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)

Chris and Andrea Mullineux Capture the Essence of the 2015 Vintage with Their Impressive Single Terroir Granite Chenin Blanc…

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines is on top of its game at the moment. Inspired by the successful range extension with their uber premium but equally high quality Leeu Passant wines, it seems Chris and Andrea can do no wrong. But of course their phenomenal success globally is purely down to good old hard work in the vineyards and the winery. When you make outstanding wines, marketing and selling them becomes an altogether easier, more enjoyable endeavour.


Grapes for their 2015 Granite Chenin were sourced from 2 parcels of sustainably farmed old vine, dry farmed bush vines planted in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg. The vineyards are 39 and 43 years old. These very deep decomposed Granite soils tend to produce wines with great acidity and a flinty, stony aromatic profile. Grapes were harvested between the 29th January and 6th February 2015 with a yield of 6 tons/ha (30HL/ha).

Chris showing me their Granite, Schist and Quartz Chenin Old Vine vineyards in March.

Grapes were first chilled in their cold room then pressed whole-bunch and the juice allowed to settle overnight. Minimal SO2 is added and, as with all their wines, no further additions are made. The juice is then racked to barrel for fermentation which is with indigenous yeasts and lasts for about 4 weeks. The wine is left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation has completed. The barrels are then racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. 12 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%, RS 1.6 g/l, TA 5.6 g/l, pH 3.3.


Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2015, WO Swartland, 13.5 Abv

A beautifully crafted wine from the Mullineuxs, this single terroir expression of Chenin Blanc shows incredibly flinty minerality and salinity. The nose bursts with crushed granite dust, lemon grass, dried herbs, and dried orange peel. I love the austerity and dried grass spice. The aromatic breadth and complexity follows to the palate except the volume is turned up a few notches. Pin point purity, intense electric acids and amplified tangerine and orange citrus zest cloak the palate and almost overwhelm the senses. A very measured, well proportioned wine with extra concentration and acid intensity to suggest a long life lies ahead if we’ll cellared. Drink now to 2030+

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

With Chris in an old vine Chenin vineyard near Siebrietskloof on the decomposed Granite slopes of the Paardeberg

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Old Vine Swartland Chenin Blanc Proves Its Pedigree Yet Again…

David Sadie 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. 


I became acquainted with the single vineyard wines a few years back when David was making 3 different versions. Last year, the 2015 Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc trounced all before it in the annual Decanter Magazine Blind South African Chenin Blanc Tasting, scoring an eye watering 98 point consensus with all three judges. Well yes, I was one of the three judges and I stand by my score, blind or sighted.

With David Sadie and my fellow 98 point Decanter Magazine judge, Tim Atkin MW

Sadly, the 2015 stock disappeared like a small rain puddle evaporating in the midday heat of the Karoo dessert. But what do you expect when only just over 300 bottles or one barrel were produced. In 2016, David bottled two single vineyard wines, the Hoe Steen and the Skaliekop Chenin Blanc. 

Made from dry land farmed bush vines planted in 1968 on decomposed granite based soils with Koffee Klip and Quartz on top, on the western side of Malmesbury. The grapes were wholebunch pressed using minimal sulphur during the short cold settling for the juice before being wracked into barrel for spontaneous fermentation and malolactic fermentation. The wine ages for around 12 months in two old 400 litre French oak barrels. In 2016, production was upped to a massive 530 bottles. pH 3.41, RS 3.0 g/l, TA 5.5 g/l, total SO2 127 mg/l.


David & Nadie Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Swartland, 13.39 Abv.

Like many of the 2016 Chenin Blancs, this wine displays more subtlety, restraint, elegance and finesse with a slightly more refined, fine boned structure than the big, broad, intense 2015 expressions. The nose is more delicate and soft spoken, showing white peach, crunchy green pear, tangerine peel, fynbos, baking herbs, and incredible dusty, crushed granite mineral lift. The palate is electric and fresh with a dry lemon, rasping mineral intensity, subtle smoky reduction and picante spice notes. Like the 2015, there are beautiful, beguiling saline maritime notes that spar with the bold zippy acids. This vintage is all about speaking intelligently with authority and sophistication rather than preaching in a loud, punchy, doctrinal style. The extra restraint, twinned with balance, harmony and inner core tension make for another profound Chenin Blanc expression. Drink now or keep for 8 to 15+ years.

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

The True Brilliance of Winemaker Duncan Savage Revealed in His Savage White Blend 2015…

On the eve of the imminent arrival of the 2016 Savage White Blend in the UK, I had the opportunity to present the iconic 2015 White Blend to 25 management consultants at the offices of Boston Consulting Group last night. It went down a storm. In fact, it was so good I bought another bottle to drink at home tonight with my Sicilian style herbed pork caponata. 


Savage White Blend 2015, WO Western Cape, 14 Abv.

There is no doubt that Duncan Savage is one of the best white wine winemakers in South Africa. His track record speaks for itself. Taming Sauvignon Blanc and more so, Semillon, from cool climate sites on the peninsula, has revealed the real potential of these varietals in a blend to a whole new generation of winemakers and consumers. The 2015 however, was one of Duncan’s most anticipated releases with the vintage lauded as possibly the best ever in SA for red and white wines. This Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon based blend incorporates small amounts of Clairette Blanche and Chenin Blanc this vintage. This slightly bigger blend perhaps explains the wines broader aromatic profile. There is still the dusty lemon and herb spice, yellow grapefruit and lime peel freshness, but also extra notes of white pear, white pepper, white crunchy peaches and green apple zest. Once again, the pithy minerality of crushed gravel underpins both the nose and palate and there’s an almost German, Pfalz-like strawberries and vanilla ice cream exotism in play. The palate is bold, intense and concentrated with pithy gravelly notes balanced by massive fruit concentration and length. The vintage’s sublime quality is indeed standing up to be counted! Duncan has perfectly captured the essence of 2015’s greatness. But the wine remains classical, measured, restrained and fresh and finally unlocks its hallmark lemon and pineapple pastille fruit character on the long, intense finish. This is a truly grand expression, a wine that will demand its place in your cellar. Could this be Duncan’s greatest white expression to date? Drink now to 2028+ 

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


The Monday Morning Fog Clears in London to Reveal Another Delicious Wine From Mullineux Family Wines…

Fog Monster wines from Amador County, California (Sierra Foothills) is another boutique project from Andrea and Chris Mullineux of Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. Andrea, originally from California, together with husband Chris, have been sourcing unique vineyard parcels in the Sierra Foothills, where the vineyards are exposed to interesting Californian climatic conditions.


In the case of coastal California, the offshore marine layer is typically propelled inland by a pressure gradient which develops as a result of intense heating inland, blanketing coastal communities in cooler air which, if saturated, also contains fog. The fog often lingers until the heat of the sun becomes strong enough to evaporate it, often lasting into the afternoon.


I have not tasted this wine for several years, even though I have several bottles hidden in my cellar, but today it stood out as a real revelation, brimming with characterful energy and freshness. Made from Chenin Blanc from the Story Vineyard (un-grafted rootstocks at 1900 feet), the wine is essentially esoteric in nature, but certainly delicious with broad appeal.

Fog Monster Chenin Blanc 2012, Amador County, California, 12 Abv.

Rich Sauternes yellow colour, the aromatics are initially tight and broody, showing pithy mineraly lemon zest and peach stone fruit. Complexity grows rapidly in the glass where apple puree, orange blossom, and dried Sauternes-like notes of orange peel and lemon / peach tea infusions develop. The mouthfeel is so cool, taught, and tight knit, bristling with wound spring tension and core freshness on a most seductive, textured, lengthy finish. Beautiful weight, fine balance and incredible precision. A really lovely natural leaning, minimal intervention wine. 

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

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)