Brookdale is an impressive winery owned by Englishman Tim Rudd that is planted with 20+ year old Chenin Blanc vines as well as several other special Chenin Blanc blocks that are now almost 35 years old situated at the foot of the lofty Du Toitskloof Pass in Paarl.
The property was bought by the Rudd family which kick started a widespread replanting programme where sustainable viticulture and farming for the future generations are at the centre of their ethos. Most of the previous vineyards acquired with the original estate were very neglected and so uprooted with only the old vine Chenin Blanc blocks retained. The site is regularly exposed to strong winds that often reduce yields but also offer much-needed cooling breezes in Paarl’s warm inland climate. This site offers altitude and granitic soils rich in clay and schist that are perfectly suited for Chenin Blanc.
Taking Brookdale forward from the 2019 vintage is Kiara Scott, a young 28 year old winemaker who studied at Elsenberg before being selected to join the Cape Winemakers Guild Protege Programme. Kiara has worked vintages in the Rhône Valley, Sancerre and the Russian River in Sonoma, California. The future at Brookdale is looking super exciting with Kiara at the day to day winemaking helm and Duncan Savage, who produced the first two vintages, acting as a consultant.
Brookdale Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Paarl, 13.5% Abv.
The third vintage of the Brookdale Chenin Blanc sees Kiara Scott firmly in the winemaking driving seat with the majority of the vineyards employed starting the near the magical 35 year old mark making them eligible for Old Vine certification. With the use of large 500 litre oak barrels, the oak imprint on the wine is sensitive but complimentary, allowing lovely complex aromatics of white flowers, wet straw, white toast, tangerine peel and stem ginger to mingle effortlessly with notes of leesy biscuits and savoury vanilla pod spice. While the palate has a beautiful textural feel with mouth coating concentration, you can feel the pineapple pastille and smoky yellow orchard fruit notes are underpinned by the classical, stony mineral notes of the 2019 vintage. Showing an opulence and an attractive overt appeal already, this wines is once again a superb counterfoil to the overpriced, heady whites of Burgundy. Yes, I know its Chenin Blanc, but that is of course the wonder of this versatile premium white grape that reaches extra levels of intricacy when harvested from old vines and aged in oak. A delicious white wine that will drink well on release but should age and improve in the cellar comfortably for another 5 to 8+ years.
Always a highly anticipated white wine new release, the Single Terroir cuvees from Chris and Andrea Mullineux continue to generate a lot of excitement year after year. With just two white cuvees this year, the Mullineux Old Vine white becomes the lucky beneficiary of the Schist portion yet again.
With a lot of discussion surrounding the incredible quality of the 2019s, I asked Andrea if she saw any similarities with their 2017 releases. Both vintages showed general character traits of intense liquid minerality and tight wound-spring tension though Andrea pointed out that not only does the 2019 Granite have a noticeably higher acidity at 7.2 TA, it also possesses an incredibly concentrated and intense density of glycerol fruit at a meagre 13% Abv.
The 2019s are definitely going to impress collectors looking to buy wines to lay down. Look out for the SA release in mid-September through Méridien Wines or across Europe in the Autumn.
Mullineux Quartz Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.
RS 1.1 g/l – TA 5.1 g/l – pH 3.49
The grapes for the 2019 Quartz Chenin Blanc were sourced from a single parcel of sustainably farmed 38 years old vines planted in a quartz kloof on the Kasteelberg on the Leliefontein farm. This parcel of Chenin gives the best expression of the quartz terroir on the Kasteelberg, always displaying a fresh minerality and a lovely textural breadth. The grapes for the 2018 were whole-bunch pressed before settling and then racked into barrel for fermentation with indigenous yeasts which lasts around 4 weeks. The wine is then left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation is completed. The barrels are racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. Total maturation was 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels.
Tasting the Quartz Chenin Blanc with the Mullineuxs recently, Chris described how their customers are finely divided by their preferences for either the tension and minerality of the Granite Chenin Blanc and the broader, richer, more texturally opulent Quartz Chenin Blanc which almost resembles a 1er Cru Meursault in character with overt flesh and opulence, a broad mouthfeel and a focused concentration of white citrus and green orchard fruits. The aromatics are certainly as expressive as the best wines out of the Swartland with clear, defined aromas of crunchy green apples, white pear pastille and a thrilling melange of orange peel and naartjie zest all under pinned by a chain gang dusty crushed rock minerality. The palate is fabulously crystalline and pure with a slightly saline green melon and granny smith apple concentration and a cool, fine focused finish that suggests plenty of textural generosity. Drink from release and over the next 8 to 10+ years. (2,880 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 13% Abv
RS 2.1 g/l – TA 7,2 g/l – pH 3.36
The grapes for the 2019 Granite Chenin Blanc were harvested from a 43 year old parcel of dry farmed bush vines planted in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg. These very deep decomposed Granite soils tend to produce wines with great acidity and a flinty, stony aromatic profile with notes of sea salt and brine. The grapes for the 2018 were whole-bunch pressed before settling and then racked into barrel for fermentation with indigenous yeasts which lasts around 4 weeks. The wine is then left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation is completed. The barrels are racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. Total maturation was 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels.
While yields in 2018 were decimated by the drought, down by up to -80%, the 2019 season also suffered a -30% reduction in yields resulting in another vintage with a dense glycerol texture, depth and intensity of fruit. The 2019 Granite is certainly classically proportioned displaying all the intense liquid minerality, crushed gravel and granitic spice that is so typical of the finest terroir wines grown on ancient decomposed granitic soils. With this minerality come layer upon layer of complex dried green herbs, green apple bon bon rock candy, crunchy white peach and salty, briney notes of a Cape west coast sea breeze. But unlike some previous vintages, this wine not only displays an incredibly piercing nervous acidity, picante white citrus and crunchy green fennel notes, it also impresses with an unbelievably expressive glycerol palate concentration with intricate notes of quince, greengage, rock salt and pear puree. With one of the highest total acidities yet registered for this cuvee, combined with its mind blowing depth of fruit, this is going to make Chenin collectors shiver with excitement. Drink from release and enjoy this wine’s evolution over 20+ years.
I was recently asked to participate in an interesting Wine of Origin Breedekloof masterclass featuring 10 Chenin Blanc wines and another 5 alternative varieties such as Semillon, Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanche and Pinot Blanc. A big thank you to winemaker Attie Louw from Opstal Winery for heading up the winemaker group from the valley and also Emile Joubert for acting as facilitator during the online tasting.
“It has been four years since a group of winemakers from the Breedekloof Wine Valley decided to band together to collectively showcase South Africa’s greatest white grape, Chenin Blanc, under the Breedekloof Makers banner. What started out as a dream in 2015, has since established firm roots with a collection of individual Chenin Blancs that perfectly illustrate the quality of the Breedekloof terroir. Although the humble nature of this group of winemakers remain unshakeable, their Chenin Blanc continue to draw plenty of local and international praise to boast about.” ~ Breedekloof Makers
If these 15 producers represent 95% of the wine produced in the Breedekloof and Slanghoek areas, then the future is undoubtedly bright for this region. The quality of wines across the board is exceptionally high and the attention to detail noticeable. The region really has its own terroir feel and fruit character allowing for the region to really hone its own wine style and expression further.
If the producers can stick together and jointly promote and market their region and its best wines in the future, which will surely be challenging for the entire South African wine industry due to the Coronavirus pandemic, then I see a bright future ahead. It won’t necessarily be easy, but these lovely wines certainly deserve wider exposure and international attention. So if you are an importer in the USA or Europe, here is a bunch of cracking wines with fantastic consumer appeal.
Botha Amyah Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Breedekloof, 13.5% Abv.
Fermentation: 25-28 days barrel fermented. 42% Natural fermentation, 58% Inoculated yeast: QA23, CY3079. 20% in barrels and maturation on lees in barrels for 10 months. Normal bâtonnage (once every week for 4 weeks). Malolactic fermentation. Oak maturation was in 35% new 500 litre French oak barrels.
Soil: Fernwood – sandy with medium organic content (adjacent to the Breede River). Elevation: 200m above sea level. Trellis System: Bush Vines (planted east –west orientation) 2.7m x 1.2m. Age of vines: 30 years. RS 5.6 g/l.
The aromatics display a distinct dusty, biscuity, leesy note with ripe lemon peel zest, fresh straw and dried herbs. There is a noticeable pithy tension and structure to the wine, a finely balanced acidity and earthy, savoury yellow stone fruit length. Considering this wine has seen malo, it has lovely round depth, vibrant intensity and concentration.
(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Merwida Winery Family Vintners Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Breedekloof, 13.97% Abv.
Fermented in stainless steel and transferred to barrel at 18 balling. Fermentation with inoculated Vin 7, Anchor Exotics yeasts). No malolactic fermentation. Lees contact / bâtonnage: Regular bâtonnage for one month post fermentation. Oak maturation was 9 months in older French oak barrels on gross lees.
Soil: Glenrosa and Sandstone. Elevation: 200m above sea level. Trellis: 6 wire extended Perold. Age of vines: 15 years. Clone: SN 1064. RS 2.4 g/l.
This shows a lovely delicate complexity of lemon herb butter, warm white toast, tangerine peel, pronounced petrichor mineral notes of rain on sun baked granite. The palate benefits from plenty of air to reveal ripe lemon and white citrus notes, pithy pear and a cool, taut herbal mineral finish with just the faintest hint of phenolic grip. The extra spice and tension from the 2017 vintage is clearly noticeable. A fine effort.
(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Opstal Estate Carl Everson Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Slanghoek, 12.95% Abv.
Fermented in old French oak 400 and 500 litre barrels which lasted 10 weeks. 100% malolactic fermentation with wine kept on gross lees entire time of ageing with only occasional bâtonnage to finish fermentation.
Soil: Ancient Sand stone. Elevation: 275m. Trellis: Low Trellised, 3 wire. Age of vines: 37 years old. Clone: SN1061. RS 3.5 g/l.
One of the most confident and intense expressions of Chenin Blanc in the region. The precision, poise and complexity on the palate is truly impressive. The aromatics show sweet yellow citrus, exotic banana rock candy and sweet grassy wet thatch notes. There is such a lovely balance between stony minerality and pithy herby spice and white citrus and green apple persistence. The oak is so integrated and subtle making it a footnote in the overall greatness of this wine. A real benchmark for the region.
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Jason’s Hill Beatrix Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.40% Abv.
Fermented in 500 litre amphorae and Hungarian oak barrels. Fermentation was all natural with 1/3 whole bunch, skin fermentation in amphorae. No malolactic but with lees contact for 5 months, no bâtonnage. Oak maturation was in Hungarian oak, 1st and 3rd fill barrels of 300 litres.
Soil: Terrace gravels, deep stony soils & micro jets are being used for irrigation purposes. Elevation: 360m. Trellis: Perold system. Age of vines: 16 year old vines from the SN24 clone grafted on Richter 99 rootstock. RS 3.36 g/l.
This really opens up with some air to fan its tail. There are lush complex notes of sweet lemon cordial, crunchy yellow peaches, Seville oranges and a stony, dusty dried herb mineral lift. The palate is cool, focused and quite precise with a crystalline purity, tart tangerine acids and a long, stony, wet river pebble finish. Lovely classical restraint.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Badsberg Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.28% Abv.
Fermented in barrel for 25 days. Fermentation was with no malolactic. Wine aged on its lees for 3 month with monthly bâtonnage. Oak maturation lasted 3 months after fermentation.
Soil: Rocky and alluvial. Elevation: 225m. Trellis system: Extended Perold. Age of vines: 30 years old. RS 3.52 g/l.
The nose shows attractive notes of dried straw, lemon peel, tangerine and white citrus with an underlying mineral, dried herb and mint leaf complexity. The palate is cool and sleek, with dusty minerality, pithy green apple peel and a fairly elegant, light weight palate concentration. There is something very attractive about this wine.
Fermented in 300 litre French oak first and second fill barrels (50/50%). Fermentation started in stainless steel tank then racked in to barrel and slow fermented for 4-6 weeks. Natural malolactic fermentation. Lees contact / bâtonnage: 4 weeks bâtonnage and left on lees for 60 days. Oak maturation for 12 months in barrel.
Soil: Mostly alluvial topsoil. The vineyard is planted on the Worcester fault line. Underground is partly Cape sandstone and partly Malmesbury Shale. Elevation: 230m above sea level. Trellis: 2 wire Perold. Age of vines: 35 years old. RS 3.58 g/l.
This is a big bold aromatic expression with plenty of bruised yellow orchard fruit complexity, savoury lemon and dried herbs, orange peel and sweet peachy notes. The palate is impressively opulent and concentrated with white citrus, yellow stone fruits and a dusty, gravelly minerality. Again, the 2017 vintage intensity and tension defines this wine.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Lateganskop Zahir Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Breedekloof, 12,5% Abv.
Fermented in tank and 225 litre French oak barrels. Fermentation started in tank and then wine was transferred to barrel with no malolactic fermentation. Lees contact / bâtonnage for 3 months with oak maturation for 12 months.
Soil: Sandy clay. Elevation: 248m. Trellis: Bush vines with high density. Age of vines: 24 years old (planted 1993). RS 3.65 g/l.
This wine shows a distinctly different aromatic profile with sweet lemon oil, grilled herbs, sweet lemon cordial and an almost Mosel Riesling like note of white peach, apple bon bons and grey slate minerality. The palate is cool and steely with delicious Clementine citrus zesty acids, crunchy white peach and a linear mouth-watering liquid mineral finish. Very impressive wine.
Fermented in stainless steel with cooling at 16°C for 5 days then transferred to barrels. No malolactic with lees contact / bâtonnage for 20 months. Oak maturation in 50 % new 225 litre French oak + 50% 2nd fill French oak barrels.
Soil: Deep, rocky terrace. Trellis system: 5 wire extended Perold system. Age of vines: 30 years old. RS 3.45 g/l.
This shows a lush, intense exotic expression of waxy orange peel, yellow peach stone fruits, cigar smoke, crushed gravel and a long, rich textural mouthfeel with a very fine balance of peach and orange citrus fruits and sappy, spicy, mineral notes and an unctuous, vibrant, concentrated finish that bristles with vivacity and piercing intensity.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Mountain Ridge Romansrivier Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.5% Abv.
Fermented in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation allowed. Lees contact / bâtonnage lasted 9 months with oak maturation of 95% new 225 litre + 5% 500 litre old oak.
Soil: Deep rocky alluvial. Elevation: 230 m. Trellis: 4 wire wedge. Age of vines: 13 years old. RS 3.43 g/l.
This is a rather exotic version of Chenin with lush sweet fruited yellow peach notes, white pepper, dried mint leaf, yellow citrus and hints of hedgerow spice. The palate is cool and linear with iced tea notes, tart peach and green apple pastille complexity and an impressive overall concentration. Really quite enticing.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Du Toitskloof Wines Quest Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.5% Abv.
Fermented in French oak barrels. Fermentation was started in stainless steel tanks at 15°C. When sugar levels reached 10 balling the wine was transferred to barrels. No malolactic. Lees contact / bâtonnage for 3 months and overall oak maturation for 8 months.
Soil: Relatively dry sandy deep alluvial soils, highly weathered with mostly fine to medium sand fractions. Well drained without any major limiting factors. Elevation: 270m. Trellis: 5 wire lengthened Perold. Age of vines: 16 years old. RS 3.19 g/l.
This shows a decidedly biscuity aromatics with lemon tart, custard cream and tarte tatin caramelised apple richness punctuated with saline mineral notes, hints of brine, dried herbs and a cool, intense concentrated finish. Rather impressive indeed.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Stofberg Estate Borderstone Semillon 2018, WO Breedekloof, 13% Abv.
Fermented in stainless steel. Fermentation was inoculated with Yeast Alchemy 2. No malolactic. Bâtonnage once a week for 5 weeks and lees contact 10 months during oak maturation in French oak.
The aromatics show a leesy, buttery, creamy white citrus complexity with notes of grilled herbs, lemon peel and white toast. The palate is pithy and fresh with pronounced orange peel zest, grassy spice and a piquant, bitter lemon creamy lanolin finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Daschbosch Avon Clairette Blanche 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.14% Abv.
Fermented in barrel using wild and commercial yeasts. The wine saw malolactic fermentation with lees contact and bâtonnage for 4 months and oak maturation for 6 months.
Soil: Longlands / Westleigh. Elevation: 270 metre. Trellis: Bush vines of 43 years old. RS 3.16 g/l.
This has a powerful overt aromatic nose with dried green herbs, lemon peel, green apple and a chalky crushed gravel minerality. The palate is crystalline and fresh with a beautiful vein of acidity, tart green pear, white peach, and a sweet / sour stony finish. This really is an exciting expression of this variety expertly handled. Very smart indeed.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Le Belle Rebelle Mariette Pinot Blanc 2018, WO Breedekloof, 14.26% Abv.
Fermentation vessel were 225 litre French oak barrels using wild yeasts. No malolactic fermentation with lees contact for 9 months with first 3 months also bâtonnage. Oak maturation was 9 months in second and third fill French oak.
Soil: Primarily clay to loam with sandy alluvial soils sections. Sandstone rocks also present. Elevation: 208m. Trellis: 5 wire guyot trellis. Age of vines: 33 years old. Clone: Mutation from Pinot noir. RS 3.31 g/l.
The nose shows a waxy apple, herby, white citrus complexity with a smoky, waxy soap stone minerality. The palate is cool, crisp and bright with a certain vivacity and generosity of crystalline pure white peach and white citrus fruits. Lovely linear precision and focus.
(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Olifantsberg Grenache Blanc 2018, WO Breedekloof, 13% Abv.
Fermentation vessel was a 2000 litre foudre, 300 and 500 litre barrels. Fermentation used natural yeasts with a subsequent portion of malolactic occurring naturally. Lees contact on full fermentation lees for 10 months. Oak maturation for 10 months in foudre and barrels.
Soil: Clay-shale with quartz. Elevation: 460m. Trellis: Stok-by-paaltjie. Age of vines: 5 years old. RS 3.22 g/l.
This wine reveals a bold, stony mineral aromatics of crush gravel, grey slate and piquant white citrus peel and dried herbs. The palate is cool and generous, loose knit and fresh with orange peel, lemon rind zest and a charmingly bitter lemon pithy finish. There is a lot of interest packed into this bottle.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Deetlefs Estate Family White Semillon 2018, WO Breedekloof, 13.96% Abv.
Ferment in barrel with 60% of must inoculated with cultured yeast while 40% underwent spontaneous wild fermentation. 5% skin fermented Sémillon adds complexity and texture to the palate. The grapes are destemmed and given six hours skin contact before a light pressing. Oak maturation lasted a total of nine months in 300 litre French oak barrels. 16% first fill, 16% second fill and balance in older seasoned oak. The best barrels are selected for this special and rare take on Sémillon.
Soil: cultivated on Sandy loam soils. Elevation: 400m above sea level. Trellis: Three-wire Perold. Age of vines: 27 years old. Clone: The clone is GD 121 and is grafted on Richter 99. Cultivated on an open canopy basis to allow for at least 85% sunlight penetration to enhance photosynthesis and thus bettering berry development. High density planting, which is 25% more vines per hectares then the norm, allows for better competition of rootstocks and thus building a healthy branched root system. RS 3.38 g/l.
This reveals a charming aromatic nose of honey suckle and sweet white blossom perfume, honeycomb and sweet grilled herb spices. There is a lovely soap stone, dusty minerality that carries to the palate with spicy yellow peach, sappy baking herbs, wet river pebbles and a stony graphite finish. A very serious expression of Semillon without doubt.
Thankfully I managed to visit South Africa just before lockdown in February 2020. While I had limited access to Duncan Savage who was deeply ensconced in his Salt River urban cellar busy pressing his 2020 grapes coming in, I did get sufficient opportunity to drill down on the phenomenal new 2019 vintage releases and the conditions that shaped Duncan’s newest and possibly greatest wines.
With allocations imminent, and after a lengthy 3 month lockdown in the UK, these wines are undoubtedly one of the most exciting releases of the calendar year along with Eben Sadie and Chris Alheit’s sought after old vine single vineyard wines. If you are lucky enough to get offered an allocation, the signal is BUY BUY BUY!
Savage White Blend 2019, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.
In 2019 the Savage White Blend is made up of 64% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon and 16% Chenin Blanc with the Sauvignon portion increasing +10% on the 2018 due to the yields from the individual component blocks. Fruit was sourced from Kaaimansgat, Villiersdorp, Piekenierskloof and Stellenbosch. After being whole bunch pressed, the fermentations for various batches lasted from between 1 and 6 months with all components finishing secondary malolactic fermentation. The wine was aged for 10 months in old 500 litre French oak barrels along with a portion in concrete eggs. But certainly the 2019 whites are turning out to be as distinctive and expressive as Duncan’s 2018 wines were in their own characterful way but perhaps having more in common stylistically with the 2017 vintage. The 2019’s taut, smoky bouquet shows a slightly reductive liquid minerality that is utterly captivating, slowly unfurling layer upon layer in the glass. The initial petrichor notes of wet slate give way to crushed granite and dusty gravel nuances underpinned by aromatics of waxy green apples, dried fynbos, peach stone fruits and pithy white citrus. Initially dominated by the Sauvignon Blanc and creamy grapefruit notes of the Semillon, a little time in the glass eventually sees the Chenin Blanc component assert itself with hints of bruised yellow orchard fruits and a soft, pineapple pastille kiss. On the palate, the unmistakable Duncan Savage hallmark brilliance again shines with an outstanding balance and harmony, highlighting his masterful blending of these three white varieties. At once fresh, bright and supremely pure fruited, the 2019 Savage white is all about textural finesse, seamless equilibrium and pinpoint precision. The finish is long, persistent and intensely concentrated throwing out yet more teasing notes of passion fruit, white peach and candied pineapple. A very, very smart white blend in anyone’s language. Drink from release and over 10-12+ years. (9,900 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Savage Follow the Line 2019, 13% Abv.
I always joke that this wine from Duncan has one of the biggest cult followings globally only because no one can ever buy any Girl Next Door Syrah! But seriously, this wine has joined a very elite group of Cinsault dominant wines produced in the Cape that speak authoritatively year after year. In 2019, the blend is made up of 89% Cinsault from 39 year old dry farmed Darling bush vines together with 11% Syrah, a percentage that would easily allow Duncan to bottle this wine as a mono-varietal. It spent 3 to 5 weeks on its skins with 50% whole bunches employed. Ageing took place over 10 months in an oval foudre of 1,500-2000 litre capacity. True to form, this wine is ultra perfumed and incredibly pretty with soft seductive aromatics of crushed rose petals, spring cherry blossoms, dried lavender, a melange of red summer berry fruits and an exotic Turkish delight twist. The palate shows a fabulously self assured, compact core of bright red fruits, intense zippy red cherry Kool Aid, candied red berry notes and a super dense yet supple core of purity rarely seen on modest Cinsault. The tannins are fleshy, silky soft and almost imperceptible with the harmonious finesse of the sublime palate texture grabbing all the drinker’s attention. Superbly balanced, subtly piquant and saline, this wine has such a dreamy, creamy finish, breath taking purity of fruit and the most well honed, elegant Grand Cru poise to suggest that this could be one of Duncan’s finest expressions of Cinsault to date. A truly profound wine. Wow! Drink this from release and over the next 10 to 15+ years. (8,000 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Thief in the Night 2019, 13% Abv.
Only three years into this grandiose “Grenache project” and the quantity of the old, dry land Grenache in this blend has already grown to 61%, supported by 26% Cinsault and 13% Syrah. The wine spent 2 weeks on its skins employing only 20% of whole bunches this year to maximise the fruit’s true terroir expression. All components were picked on the same day and co-fermented from the same property in Piekenierskloof before spending 11 months in 3,400 litre conical foudre. Every vintage I have tasted of this wine has been a step up on the previous year’s effort and of course I wondered whether this would be possible again in 2019. Having a fabulously crystalline, translucent ruby red colour, this wine is sassy and confident from the get go, showing a rich, deep, savoury spicy aromatic depth of autumnal leaves, freshly cut hedge row, sappy earthy black cherry fruits and a subtle peppery broody depth. Yet again, the compact, signature 2019 palate texture density and harmony is unambiguous, with a seamless fruit – acid balance and a savoury earthy red currant and bramble berry spice complexity asserting itself on the long, plush, polished finish. I don’t know if Duncan is just simply mastering his Grenache fine tuning evermore or if 2019 was just an incredible vintage for this style of blend? But needless to say, this is his most confident and accomplished expression of the Thief in the Night cuvee produced to date. Drink from release and over 8 to 10+ years. (4,400 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Are We There Yet 2019, WO Malgas, 13% Abv.
Last year I noted early on that the 2018 Are We There Yet cuvee had really found another quality gear on previous vintages. Looking back, this was genuinely born out in the real world as this slightly quirky Malgas red blend ended up selling out in the UK market even faster than many of the other more prestigious Savage red cuvees with only the exception of the Girl Next Door Syrah. But results like this are to be expected as Duncan strives to fine tune the winemaking of this wine year on year to match the style of this wine to its unique river pebble on shale terroir and its unique blend of varieties. The 2019 is again a blend of 14 year old bush vines from 50% Touriga Nacional and 50% Syrah, which spent 2 weeks on their skins before being aged 11 months in neutral oak foudre. A lot of the work done to fine tune this cuvee, like the 100% destemming, has resulted in one of the most plush, opulent and seamlessly harmonious reds in Duncan’s entire range. The aromatics retain their underlying dark, plumy, black fruit complexity with intriguing nuances of blueberry pie, black currant confit and sweet melted black liquorice candy. The palate incredibly shows a level of refinement that is more reminiscent of a Grand Vin from Cote Rotie, with tangy acids, sweet savoury velvet tannins, a fleshy luxurious core of black currant and blue berry fruits and a finish with the most suave, fine grained mineral texture possible. All in all, the 2019 shows a little more refinement, a pinch more plushness and a polished finesse that marks this wine as a very smart effort once again. Drink from release as you won’t be able to resist its overt charms, and then over the next 10+ years. (2,100 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Girl Next Door Syrah 2019, WO Cape Town, 13.5% Abv.
Unless you are completely new to Duncan Savage’s range of wines, this incredible cuvee will need no introduction at all. Made in miniscule quantities from the most salty, wind swept and battered 0.38 hectare Syrah vineyard plot near Fishhoek, these gnarled 14 year old trellised vines planted on sandy gravel soils for ornamental value originally, have latterly provided some of the finest Syrah grapes in the entire Western Cape. This labour of love for Duncan sees 50% whole bunches employed in fermentation followed by two weeks maceration on skins, malolactic fermentation in 600 litre neutral French oak barrels and finally a further 11 months maturation in barrels. The aromatics are suggestive but initially offer up a shy, retiring bouquet of dark damson plums, Kalamata olives, sweet savoury cured meats, Tuscan wild bore sausage nuances, sweet green peppercorns, dried coriander and a lovely subtle waft of lavender blossom perfume. The front and sides of the palate bristle with mouth watering crystalline pure fresh acids, a seamlessly plump fleshy opulence and the most suave, sophisticated, lithe concentration and fruit density. While many high quality premium wines become sought after purely based on scarcity, I would suggest that the overriding factor for the Girl Next Door’s cult following is the undeniable knowledge that if Duncan is going to bother making this wine in such small quantities, he has to believe heart and soul that this vineyard has something very, very special to offer in the context of world class Syrah. Mouth coating and utterly entrancing, this is next level Syrah indeed. Drink from release and over the next 12+ years. (1,500 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Savage Red 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.
Duncan Savage is unquestionably proudest of both his eponymous signature white blend and of course his Savage red, and rightly so. These wines represent the true essence of the Savage brand however many new labels may be added to the range now or in years to come. Since 2017, this flagship wine has been made exclusively from 100% pure Syrah, and from 2018, 100% pure Stellenbosch Syrah! Produced from fruit grown on the famous Polkadraai Hills decomposed granite soils of Southern Stellenbosch, these organically farmed grapes spent three weeks on their skins with 50% whole bunches employed in fermentation. After secondary malolactic fermentation, the wine spent 13 months in 500 litre French oak barrels and then a further 9 months in 3,200 litre conical foudres. The aromatics chime a different tune to those of the meaty Swartland Syrahs. More base than treble, this wine’s aromatics show an impressively deep, compact red berry fruit concentration, a savoury, brambly, damson plum palate breadth that’s delicately massaged by a soft, pure granitic acidity. There is a real translucent, weightless, purity of flavour to the fruits, a true crystalline 2018 elegance and a supple, fleshy, seamless talcum powder fine tannin texture on the finish. True to the vintage, this wine will give immense drinking pleasure from release and probably hit its quality zenith at 8 to 10+ years of age. (11,400 bottles produced.)
I first came across Catherine Marshall’s Fermented in Clay Amphorae Chenin Blanc a couple years back with the 2017 example that really impressed me and if I am not mistaken, was one of my favourite whites of the year. I love the expression of authenticity that wines take on when fermented in clay amphorae vessels and Cathy has done a fabulous job on this wine year after year.
The 2019 vintage in the Cape is another exceptional year and for all the wines I have already tasted, not one has not lived up to my high expectations. This specific Chenin Blanc was made from Elgin fruit grown on a combination of deep clay soils and old bush vines on Laterite soils. Once fermentation was completed in the clay amphorae, 500 litres was decanted to oak casks for further maturation.
The wine in the French coopered barrels was partially allowed to go through malolactic fermentation and further matured for 11 months. The clay amphorae portion had no malolactic fermentation so that the fresher flinty characters would be maintained. After 11 months, the two components were blended and lightly filtered before bottling.
Catherine Marshall Chenin Blanc Fermented in Clay 2019, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.
(2.6 RS g/l, 3.32 pH, 5.8 g/l Acidity)
This beautiful Chenin Blanc really is a gorgeous wine. I loved the 2017 and 2018 but this 2019 seems to reach an even higher, more honed level of quality and purity. The aromatics combine intense notes of crushed gravel, dusty baked granite, dried straw and hints of fynbos and white lilies with nuances of dried pineapple slices, fresh yellow orchard fruits and a delicate pinch of fresh lemon peel. The palate is fabulously broad, glycerol and mouth coating with multi-layers of tart bright pineapple pastille, crunchy green pears, lemon cordial and a subtle hint of tart juicy tangerine fruit. Lovely stone fruit characters resonate on the palate with an incredible intensity, a piercing line of acidity and the most agreeable, integrated liquid minerality on the finish. Undoubtedly a great vintage handle expertly by Cathy with just that extra little je ne said pas added by the fermentation in the clay amphorae. I’m utterly smitten by this delicious, soulful wine. Drink from 2020 to 2030+.
For many, 2020 will undoubtedly be a year to forget, an annus horribilis of pandemics, economic crises and lockdown blues. But while it might be marked for being a challenging year all-round, it will also hopefully be remembered in fine wine circles for the highly anticipated second release of the famed Mullineux sweet wine, the Olerasay Straw Wine made from air dried Chenin Blanc grapes.
The Olerasay No.1 or “Primiero” as Chris and Andrea call it, was an inspired creation that fractionally blended multiple vintages of their prestigious Chenin Blanc Straw Wine into a mellow, ultra complex multi-vintage blend covering components parts from 2008 to 2014. With the reputation for the Mullineux Straw Wine already well established, the Olerasay Primiero took the wine world by storm and garnered sky high scores such as 99/100 from Neal Martin at Vinous but also a rare 99/100 from the Fine Wine Safari.
A truly incredible wine, the Primiero Olerasay sadly came and went all too quickly in the retail market and by the time many consumers woke up to the greatness of this wine, it was completely unobtainable except at auction. Five years later we are finally being treated to the release of Olerasay No.2 or “Segundo” which is made up of component vintages from 2008 to 2019.
Grapes are sourced from the Mullineux’s own vineyards (owned or leased), primarily from the Schist based soils of the Kasteelberg and the decomposed Granite based soils of the Paardeberg. Vineyards are picked at the normal time with around 22-23 Brix sweetness but are then dried outdoors in the shade under nets for three to four weeks allowing the moisture in the grapes to evaporate naturally, concentrating sugars, acids and the natural Chenin Blanc flavours.
However, the vineyards selected every year are always the blocks showing higher acids at full ripeness, very healthy clean bunches of just the right size with grapes not too tightly packed together to avoid any problems with Rot.
Always 100% Chenin Blanc, the Segundo was bottled on the 17th of January 2020, producing 6,180 375cl bottles or 515 cases of 6. The total RS at bottling was 331 g/l balanced by a TA of 11.3 g/l and a pH of 3.36. The final blend is bottled unfiltered and unfortified from 225 litre French oak barrels in the solera. Beautiful old gold yellow, the aromatics on this wine are spectacular! Every time you take a sniff, the wine offers up yet another layer of complexity. Always vibrant and fresh, the nose shows truly delicious notes of lemon cordial, passion fruit, sweet white peaches, honey on warm white toast, grapefruit preserve and zesty piquant notes of tangerines and Seville Orange marmalade. Utterly mesmerising, you could easily sit and nose a glassful for an age before even contemplating taking a sip. The rich fruit aromatics are followed by yet more dried fruit characteristics with pronounced nuances of dried apricots and pineapple slices, grilled nuts, dusty granite and blood oranges. The palate too is enthralling and delivers on all the expectations. Dense, creamy and textured, the wine remains fresh to the very end with the help of a razor sharp balancing acidity. This may have 331 g/l residual sugar but at no point does the palate feel clawing or over the top. It really is the luxurious complexity combined with the vibrant freshness and purity of fruit that make this wine a real knockout. No oxidative sherry or toffee notes to speak off, just a beautiful intensity of candied fruit. As this is a solera style sweet wine, you can certainly drink it on release without any guilt but it will of course age practically forever! Drink from 2020 to 2060+. (6,180 bottles produced.)
Wildehurst Wines is a small boutique wine cellar in the small Swartland town of Koringberg. Together, owner Joanne Hurst and winemaker Sheree Nothnagel, produce wines that attempt to capture the essence of their unique terroir in the Swartland wine region in the Western Cape, South Africa.
Joanne planted her “garden vineyard” in 2006 consisting of 90% Shiraz and 10% Viognier producing her first wines in 2009. At the end of 2013 the business grew to the point where it was necessary to appoint a full time winemaker and with a degree in Oenology and Viticulture, Sheree Nothnagel, joined the winemaking team. All grapes are hand harvested and wines are produced as naturally as possible with minimal intervention. Wildehurst Wines currently produce 16,000 bottles annually.
This 2018 Chenin Blanc was produced from 30 year old vines in the Swartland. After being whole bunch pressed, the must was barrel fermented with minimal intervention using natural yeasts and no acidification. The finished wine was racked and transferred back to old French oak barrels where it was aged for a further six months before bottling. Only 865 bottles were produced. Alcohol: 12.5% Residual Sugar: 1.8g/L, TA: 5.1g/L, pH: 3.43
Wildehurst Wines Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Swartland, 12.5 Abv.
A bright medium straw yellow colour, this wine has a very expressive nose of classic Swartland Chenin Blanc. There are complex notes of spicy orange peel, pineapple pastille, crushed granite, wet thatch and white peach stone fruits on the nose. The palate shows an initial piquant bite with a light to medium bodied mouthfeel, pithy peach skins and a subtle phenolics grip. There is plenty of elegance and subtlety together with nuanced flavours, a sleek accessibility and distinct lemon and peach iced tea characters on the finish. Perhaps not quite the palate weight or concentration of some of the more illustrious Swartland examples, but this delicious, well balanced little boutique white certainly captures many of the most attractive characteristics of Swartland Chenin Blanc.
I have been following the outstanding work of John Seccombe from the very beginning of his Thorne & Daughters label which was started in 2012 by John and wife Tasha with the aim to produce authentic wines in the beautiful Western Cape. John works with grapes from all over the Cape peninsula and seems to have honed a particularly refined aesthetic when it comes to his winemaking. His Thorne and Daughters family concern is truly pushing the boundaries with old vines and simple, natural winemaking techniques.
Sometimes other producer’s wines have been more highly lauded or more vocally praised but this certainly has nothing to do with the quality of John’s wines. Indeed, John must be one of the most modest, humble and intelligent winemakers plying his trade in the Cape… silently and brilliantly. John’s 2018 Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse Cape white blend incorporates several old vine heritage vineyards that looks more to Burgundy rather than the Rhône for its stylistic compass.
With the release of John’s 2019 Rocking Horse hitting the airwaves at the moment, I thought it would be the perfect time to retaste the impressive 2018 blend, a wine that got a lot of wine trade tongues wagging at the New Wave 2019 tasting in London last year. As the current release and the wine most widely available, the 2018 is certainly worth further examination.
Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2018 wWhite Blend, WO Western Cape, 13.2 Abv.
The 2018 is an exotic Mediterranean blend of 25% Roussanne, 22% Semillon, 19% Chardonnay, 18% Clairette Blanche and 16% Chenin Blanc. A rich straw yellow colour, the aromatics are complex and expressive brimming with notes of leesy lemon biscuits, white citrus, dried baking herbs, fynbos and thatch and dried tangerine peel. On the palate, the textural intricacy is notable as you would expect from a wine with 25% Roussanne in the blend, which lends extra dimensions of fleshy white stone fruit and marzipan depth. Naturally fermented in old oak, the 2018 shows the classical crystalline purity of the vintage framed by a tart lemon lime acidity and a stony, liquid mineral granitic complexity. Beautifully sensual and pristinely balance, every mouthful stimulates the senses and gives the drinker additional flavours to contemplate… crisp white peaches, crunchy green pears, granny smith apples, bay leaf herbal notes and yet more green mango and saline twang on the long exhilarating finish. Impressively intense and taut for the vintage, this must be one of the most drop dead gorgeous white blends produced in the Cape at the moment. Drink now or age for 10+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Thorne & Daughters wines are distributed in the UK by Liberty Wines.
David and Nadia Sadie’s assistant winemaker André Bruyns is really starting to make his own mark in the wider world of fine wine. Yes, I’m sure being referred to as ‘the assistant winemaker’ is a moniker that will eventually start to get annoying for André, but hey, there are certainly worse places to cut your winemaking teeth than working with the gentle giant David Sadie!
André wants his wines to be specific to their site and soil type with his white grapes coming from 35 year old dryland vineyards in the Paardeberg Mountain, planted mainly with Chenin Blanc. Farmed sustainably with some organic and biodynamic practices used, the granitic soils enhance the ‘liquid minerality ’ of the grapes leading to a more focused, taut, linear style of wines.
André kicked off the City on a Hill project with his fabulous 2015 white blend made from 85% Chenin Blanc, but he now also makes a 100% Chenin Blanc white using a selection of his best barrels that reflect the restraint and linearity of the unique Paardeberg style of Chenin Blanc. I recently got my hands on a bottle of the 2017 and true to form, André has produced another cracking wine! This is a great little project to watch closely!
City On A Hill Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland, 12.5 Abv.
This is a fascinating expression of Chenin Blanc created by André Bruyns. It’s the liquid equivalent of an enigma wrapped in a mystery that’s wrapped in a conundrum. The aromatics show crystalline white peach and yellow citrus, early season crunchy yellow orchard fruits but also pronounced salty, briney oxidative saline sea breeze notes. Underneath it all is this profound sense of liquid granitic minerality that pervades the wine. On the palate the tug of war continues, being taut but rich, salty but peachy, stony and thoroughly citric. Delicious oxidative notes of brine and dry roasted nuts rub shoulders with crisp bright acids, yet more overt minerality and an ample fleshy Chenin palate that retains a tight, crisp tension-laden finish. Intellectually, this wine is exhausting; hedonistically, it possesses the palate excitement of an eight year old child’s birthday and Christmas rolled into one! Still super youthful so drink a few bottles now but be sure to cellar at least a few for revisiting over 8-15+ years. A deliciously intriguing white!
One of my life long mantras has always been that nice people make nice wines. After 11 years hard graft at Adoro Wines, in 2018 Ian finally followed his dreams and branched out with his own venture, launching Naude Family Wines. Focusing primarily on his old vine parcels of Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Cinsault and Grenache, Ian has also been teaching old dogs new tricks experimenting with some younger vine parcels of Swartland Chenin Blanc, Koekenaap Colombard and Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon.
The world’s most respected wine critic, Neal Martin, recently featured the Naude Family Wines Old Vine Series Chenin Blanc 2013, describing Ian as one of South Africa’s great unsung heroes of the Cape wine industry. For those that have been following Ian’s exceptional wines, they will know all too well of his incredible talent for bottling a vineyard’s unique terroir signature like capturing a liquid photograph.
Naude Family Wines A Naude Egg Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.
Sourced from a prime vineyard in the Swartland, this more accessibly priced baby Chenin Blanc from younger vines was naturally fermented with wild yeasts in a concrete egg without any additions whatsoever. The resulting wine is wonderfully balanced and bristles with energy and vivacity by way of a fine line of acidity. True to its Swartland origins, this impressive Chenin Blanc is understated and classical with a fine linear textural focus that builds in the mouth to reveal layers of pineapple pastille fruits, yellow orchard fruits, morning dew on fresh bales of hay, crunchy green apples and a complex stony granitic minerality on the finish. A truly versatile wine for all cuisines and all occasions, you can drink this baby Chenin on release or cellar for another 3 to 5+ years for added complexity.