Last year Duncan Savage agreed to produce a special release single varietal Sauvignon Blanc made from 32-year-old vines from a Stellenbosch vineyard that was originally destined primarily for on-trade by the glass wine sales. Of course, the pandemic and lockdown hit and much of the wine found alternative routes to market through select independent wine merchants as well as some restaurants in London, New York and across the US East Coast. The small production wine was an instant hit, appealing to all the most committed and fervent of Savage wine fans. So, it was inevitable that a follow up vintage would be forthcoming for this growing brand.
The 2021 vintage is another cracker of a wine with an increased production coming from roughly 50% Stellenbosch fruit and 50% Stanford fruit. This Sauvignon Blanc was fermented in a combination of stainless-steel tanks, concrete eggs and old barrels. The wine spent four months in these vessels before being bottled, followed by a further two months in bottle prior to release. Approximately 30,000 bottles were produced for export to the UK and USA.
Speaking to Duncan Savage, he tells me that the project has simply taken on a life of its own and in 2022, he plans to incorporate addition fruit material into the blend sourced from Danie Carinus’s vineyards in the Polkadraai Hills and also some fruit from the Karibib vineyards where producers like Bernard Bredell and Mick & Jeanine Craven source much of their fruit.
Savage Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2021, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.
Due to the increased production, the bottling of the 2021 Salt River Sauvignon Blanc will necessitate multiple bottling runs. The sample I tasted was from the initial bottling while additional stock will be released from slightly later bottled wine which has spent additional beneficial time on its fine lees in tank. But already, the wine shows a wonderfully expressive textural balance with attractive aromatics of honey suckle, green pear, camomile iced tea, pineapple pastille and crunchy white peaches. The palate is soft, fresh and seamless with a caressing mouthfeel, tangy tangerine citrus acids, notes of white peaches, yellow grapefruit and pithy, stony mineral tannins. Another beautiful creation that benefits from being open and given plenty of air. Drink this delicious Sauvignon Blanc on release but don’t be shy to age a few sneaky bottles for 3 to 5 years.
I have made no secret over the years that I love the concept of premium second wines, whether from Bordeaux, Napa Valley or Cape Town. The Meerlust Estate Red Blend last made a local South African market appearance back in 2011, when the Meerlust Estate declassified their Rubicon flagship wine. To avoid confusion, a ‘Meerlust Red’ is made every vintage but only for the international export market where second wines are well entrenched as viable alternatives for mid-week drinking or for less serious occasions but do not cannibalise the sales of the premium cuvee. However, this wine is not normally sold in the home market unless a specific vintage of Rubicon is declassified into the Red Blend like in 2011, 2002, 1990 and 1985.
Inevitably, when the wider market realises that the premium Rubicon Red Blend has not been released, the Meerlust Red acquires a massive and immediate following, such is the pedigree and reputation of the Meerlust Estate. Sold in the local home market for half the price of the Rubicon, the Red Blend is always an exceptional value wine and drinkers would be well advised to fill their cellars to pad out their drinking of the more age worthy vintages of Meerlust Rubicon.
Meerlust Red 2019, WO Stellenbosch
The 2019 Meerlust Red is a blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. Initially a little reticent on opening, this wine quickly sheds its broody, sulky, spicy veil to reveal a wonderfully complex aromatic array of black plum, black berry compote, orange peel, Christmas pudding over hints of pressed violets, sweet cedar spice and graphite nuances. The palate is plush and fleshy from the word go, showing an open knit, expressive opulence of red currant, bramble berry, black currant, sweet oak spice, black tea and a sleek texture that simply embraces the palate and makes you go back again and again for another sip. Refreshingly vibrant and impressively generous, I suspect this wine will age surprisingly well for over 10+ years even though it’s simply a cracking drinker right now on release. Hats off to the entire Meerlust crew.
The undisputed red co-operative champion of the wine world, Produttori del Barbaresco produce, year after year, some of the most scintillating wines of Barbaresco and indeed Piedmont. Masters of Nebbiolo, the 2018 vintage with its cool, damp and fresh weather conditions served up a long list of challenges for producers, yet after all was said and done, many wineries made some exceptional wines fully deserving of the vintage’s 4-star rating with an emphasis on short to medium-term drinking over long-term cellaring.
Produtorri del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2018, DOCG Barbaresco, 14.5% Abv.
We all know when Produttori del Barbaresco decide not to bottle all their great nine grower crus, the resulting wines are all blended into the Barbaresco DOCG normale cuvee. 2018 is just such a vintage and sure enough, eager collectors have been waiting for this super charged Nebbiolo release. On initial examination, the wine shows the most pretty, lifted, inviting aromatics of dried rose petals, crushed coriander, tart red cherries, salty blueberries and a seductive red liquorice complexity. On the palate, there is an attractive translucent purity and silky filigree tannins that combine with a suave, lithe, harmonious concentration of red cherry candied fruits, touches of tar, saline cassis, sloe berries and a finish that typifies true, pure classical Nebbiolo fruit. While the seductive allure of the perfumed aromatics currently outpace the slightly backwardness of the palate fruit density and structure, all the signs in the glass point to another extremely fine and supremely attractive Barbaresco release. Drink from 2022 to 2034+.
Wines of South Africa in the UK do a wonderful job promoting South African wines and the various diverse wine regions in South Africa on a pretty meagre shoestring budget. From premium wines to mass-market high street brands, all producers get a look-in through the year as the full breadth and depth of the industry is conveyed to the UK marketplace. This weekend is National Pinotage Day and to celebrate, Jo Wehring and the WOSA UK team organised a fascinating webinar and tasting with Dr Etienne Terblanche PHD and L’Avenir winemaker, Dirk Coetzee, featuring some excellent examples.
Pinotage knowhow has matured extensively over the years and is now able to highlight new and unique insights into the broader Cape wineland terroirs thanks to the variety being so widely planted and with a relatively large quantity of older vines in the ground. The cliché of Pinotage being a real “marmite” wine is starting to fade as producer after producer starts to produce high quality wines that more than anything else, represent the regional terroir the grapes are grown on.
Pinotage, like Chardonnay, does often allow the winemaker to make their personal mark stylistically, but one thing is for sure, the variety’s true strengths and unique selling points include being able to make a variety of dry red styles, wines with lots of juicy fruit, most wines possessing excellent ageing ability and also the versatility of the variety to make dry reds, Rosé, Method Cap Classique sparkling wines and numerous dessert styles.
The pinnacle of quality Pinotage production in South Africa often manifests itself through many of the Cape’s single vineyard wines grown on the three main soil types of Sandstone (300-400 million years old), Shale (Malmesbury Group) and decomposed Granite, which covers all the wines tasted for this seminar.
The Diversity of Pinotage:
Kaapzicht Skraalhans Pinotage 2020, WO Bottelary – Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.
A young vine trellised vineyard situated at around 90 to 100-meter altitude on pure washed out granitic soils. Picked early to respect a lighter style with 20% whole bunch, fermented on the skins for three days before being racked off into large old barrels to complete fermentation. Youthful and vibrant, the aromatics are very perfumed and lifted showing wonderfully inviting notes of red cherries, cranberry and red currant. Palate is super soft, fine boned and supple, very cool and precise, showing a delightful light touch extraction. There is layer upon layer of tart red cherry fruit with bright bristling acids that give the mouthfeel incredible energy and mouth-watering freshness with soft powdery tannins and a long, brambly mineral finish with just a subtle hint of flinty reduction. A truly delicious expression.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
B Vintners Liberté Pinotage 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.
Made from 20-year-old bush vines on a south facing False Bay vineyard on washed out granitic soils utilising around 40% whole bunch during fermentation. The aromatics show a cool, savoury red cherry fruited complexity with plenty of maritime sea breeze salinity, sappy cranberry and bramble berry fruits, sweet grilled herbs and hints of potpourri. The palate is exceptionally polished, tight knit and fine grained with a drying tannin density, bright citric acids and a cool, stony, mineral length with a tangy salinity on the finish. Another very accomplished expression from Bruwer Raats and Gavin Bruwer Slabbert.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Sangiro Pinotage 2018, WO Piekenierskloof, 12.5% Abv.
A vineyard located three hours north of Cape Town in the Piekenierskloof at 300 to 400 meters altitude with dry grown vines. Made by Rudiger Gretschel (of Reyneke and broader Vinimark winemaking fame), the wine shows plenty of raspberry herbal tea spice, notes of dried herbs and fynbos nuances over red and black berries and damson plums. The palate is rich, plush and structured with spicy tea tannins, black cherry, stony mineral grip, round tangy acids and yet more layers of black cherry and black plum with an intricate apricot stone pip finish. Mineral, savoury, focused and rather bold… this is quite an individual expression of Pinotage.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Ashbourne Pinotage 2018, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.5% Abv.
An impressive rich, savoury and expressive red from 16-year-old trellised vines planted on Bokkeveld Shales. Matured for 10 months in 400 litre barrels, 40% of which were new, with approximately 10% of sun-dried stems added back for additional structural complexity during fermentation. The aromatics are lifted, fresh and perfumed with opulent notes of black cherries, red berries, eucalyptus, peppermint crisp milk chocolate and sappy spicy oak nuances. The palate reveals attractively rich, plush, textured fruit notes with bright tangy acids, plenty of red berry freshness and ample mineral fine grained tannin characteristics. An attractive multi-dimensional wine that shows a lot of pedigree.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
L’Avenir Single Block 02 Pinotage 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.
A dryland grown single vineyard planted in 1994 on decomposed shales with plenty of exposure to the salty coastal sea breezes of the False Bay. The aromatics are cool, refined and broody with great precision, purity and focus but also offer up ample depth of black fruits, hints of kelp, liquorice and raisined black cherry liquor notes. The palate is powerful and intense, with piercing sweet – sour acids, rich intense salty black fruits and a long, dense, bold finish with fine grained graphitey, stony, mineral tannins. Undoubtedly a very confident, well-made Pinotage that will appeal to a lot of fine wine lovers.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Beeslaar 2018 Pinotage, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.
Made by Kanonkop winemaking legend Abrie Beeslaar from 25-year-old dryland bush vines grown on decomposed shale soils with a small portion of decomposed granite. Fermentation took place in open top concrete tanks with regular punch downs performed every 2 hours to maximise extraction. After fermentation, the wine was aged in 40% new 225 litre French oak barrels for 21 months. On the nose, there is plenty of density and broody black fruited depth together with intricate notes of raisined black cherry, raisined cranberry, damson plum and hints of Christmas pudding, incense and crème bruleed caramel oak spice. But for all the richness, intensity and depth, the palate shows a freshness and vitality that is quite startling, helping to balance the expansive fruit concentration and sweet, creamy tannins. Where the 2017 showed a more weightless perfumed concentration of vibrant red fruits, this 2018 is darker fruited and more savoury with plenty of sweetness on the front of the palate but also a fine, drying, tangy finish. Very classy.
A wine always released several months after the famed Paul Sauer Cape Bordeaux blend, the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is yet another highly anticipated wine based on the clear established pedigree of the vintage. I am fortunate enough to have drunk several bottles of the 2015 and 2016 Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon over the past few months in preparation for the 2017 release together with enjoying yet another blind 1994 Paul Sauer vs 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon taste-off recently.
With production levels for the Cabernet roughly double that of the now highly allocated Paul Sauer blend, at circa 12,000 cases of 6 compared to 6,000, the new release of the Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon does present a slighty wider opportunity for fine wine drinkers and collectors alike to secure some bottles for their cellar. Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon is riding high and demand across all international markets for the top producers’ wines has never been higher thanks to not only a strong run of quality vintages but also the renewed promotional work of a cohesive group of premium producers.
The preceding winter was the 3rd dry one in a row, with less rain than the previous one and warmer day and night temperatures. A warm spring resulted in early budding and regular rain showers during flowering and berry set saw a high presence of pests. The picking season was very dry with limited water for irrigation, but with cooler nigh-time temperatures during February. Fermentation took place in open top concrete fermenters at 29c. The cap was punched down by hand every 2 hours during fermentation. The juice was then drawn off the skins after 5 days. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was matured for 24 months in 50% new and 50% second fill 225L French Nevers oak barrels.
Kanonkop Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, 14.97% Abv.
2.7 g/l RS | 6.3 g/l TA | 3.47 pH | VA 0.51 g/l
This certainly is a deep, broody exotic expression of Cabernet Sauvignon that is more reminiscent of a cool vintage Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon than anything from Bordeaux or the Cape. Opened and tasted over 4 to 5 hours, the wine hits its stride surprisingly quickly with plenty of perfumed purple flowers, violets, bruleed black berries, baked blueberry crumble, crème de cassis and a pleasing note of mocha and vanilla pod spice. Initial notes of kelp and maritime seashore salinity quickly give way to a more weighty, sensual melange of black berry compote nuances and hints of cherry kirsch liquor. While this wine certainly shows all the deft elegance and finesse we associate with the 2017 vintage, it also displays a certain extra gravitas, power and weight of fruit concentration combined with great poise, density and a seamlessly textured mineral graphite finish. This is a dark horse that will drink well on release and age deceptively well for 20+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Imported into the UK wine trade by Seckford Wine Agencies.
Ps. This review is dedicated to the mighty South African Springbok Rugby World Champions who scored a historic victory against New Zealand in Australia in their 101st test match contest. 🙏🏼
Anwilka is a winery based at the south end of Stellenbosch with views of False Bay and the 40 hectare red wine property is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot. It’s proximity to the sea provides a genuinely specific microclimate that, together with the old ferricrete soils, are perfect for producing rich opulent wines with freshness and balance.
Under the guidance of internationally well-known Bordeaux wine personalities Hubert de Boüard (co-owner of Château Angélus in Saint-Emilion) and Bruno Prats (former owner of Château Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estèphe), Anwilka has established a worldwide reputation for its flagship red blend which has in years gone by been famously described by international wine critic Robert Parker Jr. as “…the finest red wine I have ever had from South Africa”.
For this release, Anwilka had a cold and wet winter allowing for a 2017 vintage that will certainly be remembered as one of the all-time great red wine vintages in Stellenbosch – a warm summer followed by a cooler maturation period allowed for optimal grape ripeness, weightless concentration and intense fruit flavours. It was a vintage that was made entirely in the vineyards as the old adage goes, requiring the winemakers to merely preserve the essence of what the vines and the vintage had to offer.
Anwilka 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.
A blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Syrah and 7% Petit Verdot which was aged for 19 months in French oak, 50% new 400 litre barrels and 50% second fill. A seductively perfumed vintage, the aromatics show alluring notes of violets, potpourri and hits of lily over dark bramble berry fruits with hints of mocha espresso notes that combine with subtle buttered brown toast nuances. The palate shows fabulous elegance and finesse with a soft touch concentration of black currant, Christmas pudding, savoury plum compote and black cherry. The tannins are powdery and fine grained but also structured and drying, combining well with a fresh glossy acidity that keeps the finish focused, vibrant and bright. An impressive wine that not only shows off another great vintage in the Cape but also what is increasingly possible with the superb Anwilka Stellenbosch terroir.
Now established as one of South Africa’s true first growth Cabernet Sauvignons, Christo Le Riche has certainly had a jolly old time of late with an incredible run of form with the Le Riche Reserve 2015, 2016 and 2017 all rated outstanding. This new release 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon combines grapes from vineyards in Firgrove (31%), the Jonkershoek Valley (31%), Raithby (24%) and the Simonsberg (12%) which were aged for 24 months in 76% new French oak barriques to create another notable flagship red worthy of global recognition.
The hand selected grapes from older, lower yielding vines were used and fermentation was done with a selected inoculated yeast strain under controlled temperatures. Manual plunging during this period ensured optimal colour extraction. After five days the tanks were closed and allowed to macerate for a further period of around 10-14 days. Pressing followed and the wine was transferred into barrel for the secondary malolactic fermentation. On completion, a final quality check and analysis was performed and then the Reserve cuvee was prepared for barrel ageing. Bottling was followed by hand labelling and further bottle maturation before release.
Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.87% Abv.
1.4 g/l RS | 5.6 g/l TA | 3.77 pH
Another very impressive Cabernet Sauvignon, the aromatics are pure and classy, dominated by cool dark maritime saline notes of salty crème de cassis, kelp, picante black cherry and vibrant scents of crushed blackberries, star anise, cardamom, salty black liquorice and hints of creamy vanilla oak spice. The palate is super sleek, supple and lithe with a fabulously elegant texture, silky soft mineral graphite tannins, a loose knit mid-palate fleshy black fruit generosity and tons of vibrant acid freshness on the finish. This is a classical Le Riche Reserve Cabernet at its most seductive, although it is, rather amazingly, so approachable, expressive and absolutely delicious right now on release but undoubtedly capable of another good 15+ years of prime cellaring.
With the Gaja Crus of Sori Tilden, Sori San Lorenzo and Costa Russi now almost out of the financial reach of many fine wine consumers, the annual new release of Gaja’s perennially impressive DOCG Barbaresco has certainly taken on a new level of interest and attention from the broader ranks of the global fine wine trade. So when Gaia Gaja made her first trip back to London since the beginning of the pandemic, the stage was set for an exciting Barbaresco launch.
After the warm and dry 2017 harvest, the 2018 vintage was characterised by early flowering and then a cooler summer with periods of rain that proved challenging to grape growers. Indeed, between the 1st of May and the 15th of June, the region saw pretty much uninterrupted rain showers which resulted in downy and powdery mildew in many areas. To compound the problems, the 17th of July saw hail hit the Barbaresco vineyards… “because the hail canons of the town were not used in time because all the villagers were watching Italy play France at football”… Gaia Gaja joked. A more windy, dry and hot September brought on the start of the harvest slightly ahead of schedule with picking finishing on the 9th of October. Despite the challenges of the weather during the growing season, 2018 is generally considered a better vintage than the warmer 2017, yielding wines with great purity, minerality and refinement.
In 2018, no Crus were made at Gaja for the first time since 2012, with all the Sori Tilden fruit and half of the Costa Russi fruit being blended into the DOCG Barbaresco (part of Costa Russi is being replanted). No Sori San Lorenzo wine was produced. While normally a blend of 14 parcels around Barbaresco, the 2018 did see some of these parcels excluded from the blend but the additions of the Cru fruit certainly acted to bolster the cepage quality considerably.
Gaja Barbaresco 2018, DOCG Barbaresco, 14% Abv.
Wonderfully pure and translucent with gorgeous red cherry and ruby hues. The nose shows impressively perfumed, opulent, hedonistic notes of stewed strawberries, fraise des bois, cured bresaola, tilled earth, tar, salty red liquorice and beautifully detailed nuances of aniseed stick. The palate texture is dense yet crisp, fresh, creamy and full in the mouth with a weighty mid-palate concentration, layered chalky, stony mineral Nebbiolo tannins over black cherry and tart blueberry fruits. This is a classical expression of Barbaresco that will appeal to the purists and collectors alike – Very fine, perfumed and beautifully expressive but also powerful, super seductive and accessible. Drink now and over the next 25+ years.
Draaiboek wines is a name that might be new to many. Though I did review the maiden release 2019, this is essentially a new wine company that was created by five friends who met while studying at the University of Stellenbosch in the early 2000s. The foundations of their friendship were formed during the frequent wine tastings and wine routing jollies indulged in as students. After graduating, everyone eventually headed out to write their own stories. Yet, despite different borders and time zones, they always checked in with every changing chapter of each others lives. Now, after many years of friendship, the different characters have come together once again to produce Draaiboek Wines, born out of a love for wine and the stories that it tells.
Draaiboek means script in Afrikaans, and as Pieter Lemmer, one of the London based partners tells me, “…we believe every wine has a story to tell. We released our first wine in September 2020, a 2019 Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge Chardonnay. We chose the name Onskuld (meaning innocence) for our first wine to represent our innocent naivety in starting this journey (many lessons were learned in the process!). We operate essentially as a negociant buying in fruit, and so far, we’ve sourced all our grapes from a single block of 10-year-old north-east facing Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge vines at 300 metres altitude planted on Bokkeveld shale with a high clay content”.
The Draaiboek wines are made by another good friend of theirs, Stephanie Wiid from the well know Thistle and Weed winery, who they have also known for many years. Stephanie, along with viticulturalist Etienne Terblanche, have sourced and selected the fruit from a specific single block at La Vierge in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge although in 2021, a second block of Chardonnay has been added to increase the volume of wine produced. For the maiden 2019 vintage only 200 x 6 were produced, rising to 300 x 6 for the 2020 vintage. Watch out for their 2021 Pinot Noir also made from Ridge fruit that is still in the cellar but should be released in 2022.
I recently tasted a sample of the 2020 Onskuld Chardonnay which was aged on its fine lees for 11 months and saw 30% new oak in the final blend, aiming to give the wine more structure than the 2019 while still showing all the hallmarks of Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge minerality. Draaiboek Wines follows a philosophy of minimal intervention in the cellar, allowing the quality of the terroir to express itself. This certainly seems to be a new boutique name to watch.
Draaiboek Wines Onskuld Chardonnay 2020, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5% Abv.
2.4 g/l RS | 6.2 TA | 3.38 pH
In 2020 this Chardonnay is all still sourced from one single Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge block. Mindful of the wine’s youth, I opened my sample and tasted over two days to give the wine the full benefit of oxygen. This certainly is a very impressive wine and a considerable step up on the delicious maiden 2019. The aromatics show complex multi-dimensional layers of sea spray, white flowers, orange citrus oil, freshly baked buttered croissants and pithy lemon rind notes. Very pure and precise, the palate reveals an incredibly elegant, creamy leesy texture with no shortage of tension and minerality, all supported by an intense but seamless concentration of green and yellow fruits, pineapple pastille and lemon bon bons nuances. The length is truly striking, lingering then very slowing fading gradually on the long finish as if someone was slowing turning down the taste volume. The acids are fresh as you’d expect from Ridge fruit but also fabulously tangy and bright. Like a great work of art, this 2020 requires a measure of reflection and contemplation to fully appreciate its beautiful construction, pristine balance and superb harmony. Give the wine plenty of air, decanting if necessary, and don’t serve too cold. A wonderfully complete wine that should drink well from release and over 6 to 8+ years.
The 50-hectare Domaine des Roches Neuves is run by Bordelais Thierry Germain who is regarded as one of the most respected producers in the Loire Valley and is an avowed practitioner of organic and biodynamic viticulture where from his estate near the town of Saumur he makes some of the most expressive Cabernet Franc red wines in the region.
Harvesting at the domaine is all manual and vinification is done in small batches with optimally ripe grapes which leads to wines with plump and generous Cabernet Franc fruit flavours. Wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined. His painstaking attention to detail and quality has earned Thierry an enviable reputation around the world especially with Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc obsessives.
This is yet another fabulously seductive young Cabernet Franc bursting with mouth watering aromatics of violets, red currants, black currants, sweet cedar spice, peppermint crisp black chocolate and a subtle hint of cherry cola. The palate displays an impressively elegant textural harmony, supple seamless creamy tannins and a very fine seam of acidity bolstered by exotic blueberry fruits and a subtle stony minerality on the finish. Lovely precision, fruit purity and weightless concentration really help this wine hit the bullseye! Classy Cabernet Franc like this is certainly a thing of beauty. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8 years.