished blends from Waterford to date.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2012

Lifted, perfumed nose full of red cherry spice, dried cranberries, dried herbs and savoury plum notes underpinned by a stony, crushed grey slate minerality. The texture is beautifully polished, focused and sleek with the same creamy signature balance and harmony. Tannins are very fine and mineral and the finish spicy and classical with volume, weight and depth on the palate. Very old world in feel combined with a new world fruit purity.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2011

Dark broody aromatic profile with a savoury, earthy plummy depth, sweet cherry confit, pithy spice and dried herbs. Plum and fleshy with a pronounced sweet spot on the front of the palate supported by sweet cassis, cedar spice and a bright red cherry brightness. Lovely purity and beautiful textural harmony with a fine, dry, velvety tannin finish. Classical and classy.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2010

35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Possesses a complex nose of savoury, brambley black fruits, sweet tobacco, cigar box and grilled herbs. Wonderfully complex and savoury but also quite vibrant and piquant. Cool, sleek and impressively balanced, this wine is sleek, sweet fruited and fabulously balanced with seamless transitions between the multiple varietals. The finish is laden with pithy red cherry and chalky powery tannins but very distinguish and classically polished.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2009

35% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. Big, bold broody nose with plenty of sweet tobacco, savoury black berry fruits, earthy plum and spice and a pronounced, herbal, pencil shavings and cedar spice complexity. On the palate there is a fine savoury depth with stewed black fruit compote, Christmas pudding, coffee beans and a classically dry, slightly austere mineral tannin finish. Showing more evolution in fruit profile than the 2010. Texturally polished and pin point, this shows all the signature harmony and balance of the Jem with more tertiary layers.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2007

60% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend making it the highest percentage ever used. The nose show the classical herbal notes of the vintage with aromatics of wood spice, cedar, green herbs and pencil shavings underpinned by black currant fruit pastille ripeness.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2006

Sweet earthy savoury nose with layers of coffee bean, green herbs, blackberry compote, tannery leather and cured meats. Sleek and plush, this 2006 shows evolution and tertiary development, creamy lactic savoury fruits and a round, plump finish.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2005

Darker, tighter, broody nose with smokey graphite, black berry pastille, black cherry and sweet tobacco spice. Creamy, texturally plush of polished with lovely purity, fruit clarity and seamless balance. Holding together beautifully and still showing wonderful integrity, freshness and character.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2004

Earthy and savoury, full of forest fruits, Christmas pudding, tannery leather, green bean and sweet leaf and grilled herbs. Sweet and textural, plush and creamy with the tannins possibly borrowing extra grip and spice from the oak ageing.

(Wine Safari Score: 87/100 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)