Tasting a Fine & Rare Line up of Aged South African Icon Wines…

During the past 18 months of the pandemic there has been far too little sharing of great bottles among fine wine lovers. But with many determined to make up for lost time, South African fine lover and uber SA wine supporter, Thor Gudmundsson organised a fantastic old South African wine tasting lunch at one of his two excellent wine bar / restaurants in London, the Brackenbury Wine Rooms.

With most of the bottles generously supplied by Thor, it was a bit of a challenge for me to come up with some interesting bottles to add a little extra interest and excitement. Perhaps a bit predictably, I decided to bring the fabled Kanonkop pairing of Paul Sauer 1994 and Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 to compare and contrast blind. I have done this exercise twice before and both times it has been a challenging yet thoroughly enjoyable affair. Just to add an extra level of excitement, Thor had a bottle of the iconic Meerlust Rubicon 1994 to throw into the mix with the Kanonkop 1994 pairing.

Silvervis Chenin Blanc 2015, 12.5% Abv.

Rich, honied nose like a dry botrytis Sauternes wine. Peaches and dried apricot notes, subtle hints of salinity and a mellow, evolved honied finish.

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

Silvervis Chenin Blanc 2017, 13% Abv.

Zippy and zesty with layers of sweet & sour yellow plum, dried pear and peach, tangy tangerine acidity and a vibrant fresh saline finish. Ryan Mostert at his best. 😉

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

Rust en Vrede Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1987, 12.5% Abv.

Showing complexing evolution, this has layers of dried leather, mechanic’s diesel rag, dried tobacco and smoked cigars. Tannins are fully resolved bolstered by a sweet core of brambly fruit, savoury prune and plum pudding and a cool lean finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 87/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Lanzerac Cabernet Sauvignon 1968

Dark, savoury broody nose with aromatics of sweet, stewed strawberries, raspberry compote and hints of Christmas pudding. Retains a fresh attractive tangy sweetness dominated by red fruits with sweet silky tannins and a long mellow finish with just the slightest hint of diesel rag.

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

Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 1994, 13% Abv.

Wonderfully perfumed, sleek and elegant on the nose with pressed violets, cherry tobacco and sweet red currant fruits. This wine is pure, precise and quite ethereal. Plenty of shape and structure in the mouth still. Impressive linearity and focus. Beautiful.

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

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 1994, 12.5% Abv.

Slightly evolved earthy nose, black currant coulis, tobacco, stewed red berry fruits. Palate is superbly fresh, saline, and incredibly well balanced, complex, silky and profound. Nose and palate slightly detached suggesting some bottle variation. A superb wine nevertheless, but I have tasted fresher bottles.

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

Meerlust Rubicon 1994, 12.5 Abv.

Initially very pure and tight with focused aromatics of savoury leather, black currant and violets, the nose evolves to show smokey graphite, railway yard, wood smoke and savoury berry fruit. The palate is incredibly vibrant, explosive and intense with savoury black currant, tangy acids and a mellow stewed winter berry fruit compote note on the finish. Spectacular wine.

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

Cape Winemakers Guild Cordoba 2001 Auction Reserve, 14% Abv.

Very cedary and spicy with bell pepper, green leaf, dried herbs, coffee beans and black currant fruits. A classical style that is slightly hard work now but with further evolution, could blossom into something legendary. Leave in your cellar for now is my advice. In a slightly awkward stage of evolution.

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

Taaibosch Crescendo 2018, 13.5% Abv.

This is of course the first release of the rejuvenated and replanted Cordoba estate under the watchful eye of Schalk Willem Joubert. Shows a dark dense nose of brûléed black berry fruits, coffee bean, espresso and sweet cedar spice. The palate is elegant but robust and powerful with grippy tannins, graphite spice, concentrated black currant fruit and an impressive stony mineral length. Bury this in your cellar for 10 years minimum. It will reward patience!

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

Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, 14.5% Abv.

Quite a classically proportioned wine with a nose of black berry fruits, saline cassis, wet tobacco, cedar wood and espresso spice. Texturally sleek and full, creamy and well balanced with just a slight leafy peppery note on the finish. A fine expression for a warm vintage and drinking exceptionally well at the moment.

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

Niepoort & Sadie Cape Tawny 2008, 21% Abv.

Rich, nutty and expressive with layers of burnt caramel, orange rind, old malmsey Madeira and salty nutty notes. The palate is very intense, rich but not overly sweet, more nutty and pithy than unctuous. Tannins are spicy and slightly raw but sufficiently balanced with the acid freshness that is perfect for the expected level of complexity and intensity. A very attractive offering with massive drinkability and certainly plenty of unicorn wow factor!

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

Marelise Niemann and Anysbos Continue to Build An Enviable Track Record of Star Studded Releases…

Marelise Niemann officially launched her own Momento label in 2013 when she was still working for Beaumont winery in the Bot River region. She has since taken up wine making duties at Anysbos Winery in the Bot River owned by Peter-Allan Finlayson’s uncle-in-law with her maiden vintages released from the 2017 vintage.

Marelise had also been making her Momento wines at Gabrielskloof along side Peter-Allan and John Seccombe (Thorne & Daughters) but has also moved production of these wines to the Anysbos Winery. The 2019 Disdit white is a blend of 70% Chenin Blanc, 29% Roussanne and 1% dryland grown bush vine Grenache Blanc naturally fermented and then aged for 10 months in old barrels.

Anysbos Disdit 2019, WO Bot River, 13.5 Abv.

The first time I tasted the 2017 Disdit white blend I was blown away. So what to expect from the follow-up 2019? Predictably the wine shows much more tension, flinty reduction and impressive minerality like many top SA 2019 whites. The aromatics reveal a complex melange of white citrus, wet thatch, dried herbs, fresh fennel, yellow pithy orchard fruits and a curiously alluring, earthy mineral undertone. The palate fruit expression is cool and tightly wound showing a herbal intensity, pithy white peaches, savoury buttery notes and a vibrant, fresh textured finish. Very impressive indeed! Pop this in the cellar for 1-3 years before pulling the cork.

Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

New Release Review – Tasting the Raats Family Wines Eden High Density Chenin Blanc 2019…

There are more than a few top Chenin Blanc wines made in South Africa that capture ones attention when new vintages are released. Indeed the list of iconic high scoring collectable whites from South African grows longer by the day. But one of these benchmark wines, year on year, comes from the Chenin King himself, Bruwer Raats.

While the Raats Family Wines Original Chenin Blanc and Raats Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc are both exceptional wines offering excellent value for money, it is undoubtedly Bruwer’s super-premium Eden High Density Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc that regularly pulls in the star ratings. A Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc vineyard planted in the late 2000’s right behind Bruwer’s house in the Polkadraai Hills, the Eden wine range was conceived with extreme precision viticulture in mind.

Bruwer Raats’s Eden Chenin Blanc Vineyard

This 0.6 hectare Eden Chenin Blanc vineyard is planted with the unique and now rare Montpellier clone that was sourced from the last remaining mother block in the Nuy Valley. Known to give very small, loose bunches, this clone eventually fell out of favour despite its ability to yield very high quality fruit.

Raats Family Winery High Density Eden Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Polkadraai Hills, 13% Abv.

2019 was an exceptional vintage for Chenin Blanc and the quality is clear for all to see on this impressive wine. The aromatics are subtle but sophisticated with delicate notes of yellow peaches, crunchy pears, wax and incense, wet thatch, oat meal and hints of dried orange peel. On the palate, the texture is taut and focused, crystalline and pure with a delicately weighted fruit concentration, vibrant tangy acids and a genteel melange of ripe peach, yellow apple and tangerine fruit zest. This is a very understated wine, an elegant but complex offering with incredible drinkability and a generous accessibility that results in the bottle being finished long before expected. Like all the very best bottles of white, this wine just somehow seems to evaporate out the glass! Drink on release or cellar for 8 to 10+ years. (Only 2,390 bottles produced.)

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

The Long Awaited Naudé Family Wines 2020 Old Vines Chenin Blanc Is Ready for Release…

Three of my favourite Chenin Blancs have come from the same producer, Ian Naude. The monolithic Coche-Dury’esque 2013 is still one of the most monumental whites that has ever been produced in South Africa while the 2015 is a slightly more classical rendition of this variety. The 2016 however was another blockbuster vintage effort and has sold incredibly quickly as Ian’s stature in the world of fine wine has continued grow incrementally over the past few years as collectors have started to pay serious attention to all his wines.

The follow-on vintage is the 2020 Chenin Blanc produced from an old vine vineyard in the Swartland planted in 1971 making it the first Chenin Blanc from Ian Naude produced from a single vineyard. The grapes were 100% whole bunch pressed and fermented naturally in stainless steel tanks for roughly 14 days with some temperature control being employed to slow the fermentation and retain more of the volatile aromas. After fermentation, the wine was transferred to old oak barrels for 6 months ageing on its lees with bâtonnage employed for the first three months.

Naudé Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 12% Abv.

1.1 g/l RS | 6.1 TA | 3.3 pH | 0.4 VA

I approached this new wine with a little trepidation as I know all too well from previous experience that Ian Naude’s wines always need a few years in bottle to settle in and really start to fan their peacock tail. Happily, this 2020 is already very impressive with wonderfully complex aromatics of crystallised pineapple chunks, bruised yellow orchard fruit, tangerine peal, white peach, wet thatch and sweet & sour notes of passion fruit liquor. The palate shows lovely vibrancy and energy all wrapped up tightly in a fine, harmonious glycerol depth of fruit concentration that seems slightly more exotic than previous vintages with seductive notes of lemon cordial, pineapples in syrup, tart white peaches and pithy green apple candy. Like all Ian’s delightful creations, this wine retains an incredible crystalline purity, tangy fresh acids, nervy textural linearity and a granitic liquid minerality that washes over the palate to counter-balance the fruit intensity. This is signature Naudé Chenin Blanc but with a wonderful hint of Swartland wild child vintage character thrown into the mix. Drink from 2022 to 2040+.

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

The legend Continues – Tasting the New Release Revenge of the Crayfish 2020 Chenin Blanc…

Sakkie Mouton is the epitome of the classic West Coast maverick or perhaps the West Coast misfit to use his own words. But whatever descriptives you use to describe his unique brand of winemaking and marketing, there is no denying this young man’s incredible talent, passion and vision. Almost uniquely, despite his enviable and obvious rock star talents, he has never been too confident or arrogant to dismiss advice or unwilling to alter course in the name of producing the very best possible end product.

With his 2018 maiden release, I likened Sakkie’s unique talents to something I had not seen since Eben Sadie hit the South African wine scene properly in the early 2000s, at first with the Spice Route Winery and then subsequently with his own labels. Perhaps the real similarity lies in both being able to elicit something quite unique and magical from varieties and vineyards that so many before them had managed to produce merely average wines from. Who knows? The industry is lucky to have them both for sure!

“Get your Cray on… “

This new 2020 Crayfish edition was picked in two different passes through the vineyards before being fermented with wild yeast in used 228 litre barrels and aged on the gross lees for eight months. The wine was then bottled unfiltered and unfined with minimal intervention.

Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Koekenaap, 13.5% Abv.

With two vintages under his belt, Sakkie Mouton must surely have a fairly watertight idea of what he is trying to create with his unique Chenin Blanc fruit sourced from his homeland vineyards of Koekenaap up the West Coast. While super youthful and fresh, this 2020 expression does indeed display an impressive clarity and composure with wonderfully pure aromatics of crunchy green apples, pear drops, bay leaves, dried green baking herbs, lime peel and of course the signature West Coast notes of oyster shell and maritime sea breeze salinity. On the palate, there is notable concentration and depth of zippy white citrus, savoury yellow orchard fruits and a briny rock salt salinity reminiscent of river pebbles washed in sea water. Never a wine to reveal all its secrets willingly, a little more coaxing in a big Zalto glass allows the wine to show hints of orange citrus peel, a lovely fresh tangy sweet / sour acidity and yet more layers of maritime intensity. This new release might not be quite as wild and rebellious as some of Sakkie’s previous releases, but it certainly shows a growing confidence, maturity of thought, and texturally, an intricacy and purity that makes this wine very much one of his most complete creations to date. Give this white one to two years in the cellar from release before opening and then enjoy over 12 to 15+ years. Congratulations Sakkie on another distinguished wine!

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

Wines available in the UK on allocation from Vino SA and Handford Wines.

Catherine Marshall Releases Another Benchmark 2020 Fermented in Clay Chenin Blanc…

I’ve been following the new releases of this wine for several years now and it has certainly proven beyond doubt to be one of the most accomplished Chenin Blancs on the South African fine wine scene.

Grapes for the 2020 were again selected from a single vineyard in Elgin grown on red Laterite soils also known as “koffieklip” or coffee stone as it resembles the same structure as ground coffee, and also from from grapes grown in the Bottelary Hills in Stellenbosch on old bush vines in lighter soils, which were harvested in early March. Once fermentation was completed in the clay amphorae, 800 litres of wine was decanted to oak casks for a further 9 months maturation.

The wine portion aged in the clay amphorae had no malolactic fermentation so that the fresher flinty characters would be maintained. After 9 months, the two components were blended together and lightly filtered before bottling.

Catherine Marshall Fermented in Clay Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.

TA 5.6g/l | pH: 3.4 | RS: 2.1g/l | Total Extract: 23.2g/l

After the phenomenal 2017 and eye-watering 2019 Fermented in Clay Chenin Blanc, expectations for follow up vintages become almost impossibly high. But this 2020 is another real head turner with aromatics brimming with crunchy white peaches, tangerine, orange peel, green pears and a beguiling melange of grilled herbs and stony granitic minerality. On the palate this youthful 2020 is cool, crisp, focused and texturally quite linear and taut with tangy acids, a steely concentration of peach pastille, yellow tropical fruit bon bons, clementines and yet more unfurling layers of wet river pebbles and stony liquid minerality. Cathy has now established a rock solid track record for this wine which must surely rank in the top 10 Chenin Blancs produced in South Africa.

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

Wines available to the trade in the UK from Seckford Wine Agencies.

Cartology 2019 – Chris Alheit Releases Another Prodigious Edition of His Old Vine Chenin Blanc Global Brand…

After the difficulties of the 2018 harvest, the fourth drought influenced vintage in a row, that produced small quantities of very high-quality wines, 2019 arrived after a winter with better rains and beckoned a vintage with heathier yields and higher volumes. While Chris waivered briefly a few years ago on the long-term future of the Cartology brand, a subsequent broader rejigging of some of the exceptional old vineyards that used to go into this wine ultimately led to a complete shake up of the range, and most importantly, the acquisition of the Nuwedam farm in the Swartland, the Paardeberg source of the Fire By Night brand, now renamed Broom Ridge.

But the Cartology Chenin Blanc based blend luckily remains central to the Alheit Family Wines long term plans. While it’s unclear how large volumes might grow one day, this wine remains one of the greatest success stories to emerge from the “New South Africa” and its winelands.

Alheit Family Wines Cartology 2019, WO Western Cape, 13% abv.

The 2019 expression of Chris Alheit’s sought-after megabrand is a blend of 90% Chenin Blanc and 10% Semillon (from La Colline) and stands as the benchmark reference point for his whole winemaking range and philosophy. Always normally requiring a bit of extra time in bottle to show at its expressive best, this delicious 2019 already reveals a wonderful balance and precision, focus and textural attention to detail. The aromatics are loaded with the now unmistakable Chenin Blanc notes of yellow orchard fruits, white peach, tangerines, wet thatch and orange peel zest with complexing waxy, honeycomb nuances. Cool, seamless and wonderfully balanced, the palate shows a lovely vein of tangy acidity that really brings the fruit flavours to life. Plush, concentrated and impressively glycerol already, this Cartology is showy and seductive but contains all the requisite stuffing required for 15+ years of ageing.

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

The Original Swartland Maverick Adi Badenhorst Presents His New 2021 Wine Releases…

The Kalmoesfontein farm is the home of Adi Badenhorst Family Wines situated in the Heart of the Paardeberg in the Swartland. An historic old farm, it was already planted with some of the oldest Grenache blocks in the country when Adi bought the farm in the mid-2000s. One of the original Swartland mavericks, Adi Badenhorst had already carved out a formidable winemaking reputation at Rustenburg before moving to the Swartland in 2006/7.

I recently caught up with Adi over a zoom tasting to taste a lovely array of his newest releases (from small decanted sample bottles which in some instances can affect a wine’s ultimate score detrimentally.)

AA Badenhorst New Releases:

AA Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

Made from up to 30 vineyards from different terroirs with the juice often being blended in tanks and 30% fermented in wooden vats. No yeasts added, no acidification, focusing on an honest, affordable, non-manipulated Chenin Blanc with a lot of the fruit from old bush vines. The 2020 is packed with peach stone fruits, yellow orchard fruits, hints of wet thatch, green melon and green apple nuances with a fine textural mouthfeel, juicy acids and a peachy, pithy length. A very versatile wine that offers great value for money.

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

AA Badenhorst Secateurs Riviera Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

A component of the Secateurs that was bottled on its own in 2018 for the first time using layers of fruit in tank to get carbonic maceration and skin contact. Mostly Chenin Blanc with a splash of Grenache Blanc. Then they draw off components of the wine at different stages and no sulphur is added. The wine is picante and aromatic, spicy and complex with delicious notes of tangerine peel, oranges, sea breeze and kelp and crunchy peaches. Definite skin contact aromas and subtle skin contact flavours on the palate but nothing enough to scare off novices. Texturally it’s full, glycerol harmonious and round and just a lovely complex glassful of wine.

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

AA Badenhorst Sout van die Aarde Palomino 2019, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Another unique wine from Adi. Up the west coast, so one of the only vineyards quite a distance from Kalmoesfontein. Grapes from old vines (planted 1950s & 1970s) are grown in limestone chalky sandy soils, pressed and fermented in vats. The nose is pure sea breeze and oyster shell with back notes of grapefruit, white citrus and limestone minerality. On the palate, the 2019 is soft and fleshy, textured and harmonious with a cool, glycerol density, weightless concentration and a soft, almost creamy, salty finish. No edges, fabulous balance and just a pleasure to drink. 

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

AA Badenhorst Family White Blend 2018, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

Made from 10 to 12 different varieties, the grapes are all sourced from the Swartland and the wine tries to represent the region instead of a specific variety or style but with all grapes grown on decomposed Granite soils. The nose is pithy and spicy with hints of pear, fynbos, dry thatch and back ground hints of tangerine, naartjie, peach and green apples. The palate is crisp, crystalline, pure and bright with a lovely harmonious balance, a delicate lick of vanilla and oak, subtle savoury lees characters and a long, sweet / sour intense finish loaded with pineapple pastille and yellow rock candy. Powerful, intense and textural. A really lovely Swartland expression. 

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

AA Badenhorst Golden Slopes Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 12.5% Abv.

Another superb single vineyard bottled by Adi, the 2019 Golden Slopes Chenin Blanc is an old vines vineyard grown on decomposed granite soils and often tends to shine as one of Adi’s most accomplished expressions of Chenin Blanc. Planted at 320m above sea level on granite, with heavier clay rich soils. The heavier soils yield a more unctuous, textural Chenin expression loaded with white peach, pithy yellow orchard fruits, granitic dust and a lovely round, rich glycerol textured palate wth fabulous intensity and superb length. What not to love about this wine?

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

AA Badenhorst Klip Kop Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

Old vine bush vines near the Golden Slopes vineyard but just a bit lower down the slope or around 120 metres lower down at 200 metres above sea level, located on a rocky outcrop with more austere soils which comes through on the more steely, mineral nature of the wine. The aromatics are austere and picante, mineral and tense, loaded with stony, granitic white citrus, white grapefruit, green apple and crushed rocks. The palate is pure and linear, with a glassy defined vein of acidity and a pure, crunchy peach stone fruit finish. I love the tension, the nervous energy married to a harmonious equilibrium. Superb.

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

AA Badenhorst Family Red Blend 2018, /WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Another of Adi’s signature wines, using 5 to 6 different varieties fermented in concrete, some portions in tank and then they are transferred back into concrete with around 10,000 bottles produced. Nose shows delicious complexity with savoury, meaty, red fruited notes with hints of back currant, black olive tapenade and raw marinated meat. The palate shows a lovely balance and elegance, textural finesse and seamless mouthfeel where one variety melts into the other. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A truly delicious wine. 

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

AA Badenhorst Family Ramnasgras Cinsault 2019, WO Swartland, 12.5% Abv.

Located next to the Raaigras Grenache vineyard, located on the farm and always shows a unique character from vines planted in the early 1960’s. The secret to quality is old vines, low cropping and well tended vineyards. The nose is jam packed full of savoury red berry fruits, sun raisined cranberry, red cherry, Turkish delight and rose petals perfume but with this Swartland expression showing another layer of earthy red currant fruit, Sous Bois and leafy sapidity. On the palate the texture is cool and creamy, fabulous textural balance and finesse with silky, chalky tannins, a soft fleshy depth and an almost Pinot Noir elegance and mouthfeel. Really impressive.

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

AA Badenhorst Family Raaigras Grenache 2019, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

A wonderfully exotic, perfumed wine that is supposed to come from the oldest Grenache vineyard in South Africa planted in the 1950s. There is a lovely creamy, savoury, earthy red berry intensity with super polished tannins, an incredibly finessed palate texture and a long, bramble berry, cranberry and rose hip finish. This 2019 shows some of the most harmonious elegance I’ve seen on any of Adi’s reds and really is a true hommage to this ancient vineyard. Bravo!

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

Donovan Rall Creating Grand Cru Quality Wines in The Cape – Tasting the New Rall 2019 White Blend…

I first met Donovan Rall at the Cape White Blend Conference in 2009 at Forest 44 in Stellenbosch where Ian Naude had assemble 80+ of South Africa’s greatest winemakers to listen to Eben Sadie, Peter Fischer and myself talk about the farming, production and marketing of world class white blends. During one of the intermissions, this giant Viking came up to me and introduced himself. Little did I know that Donovan had worked for several months with a Handford colleague of mine at the Harvey Nichols fine wine department in Knightsbridge, London. Offering me two bottles of his by then long sold out maiden release Rall White Blend, he asked me to drink one and let him know what I thought, and also if I could please take the other bottle back to London for his old colleague Gavin to enjoy. I of course obliged.

I am not sure why he wanted to hear what I thought about his wine as this maiden vintage was already the first of three consecutive 5 Star Platter Guide wines that he eventually went on to produce. Now I am willing to wager a serious bet that no other wine maker in South Africa has achieved the fabled 5 Stars from Platter for their first three vintages ever produced! Surely a record that won’t be broken any time soon.

Rall White Blend 2019, WO Coastal Region, 13% Abv.

Some of the most serious white wines in the world are more often than not wines that can be quite illusive, restrained and slightly introverted. That’s because the greatest white wines don’t have to advertise their true potential on release with vulgar “low hanging fruit” to draw attention. It’s the complete opposite – mystery, reserve and restraint. That is exactly where this epic white blend from Donovan fits in. An exotic blend of 68% Chenin Blanc, 28% Verdelho and 4% Viognier, the fruit for this wine was sourced from a number of soil types before being fermented with indigenous yeasts and then aged for 10 months in old French oak. The nose on this blend suggests a lot but simultaneously gives little away boasting a complex but understated melange of green pears, yellow grapefruit, green apple and tangerine pith. The palate is fabulously steely and linear, taut and precise with real structure and focused purity but also an impressively harmonious balance and textural finesse that you only normally experience on the greatest white vintages of Grand Cru Burgundy. South Africa is indeed blessed to possess the raw materials (and winemaking talent) to create incredible wines like this for an absolute steal. Drink a bottle or two on release after an hours decant and cellar the rest for a good 5 to 8+ years.

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

Revisiting the Iconic Naude Family Wines Old Vines Series Chenin Blanc 2016…

So much has been written about the super iconic Naude Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2013 recently that it reminded me that at the time of the release of the 2016, Ian Naude had commented to me that he thought this vintage might be the closest expression he had come stylistically to the resplendent heights of the 2013. At the time of tasting a pre-release sample of 2016 in November 2017, I had my doubts.

But recently I was contacted by a large private South African fine wine buyer who asked me if I had tasted the 2016 recently. Shockingly I admitted that I had not. The real question centred around whether or not they should track down the last of the 2015 vintage or buy the current release 2016 on the market. So with a cold bottle in the fridge from a new shipment that recently arrived from South Africa in December, I cracked a bottle and dived in.

Made from three vineyards, two from Durbanville and one from the Swartland, the vines were at the time, on average 40 years old. Picked on taste and flavour ripeness and not analysis ripeness as is usual for Ian, the juice was naturally fermented with no additions after the fruit was crushed in whole bunches and then transferred directly into used 300 and 500 litre French oak barrels. The wines were then left as long as possible on their lees with bâtonnage generally once a week.

As with all Naude Old Vine Series wines, the essence of Ian’s style is to allow the high quality fruit to express itself as naturally as possible and allow it to tell its own authentic story. In 2016, South Africa was experiencing its second consecutive year of severe drought and many of The Cape’s vines had not quite had the time to reacclimatise to the water shortage. But beyond all reasoning and science, the hardy Chenin Blanc Old Vine vineyards across the Western Cape produced some of the most concentrated and expressive wines seen in years. Critical scores from the world’s leading wine critics abound highlighting the exceptional opulence, intensity and balance of the 2016 Chenin Blancs.

Naude Family Wines Old Vine Series Chenin Blanc 2016, 12.5% Abv., WO Western Cape

When first tasted in 2017, I described the 2016 wine as ‘embryonic’ and ‘more similar to the 2015 Chenin Blanc’ at the time. Revisiting this delicious Old Vine white, reveals the passing of time has clearly marked this wine and improved it immeasurably. The aromatics retain their austere crushed granite and gravel dust minerality but are now joined by tantalisingly rich notes of waxy green apples, under ripe quince, dried straw, summer fynbos and subtle notes of dried thyme. But it’s on the palate where the greatest differences can be observed with a fuller, more textural mouthfeel infused with reductive notes of struck flint, crunchy pears, tart white peaches and signature notes of citrus oil and pithy tangerine peel zest on the finish. The palate retains an incredible freshness, vibrancy and detailed line of acidity but seems to have gained additional flamboyant breadth and depth. While impressively youthful still, this beautiful expression gives discerning customers a rare chance to buy and experience a grand vin old vine Chenin Blanc with some developing bottles age at current release pricing. Definitely start drinking these beauties now but while not quite as monolithic as the legendary 2013 Chenin, this wine shows abundant staying power and age ability. Drink now to 2038+.

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