Another Sensational Run of Boutique Wines from Carsten Migliarina – Tasting His Impressive New Releases…

I recently caught up with winemaker Carsten Migliarina to taste through his new releases. Always working on a variety of different wines that usually includes a Grenache and a Syrah, Carsten also normally has at least one new one-off boutique experimental bottling on the go at any time. One year it may be a dry Riesling, this year it’s a fabulous Pinot Gris. Most impressively, the quality across the board is of such a high standard that when Carsten talks about tweaking a wine to improve it, it means no more than freshening up the label!

But sommelier turned winemaker Carsten also manages to consistently capture and bottle such impressive varietal purity and typicity that I can only put this down to his hidden Germanic subconscious that unrelentingly demands absolute precision without loosing any excitement, character or drinkability. Cartsten’s newest releases once again follow this characterisation and are definitely worth tracking down on release as almost 70% of his wines are exported globally.

Pinot Gris 2017 Grey Matters, WO Stellenbosch, 13.9 Abv.

50% Barrel fermented – wild, 50% Tank – wild and inoculated. Just 2,500 bottles. Cool, vibrant, super fresh style. Loaded with crystalline white peach, green apple and cream soda but with extra complex spicy pithy aromatics from 30 mins skin contact in the rolling press. There is very little tooty fruity frivolity but more mineral lemon and lime intensity and incredibly fine purity. Great balance and impressive intensity, this is a fabulous expression of this rare variety in SA!

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

Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13.1 Abv.

Just 2,500 bottles produced. Roughly 35 year old vines from a single vineyard, 100% barrel fermented with older shaven oak. Wild yeast ferment. An intense nose with lemon biscuit, vanilla pod spice and dusty yellow apples, aniseed and pineapple confit. Beautifully textured, massive concentration of apple pastille, pink musk, white peach, dusty talc minerality and exotic quince and yellow citrus depth. A classic cool style signature Migliarina wine that when you open it, it’s hard to stop until the bottle is finished. This is very special and very impressive.

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

Chardonnay Single Vineyard 2016, 13.5 Abv. WO Elgin

2,500 bottles produced. Barrel fermented, 35% new oak from France, Romania, Hungary and USA. A beautifully sleek fine Chardonnay with great breadth and depth and superb complexity. Nose is multi-dimensional with creamy vanilla pod, lemon biscuits, creme brûlée and toffee able with 14 months in oak with no malo. Expert oak interaction, beautiful acidity and chalky minerality that doesn’t seek to be bludgeoned to death with oak. This Elgin fruit screams cooler climate, minerality, subtlety with no fining and no filtration. Lovely lime cordial tension, linearity and a long, harmonious, classical finish. A supremely distinguished effort.

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

Grenache 2017, WO Wellington, 13.5 Abv.

100% Varietal Grenache, single vineyard aged 7 months in shaven oak, untoasted. Inoculated, whole berry, destemmed, cold fermented (max 13 to 20 deg) taking 3 weeks to finish fermentation. Incredibly pretty wine with fragrant raspberry, strawberry, red cherry perfume notes with an almost Cinsault-like Turkish delight, marzipan, parma violets and blood orange lift. Carsten’s mantra is not to “spoil” the wine with too much savoury sappy spice and oak, hence no whole bunch and the obsessive focus on purity, precision and perfume. The saline, cassis, oyster shell notes are incredible. A profound expression.

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

Parquet 2016 Syrah – Carignan – Grenache, 13.5 Abv.

84% Syrah, 7% Carignan, 9% Grenache. Syrah 8 to 10 weeks on skins, 2017 Grenache blended in. One barrel of Swartland Carignan 2016. Beautiful dark, alluring wine with sweet black pepper corns, savoury cured meats, black berry spice, black olive and black plum style that eventually meanders back to brightness and purity with the use of the 2017 Grenache addition. Another crystalline style, total focus and purity, with component parts beautifully pieced together. So cool, pure and fresh, with great precision that is a manifestation of Carstens own personality. Lovely wine.

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

Syrah 2015 WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

10 weeks on the skins. 14 months in old oak, inoculated, unfined, unfiltered, destalked, destemmed, with initially whole berry cold fermentation in tank allowing malo on skins in tank. Pure Helderberg expression with delicious blackberry, iodine, coriander and lavender and subtle hints of fraise des bois. A medium bodied, classical old world European style wine with subtle restrained fruit, black berry salinity, some accessibility in young but embroidered with complex mineral pithy tannins and a fresh linear finish. Still taut, broody and tight, the finish will become naturally embellished with extra time in bottle. A great vintage and a very serious, “adults only” top shelf effort.

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

The Savvy Swartlanders Putting Stellenbosch Chardonnay on the World Map – Tasting a Pre-Release Bottle of Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016…

As I near the end of my March trip to South Africa, one of my favourite visits and tastings lay ahead at the Roundstone farm of Chris and Andrea Mullineux in the Swartland. With the new Leeu Passant wines due for imminent release, it was great to get a sneak peak of one of my favourite new white wines on the South African wine scene, the Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay.

As it becomes apparent that the Elandskloof Chardonnay Cuvee will no longer be made, the Mullineux’s have instead decided to focus on their Stellenbosch Chardonnay Cuvee from the Helderberg, which they believe offers the best future potential for premium quality and cellar ageability.

In the past few years, the debate has certainly hotted up in Europe and the USA around the collectability and quality of premium new world Chardonnay versus expensive top white Burgundy. New challengers to the holy Burgundy grail will certainly emerge, and I’m putting my money on this wine being in the mix for top honours.

Mullineux Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016, 14 Abv.

Another incredibly serious, focused, grown up release from the Mullineuxs. Regal, refined and linear, the fruit comes from the same 26 year old Helderberg vineyard as the 2015 release. Beautiful lime and white citrus pastille fruit notes are very pure and pithy with an alluring wet limestone and waxy lemon rind edge. Very tight grained, tightly wound and taut, far more so than even the very serious 2015 release. The intense lemon and lime cordial freshness is supremely balanced and harmonious performing a sophisticated, choreographed Burgundy styled routine with an expertly judged amount of struck match reduction complexity. The finish has a dusty, gravelly dry mineral length that will impress the most educated fine wine collector. Cellar this beauty for 2 to 3 years before opening, and drink over 20+ years.

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

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, A Benchmark Wine In the South African Wine Industry – The 2017 Vintage Reviewed…

I recently caught up with Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell to taste their new releases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. So much has been written about 2017 as the third consecutive “drought savaged” vintage in South Africa. But in reality, Walker Bay and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley got off relatively unscathed, producing wines with great concentration, vigour and freshness. No doubt this will Be yet another fast selling vintage for this dynamic estate.

90% of the 2017 Chardonnay was barrel fermented and aged in 228 litre barriques for 9 months, 31% first fill, 33% second fill, 33% third fill and 3% fourth fill… 47% blonde, 40% medium, 10% medium long toast, with 4% aged in foudre, 5% stainless steel, and 1% in ceramic eggs. 1.4 g/l RS.

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.16 Abv.

This wine was tasted from barrel in March 2017 and showed great potential with bright acidity accentuating the wine’s natural limestone minerality. After 9 months ageing in French oak barrels, the wine is still very primary on the nose, revealing notes of sweet lemon cordial, green honeydew melon, green pear, white blossom and waxy green apple skins. There is lovely nervy tension to the palate which is much tauter and leaner than the nose suggests. Framed by vibrant, steely acids, the white citrus and lemon butter flavours are concertina’d into a complex press of green apple pastilles, pithy green gauge fruits and a stony liquid minerality. Not revealing all its grandeur just yet, but undoubtedly serves as a grand road map to the full pleasures that await the drinker in 6 to 12 months time. A real triumph for the vintage and another benchmark Chardonnay from this winery. Drink now to 2030+

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

Masters of Their Terroir – Tasting the Domaine Jean-Claude Ramonet Pernand-Vergelesses Les Belles Filles 2014…

Jean-Claude and Noël Ramonet are at the head of Domaine Ramonet, the iconic Burgundy producer that delivers exceptional quality wines year in, year out, with international demand insatiable. From lowly Aligote all the way up to Montrachet Grand Cru, the wines always show intense terroir minerality, a measure of restraint and a mouth watering, salty fresh acidity.

Produced in the commune of Pernand-Vergelesses in Cote de Beaune, where red and white wine styles are both permitted, the appellation production consists of a little more than half red wine, and slightly less than half white wine. In 2008, there were 135.32 hectares of vineyard surface in production in total for Pernand-Vergelesses wine at Village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to around 750,000 bottles, including almost 400,000 bottles of red wine and a little over 350,000 bottles of white wine.

In keeping with the exceptionally high quality standards of Domaine Ramonet, they too produce one of the most exceptional Pernand-Vergelesses whites from one of the most famous village level “lieu-dits” single vineyard sites, Les Belles Filles. In the great 2014 vintage, they made an absolute cracker of a wine that was able to rival the best Premier Crus sites for quality. Always sought after, these wines can and often do represent exceptional value for money when seen on restaurant or wine bar lists.

Domaine Jean-Claude Ramonet Pernand-Vergelesses Les Belles Filles 2014, Burgundy, 13 Abv.

The 2014 Les Belles Filles starts off tight, taut and as linear as physically possible. Liquid rocks, limestone and dusty wet slate notes dominate the aromatics. A few minutes in the glass allows this wine to open its shoulders slightly, revealing a more complex array of white citrus zest, white blossom, crunchy green pears and a hint of hazelnut savoury spice. Although so youthful and tightly wound, you can already feel the wonderful textural weight that coats the palate and unfurls slowly in alternate layers of minerality and tart, saline pithy citrus fruits. Superbly focused and wonderfully precise for this ‘lesser’ Burgundy appellation wine, the finish packs plenty of punch with more liquid minerality, smokey struck match flinty citrus spice and a cool, clean waxy lemon cordial length. A wine that is initially very reticent, blossoms into a lean, complex, well honed, superbly made white Burgundy with fine nuanced complexity and good ageing potential. Drink from 2020 to 2030+.

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

The New Kid On The Hemel-en-Aarde Block – Tasting The Bosman Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2016…

The area known as Hemel en Aarde falls under the appellation of Walker Bay and is divided into three wards: Hemel en Aarde Valley, Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley and Hemel en Aarde Ridge. The Bosman De Bos Estate is situated in the Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley where their vineyards are planted between indigenous fynbos fields in close proximity to the ocean.

Here, suitable soil types combined with the cooling breezes from the Atlantic Ocean create wine growing conditions rivalling some of the greatest wine growing regions of the world. Still a newly established area with modestly aged vines, quality of the region’s wines can only increase incrementally as the vines mature further and winemaking knowhow is expanded.

With the elevated quality wines comes the corresponding premium prices, making it rare for more affordable offerings to be found especially using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. But as this wine shows, they do exist and are worth the effort to track down and purchase.

Bosman Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2016, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, 13.93 Abv.

R/Sugar: 1.8g/l, TA: 5.9 g/l, pH: 3.35

An exciting Chardonnay that confirms that some premium wine areas of South Africa still offer excellent value for money. The aromatics of this 2016 are very grown up with plenty of dried citrus peel, wet straw and dusty limestone minerality flirting with smoky struck match reductive notes. The palate is tense and nervy, showing liquid minerality, crushed rocks, piquant lemon grass, bitter lemon and herby citrus spice. A wine with classical restraint, fine balance and great dynamic sophistication. In it’s youth, this is a superb food wine and certainly should appeal to all white Burgundy lovers. Drink now to 2024+

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

Not a Plentiful Vintage, But Certainly a Delicious Vintage – Tasting Domaine Ferret’s New 2016 Pouilly Fuisse Release…

Founded in the 1840s, Domaine J.A.Ferret is located in the heart of the most famous “climats” of the Fuissé amphitheatre, and has followed a female line of succession, who cleverly decided to bottle their wines themselves long before the practice became common place in Burgundy. The 18 hectare Domaine was acquired in 2008 by the Louis Jadot empire and encouragingly, the estate has remained unwaveringly quality focused ever since.

The 2014 vintage was produced in good quantities but because it was so exceptionally good, stock evaporated prematurely. The 2015 follow up vintage was rushed through to plug the hole and this supply was met by equally voracious demand. The gods were unkind in 2016, yielding a smaller, more restricted vintage but fortunately of very high quality once again.

Domaine J A Ferret Pouilly Fuisse 2016, Burgundy, 13.5 Abv.

Rich aromatic nose full of limestone, graphite, crushed rocks together with green apple, white citrus and white blossom with a subtle almond skin nuttiness. Less ripe and overtly lush than the 2014 or 2015, the palate carries impressive tightly wound concentration, golden delicious apple purée nuances, bitter lemon rind and a subtle wood spice piquant finish. Lovely classical profile, delicious depth, and impressive liquid minerality on the long finish. Drink now to 2025+.

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

Tasting Another Great 2014 White Burgundy From Domaine Henri Boillot…

Henri Boillot is a fifth-generation vigneron, who began his wine education at his family’s winery before leaving to found his own négociant house where he honed his skills and developed his own personal style.

After returning home to take over the reins of the family estate Domaine Henri Boillot, he continued to develop his négociant business under the Henri Boillot label, where he overseas all vineyard work and harvesting himself.

His meticulous and uncompromising quality focused winemaking has earned him a place in the top echelons of producers in this premium French region. Today he is joined by his son, Guillaume, who makes the red wines while Henri makes all the whites.

As the dust settles on the 2016 En-primeur tastings, I decided to taste a bottle of Henri’s superb Puligny Montrachet 2014, from a vintage that has been likened by many to the quality of the forthcoming 2016 vintage.

Domaine Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet 2014, Burgundy, 13 Abv.

A pale lemon gold colour, this 2014 white Burgundy displays an impressive dusty minerality, chalky limestone and wet river pebbles. This aromatics are youthful and tight and need plenty of coaxing out the glass before revealing notes of citrus blossom, crunchy green pears, Granny Smith apples and lime peel hints. The palate is tart, vibrant and intense showing gravelly liquid minerality, bergamot, pithy yellow grapefruit, pear fruit purée and a pronounced rasping, briney edge that finishes succinctly with salty liquorice stick nuances which combine with the wine’s precise thread of acidity. A Puligny Montrachet with stature above its Village status thanks to this superb 2014 vintage, and should improve for 3 to 5 years and drink well for 8 to 10+.

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