Adam Mason Making Some of South Africa’s Most Exciting Wines – Tasting The New Raised By Wolves Releases and Barrel Samples…

While I was out in South Africa recently for Cape Wine 2018, I had the great privilege to meet up with Adam Mason at Mulderbosch winery where he carries out his “day job”. But in the twilight hours, Adam can be found forging some of the most exciting and innovative wines in South Africa under his Raised By Wolves label.

Together with Adam’s UK importer, Andrew Johnson from Woodwinters UK, we tasted through his entire 2018 range of whites and reds En-primeur before tasting all the new releases in bottle. An incredible array of individual, characterful, high quality wines. If you are looking to add some spice and variety to your South African selection, look no further than these epic wines from master winemaker Adam Mason.

Adam Mason tasting through his 2018 barrel samples.

Raised By Wolves Barrel Selection:


Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, 13.5 Abv.

The Cabernet component of the old school red, with 300 cases produced from vines planted in the 1980s. Rich, expressive nose of mulberry, cassis, black berry and mocha oak spice. Palate shows power and concentration, classical grip and fabulous purity and berry freshness. Lovely focus.

(Wine Safari Score: 92-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Old School Red Blend 2017, 13 Abv.

2/3 Cinsault & 1/3 Cabernet Sauvignon

Beautiful aromatics of black plum and blackberry, roses,Turkish delight and rosemary bushes on a warm summers day. There is superb freshness and delicious bright red berry crunch, soft supple tannins and lovely energy and verve all packaged with a comforting harmony and balance. 

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

Pinot Meunier 2018, 11.5 Abv. 

Fermented in 500 litre barrels, Grapes from Newlands, a hilltop property that overlooks Spier winery and False Bay. Whole bunch pressed, early picked, natural ferment. The nose is warming and round, quite earthy and savoury with leafy resinous, sappy depth and subtle red berry notes. Fine balancing freshness, cool spicy plum skin nuances with a  long, savoury liquid mineral finish. Halfway house between Rose and a white wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 90-91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

La Colline Semillon Gris 2018, 10.6 Abv. 

Famous Franschhoek vineyard made famous by Chris Alheit. Natural ferment, hole bunch, carbonique maceration with 10 days skin contact including fermentation. Aromatics of greengage, sour plum, lemon biscuits and red cherry. Cool, very fine, impressive texture and a superb liquid minerality.

(Wine Safari Score: 92-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Semillon La Colline 2017, 13.08 Abv.

Green grapes picked separately from the La Colline vineyard. Broad, savoury aromatics with lanolin, creamy lemon butter, white citrus and green apple purée. Lovely cool crystalline purity, soft elegant harmony, piquant spice and vibrant yellow citrus and waxy green apple depth. Delicious acid freshness and a long gravelly mineral finish.

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

Cuvee 777 Chardonnay 2018, 13 Abv.

Grapes from the Piekenierskloof. Picked at 22.8 Brix, the wine has wonderful steely, mineral linearity showing crisp appleskins, white peach, melon and taut white citrus intensity with tart pineapple and white peach pastille finish with a delicate oak kiss. Wow. Very nice indeed.

(Wine Safari Score: 93-94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chenin Blanc 2018, 12.5 Abv.

Montpellier Chenin Blanc clone in Stellenbosch but will be Adam’s last Vintage from this vineyard that unfortunately is likely to be grubbed up soon. The nose is full of green apple, greengage, white citrus, amazing tension and linearity. Acids are cool and steely framing the palate beautifully. Very different take to Cape Chenin.

(Wine Safari Score: 93-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Sauvignon Blanc 2018, 13 Abv.

140 cases of 12 produced from Elgin grapes picked at 22.8 brix. Classic cool climate Sauvignon aromatics with green apple, pear drops, fynbos spice, dry straw and subtle lemon / lime citrus peel. Palate is dry and mineral with a subtle barrel fermented oak spice adding salt and pepper complexity to the green apple pastille fruits and also lending beautiful texture to the wine. Very impressive.

(Wine Safari Score: 92-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Raised By Wolves Bottled Selection: 

Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, 12.85 Abv.

1,181 bottles produced. Earthy, slightly mealy savoury nose on this pure Cabernet. Develops sun raisined black berry notes, violets, sweet wet tobacco. subtle cedar spice and hints of Christmas cake. Palate is ultra light, fresh and sleek, very light on its feet showing powdery mineral tannins, a chalky texture and a bright spicy, graphite-laden finish.

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

Old School Red 2016, 12.77 Abv. 

Cabernet planted in the 1980s and a Cinsault block planted in 1965. Attractive notes of roasted herbs, grilled meats, violets, rosemary,  pine needles and black currant. Palate is full and fleshy but exhibits finely polished, ripe tannins, sweet tobacco spice and cool, sweet / sour plummy finish. Delicious wine.

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

Pinot Meunier 2017, 12.7 Abv. 

Whole bunch pressed, Barrel fermented in 500 and 300 litre barrels. Savoury, gravelly red berry nose, liquid minerals, dried herbs, sour plum and wonderful dried herb finish.

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

Semillon Rooi Groen Druif 2017, La Colline, 11.8 Abv. 

Dark salmon, copper colour, this expression show spectacular notes of cantaloupe, watermelon, crushed gravel, vinyl and hints of lime peel. Palate is broad and plush, softly textured but surprisingly pithy and mineral with chalk, cherry spice and dry irony, graphite finish. Very serious expression. Not for novices.

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

Semillon La Colline 2017, 12.87 Abv.

Dried herbs and dusty mineral, liquid chalk, lime peel, lanolin and creamy, vanilla kissed white peach. Fabulous freshness, lovely bite and crunch and a spectacularly long, intense finish. Very impressive.

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

Cuvee 777 Chardonnay 2017, 13.10 Abv. 

First vintage from Piekenierskloof fruit from Shelley Sandell at Tierhoek. Quite a taut, mineral, restrained nose revealing previously little at the moment. A bit of coaxing reveals hints of lime peel, vinyl, lemon cordial and tart melon. Lovely palate depth, fine creamy texture embellished with cedar and vanilla pod spice and finishing with verve and vigorous.

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

Chenin Blanc 2017, 13.53 Abv.

A fine aromatic melange of creamy lemon biscuits, honied peaches and white toast. Palate shows that classic fruit intensity, crunchy white peach depth, sour plum and a dried herb laced depth. Very impressive.

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

Bonniemile Muscat 2017, 10.5 Abv. 

Wonderful exotic, expressive nose of lychee, pineapple chutney, ginger, curried peaches, raisins, and exotic yellow fruits. Palate is sleek, fleshy, aromatic and piquant with hints of curry powder, wood spice and sun dried peaches. Very expressive, super exotic and wonderfully expressive.

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

With Adam Mason, UK importer Andrew Johnson from Woodwinters UK and Brian Smith from Elgin Ridge.

The Greatest Kumeu River Tasting Ever Held – Tasting 48 Vintages of a World Class Chardonnay…

It would have been almost impossible for anyone who reads my blog to miss the results of The Great Blind Chardonnay Tasting 2018  held earlier this year where the best of the New World were pitched against some of the best of classic Burgundy in an epic blind wine tasting tussle for Chardonnay supremacy.

In this tasting, the Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard 2014 performed astonishingly well, further solidifying the widely held belief that this New Zealand winery makes wines every bit as good as the best white Grand Cru Burgundy houses.

See results here… https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2018/06/18/the-great-blind-chardonnay-challenge-2018-new-world-chardonnay-giving-burgundy-a-run-for-its-money/

In the UK market, Farr Vintners have long been one of the leading importers of Kumeu River’s wines over the years, so needless to say I was thrilled to be invited by Farr Vintners owner Stephen Browett to the greatest, most extensive Kumeu River tasting ever held in the UK market. Stephen Browett first visited Kumeu River Winery – and met winemaker Michael Brajkovich – in January 1990 on a visit to Auckland. He’d been tipped off about this new Chardonnay producer (first vintage 1985) by Barry Phillips who had bought the 1987 for the wine list of the legendary White Horse Inn at Chilgrove.

Stephen tasted the 1989 vintage from barrel and placed an order – Farr Vintners has shipped every vintage since then. In 1993 the Estate Chardonnay was joined by “Maté’s Vineyard” and two further single vineyard wines “Hunting Hill” and “Coddington” arrived on the scene in 2006.

After some serious problems with cork closures in the mid / late 1990’s, a decision was taken in 2001 to seal all Kumeu River wines with screwcaps. Michael’s wines now have a world-wide reputation and consistently perform exceptionally well in blind tastings held all around the world.

An illustrious tasting panel included among others Oz Clarke, Steven Spurrier, Jancis Robinson, Neal Martin and Will Lyons .

On the 21st of September 2018, Farr Vintners hosted the most comprehensive tasting ever of the Chardonnays of Kumeu River – with Paul Brajkovich and UK representative Hugh Phillips – at Farr Vintners offices in Battersea Reach, London. The tasting included all vintages of the Estate, Coddington, Hunting Hill and Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay from 2006 to 2017. A total of 48 wines served in 4 flights of 12.

Paul Brajkovich chairing the tasting, the brother of winemaker Michael Brajkovich MW.

Flight 1 – Estate Chardonnay

2017 Estate Chardonnay

Fine restrained nose with plenty of dusty gravel, apple blossom, sweet pear and lemon and lime peel. Sleek, compact palate, quite a gentle, harmonious, fleshy mid palate with rounded acids but a resurgent, pithy, vibrant finish of limestone, lemon peel and white citrus spice.

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

2016 Estate Chardonnay

More dust and gravel with lifted powdery grey slate minerality. Notes of bruised lemon, cassis leaf, lemon cordial and potent intensity. The palate is sleek and finely polished, elegant and positively light on its feet. Middling weight, finely textured, this is open enough to to drink now.

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

2015 Estate Chardonnay

Less dusty minerality on the top notes, more yellow blossom and honey suckle perfume with pithy, grated lemon rind and white citrus notes following close behind. Texturally quite full and fleshy and more crunchy, piquant acids in evidence. Impressive saline vein and a noticeably longer, more intense, concentrated length.

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

2014 Estate Chardonnay

Subtle hints of flint and smokey reduction but with plenty of waxy green apples, white citrus and wet chalk base notes. Definitely extra depth and aromatic definition on this 2014. The palate is polished and sleek, focused and bright with crystalline acids, pithy lime and lemon, white peach, yellow grapefruit and a long, dusty finish with impressive intensity more reminiscent on the single vineyard wines. Delicious.

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

2013 Estate Chardonnay

Lovely deep greengage and white citrus notes with the tell tale liquid minerality and waxy green apple complexity and perhaps just a touch of tertiary yellow orchard fruit nuances appearing. Palate shows a nice pithy grip, some phenolics, again a touch more yellow orchard fruit, pithy limestone bitter lemon and plenty of liquid minerality.

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

2012 Estate Chardonnay

Wonderfully expressive nose of apple pastille, lemon cordial, cassis leaf and wet chalk. Subtle hints of bruised orchard fruits, white peach and honey on white toast. Complex, touch more savoury with crystallised figs, waxy apple, and fine length and intensity.

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

2011 Estate Chardonnay

Complex broody nose of greengage, green apple, wet chalk and pronounced liquid minerality with resinous sappy spice. Plush and fleshy, massive breadth and depth, quite glycerol and packed with white peach but lovely length and depth from bottle development.

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

2010 Estate Chardonnay

Rich, complexity, delicious smokey aromatics mixed with real concentration, power and palate depth. Wonderful power, precision, intensity. Wow. Superb wine.

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

2009 Estate Chardonnay

Cooler, richer, finer texture with citrus Lemon cordial nuances. Vibrant, quite electric, plenty of verve. Another impressive offering.

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

2008 Estate Chardonnay

Coming from a warm year, this wine is creamy, fleshy, quite harmonious with a broad palate. Chalky, pithy peach and liquid chalk notes abound. Expressive in a more mineral style quadrant.

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

2007 Estate Chardonnay

The most tertiary with bruised yellow orchard fruits, root veg and aged yellow plum. Hints of almost botrytis styled dried fruits and savoury, honied breadth. Drinking now.

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

2006 Estate Chardonnay

Lovely sweet – sour plum, fine harmony and palate elegance. This wine is in a very comfortable place. Plush, long and beautiful drinking now.

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

Flight 2 – Single Vineyard Coddington
2.4 ha plot with heavyweight clay soils producing only 900 cases. Planted in the mid 1990s, the grapes were pulled out of the Estate blend in 2006. 25% new oak, 11 months on the lees.

2017 Coddington Single Vineyard

Creamy melon and lemon butter exoticism and youthful exuberance. Hint of yellow peach, white pepper and green apple pastille. Full, bold and intense concentration, lovely bright zippy acids, mouth coating lime cordial and sweet lemon confit. Just a baby but really delicious.

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

2016 Coddington Single Vineyard

Fine, harmonious, integrated aromatics suggesting lemon cream biscuits, pithy white citrus and a very fine vein of dusty, gravelly minerality. Rich with hints of sweet and sour, full mid palate flesh and quite a crystalline feel to the wine with impressive purity.

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

2015 Coddington Single Vineyard

Super old world Burgundian nose with nuances of wet chalk, limestone, apple pastille and lemon and lime lift. Palate is subtle, more restrained, but still steely and fresh, with electric acids, a more linear mouthfeel and again, a very old world, detailed, mineral finish. Impressive.

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

2014 Coddington Single Vineyard

Plenty of exotic lemon cream biscuits, white peach and crystalised figs. Palate surprises the senses with massive, unctuous weight, powerfully fleshy body, seamlessly integrated acids and a slightly sappy, spicy, resinous citrus and apple purée finish. Very harmonious and without doubt an impressive glassful.

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

2013 Coddington Single Vineyard

The most seductive nose of lemon blossom, struck match and fresh rain on dry limestone rocks. Wonderfully well proportioned, saline, tart acids, quite piquant in fact and certainly a more maritime feel to the wine with the most mouth watering long, sweet / sour finish. Wow.

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

2012 Coddington Single Vineyard

Sweet, bruised orchard fruits, sour plum and a subtle citrus under note. Some savoury, earthy, root veg notes developing lending complexity and palate weight. Spicy, honied finish suggests this is ready to pull out the cellar and drink.

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

2011 Coddington Single Vineyard

More complex tertiary notes evident here with bruised orchard fruits, waxy lemons and green apples left in your school bag for a few days. Palate has delicious bright acids, a fine fleshy core of fruit and a harmonious, evolving savoury complexity with a teasing lick of mint leaf. Drinking well now.

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

2010 Coddington Single Vineyard

Youthful and intense, this is a great vintage and the wines are all standing the test of time and showing it boldly. Lovely wet chalk minerality, apple cordial and a subtle hint of bruised lemons and savoury white peach. Wonderful complexity follows to the palate that is harmonious and fresh, seamless and finely textured with smokey, piquant, citrusy length. Delicious.

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

2009 Coddington Single Vineyard

Dusty, liquid mineral nose melting into lemon and lime cordial and hard lime candy. Fine wet chalk and lemon fruit intensity and a peach pastille depth.

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

2008 Coddington Single Vineyard

Exotic, earthy, savoury, fruit notes, with bruised peaches, greengage and aged lemons. Fine, elegant texture, harmonious and quite a suave, relaxed engaging wine.

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

2007 Coddington Single Vineyard

Lashings of savoury quince, honey and buttered toast, ripe peach and subtle root veg make for a very exotic, complex expression. Fleshy, sleek, slightly saline, this has a lot of appeal and allure but is simultaneously so youthful. An exciting wine.

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

2006 Coddington Single Vineyard

Superbly harmonious and round, fleshy yet defined and fresh. Sweet and sour plum, greengage and candied lemon fruits. Drinking beautifully now, perhaps not the most distinguished wine in the flight but certainly a profoundly enjoyable fine wine to drink now.

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

Flight 3 – Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

3ha plot producing 1000 cases. Vines are trained in the Lyre trellis system and the vineyard was owned by Kumeu and replanted in 2000 to Chardonnay Clone15. Only 3kms apart from Coddington. North facing, mostly clay soils. Wines are often tight, limey, more mineral, and linear style. Normally employs Francois Freres barrels, up to 25% new.

2017 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Apple puree and pineapple lead boldly from the front with backing notes of green melon and apple pastille nuances. Taut and focused, very precise acid frame, electric with out being rasping and a most harmonious, delicious, elegant, crystalline finish. Tight in youth but should blossom into another show stopper.

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

2016 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Lovely taught apple and pear phenolic notes which melt wonderfully into the pithy, mineral leanness of struck flint and crushed limestone. Svelt and textured, super precise and focused, this wine has an incredible texture like a polished diamond. Beautiful balance, harmony and mouthwatering precision. Wow.

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

2015 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Rich ripe expression with honeysuckle and lemon blossom. Plenty of restraint and delicate white floral citrus notes. Palate is linear and fresh, vibrant and zesty showing great vigour and energy. Lovely depth, power of fruit, intense concentration and above all, superb drinkability. Very Impressive.

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

2014 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Finally a vintage of Hunting Hill where you feel the vineyard drops its guard and shows you a snippet of its inner heart. Complex and alluring, multi-dimensional with wet chalk, sweet lemon citrus and boxwood spice and resinous green honeydew melon. Palate shows wonderful concentration, crystalline purity, a full and fleshy palate and the most seductive, sweet – sour, saline length. Great expectations for the 2014 and it does not fail to deliver.

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

2013 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Sweet honey and apple pastille nose, this shows plenty of subtle aromatics of struck flint and tart Granny Smith apples. Palate is lithe and fleshy, vibrantly tart with great intensity, power and concentration. Wow, a vintage that plays into the hands of the vineyard to create a real joy of a wine.

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

2012 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Cool, smokey struck match reduction, very Burgundian with piquant, bitter green lime and lemon, sour plum, grapefruit and gun flint. Massive palate depth, this wine is a real surprise of the flight showing fine pedigree and complexity and the most delicious, mouth watering drinkability.

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

2011 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Slightly muted, earthy savoury nose with limestone and lemon, hairy peaches and wet chalk. Palate is bright and expressive, crystalline and pure, quite saline and maritime with brightness and precision. Beautiful.

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

2010 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Dusty chalky limestone minerality leads from the start with youthful lemon lime citrus, lime and nutty, wet chalk mineral breadth and depth. Quite profound and alluring complexity.

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

2009 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Tight and mineral, very Burgundian in style with layers of struck match, flint and limestone chalky minerality. Fleshy, round, complex and intense. This is another delicious wine.

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

2008 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Savoury yellow blossom and lemon peel with subtle notes of yellow orchard fruits. Plenty of struck flint and spice. Lovely concentrated palate, great intensity, sweet and sour power, vibrant lemons and tart green apples. A super expression.

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

2007 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Lovely melange of wet straw, sappy white citrus, lime peel and waxy yellow orchard fruits, complex and balanced, perfectly fresh and mature but with incredible verve and vigour, brightness and fresh citric kick. Very fine indeed. One of the best.

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

2006 Hunting Hill Single Vineyard

Rich and savoury, ripe and plush with linear fruit focus, white citrus and a tart white peach finish. Perhaps lacking some stuffing on the mid palate but with this, like all the other older wines, is drinking beautifully with harmony and mature elegance.

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

Flight 4 – Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay

A 2.6ha vineyard planted with Mendoza clone in 1990 with its first vintage being 1993. Soils are classic clay based and are more pliable. Virused vineyards that ripen slightly later than the others. Often affected by hen and chicken berries leading to quite heavy pressing and more phenolics.

2017 Maté’s Vineyard

Beautiful sweet lemon blossom, white peach and honeysuckle notes, waxy green apples and real lift. The palate is intensely concentrated and rich with power, punch and real energy. This is one to watch, possibly the best expression since 2010 and 2014.

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

2016 Maté’s Vineyard

Intricate nose of dried grass, sweet lemon peel, green fig and dusty minerality. Real allure and intrigue, the palate is bright and fresh, linear and vibrant with a real generosity of flavour on the finish.

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

2015 Maté’s Vineyard

Lovely zesty phenolic nose with green apple skins, white peach and grapefruit citrus. Plenty of palate harmony but also a backing granitic, stoney minerality that keeps the wines opulence in check. The finish is linear and taut, vibrant and decidedly saline and maritime.

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

2014 Maté’s Vineyard

An intriguingly dusty, chalky, mineral nose with white peach stone fruits, greengage plum, soft lemon citrus and crystalline yellow apples. Plenty of dusty minerality, crush gravel and linearity with the finish quite saline again, tart and fleshy, full yet nervy. A wine all about contradictions. Very impressive and certainly one for the cellar if you can find any stock.

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

Tasting with Neal Martin from Vinous and Will Lyons from The Sunday Times.

2013 Maté’s Vineyard

The aromatics open up to reveal an array of yellow fruits, savoury hairy peaches and ripe figs. The theme continues to the palate with plush, fleshy depth, yellow peachy fruit and a more opulent, creamy, tinned fruit salad complexity. Very pleasing but slightly atypical?

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

2012 Maté’s Vineyard

Wonderfully austere nose of crushed gravel and wet grey slate. Palate is broad and harmonious with a real powder puff softness and femininity. Dense but light on its feet, this is wonderful to drink now.

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

2011 Maté’s Vineyard

Compelling notes of greengage, lemon and lime, creamy yellow citrus and a real plush, broad, soft harmonious textural expression.

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

2010 Maté’s Vineyard

Salty fig notes layer a really delicious higher tone of yellow peach, white citrus, creamy pear purée and lime cordial with a lemon biscuit cream finish. Dense, plush and profound. Wow, this is one to track down! Superb and up there with the best in the tasting.

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

2009 Maté’s Vineyard

Quite tight aromatics, restraint, fleshy tropical yellow fruits and a hint of exoticism. Fine silky opulence, plush, textural and very expressive.

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

2008 Maté’s Vineyard

Lemon butter and cream, puréed lemon and piquant spice notes. Broad and plush, fleshy and full with an open knit texture that is certainly drinking well and ready to go now.

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

2007 Maté’s Vineyard

Superb melange of sweet savoury yellow fruited depth, pithy spice, phenolics and sappy intensity. The Lemon – lime cordial note comes through with honey suckle and lemon blossom lift. Super creamy, coating the mouth with amazing plush concentration and a glycerol lacquer. Really delicious with amazing tertiary complexity.

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

2006 Maté’s Vineyard

Citric and spicy, this shows a really complex nose of root veg, bruised orchard fruits and old lemons. Naturally retains a very fleshy texture with hints of sweet and sour quince and an utterly harmonious, mature, pure finish.

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

Neal Martin doing a Johan Berglund …

Conclusions:

An incredibly profound tasting that will serve as a fine historical marker of quality for these superb wines. The oldest were ageing slowly and gracefully with the 2007s being the consistent pick of the older wines. For more recent vintages, the 2010s and 2014s are benchmark great and equal to anything Burgundy can produce with the Chardonnay grape. The 2015s and 2016s make for thoroughly pleasing drinking but it’s the 2017s from the line up of wines that are bold, intense, confident and youthfully intent on following in the footsteps of 2010 and 2014. Fill your cellars if it’s not already too late!

Elgin Ridge Winery Resurrects Their Impressive Biodynamic Elgin Chardonnay…

Organic and Demeter Biodynamic certified winery Elgin Ridge produced a 2010 and 2011 unwooded Chardonnay and then ceased production in 2012 when all their Chardonnay juice was redirected into their Method Cap Classique (MCC) bubbly.

However, the wine was finally resurrected in 2016 with a wooded version. The 2017 is due to hit select markets in Spring 2019. Limited to only 1,300 bottles, the wine was aged 10 months in 20% new French barrels.

Elgin Ridge 282 Chardonnay 2017, WO Elgin, 13 Abv.

True to it’s terroir, this wine has Elgin written all over it with a superb crystallinity, purity and brightness. The nose is youthful and primary but already shows lashings of white citrus, green fig, green apple pastille, lemon-lime cordial, smokey minerality and mouth watering vanilla pod spice. The palate is super intense with bracing acidity but also more than sufficient backing yellow grapefruit, pineapple and tart green apple fruit concentration to balance. Still a baby, this wine should blossom into an ultra focused, finely honed cool climate expression of Chardonnay. Really delicious already but will be worth ageing it for 3 to 6+ years.

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

When It Comes to Classic Premium Cuvee Champagne Few Can Match the Desirability, Personality and Consistency of Dom Perignon…

The past few months in the fine wine trade have seen a quite a few epic new premium Champagne releases including Salon 2007, Comtes des Champagne 2007, Heidsieck Cuvee Blanc des Millenaires 2004, Roederer Cristal 2008 and Dom Perignon 2008. But a wine that preceded them all was the mainstream and bigger production Dom Perignon 2009.

As with many houses including Louis Roederer, the decision was taken to release the more opulent, fruity, accessible 2009 vintage expression before the 2008 which although older, was a very serious vintage that showed much more tension, a tauter texture and closed up fruit characters.

The 2009 represents a deadly serious expression of Dom Perignon that is rich, complex and eminently age worthy… but is also slightly more accessible and overt. A delicious noteworthy wine that I’d still buy to cellar for at least 10+ years and drink over 20 or more.

Moet et Chandon Champagne Dom Perignon 2009, 12 Abv.

Plenty of sunshine throughout the month of August and into early September helped to shape an excellent harvest that commenced on the 12th September. Released before the tighter, more closed 2008, chef de cave at the time, Richard Geoffray described the 2009 vintage as a forward, fruit laden vintage. Still eminently youthful, the wine has an overtly floral nose of lemon blossom, white flowers, grated green apples, honeysuckle, dusty limestone minerals and a pronounced maritime briny sea breeze kiss. The palate is full, elegant and fleshy with a precise, focused lemon creamy vinous texture and complex notes of honey brioche, glazed red cherries, spicy yellow grapefruit and salted sour dough. Lovely density, impressive classy balance and a youthfully creamy fine beaded mousse that charms with premium Champagne style.

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

Tasting Margaret River Icon Estate Vasse Felix’s New Releases with Head Winemaker Virginia Willcock …

Vasse Felix has been one of the leading producers of premium Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Margaret River region of Western Australia for a very long time. Just last year they celebrated their 50th birthday as a winery with their first vines planted in 1967 by founder Tom Cullity. Their success undoubtedly lies in their wine’s supreme elegance and finesse married with concentration and power. Indeed, bigger bolder wine styles were made in the 1990’s but more recently the wines have become finer boned, prettier and more elegant without losing any of the innate power of quality Cabernet Sauvignon tannins.

I tasted through the new releases today in London at 67 Pall Mall private members club with head winemaker Virgina Willcock joining in the tasting via live satellite link from Margaret River. Ahhh… the joys of technology.

Vasse Felix Filius Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Margaret River, 14 Abv.

Blended with 13% Malbec, the Filius shows a soft sweet fruited nose full of violets, fresh spearmint, black berry and cassis lift with hints of dusty tobacco complexity, bruised black plum and wet earth. The palate is light footed and very elegant, full of polished tannins, subtle minerality and soft, fleshy accessible black berry fruits. Bright, super fresh, elegant and very accessible. Drink now to 2026+

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

Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Margaret River, 14.5 Abv.

Whole berry and 100% natural ferment with 8% Malbec added to the blended before 18 months of barrel ageing. Deeper and darker, packed with black berry, black cherry, eucalyptus, earthy mulberry, kelp and boiled black currant bon bons and a dusty limestone minerality. Plenty of piercing cassis intensity, suave polished pinpoint tannins, supple silky fruit texture and again, a very vibrant integrated seam of freshness and acidity. Beautifully perfumed, supremely pretty, impressively concentrated. Drink now to 2030+

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

The Vasse Felix flagship Heytesbury Bordeaux red blend had been produced since 1995. This wine saw its last edition in 2012 when the wine was transformed into the Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec cuvee in honour of this Margaret River pioneer who sadly died just before the first Tom Cullity 2013 blend was released.

Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon – Malbec 2013, Margaret River, 14.5 Abv.

20% Malbec and around 4% Petit Verdot. A wonderfully complex intense expression with dusty limestone, violets, cherry blossom, graphite, black currant, black pithy cherry and a pronounced maritime saline kelp savoury note. Palate is ultra polished, beautifully focused and pure with incredible vivacity and soul. Super elegant, saline and bright and intense with a long, fine eucalyptus kissed finish. Very impressive indeed.

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

Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon – Malbec 2014, Margaret River, 14.5 Abv.

Dense, savoury and earthy, there is a very fine depth and purity with notably greater concentration, tannin texture and power. Very classical and Bordeaux-like aromatics with cedar, violets, buttered brown toast, graphite dust and a crushed gravel minerality. The palate is full and deep, swallowing the 60-70% new oak with great ease. There is impressive fleshy depth, concentration but also noteworthy classical restraint. Suave and intense with powdery tannins and acid brightness melting into each other, complimenting each other in a superb synergistic marriage. A truly iconic, delicious, premium benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon expression from Margaret River.

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

Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2017, Margaret River, 12.5 Abv

Wild yeasts and 100% barrique fermented. Remarkable dusty, gravelly, cool climate Chardonnay feel with vibrance, brightness and linearity. Nose is full of lime peel, oat meal, brioche, ripe lemon and savoury buttery biscuit notes. Steely, taught, lemon and lime cordial notes are packed with layers of gravelly limestone minerality, bright acids and an incredibly youthful, saline, pineapple leesy finish. Very impressive for the price.

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

Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2015, Margaret River, 13 Abv.

Deep, broad and powerful with wonderfully complex serious notes of lemon pie, lime peel, green apple and wet chalk minerality. Captivating richness and density but also wonderfully complex struck match flinty nuances. Tightly wound, power packed and deliciously fresh and saline with a textural, yellow grapefruit and pineapple finish.

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

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2016, Margaret River, 13 Abv.

A wonderfully powerful, intense structured Chardonnay that incorporates all the great qualities of Chardonnay into one wine. Loaded with wet chalk, struck match, delineated texture and linearity, boasting incredible complexity of white citrus, lime marmalade, green apple, brioche and buttered brown toast. Amazing textural balance, sensorial intensity and a very long, mouth watering finish. Superbly impressive benchmark cool climate Chardonnay that will appeal to Burgundy lovers and general Chardonnay connoisseurs.

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

“I want to drink the best wines money can buy… and if I can make wines similar to those wines, then I think that’s great… and I want to drink them!” – Virginia Willcock

South African Chardonnay On the Cusp of Greatness – Tasting the New Paul Cluver Seven Flags Releases From Elgin…

After the recent Blind Chardonnay Challenge 2018 Results were revealed (Read the write up here… https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2018/06/18/the-great-blind-chardonnay-challenge-2018-new-world-chardonnay-giving-burgundy-a-run-for-its-money/), many questioned why no South African Chardonnay’s made the final line-up. I replied that none scored high enough from the multiple judges in the several preliminary blind selection tasting rounds. But of course, this was not to imply that South Africa does not make exceptional Chardonnay. They do, and in many ways, South African Chardonnay currently sits on the cusp of greatness, just needing to take the final upward quality steps to Valhalla.

Indeed, this belief was reinforced again recently when Andries Burger from Paul Cluver Winery came to visit and show me his latest releases of Paul Cluver’s premium Seven Flags Chardonnay and Pinot Noir range. Some exceptional wines that twinned with an exceptional vintage, really show the potential of these varieties in cooler climate regions of South Africa. Is the work over? Of course not, but the results from the 2017 vintage are very encouraging.

Andries Burger from Paul Cluver

Paul Cluver Seven Flags Chardonnay 2016, Elgin, 13.5 Abv.

Rich opulent toasty lemon nose made from two 31 year old clones of Chardonnay using 100% whole bunch pressing before going straight to barrel for wild yeast fermentation. Around 30% new French oak, there are multiple layers of brûléed lemon peel, lemon pastille, honeydew melon and vanilla pod spice. With only 5-10% malolactic, the wine shows a wonderfully bright, crisp, taut texture with very impressive piquant lemongrass spice, waxy green apple, yellow citrus concentration and a fine generosity and pinpoint salinity on the finish.

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

Paul Cluver Seven Flags Chardonnay 2017, Elgin, 13 Abv.

With slightly more new oak on the 2017 at 35%, this young wine shows a surprising primary fruit driven style with crystalline white citrus, honeydew melon, green apple and white peach purity. But there is also a fine dusty, gravelly minerality emphasising the wines greater restraint, freshness and salinity. A fine core of taut yellow fruits is still very tightly wound. The intense concentration raises its head one more time on the long, complex, linear finish. Very classy and certainly a wine that is more flamboyant in youth but will certainly reward cellaring.

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

Paul Cluver Seven Flags Pinot Noir 2015, Elgin, 13.5 Abv.

A very attractive nose of raspberry confit, red cherry, bramble berry spice with hints of milk chocolate and savoury cured meats. There is great palate power, intensity and fruit focus with earthy meaty red and black fruits, salinity, and piquant foresty brambly wood spice finish. Lovely restrained oak just adding a bit of salt and pepper complexity.

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

Paul Cluver Seven Flags Pinot Noir 2016, Elgin, 13.5 Abv.

Still young and primary, the 2016 initially shows some flinty, spicy reduction, red plum, crushed blackberries and bramble berry hedgerow spice. Includes around 30% whole bunch in the ferment adding sappy, brambly foresty fruit nuances. There is a lot of energy, a super bright acidity and a long, vivacious, dark fruited, linear finish.

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

Australian Chardonnay Punching Above Its Weight – Tasting Penfolds Yattarna From Adelaide Hills…

Just a few days after the Great Chardonnay Blind Challenge, I was fortuitously served this delicious Aussie Chardonnay with Sunday lunch at my father-in-law. While the same vintage would set you back circa £75 per bottle if purchased now, the quality was very impressive and reinforced the high octane performance of the three Australian contenders entered into the blind Chardonnay challenge.

For me the whole selection process has been an enlightening revelation confirming the true pedigree of top Australian Chardonnays from regions like the Adelaide Hills, Beechworth, Mornington Peninsula and Margaret River. Can South Africa compete with these top Aussie expressions? Hmmm…. I think I feel another Australia versus South Africa blind tasting coming on!!

Penfolds Yattarna Bin 144 Chardonnay 2003, Adelaide Hills, Australia, 13.5 Abv.

A bright, clear medium straw yellow, this 15 year old Chardonnay is in fabulous condition bearing in mind it’s from a fairly warm climate. But Adelaide Hills often manages to conjure up tantalising expressions with fine acidity and great age-worthiness. This wine is bold and luscious with a complex nose of buttered white toast spread with yellow grapefruit preserve, lemon peel and hints of honey and a kiss of butterscotch. But you’d be foolish to think the aromatics are just fruit and oak driven as pronounced notes of wet slate and gravel minerality emerge as the wine sits in the glass. The palate has a fine dense texture with an underlying freshness and vibrancy that makes this wine feel more like 5 years old than 15. The sweet lemon verbena and pithy yellow citrus fruits are concentrated and intense, lingering on the finish and draw you back for one sip after another. A really lovely wine that would not be mistaken for Burgundy but that is almost certainly drinking better than most 2003 white Burgundies. Drink now to 2026+

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