The Dawning of a New Era – Tasting the Tantalising Old Vine Treats of Naude Family Wines…

One of my life long mantras has always been that nice people make nice wines. Well, in Ian Naude’s case, you can add chocolate sprinkles and icing sugar to his delicious treats. A veteran of 11 years hard graft at Adoro Wines, in 2018 Ian has finally grasped the prickly chalice and branched out with his own venture, Naude Family Wines.

After much politics, multiple accounting headaches and a lot of strategic and logistic planning, the boat is back on the water and the sails are gathering a heathy turn of speed. Naude Family Wines has graduated and is now in the big ivy league.

A lot of work and many marketing challenges still lie ahead, but the true essence of decades of Ian’s hard work, sweet and tears have established a watertight quality reputation on par with rock star Eben Sadie when it comes to quality Old Vine Cinsault, Grenache, Chenin Blanc and Semillon. Watch this space… the godfather of South Africa’s white blends is back! With a bang!!

The new garagist operation is still bedding in but already shows great excitement.

Naude Family Wines White Blend 2006, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

54% Chenin Blanc – Durbanville, Stellenbosch, Agter Paarl, 37% Semillon – Durbanville and Stellenbosch, 9% Sauvignon Blanc – Stellenbosch, Darling, Paarl, Elgin, Elim. RS 1.6 g/l, pH 3.4, SO2 Free 30ppm / 70 total

A rich expressive nose packed full of exotic fragrance. Evolving beautifully, there are layers of green quince, apple pastille, pineapple and tarte tatin notes. The palate is ripe, concentrated and characterful, brimming with gooseberry confit, spiced pears and complex, textural lanolin notes. The finish is dry and powerful, punchy, disguising it’s 12 years of age masterfully. Drinking well now, this wine still has plenty of legs.

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

Naude Family Wines White Blend 2007, WO Western Cape, 11.5 Abv.

72% Chenin Blanc – Durbanville, Stellenbosch, Agter Paarl, 19% Semillon – Durbanville and Stellenbosch, 9% Sauvignon Blanc – Stellenbosch, Darling, Paarl, Elgin, Elim. RS 1.7, pH 3.16, SO2 Free 52ppm

What a difference one year can make. The 2007 Naude white blend comes from an altogether more complicated vintage for aromatic whites yet with 11 years in bottle this wine is still very impressive. Taut, fresh and lean, there is a wonderful linearity to the wine allied to cool green crunchy fruits and brazen liquid minerality. With an exotic boxwood spice kiss, the palate shows excellent purity of gooseberry, green apple and lime cordial, finishing with plenty of energy and spice. The lower alcohol is just the cherry on the cake. Drink this beauty now with seafood or allow it to age further in your cellar because it gets better every time I taste it.

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

Naude Family Wines Semillon 2016, WO Western Cape, 12 Abv.

Made from Durbanville and Stellenbosch fruit, Semillon gives a much smaller window to pick if you want to capture the seductive green apple, lemon & lime zest vigour. The nose is full of green apple, white peach pastille fruit and delicate orange blossom notes. In the mouth it is full, broad and glycerol with the most delicious texture, twinned with lime cordial, citrus blossom, green apple, white pepper and vanilla pod spice. A wonderfully harmonious, generous wine that retains the intensity and linearity of Semillon but with extra concentration and almost Chardonnay palate power. A real triumph. Drink from release and over 20+ years. One of the best current examples of this variety on the South African market. Snap this up on release in South Africa in June.

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

Naude Family Wines Cinsault 2015, WO Darling, 12 Abv.

100% Darling 37 year old vine Cinsault from the late Boetie van Reenen’s farm, a more classical and characterful varietal Cinsault you won’t find. The nose is all marzipan, Turkish delight, violets and dried rose petals. Wonderfully fragrant and perfumed, there is just the faintest hint of cracked black peppercorns and cedar wood spice notes. The palate is bright and vibrant with the most delicious salty blackberry, Victoria plum and black cherry pastille fruit notes that linger and coat the mouth. So expressive but also impressively classical and restrained. This wine has earned a massive, well deserved following with its superb quality and is known to be one of Old Vine Guru Rosa Kruger’s favourite Cinsault’s in the whole of South Africa.

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

Winemaker Corlea Fourie and Bosman Family Vineyards Creating Some Profound Benchmark Wines in Wellington…

The extensive Bosman Family vineyard holdings are based primarily in the Wellington region although a new winery in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near Hermanus was added to the portfolio in the last few years. As well as owning large swathes of vineyards, the Bosman Family are also one of the leading nurseries for vine rootstocks in South Africa. Under the lead of head winemaker Corlea Fourie, they make some fantastic white and red wines.

But two whites that really stand out head and shoulders above the rest of the wines in their range are the Fides Grenache Blanc and the Optenhorst Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc. The Fides was first produced in 2013 as a ‘project of passion’ for Corlea who is certainly regarded as one of the most talented and precise winemakers in South Africa. This wild ferment skin contact Grenache Blanc has certainly allowed Corlea to ‘let her hair down’ and experiment with her ‘wild side’.

The second wine of note  is the Optenhorst Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc from bush vines planted in 1952. In 2010 the Chenin Blanc Association funded research into the old vineyards of the Cape and it turned out that this was the 4th oldest registered Chenin Blanc vineyard in South Africa.

Bosman Fides 2016 Grenache Blanc, WO Wellington, 14 Abv.

An alluring old gold colour with just the faintest copper tinge. The aromatics are super complex and a little more ‘wild’ than previous vintages. One almost gets the feeling that Corlea has loosened her winemaker grip slightly and allowed this skin contact Grenache Blanc vintage to really express its own personally a little more. The nose is packed with ginger biscuit spice, tangerine peel, bruised yellow orchard fruits, furry yellow apricots, spearmint and complex savoury herbal nutty notes. The palate is sleek, focused and taught, displaying delicious fresh bristling acids, pithy phenolics, bitter orange peel, sweet pineapple and mango pastille fruits, and finishes with a lovely long, textural, harmonious length. A superb effort if not the best to date. Drink now to 2026+

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

Bosman Optenhorst Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2015, WO Wellington, 14.04 Abv.

The 2015 is an even more profound wine than the excellent 2014 Optenhorst. This superb new vintage plays to this wine’s style perfectly. The big rich bold bouquet is brimming with white peaches, tinned pineapple nuances, Golden Delicious apple puree, waxy pear skins and a fine vein of stony minerality. The palate possesses the most explosive concentration and intensity, coating all corners of the mouth with honied apples, yellow citrus, pineapple pastille and orange peel zest while all the while kept tightly under the firm reins of a mouth watering acidity. This is really one of South Africa’s top Chenin Blancs from one of the oldest vineyards in the country. This wine certainly does this heritage vineyard site justice. A real WOW wine. Drink now to 2035+ (RS 2.1 g/l, TA 7.8 g/l, pH 3.0)

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

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Most Memorable White South African Wines of 2017…

What a busy year it’s been. No sooner had the smoke from the New Year’s Eve 2017 fireworks cleared then it seemed plans were being made for Christmas lunch 2018. Where did the year go?

Fortunately, I can punctuate my year with some of the exciting wines I have tasted and drunk along the way… and there have been a lot of them. My Top 10 list of whites and reds is not necessarily made up of the 10 highest scoring wines I tasted but is more focused on wines that were very memorable and enjoyable to experience. Inevitably, most of them will be among my highest rated wines of the year.

And the winners are… in no particular order… though I’m starting with Raats Family Wines as a nod of respect to Bruwer Raats for winning the Platter Wine Guide Winery of the Year 2017 Award.

Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2015 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

I first tasted the first release 2014 with Bruwer Raats in South Africa at his winery tasting room pre-release. I thought it was knock out good. I couldn’t believe you could make a wine this profound from vines so young (4 or 5 years old back then). Tasting the 2015 merely reinforced Bruwer’s incredible achievement, making another fabulous wine of note from young high density Montpellier Clone plantings of Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc. If the vineyards remain healthy, the mind boggles at the potential quality that might be seen in 15 or 20 years time!

Alheit Family La Colline Semillon 2016 – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Made from vines planted in 1936 on a southern slope at 320 metres in the Franschhoek Valley, this old vine Semillon blended with a little Semillon Gris, is a very profound offering. Such complexity with notes of peaches, beeswax, jasmine, custard pie, tangerines, and yellow citrus. But the wine also manages to remain dense and concentrated yet light on its feet, understated and restrained, classically shaped, but also showing a touch of struck match reduction. I tasted this wine several times, but it was during the Old Vine Project tasting at the South African High Commission in London that this wine really stood out in the same way a Grand Cru white Burgundy would in a tasting of village wines. An amazing winemaker using an amazing vineyard. One of South Africa’s very own Grand Cru expressions.

Sadie Family Old Vine Series ‘T Voetpad 2016 – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

While they are all incredible wines, there is always a stand out wine in the Old Vine Series range every year. This year the Kokerboom Semillon and Skurfburg Chenin Blanc were both very impressive but it was the extra depth and complexity of the Voetpad field blend that captivated me. This is a wine that ages incredibly well and previous vintages tasted blind at lunches have been called out as Grand Cru Burgundy before. This is the league in which this wine comfortably sits. Only small quantities are produced and allocations are always small, but it is a wine worth tracking down and spending a few bob on.

Sadie Family Palladius White Blend 2015 – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

While we are talking about the incredible talents of Eden Sadie, it seems appropriate to highlight one of his most outstanding achievements. As a part time hobby winemaker myself, I qualified as one of the Masters of Wine who got to cast a vote for the Institute of Masters of Wine’s Winemakers Winemaker Award 2017… which thankfully went to Eben Sadie. I have been voting to Eben for years and it is rewarding that his talents have well and truly been internationally recognised now. So it is fitting that he released what is probably his finest expression of the Palladius White blend to date this year. Tasted again most recently at his masterclass held in London, this is a wine that can hold its own against the greatest whites from around the world. Every connoisseurs’ cellar should have a few cases in it!

Reyneke Natural Chenin Blanc 2016 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

I have always loved the purity and energy of the biodynamic wines of Reyneke especially the reserve white which often appears in journalists’ top wines of the year lists. This Natural Chenin was a latecomer for me as I did not taste it earlier in the year in South Africa and stock only just arrived in the UK in December. But I reviewed this wine on the Fine Wine Safari site recently and it really blew me away. The energy, intensity, complexity and drinkability really took me by surprise and pleasingly, another Stellenbosch Old Vine Chenin Blanc squeezed its way into my top 10 wines of the year. Well done to Rudiger Gretschel and Johan Reyneke.

David & Nadie Hoe Steen Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2016 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

I feel intimately related to this wine having been one of the Decanter judges on the blind panel that made history and awarded the 2015 Hoe Steen 98/100 and the unofficial Chenin crown. Again, the 2016 like the 2015, was made in tiny quantities and will be sold out before most people even get to hear about it. But this is a wine and a vineyard site that is being made into something really great by the gentle giant David Sadie (no relation to Eben Sadie). Together with his wife Nadia, they are producing some of the top white and red wines in South Africa. If you can’t get your hands on the Hoe Steen or his other Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc Skaliekop, then just buy his amazing regular David & Nadia Chenin Blanc. Another successful year for this lovely couple.

Thorne & Daughters Paper Kite Semillon 2016 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Another of my favourite producers in South Africa, everything John Seccombe touches seems to turn into something magical, none more so than his Paper Kite Semillon old vine white. With all their successes, it is hard to believe John and Tasha Seccombe only started their winery in 2012. Funnily enough, I tasted this wine earlier in the year in March with John and proclaimed at the time that this wine could already be a candidate for my top 10 whites of the year. Nothing has changed since then and along with the Alheit La Colline, remains one of the most tantalising expressions of this varietal in South Africa.

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2015 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

It’s safe to say a lot of planning and hard work went into the sourcing of suitable fruit and the subsequent production of this amazing wine. But of course, Chris and Andrea Mullineux don’t do things by half measure. Released earlier this year to great acclaim, the Leeu Passant range consists of two Chardonnays and one red blend. Just in the same way I love to taste profound Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, after all the headline stealing wines from the Swartland, so too is it rewarding to taste a great Stellenbosch Chardonnay in the face of incredible upstarts and challengers from top wineries in Elgin and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. This is a delicious wine and yet another success story for this winemaking power couple based in the Swartland.

(A previous deconstructed vintage label)

Kershaw Wines Deconstructed Chardonnay Bokkeveld Shales CY548 2016 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Talking of upstarts from Elgin… Richard Kershaw MW has turned the world of New World Chardonnay on its head and succeeded in producing one of, if not the most profound examples ever seen from South Africa. His deconstructed range takes the terroir and clonal components of his main Kershaw Wines Chardonnay and bottles small amounts of them individually to illustrate the unique character and winemaking results of the soils and clones on their own. This version is spellbinding, with nuances harking back to the greatest Premier Cru vineyards of Meursault in Burgundy. Almost impossible to buy now, but if you come across this wine via the internet or on a restaurant list, pay the money and drink this profound wine. It could change your life!

Patatsfontein Old Vine Steen Montagu Chenin Blanc 2016 – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

2016 was the second of what looks like being four years of difficult drought vintages in South Africa… 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. After a wet winter, the 2015 whites had plenty of water reserves to ripen wonderfully healthy fruit and the resulting wines have been every bit the expected block busters. So it was with great surprise that I tasted and rated this 2016 Chenin Blanc from Reenen Borman even more highly than the delicious 2015. A masterful, intelligent winemaker, Reenen has crafted a real gem from this Montagu vineyard. If the partnership involved in producing this wine can retain the vineyard fruit contract in Montagu, drinkers will be in for several more years of incredible Chenin Blanc treats from Patatsfontein.

So those were my Top 10 Most Memorable Whites of 2017. As it’s not based on scores, it becomes a very much more subject exercise. Wine is based on enjoyment and sharing experiences with friends. These experiences in turn hopefully become treasured memories.

Watch out for my high powered “Top 10 Most Memorable South African Reds of 2017” coming soon as well as “My Year in Wine 2017 in Pictures.”

Merry Christmas! 🎅🏼

Reyneke Natural Chenin Blanc 2016 ~ Quite Simply One of the Best Chenin Blancs Tasted in 2017…

Natural wines do sometimes struggle to preserve purity and varietal typicity on the finished product. However, this superb Chenin Blanc from Reyneke Wines not only combines minimalist natural zero sulphur winemaking with great organic and biodynamic certified fruit but also conjures up a wine with wonderful purity, expression and energy.

The maiden 2016 Reyneke Natural Chenin Blanc comes from a vineyard parcel almost 70 years old next to Johan Reyneke’s house in Stellenbosch. Another recently acquired adjacent vineyard that also contains Chenin Blanc of around 38 years old was also used in this release.

The grapes were fermented in French barriques with no lees stirring and with a pH of approximately 2.9 and an alcohol of 12.5 Abv, no sulphur additions were required, making this a Bona Fide natural wine.

Reyneke Wines Natural Chenin Blanc 2016, Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

On the nose there are complex notes of pithy yellow peach stone fruit, honey, bruleed oranges, tangerine peel and seductive salty briney notes. Positively bursting with energy and vibrancy, the palate is the near perfect portrait of mouth watering yellow citrus and pithy summer orchard fruit intensity with delicious crystalline acids, citrus peel zest, spicy ginger and a stony granitic minerality on the finish. This wine is beautifully conceived and expertly executed. Natural or not, this is one of the most enjoyable Chenin Blancs I have drunk in 2017.

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

Another Cracking White Wine From South African Franco Lourens…

Last year I tasted and reviewed the delicious Verdelho 2015 from Franco Lourens. So I was even more excited to taste his new white blend which still features a sizeable 30% of Verdelho, but is now also accompanied by some white Rhone varietals and a trusty slug of Chenin Blanc.

Lourens Family Wines Lindi Carien White Blend 2016, 13 Abv.

34% Grenache Blanche, 30% Verdelho, 21% Roussanne, and 15% Chenin Blanc.

A beautifully complex wine from Franco Lourens with plenty of opulence and allure. Another superbly well constructed white blend using varietals from around the Western Cape that are becoming so well suited to South African terroir. The nose is ripe and expressive, slightly lactic and creamy, brimming with exotic yellow pastille, tinned pineapple, vanilla pod spice and rock candy notes. The palate has laser like freshness and crisp, polished precision. Texturally very fine and focused with wound spring tension, underpinned by bristling acids and a tart pineapple and white citrus vivacity. This is such a distinguished blend with the multiple varieties so tightly interwoven so as to become one entity. Lovers of serious Cape white wines will find this new release hard to resist! So start drinking now until 2025+

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

Tasting the Impressive New Naude Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016…

However many great wines Ian Naude has made in his long career at multiple wineries, it only seems fitting that his most exciting vinous expressions have come under his eponymous Naude label. For Ian, Chenin Blanc has always been one of his great strengths, none more so than his amazing 2013 Old Vine Chenin Blanc which featured in my Top 10 Wines of the Year in 2016.

Made from three vineyards, two from Durbanville and one from the Swartland, the vines are on average 40 years old. Picked on taste and flavour ripeness and not analysis ripeness, the juice is naturally fermented with no additions after the fruit is crushed in whole punches and then transferred direct in 300 and 500 litre French oak barrels. Wines are left as long as possible on their lees with batonage once a week.

The essence of the Old Vine Series is to allow this high quality fruit to express itself as naturally as possible and allow it to tell its own authentic story.

The 2016 Chenin Blanc at this embryonic phase in many ways reminds me more like the 2015 expression from Naude. The nose is very dusty, pithy and laden with liquid minerals. There are aromas of crushed granite, chalk dust, peach stone, green apples, with a sprinkling of dried green baking herbs and fynbos. The palate shows harmonious weight, flesh and sleek textural depth, but remains quite broody and tight in its youth. All very subtle and tightly packaged, there are nuances of white crunchy pears, dusty white citrus, wet river pebbles, tart white peaches, citrus oil and picante tangerine peel. Fine mid-palate tension, vibrant fresh acids and as expected from a warm, dry vintage, plenty of concentration and length, albeit a little closed up and tight right now. This looks like a worthy follow up to the impressive 2015. Drink now to 2030+

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

The Silent Operator… Master Winemaker Adam Mason Really Knows His Stuff…

I was so pleased to catch up with Adam Mason recently to taste the ex-Klein Constantia winemaker’s delicious range of wines produced outside of his day job at Mulderbosch. The Raised By Wolves selection is really quite awesome and definitely worth tracking down, being made from different old vine vineyards across the Cape. Adam has crafted some very serious wines and while the La Colline Semillon is a benchmark classic, the Chenin Blanc represents a real classical expression that has massive punter-appeal.

Adam Mason Raised By Wolves 2016 Chenin Blanc Driehoek, Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

Another fine expression of South African Chenin Blanc made from the rare Montpellier clone, resurrected and made famous (again) by Bruwer Raats with his high density Eden Chenin Blanc. This 2016 is elegant, rich and opulent showing creamy yellow fleshy fruit, lemon biscuits, salty sea breeze notes, brine, and pithy white peach and pear fruit. Lovely concentration, excellent core tension, and impressive complexity and focus. A wine that conveys confidence and precision. The finish is long, vibrant and intense with attractive dried herb notes and mint leaf spice which combine well with the most seductive orange blossom and tangerine peel depth. This is one to buy now and drink, or even cellar for 5 to 8 years for more complexity.

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