Attending The Art of Chablis Trade Tasting in London ~ The Star Wine Revealed…

This week I attended the “Art of Chablis Trade Tasting” in London to catch up on the latest happenings in one of the wine world’s great classical regions. Billed as a discovery of the various appellation styles, from Petit Chablis to Grand Cru, there was a fairly mixed bag of wines on show, some represented in the UK, some seeking representation.


After a pretty indifferent “restaurant vintage” in Chablis in 2015, and then a crop reduced by 60-70% in 2016, like much of Burgundy, this is a region in flux with many concerns for its future commercial path.


The last serious quality vintage in Chablis was certainly 2014, producing wines with taught acidity, tension and rasping chalky minerality. But despite its slightly lacklustre reputation, the 2015s on taste (the majority of wines), were encouragingly impressive and seemed to have grown in stature, and showed plenty of mineral classism and steely freshness despite lacking some visceral thrill.

But of course there were some real stand out wines, none more so than JP Droin’s incredible 2014 Grand Cru. From grapes grown on Kimmeridgian marls, this wine was clarified straight after vinification. The musts were then placed partly in stainless steel tanks, and partly in barrels. The malolactic fermentation was done systematically. Ageing is for around 10 months in partly new barrels.


Jean Paul et Benoit Droin Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, 13 Abv. 

The 2014 Chablis Valmur is one of the most impressive wines in the lineup. The aromatics are very exotic with a tantalising nose of quince, green fruits, pineapple pastille, bruleed figs and subtle tarte tatin notes from the oak aging. The palate is broad, expressive and fresh, with a beautifully creamy, textured palate. This wine has everything… a complex nose, a youthful, dense expressive structure, and a long, exotic, nuanced finish and plenty of classical dusty, pineapple intense, Chablis notes. Such a beautiful, creamy palate texture, seductive fruits and a crystalline finish. Supremely vibrant, pithy, chalky, this wine is almost overpowering in intensity. I could drink this all day.

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

Alternative Burgundy Masterclass With Claire Naudin-Ferrand at London’s Cabotte Restaurant…

It all started 26 years ago when Claire, a Montpellier graduate, first started making wine. Her winery is located between the Cotes de Beaune and Cotes de Nuits, 9kms away from each. Claire has always focused on very minimalist intervention winemaking and only adds a very small amount of sulphur before bottling.

A sufferer of migraines, Claire first started experimenting with no sulphur winemaking in 2001, experimenting with Aligote. In 2002, she started to also make her reds without sulphur additions during winemaking. In 2016 she lost 70% of her fruit to frost, prompting her to start buying in Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes from St Pourcain. 


Bottled wines now typically contain 35ppm total SO2, with minimal amounts being added after Malolactic in reds. “Sulphur additions end the wine feeding itself off its lees and compacts the lees.” Long, slow 3 hour pressings allows the juice to oxidise, resulting in very stable wines. 


1 Le Clou 2015 (Patois for Clos)

Aligote 55-60 year old vines, 12.5 Abv. – Rich, honied white citrus, lemon blossom, and biscuits and pithy yellow peach and white toast complexity despite no oak use. Palate is taught, pithy, stony, and fresh with real vibrance but also density, ripeness and fleshy depth without losing its pithy, mineral saline briney edge. 

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


2 La Plante d’a Cote 2016

(Name of a young vine) 11 Abv. – Whole cluster fermentation with natural yeast. Rich perfumed nose of talc, musk, Parma violets, strawberry confit and smokey, chalky, sappy, minerality. Bottled early in Feb 2017, after ageing in fibreglass. Super sappy, saline, perfumed with a light textural touch, elegance and sleek, feminine purity and bright, stony, red cherry and red plum low alcohol vibrancy. Real ‘vin de soif’ drinkability. 

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


3 Le Gamay de L’Allie 2016

Aged in stainless steel, show lovely plummy, savoury red fruits, hints of reduction, cassis and black cherry nuances. Palate is pristine and pure, showing cherry sherbet, pink musk sweets, tantalising acids and wonderful uplifting freshness. Such an energising joy to drink.

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


4 Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Beaune, Orchis Mascula 2014 – Beautiful dusty, fragrant melange, wet river pebbles, chalk board duster and stemmy sappy spice. Real lift and energy, cherry blossom, red apples, and tart red cherries. Texture is very polished and pristine, pinpoint tannins, and seductive smokey, chalky, crunchy red berry fruits. Very impressive interpretation of Pinot Noir.

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


5 Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Beaune, Myosotis Arvensis 2013 – The 2013 is a more savoury, earthy expression, showing red currant, cured meats, strawberry compote and a complexing sappy, mineral limestone vein. Palate is dense and fleshy, broader and more leesy, savoury than the crunchy ’14. Lovely salty, saline hints of red cherry and salted strawberries, and smokey minerality linger on the long, sensual finish.

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


6 Nuits-St-Georges Les Damodes 1er Cru 2012 – Dark dense wine instantly showing the Nuits power. Nose is packed full of black damson plum, red apple purée, raspberry confit, savoury frais de bois and hints of sap and cured meats with dusty wet river pebble minerality. Palate is vibrant, crunchy and super saline, with perfumed black fruits and chalky, limestone notes. The texture is super suave, the balance intense, pure and harmonious with a chalky, dry powdery tannin finish. A masculine styled wine with a feminine touch.

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

With Claire at Cabotte Restaurant

The talented Cabotte head chef
Fellow revellers, Ruth Spivey and David Clawson from the Remedy Wine Bar.

Tasting the Maiden Release of Carsten Migliarina’s 2015 Single Vineyard Elgin Chardonnay…

South Africa’s Carsten Migliarina has made some superb Chardonnays in the past, so it was with great excitement that I tasted his new single vineyard expression from Elgin. His wine making reputation is growing by the day and so are his awards. He also works masterfully with cool climate terroirs as evidenced in the precision of his Elgin Chenin Blancs, Riesling and of course Chardonnay.


Migliarina Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, W.O. Elgin

At 14 Abv, you’d expect this wine to show some depth and power… and of course it does. The nose is beautifully complex with green apple skins, tart crunchy green pears and dusty minerality. But the oaking is also perfectly judged for the weight of the fruit concentration. On the nose it’s very subtle with bruleed creme caramel hints and lemon pie brightness. The oaking on the palate, at this stage, is a little more obvious, but definitely very high quality. Even with the multiple layers of pithy lemon confit, honeydew melon and caramelised fig notes, Carsten’s signature minerality prevails, dominating the finish with a real classical restraint and dusty, gravelly, Schweppes bitter lemon intensity. A fantastic expression with all the old world minerality of a top Umbrian or Friuli cool climate Chardonnay. Drink from 2018 to 2025.

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


The Magical Wine Estate of Hamilton Russell Vineyards in Walker Bay – Tasting the New Releases With Anthony Hamilton Russell…

It must be a strange feeling to see your name on the label of a wine and know that in many respects, the “ownership” of that very name has almost passed to the nation as a whole as a cultural heritage icon. Hamilton Russell as a fine wine brand is so deeply integrated into the psyche of the South African nation it is almost impossible to imagine a local wine industry without it.


I, like almost every other South African wine trade professional, has grown up tasting, drinking and cellaring these wines for as long as I can remember. Visiting the Walker Bay estate above Hermanus to see Anthony and Olive is now more like a pilgrimage than a mere winery stop over. The wines are special, the personalities of the owners more so, and the beauty of the estate unsurpassed.


In March 2017 I paid another flying visit to taste the last of the lovely 2015s, the newly bottled 2016s, and a snapshot of barrels from the 2017 harvest. Within 30 minutes of arriving, knowing that I am a keen horse rider, Olive had me jodhpur’ed and booted up and on the back of Amstel, Anthony’s trusty steed, to do a quick hour long hack around the vineyards before obligatory sundowners of Bollinger Champagne, smoked salmon bellinis and Beluga caviar on the weathered sandstone cliffs overlooking Hermanus.


After a decade of heading up winemaking at HRV, in 2014 Hannes Storm decided to move on to his own Pinot Noir and Chardonnay projects and was replaced by Gottfried Mocke’s ex-assistant at Chamonix, Emul Ross. What a revelation this move has been and no one can deny the exciting new era of quality that Emul’s arrival has heralded, especially with regards to the HRV red wines.




Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde, Walker Bay, 13.5 Abv.

With the 2016 vintage came the lower yields wrought by the third year of intense drought in the Western Cape. But the grapes that were harvested yielded pristine musts and fermentation and aging proceeded as normal with the use of 5% whole bunch. The wine is very rich and intense on the nose, brimming with dried rose petals, lavender, cherry blossom and dried thyme and oregano herbs. The palate is super concentrated with sweet black cherry, graphite spice and grey slatey gravelly minerality. While this wine has more concentration than previous vintages, it also has restraint and dusty structured tannins that add a beautiful frame from which to hang the complex fruit adornments. There is a real gravitas, complexity and textured layers to this very ‘grown up’ wine. The finish is long and precise and just when you think the last word will be left on a mineral note, a burst of pithy juicy stony red cherry fruit kicks in to tantalise the palate. This is a great effort from winemaker Emul Ross and a killer wine that should age gracefully for 15+ years.

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



Ashbourne Pinotage 2015, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, 14.1 Abv.

There are a growing number of varietal Pinotage wines that are starting to turn heads. This is certainly one of them. With its roots and pedigree lying in a Pinot Noir psyche, this 14.1 Abv. expression is packed full of sweet dark black fruits and has multiple layers of complex licorice, sweet oak spice and star anise. This 21 year old vineyard was recently replanted but was the first Pinotage vineyard to be planted in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. There is real opulence interwoven with graphite, gravelly minerality on a palate that finishes with dry grippy tannins. This is a very impressive expression of Pinotage and takes the grape to a new level of quality.

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



Other notable wines tasted…

Ashbourne Pinotage – Cinsaut 2017 ~ Bright rose petal perfume and marzipan. Very pure and fine with lush fruits, wonderful intensity and an elegant, red fruited, peppery potpourri finish. Great potential here! (91-93/100)

Ashbourne 2016 Pinotage, Walker Bay, 13.6 Abv. ~ Dusty black plums and spicy black berry fruits waft from the glass. Seamless and round, mineral and tense. Complex notes of creme brûlée, cassis, blueberry and pithy cherries. Full, round, glycerol texture. Lovely mineral, graphite and cherry stone finish. Great expression, showing all the potential to equal the 2015. To be bottled mid-2017. (93-94+/100)


Ashbourne Sandstone 2010, 12 Abv. ~ 76% Sauvignon, 12% Chardonnay, 12% Semillon. Green pea, white chalk spice, yellow grapefruit nuances. Very complex, fleshy texture with attractive cassis leaf and boxwood notes on the finish. (92/100)


Ashbourne Sandstone 2015 ~ Rich, creamy, opulent expression. Round fleshy white citrus fruit concentration with fine freshness and a complex sake-like finish. So much umami! Lovely. (93+/100)

Tasting and Assessing the Bold Second Chardonnay Release from Capensis Wines…

The Capensis Chardonnay is made at a new South African winery owned by Barbara Banke of Jackson Family Wines in USA and South African Anthony Beck, and is produced from vineyards expertly sourced by renowned viticulturalist Rosa Kruger. The wine is produced by Graham Weerts, from vineyards located in Stellenbosch, the Overberg, and the Robertson region.


The maiden vintage 2013 was reviewed several times on this blog…

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2017/01/22/revisiting-the-intriguing-capensis-chardonnay-2013-from-south-africa/ 

So I was intrigued to taste a pre-European release sample of the follow-up 2014. But then of course I realised I had already tasted the 2014 in November 2016 as part of the extensive Decanter Magazine’s blind Chardonnay tasting review. Reading my November review and noting the three judges scores, one can really see how this wine has evolved and improved with extra time in bottle over the past 5 months. 


Vineyards Used in Capensis…

The Stellenbosch estate of Fijnbosch sits at 1,719 feet in elevation on clay soils with fynbos surrounding the vines, contributing to the Chardonnay’s exceptional natural acidity and complexity.

The Kaaimansgat vineyards in the Overberg, lie at an elevation of 2,484 feet. Impressively remote and resting up in the mountains of the Overberg, the Kaaimansgat vineyard literally translates to “crocodile’s lair” and has long been used in world class examples of Chardonnay from producers like Bouchard Finlayson and more latterly, Leeu Passant.

The final components are sourced from the E. Bruwer vineyard in Robertson, which lies at an elevation of 571 feet in a limestone rich terroir long renowned for producing top Chardonnay grapes.


Capensis Chardonnay 2014, W.O. Western Cape, 14.5 Abv. 

This Chardonnay has an alluring lime green tinged lemon yellow glow. Still very youthful, there are initially intensely bold notes of vanilla bean, creme brûlée, and pannacotta cream. In 2014, 50% of the Cuvee was fermented in small French oak barrels (compared to 100% in 2013), with the balance fermented in stainless steel, and the wine is better for it. All the components were aged on their lees, being hand-stirred monthly for 10 months. Once in the glass, more complex aromas of lemon zest, yellow grapefruit and bergamot develop with subtle truffle oil and shiitaki mushroom notes. On the palate, there is certainly creamy breadth from the partial Malo (30 to 50%) which is beautifully balanced by crisp, pithy, crunchy green fruit acids. The fairground toffee apple nuances are still pronounced but should recede into the background as the wine ages, with the saline yellow citrus, lime cordial and dusty minerality becoming more pronounced. Stylistically a very bold, opulent wine that will appeal more to new world Chardonnay connoisseurs than perhaps Burgundy lovers. But I think that’s kind of the point? Nevertheless, in its youth, this wine is classy, seductive and very well made and should impress the fussiest of global Chardonnay drinkers. 

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

Leeu Passant ~ The Most Exciting New Releases From South Africa in Years…

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines have always been all about bottling the great vineyard expressions of site and soils of the Swartland. This week saw the first new vinous additions to the growing Mullineux legacy in the form of Leeu Passant. 


The new range consists of two terroir specific Chardonnays and a dry red blend, which is a deconstruction and reconstruction of the venerable Cape wines of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s with almost equal portions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and a “modern” twist of Cabernet Franc.With the European Launch of Leeu Passant set to take place in London on the 5th April, when I’ll be in Bordeaux tasting En-primeur 2016 wines, it was fortuitous that I was staying with Chris and Andrea in the Swartland at just the right moment to experience these wines pre-release.


Below are my initial impressions and ratings of this profound new threesome of whites and reds…


Leeu Passant Elandskloof Chardonnay 2015, 14 Abv.

Very rich intense opulent nose, layers of pineapple pastille fruits, green apple and green citrus crunch. All natural ferment with indigenous yeasts, and all natural malolactics. Complex sweet green fruits, subtle creamy oak from 12 months ageing and another 10 months in bottle. The palate is taught, fresh and crunchy, some waxy white peach notes, flinty minerality and a noticeably cool, restrained dry finish. Plenty of power with animated subtlety. 

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


Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2015, 14 Abv.

This is a blockbuster wine. Sweet green quince, crunchy pears and pineapple pastille fruits, Bon Bon green apple crunch and subtle hints of struck match reductive complexity and gravelly, saline pithy fruit. Incredible acidity showing real power and drive, and incredible precision. High acid, bottled at 8 TA. Also such subtle, considerate oak use, fine integration of fruit and acids and again, like the Elandskloof version, finishes bone dry and elegantly restrained. A very impressive, complex Meursault’esque Stellenbosch Chardonnay illustrating the grandeur and terroir of this premium SA region. Superb… A must buy for Chardonnay obsessives! 

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


Leeu Passant Dry Red Blend 2015, 13.5 Abv.

36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 31% Cinsaut. 

The Wellington Cinsault at 117 years old is the oldest recorded Cinsault vineyard in SA, blended with a more youthful 91 year old vineyard from Franschhoek. The Helderberg Cabernet Sauvignon is 36 years old and the Cabernet Franc 18 to 20 years old. Lovely peppery, spicy leafy nose of plum, peppercorns, sweet bramble berries, hedgerow, bergamot and sappy cherry spice. There’s a real opulent confit fruit character, impressive ripeness, fragrant but simultaneously mineral and restrained. There is also a real dusty granitic vein, a chalky, spicy texture and sweet red currant and raspberry sappy fruit. Punchy, intense, really focused but with real mouthwatering drinkability. Beautifully fine harmonious texture, and tight polished tannins. A true testament to South Africa’s red winemaking heritage. A very classy wine.

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

Volumes PER wine: Elandskloof  Chardonnay ~ 2000 bottles, Stellenbosch Chardonnay ~ 3000 bottles, and 4,000 bottles of Leeu Passant Dry Red. 

 (UK RRP IS £72 – £75 pb Inc.)

Tasting Kistler Les Noisetiers 2013, Sonoma Coast, 14.1 Abv…

I drank a beautiful bottle of Pierre Yves Colin Morey Chassagne Montrachet Les Maltroie 2014 on Sunday night, and this beautiful Kistler Les Noisetiers just reminded me of PYCM’s taught, steely, determined Chardonnay style. 


I admit an unusual comparison, but these 2013 California Chardonnays, of which I have drunk a few over the past few days, have such cut and tension twinned with pithy lemon and lime intensity and pure limestone minerality. Complete palate austerity… (a good thing!) with so much energy, freshness, and restraint. There is plenty of nervy textural palate richness with a touch of new oak vanilla spice, but I’ve not had a Kistler Chardy this mineral since 2010! Rasping, pithy, mineral and dry… this is so, so classy.

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