“These old bush vines must come from the most isolated and lonely vineyard we bring into our cellar” winemaker Alex Milner quips. Planted on a lonely hill surrounded by wheat fields, and too many gates to remember, this vineyard stands very alone. Planted in 1978 on Malmesbury formation soils, with some influence of decomposed granite, it faces South Southwest and experiences the important cooling summer wind of the afternoon South Wester blowing in off the Atlantic, only 16km away. It is this uniqueness that allows Natte Valleij to offer something of exceptional quality and interest. This Cinsault was matured for 11 months in a 2500 litre old oak foudre to maintain the poise and reflection of this old vineyard’s terroir.
I recently caught up with Alex Milner in March at his cellar during harvest and then again in early May in London to taste through all his new releases. But two of his wines specifically left a very big impression on me, namely his single vineyard old vine Cinsault reds from Stellenbosch and Darling, that are made in circa 2,000 bottle quantities.
Natte Valleij Darling Old Vine Cinsault 2021, WO, 12% Abv.
This Darling Old Vine 2021 Cinsault is really something to behold. If ever there was a wine that proved that Cinsault could be world-class, then this is it. In the glass, the wine shows an opaque red plum colour and has a hedonistically high-toned perfumed aromatics of freshly picked rose petals and sweet lilacs before a complex melange of crunchy red orchard fruits seduces the senses. Wonderfully fresh and vibrant, the soft fleshy palate reveals potent notes red cherry, raspberry and strawberry pastille fruits before the classic Darling hallmark Turkish delight nuances come to the fore. Delicately mineral with a succulent intensity and tangy sweet and sour acidity, this 2021 Darling Cinsault is definitely ‘hall of fame’ quality with focus, depth and precision. Drink on release to enjoy its rose petal floral freshness or cellar for 6 to 8+ years to allow the old vine fruit to show its true regal potential. They don’t come much better than this!
(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
The Natte Valleij wines are imported exclusively into the UK by Museum Wines and the single vineyard Cinsault reds retail for circa £27pb.
The 2017 vintage has, over the years, become one of the most lauded and sought after quality vintages for red wines in South Africa, potentially even surpassing the famed block buster expressions of 2015. Falling right in the middle of the drought years, the vineyards all around the Western Cape had finally started to readjust to the new perpetuated heat and drought conditions. I tasted some of Ian Naude’s 2017 Cinsault barrels not long after harvest and realised very early on that this was going to be a very special vintage indeed.
The 2017 harvest was slightly larger than 2016, following another dry season. The growing season, post-harvest, was very hot and dry and winter arrived late in most wine regions. Spring arrived on time with cooler nights throughout the growing season and an absence of significant heatwaves during harvest time helped buffer the effect of the ongoing drought. Higher rainfall brought some relief in certain regions although it still was very much below average. The dry conditions did contribute to very healthy vineyards and smaller berries with good colour and flavour concentration. The harvest season kicked off somewhat later due to cool night temperatures however ripening accelerated by mid-February and the harvest ended earlier than usual.
Ian Naude has always had a knack of confounding critics when they taste his cool, crystalline, flavour-packed wines and then realise that they are often only 11% or 12% alcohol wines with ample texture, depth, structure and ripeness. Ian confirms that the challenge is always to interpret the vintage conditions correctly in order to monitor the natural fruit / acid balance in the grapes and of course, getting the picking dates correct. This can only be achieved with regular visits to the vineyard, tasting the grapes and then understanding when the flavours tell you to pick, not the laboratory results.
I had an opportunity to taste the 2017 Cinsault in November 2022 in London at a tasting with Ian Naude and then again in March 2023 on my recent visit to the Cape winelands. Watch out for this new release in early May 2023!
Naude Wines Werfdans Old Vine Cinsault 2017, WO Darling, 12.5% Abv.
1.6g/l RS | 5.2g/l TA | 3.51 pH
Finally ready for release 6 years after vintage, the 2017 Werfdans Cinsault is undoubtedly one of the most exciting wines Ian has released to date under his own Naude Wines label. From an exceptional vintage, the 2017 is altogether tighter, tauter and more compact than the opulent and gregarious Werfdans 2016, coming across as a more serious, confident and highly composed expression of old vine Cinsault. Ian already makes some of the most regaled expressions of serious old vine Cinsault in South Africa, but the 2017 takes quality up another notch or two. The aromatics are initially a little more broody and restrained with a slow perfumed release of pressed violets, red bramble berry fruits, wild strawberry, sour cherry, sun raisined cranberry and the signature top notes of rose petals, crushed granite minerality and Turkish delight. The palate is packed as tight as a sailor’s sea chest, with a fruit density, concentration and power delivered with an effortless elegance. Always deliciously fresh and crystalline, the bright acids help frame the youthful palate fruit adding further structural integrity, finally yielding on the finish to delicately drying, mineral, fine grained stony tannins. This is an incredibly striking, long awaited fine wine release that all committed Cinsault aficionados are going to be seduced by. Drink on release and over the next 20+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Wines are imported and distributed in the UK by Museum Wines. http://www.museumwines.co.uk at an approximate retail price of £39 per bottle.
Groote Post has always been best known for its coastal Sauvignon Blanc but in recent years its other wines notably their Chardonnay, Shiraz and Pinot Noir have gained greater recognition from international critics. But it is undoubtedly the Seasalter white blend that seems to garner the most column inches in the wine press. As the story goes, it all happened with owner, Nick Pentz back in 2013, when on one of his regular wine marketing trips to the UK, he visited the tiny mediaeval village of Seasalter, which had been a local centre for salt production in the Iron Age. He immediately fell for the quaint name which resonated with the harsh, barren conditions on the Cape West Coast which is battered by the cold Atlantic Ocean. As Nick says… “one way or another, I was determined that I would use this name on a Groote Post wine one day.”
With the Groote Post winemaker Lukas Wentzel regularly experimenting with Sauvignon Blanc, partial oaking, and the addition of Semillon, the Seasalter blend was a wine just waiting to happen. So in the 2015 vintage, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon was assembled for bottling. The Seasalter is a blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Semillon with 30% of the Sauvignon Blanc fermented and aged for 8 months in 300 litre French oak barrels. The remaining components were fermented in stainless steel tanks and left on the fine lees until bottling.
Groote Poste Seasalter Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon 2022, WO Darling, 13.47% Abv.
This is a delicious West Coast wine that has been earning itself a solid reputation over the past few years. Made in the Darling Hills, just 10 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the cool breezes help keep the temperature in the region down making it a perfect terroir for its blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc with 10% Semillon added to give a bit of richness and extra textural weight. On the nose there are enticing notes of white peach, green apple, freshly cut pears, white citrus, yellow grapefruit zest and a subtle sea spray salinity. The palate is equally captivating with delicious layers of unripe tangerines, passionfruit, yellow citrus, creamy lemon, Granny Smith apples, and yet more maritime coastal salinity. This 2022 is pitch perfect with the Sauvignon Blanc doing all the heavy lifting and the Semillon playing a supporting role in adding palate texture and extra herbal complexity. The touch of oak ageing is almost imperceptible but leaves a subconscious imprint of creaminess and savoury depth. I taste the Seasalter, Groote Post’s highly acclaimed flagship Sauvignon Blanc, every year and I can say with certainly that they have absolutely nailed it with this 2022 release. Drink now on release or cellar for extra complexity for 3 to 5+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Wines available to the UK trade from Hayward Bros and retails for circa £16.99-£17.99 per bottle.
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.
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+.
The Axle Chenin Blanc is made by Alex Milner of Natte Valleij winery from grapes sourced from a dryland old bush vine certified Darling heritage block planted in 1985 on decomposed granite soils. Made in a very minimalist, low intervention manner without losing any of its fine wine integrity, this wine is a classy textural style of Chenin Blanc undoubtedly best enjoying with food.
The grapes were basket pressed and allowed to settle for 24 hours, then racked into old 225 litre oak barrels with careful addition of fine lees sediment to each barrel. After natural fermentation the wine received regular batonnage until late May. Aged in barrel over winter, the wine was bottled in the Spring after 9 months.
Natte Valleij Axle Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Darling, 12.5% Abv.
2.8 g/l RS | 5.5 g/l TA | 3.75 pH
This delicious expression comes across as quite a rustic, natural leaning artisanal Chenin Blanc with aromatics of pear, pineapple pastille, sea breeze, sweet yellow orchard fruits, dried herbs and stony granitic minerality. The palate shows tension and frame with pithy phenolic grip, tangy layers of quince, root ginger, white pear, yellow apple and a subtle sweet – sour acidity that lends the wine such a delicious vibrant energy and intensity. Wonderfully characterful old vine Chenin Blanc from certified heritage vineyards. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5 years.
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.
I first reviewed this wine back in December 2020. But with its release in the UK market imminent, I thought I would have another look at what must surely rank as one of the top Grenache reds produced in South Africa. Despite over 30+ producers producing in excess of 100 Grenache-based wines – mostly blended – from the 350 hectares of Grenache planted in South Africa, it still ranks as somewhat of a curiosity variety compared to industry stalwarts like Syrah or Cinsault.
But there is no doubt about the quality heights this grape is capable of in regions like the Swartland. If Grenache is a variety that gets you excited, look no further than the new Naude 2019.
Naude Family Wines Grenache 2019, WO Swartland, 12% Abv.
RS 1.2 g/L | TA 6.1 g/L | pH 3.2 g/L
While this may only be Ian Naude’s second Grenache attempt from this special Swartland vineyard, he certainly seems to have done the fruit justice creating a wonderfully expressive red. A light translucent cherry red colour, the aromatics are jam packed with crunchy red berry fruits, rose petals, musk, lavender, dried baking herbs and enticing savoury Chinese five spice nuances. The clarity and purity of fruit on the nose translates into an incredibly precise, focused invigorating palate with mouth-watering juicy fresh acids, crystalised red cherries, tart red cranberry and a long, linear finish that reveals a fine stony minerality. Lovely wound spring tension lends a serious note to the wine ensuring that this fabulous 2019 will be as equally long lived as its maiden predecessor, the 2014. However, this wine definitely has more Naude signature elegance, freshness, linearity and precision than the 2014 had at the same youthful stage. The five-year wait has certainly been worthwhile! This is a triumph of skilful winemaking utilising outstanding fruit. Bravo Ian! Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years.
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.)
Fully appreciating a wine region’s heritage is one of the most important building blocks for long term future success. This premium Old Vine red from Naude Family Wines draws on the unique South African expression of Darling bush vine Cinsault blended with prime Cabernet Sauvignon from Durbanville to create something quite magical in the context of cool, classical, linear styles of premium South African red wine.
Fermented dry naturally to 12% Abv. using 40% whole bunches, this elegant red wine displays a fabulous brightness and a weightless concentration of red and black berry fruits that are embroidered with classical fragrant notes of red cherry, rose petals, violets and marzipan underpinned by a mouth watering acidity.
Indeed all the amazing old historical South African red wines of the 1950s and 1960s exploited this incredible synergy between the elegance, finesse and lithe supple purity of Cinsault and the plushness, power, flesh and textural concentration of the Cabernet Sauvignon. Once these varieties join hands in union, the whole is immediately incrementally greater than the sum of its individual parts. Having tasted and reviewed every wine Ian has ever made, this incredible Oupa Willem 2018 release represents a new pinnacle of quality in the next chapter of Naude Family Wines. Drink now or cellar for 20+ years.
Yet again we are approaching one of the most exciting moments of the year… the launch of the new releases of Duncan Savage’s sought after wines. It was only after I started compiling an archive list of all the past Savage wine scores, featured below, that I realised how quickly time passes and why so many winemakers feel under so much pressure to learn, grow and utilise their incremental knowledge in each consecutive vintage release. After all, we don’t measure winemakers in age, we measure them in how many vintages they’ve made and how many more they realistically have left, all going well.
But as I write this post, our fleeting, finite time on this planet is made all the more stark as I learnt today of the sad passing of Boetie van Reenen, one of the young vineyard owners and growers responsible for much of the fruit that goes into many of Duncan Savage’s wines. Let’s hope his memory lives on in the age worthy wines of Duncan and his fellow winemakers.
On a more cheerful note, 2017 was the year that Savage Wines found a permanent home in a wonderful winery space in Salt River, just outside the city bowl suburbs of central Cape Town. Securing these premises was a massive coup for Duncan and his future growth plans. Quality can only get better with the extra focus his own winery will afford him.
Savage Wines’ 2017 Releases:
Savage White Blend 2016
After producing one of the most memorable Savage white blends in the 2015 vintage, the 2016 offering was always going to come under ever closer scrutiny. From the second of the drought vintages, this white from Duncan Savage is a blend of 54% Sauvignon Blanc, 29% Semillon and 17% Chenin Blanc with a 14% Abv. A brilliant lime straw yellow, this wine has a bold and expressive aromatic profile of pithy grated lemon peel, pineapple pastille fruits, crushed limestone minerality, pear drops and sugar dusted marshmallows. Pause for too long to appreciate the complexity in the glass and before you know it the wine has evolved further, offering up yet more intricate notes of white citrus blossom, crunchy green pears and dried baking spices of basil and thyme. With the sizeable chunk of 17% Chenin Blanc asserting itself in the blend, the 2016 has a much more distinctive Cape feel rather than the white Bordeaux Graves expression of previous vintages. There is an intense, piercing concentration to the palate, with powerful glycerol notes of white citrus, yellow grapefruit, crunchy white peaches, and tangerine peel, underpinned by a herby, dusty, wet chalk minerality. Rich, unctuous and roundly textured, this wine coats every corner of the drinker’s palate and asserts its exceptional quality, complexity and winemaking pedigree. Drink now to 2027.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Savage Follow the Line Red Blend 2016
For the previous two vintages of this wine, one could wonder whether perhaps it’s exceptional quality and intensity was perhaps the result of a lucky synergistic blend or the product of a very complex, generous vintage. But this 2016 is probably the vintage that looks set to impress the critics yet again and seduce the consumer even more so than the crunchy 2015 vintage. A blend of 44% Cinsaut, 37% Grenache and 19% Syrah at 13% Abv, this wine sings a lofty melodic chorus the moment the cork is pulled. The riper, dryer vintage evidently plays to the strengths of these red varieties with the most seductive perfumed nose of parma violets, sweet cherry blossom, bathroom soaps, rose petals and potpourri sweet spice. The brilliance of this wine lies in the synergy created marrying the vibrant marzipan laden Cinsaut with the sappy, mineral, red fruited Grenache, leaving the Syrah to lend a tantalising depth of structure and peppery savouriness. The palate is so seamless, harmonious and elegant with sweet boiled raspberry bon bons, red current herbal tea infusions, ripe cranberries, and a crunchy, vibrant, strawberry fruited finale. Such sweet, silky, fleshy tannins linger on a creamy, opulent, energetic finish. Perhaps less of the exotic, crunchy hubris of the 2015, but the 2016 is certainly a far more self assured, confident red wine that looks set to once and for all, cement its global icon status as one of the truly great fine wines to follow, year in, year out. Drink now to 2030+.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Savage Are We There Yet? Red Blend 2016
A new wine in the Savage range, anyone who knows Duncan well will know that Touriga Nacional is a grape that has impressed him more and more over the years. Starting with small amounts blended into his Savage red, this new expression is a bold blend of 85% Touriga Nacional, 8% Cinsaut and 7% Grenache at 14.5 Abv. The dominant variety of the Douro Valley in Portugal, this big bold red shows a heady, lifted nose of violets, earthy mulberry, red currants, liquorice, and macerated damson plums, with complexing notes of tannery leather, sappy hedgerow, and sweet cedar and clove spice. Despite the opulent, seductive, confit fruit notes, there is a dusty, crushed grey slate mineral vein that starts on the nose and continues right through the palate. Full and fleshy, the Touriga Nacional from Malgas is supple, opulent and sweetly fruited. The Cinsaut lends both an exotic, marzipan and violet fragrant lift, but more importantly adds freshness and extra acidity cut. An intriguing wine from a very warm, dry vintage, this wine could become the natural counter-foil to the Savage Follow the Line and its crunchy, nervy energy. This bold red will find a large, welcoming audience in both the local and international markets when released. Drink now to 2026+.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Savage Red Blend 2016
If there is one wine in the Savage range that would have embraced the warm, dry growing conditions of 2016, then it must surely be the Savage red. In 2016, it is comprised of 81% Syrah, 11% Grenache and 8% Cinsaut at 13.5 Abv. Perhaps the most classically proportioned of all the Savage reds, this Syrah dominated blend has a beautifully complex nose of perfumed dried roses, black berry fruits, grilled herbs, cured meats, garrigue, fynbos and dusty granitic minerality. Very forward and opulent, the 2016’s are showing wonderful overt confidence and composure already at this early stage. Indeed the Savage red is often the one specific wine that demands a few extra years in bottle before showing you its full potential. The palate is so fleshy and forward with accessibly soft, harmonious tannins and sleek vibrant acids that elevate the red cranberry and strawberry fruit flavours and highlight the wines impressive palate concentration and depth. This seductive Savage red is going to be a hard one to keep away from your corkscrew! Drink now to 2030+.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
The South African launch of these wines is scheduled for 1st August 2017. You can email email@example.com or ring +27 21 785 4019 to request an allocation.
The Savage Wines Score Archive Since Maiden Release:
Savage White Blend 2016 – 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Follow the Line Red Blend 2016 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Are We There Yet Red Blend 2016 – 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Red Blend 2016 – 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage White Blend 2015 – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Red Blend 2014 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Follow the Line Red Blend 2015 – 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Girl Next Door Syrah 2015 – 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage White Blend 2014 – 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Red Blend 2013 – 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Follow the Line Red Blend 2014 – 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Girl Next Door Syrah 2014 – 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Red Blend 2012 – 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage White Blend 2013 – 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage Red Blend 2011 – 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW
Savage White Blend 2012 – 94-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW