Return of the Crayfish… The Revenge Continues – Tasting the New Release 2019 Revenge of the Crayfish Barrel Sample…

With only a third of 2020 ticked off on the calendar and a very uncertain next six months lying ahead, I thought that the 29th March would be the perfect moment to release my initial review for Sakkie Mouton’s second vintage of Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc. Happy Birthday Sakkie!

Sakkie and I met up in Stellenbosch in mid February to taste the second edition of this cult Chenin Blanc from Koekenaap near Vredendal, made from a 25 year old vineyard with fruit from the same site as the 2018 maiden vintage.

What a journey it has been. With the sell-out 2018 turning heads, blowing minds and agitating the bureaucrats, the anticipation (and pressure) on Sakkie surely grew every day as the 2019 harvest approached. But a valuable stint in Oregon from June to the end of November at Carlton Winemaker Studio winery undoubtedly added to Sakkies further winemaking experience and overall maturity. 

The 2019 vintage Chenin Blanc grapes were taken in a lot earlier than 2018 resulting in an acidity of 8.2 versus 7.2 for the 2018 grapes. 

Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc 2019, 12.5 Abv. (Barrel Sample)

While still super youthful and vibrant, this Chenin Blanc expresses itself as boldly and characterfully as the incredible maiden release 2018. There are beautiful notes of crystalline white peach, green melon draped in salty Parma ham, white citrus, hard fig and saline sea breeze notes. On the palate, the alka seltzer spritzy minerality comes to the fore, shining brightly and melting beautifully into a subtle leesy white granitic wet stone mineral austerity tempered by a plush mid palate richness of yellow orchard fruits, wet straw and a mouth watering tart linear line of acidity, finishing with the most incredible intensity and saline persistence. This wine will tighten up further in bottle, but I envisage this 2019 offering an incremental generosity, concentration and finely textured mouthfeel. I am smitten yet again!

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

Post Script – We finished off the tasting with three new unfinished components who’s end destinations are still undecided. An interesting but characterful 2020 Chenel from Vredendal, a 2020 Palomino from Lutzville and then an incredible, unusual, highly expressive Chenin Blanc from a vineyard in Vredendal planted in 1989. More exciting treats from talented Sakkie Mouton coming soon.

Revisiting the Impressive Mullineux Old Vines White Blend 2018…

I first tasted the fabulous Mullineux Old Vine White 2018 way back in May 2019 while on a quick flying visit to the Mullineux homestead of Roundstone in the Swartland to taste their new Leeu Passant releases.

Always an impressively constructed wine for the money, the 2018 will surely be remembered by all wine makers as the vintage that exceeded expectations after four gruelling years of drought in the Cape wine lands.

Tasting with Andrea and Chris Mullineux at the 2020 Cape Wine Auction.

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Old Vines White 2018, WO Swartland, 14 Abv.

A blend of 69% Chenin Blanc, 12% Clarette Blanche, 9% Grenache Blanc, 7% Viognier and 3% Semillon matured for 10 months in third and fourth-fill French oak 500 litre barrels and one new 2000 litre foudre. Rich and opulent from the get go, the nose is broad and ultra aromatic with complex notes of lemongrass, wet thatch, lemon zest and tinned pineapples. Deliciously ripe and intense, the palate remains 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. Allowed more air in the glass, seductive tangerine and white peach fruit notes begin to dominate this suave, focused white blend. Another Mullineux blinder! Drink this generous, approachable vintage over the next 5 to 8 years.

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

Peter-Allan Finlayson Unveils Some of His New Releases from Crystallum and Gabrielskloof in London…

Maybe it’s because Peter-Allan is the third generation of wine farmers in the Cape or maybe it’s just because he is just very intelligent, but few wine brands have been managed as professionally as Crystallum in global markets since the first Sauvignon Blanc was bottled in 2007.

Now focusing solely on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Peter-Allan was recently in London to unveil some of his new creations. But the secret of Crystallum’s massive success in London can be attributed to a combination of factors that aspiring brand owners should take note of. Firstly, he has a committed and highly professional distributor in the UK with Liberty Wines; the quality of the entire range has remained impressively high from day one; the pricing has been very constant and conservative, rising only very modestly over the past 12-13 years; this price stability and quality has built the brand a strong on-trade restaurant / sommelier following in the fine dining establishments of London.

Add this all up and you have a brand that sells out within a few months of arriving adding further to the all round collectability of the entire range.

 

Gabrielskloof Elodie 2018 Chenin Blanc, WO Swartland

Fermented and aged in old oak barrels, this is just classic intense old bush vine Chenin Blanc from two vineyards of 43 and 45 years old made in a minimalist hands off style. Oozes class and character with aromatics of fynbos, crunchy yellow orchard fruits and wet straw with an intense palate of white peach, granitic mineral spice, toasted almonds and pithy dried orange peel. Lovely definition and length. This is up there with some of the best old vine Chenin Blancs in South Africa.

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

 

Crystallum Clayshales Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

Another superb rendition of this single vineyard wine from Ridge fruit that perfectly captures the cool, crystalline lemon and lime pastille fruit characters of Chardonnay grown at higher altitude. There are lovely white blossom and honey suckle notes with the most subtle kiss of white toast, vanilla pod spice and white peach. Still very youthful, but already the 2019s have a very impressive fruit/acid balance and a wonderfully integrated, harmonious honeyed leesy finish.

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

 

Crystallum The Agnes Chardonnay 2019, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

A beautiful expressive blend of Hemel-en-Aarde and Overberg Chardonnay fruit. The nose displays a wonderful saline, briney, taut mineral expression with notes of lime peel, lemon rind, honeydew melon and white peach. Restrained and focused on the palate entry, this is a very grown up, classy, serious Agnes that shows incredible restraint, minerality and mouth watering green apple crunch on the finish. Wow! This is so, so delicious. Crystalline pure Crystallum at its best! Bravo Peter-Allan!

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

 

Crystallum Peter Max 2019, WO Western Cape, 14 Abv.

A blend of four vineyards, three from the Hemel-en-Aarde and one high altitude Elandskloof vineyard. The nose speaks of old world Pinot Noir with classical mineral restraint, black bramble berries and earthy black currant with sweet, freshly cut straw aromatics. The palate is wonderfully crystalline and pure underpinned by a mouth watering acidity, fabulous varietal intensity, crunchy red berry energy and the most harmonious silky sleek texture. Hard to imagine how you could make a better Pinot Noir at this price point.

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

Other wines tasted:

Crystallum Mabalel 2018 Pinot Noir – 94+/100 GSMW

Crystallum Whole Bunch 2018 Pinot Noir – 95/100 GSMW

Gabrielskloof Landscape Series Syrah On Sandstone 2017 – 96/100 GSMW

The wines were presented alongside an incredible tasting menu at newly opened Sam’s Riverside Restaurant, the new venue for the famous Sam’s Brasserie that used to be in Chiswick, West London. The food was truly outstanding and helped cap off a superb evening of fine dining and wine.

Peter-Allan with host and restaurant owner Sam Harrison.

Sam’s Riverside

1 Crisp Walk

Hammersmith

London

W6 9DN

Crystallum and Gabrielskloof are distributed in the UK by Liberty Wines.

The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable South African White Wines of 2019…  

What a great year of fine wine it has been yet again. I am so fortunate to be in a position allowing me to taste not only the greatest wines of the world on a regular basis here in London as well as on my extensive travels, but also taste the finest wines produced in South Africa on a regular basis while always trying to retain a very measured, objective outlook in terms of where South Africa’s greatest wines really fit into the pecking order of international fine wine.

For my white top 10 selection, I have not merely selected my highest scoring wines of the year as that would be far too predictable, but I have instead chosen wines that I found not only outstanding in quality terms but also memorable, characterful and thrilling to drink.

I’d also like to offer a special thanks to all the producers, many of them close friends, that have offered me their time for my regular visits, tastings and importantly, lots of joyous eating and drinking together. Your hospitality and friendship is never taken for granted and greatly appreciated and treasured.

Happy New Year 2019. I truly believe 2020 is going to be another exceptional year of success for South African wine.

 

Top 10 Whites (in no particular order):

Restless River Ava Marie Chardonnay 2017 – 96+/100 GSMW

Sakkie Mouton Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

Alheit Family Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2018 – 97/100 GSMW

Cape Winemakers Guild Leeu Passant Radicales Libres Chardonnay 2014 – 97+/100 GSMW

David & Nadia Plat’Bos Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

Sadie Family OVS ‘T Voetpad White Blend 2018 – 97/100 GSMW

Sadie Family OVS Skurfberg Chenin Blanc 2018 – 97+/100 GSMW

Catherine Marshall Chenin Blanc Fermented in Clay 2017 – 95/100 GSMW

Kershaw Deconstructed Bokkeveld Shales Chardonnay 2017 CY548 – 96+/100 GSMW

(Picture courtesy of Keith Prothero)

Lismore Estate Reserve Viognier  2017 – 96+/100 GSMW

The Top 10 South African Reds of 2019 will follow soon!

Reenen Borman and the Patatsfontein Crew Deliver Another Montagu Stunner in 2018…

The low yielding 2018 drought vintage produced a lot of challenges for vintners but more often than not, yielded overall wine quality in bottle that far exceeded wine industry expectations pre-harvest. While the 2018 whites don’t necessarily have the same intensity, piercing concentration and acid frame that the 2017s exhibited, they do processes great flavour subtlety, crystalline purity, fine varietal typicity and an overall harmonious balance. The main vintage downside was that yields for many producers were reduced by between -30% and -60%, and perhaps down to -80% for some old vine dry grown vineyards, representing a mini catastrophe as global demand surged for South Africa’s top producers.

The old vine Patatsfontein Chenin Blanc white, now in its 5th vintage, is produced by winemaker talent Reenen Borman and business partners Henk Kotze and Fritz Schoon under the Ron Burgundy Wines venture and has established a high quality track record that places it among an elite group of top Chenin Blanc wines produced in South Africa.

Henk, Reenen and Fritz… HRF

Patatsfontein Old Vine Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2018, Montagu, 13.5 Abv.

Produced from an old vine single vineyard in Montagu, the 2018 Chenin Blanc represents another great success for the vintage. The aromatics boast mineral laden notes of wet stones, crushed granite, grey slate with dried hay, green pears and tangerine peel. The palate shows a fine harmonious balance with plenty of subtle complexity of pineapple pastille, green apple, crunchy white peach and a pithy stony mineral veneer. It will be interesting to see if the wine moves away from a mineral, lighter weight textural precision towards a more fleshy, glycerol expression after a few years in bottle. Either way, this is a serious top shelf, grown up effort that will have the loyal Chenin collectors scrambling to burying precious bottles in their cellars.

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

Tasting and Assessing the The Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction Super Lot Wines in London…

I was recently invited to preview the individual wines of the CF&RA super lot in London at the Goodman Gallery. After a very instructive introduction and overview by Michael Fridjhon, we were let loose on some iconic South African whites and reds.

The Super Lot Auction took take place on Thursday 28th November 2019 at Christie’s London.

 

With Michael Fridjhon in front of a magnificent William Kentridge work of art.

Full list of wines, with The Fine Wine Safari scores from the preview tasting in brackets:

LOT A

Sparkling

Graham Beck, Méthode Cap Classique Blanc de Blancs, Robertson, Western Cape 2009 (92/100 GSMW)

Whites

Alheit Vineyards, Cartology Bush Vines, Western Cape 2011 (96/100 GSMW)

DeMorgenzon, The Divas Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch 2013 (96+/100 GSMW)

Jordan Wine Estate, Nine Yards Chardonnay, Stellenbosch 2015 (93+/100 GSMW)

Ken Forrester Wines, The FMC, Stellenbosch 2009 (92+/100 GSMW)

Reds

De Toren Private Cellar, Fusion V, Stellenbosch 2004 (92/100 GSMW)

Kanonkop Wine Estate, Pinotage, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch 2006 (91+/100 GSMW)

Rustenberg Wines, Peter Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2009 (95/100 GSMW)

LOT B

Whites

David & Nadia, Hoë-Steen, Swartland 2016 (96/100 GSMW*)

*This is my recent tasting score from my sit down archive tasting with David Sadie as the bottle on show here showed slight cork taint.

Kaapzicht Wine Estate, 1947 Chenin Blanc, Bottelary, Stellenbosch 2014 (93/100 GSMW)

Richard Kershaw Wines, Clonal Selection Chardonnay, Elgin 2015 (95/100 GSMW)

Reds

Bartinney, Cabernet Sauvignon, Banghoek, Stellenbosch 2011 (90/100 GSMW)

Eikendal Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2015 (92/100 GSMW)

Plaisir de Merle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paarl 1995 (93/100 GSMW)

Spioenkop Wines, 1900 Pinotage, Stellenbosch 2011 (91/100 GSMW)

Morgenster, Estate Reserve, Stellenbosch 2004 (93+/100 GSMW)

Fortified

Boplass Family Vineyards, Cape Vintage Reserve, Western Cape 2006 (92/100 GSMW)

What this archive selection showed was the incredible age worthy character of South Africa’s Chenin Blanc whites, not too dissimilar to Grand Cru Burgundy, and the classical complexity and elegance of South Africa’s top reds. Considering the cost price of many of these wines on release, these wines represent “fine wine bargains.”

Watch out for further up coming rare South African wine auctions at Strauss & Co Fine Wine Auctions in Johannesburg and Cape Town and further Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auctions in Cape Town.

Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines Release Another Sublime Range of New Single Terroir Vintages…

Ask any international critic to mention their top 5 prestige fine wine producers in South Africa and without doubt Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines will feature in the lineup regardless of whether that person is a Syrah or Chenin Blanc obsessive.

Within their range, it is undoubtedly the Single Terroir releases from Andrea and Chris Mullineux representing different terroir expressions that year on year push the boundaries of quality but have also cemented this estate’s international standing amongst the great wineries of the world.

Whether buying for further cellaring or as a sneaky investment, this range of Mullineux wines represents a star buy. Available from Great Domaines in South Africa, Skurnik Wines in the USA and Fields Morris & Verdin in the UK.

Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Swartland

Produced from two 42-year-old parcels on the Paardeberg, the wine shows attractive sweet crunchy green fruits, massive palate concentration of green melon, sweet lemon and herb spice and a very long, plush, bon bon infused candied finish. Plenty of texture and mouthfeel but also a fabulously confident vein of steely Chenin acidity. Truly classy.

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

Mullineux Quartz Leliefontein Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Swartland

From a single 37-year-old vineyard on the Kasteelberg. This youthful wine is steely, tighter and more mineral with dried herbs, lemon grass, apple peel, pithy green fruits and crunchy orchard fruits nuances. Broad and fleshy, a very harmonious mid-palate dominates with the fruit / acid / mineral balance beautifully integrated and seemless. Lovely vein of acidity with impressive generosity and appeal.

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

Mullineux Granite Syrah 2017, WO Swartland

Fruit sourced from a 23-year-old vineyard on the Paardeberg. Shows high toned notes of red fruit, raspberry confit, cherries dipped in chocolate, cinnamon and exotic sweet clove tobacco spice. Sleek, opulent and generous, immaculately polished, concentrated yet weightless, this is super classy and elegant with a certain deft feminine touch.

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

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2017, WO Swartland

This beautifully manicured 20-year-old vineyard on the Mullineux’s Kasteelberg farm Roundstone shows a more tight and broody expression with darker, blacker berry fruits and more classical notes of black olive, cured meets, earthy savoury black plum and a sweet black peppercorn tinged berry spice finish. A super sleek, elegant and consummately confident, self assured polished expression of premium Syrah that epitomises the whole Mullineux red wine experience.

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

Mullineux Iron Syrah 2017, WO Swartland

This single 18-year-old vineyard near Malmesbury is perhaps never as seductive as the Schist cuvée when young but perhaps it’s the extra stern profile that always makes this one of my favourites. A big, bold wine that combines the old world savoury, mineral character of the Northern Rhône with the new world elegance of the Swartland. Plenty of dried allspice, grilled herbs, massively savoury and bloody with a meaty density and a plush, powerful textural depth, spicy, stony mineral tannins and a long, long rasping, powerful chalky length. The very best of both Old and New World styles, this wine is more challenging but will be infinitely more rewarding in the long run.

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