Oldenburg is one of those wineries that has big plans and equally big ambitions for its wines. Today I met up with owner Adrian Vanderspuy to taste through a small selection of their unreleased 2015 reds over lunch at private members club 67 Pall Mall.
With winemaker Phillip Constandius finally hitting his stride at this Banghoek property, the future looks very bright for this dynamic winery. Quality and focus can only be improved further when Oldenburg finally gets its own winery, hopefully in the next 18 to 24 months.
After a delicious glass of 2013 Chenin Blanc, it was time for the first red, the Syrah 2015 with its impressive purity, spicy black berry fruits and wonderful harmonious texture. The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon was a bit more of a gawky teenager, but showed plenty of intensity of dark berry fruit, herbal spice, cassis leaf and spicy cedar and graphite. This needs a few years of slumber before approaching again but should turn into a real cracker.
Finally, a real treat…The Oldenburg Rhodium 2015 Merlot – Cabernet Franc Bordeaux blend. Youthfully confident, this red is still showing a lick of creamy vanilla pod spice, cedar and bruleed coffee beans, with sweet tobacco nuances. There is also some really delicious, compact black and blueberry fruit complexity embroidered with a fresh, piercing, crystalline acidity. Massive intensity, focus and power, this is a really beautiful wine with real poise, balance and concentration. When it is finally released, possibly in 2019, it should be even more integrated and harmonious. A thoroughly distinguished blend.
Dark and alluring, this wine is packed with expression and intrigue. It’s not everyday you get to taste the newest and most expensive super premium wine produced in South Africa! But D-day has arrived and it’s time to put the ‘The Cabernet Franc ‘ 2014 through its paces! This delicious, tantalising effort produced by Brian and Marian Smith of Elgin Ridge, in partnership with Niels Verburg of Luddite Wines, is the smartest new Bordeaux’esque premium wine to emerge from the Cape since the creation of MR de Compostella in 2004.
The nose is lush and seductive and oozes the aromatics of a super polished, finely tuned red wine. The oaking is rich, perfumed and ultra sophisticated. Tasted over a few hours, the nose remains tight and broody, compact and focused. You need to coax the genie out the bottle, but once it awakens, wow, you are inundated with a complex bouquet of liquorice stick, oregano, graphite, blueberry, cassis leaf and pronounced crushed gravel and limestone minerality. I poured this wine in both a Riedel Bordeaux glass and a Zalto Universal to make sure I could examine every element of its burning ambition.
The palate weight is creamy, textural and dense but remains fresh, vital and powerful with excellent varietal typicity. This effort is certainly more Napa Valley than Loire in style, but having said that, it wears its DNA proudly on its sleeve and represents pretty much every thing that’s great about South African wine at the moment. What’s perhaps most impressive about this wine is the way it holds its shape, vigour and presence in the glass over several hours… and then almost seems to tire of examination and starts to close up again.
I know Brian and Niels intimately and understand their passion and drive to not only get this wine ‘right’, but also make sure that it represents a wine genre that changes perceptions, opens eyes, shatters glass ceilings and helps premium South African wines climb another couple of steps up the competitive global fine wine ladder.
I have no doubt this wine will impress as many people with its quality, as it will upset with its price. But pause, take a deep breath, look around the market and you will see that there are so many wines from California, Bordeaux and coastal Tuscany that command similar or higher prices, but that are actually not as good as this very fine effort. Quality comes at a price. Be brave and tuck a 3 pack of this superb wine in your cellar!
I have been a long time follower of Julien Schaal’s amazing wines from both Alsace as well as South Africa. Always over delivering in quality terms and offering great value for money, Julien upped the ante in 2014 with the launch of three single vineyard Chardonnay whites: Evidence (Elgin), Confluence (Hemel-en-Aarde), and Renaissance (Elandskloof).
While they are all absolutely delicious terroir specific wines, the Evidence Elgin Chardonnay has always been my perennial favourite. This year however, it was Julien’s Hemel-en-Aarde Confluence Chardonnay 2016 that deservedly cracked him his first 5 Star Platter Wine Guide award. A massive achievement for this young, talented French winemaker, it can only be the beginning of new heights that will surely be reached in coming vintages.
Julien Schaal Confluence Chardonnay 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13 Abv.
From another drought vintage, this beautiful 2016 shows an opulent lifted nose with real concentration and intense aromatics of sweet honeysuckle, orange blossom, mango peel, lemon and orange rind, and a complex, mineral undertone of wet slate and crushed granite, expertly embellished with brûléed vanilla oak spice, toffee apple and waxy green apple nuances. However impressive the nose is, the palate offers up threefold more. Sculptured acids frame the lush, intense, concentrated citrus fruit flavours, showing layers of lemon marmalade, caramelised oranges, barley sugar, lemongrass spice and pithy apple puree. Rich and fresh, piercing and taught, this wine seems to have it all. Intensity, balance and such mouthwatering length. Well done Julien, this is a truly accomplished Hemel-en-Aarde Chardonnay. Drink now to 2028+
Well, it’s that time of year when we gather to bid farewell to fine wine friend Keith Prothero before he decamps to the Cape for the summer / UK Winter. I volunteered to organise the lunch finale with Bruce Poole, co-owner of Chez Bruce, Keith’s favourite restaurant in London and below is a little snap shot of the epic wines consumed. All wines were tasted blind before they were revealed.
First up, a vibrant, tantalising Clos des Goisses 1996 Champagne from Philipponnat with a fine leesy biscuit lift and a pronounced, creamy citrus note. Beautiful definition, purity, and a salty briney undertone that melts away into dusty lemon, buttered toast and a crisp, vibrant finish with great structure. A good bottle drinking at its peak. (96/100 GS)
The first flight of five whites started with an impressive Niepoort Coche White Blend 2011, briming with creamy peachy yellow fruits, lovely struck match reduction, ample minerality, woodsmoke, cassis leaf, wet slate, and wonderfully fine depth. I loved the tension and profound, subtle, buttery depth. Truly one of Portugal’s finest still white wines. Malcolm Thwaites, who has just recently visited Dirk Niepoort during harvest, actually called the wine amazingly! (95+/100 GS)
Next up, Keith’s Sandhi Sanford & Benedict 2011 Chardonnay. Initially smokey and seductive, with intense saline notes, lemon and lime cordial richness, huge concentration, this was a complete ringer for an old world Burgundian grand vin. Only after it had sat in the glass for a while, did it finally start to reveal some exotic new world fruit notes. A monumental effort from California and the ultimate ringer capable of fooling even the most talented tasters. (96/100 GS)
The Sandhi was followed by one of the truly great white wines of Burgundy, a superb bottle of J-F Coche Dury Meursault 2013. Wow, tasted blind, this was intensely taught, pin point, and precise showing lime, stoney liquid minerals, crushed limestone tension and focus. Very intense with seamless texture, regal mineral complexity, subtle passion fruit hints and great rigour on the finish. “Wines like this should challenge the senses, not entertain them!” was a very poignant comment from Nigel Platts Martin. (96/100 GS)
At these lunches, we always seem to open our “back up bottles” even when not required, and here again, my Didier Dagueneau Buisson Menard Pouilly Fume 1997 was added to the first flight. An interesting bottle, it had tasters scratching their heads endlessly as the wine unfurled in the glass. Plenty of white peach, passion fruit, pineapple and stoney minerality were in evidence. Beautifully exotic with a mercurial dry finish. “A bit of an upstart”… but certainly showed its class in my mind. (93/100 GS)
Just as we were about to move on to the reds, we were treated to another late addition and definite rarity. A fine bottle of Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2002. The initial nose was quite lactic, with hints of cottage cheese and cream, yet also full of oyster shell, fennel, pineapple and aniseed. There was a touch of wet dog to the wine combined with great minerality which led many of us to the Loire. But this was classic, elegant, fresh, super fine Grand Cru Chablis at its best and developed wonderfully in the glass. (94/100 GS)
The first three reds revealed a Rhoney theme but with a few twists. First up was Neal Martin’s amazing Jaboulet Cornas 1972 that showed a bouquet of rich brûlée oranges, savoury cured meats, and cherry confit. Rich and textural, this beautifully lifted wine sang a wonderful melody, and while mature, was thoroughly enchanting. So typical of the Northern Rhone, almost all at the table plumped for Hermitage or even perhaps a great vintage of Crozes-Hermitage. La Chapelle was even mentioned. But Cornas it was. I would have expected a little more blood and iron for a Cornas but perhaps the Jaboulet personality was shinning through more than the appellation’s terroir. A real treat. (93+/100 GS)
The wine that followed was younger and required a bit more thought. Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage a Jacques Perrin 2000. Very complex Mourvèdre dominated wine (60%) loaded with black berry and bramble fruits with saddle leather, cured meats, liquorice, tar and sweet earthy black fruit notes. Dense and concentrated, this was a delicious grand vin wine almost certainly drunk too young. Give this classic another decade at least. (96+/100 GS)
So we were well and truly treading a Rhone path, when the next red from Alex Lake had us all a bit fooled. A Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz 2002 was not to my memory picked out as New World by anyone. Smoky lifted nose with granite dust, aniseed root, and earthy black berries, this was a very compact, focused wine with plenty of tension, crisp acids, and a subtle, restrained, savoury boxwood and pepper corn spice finish. A very smart wine that along with the Mullineux reds, is one of the few new world Syrahs / Shirazes Keith openly admits to drinking! Nice to taste this wine again with more age, but still a long life ahead of it. (95/100 GS)
The next pair of reds charmed some more than others, but as a devout Italian fine wine lover, the next two reds had me weak at the knees, (or was that the previous 10 bottles?). An utterly sublime Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino 1999 was bursting with sweet cherry blossom perfume, savoury earthy notes, saddle leather and wet tobacco, gun smoke, and graphite. Plenty of energy, this really was a superb, seductive hedonistic red full of character. (96+/100 GS)
To partner the Soldera was another real rarity ~ a Valdicava Madonna Del Piano Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1990. Not a wine you come across very often anymore, this wine had all the archetypal power and prowess Valdicava’s Riserva’s are so famous for, except this one was finally giving an impression that despite being beautifully fresh and vital, it was approaching peek drinkability after 27 years! Dark and smoky, dense and dusty, it was quite saline, tight and precise, with pithy caramelised cherry fruits, grilled herbs, leather, graphite, aniseed and meaty savoury bramble berry depth. Very fine acids and also a touch of VA just to add more lift and complexity. The Riserva can be a hard wine to understand in its youth, or when James Suckling scores them 100 points, like with the 2010. But after tasting a maturing vintage like this, a lot of puzzle pieces fall into place. (96+/100 GS)
At this point, we were all amazed that no Burgundy or Bordeaux had featured in the flights yet! But the next wine broke the drought. A most majestic Chateau Cheval Blanc 1985 from St Emilion. This was a real treat and must be one of my favourite vintages of Cheval Blanc. Loaded with black berry fruits, gun powder, briary, and aniseed notes, it was also so vibrant, energetic and packed full of saline cassis, a touch of ink, leafy spice, sandalwood and buttered brown toast. Drinking in the perfect harmonious mid point between youth and maturity. For me, a top right bank Bordeaux ready to drink does not get much better than this. (98/100 GS)
The last red was possibly another late addition, hence it was not included in the Rhone flight. But in many ways, it received more deserving attention being served in isolation. A contender for wine of the lunch, the Les Cailloux Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvée Centenaire 1990 from Lucien & Andre Brunel was indeed profound. A solid 100 pointer on the Wine Advocate scale, Robert Parker once described this wine as one of the greatest vintages ever made at the estate. This bottle was deliciously saline, rich, intense and dense but never tipping over to heavy in anyway. Sleek, crystalline, and supremely elegantly textured, this wine is still so youthful, fresh and perfumed, showing its true class. A really profound wine. (98/100 GS)
To accompany a most delicious cheese dessert course, two sublime sweet wines were served. The iconic Mullineux Olerasay No.1 Chenin Blanc NV made from a Solera system. The word that encapsulates this wine is effortless harmony. It is neither too sweet nor too unctuous, merely finely balanced and beautifully intense. A lot of effort goes into making straw wines of this quality, and this blend deserves a big score if for no other reason, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Amazing wine. (98/100 GS)
Before we could cross our T’s and dot our I’s, we were treated to another profound dessert wine ~ the Reinhold Heart Ohligsberger 2010 Mosel Eiswein. After a long afternoon of intense, thought provoking fine wines, nothing could possibly refresh the senses better than a delicious, vibrant glass of rapier fresh Eiswein. Packed full of lemon and lime cordial notes, white peaches, and sweet yellow grapefruit, the acidity balanced the sugar brilliantly and was the perfect ending to a fascinating afternoon of fine wine and of course exceptional Michelin starred food.
Bon voyage Keith, I am sure most of us will still be talking about many of these wines by the time you return in 6 months time.
From his experience of tasting the finest wines from around the world when he was a head sommelier, Paul Lato realised all the greatest wines possessed characteristics of authenticity, harmony, and of course elegance. These are the qualities he set about trying to achieve when he started making wines in California. His ultimate goal was to create wines that are seamless and textural but with enough structure and balance to complement fine cuisine.
In order to make wines of the highest calibre, Paul selected unique vineyards that are cared for by talented growers and vineyard managers committed to excellence. He sought to locate and source from not only the best vineyards but also the best blocks within each of these vineyards, a tough ask with demand outstripping supply from the very best growers. During the growing season, yields are restricted to achieve maximum concentration of flavour. Harvesting is always based on physiological ripeness, which changes depending on the vintage characteristics.
Cellar work is based on minimal intervention, cleanliness and purity of intention. Because every vintage is different, he does not believe in recipe winemaking. With due respect to science, Paul believes that “true artisanal winemaking is based on intuition, sensitivity and passion”. Keeping the lots small allows for gentle handling throughout the winemaking process.
Making only 4000 cases per year, Paul wants his wines to give pleasure and keep the drinkers palate interested until the very last drop from the bottle. Inevitably, with his high level of attention to detail and quality focus, his wines have garnered high scores from the critics and resulted in a massive cult following, with 90% of his wines produced being sold exclusively through his Paul Lato Wine Club.
Paul Lato Le Souvenir Sierra Madre Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, 13.9 Abv.
A classic Chardonnay which comes from 22 year old Wente clone vines, shows subtle creamy lemon and nutty brûléed citrus fruit lift. Lemon blossom, grapefruit confit and caramel peanut brittle and vanilla bean complexity are all there just teasing the senses. A youthful palate shows nerve, intensity, creamy barley sugar and toffee apple freshness. Intense flavours but nothing over done. Beautiful texture, deliciously vibrant acids, and a subtle minerality lurking beneath the fruit. A very serious multi-dimensional wine that’s also very finely focused.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Paul Lato Atticus John Sebastiano Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Santa Rita Hills, 14.2 Abv.
Tight intense focused aromatics of black cherry, pomegranate, red tart plums, cranberry and savoury baking spice. Plenty of exotic brûléed notes, intense red fruit layers and peppery, seductive flavours. Sleek, elegant mouthfeel, mouth watering fresh acids, a sweet & sour plummy touch, blood oranges and plenty of bright salty, bramble berry fruit nuances. The ethereal Burgundian lacy texture is most impressive. Fabulous wine.
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Paul Lato il Padrino Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah 2014, Santa Rita Hills, 15.4 Abv.
Dense, opulent show stopper style immediately evident. Massive intensity, perfume and fragrance showing cherry blossom, sweet jasmine, blueberry muffin, coffee bean, sweet expensive oak spice and dusty, mineral limestone complexity. Super plush, broad and intense, the acids build a sturdy frame from which the exotic fruit finery is displayed. Big, bold, well executed expression with incredible finesse, polish and precision.
David Sadie was born and bred in the Swartland and studied viticulture and oenology at the University of Stellenbosch. It was there that he met and later married Nadia, a qualified soil scientist and viticulturalist. Together, they have crafted some of the most profound wines coming out of South Africa.
I became acquainted with the single vineyard wines a few years back when David was making 3 different versions. Last year, the 2015 Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc trounced all before it in the annual Decanter Magazine Blind South African Chenin Blanc Tasting, scoring an eye watering 98 point consensus with all three judges. Well yes, I was one of the three judges and I stand by my score, blind or sighted.
Sadly, the 2015 stock disappeared like a small rain puddle evaporating in the midday heat of the Karoo dessert. But what do you expect when only just over 300 bottles or one barrel were produced. In 2016, David bottled two single vineyard wines, the Hoe Steen and the Skaliekop Chenin Blanc.
Made from dry land farmed bush vines planted in 1968 on decomposed granite based soils with Koffee Klip and Quartz on top, on the western side of Malmesbury. The grapes were wholebunch pressed using minimal sulphur during the short cold settling for the juice before being wracked into barrel for spontaneous fermentation and malolactic fermentation. The wine ages for around 12 months in two old 400 litre French oak barrels. In 2016, production was upped to a massive 530 bottles. pH 3.41, RS 3.0 g/l, TA 5.5 g/l, total SO2 127 mg/l.
David & Nadie Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Swartland, 13.39 Abv.
Like many of the 2016 Chenin Blancs, this wine displays more subtlety, restraint, elegance and finesse with a slightly more refined, fine boned structure than the big, broad, intense 2015 expressions. The nose is more delicate and soft spoken, showing white peach, crunchy green pear, tangerine peel, fynbos, baking herbs, and incredible dusty, crushed granite mineral lift. The palate is electric and fresh with a dry lemon, rasping mineral intensity, subtle smoky reduction and picante spice notes. Like the 2015, there are beautiful, beguiling saline maritime notes that spar with the bold zippy acids. This vintage is all about speaking intelligently with authority and sophistication rather than preaching in a loud, punchy, doctrinal style. The extra restraint, twinned with balance, harmony and inner core tension make for another profound Chenin Blanc expression. Drink now or keep for 8 to 15+ years.
Within the Sadie Old Vine Series range, the Kokerboom white is probably the most enigmatic and mysterious. But in an intense, near perfect vintage like 2015, this wine’s full potential is revealed in all its regal glory. The biggest challenge then becomes actually getting hold of some to drink!
Made from fruit sourced in the Trekpoort Kloof in the Olifants River Region, this old vine vineyard Semillon was planted in the 1930s on decomposed Table Mountain sandstone and includes a mix of both white and red-skinned versions of this grape once very common in the Cape winelands. A pristine old vineyard, no herbicides or artificial fertilizers have been used on it, and it has been perfectly pruned and cared for over the years. The downside is that it is a very small and low-yielding vineyard.
The white and red Semillon (approximately a 70 / 30 split), ripen at the same time and are picked and pressed together. The juice is taken from the basket press in buckets to an old cask for natural fermentation, and spends around 18 months on its lees before being bottled from the cask unfined and unfiltered, yielding not much more than 150 cases of 6 per vintage. TA 6.4 g/l and RS 1.8 g/l with a 3.00 pH.
Sadie Family Old Vine Series Kokerboom 2015, WO Olifantsrivier, 14 Abv.
The aromatics grow in the glass showing intense lime, white pepper, lemon herbs, lime peel, soap stone and grey slate. A really intriguing mineral melange of dusty stony complexity mixes with notes of boxwood, fynbos, and beechwood spice. The palate is full and expansive and ethereally complex. Flavours are still tightly wound, taught, and require a little coaxing to reveal a tart, briney, saline palate bite, complex citrus zest and deliciously fresh glassy acids and picante mineral cut. So many layers of lemon grass, tangerine peel, pithy green apple and sweet, freshly cut raw fennel develop. Texturally profound and so beautifully balanced, this wine teases the senses giving the drinker a fleeting glimpse of what’s still to come with further bottle age. World class and eye-opening, the Kokerboom 2015 is most certainly right up there with other sought after white icon wines from around the globe.