Alheit Family Wines Cartology 2018 Staking a Solid Quality Marker For The Vintage…

When I was was out on the town in London with Chris Alheit in 2017, he voiced his uncertainty over the long term future of the Cartology brand versus the more niche single vineyard cuvee expressions in his portfolio.

I told him in no uncertain terms that to kill off this super strong Cartology brand would be madness due to its established cult following in Europe and beyond. Of course the dilemma lay with some of the unique old vine vineyard parcels that were going into the blend that realistically merited their own cuvees.

Thankfully, the Cartology project continues and the quality remains super high and expressive. 2018 is another deliciously individual, expressive white wine that speaks of the unique personality of the last drought vintage in South Africa in 2018.

Alheit Family Wines Cartology 2018, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

The traditional Cartology blend with a dominant 90% Chenin Blanc and 10% Semillon in support. As previous, this is a multi-vineyard, multi-regional blend to produce one of South Africa’s strongest white wine brands. The nose resonates with notes of fresh stable straw, honey on white toast, freshly squeezed peach juice, dusty granitic minerality and a subtle leesy, smoky touch of reduction. The palate shows an impressively spikey fresh acidity twinned with a crystalline yellow orchard fruit concentration so typical of so many 2018 South African whites. There is something so familiar about this Cartology yet also some intriguingly unique vintage characters of hawthorn, quince and unripe tangerines. This wine shows more focus, linearity and salinity than bigger previous vintages and strikes another powerful note for the premium white wines from the 2018 vintage.

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

A Veritable Garden of Eden – Tasting the New Raats Family Wines Eden High Density Chenin Blanc 2018…

The Eden 2018 Chenin Blanc is made from fruit grown in a beautifully manicured 10 to 14 year old Chenin Blanc vineyard alongside the Raats Family Winery in Stellenbosch on the Vlaeberg Road in the Polkadraai. When Bruwer Raats released the first vintage of his high density planted Montpellier Clone Chenin Blanc in 2014, the wine represented a culmination of years of planning and work to produce a wine unlike anything else that had been produced in South Africa.

What Bruwer, known as ‘the Chenin King’ achieved with his young vines back then is genuinely astonishing. But the fine tuning and understanding of these young vineyards has never stopped and with the UK release of the fourth vintage imminent (there was no 2017), this wine has clearly built up an impressive cult following among serious wine lovers, collectors and connoisseurs… for what is found inside a bottle of Eden Chenin Blanc is nothing short of profound.

Raats Family Winery High Density Eden Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Stellenbosch

This high density vineyard planted to the Montpellier Chenin Blanc clone has become more and more established year after year, enough so to already start to display unique vineyard terroir features in the same way you would see in the greatest single vineyards of the Loire or Burgundy. The 2018 exhibits an impressively tight, taut and focused aromatic profile that teases the senses with the most intricate and intense mineral nuances while simultaneously offering up a veritable kings banquet of the most complex array of yellow orchard fruits and white citrus. Regal and noble in every sense, this is a wine born from the fruit of a vineyard planted with the most meticulous planning and precision viticulture. The resulting complexity is clear for all to see with layer upon layer of liquid minerality, wet grey slate, peach skins, wet thatch and sweet orange pastille candied notes wafting effortlessly out of the glass. On the palate, there is certainly no lack of vigour either with a bright, vibrant acidity from the 100% decomposed granite soils that lend an extra dimension of linearity that has become another hallmark of the Eden style of Chenin Blanc and is just one of the factors which helps guarantee this wines age worthiness. The palate of this 2018 radiates a crystalline flesh and depth, Lalique-like fruit purity and accessibility combined with an impressive mandarin orange, white peach, fresh fennel and a salty, briney finish twined with a resurgent granitic minerality. Slightly more open knit on release that either the 2015 or 2016, this new expression is nevertheless a thing of wonder and beauty.

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

Doolhof Wine Estate Launches Their New Super Premium Lemietberg Ward Wines…

Doolhof Wine Estate, in the Lemietberg Ward of the Wellington region, is a winery I have followed over the years with one of my favourite wines in their portfolio being their expressive Malbec red. Their current winemaker Gielie Beukes has now been making the wines at the estate for around five years and has just released an impressive selection of super premium single vineyard wines.

The Doolhof vineyards lie in a valley with varying aspects and differing soil types forming some interesting micro climates for single vineyard wines. The estate lies between Bain’s Kloof and the Groenberg Mountain Range. The result is soils that are finer, more balanced and deeper than in the surrounding countryside with clay content evenly distributed. A combination of Malmesbury shale, homogenic Glenrosa and Clovelly soils ensure that the vine’s roots are able to descend to four metres of depth or more.

While Doolhof has more than adequate irrigation, natural water retention is also very good, without any sign of permanent dampness. While the shape and exposure (topography) of the various parts of the Doolhof Estate allow for several distinct microclimates, generally, Doolhof experiences cooler winters and moderate summers compared with the Wellington norm.

Roughly 40 of the farm’s 380 hectares are planted to vine. Soils, growing conditions and microclimates vary considerably across this large expanse (which reaches up into Bain’s Kloof), and each grape varietal is carefully matched to its ideal terroir. The white varietals are planted on the eastern slopes of the Groenberg, which allow the grapes cooler days and less direct sunlight.

The vineyard plots around the Doolhof Wine Estate.

Their export manager Johan Fourie recently visited me in London to taste through these seriously impressive new single vineyard wines from the farm. They are certainly not cheap but then again they are very fine terroir expressions and definitely worth seeking out.

 

Doolhof Riviersteen Chenin Blanc 2017, 13 Abv.

Second vintage produced. 1600 bottles from small batch single vineyard. 2 x 500 litre and 2 x 300 litre barrels. Dusty nose of dry summer bushveld, fresh thatch, honied white peaches, quince and apple pastille fruits with a subtle high tone note of leesy blossom fragrance. A very complex, intriguing wine with rich, focused intensity, stony minerality, orange peel, crunchy apples, bright tart acidity and incredible length. Very impressive indeed.

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

 

Doolhof Morestond Chardonnay 2017, 12 Abv.

1700 bottles from small batch single vineyard. 2 x 500 litre and 2 x 300 litre barrels. Barrel fermented, the nose is taut, restrained and dusty with lemon biscuit, vibrant lime cordial, lemon peel and white citrus with the faintest of vanilla oak spice notes. Glassy bright fresh acids, there is a real linearity to the texture, tension yet fleshiness from partial malo, toasted nuts, green apple confit and a very long vanilla pod and savoury green melon finish showing lovely verve and vigour with a pronounced saline bite.

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

 

Doolhof Bloedklip Malbec 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Only 1200 bottles produced. Deep dark broody nose of black fruits, sappy plum, vanilla oak spice and winter black fruit compote. Plenty of fragrant lift and spice, this has a more serious structured leafy complexity supported by stony mineral tannins and a crunchy, tart acidity. Still very youthful and finding its inner balance, this should flesh out and relax and put on extra palate weight with 2 or 3 years in bottle. A fine effort for this variety that seems very at home in South Africa.

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

An Exciting New South African Chenin Blanc Project From Carl van der Merwe and Betz Family Winery in Washington State Hits the Streets…

I had a wonderful tasting of Betz Family Wines in London recently looking at their delicious 2015 Bordeaux based varietal reds from Washington State. Bob Betz is of course a fellow Master of Wine who graduated in 1997 and made a name for himself making some truly superb wines across primarily micro sites in Yakima Valley AVA, Red Mountain AVA and Walla Walla AVA. Bob Betz sold his winery around 6 years ago to Steve Griessel and still acts for the winery occasionally in a consulting capacity.

However, I was very surprised to learn of their exciting new project in South Africa where Steve Griessel has taken a 50% shareholding in a new project with Carl van der Merwe of The Great South African Wine Co. (part owned between Wendy Applebaum and winemaker Carl van der Merwe).

 

A new Chenin Blanc venture of which Carl is the head winemaker, uses four old vine vineyard sites in Stellenbosch that are on long term leases – one 40 year old vineyard in the Bottelary Hills, two 35 to 40 year old vineyards in the Helderberg and one 38 year old vineyard in Faure. All vines are unirrigated to produce a fantastic Chenin Blanc that is fermented with 100% wild yeasts in barrel, 20% new French oak for nine months, with the total ageing of the 2017 vintage lasting for around 13 months with the remaining wine in used neutral oak. Around 20% of the 2017 underwent malolactic fermentation in barrel.

Based on Chenin Blanc from some sandy and rocky sites, the vines are located primarily on granitic soils only 9km from the sea, conditions that help deliver fruit with a wonderful maritime salinity and bright freshness. Carl van der Merwe is one of South Africa’s most talented winemakers and never one to enter into new projects lightly. The end goal of this venture is undoubtedly to produce some truly profound Chenin Blanc wines which will be sold exclusively in the USA. So something to look out for in the States to bring back home. Everyone loves a unicorn… especially if it’s old vine Chenin!!

 

Quinta Essentia Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

This really is an impressive wine and once allowed a little time in the glass explodes on your palate like an avalanche of flavours. The aromatics are loaded with sweet pineapple pastille, orange blossom, lemon cordial, sweet yellow nectarine nuances before a final reprise of tangerine zest and Seville orange confit. Intricately multi-layered between granitic minerality and sweet yellow fruit intensity, there is also a subtle hint of lactic vanilla oak spice but it is already beautifully integrated. The palate is incredibly intense and fleshy with more wet thatch notes, pineapple pastille, crunchy white peach and honey drizzled on warm white toast. The acids bristle on the palate and perfectly balance the rich, fleshy fruit concentration leading to a very long, bold, complex finish. Not quite in the league of Carl’s epic Diva Chenin Blanc produced at De Morgenzon but certainly a show stopper in its own kind of way.

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

Quintuplet of South African Quaffers That You Just Can’t Go Wrong With…

It’s the question that occupies the minds of most wine consumers and also many wine buyers… which wines offer great value!?

Today we opened up a selection of excellent value wines for a visiting UK wine journalist and I snuck in after lunch to taste and review five of my favourites.

Welbedacht Estate Bohemian Syrah, WO Wellington 2016 – 92+/100

A big, bold, impressive creation not unlike its owner Schalk Burger Senior. Packed full of sweet blueberry, baking spices, grilled herbs, black olive, black cherry and pithy plum skins. Fleshy and broad, this wine has grown in stature and acquired extra balance and depth in the past 6 months. Ready to go now. Braai optional!

Mullineux Family Wines Kloof Street Red 2017, WO Swartland, 14 Abv. – 91/100

A blend of 90% Syrah, 4% Carignan, 2% Grenache, 2% Cinsault, 1% Tinta Barroca, 1% Mourvèdre. Beautiful sweet grilled herbs, barbecued meat fat and fleshy, sappy black berry fruits. Plenty of cured meat nuances, black olive and a deliciously distinguished long finish. Real class for the money.

Bosman 8 Generations 2018, WO Wellington, 12 Abv. – 88+/100

Clean direct and pure, this shows grassy thatch, dry bush veld and sweet resinous sappy notes. Definite dried lemon peel, herbs and gravel minerality and a cool, stony finish. Impressive price / quality ratio.

Alheit Family Flotsam & Jetsam 2017, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv. – 91+/100

Fabulously sappy, stemmy, grassy, wet thatch and mineral yellow orchard fruits. Classy depth and superb concentration. Lovely wine with a sprinkle of Chris Alheit magic.

Sumaridge Chardonnay 2014, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13 Abv. – 92/100

Instant Meursault-like richness and exoticism, liquid minerality, resinous sap and spice and an underlying core of smokey, peachy, spicy apple and citrus pastille fruits. Old world ringer. Just tastes so Burgundian! An intriguing cool climate Walker Bay wine that packs a really complex punch.

David & Nadia Wines Producing Grand Cru Quality Chenin Blancs in South Africa…

I’ve written a number of articles and been involved in numerous discussions about Chenin Blanc and whether or not it might just be the only grape out there that can truly rival the greatness, diversity of styles, ageability and collectabity of Chardonnay. To my surprise, I am yet to be berated by any journalists, wine commentators or consumers for making such assertions.

While my belief is not restricted solely to South African expressions, it is certainly solidified by the premium quality of wines now being produced by a multitude of top drawer wineries in the Cape. One such winery is David & Nadia run by David Sadie (no relation to Eben Sadie). David was born and bred in the Swartland and studied viticulture and oenology at the University of Stellenbosch. It was there that he met and later married Nadia, a qualified soil scientist and viticulturalist. Together, they have crafted some of the most profound wines coming out of South Africa including the fabulous Skaliekop and Hoe Steen single vineyard Chenin Blancs.

David & Nadia sell around 30% of their wines to the local market with 70% exported around the world. David says that their philosophy is simple… “they are just trying to be honest with every vintage” using 25 hectares of vineyards of which they farm 16 of those hectares. The 2016 yields were the lowest recorded to date until the 2018 vintage which marked the fourth consecutive year of drought in the Western Cape.

David Sadie tasting with UK wine critic Jancis Robinson MW OBE… who appears to be enjoying his wines!

The 2018 harvest saw a 90% loss of yield, certainly conditions not seen in the Swartland since a drought cycle in the 1960s. With the help of Andre Bruyns, their assistant winemaker, they tried to alleviate conditions with what David calls “biological wine making” – not specifically organic or biodynamic, but often incorporating best practices from both philosophies.

In the last three years since 2016 they have invested heavily in Grenache, trying to plant at least a hectare per year, a variety closer to David’s long term vision and hopefully leading to single vineyard cuvees in future. David has planted old clones normally used for bulk production as they appear to work well in the dry land conditions of the Swartland. Grenache is certainly seen as the future red variety for the winery as opposed to the Swartland stalwart Syrah.

The stellar 2017 vintage is often compared to the excellent 2015, where producers did not experience the heat spikes seen in 2016, but was certainly an exciting vintage to taste alongside expressions going back to 2014.

Mixed Flight:

David & Nadia Chenin Blanc 2017, 13 Abv.

From seven different vineyards with one new addition planted in the 1960s. Cool restrained nose of fresh straw, white citrus, pineapple pastille and peach pips. Spent a year in old oak without imparting any oak character but enhancing the textural breadth of the wine. Palate shows impressive fleshy concentration, bristling acids and delicious sweet pineapple, pear puree, granitic minerality and a long, intense, persistent finish.

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

David & Nadia Aristagos 2017, 13 Abv.

A blend of 58% Chenin, 14% Viognier, 13% Clairette Blanche, 7% Semillon, 5% Roussanne, and 3% Marsanne and shows a wonderfully complex aromatic profile with orange blossom, fresh hay, yellow citrus, waxy peaches, incense and yellow peaches. Massive breadth and depth, full of vibrance, spicy yellow orchard fruits, marzipan and a sleek, linear granite and salty pineapple finish.

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

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2017, 13 Abv.

Famously including some sparsely interplanted Crouchen Blanc, Palomino, Semillon, Muscat and False Pedro adding extra complexity when all harvested together. Rich and textured, opulent and plush with great waxy, yellow fruit aromatics, tangerine, naartjie peel, pineapple, yellow apples and dusty minerality. Pithy, piquant and packed full of mineral spice. Plenty of power and impressive brawn and concentration.

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

David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc 2017, 12.5 Abv.

From vines planted on shale soils in 1985. A complex melange of waxy yellow fruits, incense, lanolin, marzipan and greengage plum fruits. Searing bright acids enliven the palate that shows vibrant concentration, hints of soap stone, white pepper and yellow orchard fruits. So pure, so precise and wonderfully elegant with a delicious tangy pear drop finish.

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

David & Nadia Topography Semillon 2017, 11 Abv.

Siebritskloof fruit made 100% in stainless but finished off with 12 months in old big foudre. Shows obvious green apple, green peppercorn, lanolin, pithy granitic mineral spice. Wonderful freshness, fine balance and a real stony, dusty depth with hints of lemon sherbet, crunchy pear and tart green apple. Really delicious expression.

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

Red Flight:

David & Nadia Grenache 2017, 13 Abv.

Up to 50% whole bunch with four months ageing on its skins finished off with 12 months in old 500 litre oak barrels. 70% loss of yields in the vintage lead to an intensely focused, perfumed spicy red Grenache brimming with rose petals, violets and cherry blossom and multiple layers of red cherry and cranberry fruits. The palate is sleek, cool, ultra pure and bright with such elegance, crystalline red cherry and a slightly dry, gritty tannin grip on the finish. Wonderful allure and fleshy mineral depth. A super pretty but serious effort.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2016, 13 Abv.

34% Carignan, 33% Syrah, 14% Cinsault, 14% Pinotage, 5% Grenache. Lovely smokey melange of reds and black berry fruits, sweet plum, raisined cranberry and granitic spice. Wonderfully integrated, harmonious and balanced with impressive spiced complexity.

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

David & Nadia Topography Pinotage 2017, 12 Abv.

Spent 21 days on skins with a lot of whole berries. Lovely elegant pure aromatics of oak spice, marzipan, Turkish delight and an almost Cinsault styled finesse and perfumed complexity. Super fine texture, subtlety and elegantly fleshy but fresh, rounded and wonderfully cool and saline with plenty of red and black berry fruits, pithy spice and fine granitic powdery grippy tannins. Very impressive expression.

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

Vintage Flight: David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc Single Vineyard

David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc 2016, 13 Abv.

Creamy, rich and opulent expression, touch of sweet & sour, pineapple pastille, liquid minerality, sweet lemon cordial and piercing yellow citrus. Lovely power, flesh, and sumptuous hedonism.

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

David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc 2015, 14 Abv.

Surprisingly quite closed and restrained. Taut and mineral. Granite and slate, white citrus and spicy nuances with touches of straw, thatch, herbs and lemon confit and a subtle, linear finish. Closed for business.

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

David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc 2014, 13.5 Abv.

Rich expressive nose with dusty granitic spice, stony minerality, yellow orchard fruits, waxy green apples and subtle exotic vanilla pod finish. Lovely elegance, harmonious concentration and fruit intensity but certainly quite subtle and softly spoken expression.

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

Vintage Flight: David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc Single Vineyard

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2016, 13 Abv.

1 x 400 litre barrel. Superb complexity and textural finesse. This has a Grand Cru feel to the wine, plush concentration, focused yellow fruit concentration and harmonious acids, amazing balance and a delicious white pear, pineapple pastille finish. Wow.

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

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2015, 13 Abv.

Quite dusty and restrained, intense, concentrated textural balance with superb depth. Fresh and piquant, powerful yet regal showing elegance with fleshy concentration, pineapple pastille nuances and a structured acid frame. Very impressive indeed. Everything and more you could hope for from one of South Africa’s Grand Crus of Chenin Blanc.

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

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, 13 Abv.

2 x 300 litre barrels. Touch of smokey, flinty struck match mixed with yellow apple purée and citrus pastille fruit nuances. Sleek, very polished and dusty liquid minerality with pithy pear and reductive herby, saline restraint. Characterful effort for the vintage.

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

Wines are distributed to the trade in the UK by Justerini & Brooks.

Andrea Mullineux Reveals the New Leeu Passant Wine Releases at Roundstone Farm in the Swartland…

With the Mullineux brand more than a decade old now, it has firmly been established as one of South Africa’s top fine wine labels with every new release highly anticipated. Their Leeu Passant brand on the other hand is only three vintages down but also seems to have garnered its own more individual, eclectic wine following among old vine collectors and connoisseurs.

I recently visited the Mullineux’s Leeu Passant winery in Franschhoek where Chris Mullineux showed me the ropes and I also got to meet Wade Sander, Andrea Mullineux’s assistant winemaker who works solely on the Leeu Passant wines.

The Leeu Passant winery in Franschhoek with assistant winemaker Wade Sander (below).

With the 2015 vintage certainly very famous now, the 2017 releases from all of South Africa’s top producers, look set to once again take local and international markets by storm and fill the cellars of a new thirsty generation of South African fine wine lovers.

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Single vineyard on the maritime slopes of the Helderberg where temperatures seldom rise above 28 degrees C. One of the rare sites that the Mullineux’s actually have to wait for the acidity to drop before picking. The aromatics are pure and lifted expressing the usual crystallinity of the style and site. Bottled in October 2018, the wine is still super youthful, taut and fresh but with a touch of creamy malo to take the edge off the electric acidity. Beautifully intense and citrus driven, the wine has a wonderful textural balance and freshness with incredible poise and focus. Long and pin point, superb harmony and purity, this wine has impressive salinity and tart lemon / lime brilliance and brightness to invigorate the palate. A great effort.

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

Leeu Passant Dry Red 2017, 14.5 Abv.

This red blend of 56% Cabernet Suavignon, 26% Cinsautl and 18% Cabernet Franc spent 12 months in 500 litre barrels and around 10 months in neutral foudre. Explosive and expressive, this wine literally leaps out the glass to greet you. Hugely aromatic, it unfurls with intense black berry, red currant, bramble berry and raspberry jam nuances. Such opulence and freshness, on the palate there is an incredible balance and harmony. Fabulous layers of red and black berry, strawberry confit, sweet tobacco, leafy spice and the most alluring foresty bramble berry seduction. A truly beautiful, complex and expressive red blend that changes in the glass continuously. What a super classy red wine that really is worthy of its collectible fine wine status.

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

Mullineux Old Vines White 2018, 14 Abv.

A blend of 69% Chenin Blanc, 12% Clarette Blanche, 9% Grenache Blanc, 7% Viognier and 3% Semillon. Rich and opulent, the nose is broad and ultra aromatic with complex notes of dry grass, wet thatch, soap stone, lemon rind and apple skins. Deliciously ripe and intense, the palate is sleek but fleshy, crystalline and super pure… a feature emerging as a characteristic of the 2018 vintage. The last of the drought vintages, this wine really shows beautiful minerality and dry extract, concentration and intense yellow fruit focus. Really impressive, broad and powerful, this is going to be another super classical white blend for medium to long term ageing.

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

Mullineux Chenin Blanc Straw Wine 2018, 9% Abv.

Liquid gold, this has the classical nose of sweet caramelised orchard fruits, quince preserve, dried guava and a savoury, sweet peach brightness. Glycerol and rich, powerful and intense, it is more in the marmalade and citrus rind character than the tropical passionfruit style. Textural and finely balanced this is an incredibly well honed and focused sweet wine style that is certainly a benchmark for this genre.

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