The Making of An Icon Wine ~ Tasting Patatsfontein 2016 Chenin Blanc…

I probably discovered this gem a little late in the day to properly appreciate the 2014 maiden vintage of Patatsfontein Chenin Blanc, only getting to drink the odd bottle or two with local South African winemakers. But the cat was out the bag, and I subsequently made sure I received a good chunk of the fabulous 2015, which is reviewed here:


https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2017/01/15/chenin-blanc-south-africas-new-international-calling-card/

The 2015 vintage yielded some fantastic, iconic wines, but during my visit in March 2017, I managed to taste many of the 2016s, and was so impressed with the top expressions from this tricky, drought stricken vintage. Many were picked earlier to retain acidity, but displayed massive concentration due to dramatically lower yields. A thoroughly collectable vintage indeed. 


Patatsfontein Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2016, Montagu, 13.5 Abv.

The 2016 was fermented with natural yeasts and aged in a mixture of old oak barrels of various sizes for approximately 10 months. It has a most precise, piercing nose of stoney yellow fruits, bruised yellow peaches, saline briney white citrus, pithy tangerine peel and all the hallmark Patatsfontein aromatics of waxy yellow apples, potpourri and exotic curry leaf incense notes. Very seductive, alluring, confident wine. The palate is even more concentrated and structured than the 2015, no easy feat in itself, proving yet again what great pedigree this wine has. The finish shows great energy, fine purity, and impressive, creamy textural length. It seems young Reenen Borman can do no wrong. Congratulations. Drink now to 2030+.

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


You can’t hold greatness back, and while the Patatsfontein is one of the most sought after Chenin Blanc whites in South Africa, the European market has yet to truly wake up to the exceptional quality of this wine. Sadly, when they do (which they will), we’ll all struggle to get even the current allocations we currently do due to its tiny single vineyard production. But the success will have been well earned and well deserved. 

The Exuberance of Fresh Youthful Chenin Blanc – The Perfect Everday White?

I recently got back from another short trip to South Africa and while I was there, I looked to try and taste as many 2017 new release young whites as possible. Coming to market only a few months after harvest, I’m always intrigued by how quickly producers can release a new wine in bottle. 
Young Sauvignon Blancs are going to be fresh, unoaked, and normally quite primary, perhaps even a tad boring and predictable. But young, fresh Chenin Blanc holds a lot more potential interest for consumers.


The Steytler family has been producing wine on the Kaapzicht Estate in Stellenbosch since 1946 and have always been acknowledged for producing outstanding Chenin Blanc, including their famous 1947 Chenin Blanc Old Vine white which I also tried again recently at the Old Vine Project tasting in London.


Kaapzicht Estate Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch WO, South Africa, 13 Abv.

The 2017 vintage was another of the drought years in the Cape, but this little Kaapzicht white shows impressive freshness, zip and zest. The palate is multi-dimensional with crunchy green apple, pithy aromatic phenolic spice, white peach, cream soda and dusty cut grass complexity. On the palate the wine really comes alive, showing taught zippy acids, crunchy green gauge fruits, Granny Smith apples, lime zest and a subtle honey dew melon fleshy sweetness on the finish. Fine acid cut and frame, this wine typifies well made Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc at an affordable, everyday price point. With the strength of the Euro, you won’t easily find a quality Loire domaine produced Chenin Blanc this pure and precise for the same money, highlighting yet another top trump in South Africa’s hand. Drink and enjoy this wine’s delicious vibrancy now and over the next 2 to 3 years. 

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Tasting the Highly Lauded Opstal Estate Carl Everson Chenin Blanc 2015…

This is not a wine or producer that I’m particularly familiar with other than seeing and hearing a lot of people raving about the wines being made by seventh generation winemaker Attie Louw at the Opstal Estate in Slanghoek, north of Stellenbosch.


The Opstal Estate Carl Everson Chenin Blanc at 14 Abv, is Attie’s interpretation of how he sees his pure expression of Old Vine Chenin Blanc represented. Made from fruit sourced from a single vineyard planted in 1981, the grapes were fermented in old French oak for a slow, extended 8 months in barrel due to a slightly nutrient deficient must. This is definitely an ambitious wine.


The colour is a noticeably dark straw, lemon yellow suggesting power, ripeness and weight. There is indeed a rich, exotic sweetness on the nose reminiscent of Madagascan vanilla pod, creme brûlée and a panna cotta opulence mixed with dried mango strips, passion fruit, tangerine peel, and caramelised apples. But you’d be wrong to mistake this wine as being rich and monotone, because the longer it sits in the glass, the more complex it becomes. Sweet bay leaf baking herbs give way to yellow grapefruit preserve and crunchy yellow peaches. Dense and textural, this wine treads a fine line with fruit richness, sweet oak and bruleed length without ever being vulgar, over blown or excessive. In a riper vintage, who knows, but this beautiful 2015 picked earlier in a drought year, retains sufficient acidity and displays fantastic balance and intensity. The wine tightens up impressively on the finish and displays more overt minerality with spicy ginger and lemon herb complexity. A lot to think about and a lot to digest with this profound expression of Chenin. Best to make space in your diary! Drink now to 2028+

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

Tasting The Highly Lauded Skerpioen 2015 Old Vines Series White From Sadie Family Wines… 

A warm balmy evening in London with a fish braai in prospect called for an appropriate white wine match. With my sea bass marinating away and my prawn skewers primed for the BBQ, a saline, mineral driven white was called for. 


This beauty from Eben Sadie is a field blend of interplanted Chenin Blanc and Palomino vines. These unirrigated old bush vines were planted between the years 1958 to 1967 in extremely chalky soils in one of the coolest locations in the Swartland. 

Tasting with Eben and Rosa Kruger in March 2017

Of all Eben Sadie’s Old Vine Series wines, the Skerpioen white is perhaps the most intriguing of the lot. Often austere in youth, this wine is so mineral driven and restrained that it often confounds the critics. As Christian Eedes from South Africa’s Wine Magazine comments…. “a perplexing wine…” with a minerality and austerity that is often “mesmerising”. 


Sadie Family Old Vines Series Skerpioen 2015, Swartland, 14 Abv.

Pale straw yellow, this expressive 2015 has a spicy pithy nose of lime peel, lemon grass, dried herbs, liquid minerals and wet chalk. Very grown up and old-worldy. Layer upon layer of granite, crushed gravel and briney sea breeze salinity notes resonate. But there is a white peach, grassy, aromatic, savoury buttery note riding in tandem with the intense liquid minerality. The nose follows to the palate in a very precise, pin point manner. There is plenty of glycerol depth, pithy, dusty phenolic aromatics, and a rasping dry lemon, apple purée and a mineral austerity finish. From start to finish, the palate is electric and fresh with racy acids and remains thoroughly linear and focused. This wine’s greatness is firmly embedded in the philosophy of ‘less is more’.

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

Tasting Smiley NV v3 ~ A Wine that May Well Define a New Era in South African Winemaking…

Today I met up with Swartland young gun Ryan Mostert and Samantha Suddons from the Silvervis – Terracura winery. Shaped in many ways by his days working as the assistant winemaker at Reyneke, Ryan still very much has an eye on minimalist, non-intervention winemaking where purity and cleanliness in the wines are never compromised. 


Ryan thrives on pushing boundaries and few wines on the South African, indeed the global market, push the wine making norms like that of the Smiley NV Chenin Blanc. Whether the wine came about by accident or not, it’s third release marks a change where the wines purity, clarity and stylistic confidence come to the fore.


Smiley NV v3 (Version 3) Swartland Chenin Blanc, 12.5 Abv.

Slightly smokey straw yellow, touch opaque. The aromatics are fresh, citric and vibrant, showing saline, sea breeze and oyster shell notes which currently dominate the lemon lime white citrus fruits. Production is now up to 7,500 bottles of this, the 3rd non-vintage release. There’s a fascinating lime pith and red cherry stone fruit exotic note that develops. The palate entry is taught and linear with dusty briney minerality, alka seltzer and granitic wet stone terroir notes. The finish is textured and zippy and continues to unfurl with more and more complexity until it eventually ends with a tangerine pith, dried herbs, and a wet slate punch. What impressive complexity, palate texture and of course value for money. Funky Swartland kit at its very best! 

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


The Chenin Blanc for this wine is sourced from vineyards in the Siebrietskloof and Joubertskloof in the Paardeberg. So basically all on granitic soils. The 2017 blend is made up of 50% of 2017, 35% of 2016, 10% of 2015, with the balance from 2014. The 4 components consist of a barrel fermented portion, a “son wyn” (Sun wine) maderised portion (from 2014), a flor component from demijohns, and a skin contact portion that forms 50% of the final blend.


This truly is one of South Africa’s most profound wines. If you’re a wine merchant, your clients would love to indulge themselves in this wine. For sommeliers… well, this has to be a dream come true wine, with such salinity, fresh vibrant complexity and food friendly options. Either way, it’s a must try wine.

(Recommended Retail from £16-18 per bottle)   

Getting In the Mood For the Real Wine Fair with Testalonga El Bandito Cortez Chenin Blanc…

Craig Hawkins’ interpretation of Chenin Blanc can divide opinion. Well, I love his wines. He always seems to somehow capture extra nerve, wound spring tension and vibrant freshness. There’s much more to it than merely explaining it as a result of earlier picking having tasted a lot of early picked versions that are hard, tart, one dimensional and lacking in texture and flavour complexity. No such problems for Craig’s wines.


I’ve never made a white wine myself, only red, but having followed Craig’s evolution as a winemaker, you can really see the subtle tricks he’s learnt along the way while making some “funky” whites with up to 2 years skin contact. As he always told me… “I wasn’t looking for any particular result with all the experimentation with skin contact, I just wanted to see how far I could push things … and learn something in the process.”


Well, Craig has certainly reined things in a little over the past few years, a clear sign that he has matured into a high quality, thoughtful, considerate winemaker. But importantly, he has never compromised his flair or his wines characterful natural purity and textural style. With his 2015 El Bandito Cortez, Craig has hit his zenith with Chenin Blanc.


Testalonga El Bandito Cortez Chenin Blanc 2015, 12.5 Abv.

This Chenin Blanc has a beautifully bright pale golden colour with aromas of baked crab apples, white bread drizzled with honey, incense, and tinned white peaches in syrup. Superbly expressive and complex. The palate is cool, taught and intense with Craig’s hallmark low pH feel and vibrant tension, but with perhaps a few extra layers thanks to the sublime 2015 vintage character. Plenty of racy freshness, white citrus, pithy river pebble minerality, waxy tangerine peel, fresh fennel and beautiful briney, salty sea breeze zest. This wine typifies low intervention winemaking at its very best. Decant before serving for best results. Drink from 2017 to 2030+.

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


Drinking Domaine Huet Perlant Vouvray 1959 Demi Sec, Loire… at The Remedy Wine Bar…

I had a wonderful opportunity last week to drink a few glasses of this beautiful old Chenin Blanc from Domaine Huet at the fabulous Remedy Wine Bar in London. It’s old, it’s Chenin Blanc… What else could you ask for? Seriously!


Rich, caramelized yellow peaches, sweet honey combe, ripe and intense. Palate is expansive with soft sweet yellow fruits, no edges, and a profound peach confit finish. The length and complexity are beguiling, intriguing. The bubble has dissipated but the complexity is impressive. Just love the coffee bean and crisp caramel brittle intensity. A great vintage, superb depth, beautifully aged wine.

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