The Exciting Young Talent Putting the Helderberg On the Global Fine Wine Map – Tasting the Phenomenal Wines of Bernhard Bredell…

As someone who is very fortunate enough to have access to almost any winery and winemaker in South Africa, I often get asked who I think are the most exciting new talents emerging on the South African wine scene. Of course, there are so many phenomenal young producers emerging in the colourful wine industry landscape of the Western Cape that it makes picking out one or two almost seem foolish. But every now and then you meet special personalities and taste new releases that leave you contemplating the wines days or even weeks after tasting. One such producer is Bernhard Bredell.

The Granietsteen Chenin Blanc tastes and smells just like the vineyard from whence it comes!

Bernhard Bredell is the 7th generation of a family that has farmed in the Lower Helderberg area of Stellenbosch for over 160 years and his own Scions of Sinai label is a project he started in 2016 in an effort to save old vineyards that were planted by his grandfather Koos Bredell around a particular granitic hill known as Sinai. Bernhard’s winery now processes 20 tons of fruit producing around 1,250 cases of wine that are incredibly exciting, premium in quality and distinctly terroir driven.

The view from Sinai across the valley towards the Helderberg Mountain range.
Old Vine Chenin Blanc planted in 1978.
Bernhard tasting the Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2021 in the vineyard it’s grapes come from with friend and mentor Ian Naudé in March 2022.

I myself grew up buying and drinking the excellent fortified wines of Anton Bredell, Bernhard’s father, made under the JP Bredells Cape Port label. But over the years, with fortified wines falling out of favour with the mass market, and after a series of unsuccessful still wine brands together with expensive marketing projects going awry, the family winery was eventually closed and sold off in 2011.

But Bernhard Bredell has winemaking in his DNA and coursing through his veins, so any notions of opting out of the wine industry to pursue other interests was never an option. The Scions of Sinai winery was launched with the 2017 vintages made from grapes sourced from vineyards grown on Firgrove, 4kms from the Atlantic Ocean. Bernhard currently uses five single vineyards and then some smaller half hectare plots. These include a Grenache Blanc made from a vineyard located in the Klein Karoo near the Swartberg Mountains and Meiringspoort, planted in 2009 on Schist and Shale soils, producing 600 bottles called the Gramadoelas; the Granietsteen Chenin Blanc; the Heldervallei Cinsault; the Swanesang Syrah; the Feniks Pinotage and the Nomadis Cinsault / Pinotage Blend. All vineyards are secured on contracts and have been farmed organically for over 5 years.

Scions of Sinai Range Tasting:

Scions of Sinai Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2019, Helderberg (1978)

Sourced from a Chenin Blanc vineyard planted in 1978 on decomposed granite soils with very low fertility, high drainage and very low cropping levels that helps create intense flavour development in the grapes. There is a pre-fermentation maceration for around 3 nights for 70% on skins, 30% wholebunch pressed. Grapes are picked when they express the purity of the vineyard site while retaining naturally high acids. After fermentation, the wine is aged in large 400 litre barrels and kept on its lees for 9-10 months before being bottled unfiltered and unfined.

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

After tasting the excellent maiden 2017 vintage a few years ago, Bernhard delivers another very self-assured performance with this delightful 2019 Chenin Blanc. Made from another seriously good white vintage from 43 year old vines planted in 1978, this wine is rich and expressive and boasts fabulous aromatics of pear puree, white flowers, yellow orchard fruits and seductive top notes of freshly baked apple strudel. The palate is fresh and bright with hints of toasted hazelnuts and walnuts, pithy peach stone fruits, pineapple pastille and a delicate note of maritime salinity and brine on the finish. Wonderfully textural and concentrated, this wine makes your mouth water with its deliciously tangy acids and enticing umami characters. Dry, intense and packed full of liquid minerality from the decomposed granite soils, this wine is already building up a solid cult following among the hardcore Chenin Blanc cognoscente. Drink now or enjoy over 8 to 10 years.

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

Scions of Sinai Feniks Pinotage 2019, Helderberg (1976)

In 2018 Bernhard moved into the old Helderberg farm called Klein Helderberg and has since produced four vintages there from old vine dry farmed bush vines yielding 3.5 to 4 tons per hectare. The vines produce tiny grapes on very small bunches. The soils are high in silica (fine sand) making for very fragrant wines compared to those made from vines grown on heavier clay soils. 70% of grapes are whole bunch and 30% destemmed, with around 10% undergoing semi-maceration carbonique in tank. Basket pressed after 12-13 days on the skins into 400 litre oak barrels that are normally a minimum of 4 years old for 12 months of ageing.

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Feniks Pinotage 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 12% Abv.

There are many styles of Pinotage being produced in South Africa, but it is perhaps the fresher, earlier picked, brighter style that has started to resonate the loudest with international fine wine consumers and this is another of these vibrant examples that simply bristles with crunchy red cherry fruited energy. Fabulously energetic and intense, the aromatics boast mouth-watering notes of black cherry, black currant, lavender, dried herbs, incense and a hint of bramble berry spice. Despite its lower alcohol and bright super fresh acids, this wine manages to retain an impressive depth of fruit, ample concentration and a fine, linear texture. I’m hesitant to say this is the future of Pinotage in the fine wine market as there are so many who pour scorn on the lighter, crunchy Pinot Noir-styled Pinotages, but there is certainly a massive following already developing for this purer style of wine. Drink this on release or you can certainly expect some flavour fireworks after 5 to 8+ years of bottle ageing. Very much worth seeking out. (864 bottles produced.)

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

Scions of Sinai Swanesang Syrah 2019 (1996) – SH1A Clone

Produced from apparently the last known bushvine Syrah in the Helderberg that yields spicy dark fruits loaded with rosemary and thyme herbal nuances.The fruit also retains a very low pH and crisp acids… 12.5% to 13.2% Abv. Combination of whole cluster, 30% stems intact, used for the very slow fermentation followed by 5 to 6 days maceration on the skins before being pressed to 400 litre barrels for 12 months ageing with an additional 2 to 3 months ageing in bottle.

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Swanesang Syrah 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

There is no doubt that Syrah is the hot property on the South African market garnering high critical praise and scores from international critics far and wide. Of course there is Syrah, but then there is Syrah on decomposed granite… a soil profile that definitely raises the perfumed aromatic profile of a wine while simultaneously dropping the pH levels and adding incredible freshness and tension. The Swanesang is made from fruit from a young vineyard ‘only’ planted in 1996 and the profile of these single clone SH1A vines is definitely on the purer, fresher, more perfumed red fruited spectrum of the scale. Once again, the granitic soils perform their transformative magic on the vines. In this specific cuvee, between 30 to 50% of whole bunches were employed delivering a fabulously expressive nose of violets, sweet baking herbs, red cherry, cranberry and alluring liquid mineral notes. The palate is super fresh and bright with intense red fruited concentration, revealing tart Victoria plum, cranberry sours and yet more red cherry fruit with just a smattering of black pepper and granitic minerality. A thoroughly engaging wine. Drink now and over 10 to 12+ years. (1,204 bottles produced.)

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

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Granietsteen Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

Another real terroir expression from old vine Chenin Blanc planted in 1978. Harvested on the 29th of January, this single vineyard expression from bush vines displays an impressive aromatic intensity with layers of peppery white citrus, white flowers, crushed granite, dried herbs green herbs and subtle fynbos notes. Like many Chenins grown on decomposed granite that aren’t picked too late, the nose and palate are dominated by an intense liquid minerality that dances across the palate with fresh zippy Sherbety acids, notes of almond skins, tart green pears, citrus peel and yet more liquid minerality. If ever a wine expressed the terroir of the vineyard it’s sourced from, this is it. Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years. (1,950 bottles produced.)

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

Bernhard Bredell Scions of Sinai Heldervallei Cinsault 2020, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

Produced from beautiful old bush vine Cinsault vines planted in 1988, situated right next door to Bernhard’s Chenin Blanc vineyard. The aromatics are powerful and intense unfurling with layers of red and black berry fruits, sweet exotic grilled spices, damson plum, rose petals, grey slate and smoky crushed granitic minerality with a hint of juniper. On the palate there is real precision and focus but also Bernhard’s trademark liquid minerality, dried herbs, pithy cranberry, hints of cherry pips and phenomenal dry, stony fine grained tannins. Quite a unique style that has more in common with a young premier cru Cotes de Nuits Pinot Noir tasted from barrel than a Cinsault. This wine is fabulously delicious but also shows serious ageworthy depth and intensity. Drink now to 2030+.

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

Wines are available in the UK market from merchant Indigo Wines.

An Outstanding Follow-up Vintage from Naude Family Wines – Tasting the Oupa Willem Cape Heritage Red Blend 2019…

New wines from top South African producers like Naude Family Wines are a bit like London buses, nothing for ages and then all of a sudden two or three new wines introduced onto the market. The Langpad Old Vine Colombard, the Groendruif La Colline Old Vine Semillon and the Oupa Willem Old Vine Cape Heritage Red Blend have all been released to great acclaim, further cementing Ian Naude’s status as one of the most admired producers in South Africa.

Deeply involved with the Old Vine Project from the very beginning, the Oupa Willem red blend is perhaps the most nostalgic of his new releases paying tribute to the historic old Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon blends of the 1950s and 1960s that came to define the South African wine industry for many decades.

Tasting with Ian Naudé at his cellar in March 2022.

I remember tasting the maiden 2018 vintage many months before commercial release and thinking that Ian Naude had created something very special indeed. The combination of the ethereal elegance and perfume of the Cinsault seamlessly married with the power and authority of Cabernet Sauvignon made for an incredible wine and my high ratings mirrored this excitement in every way. It was only a matter of time before the word “got out” and sure enough the 2018 was subsequently awarded a massive 5 Stars in the John Platter South African Wine Guide. Few pure Cinsaults or Cinsault blends ever achieve this regal accolade making the award even more significant.

With the Oupa Willem 2020 already in bottle, my review for the follow up 2019 vintage was long overdue.

Naude Family Wines Oupa Willem Cape Heritage Blend 2019, WO Western Cape, 11.5% Abv.

1.2 g/l RS | 5.65 g/l TA | 3.5 pH

This premium red blend draws on the unique South African expressions of 77% Darling old bush vine Cinsault planted in 1978 blended with prime Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon and fermented naturally using 40% whole bunches. Reduced yields in 2019 reminded everyone of the hangover the vines were still experiencing after four years of severe drought despite most regions receiving good rainfall during the season. Grape quantities may have been compromised but the quality was exceptional, and this 2019 red blend shows fabulously lifted notes of pink musk, red cherry, rose petals, violets and Turkish delight with some darker black berry fruit hints together with subtle nuances of raspberry herbal tea, graphite and cherry tobacco. The palate displays a wonderfully linear acid driven structure with a real mouth-watering verve and vigour, a magically textural plushness and weightless elegance. Trying to comprehend the intensity, fruit concentration and glycerol mouthfeel all delivered at an astonishing 11.5% abv. is simply mind blowing. This is another incredible vinous creation that will take its place in the history books of South African winemaking. Sure to be very long lived, the irony is that this wine is also unbelievably drinkable right now and many will find it impossibly hard to resist pulling the cork. Drink now to 2045+.

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

A Vintage Born Out of Adversity – Tasting the Phenomenal Chateau Musar 2015…

When it comes to adversity, there is little that has not been thrown at the people of Lebanon in the past few years. But as expected, resilience has once again become the byword for the tenacious locals in their struggle to resume normal lives after political turmoil, the Syrian refugee crisis, economic difficulties, the Covid pandemic and of course the disastrous Beirut port explosion on the 4th of August 2020. While all this chaos has been going on, the determined winemakers of the Bekaa Valley have soldiered on with their treasured alchemic art of turning grapes into incredibly fine wines.

After an almost 16 month wait, stocks of the highly anticipated 2015 Chateau Musar finally landed in the UK market at the end of 2021 defying ongoing shipping problems and global container shortages. True to the theme of adversity, the 2015 harvest proved to be one of the most challenging in a generation according to Chateau Musar. The start of the year was promising with January and February 2015 offering up plentiful amounts of rain and snow, followed in March by more snow before the weather gave way to warmer conditions in late March. But the optimism was short lived when in mid-April, exceptionally cold nigh time conditions returned with temperatures dropping to as low as -12 degrees C in one instance, damaging the already opening buds. By early May, the vineyards were filled with hectares of blackened vines suggesting a potentially catastrophic vintage ahead.

But miraculously, secondary green shoots emerged from the vines helped by higher temperatures in June and July. Clearly, yields were going to be greatly reduced for this harvest. The Syrah grapes were the first reds to be harvested on the 1st September with reduced yields of between 75% and 80% from the average while fortunately, the Cabernet Sauvignon seemed to be less affected when harvesting started on the 3rd of September. However during September, a heatwave struck the vineyards and while the Cabernet fruit avoided the worst of the frosts, the subsequent heatwave reduced yields by up to 65%. The Cinsault harvest started on the 8th of September with reduction in yields of between 40% and 70% depending on the vineyard location. The Carignan and Grenache were harvested on the 11th September with both varieties experiencing a reduction of 50% in yields before the final bunches of Mourvedre were harvested in early October. 2015 is certainly a year that will be remembered for its climatic difficulties but also hopefully for the final wine quality that reached the bottle.

Chateau Musar 2015, Bekaa Valley, 14% Abv.

Another seductive vintage of Musar with expressive aromatics of sweet red cherries, plum liquor, cinnamon spice, sweet cedar, cherry tobacco and balsamic reduction. The palate shows wonderful textural precision with polished sleek tannins, stewed cherries, hints of cola, pithy black currant and sweet sappy spice and a suave, super elegant finish that possesses an impressively pure, weightless intensity. This is a seriously classy Musar that has more in common with harmoniously elegant vintages like the 2010 than higher horsepower years like 1995 or 1999. Simply beautiful to drink now but exhibits a vibrant freshness that will keep this wine singing for many years to come. Drink now and over the next 20+ years.

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

Naudé Family Wines Releases the Long-Awaited Old Vine Werfdans Cinsault 2016…

If Chenin Blanc has become Ian Naude’s white wine calling card, then there is no doubt whatsoever that Old Vine Cinsault is his red equivalent despite the cult following for his incredible Grenache wines. Ian Naudé was recently over in London to launch a comprehensive selection of his new vintage releases including his Platter 5 Star Langpad Colombard 2021, his Platter 5 Star Oupa Willem 2019 Cape Heritage Blend, his Grenache 2019, and of course his long awaited Old Vine Cinsault 2016.

This benchmark expression of Darling / Swartland Old Vine Cinsault has now been labelled the Werfdans, an Afrikaans name for the small dust whirlwinds that spin and dance around the dusty coastal vineyards of the Swartland. If you are not familiar with Ian Naude’s Old Vine Cinsault wines, be sure not to miss this new creation that rivals the greatest expressions produced in South Africa from the likes of Eben Sadie, Duncan Savage, Donovan Rall and Mullineux Family Wines’ Leeu Passant venture.

Naude Family Wines Werfdans Old Vine Cinsault 2016, WO Darling, 12.5% Abv.

The fruit for this 100% Darling 43+ year old vine Cinsault was sourced from the late Boetie van Reenen’s farm in the Swartland. While the 2014 vintage was a slow burner that sizzled invitingly until it finally exploded with exuberance after a few years in bottle, the 2015 release was and is a long-standing icon wine that came close to redefining premium Cinsault in South Africa. In the 2016, Ian Naudé has shifted into sixth gear, coaxing some of the most seductive textures and flavours out of his old vine fruit. The aromatics are positively brimming with marzipan, Turkish delight, dried coriander seeds, violets and rose petal perfume with a subtle kiss of lychee exoticism. On the palate the quality shift is witnessed in full focus with a beguiling combination of sweet seductive red berry fruits, harmoniously textured concentration and a long, full, persistent finish that simply crashes the senses mainframe and announces something very very special indeed. This certainly is next level seductive Cinsault quality from the old vine master himself. Drink the 2016 now and over the next 10+ years.

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

Available in the UK from Museum Wines, Handford Wines and Vino SA.

Anthonij Rupert Wyne Pays Tribute to the Huguenot Founder of L’Ormarins with their Premium Jean Roi Rose 2020…

Rose remains one of the most popular and fastest growing wine categories globally and several things all the very best examples have in common is subtlety, balance, freshness and supreme drinkability. The Jean Roi Cap Provincial 2020 joins the growing global ranks of premium dry Roses and impresses from the word go.

The Riebeeksrivier farm is situated on the slopes of the Kasteelberg, over-looking the Swartland towards the iconic Table Mountain. Its unique terroir, especially with the brown friable shale soils, expresses itself strongly in the wine with unique varietal characteristics. The vines for this blend are all planted on south facing slopes at elevations of 350 – 400m above sea level. The Cinsaut and Grenache bushvines were planted in 1990 and 2017 respectively, and the higher density échalas trellised (vines trained on its own wooden stake) Shiraz vineyard was planted in 2011.

Grapes were hand-picked and packed into lug boxes before being transported to the cellar in refrigerated trucks. Great care was taken to minimise the amount of colour extraction from the grapes through gentle pressing, before settling and fermentation in stainless steel tanks. The wine was blended and kept on its fine lees for 9 months before being bottled.

Jean Roi Cap Provincial Rose 2020, WO Riebeeksrivier, 13.5% Abv.

5.4g/l TA | 2.6g/l RS | 3.22pH

Based on a classic Southern French Provençal blend of Cinsaut (48%), Grenache (43%) and Shiraz (9%), the aromatics are delicate and restrained showing fine nuances of savoury red berry compote, dried guava roll, rose petals, dried strawberries, complex pink rock candy and a dusty stony minerality. On the palate, the wine is crystalline and fresh but also harmonious and cool with purity and finesse. The finish is focused and long displaying mouth-watering acidity and delicate red cherry, cut apple and white peach fruits. But the true measure of a great Rose is of course drinkability and a wine’s ability to deliver hedonistic pleasure – this wine excels on both counts. Perfect for a summer of indulgence!

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

Tasting the New Leeu Passant 2021 Releases – A Project of Grand Ambition Coming of Age…

It has to be said that when Chris and Andrea Mullineux embarked on their new Leeu Passant adventure with silent partner Analjit Singh, there were many in the industry that thought that this duo would be better off focusing on their successful eponymous Swartland project at Roundstone instead of spreading themselves a bit thin across multiple wine regions. But when you are as driven and as wine curious as Chris and Andrea, holding back on their new winemaking endeavour was never an option. Since the first vintages released from the 2015 vintage, there has certainly been a high degree of evolution and even a bit of revolution as Chris and Andrea have shaken up the establishment in both Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

But in 2021, the Leeu Passant project can finally be considered to have come of age with some of their most compelling releases yet. With a conscious effort to try and realign the vintage releases a little more after choosing to hold back the 2018 Leeu Passant Dry Red and the Basson Vineyard Old Vine Cinsault 2018, they have finally reached a point where the extra year in bottle for these extraordinary wines has allowed them to be appreciated and admired for what they truly are – exceptional winemaking creations.

I normally visit Chris and Andrea at least once a year in the Swartland and then finally fill in the remaining gaps on one of their many trips to London. I certainly miss the Swartland and walking the vineyards with Chris as he explains all the new ideas they’re perpetually putting into practice in the vineyards. But these are strange times and unfortunately I had to make do with a Zoom tasting to acquaint myself with their fabulous new wine releases.

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

Made from a single vineyard in the Helderberg where the climate probably has a bigger fingerprint than even the soils and terroir but at 400 meters plus, the maritime climate really shapes the wine with very consistent temperatures, that yield high acidities and often 9 TA – 9.5 TAs before settling at around 7 TA when all is said and done. Whole bunch pressed with oxidative must handling then to barrel for 18 months in oak without SO2. Barrels were 225L size of which around 30% were new with the rest 2/3/4/5th fill.

The 2019 Chardonnay is a very serious contender for one of the top Chardonnays produced in South Africa along with a very small handful of obsessive producers. This Stellenbosch 2019 is full of power and focus with all the hallmark purity that Andrea Mullineux prides herself in. The aromatics are reminiscent of granitic river pebbles immersed in lemon cordial with a dusting of honey, toffee apples, lemon grass and dried baking herbs. Always brilliantly pure, crystalline and electric, the palate shows tremendous tension and linearity supported by astonishing fruit concentration and intensity. The balance and harmony are spellbinding, revealing sip after sip, the true pedigree of this wonderful Helderberg vineyard site in the hands of a masterful winemaker. Undoubtedly comparable to the very best Chardonnay expressions produced by Leeu Passant to date, this 2019 seems to pack an extra level of lemon and lime intensity making it already an incredibly appealing fine wine. Give this vintage at least three years from release in your cellar and then drink over 10+.

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

Leeu Passant Wellington Old Vine Basson Cinsault 2018, WO Wellington, 13% Abv.

This treasured dry-farmed Cinsault vineyard is the oldest certified red wine vineyard in South Africa, planted in circa 1900 and farmed by the Mullineuxs since 2014. One of the original Old Vine Project “Certified Heritage Vineyards” that has been held up as a shining beacon of education and preservation, these gnarled deep rooted old Cinsault bush vines are planted on deep, weathered sandy Table Mountain sandstone alluvial soils which yield wines deceptively light in colour but also impressively structured, taut and rich. Producing as little as 600 kilograms of fruit in 2015, the plot has now been nursed back to rude health enough to yield two tons of fruit in 2019.

This vineyard always shows plenty of structure, power and focus and the 2018 vintage is considered one of the most structured yet. In its current youthful state, the aromatics are distinctively stony and mineral but also fabulously perfumed showing notes of potpourri, lavender, bramble berries, fynbos and Turkish delight. The palate is incredibly precise and foursquare with a polished structure and frame you just don’t expect from such a delicately fragrant wine. The texture is dense and tightly packed, the wine concentrated and intense but also deceptively light on its feet revealing notes of cranberry, red cherry and wild strawberries on the finish all supported by the most powdery, silky tannins imaginable. A difficult wine even for me to put accurately into words because it is so evocative on both an emotional level as well as on a sensorial level. Drink this wine from release and over the next 30+ years. (Circa 1,800 bottles produced)

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

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv

Chris and Andrea experimented with over 20 different vineyards around Stellenbosch before they started to focus on five specific vineyards including two in the Helderberg, two in the Polkadraai Hills and one 40-year-old parcel in Firgrove close to False Bay. Three of these five vineyards already contribute fruit that goes into their flagship Leeu Passant Dry Red Blend together with components of the Lotter Cinsault, the Wellington Basson Cinsault and a splash of Cabernet Franc. The wine sees only 30% new oak with some extended maceration that changes from site to site with the older Firgrove vineyard seeing the longest maceration. With vines grown on a mix of alluvial soils and decomposed granite soils, the grapes produce a sleek, crystalline, elegant style of Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon that many say harks back to the golden age of Bordeaux’s finest old Clarets. The wines are aged for 12 months before being moved to larger 2000 and 5000 litre upright oak vats for another year of aging before spending several months in bottle before release.

The aromatics are wonderfully lifted and perfumed showing all the intricacies of cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon fruit. There is an intriguing piquant leafy spice that melts into notes of liquid minerality, granitic dust and graphite while underneath the mineral veil is a powerful depth of fruit held on a very short rein lest it bursts out the glass. There are seductive notes of violets, sweet cedary spice, saline black currant, hints of iodine and fresh kelp brought in on the morning’s tide. On the palate there is plenty of textural precision on display for all to see, confidently boasting layer upon layer of stony minerality, sweet cherry tobacco, cassis leaf, black tea, tilled earth and creamy dense powdery tannins. Fabulously old school on so many levels, this wine will undoubtedly age well and develop into something that harks back to the great old Clarets of times gone by. Drink from 2024 until 2040+

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

Leeu Passant Dry Red 2018, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.

The impressive wine is formed of two old vine Cinsault blocks (Basson and Lotter), three Cabernet Sauvignon parcels and Cabernet Franc from the Helderberg. The 2018 is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 16% Cinsault (in 2018 mostly Basson and lesser amounts of the opulent Lotter), with the Basson Cinsault being whole bunch fermented. Some of the Cinsault is co-fermented with the 40+ year old Cabernet Sauvignon while the Cabernet Franc, planted in the early 1990s, if vinified separately. The Dry Red traditionally sees the components aged 12 months in 500 litre oak barrels separately before being blended and aged for another 12 months in large 2000-litre old oak foudre. The wine now also spends an extra year in bottle “because when it was released earlier, the Cinsault component seemed to dominate the style. Now with the extra 12 months in bottle it is a far more harmonious wine”, according to Chris Mullineux. Almost 10,000 bottles were produced in 2018 compared to circa 4,000 bottles in 2015, the maiden vintage.

My experience of tasting this wine has sometimes been somewhat of a challenge because in its early years, the individual components often seemed to intermittently compete with one another for aromatic and flavour dominance. The extra years ageing in bottle has been a game-changer. The wine is now so incredibly lifted and perfumed with a real melange of red currant, wild strawberry, pressed violets and vanilla pod spice bursting out the glass. There is such magnificent purity, precision and a real synergy that shines through the wine. The palate is incredibly dense, textured and luxuriously opulent, packed full of fleshy red cherry and cranberry pastille fruits, Turkish delight and red currant jelly. Perhaps it’s the vintage or perhaps it’s just the extra bottle age but this wine seems so much more complete with less obvious sapidity and spice and much more harmonious fleshy layers of red fruit and creamy, savoury tannins. This is an absolute triumph of a wine and a flagship vintage Dry Red that single-handedly announces the true ‘arrival’ of the entire Leeu Passant project. Drink this phenomenal wine on release and over the next 30+ years.

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

Tasting Imvini Wethu – Another Incredible Old Vine Project Wine Hits the EU Market…

This is a super exciting new wine from South Africa made in association with the Protégé Programme run under the supervision of Andrea Mullineux (Mullineux Wines), the current Cape Winemakers Guild Chair.

Imvini Wethu means “our vines” in Zulu, and the 2019 vintage is the maiden release of a wine conceived by the German trade with the intention of empowering future winemakers and protecting South African wine heritage, with the Cape Winemakers Guild’s Protégé Programme and the Old Vine Project run by Rosa Kruger and Andre Morgenthal being the specific beneficiaries.

Imvini Wethu Old Vine Cinsault Pinotage 2019, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.

All this wine needed was 15 minutes in a decanter before it really started to perform! A blend of 70% Cinsault and 30% Pinotage, this wine shows the very best of both varieties in a wonderful synergy. The Cinsault grapes come from a Franschhoek vineyard planted in 1932 and the Pinotage from a vineyard in Stellenbosch planted in 1973. There is plenty of perfume and lift with seductive notes of Turkish delight, rose petals and violets. The nose is packed full of red and black berry fruits, black cherry, dark sweet plum, vanilla spice and a dusting of mocha choc powder. The palate is fleshy and fresh, juicy and accessible with a sleek seamless texture, soft creamy tannins and a long harmonious finish. A wine that delivers a whole lot of frolicsome pleasure in a very more’ish manner. Drink now and over 6-8+ years.

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

Warwick Winery Joins the Cape Heritage Blend Club With a Very Classy Effort…

The Warwick winery has dabbled with new creations over the years with some of the Black Lady Syrahs standing out as memorable. But what could be more inspirational than a fine Simonsberg Cape Heritage Blend featuring a slug of Cabernet Sauvignon with 13% of Cinsault. A match made in heaven the old boys will tell you.

With the Simonsberg ward making some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon in Stellenbosch, I was fascinated to see if the Cinsault would add that little Je ne sais quoi to the blend.

Warwick Professor Black Pitch Black 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

This well crafted red was matured for 18 months in French oak barrels and is made up of a trendy blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Cabernet Franc, 13% Cinsault, 10% Merlot , 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec. Wonderful to have another Cape Heritage Blend enter the fray. This exciting expression shows a rich earthy aromatics initially dominated by alluring notes of capsicum, red currants, iodine, fresh cedar and vanilla pod spice. The palate texture is spicy and a little prickly but boasts ample depth and extract. There are layers of black current, tart black plum, dried herbs and hoisin plum sauce. There is plenty of elegance and harmony but to be honest, little sign of the Cinsault component at this youthful stage. With the natural 2017 vintage weightless elegance an succulent freshness, this is another mouth-watering red blend that will appeal to Cabernet Franc converts. Prep the slow roast leg of lamb to accompany! Drink on release and over 15+ years. (90 barrels produced, or approximately 27,000 bottles)

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

The Original Swartland Maverick Adi Badenhorst Presents His New 2021 Wine Releases…

The Kalmoesfontein farm is the home of Adi Badenhorst Family Wines situated in the Heart of the Paardeberg in the Swartland. An historic old farm, it was already planted with some of the oldest Grenache blocks in the country when Adi bought the farm in the mid-2000s. One of the original Swartland mavericks, Adi Badenhorst had already carved out a formidable winemaking reputation at Rustenburg before moving to the Swartland in 2006/7.

I recently caught up with Adi over a zoom tasting to taste a lovely array of his newest releases (from small decanted sample bottles which in some instances can affect a wine’s ultimate score detrimentally.)

AA Badenhorst New Releases:

AA Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

Made from up to 30 vineyards from different terroirs with the juice often being blended in tanks and 30% fermented in wooden vats. No yeasts added, no acidification, focusing on an honest, affordable, non-manipulated Chenin Blanc with a lot of the fruit from old bush vines. The 2020 is packed with peach stone fruits, yellow orchard fruits, hints of wet thatch, green melon and green apple nuances with a fine textural mouthfeel, juicy acids and a peachy, pithy length. A very versatile wine that offers great value for money.

(Wine Safari Score: 88/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

AA Badenhorst Secateurs Riviera Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

A component of the Secateurs that was bottled on its own in 2018 for the first time using layers of fruit in tank to get carbonic maceration and skin contact. Mostly Chenin Blanc with a splash of Grenache Blanc. Then they draw off components of the wine at different stages and no sulphur is added. The wine is picante and aromatic, spicy and complex with delicious notes of tangerine peel, oranges, sea breeze and kelp and crunchy peaches. Definite skin contact aromas and subtle skin contact flavours on the palate but nothing enough to scare off novices. Texturally it’s full, glycerol harmonious and round and just a lovely complex glassful of wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

AA Badenhorst Sout van die Aarde Palomino 2019, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Another unique wine from Adi. Up the west coast, so one of the only vineyards quite a distance from Kalmoesfontein. Grapes from old vines (planted 1950s & 1970s) are grown in limestone chalky sandy soils, pressed and fermented in vats. The nose is pure sea breeze and oyster shell with back notes of grapefruit, white citrus and limestone minerality. On the palate, the 2019 is soft and fleshy, textured and harmonious with a cool, glycerol density, weightless concentration and a soft, almost creamy, salty finish. No edges, fabulous balance and just a pleasure to drink. 

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

AA Badenhorst Family White Blend 2018, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

Made from 10 to 12 different varieties, the grapes are all sourced from the Swartland and the wine tries to represent the region instead of a specific variety or style but with all grapes grown on decomposed Granite soils. The nose is pithy and spicy with hints of pear, fynbos, dry thatch and back ground hints of tangerine, naartjie, peach and green apples. The palate is crisp, crystalline, pure and bright with a lovely harmonious balance, a delicate lick of vanilla and oak, subtle savoury lees characters and a long, sweet / sour intense finish loaded with pineapple pastille and yellow rock candy. Powerful, intense and textural. A really lovely Swartland expression. 

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

AA Badenhorst Golden Slopes Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 12.5% Abv.

Another superb single vineyard bottled by Adi, the 2019 Golden Slopes Chenin Blanc is an old vines vineyard grown on decomposed granite soils and often tends to shine as one of Adi’s most accomplished expressions of Chenin Blanc. Planted at 320m above sea level on granite, with heavier clay rich soils. The heavier soils yield a more unctuous, textural Chenin expression loaded with white peach, pithy yellow orchard fruits, granitic dust and a lovely round, rich glycerol textured palate wth fabulous intensity and superb length. What not to love about this wine?

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

AA Badenhorst Klip Kop Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

Old vine bush vines near the Golden Slopes vineyard but just a bit lower down the slope or around 120 metres lower down at 200 metres above sea level, located on a rocky outcrop with more austere soils which comes through on the more steely, mineral nature of the wine. The aromatics are austere and picante, mineral and tense, loaded with stony, granitic white citrus, white grapefruit, green apple and crushed rocks. The palate is pure and linear, with a glassy defined vein of acidity and a pure, crunchy peach stone fruit finish. I love the tension, the nervous energy married to a harmonious equilibrium. Superb.

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

AA Badenhorst Family Red Blend 2018, /WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Another of Adi’s signature wines, using 5 to 6 different varieties fermented in concrete, some portions in tank and then they are transferred back into concrete with around 10,000 bottles produced. Nose shows delicious complexity with savoury, meaty, red fruited notes with hints of back currant, black olive tapenade and raw marinated meat. The palate shows a lovely balance and elegance, textural finesse and seamless mouthfeel where one variety melts into the other. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A truly delicious wine. 

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

AA Badenhorst Family Ramnasgras Cinsault 2019, WO Swartland, 12.5% Abv.

Located next to the Raaigras Grenache vineyard, located on the farm and always shows a unique character from vines planted in the early 1960’s. The secret to quality is old vines, low cropping and well tended vineyards. The nose is jam packed full of savoury red berry fruits, sun raisined cranberry, red cherry, Turkish delight and rose petals perfume but with this Swartland expression showing another layer of earthy red currant fruit, Sous Bois and leafy sapidity. On the palate the texture is cool and creamy, fabulous textural balance and finesse with silky, chalky tannins, a soft fleshy depth and an almost Pinot Noir elegance and mouthfeel. Really impressive.

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

AA Badenhorst Family Raaigras Grenache 2019, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

A wonderfully exotic, perfumed wine that is supposed to come from the oldest Grenache vineyard in South Africa planted in the 1950s. There is a lovely creamy, savoury, earthy red berry intensity with super polished tannins, an incredibly finessed palate texture and a long, bramble berry, cranberry and rose hip finish. This 2019 shows some of the most harmonious elegance I’ve seen on any of Adi’s reds and really is a true hommage to this ancient vineyard. Bravo!

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

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going – Tasting the Phenomenal New Release Savage Wines 2019 Vintages…

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.)

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