Stop The Presses!!! – Tasting the First Ever 100 Point Wine From South Africa…

Today I had the great privilege to help chair the Whole Bunch tasting of The Wines That Raised Us – A Heritage Experience … at the Klein Welmoed Farm in Stellenbosch featuring great iconic old bottles from the Winshaw Cellar.

What a night and what profound, mind blowing wines. But sitting back and discussing the merits of the individual wines with the other producers and industry commentators in attendance, left me with no choice but to finally make my first 100 point South African wine score pronouncement!

The Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon 1957, another near 100 point expression!

Chateau Libertas 1957, 12 Abv.

An incredibly youthful, vibrant and aromatic expression, this red wine at 61 years old is the most distinguished stately gentleman of wines I have ever encountered. Loaded full of youthful creme de cassis, boiled black berry sweets, macerated black cherries, earthy ripe prunes, raisined cranberries, fynbos spice, dried mint leaf and a profoundly pure and balanced palate minerality that follows the fruit complexity of the nose. It’s not just the mellow concentration and regal balance that astounds the senses, but the sweet fruited glycerol texture, the vibrantly fresh palate and tightly packed sweet mellow tannins that seduce the senses and invite you in for more. This is the stuff of legends, a wine you will want to tell your kids you drank. It’s also a wine that not only brought tears to grown winemakers eyes, but also the first perfect score on the Fine Wine Safari and possibly the first ever de facto 100 point score for a South African still wine! 🤭 Yes!

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

The Old Vine Project Hits London Again to Seduce Us with Some Profound Old Vine Whites and Reds from South Africa…

I’m very excited to be attending the Alheit Family Wines new release 2017 tasting tomorrow in London at the offices of the Institute of Masters of Wine with Chris Alheit. Indeed it was Rosa Kruger and Andre Morgenthal’s recent Old Vines Project Masterclass Tasting a few weeks ago that reignited the excitement surrounding old vines, old vine culture and the changes in philosophy with regards to viticulture and vine growing taking place in South Africa.

A pair of Chris Alheit’s superb 2017 wines featured prominently on the July tasting and certainly helped set the scene for yet another SA tasting of old vine wines that promises to display some of the most exciting dry Chenin Blanc’s produced anywhere in the world. Just reading through the below Old Vine Masterclass tasting notes has already got me salivating.

Below are my raw notes taken from the Masterclass with Andre and Rosa.

Old Vine Project team Andre Morgenthal and Rosa Kruger in front of London’s Millennium Bridge.

Huis van Chevallerie Filia Brut Kap Klassiek 2014, Swartland – Vines Planted 1974

Savoury apple purée, honey and sun dried peaches, vermouth botanicals and sweet fynbos herby spice. Beautiful richness, peachy, leesy autolysis and a gravelly, mineral length.

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

Huis van Chevallerie Nuwedam Chenin Blanc 2017, Swartland – Vines Planted 1974

Rich, deep, earthy, mealy character, hairy yellow peaches, honey, lanolin, peach purée and a solid vein of gravelly, granitic minerality. Creamy and texturally very fine showing piercing white citrus and crunchy yellow fruit intensity, white peach pastille and a kiss of pineapple. Very impressive.

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

Waterford Estate Library Collection Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch – Vines Planted 1982

Beautifully nuanced nose with pronounced minerality, dusty granite and limestone, where the fruit component of the wine takes a back seat to the terroir minerality. Hints of struck match and tart fresh acids give way to lemon and lime pith, flinty white peaches and savoury pineapple. A really excellent expression.

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

Gabrielskloof Elodie Chenin Blanc 2016, Swartland – Vines Planted 1977

Rich perfumed nose showing soap stone, white citrus, green apple zest, creamy white peach and liquid minerality. Beautifully textured palate, complex and very harmonious. Very classy indeed.

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

Alheit family Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017, Swartland – Vines Planted 1976 and 1986

Wonderful melange of pure mineral, granite, grated apple, white peach and crunchy green pear with hints of orange blossom, tangerine and dried herb spice. Incredible harmony and balance, precise textural focus, sleek concentration and liquid mineral depth. A thought provoking wine, confounding the senses, stimulating the palate. Grand Cru texture, focus and precision.

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

Cartology Chenin Blanc / Semillon Blend, WO Western Cape 2017 – Vines aged between 32 and 82 years old from multiple plots, mostly 40 years old

Big, broad expansive yellow orchard fruit aromatics, subtle yellow blossom and then an overriding dusty gravel quarry minerality. The palate shows amazing depth, typical Alheit pineapple fruit pastille concentration, lemon grass and an incredible saline, grassy, herbal pithy length. Another epic effort from Butch.

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

Alheit Fire By Night 2017, Swartland, 13 Abv. – Vines planted in 1938, 1940 and 1944

Bright, crystalline and intense, wonderfully taut and intense, loaded with liquid minerals, limestone and green gauge, green apple and white pears. Pithy phenolic notes, spicy, pear purée expression and such clarity and focus. Mouth watering acidity, this wine tells an amazing story and delivers on so many levels with subtlety.

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

David & Nadia Perdekamp Semillon 2014, Swartland – Vines Planted 1972

Dusty granitic mineral aromatics, powdered sandstone, white citrus, white pepper and hints of orange blossom. So textural, intense and expertly finessed into a really profound version of Semillon.

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

Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2005, Franschhoek – Vines Planted in 1902, 1936 and 1942

Complex aromatics reveal notes of capsicum, white citrus and chalky granitic herbal green spice aromatics. Plenty of honied lemon, herbal fynbos notes and subtle oxidative, honied, lanolin length. Very expressive and complex.

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

Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2015, Franschhoek – Vines Planted in 1902, 1936 and 1942

Crunchy white peaches, citrus, crushed gravel and white pepper dominate the nose. Palate is packed full of lime peel complexity, vibrant bright acids, textural linearity and a long, wonderfully focused finish. Exceptional.

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

Mullineux & Leeu Dry Red 2015, WO Western Cape – Vines planted in 1932 and 1900

Lovely peppery, spicy leafy nose of plum, peppercorns, sweet bramble berries, hedgerow, bergamot and sappy cherry spice. There’s a real opulent confit fruit character, impressive ripeness, fragrant but simultaneously mineral and restrained. There is also a real dusty granitic vein, a chalky, spicy texture and sweet red currant and raspberry sappy fruit. Punchy, intense, really focused but with real mouthwatering drinkability. Beautifully fine harmonious texture, and tight polished tannins. A very classy wine indeed.

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

Naude Cinsault 2015, Darling – Vines Planted 1980

Wonderfully open, fragrant and exotic nose showing salted cherries, rose petals, lychees and Turkish delight. Palate is incredibly sleek and creamy but impressively intense and focused. Delicious palate complexity of waxy orange peel, naartjie juice and earthy sappy cranberry sauce. Such a very pretty expression.

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

Jamie Goode tasting with Rosa Kruger at the Old Vine Project Masterclass held at High Timber Restaurant in July 2018.

Chateau Musar Going Back to Basics with the New Release 2011 Vintage – One of the Latest Harvests on Record…

New releases of Chateau Musar vintages come along like buses in a quiet rural village on a bank holiday weekend. None for years then two within moments of each other. But Musar lovers won’t be blamed for thinking that the 2010 vintage has somehow disappeared into the vinous twilight zone and vanished before even being drunk!

Of course, if you had read my recent review of the 2010 vintage… link below… you would know that it was not only an incredibly fine, high quality vintage but also a lamentably small production – all the necessary ingredients for uber collectibility.

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2018/04/30/chateau-musar-2010-a-vinous-collectors-piece-in-the-making/

So the fast forward button was pressed and the 2011 has been released, hopefully not too much ahead of its originally planned schedule. The wine is once again a classic Musar blend of roughly a third each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault from the Bekaa Valley, from vines with an average age of 40+ years.

The harvest of 2011 posed one of the most challenging experiences in wine-making at Chateau Musar over the last 20 years, as it was one of the most untypical years in Lebanese history. The year began with a cold January but with insufficient rain. February proved similar with March being sunnier but April and May produced the really big surprise with a level of rainfall to match January, February and March combined!

The main result of the rain was very late maturation, with flowering occurring 25 days later than usual and this delay continued over the maturation period and up to the harvesting day. Musar’s first Carignan was harvested on the 22nd September and then on the 23rd it rained for three days from the 23rd until the 25th September with the Carignan and the Cinsault not yet harvested. The Carignan resisted the rain but the Cinsault was more affected.

The harvest was finally completed on the 13th October, which was, with the exception of their 1983 vintage, the latest in the company’s history.

Chateau Musar 2011, Bekaa Valley, 14 Abv.

A classic dark broody Musar nose with expressive notes of earthy, plummy, foresty berry fruits with just a delicate drizzle of balsamic and black cherry reduction. Deep and lush, showing plenty of creamy oak and classic Musar sweet savoury complexity. Equally mouth filling and broad, the palate shows fine oak spice tannins, sweet caramelised plums with toffee brittle complexity. Sleek powerful texture, very fine length, this is a much more archetypal Chateau Musar with a little more youthful rusticity and grippy tannins than the ripe, suave, super polished 2010. Leave this release in your cellar for another year or two if you can and then drink over 20+ years.

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

Chateau Musar 2010 – A Vinous Collector’s Piece in the Making…

2010 was a year to remember in Lebanese wine-making history. Even from January it was obvious that this year would be lacking in water as snow fell only once on the 17th January (it was the shortest ski season ever!) and rainfall stopped on the 23rd February.

March was so hot that the vines began to blossom in early April and in May and June the vines were so vigorous and green following successful flowering, that Musar thought they would have the biggest harvest ever. However in mid-July things began to change and the temperature rose dramatically. A heat-wave hit Lebanon which lasted for about 23 days with an average daily temperature of 40 °C and the highest ever temperature in the Bekaa Valley was recorded at 48.5° C.

The grapes didn’t mature, they dried, as water disappeared from the grapes causing high sugar concentration. Cinsault and Carignan were less affected by this heat-wave than the Cabernet Sauvignon which suffered the most – dried grapes with high sugar content, high acidity and unfortunately the estate lost approximately 45% of their Cabernet Sauvignon this year.

The Musar winery north of Beirut just off the road to Byblos.

Fermentation began normally but Musar took the decision for the first time to ferment between 26 and 28 ° C to give the natural yeasts the ability to finish fermentation because of the high sugar content but mainly to preserve the fruity aromas that they were worried the wines may lack due to the heat-wave affecting the grape skins, where the esters responsible for aromas exist.

All in all, this extreme prolonged heat-wave resulted in a significant loss of grapes this year and the Chateau Musar Red 2010 will be sold globally exclusively on an allocation basis. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan were blended in 2012 after having spent a year in untoasted French Nevers barrels and this vintage was bottled in the summer of 2013.

Chateau Musar 2010, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 13.5 Abv.

For a wine from a supposedly warm, dry vintage, this beautiful expression shows incredible precision, purity and focus. The 2010 has a compelling nose reminiscent of a youthful Cru Nebbiolo blended with 10 year old Grand Cru Cotes de Nuits Pinot Noir. There are wonderfully complex aromatic notes of cherry kirsch liquor, tar and roses, sweet earthy forest fruits, hints of balsamic, sun dried cherries, frais des Boisses and a subtle complexing note of freshly polished mahogany. The most intriguing aspect of this wine is it’s incredible focus, piercing palate freshness, medium bodied freshly weight allied with incredibly fine harmonious sweet chalky tannins. With the heavenly fruit purity of the finest Musar vintages married to the elegance of a more suave, feminine, seductive vintage, this 2010 is sure to be noted as one of the most lithe, elegant, attractive expressions from the Bekaa in more than a decade. Drink this beauty now or cellar for 15+ years.

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

Andrea Mullineux – The Latest Cape Winemakers Guild Superstar…

The Cape Wine Makers Guild represents innovation, benchmarking and the sharing of knowledge spanning over thirty three years of winemaking excellence. The Guild, an association of some of South Africa’s finest winemakers, has evolved into a body of 49 members who jointly represent the pinnacle of South African winemaking.

So of course, when I recently hooked up with Chris and Andrea Mullineux at their Roundstone farm, no prizes for guessing which unicorn bottle I liberated out of their cellar!!🍷

Cape Winemakers Guild Andrea Mullineux Leeu Passant Old Vine Cinsault 2015, WO Franschhoek, 13.5 Abv. 

A beautiful expression from this 91 year old vineyard in Franschhoek. Andrea affords this grand old vineyard its due respect handling the fruit in a more serious crushed berry whole bunch style instead of a whole bunch carbonique style. Broad and texturally very complex, the wine unfurls in layers of sweet cherry, Turkish delight, marzipan and sappy oak spice. Full and distinguished, this medium bodied wine is an expertly crafted, supremely elegant version of Cinsault that turns a touch more serious and tannic on the firm, focused finish. Superb poise, impressive refinement and very precise and self assured. What else would you expect from Andrea Mullineux? Give it a year or 5 in bottle and drink over 20+.

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

Reinventing The Original Cape Red Blend – Tasting the New Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines Leeu Passant 2016 Dry Red Release…

I recently caught up with Swartland rock star wine couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux at their Roundstone farm to taste their new Leeu Passant releases. Of all the new wine brands released on to the South African and international wine market of late, few have generated as much discussion and debate as the Leeu Passant Dry Cape Red.

Too much of this discussion has perhaps superficially centred around the wine’s ultra premium pricing of £95-£100 per bottle and whether this pricing is merited instead of around the wine’s exceptional quality, its old vine fruit sources and it’s philosophical interpretation of a wine style synonymous with the early years of the 20th century Cape wine industry.

But new innovative wines that push the boundaries usually make easy targets for wine trade sceptics. It is without doubt the success of wines like this that will open new doors and pathways to financial viability and success for the whole of the South African wine industry. In the meantime, indulge yourself and savour some true precision winemaking with the Leeu Passant Dry Red.

Leeu Passant Dry Red Wines 2016, WO Western Cape, 14 Abv.

A blend of 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc and 31% Cinsault using 100% whole bunch for the Cabernet Franc and Cinsault portions. 100% new oak was used for the Cabernet Franc fermentation. Lifted and aromatic, this wine initially displays a pronounced sweet leaf, red currant, cedar and red berry fruit character. Intensely focused concentration from low yields and super small berries in 2016 makes for a wine brimming with overt notes of earl grey tea, bergamot spice, pithy citrus peel, spicy red bramble berries and a broody, earthy red currant depth. A fine wine with ample structure and seriousness, impressive minerality, precision and power. This red will certainly be a great keeper that’s destined for many a collectors’ cellar. Hats off to Chris and Andrea Mullineux for succeeding in creating yet another collectable vinous gem in only year two of this new project. Drink on release if you are flamboyant, drink after 10 years if you are patient, and drink after 30+ if you are youthful and have time on your side.

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

The Next Big Thing In South African Wine? Tasting the New Release Lourens Family Wines Cinsault Based Red Blend…

Franco Lourens is the assistant winemaker at Alheit Family Wines in Walker Bay and another of his own label new releases is this superb red blend from fruit sourced around the Western Cape. Cinsault is already seducing journalists and consumers around the world with the likes of Sadie Family’s Pofadder, Naude Old Vine Cinsault and others. But the category is evolving fast and new Cinsault based red blends are now starting to steal the headlines.

Quality wines to turn heads recently include the Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Leeu Passant Cinsault – Cabernet Sauvignon Blend and Adam Mason’s Raised By Wolves School House Red Cinsault – Cabernet Sauvignon. And who could ignore the iconic cult wine Follow the Line from Duncan Savage!? Well here is another cracker to join the ranks. Using fruit sourced from unique vineyards across the Western Cape, the grapes underwent spontaneous fermentation with natural yeasts in open top fermenters without any additions of any sort. The wine was then aged in old French oak barrels for 9 months and bottled without acidification or fining.

Mono-varietal wines are often the styles to grab consumer attention as they are easier to pigeon hole and easier to understand. But with the South African category maturing nicely, you can expect to see more Cinsault based blends making headlines in 2018. This will certainly be one of them.

Lourens Family Wines Howard John 2016 Red Blend, WO Western Cape, 12.5 Abv.

A blend of 43% Cinsault from Darling and Stellenbosch, 43% Carignan from Wellington and 14% Grenache Noir from Bot River. The aromatics on the nose are incredibly intense and perfumed almost catching one unawares. Poured in a Zalto Burgundy glass, there are notes of lavender, marzipan, sweet red peppercorns but also violets and dried coriander seeds. While all very floral and lifted, there are also deeper, darker savoury notes of bresaola, cured meats, and red cherry spice. You just don’t know where the palate at 12.5 Abv is going to take you. This is a real joy-ride in the back seat of a high powered sports car. The palate is beautifully balanced and fresh, but shows impressive concentration of flavour. There are layers of sweet pithy red cherries, wild strawberry, sweet peppercorns, and raspberry ripple and the finish is rather enticing with pink stick candy and strawberry bon bons. Amazingly suave and harmonious for this type of red blend, with the varieties all pulling in the same synergistic direction. An absolutely delicious wine displaying very accomplished winemaking using high quality fruit. This wine is named after and dedicated to Franco Lourens’ father, Howard John Lourens. I imagine he must be very proud of this namesake from Franco. Drink now to 2026+

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