The Bizios Estate in Greece’s Nemea Region Releases Its 2018 Asproskampos White Blend…

Elias Bizios is the owner of an impressive estate in Asproskampos, known to the locals as “little Tuscany” in Nemea, Greece. Here Elias has farmed a small patch of vineyards but always found it difficult to make a living with such a small production. So it was always his ambition to acquire additional adjoining vineyard holdings to increase his production. 

In 2016, Wimbledon Wine Cellar owned by Greek Cypriot Andrew Pavli based in London, purchased an additional 3 hectares of prime Malagouzia, Agiorgritiko Assyrtiko and Chardonnay vineyards with view to enlarging the total production at the Bizios Estate. This increased production has now started to come to fruition and the release of the 2018 white blend modelled predominantly around the Malagouzia grape but bolstered by the classism and pedigree of Chardonnay has created yet another exceptional white expression that really shows the potential of well made Greek white wines.

Bizios Aspros Kampos Chardonnay Malagouzia Blend 2018, Nemea, Greece, 13 Abv.

The 2018 vintage is a delicious blend of 65% Chardonnay and 35% Malagouzia ia and presents itself as an impressively fragrant, aromatic expression full of waxy green apples, spiced pears, dried baking herbs, warm fresh white baguette and a fine dusty stony mineral note. The palate is equally appealing with a really harmonious fleshy glycerol round mouthfeel boasting notes of green honeydew melon, apple pastilles and candied sweet fig. The acidity is supple, soft and gentle and keeps the wine pure and vibrant but also incredibly generous and friendly. A really appealing expression and one of my favourites since the 2016!

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

Three Sticks Release their New Benchmark Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2016…

This week in late September was all about Californian wine in London with the Collectable California Tasting at the US Embassy showcasing some incredible wines from Harlan to Scarecrow, Ovid to Silver Oak. However great the Californian reds are, one thing these US producers are masters of is the production of really interesting premium Chardonnay.

One of my favourite whites on show was the exceptional 2016 new release Three Sticks Chardonnay. Owned by proprietor William S. Price III, the Durell Vineyard forms part of this producers flagship vineyard holdings and has been the source of iconic Sonoma Chardonnay for several decades.

Grown on rocky ancient river bed and red volcanic clay soils, this vineyard site has been recognised for its ability to produce exceptional Chardonnay grapes that show wonderful fruit intensity along with impressive harmony while simultaneously expressing the minerality inherent in this site’s terroir.

Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Sonoma Coast, 14.5 Abv.

A delicious bright enticing lemon yellow, this wine has a lofty complex bouquet of pithy white citrus, leesy lemon cream biscuits, dried herbs, gingerbread and a pronounced crushed gravel minerality. Full, round, intense and glycerol in the mouth with the silky, fleshy lemon pastille fruit concentration punctuated by piquant, zippy fresh acids and sweet grapefruit confit and vanilla pod oak complexity. The pedigree of the Durell Vineyard fruit is clear for all to see. Classically cool climate Californian in style, this is a truly flavour packed expression of premium Sonoma coast Chardonnay.

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

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Release Two Incredible Benchmark Wines For the 2019 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction…

One of the original goals of the Cape Winemakers Guild was to allow an elite group of producers in South Africa an opportunity to push boundaries and experiment in order to produce the most profound quality wines on the market. Some of the specially selected winemakers at the CWG have made a little more effort than most to take this opportunity to make and profile wines that leave you speechless and that command instant respect.

Few have done this more effectively than Andrea Mullineux, one half of the wunderkind duo at Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. The other half of this duo, Chris Mullineux was recently in London for the New Wave Tasting 2019 and I caught up with him over lunch at the iconic Chez Bruce restaurant to taste not only these two new CWG releases, but also the full line up of their white and red single terroir new releases.

The CWG wines are only available to buy at the auction in Cape Town but if you can’t make it, speak to Roland Peens at Wine Cellar who can bid on behalf of consumers and private clients. Contact him at: Roland@winecellar.co.za

Cape Winemakers Guild Leeu Passant ‘The Gris’ Semillon Old Vines 2018, WO Paardeberg, 13.5 Abv.

Super fragrant and lifted with aromatics dominated by an incredible saline, mineral spicy note underpinned by stalk spice, tangerine peel and white citrus. Creamy and glycerol on the palate, the concentration is clearly marked and the white blossom, green apple and briney pithiness is effortless and magically long. Outstanding effort once again.

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

Cape Winemakers Guild Leeu Passant Radicales Libres Chardonnay, 14.9 Abv.

Grapes from Bokkeveld Shale soils on the Tradauw-Joubert estate in Barrydale but produced and aged in the Leeu Passant cellars in Franschhoek. The aromatic profile screams ‘Jura meets Tondonia’ with plush saline, spicy, peppery white citrus fruits with top notes of dusty, stony minerality. The palate is big and bold but very expressive with density, breadth and incredible concentration. Of course the wine is defined by superb balance, piercing acidity which is padded out by sensual fleshy savoury fruit gravitas. The finish shows fabulous crystallised lemons, white peach pastilles and an exotic candied persistence. Really something very special.

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

After Five Superb Vintages of Pinot Noir Tesselaarsdal Prepares to Release Their Maiden Chardonnay 2019…

Of all the new start up wineries in South Africa over the past three or four years, one of my favourites has got to be Berene Saul’s Tesselaarsdal winery who’s wines are currently made at Hamilton Russell Vineyards in consultation with winemaker Emul Ross, from fruit contracted in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge ward of the Walker Bay Region.

Ever since I first tasted the first release of Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir 2015 in January 2016, I have been smitten by the wine’s reoccurring freshness, purity, and intensity, vintage after vintage.

So when I visited Berene and Emul for a flying visit in May 2019, I was thrilled to taste the component parts of the new maiden release Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay. Due to be bottled in early September, the pre-release samples I tasted back in May were most definitely super expressive and very exciting meriting a pre-release note and score.

Tasting with Berene Sauls and Emul Ross in May 2019.

Watch out for this new white addition to the Tesselaarsdal range as this wine is likely to sell out as quickly as its Pinot Noir sibling. Made from fruit sourced from the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge from 12 year old vines, 3000 litres was produced from 5 tons of grapes or 600 cases of 6. A portion of the wine was aged in amphora and the rest in French oak barriques.

Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Amphora Portion:
A bright and attractive nose of citrus blossom, acacia, sweet lemon grass and leesy spice with a fine dusty mineral note. Palate is super concentrated and lush but also shows a reluctant restraint. Plenty of creamy lemon pie, lemon peel, white toast and green apple purée. Again, very expressive but also deliciously classical and restrained.

Barrel Portion:
More expressive white citrus with melted honey on warm white toast, white citrus blossom and dusty vanilla spice. Palate is creamy, glycerol and rich with a fantastic textural mouthfeel, a harmonious balance and a lemon / lime acidity to add vibrant vigour. Together with the amphora portion, this should make for a very impressive glass of ‘old world’ styled classical cool climate Chardonnay.

(Wine Safari Score: 91-93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Catena At Hide London – Tasting a Selection of the Catena Winery’s Top Offerings With Laura Catena…

It is always wonderful to catch up with Laura Catena in London to taste through her winery’s fantastic benchmark Argentinean wines. The UK remains one of the Catena’s strongest markets according to Laura, with sales growing both on the high quality end and also on the more affordable value end of the Catena brand range.

But certainly the wineries reputation has come a long way since Laura attended the 1995 Fine Wine Experience in the United States representing the first South American brand to be invited to show their wines at this prestigious tasting event.

Today, the wines remain some of the most respected Argentinean wine brands on the global market with their single vineyard Chardonnays and Malbecs true quality leaders. I joined Laura for another superb London tasting, this time at the excellent Michelin starred Hide restaurant in Piccadilly, where Ollie Dabbous matched courses for a stunning array of Catena wines.

The artistry of Ollie Dabbous at Hide.

White Flight:

Catena Adrianna Vineyard White Stones Vino de Parcela Chardonnay 2015, 13 Abv.

5000ft elevation of the Adriana Vineyard. Dusty lifted aromatic profile with unique notes of dried grass, spearmint, wet pebbles and crushed limestone underpinned by white grapefruit and citrus notes. The palate is lively and energetic packed full of picante lime cordial, freshly squeezed tangerine juice and sleek dry bitter lemon zest. Lovely mineral grip lingers on the long finish. Very grown up style with a real gout de Terroir. Give this wine time in bottle.

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

Catena Adrianna Vineyard White Bones Vino de Parcela Chardonnay 2015, 13 Abv.

5000ft elevation of the Adriana Vineyard. Similar to the White Stones Cuvee but with deeper, richer minerality of Wet chalk, limestone, cassis leaf, black currant reduction and subtle cut grass and crushed mint leaf complexity. Palate texture is full and round showing exceptional freshness but impressive gravitas and concentration while retaining its true Terroir feel and mineral restraint. The finish is exotic and long, teasing the palate with clementine pastilles, lemon cordial and orange peel zest. Very fine indeed.

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

Reds Flight:

Catena Alta Malbec 2015, 13.5 Abv.

Blend of 5 parcels from cuttings from the same parcels but grown on different souls. The nose is very culinary in style, full of dusty chocolate, mocha, cocoa, black currant, brûléed cedar spice and dusty crushed stones. Very Bordeaux’esque in an exotic kind of style, the palate is luxurious and sleek but also tantalisingly fresh, crunchy and pure fruited with a fine cedar and graphite mineral frame and a long, lush sappy finish of bramble berries, black berry confit and damson plum. Wonderful classism and restraint.

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

Nicolas Catena Zapata 2013, 13.5 Abv.

Beautifully precise fragrant nose brimming with the 70+ percent Cabernet Sauvignon notes of dried violets, tart black cherry, savoury wet tobacco, cassis and sappy spice. Very direct and pure fruited with a fine salinity that melts into fine mineral notes of graphite, black currant pastille and creamy, oak spice. Tannins are powdery and fine grained, the acidity bright and potent. A very polished, suave expression with real intensity. Still so very youthful at 5+ years old.

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

Catena Zapata Malbec Nicasia Vineyard La Consulta 2014, Mendoza, 14 Abv.

A beautifully fashioned hedonistic red with great subtlety, delicacy, violet perfume and red cherry and piquant wood spice intensity. All finely integrated and seamless, coating the palate with great lush intensity, creamy tannins, concentrated sappy sweet black and red berry fruits and fabulously juicy acidity. Such harmony and balance with a delicious coffee bean, cocoa and mocha finish. Dreamy and very pretty.

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

Catena Zapata Argentino Malbec 2013, Mendoza, 14 Abv.

Another big, intense, deliciously opulent expression with lifted layers of purple flowers, violets, cherry blossom and pithy crushed blueberries. Quite immediate and upfront, this wine is not only hedonistic, opulent and showy but ultra suave, finely textured, delicately mineral finishing with satin soft black berry confit and graphite spice. A very classy, distinguished expression that is a thoroughly seductive and profound picture of Malbec. Delicious.

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

Catena Zapata Argentino Malbec 2015, Mendoza, 14 Abv. (En Magnum)

A superbly opulent and expressive red that after one sniff leaves you in no doubt that this is another deliciously hedonistic expression. Nose bursts with a measured intensity of creamy brûléed black berry, black cherry pastille and a touch of blue berry crumble with a dusting of mocha choc spice. This vintage offers up extra layers of textured depth and richness with an opulent glycerol mouthfeel, sweet plump tannins and well integrated acids.

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

The Catena wines are distributed by Bibendum / Walker Wodehouse in the UK market.

Creation Wines Cracking The Enigma Code of Great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in South Africa…

Let’s be honest, South Africa is not the easiest place in the world to make great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. While Pinot Noir is the original heart break variety, Chardonnay too has hit some pretty solid glass ceilings quality wise in the various cool climate regions that have had a degree of success with these two varieties.

So much more it seems is required to make great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay than merely a ‘suitable terroir.’ Clonal material, soil types, careful canopy management, picking dates, type of cooperage, length of oaking etc., and so the list goes on. Even with all of the above done correctly, you still need a massive amount of winemaking knowhow, plenty of luck, a forgiving vintage and then a whole bunch more luck. Cracking the secrets of these two varieties has not come easy – not in South Africa nor in other “New World” producing nations.

But a handful of producers seem to be on the cusp of producing wines that can be considered “next level” when tasted along side top international benchmarks from France, New Zealand or California. One such producer is Creation Wines in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. Originally from Switzerland, JC Martin together with his South African wife Carolyn (nee Finlayson), bought their original 22 hectares of virgin land in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and completed their cellar in time for their 2007 harvest. Their Walker Bay estate now encompasses 50 hectares planted with over 11 varieties, but focusing mainly on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

JC Martin was back in London recently to show off his new release 2018s along side some impressive 2017 reds and whites.

Creation Reserve Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Made from a 18 year old single vineyard and aged 11 months in oak and then blended together before spending 6 months in stainless steel before bottling. The aromatics show subtle wood spice, boxwood, stemmy sap, biscuity lees and fabulous lemon peel notes. Such beautiful linear tension, white citrus zest, crisp crystalline acids and a really harmonious, balanced fruit length. Superb vitality.

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

Guests attending JC’s masterclass tasting at 67 Pall Mall.

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Also from a 18 year old single vineyard but from plants that show the most balanced growth. A much more creamy, deep, broody nose with leesy biscuit notes, green melon preserve, grapefruit zest and lemon cordial. Incredible subtlety, freshness, and a low pH 3.3 feel with super taut acidity, plump fleshy mid palate and a suave, stylish length punctuated by a spicy vanilla pod and oak spice kiss. A very Grand Vin.

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

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2018, 13.3 Abv.

Soft freshly baked white bread, green mango, lemon cordial, honey drizzled brioche and ground vanilla pod spice. Super tight and reserved but ultimately one of Creation’s most expressive, characterful wines. Less is almost always more! Fabulous sweet – sour acidity, green citrus crunch and a long, linear, focused finish. Really very regal expression of South African Chardonnay.

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

Creation Reserve Pinot Noir 2018, 13.4 Abv.

Wonderful brightness, lift and exotic pomegranate wildness that is so suave, elegant and super complex with bramble berry, stem sap, plum skins and blueberry reduction. The palate is very tight, creamy, virtually seamless and ultra polished with a superb harmony and equilibrium. Really love this wine and it’s incredible value for money equation.

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

Creation Reserve Pinot Noir 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Aromatics of savoury earthy black cherry, blueberry and bramble berry spice. Very serious, focused and compact wine displaying sappy dusty mineral notes, black olive and pithy black cherry power. A delicious, quality, punchy Pinot Noir with incredible finesse and great regional and varietal typicity.

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

Creation Emma Pinot Noir 2017, 13.5 Abv.

A barrel selection by Emma, JC and Caroline’s 17 year old daughter from the Art of Pinot Noir vineyard barrels. A deliciously dark, broody, somber nose of sappy black berry, black cherry, spicy pithy plum and structured depth that aspires to red Burgundy as it’s raison d’être. Definitely more restrained and reserved than the Art but also quite seductive.

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

Creation Emma Pinot Noir 2018, 13.3 Abv.

First impressions are lasting impressions and this one is an absolute gem! Emma has done good and this selection is going to put a bit of pressure on Dad! Pure, dense and much more complete than the 2017, this wine is deliciously opulent, expressive, complex and silky with pomegranate, blood orange, red plum and the most seamless balance and focused length. I love this wine and it’s precision. Very very smart! Certainly one of the best Pinot Noirs produced in South Africa.

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

These wines are distributed by Bibendum Wines in the UK. Art Series available in UK direct from Creation Wines.

B Vintners Starts Pushing Terroir and Quality Boundaries With Their New Terroir Specific Range…

Founded by cousins Gavin Bruwer and Bruwer Raats, B Vintners have always had an innovative approach to winemaking while simultaneously trying keeping things simple and authentic, nurturing the grapes from vine to bottle and allowing the wines to express their sense of place. All the vineyards across the range are distinct, mostly from high-lying areas, close to the ocean and planted on ancient weathered soils with the aim of capturing the Cape’s true heritage and terroir in the bottle.

With the launch of the Terroir Specific series, this is when you really get to see Gavin and Bruwer’s philosophy at work. Quality by design, leveraged from the unique terroir sites of the Sondagskloof in the Walker Bay region and a unique old vine Cinsault site in Stellenbosch.

The estate where the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes are sourced is owned by the family of assistant winemaker at Leeu Passant, Wade Sander. Indeed the Pinot Noir vineyard is shared between Gavin and Wade and while their wines are slightly different stylistically, they definitely share a common terroir note. This really is one of the rising stars of the new South Africa and most definitely a winery worth following closely.

 

A contemplative Gavin Bruwer tasting the range with me at the Raats Family Winery.

B Vintners Fire Heath Chardonnay Terroir Specific 2017, WO Sondagskloof, Walker Bay, 12.5 Abv.

Taut steely nose shows the altitude and the rocky limestone and sandstone soils. There’s a cool, stony, lemon and lime pithy white citrus freshness, leesy biscuit depth and a subtle sweet dried herb complexity. Acids are bracing and fresh yet cushioned by a deliciously tart, zippy sweet / sour fleshy concentration that electrifies the palate. The oak is delicately integrated already from a 75% oaked portion including 25% new 500 litre barrels. Wonderfully linear and restrained in style, this fabulous 2017 signals a massive step up in Chardonnay quality for B Vintners and the region.

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

 

B Vintners Black Bream Pinot Noir Terroir Specific 2017, WO Sondagskloof, Walker Bay, 12.5 Abv.

Aged in 500 litre barrels, 15% new with a small portion in used 300 litre barrels. As is typical to the higher elevation terroir, there is a real crystalline purity and salinity to the fruit profile which shows wonderfully lifted perfumed notes of sweet fynbos, lavender, cherry blossom and cranberry cordial. There is a subtle restrained sappy, freshly cut hedge row note that adds complexity to the nose and palate while the acids remain linear and pure, the mineral tannins crisp and ever so slightly edgy. A fine wine with good structure, restrained gravelly mineral breadth and a certain kind of ‘old world’ classical austerity.

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

 

B Vintners Lone Wolf Cinsault Terroir Specific 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

60 x 6 cases total production – About a ton of Cinsault from the bottom of a Pinotage vineyard at Bellevue in the Bottelary Hills planted in the early 1950’s on granite and schist soils. Fabulously lifted and finely perfumed, this wine screams individuality, with potpourri spice, rose petals, dried violets, Turkish delight and cranberry reduction. Suave and cool, there is lovely liquid minerality, piercing concentration and a long, restrained red currant berry fruit length. A wonderful old vine expression of Cinsault that really is noteworthy. Minute production that might just possibly have been exported all to the UK.

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

Imported and distributed in the UK by Alliance Wines.