Hogan’s Chateau Musar Inspired Red Blend Shows the Wonderful Diversity Available to Winemakers in the Cape…

Hogan Wines is a small, family-run business that launched its first wines in South Africa with the 2014 vintage. After seven years of working with various wineries in the Cape and overseas, Jocelyn Hogan teamed up with her parents, Dunstan and Trish Hogan to produce initially a pair of innovative wines at their cellar in the Banhoek Valley.

The maiden release Hogan Chenin Blanc 2014 was harvested from 38 year old, south-east facing bush vines planted on decomposed granite from Joubertskloof in the Swartland. This wine immediately garnered 4.5 Stars in the Platter Guide and 92/100 points from Winemag.co.za.

The maiden Divergent red blend comprises of 34% Carignan, 33% Cinsault and 33% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Carignan was picked from 12 year old bush vines from Wellington and the Cinsault from a vineyard of 40 year old unirrigated bush vines in the Helderberg. Finally, the Cabernet Sauvignon was picked from 16 year old trellised and irrigated vines from the Polkadraai area of Stellenbosch. All components were crushed and destemmed except for the Cinsault which retained 30% of whole bunches.

The Divergent red blend was of course inspired by the very sad premature death of the late great Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar on the 31st December 2014, only weeks before the 2015 Cape harvest and of course not long after his first visit to South Africa to speak at the famous Swartland Revolution gathering. Having met Serge many times, I am certain he would have been a big fan of Jocelyn’s red blend.

Hogan Divergent 2015 Red Blend, WO Coastal Origin, 13.5 Abv.

I have not tasted this wine for a few years, but considering it was made from a highly revered vintage, I thought it was time to revisit this Musar inspired blend. The nose is intriguingly exotic, at first showing earthy red berries, red liquorice, savoury notes of red orchard fruits, sundried red cherries, red plums, wet hay, grilled herbs and a finely interwoven granitic, stony mineral nuance. The palate is soft, sleek and ultra harmonious combining a density of palate weight and mineral tannins with an incredibly subtle intensity of fruit concentration. Certainly quite light on its feet, the Cabernet Sauvignon almost certainly lends some extra depth, frame and mass while the Carignan adds a garriguey complexity of dried herbs, rosemary and mint choc spice. The Cinsault is undoubtedly the glue that seamlessly combines these varietal partners all together in the most sumptuous, elegant, red berry fruited mouthful of deliciousness. This wine is settling down nicely at 5 years old and is certainly approachable now. However, the time it takes to evolve in the glass suggests that you might want to leave your bottles for another year or three before revisiting… if you have a will power of steel!

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

Domaine Armand Rousseau’s New 2018 Pinot Noir En-primeur Releases Shine Brightly Once Again…

The En-primeur tasting season gives wine merchants and consumers a last look at the new Burgundy releases before most of them are bottled between March and May. After Domaine de la Romanee Conti, there is probably a small handful of Burgundy producers that every collector wants in their cellar. Close to the top of this list has to be the spectacular wines of Domaine Armand Rousseau.

Tightly allocated in every global market, buying Armand Rousseau’s wines on release at beneficial En-primeur prices is every collectors holy grail. So any opportunity to taste and assess these exceptional wines before they disappear into deep dark cellars must be considered a valuable learning experience whether you’re a novice or a professional Burgundy collector.

I recently had a snap shot tasting of three of this producer’s delicious wines drawn from barrel samples.

Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos du Chateau Monopole 2018

Showing a gently scented, sweet fruited nose with hints of Gevrey spice, earthy bramble berry, sweet clove and grilled herb spices. Palate is both opulent and plush yet softly textured with underlying Christmas spices and savoury red and black berries. An approachable, concentrated style that’s juicy and harmonious without being profound.

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

Domaine Armand Rousseau Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2018

This opulent red shows plentiful notes of earthy bramble berry fruits, wood spice, grilled herbs, stewed winter fruits together with botanical herbs and incense spices. Supremely polished and elegant, there is a phenomenal core of sweet blue and black fruits, black cherry confit together with energetic acids that are beautifully harmonious and integrated into the concentrated palate fruit. Shows all the gentle, seductive understated Charmes Grand Cru elegance and finesse that this vineyard is so well known for. Very impressive.

(Wine Safari Score: 94-96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin Grand Cru 2018

This grand vin shows distinctive aromatic notes of earthy winter fruits, bramble berries, Christmas pudding and sweet grilled herbs and botanical spices with an undertone of savoury cured meats. The palate is focused and elegant yet power packed and intense with more vibrancy, energy and acid freshness than the aromatics initially suggest. Sweetly fruited with a dreamy creamy palate texture, this wine finishes with a long, lingering persistence of kirsch liquor, macerated black plums and wild strawberries. A hugely impressive wine in its infancy but with a long promising regal future ahead.

(Wine Safari Score: 96-97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Peter-Allan Finlayson Unveils Some of His New Releases from Crystallum and Gabrielskloof in London…

Maybe it’s because Peter-Allan is the third generation of wine farmers in the Cape or maybe it’s just because he is just very intelligent, but few wine brands have been managed as professionally as Crystallum in global markets since the first Sauvignon Blanc was bottled in 2007.

Now focusing solely on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Peter-Allan was recently in London to unveil some of his new creations. But the secret of Crystallum’s massive success in London can be attributed to a combination of factors that aspiring brand owners should take note of. Firstly, he has a committed and highly professional distributor in the UK with Liberty Wines; the quality of the entire range has remained impressively high from day one; the pricing has been very constant and conservative, rising only very modestly over the past 12-13 years; this price stability and quality has built the brand a strong on-trade restaurant / sommelier following in the fine dining establishments of London.

Add this all up and you have a brand that sells out within a few months of arriving adding further to the all round collectability of the entire range.

 

Gabrielskloof Elodie 2018 Chenin Blanc, WO Swartland

Fermented and aged in old oak barrels, this is just classic intense old bush vine Chenin Blanc from two vineyards of 43 and 45 years old made in a minimalist hands off style. Oozes class and character with aromatics of fynbos, crunchy yellow orchard fruits and wet straw with an intense palate of white peach, granitic mineral spice, toasted almonds and pithy dried orange peel. Lovely definition and length. This is up there with some of the best old vine Chenin Blancs in South Africa.

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

 

Crystallum Clayshales Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

Another superb rendition of this single vineyard wine from Ridge fruit that perfectly captures the cool, crystalline lemon and lime pastille fruit characters of Chardonnay grown at higher altitude. There are lovely white blossom and honey suckle notes with the most subtle kiss of white toast, vanilla pod spice and white peach. Still very youthful, but already the 2019s have a very impressive fruit/acid balance and a wonderfully integrated, harmonious honeyed leesy finish.

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

 

Crystallum The Agnes Chardonnay 2019, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

A beautiful expressive blend of Hemel-en-Aarde and Overberg Chardonnay fruit. The nose displays a wonderful saline, briney, taut mineral expression with notes of lime peel, lemon rind, honeydew melon and white peach. Restrained and focused on the palate entry, this is a very grown up, classy, serious Agnes that shows incredible restraint, minerality and mouth watering green apple crunch on the finish. Wow! This is so, so delicious. Crystalline pure Crystallum at its best! Bravo Peter-Allan!

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

 

Crystallum Peter Max 2019, WO Western Cape, 14 Abv.

A blend of four vineyards, three from the Hemel-en-Aarde and one high altitude Elandskloof vineyard. The nose speaks of old world Pinot Noir with classical mineral restraint, black bramble berries and earthy black currant with sweet, freshly cut straw aromatics. The palate is wonderfully crystalline and pure underpinned by a mouth watering acidity, fabulous varietal intensity, crunchy red berry energy and the most harmonious silky sleek texture. Hard to imagine how you could make a better Pinot Noir at this price point.

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

Other wines tasted:

Crystallum Mabalel 2018 Pinot Noir – 94+/100 GSMW

Crystallum Whole Bunch 2018 Pinot Noir – 95/100 GSMW

Gabrielskloof Landscape Series Syrah On Sandstone 2017 – 96/100 GSMW

The wines were presented alongside an incredible tasting menu at newly opened Sam’s Riverside Restaurant, the new venue for the famous Sam’s Brasserie that used to be in Chiswick, West London. The food was truly outstanding and helped cap off a superb evening of fine dining and wine.

Peter-Allan with host and restaurant owner Sam Harrison.

Sam’s Riverside

1 Crisp Walk

Hammersmith

London

W6 9DN

Crystallum and Gabrielskloof are distributed in the UK by Liberty Wines.

DeMorgenzon Enters the Race Early Doors for Best Chardonnay Release of Vintage 2018…

DeMorgenzon, or ‘the morning sun,’ was so named as it is the first part of the Stellenboschkloof valley to see the sun because of its high altitude and aspects which cover the top southern and eastern slopes of Ribbokkop, overlooking the famous pinnacle of Kanonkop from where a cannon used to be fired to alert the farms in the region that a ship had arrived into Table Bay. The first road from Cape Town to Stellenbosch ran through the Stellenbosch Kloof.

DeMorgenzon farm has a very long history and was originally a section of Uiterwyk, one of the oldest farms in South Africa. In 1682 Uiterwyk, the ‘outer ward,’ was let to Dirk Cauchet before finally being granted to him by Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1699. Fast forward 300 years to 2003 when Wendy and Hylton Appelbaum bought DeMorgenzon and have since transformed it into a 90 hectare wine farm.

Under the expert winemaking guidance of Carl van der Merwe, DeMorgenzon has re-emerged as one of the top wineries in South Africa producing a wide range of white and red wines which is spearheaded by their Reserve Range of wines which includes a Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Syrah together with the wineries iconic Divas Chenin Blanc.

DeMorgenzon Chardonnay Reserve 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

The super expressive 2018 Reserve Chardonnay was hand-picked and whole-bunch-pressed before being matured in French oak barrels, 30% of which were new with the rest second passage and older. The nose hooks you from the very start, beginning an inescapable sensorial seduction. Fabulous layers of bitter lemon, orange peel zest, grapefruit marmalade, green apple and subtle cream soda lift are impressively tightly knit together with the most gentle, mineral suggestion of struck match reduction. The palate displays a notable clarity and purity together with harmony, finesse and a crystalline texture. Waves of orange zest, smokey lemon pastille, ruby grapefruit and yellow plum notes mix with a dusting of vanilla pod spice on a long, dreamy, lingering finish. This is benchmark premium Chardonnay from one of South Africa’s most talented winemakers. Drink now and over 5-8+ years.

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

Reenen Borman’s Collaborative Sons of Sugarland Syrah 2018 Puts This Vintage Well and Truly On the Map…

The Sons of Sugarland Syrah forms part of the Ron Burgundy Wines collaboration that includes young winemaking talent Reenen Borman and his business partners Henk Kotze and Fritz Schoon. These Syrah grapes are sourced from the granite hills of Stellenbosch which is perfectly situated close to False Bay just outside of Cape Town. The Sons of Sugarland Syrah 2018 is produced from the supposedly “superior” pure SH99 Syrah clone using 100% whole-bunch fermentation for the grapes.

 

This is a wine that has received rave reviews since its very first vintage and while the epic 2015 and 2017 releases raised a lot of excitement in Syrah-loving circles, the 2018 has some how managed to move the quality bar yet higher harnessing the purity, elegance, finesse and perfume of top Stellenbosch Syrah. If you have an expensive penchant for top Northern Rhone Cote Rotie wines but are starting to baulk at paying the ever increasing prices, this could be the wine for you!

 

Sons of Sugarland SH99 Syrah 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

100% whole-bunch fermented and aged in concrete with no oak used at all, this 2018 Syrah is certainly a profound wine marked by its incredible perfume and aromatic complexity. Dark and inky in colour, the nose boasts seductive notes of violets, sweet jasmine, sappy crushed leaves, wood smoke and polished sandalwood that combine with promising aromas of asphalt, melted tar, black olives, cured meats and luscious black berry fruits. The palate is beautifully trim and toned with perfect proportions and silky, elegant savoury tannins that hark back to some of the finest Cote Roties of the Northern Rhone. Medium bodied and seamlessly harmonious in texture, this wine finishes with notes of graphite, black currant herbal tea and crushed blueberries dusted with roughly ground black peppercorn spice. Classical Stellenbosch Syrah delivered with incredible precision, purity and subtlety. A true wine of beauty and thoroughly delicious. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years.

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

The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable South African Red Wines of 2019…

What a great year of fine wine it has been yet again. I am in such a fortunate position to be able to no only taste the greatest wines of the world in a regular basis here in London and on my travels, but also taste the finest wines produced in South Africa on a regular basis while retaining a very measured, objective outlook in terms of where they really fit in the pecking order of international fine wine.

For my red top 10 selection, I have not merely selected my highest scoring wines of the year as that would be a little bit predictable, but I have selected wines that I found not only outstanding in quality terms but also memorable and thrilling to drink.

Also, I’d like to offer a special thanks to all the producers, many of them who are very good friends, that have offered me their time for my regular visits, tastings and importantly, lots of joyous eating and drinking together. Your hospitality is never taken for granted and greatly appreciated!

Happy New Year 2019. I believe 2020 is going to be an exceptional year of success.

Top 10 Reds (in no particular order):

Naude Family Wines Old Vine Series Oupa Willem 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

MR de Compostella Red Blend 2017- 98/100 GSMW

Vilafonte Series C Red Blend 2017 – 96+/100 GSMW

Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines Iron Syrah 2017 – 97/100 GSMW

Raats Family Eden Single Vineyard High Density Cabernet Franc 2017 – 98/100 GSMW

Thelema Rabelais Red Blend 2015 – 96+/100 GSMW

Savage Red Blend 2017 – 96/100 GSMW

Kanonkop Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 97/100 GSMW

Porseleinberg Syrah 2017 – 97/100 GSMW

Creation Emma Pinot Noir 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable South African White Wines of 2019…  

What a great year of fine wine it has been yet again. I am so fortunate to be in a position allowing me to taste not only the greatest wines of the world on a regular basis here in London as well as on my extensive travels, but also taste the finest wines produced in South Africa on a regular basis while always trying to retain a very measured, objective outlook in terms of where South Africa’s greatest wines really fit into the pecking order of international fine wine.

For my white top 10 selection, I have not merely selected my highest scoring wines of the year as that would be far too predictable, but I have instead chosen wines that I found not only outstanding in quality terms but also memorable, characterful and thrilling to drink.

I’d also like to offer a special thanks to all the producers, many of them close friends, that have offered me their time for my regular visits, tastings and importantly, lots of joyous eating and drinking together. Your hospitality and friendship is never taken for granted and greatly appreciated and treasured.

Happy New Year 2019. I truly believe 2020 is going to be another exceptional year of success for South African wine.

 

Top 10 Whites (in no particular order):

Restless River Ava Marie Chardonnay 2017 – 96+/100 GSMW

Sakkie Mouton Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

Alheit Family Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2018 – 97/100 GSMW

Cape Winemakers Guild Leeu Passant Radicales Libres Chardonnay 2014 – 97+/100 GSMW

David & Nadia Plat’Bos Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

Sadie Family OVS ‘T Voetpad White Blend 2018 – 97/100 GSMW

Sadie Family OVS Skurfberg Chenin Blanc 2018 – 97+/100 GSMW

Catherine Marshall Chenin Blanc Fermented in Clay 2017 – 95/100 GSMW

Kershaw Deconstructed Bokkeveld Shales Chardonnay 2017 CY548 – 96+/100 GSMW

(Picture courtesy of Keith Prothero)

Lismore Estate Reserve Viognier  2017 – 96+/100 GSMW

The Top 10 South African Reds of 2019 will follow soon!