Revisiting a Unicorn Red – Tasting the Maiden Savage Wines Girl Next Door Syrah 2014…

Duncan Savage has just released his very impressive 2019 vintages to the market. Yet again he has created an impressive line up of whites and reds that continue to earn him new fine wine followers the world over.

To mark his new releases, I thought I’d pull something special out the cellar and revisit one of his rarest wines… the maiden vintage of the Girl Next Door Syrah 2014. Chatting to Duncan recently during lockdown, I tried to discover a little bit more about this fabled vineyard that produces one of the most profound expressions of Syrah in South Africa.

Tasting the Savage Girl Next Door 2014 along side a Jean-Luc Jamet Syrah 2017.

Running through recent vintages… “2015 was super light and I had to pick early! The birds totally fucked us…” Duncan explains in his own gregarious style. “2017 probably delivered as good as this block gets and 2018 revealed a more black olive, savoury character with a much more overt saline note perhaps due to the smaller water stressed canopy. But in 2019 the vines looked great after a massive mulching exercise, and the finished wine is incredible. Looking ahead, 2020 is probably the best yet and will be released in June/July 2021. In my mind, quality definitely tracks the vineyard health, the vintage and ones overall understanding of the two” says Duncan.

From a vineyard yielding a notoriously tiny production volume of around 2 x 500L barrels, Duncan produced two barrels in 2014, similarly small amounts in 2015, nothing at all in 2016, only 700 bottles in 2017, just over 1000 bottles in 2018, 1400 odd bottles in 2019 and around 1600 bottles in 2020. “It’s slowly getting better with the use of nets to protect the fruit against the birds and as we get to know the block better and better. We also weened the vineyard off water from 2017 and it is completely dry-land grown now” explains Duncan.

Savage Girl Next Door Syrah 2014, WO Cape Peninsula, 12.5 % Abv.

A mythical wine in so many ways that creates extra expectations. When freshly opened, it shows a tight concertinaed aromatic profile. Slowly and gently, the wine unfurls to reveal notes of roasted Autumn chestnuts, savoury cured meats, liquorice and stewed winter berries. There’s a creamy, lactic, brûléed black berry compote note with spicy hints of sweet black pepper, olive tapenade, grilled herbs and pureed black berry fruits. The palate is tight knit, taut and supremely composed showing a classical, earthy, restrained fruit concentration and an elegance that only the great Syrah wines of Cote Rotie, Hermitage and the Northern Rhône can offer. With 6 years of age there is very little evolution to speak of and only the most subtle, complex suggestion of secondary tertiary evolution. In my cellar, I’d happily leave extra bottles to slumber for a further 5-8 years with full confidence this wine will continue to age elegantly for 10 to 15+ years or more. A true unicorn wine produced in such small quantities that I can only suppose that very few of the original 1,300 bottles produced are still hiding in collectors’ dark cellars.

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

Duncan Savage Releases His Most Sophisticated Range of Wines Yet – Tasting the Savage 2018 Vintage Wines…

I have been very fortunate to have tasted and reviewed every single vintage of red and white Savage Wines since the maiden 2011 red and 2012 white. Duncan Savage is certainly now well bedded into his new urban winery in Salt River and the 2018 range of new releases represents probably Duncan’s finest, most self assured range of wines produced to date. While certain individual back vintages may have recorded higher critical scores for wines in his range, this year’s releases are not only his most consistent quality wise but also the most confident and well honed wines produced.

With many of the Savage cuvees selling out on release, followers of Duncan’s exceptional wines are encouraged to get in quickly to avoid disappointment. As for Duncan himself, he is of the firm opinion that the Savage Red 2017 and Savage White 2018 are probably two of the best wines he has ever produced and more specifically, were made in a style that he is striving to perfect.

Tasting with Duncan Savage at his winery in Salt River, Cape Town in April 2019.

Savage Follow the Line Cinsault 2018, 13% Abv.

While only in its 5th vintage, if there was a race to create a cult wine in South Africa in the shortest time possible, this wine would stand a very good chance of winning. But with instant fame comes increased pressure and expectation and the 2018 vintage was not one of the easiest in South Africa due to drought conditions. But these 38 year old south-east facing Darling origin bush vines once again showed their true pedigree. Labelled as Cinsault, the 2018 includes 85.4% Cinsault and a slightly elevated 14.6% of Syrah, which were aged five weeks on their skins with the use of 50% of whole-bunches. The wine was aged 10 months in oval foudre (1500-2000 litre capacity). Always sublimely perfumed and fragrant, the nose boasts lifted layers of dried lavender, violets, rose petals, red crystallised cherries and hints of Turkish delight. But it is on the palate that the wine reveals a classy weightless streamlined concentration, fabulously sleek polished mineral tannins and an all round sense of finesse and harmony. A terrifically serious effort from Duncan. Pressure? What pressure! Drink from release but do cellar a few bottles for 5 to 8+ years. 

(95/100 Greg Sherwood MW )

 

Savage Thief in the Night 2018, 13% Abv.

The maiden 2017 vintage of this wine was released to rave critical reviews last year despite this cuvee still being a work in progress. The 2018 blend retains a punchy slug of 54% Grenache, a slightly elevated 24% Syrah and a fine supporting 22% Cinsault from the Piekenierskloof. Components were fermented separately unlike 2017, with the grapes spending 10 days on their skins using 20% whole-bunches. After 10 months of ageing in 3,200 litre conical foudre and one new 225 litre barrel, the wine was bottled unfiltered off its fine lees. When I tasted this wine from barrel, I instantly remarked what a step up I thought it was even on the excellent 2017. In bottle, the aromatics display a wonderfully crisp, pure delineated red cherry scented top note with plenty of granitic minerality and graphite in support. Subtle notes of sweet sappy red currant and red plum confit allow the nose to retain an element of broodiness but there is no holding back the palate however, which bristles with delicious vibrancy, wild strawberry, a bright pin point acidity and again an opulent, glycerol weightless intensity and concentration. This really is a genuinely thrilling wine!

(94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Savage Are We There Yet 2018, Malgas, 13% Abv.

Where the 2016 was perhaps a little later picked, the 2017 certainly turned heads and found and extra gear. In 2018, the blend is a 50/50 split between Touriga Nacional and Syrah, with the Syrah using 50% whole-bunches with two weeks skin contact. The wine was aged 15 months in old 500 litre barrels before bottling. This wine certainly has its own bold vinous personality and reveals a dark, deep damson plum colour and an equally deep, dark broody aromatic profile. Loaded with blue and black berry fruits, you can almost smell the sea as layers of saline black currant, kelp and piquant salty black liquorice are underpinned by a pronounced dusty, granitic, rocky minerality. With a mindful focus on freshness, Duncan manages to retain plenty of pithy mineral spice framed by dusty graphite tannins that flex a bit more muscle than either the Follow the Line or Thief in the Night blends. This is a really stellar vintage for this cuvee and perhaps the 13 year old bush vines show why Touriga and Syrah are so well suited to drought conditions. Very pure and super classy with a fine saline cassis density, this wine shows the same impressive gravitas and complexity seen on the previous 2017 vintage. A wine that looks set to impress the critics.

(94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Savage Girl Next Door 2018 Syrah, 13.5 Abv.

If Follow the Line has grown into a Savage cult wine, this tiny production Syrah single vineyard of 0.38 hectares grown on sandy gravel soils overlooking the Atlantic Ocean near Fishhoek, is most certainly the more serious icon wine of the range. The knarled wind battered and salt affected 13 year old trellised vines are made to struggle and normally yield little more fruit than a meagre 200 cases in a good year. 100% Syrah using 70% whole-bunches spends two weeks on its skins followed by malolatic and 10 months ageing in old neutral 600 litre barrels. South Africa has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great Syrah wines, yet for me this wine, along with perhaps only one or two others, consistently represents the pinnacle of classical, restrained, old world character that I often envisage could have come from a grand old appellation vineyard of the northern Rhone. Always beautifully deep, rich and textured, the nose has a beguiling complexity of earthy black currants, sweet black peppercorns, black olive tapenade and cured meats. The mind and senses start wondering to foreign shores long before you even put the first sip in your mouth. Fabulously tight knit, creamy, mineral and restrained, blueberry nuances slowly give way to tart black cherry and sour raspberry coulis on the long, lingering finish. Peppery mineral tannins guide this wine confidently and elegantly like a firm hand on a boats rudder. A truly special creation, this is one wine worth hunting down and duelling for!

(95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Savage Red Blend 2017, 13.5% Abv.

After a bit of vintage shuffling, last years 2015 blockbuster was the last Savage Red blend to be bottled, reverting in 2017 to a pure 100% Syrah wine made from vines grown exclusively on granitic soils in both Stellenbosch and the Swartland. Farmed biodynamically, the Stellenbosch vineyard fruit makes up the lion’s share of this wine and indeed will comprise 100% of the Savage Red in 2018.The grapes spend two weeks on their skins with 50% whole-bunches used before spending 13 months in 500 litre barrels and a further 9 months in 3,200 litre conical foudre, or just under two years elevage in the cellar. A super smart and super concentrated expression, this later release allows one to revisit the fabulously complex aromatics and balance of the exceptional 2017 vintage. Loaded with piquant blueberries, saline cassis and blackberry opulence, the nose shows strikingly complex notes of pink musk, sweet grilled herbs, black peppercorn spice and is embellished with an intoxicating exotic sweet white lily blossom fragrance. The palate intensity is also tremendously impressive with a harmonious crystalline purity and classical elegance in abundance. Showing a slightly more overt, opulent personality to the broody foursquare 2015, this wine represents an evolution and growing maturity in the red winemaking of Duncan Savage. One of his best efforts to date no doubt.

(96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Savage White Blend 2018, 13.5% Abv.

As Duncan’s flagship white, the blend might sometimes evolve and alter depending on vintage conditions, but quality, freshness and balance is never compromised. From another warm, dry vintage, the vines have gotten seemingly more used to the drought conditions and winemakers have also tweaked their picking dates to focus on freshness and purity of fruit. The 2018 is an impressive blend of 54% Sauvignon Blanc, 28% Semillon and a slightly larger than usual 18% Chenin Blanc. Grapes were all whole bunch pressed and fermented with approximate 80% of the wine undergoing malolactic fermentation before being aged 10 months in old 500 litre oak barrels. A magnificently intelligent blend of Kaaimansgat, Villiersdorp and Piekenierskloof fruit, it displays a fresh, cool, crystalline vibrancy, fragrant pithy white citrus and green apple zest and a subtle waxy, fleshy, bruised pear savoury hint. On the palate, the message of clarity, purity and precision is clear to see with sherbety acids spritzing up the fringes and adding extra frame and linearity to the exotic tart tangerine, grapefruit, kumquat and pineapple pastille concentration. A very distinguished winemaking display yet again to produce a wine that is lithe and elegant, finely balanced yet intense and surely among the most sophisticated Savage white blend vintages produced to date. Drink on release and over the next 4 to 8+ years.

(95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Savage Never Been Asked To Dance Chenin Blanc 2018, 13.5 Abv.

Duncan’s knowledge of old vine Paarl vineyards is well known and this 100% Chenin Blanc from 64 year old dry land grown bush vines on granite soils is a fabulous expression of what is possible in this region. Whole bunch pressed and fermented and aged in neutral Stockinger 600 litre barrels for 10 months, this second vintage rises to new heights after a very solid 2017 effort. The 2018 is altogether less pithy and herbal than the last vintage, instead conveying more classical notes of dusty granitic minerality, white citrus, creamy pineapple pastille fruits and sweet lemon biscuit notes. Top quality old vine Paarl Chenin Blanc has a pronounced signature and this wine has it written all over it thanks to Duncan’s minimal intervention and focus on terroir and site. Elegant and harmonious across the palate, this wine is deliciously fleshy and glycerol, ultra pure and cool but also sophisticated and seamlessly light on its feet. You could not ask for more purity or varietal typicity. Duncan has really nailed it in 2018 with this fabulous old vine Chenin fruit.

(94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Not Tonight Josephine Straw Wine 2018, 11% Abv.

As a category, Chenin Blanc straw wine can probably be regarded as one of the most successful and critically acclaimed in South Africa if international journalists’ scores are to be followed. But having tasted a lot of straw wine globally, the purity, richness, balance and intensity that Duncan has achieved on this maiden 2018 is certainly quite impressive. 100% Chenin Blanc grown on rocky sandstone from the Pienenierskloof farm of Tierhoek was dried for three weeks and then left for five days on its skins as whole-bunches followed by foot treading. Resulting grapes were basket pressed into small barrels for the remainder of fermentation and for a further 10 months of ageing. At 294 g/l residual sugar, a 9.5g/l TA and with only 850 x 37.5cl bottles produced, you can expect the scramble to begin swiftly for this little rarity. Dark yellow golden in colour, the nose exhibits fabulously exotic notes of granadilla, sun dried yellow peaches, dried straw spice, orange marmalade, creamy yellow fruit pastries with custard and classic dried apricot roll. Super supple, elegant and fleshy in the mouth, at no point does it become clawing or over bearing. Fabulously balanced with finesse and well honed winemaking, this wine will appeal to a whole new cross section of Savage consumers. Eminently ageworthy of course, you can drink this sweet gem over the next 20+ years.

(95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Great Minds, Great Vision and Great Terroir Meet at Brookdale Wines in Paarl – Tasting the 2018 Vintages with Tim Rudd and Winemaker Duncan Savage…

Since Duncan Savage left Cape Point Vineyards, he has been fully absorbed and focused on taking his Savage brand to the next level and bedding Down his new urban winery in Salt River, Cape Town. But as I discovered when I visited him recently, he does consult to one client, Englishman Tim Rudd at his beautiful Brookdale Winery in Paarl.

Named after the hamlet in Derbyshire where Tim originates from, Brookdale is a fabulous winery planted with 20+ year old Chenin Blanc as well as other Chenin Blanc blocks that are almost 35 years old.

At first I thought Duncan made the acquaintance by buying fruit from Tim, but Duncan was quick to point out that this was not the case and that he just simply discovered that he really clicked with Tim and his ambitious vision to make Brookdale one of South Africa’s top quality focused wine labels… and so the collaboration started.

Owner Tim Rudd and consultant winemaker Duncan Savage.

Old Vine Chenin Blanc almost 35 years old.

It’s all still very early days with few people having even tasted the finished 2017 wines let alone the new barrel samples from 2018. But I believe Neal Martin did manage to taste the 2017s on a recent trip and scored the wines very positively. Much of the day to day work at the winery still involves the ongoing rejuvenation of all current vineyards, many of which were badly neglected over the years before Tim bought the estate, but also now includes a massive replanting programme.

Some of the new plantings of Grenache Noir hidden in the cover crop.

As usual, Duncan is spinning his own kind of winemaking magic with some very fine fruit and with all the ongoing investment being poured into the winery and vineyards, this is definitely a hot name to watch.

Brookdale Block 2 Chenin Blanc 2018, 13.5 Abv.

From a 25 year old block of Chenin Blanc, took 6 months to ferment in 500 litre barrels with full malolactic in barrel. Due to be bottled end Jan / early Feb 2019. Classic Paarl Chenin aromatics of white peach, pineapple pastille, orange citrus and dusty notes of granite and fynbos spice. Palate full and bold, broad textured coating the palate with layers of green apple, white peach, pineapple, finishing with a subtle restrained, piquant mineral gravel note. The wine is deceptively classical with more reserved phenolics than the luscious, opulent nose suggests. A work in progress but already showing excellent pedigree and potential.

(Wine Safari Score: 90-92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Brookdale Block 10.1 Chenin Blanc 2018, 13.5 Abv.

From a block planted in 1985, the aromatics show more pronounced notes of vanilla and oak spice that embraces white citrus, white peach, green apple, thatch, fynbos and peach tea nuances. Palate shows wonderful intensity and tension, focus and textural tautness that is more mineral laden, gravelly and restrained. Quite a grown up expression of old vine Chenin Blanc.

(Wine Safari Score: 93-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Brookdale 3 Block Blend Chenin Blanc 2018, 13.5 Abv.

With various components of block 2, block 5 and block 10.1 blended together, the aromatics come together in a more restrained, subtle melange of gravelly pineapple pastille, orange citrus, wet thatch and fynbos spice. In converse to the single block expressions in isolation, this wine shows more opulence and sweet flesh on the entry and fine palate texture and reach. Attractive oak spice and peach tea complexity but also lovely elegance and harmony on the finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 92-93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Brookdale Chenin Blanc 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Blend of all the blocks, only 1000 bottles produced from 50% new oak (1 x new 500 litre and 1 x 10 year old 500 litre barrel). No malolactic, the ferment was much quicker than 2018 lasting 4 weeks. The nose shows dusty, earthy, savoury leesy notes of buttered warm baguette, vanilla spice and delicious yellow orchard fruits. Palate is already very expressive with explosive concentration of pineapple pastille, yellow peach, green apple and pithy citrus peel. The acids are bright and vibrant but finely balanced by a generous fleshy glycerol texture that is succinctly punctuated on the finish. An impressive debut.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Retasted in bottle on 15th May 2019:

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

The Fabulous New Releases From Duncan Savage – Some of His Best Ever?

With the new Savage Wines hitting the market, I’m pleased to release my Wine Safari notes on these superb bottlings. Produced in his new Salt River urban winery in Cape Town, these could possibly be the highest quality and most self assured releases from Duncan to date.

The product range has grown but quantities are still small, so you are going to have to be brisk to secure his top wines.

Savage 2017 White Blend, 14 Abv.

The 2017 Savage white is a masterful blend of 49% Sauvignon Blanc, 33% Semillon and carrying on the theme started in 2015, includes 18% of Chenin Blanc with a 14% Abv. Handled oxidatively in the cellar, the wine was barrel fermented and aged for 10 months in oak. With more malolactic fermentation seen in 2017 due to very slow ferments, the wine marries weight and intensity with purity, minerality and textural elegance. The nose is already very expressive with complex aromatics of freshly baked apple crumble drizzled in honey, orange blossom, tangerine peel, yellow orchard fruits and a delicious passion fruit twist. But like many 2017 whites, there is a real clarity and focus to the wine along with a defined core of dusty granitic minerality. The entry on the palate reveals the tart, vibrantly fresh characteristics of the Sauvignon Blanc and the Semillon, that awaken the palate with zesty yellow grapefruit, lanolin, honied white peaches and Granny Smith apple puree notes. Classic higher altitude vineyard nuances ensure this wine retains incredible intensity together with a fleshy, creamy lemon pie concentration underpinned by a cool, dusty, stony minerality. Powerful without being brutish, linear and focused without being lean. This is another wonderful flagship white blend from the Savage winery that continues the great run of form for this cuvee. Drink from 2018 to 2030+

(94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Never Been Asked to Dance 2017 Chenin Blanc, 13.5 Abv.

The Savage portfolio has always mostly been about red and white blends. But when you chat to Duncan Savage and taste with him, you can see how eager he is to produce more single varietal wines especially after the cult success of the pure Syrah Girl Next Door. Previous Savage white blends have often included small percentages of Clairette Blanche, so when this vineyard was grubbed up, the search for an old vine vineyard replacement led Duncan to this slightly dishevelled 64 year old Chenin Blanc vineyard in Paarl. The 2017 bottling coming in at 13.5 Abv. sees a small addition of some Chenin Blanc from W.O. Malgas to augment the quantity but looks set to be W.O. Paarl only in future. Foot trodden and whole bunch fermented over 5 days with no malolactic fermentation, this wine has an alluring phenolic nose of dried basil and oregano, fynbos garrigue, apple cider, yellow orchard fruits, hairy yellow peaches and a crushed gravel minerality. This wine is less about obvious overt fruit but is a much more complex and complicated creature. There is richness, salinity and textured palate weight but also plenty of spicy, pithy, exotic phenolic grip. Still fairly tightly coiled and restrained in its youth, this old vine Chenin Blanc slowly reveals notes of crunchy peaches, orange blossom, pineapple pastille candy, old honey, apple puree and a very subtle kiss of vanilla pod spice. Finishing quite linear and precise with a rocky core of minerality, this wine challenges the senses, titillates the taste buds and promises much for those sensible enough to age it for a few more years after release. Drink from 2019 to 2030+

(93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Follow the Line 2017 Red Blend, 13 Abv.

Every new release of Follow the Line is a cause for celebration. Indeed one could argue that this wine has such a unique cult following that you could hold a launch party every year just for this individual wine! A blend of 93% Cinsault and 7% Syrah, this 13 Abv. wine will be labelled as Cinsault this year. From the same beautiful 38 year old South-east facing Cinsault vineyard in Darling, the fruit was early picked and fermented using 50% whole bunch clusters. Malolactic fermentation was carried out in 500 litre French oak barrels with a further 9 months of ageing in large 1500 and 2000 litre foudre. Possessing a youthful red plum translucent colour, this wine has all the perfume lift and exuberance you would expect from old vine Cinsault. The nose is aromatically charged, brimming with fresh violets, cherry blossom, rose water, lychee skins, sun dried cranberries, potpourri and an exotic touch of Turkish delight. Wonderful purity and clarity are always hallmarks of this wine as are the radiant fresh acids and bright, crunchy, sappy red berry fruits. Once again, this wine is the epitome of elegance, walking quite lightly, shimmering all the way to the finish with illuminated brilliance. This really is an exceptional, mouth-watering delight. Drink from release but do cellar a few bottles for 5 to 8+ years.

(95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Thief in the Night 2017 Red Blend, 13 Abv.

Probably one of my favourite names used in the Savage wine range, but I will let Duncan tell the story of how and why he was once called a ‘thief in the night’. Displaying little in direct relation to the wine other than being a great name… surprise surprise, this is also a delicious wine. Another new addition to the Savage range, this red is a blend of 48% Grenache, 46% Cinsault and 6% Syrah all sourced from vineyards in very close proximity to each other on the same property in the Piekenierskloof. At this youthful stage of evolution, the wine is more marked by the 42 year old vine Grenache fruit than the 17 year old Cinsault. Using 70% whole cluster, fermentation was carried out in a closed tank with aerated pump overs. Malolactic fermentation occurred in old 500 litre French oak barrels before the wine was aged for 9 months in large French oak foudre before being bottled. The wine shows a real individuality and personality with bright fragrant violet perfume, sappy spicy peppery raspberry and redcurrant confit complexity, hints of sun raisined cranberries, cured bresaola, boiled raspberry sweets and wild strawberry. The palate weight is soft and sensual, combining the best of both Grenache and Cinsault to form an impressively harmonious, silky soft sappy red blend. The wine seems to grow exponentially in the glass, unfurling and unravelling to reveal layers of strawberry jam, raspberry compote and Turkish delight all framed with bright crystalline acids that really amplify the wines purity, minerality and sense of place. Such a pretty wine with the sleekest and most polished tannins and a mellow fruit intensity. Despite its eminent drinkability in youth, this is no frivolous ‘vin de soif’ and could just maybe, over time, acquire a similar cult following to that of Duncan’s excellent Cinsault-dominated Follow The Line red blend from Darling. A very confident debut! Drink from 2018 to 2028+.

(93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Girl Next Door Syrah 2017, 13.5 Abv.

A wine very close to Duncan’s heart, it is produced from pure Syrah grapes grown on a 0.34 hectare vineyard overlooking the Atlantic Ocean that was originally planted for ornamental purposes. These 12 year old vines, lovingly tended and rejuvenated by Duncan, survive in extreme conditions, perpetually being battered by the South Easterly winds of the Cape Peninsula. But very often, some of the most profound grapes comes from some of the most marginal vineyards. Fermented in open top fermenters using 50% whole bunch clusters, the wine was then aged in an old demi-muid (600 litre) barrel with bottling after 11 months of aging. With little more than 700 bottles produced, this Syrah shows a beautifully rich, broody nose packed full of savoury black berry fruits, earthy black currant, pithy black cherry, iron filings, black olive tapenade and a chalky, dusty mineral lift. Cool and restrained, this wine displays an overt Old World character and would not look out of place in a Cote Rotie tasting. Densely fruited, deep and richly textured, the tannins eventually rein in the wine and throw a veil of sappy, peppery, spicy graphite restraint over the bruleed black berry opulence. I have often said that this wine must surely be one of a small select group of pure Syrah reds produced in the Cape that show this variety at its classical, Francophile best. Cellar for a few years after release before drinking or age this distinguished beauty for 15 to 20+ years.

(95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Are We There Yet 2017, 13 Abv.

Only the second release of this exciting 13 Abv. Wine of Origin Malgas red, the 2017 expression is a blend of 50% Touriga Nacional and 50% Syrah from young rocky vineyards along the Breede River near Swellendam. Both red varieties were picked on the same day and co-fermented in open top fermenters with the Syrah kept as whole bunch clusters while the Touriga Nacional was destemmed. Aged in 500 litre French oak barrels for 11 months before bottling, you can already see in the space of only two vintages how Duncan as tweaked both picking times and the winemaking to create a seriously exciting expression. Dark black purple in colour, the Syrah and the Touriga make very comfortable bed fellows and the superb synergy of these varieties is laid bare for all to see and taste. Deeper, darker and more powerful than Cinsault or Grenache, Duncan has succeeded in harnessing the power, concentration and intensity of these two noble red varieties and using his own brand of vinous alchemy, crafted a wine so full of energy, minerality and fruit concentration. Compared to the 2016, this vintage seems to unfurl a few extra layers of concentration and fruit brightness, turning up the volume but with much tighter orchestration. The nose is deliciously rocky and mineral revealing dusty river gravel, graphite and grey slate nuances that intermingle with perfumed Parma violet lift, blueberry opulence, sweet red cherry confit, boiled strawberry bon bons and purple rock candy confectionary notes. Mouth-filling and fleshy with impressive black berry and fraises des bois fruit weight and chalky graphite tannins, the palate remains impressively lithe and elegant, harmoniously focused and confident with the most alluring savoury, sappy bramble berry finish. Drink this beauty on release but do allow the age worthy credentials of the Syrah and Touriga to show their full potential with 6 to 8+ years of aging.

(94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Savage Red Blend 2015, 13.5 Abv.

This wine has perhaps been more of an enigma than any of Duncan Savage’s wines produced to date. The last Savage Red to be released as a blend, the 2017 and 2018 will revert to being pure Syrah from initially Stellenbosch and the Swartland, and then solely Stellenbosch, as new vineyard contracts come onstream. A blend of 67% Syrah, 9% Touriga Nacional, 9% Cinsault and 6% Grenache, this 13.5 Abv. red has certainly built up a very strong, more traditional, slightly less eclectic following than the other red blends like Follow the Line. Fermented in open top fermenters using 50% whole bunches, the wine was aged for an extended 30 months in old oak and foudre prior to bottling. This dark horse has always been backward and restrained, broody and slightly sulky, but bearing in mind it comes from one of the best red vintages in the Cape in a generation, it can be forgiven for being initially shy and ungiving. With some coaxing, the nose slowly starts to reveal its secrets, showing notes of salty red liquorice spice, aniseed root, cassis leaf, grenadine, blood oranges and vermouth botanicals. The palate is taut and very precise, linear and crisply textured with vivacious notes of tangerine, naartjie peel, ruby grapefruit, sour red cranberry and earthy red plums, all dusted with a liberal dose of crushed black peppercorns and mineral graphite spice. Tantalisingly complex, it is almost impossible to unravel the intricacies of this classy red and identify traits of individual varieties. With the extra aging, the tannins are starting to become a little more supple and pliable, yet continue to lend great textural gravitas, power and focus to this blend. I’d say it has been worth the wait… but just don’t wait to put in your order for this impressive red blend as it signals the end of one era and the dawning of a new and exciting chapter in the history of the Savage winery. Drink on release and age this beauty for 10 to 15+ years comfortably.

(96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Wines are available direct to the wine trade in the UK on allocation from importer Swig Wines

Exclusive Wine Safari Tasting Review of the Exciting New Savage 2016 Wine Releases…

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)

Tasting barrel samples with Duncan in March 2017.
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 info@savagewines.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

 

Enjoying some French classics over dinner with Duncan in March 2017