Terre Paisible – meaning Peaceful Land in French – is a new winery in the heart of the Franschhoek Valley. With impressive views of the Simonsberg mountains, the broader winery branding is in keeping with the new owner’s philosophy of “where the land is a source of energy and revitalisation – a place to recharge and re-set, where a sense of abundance and peace envelops you.” All mantras firmly in keeping with the peaceful beauty and luxury of the famed Franschhoek Valley of course. On the estate, old vine plantings are accompanied by productive olive groves as well as several export certified fruit orchards, all of which are said to be farmed sustainably.
The current release range is made up of two tiers covering the Vigne d’Or Red Blend 2018, Chardonnay 2021 and a vibrantly fresh Franschhoek Sauvignon Blanc 2022. Their more premium tier currently only consists of two wines, the Terre Paisible Les Dames de 1987 ‘Old Vine’ Sauvignon Blanc 2022 and the Isabelle Rosé 2022, though this range will surely grow as the winery finds its feet properly. Within the current range, famed winemaker Adam Mason is currently acting as consultant and in this capacity, he blended and bottled the 2018 red and 2021 Chardonnay but fully vinified and bottled the 2022 whites and Rosé releases. I tasted tank samples of the two 2022 Sauvignon Blancs with Adam Mason at Cape Wine in October 2022 and was suitably impressed. On my last visit to the Cape in March 2023, I made a point of tracking down a bottle of the old vine Sauvignon Blanc 2022 to see how this finished wine was developing. Oh boy, I am glad I did!
Harvested from 35-year-old vines, the 2022 Les Dames de 1987 Sauvignon Blanc expresses the more tropical and exotic fruit spectrum of the variety showcasing deliciously complex pineapple and nectarine aromas. After whole bunch pressing and minimal settling the wine was fermented in stainless steel before racking to a 4000 litre foudre for maturation. Ripe but incredibly sophisticated, there is also great precision and textural delicacy in evidence. Nine months maturation on its fine lees in a 4000L foudre provided the wine with a classical French Bordeaux meets Loire Valley character and the wine is undoubtedly made in a style that will reward further ageing in the cellar.
Terre Paisible Les Dames de 1987 ‘Old Vines’ Sauvignon Blanc 2022, WO Franschhoek, 13% Abv.
1.3g/l RS | 5.4g/l TA | 3.29pH
A superb expression of Sauvignon harvested from 35-year-old vines that spent 9 months on its lees in a 4000 litre foudre yielding a classy old world style expression with complex aromatics of leesy white citrus, yellow grapefruit, pineapple, quince and a deliciously fresh, savoury undertone. The palate texture is creamy and silky soft with a supple tangy acidity that highlights the tangerine peel and green apple pastille intensity. Such harmony and balance with vibrant energetic crystalline freshness and purity that draws you back again and again for another sip. This is more Pouilly Fume meets white Bordeaux than barrel aged Kiwi-style Sauvignon Blanc, where minerality and acidity lead and the textural precision and intensity of the old vine fruit dominates the long, persistent finish. This is grown up, top shelf Sauvignon Blanc like only a masterful winemaker like Adam Mason can deliver! Simply one of the most impressive and sophisticated Sauvignon Blancs I have tasted from South Africa in a very long time. Drink on release or cellar for extra complexity for another 5 to 8+ years.
Semillon is a complicated grape variety that needs to be allowed time in the cellar to show at its very best. After reviewing this wine back in February 2021, I noted that it was indeed a noteworthy expression but would undoubtedly benefit from further ageing in the cellar. To my surprise, I was recently served the wine blind from a friends collection and I’m pleased to say this old vine Semillon has blossomed into an exceptional fine wine.
These 118-year-old vines come from the famous Landau du Val vineyard in the Bo-Hoek area of the Franschhoek Valley, once owned by the late Basil Landau, and really do yield some very special fruit capable of making some truly profound white wines. Harvested February 2017, the fruit was picked and chilled overnight before being destemmed without crushing and left to macerate on the skins for 24 hours before pressing. The juice was settled in tank and then transferred to old 500 litre French oak barrels for natural fermentation which lasted 6 weeks. After fermentation, bâtonnage was performed once a week to add richness and texture to the wine. The wine was bottled unfiltered and unfined after 12 months ageing in barrel.
As with many other complex wines, cuisines and works of art, it seems unreasonable to expect that every critic will taste classic old vine Semillon in the same manner and see eye to eye with their critical ratings. In this instance, I simply cannot see eye to eye with my original rating and was so moved by the wine that I felt a new review would be the only respectful thing to do! This is undoubtedly an impressive wine fashioned by subtlety and whispered nuances, liquid minerality and a slowly evolving textural passion play that eventually seduces the drinker.
Black Elephant Vintners The Dark Side of the Vine Semillon 2017, W.O. Franschhoek, 12.25% Abv.
RS 2.30 g/l | TA 5.6 g/l | pH 3.41
This is one of the most impressive old vine Semillons produced in South Africa. What started life as a super taut, tightly wound nervy vintage white is now finally starting to reveal some of its true inner secrets after almost 6 years ageing in barrel and bottle. This vintage still requires beneficial air time in glass or decanter to breathe, but it has definitely evolved and started opening up previously hidden doors of complexity and texture. The aromatics are rich and alluring, packed full of honey and white citrus, nectarine peel, crushed gravel minerality and notes of dried nuts with a subtle lick of lanolin and tinned petit pois. On the palate, a wonderful structural depth and breadth is revealed, impressively dense and glycerol with a real sensation of dry extract concentration from the exceptional old vine fruit. There is plenty of crunchy white peach stone fruit, dried herbs, tart green pear, yellow grapefruit confit and a long leesy finish framed by tangy fresh acids. I said in my original review back in February 2021 that this was “another complex, restrained offering that will take a little time in the cellar to show at its very best.” That has indeed been the case and now, this 2017 vintage is truly on fire. Time to enjoy the classism and quality of this very fine Semillon expression. Drink from 2023 to 2033+.
Clayton Reabow of Môreson and Craig McNaught of Stony Brook winery are the winemakers behind this new head-turning Franschhoek-based label and the owners of the Lokaia brand. It was their belief that there was more to explore in the potential of the Franschhoek Valley with varieties like Semillon, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc that led to an exciting new range of wines. With second vintages of all three wines hitting the market both in South Africa and further afield, it seems the hype and excitement around the wines has been well founded.
The name “Lokaia” is derived from Ole Lukøje, the title of a fairy tale by author Hans Christian Andersen about the God of Dreams, and I’m sure neither Clayton nor Craig could have imagined the level of acclaim to which their three new wines would be received by markets, both locally in South Africa and internationally.
I really loved the electric early picked freshness on the whites and the purity and precision on their Cabernet Franc red. The market, as a whole, is so often top heavy with ripe, alcoholic, fruit bomb wines that sometimes fine wine lovers of elegance, tension, purity and freshness at lower alcohol levels are often forgotten about. But thankfully Clayton and Craig have created a tight range of wines that ticks so many boxes while also playing to the strengths of their local Franschhoek terroirs.
Such is the popularity of these wines and the instant following (and small production) that all three new releases sell out instantly on release in the local market. So worth looking out for these in the UK and further afield while they are still slightly less well known! It’s certainly not going to last!
Lokaia Pound of Flesh 2021, WO Bo-Hoek, Franschhoek, 10.5% Abv.
This impressive wine comes from a vineyard planted in 1995 on the Stony Brook farm in the Bo-Hoek area of Franschhoek. Despite its ultra-crystalline clear translucent colour, the wine saw a small amount of skin contact in the press before an extra four months ageing in stainless steel. There is an alluring dusty, stony mineral aromatic character on the attractive nose before more complex notes of lemon grass, lime peel, white pear, green herbs and lemon pastille emerge. At 10.5% Abv. the wine is impressively ample and ripe with taut textural layers of tart peach stone fruits, wet river pebble minerality and lime cordial, all framed by a steely, intense, glassy acidity that has more in common with Australia’s tart, dry Hunter Valley expressions than the more generous, glycerol, lanolin and lemon fruited expressions we are more used to from Franschhoek’s famous old vine vineyards. Like Lokaia’s other wines, this is another super classy expression that will seduce the fussiest of Old World fine wine aficionados. Drink from release and over the next 8 to 10+ years.
Veiled vineyards is a project to unearth wines made in secret, by maverick winemakers in hidden cellars, or rare parcels previously destined to be blended, now set free to express their unique individuality and story. Preserving old vines has become a crusade for many in South Africa and UK wine merchant Woodwinters Wines has started off their new project with a wine made from historic old vine Semillon planted in 1942 and 1962.
Part of the uniqueness of this wine from Franschhoek old vines is how Mother Nature simply decided some of the Semillon grapes would naturally mutate to Semillon with purple skins and these grapes have been co-fermented to celebrate this unique phenomenon. With first stocks of this wine recently landing in the UK, I cracked a bottle of this “new release” 2016 to see what all the hype was about. Extra points for guessing which young maverick made this wine!
Veiled Vineyards Old Vine Semillon 2016, WO Franschhoek, 13.5% Abv.
This is a serious creation from classic Old Vine Semillon that offers up a complex nose of honied white peaches, orange peel, fresh fennel, dried green herbs, waxy yellow citrus, lanolin and melted butter. The aromatic complexity continues on to an impressively detailed, textured palate loaded with green pear, white citrus, baking spices, a touch of fresh fennel and a green leafy sapidity before nuances of bergamot and wet river pebble minerality. A really impressive, multi-dimensional white wine loaded with fruit intensity and fresh tangy acids. The extra bottle age allows this delicious Semillon to drink incredibly well now but still retains plenty of gas in the tank ensuring a long cellar life ahead. Drink this beauty now and over the next 8 to 10+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
For UK trade enquiries, contact Woodwinters UK at email@example.com
Clayton Reabow of Môreson and Craig McNaught of Stony Brook winery are the winemakers behind this new innovative Franschhoek-based label and the owners of the Lokaia brand. It was their belief that there was more to explore in the potential of the Franschhoek Valley with varieties like Semillon, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc that led to a new exciting range of wines.
The name “Lokaia” is derived from Ole Lukøje, the title of a fairy tale by author Hans Christian Andersen about the God of Dreams, and I’m sure neither Clayton nor Craig could have imagined (or dreamt) the level of acclaim to which their two new whites and one red wine would be received by the market, both locally in South Africa and internationally.
Track these exciting wines down. They are very well made, offer classical fine wine drinking pleasure and are something just a little bit different to the mainstream offerings on the market. (Available in the UK through importer Museum Wines)
Lokaia The Sandman Valley Floor Amphora Chardonnay 2020, WO Franschhoek, 12% Abv.
Made from from a Chardonnay vineyard located at Môreson winery located on the Franschhoek valley floor, this is certainly a characterful and dynamic Chardonnay that is impressive on multiple levels. The aromatics are pure and stony, alluring, boasting complex notes of dried green baking herbs, white citrus zest and waxy lemon peel nuances. Considering its meagre but refreshing 12% alcohol, the wine shows impressive mouthfeel and texture, a lovely liquid minerality, hints of limestone and oyster shell, lemon pith and green pear. Despite the fermentation and subsequent maceration on its skins for two months in a 500 litre clay amphora, this wine shows clarity and poise, zippy fresh acids and a real sense of confidence, purity and harmony. Comparisons to 1er Cru Chablis will be inevitable but that is hardly a negative. A wonderfully skilful wine that breaks with tradition! Drink now to 2026+.
The great thing about the wine trade is that whatever side of the fence you work, whether producing, buying or selling, everyday beckons new discoveries and new experiences. Clayton Reabow and Craig McNaught are the winemakers behind this new innovative Franschhoek-based label and for the owners of the Lokaia brand, it was exactly this driving force that led them to believe that there was more to explore in the potential of the Franschhoek Valley with varieties like Semillon, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc at the forefront of their endeavours.
Clayton has been behind the wheel of Franschhoek’s Moreson winery for fourteen years and counts both the Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the Year and Winemaker of the Year awards among his many accolades. Craig on the other hand is the second-generation winemaker and co-owner of Stony Brook Vineyards in Franschhoek’s Bo-Hoek region and his focus for many years has been on producing traditional, old-world influenced wines with the Lokaia project affording him the opportunity “to delve in to the postmodern.”
The Lokaia range includes a Semillon from Franschhoek’s Bo-Hoek, a Chardonnay from the Franschhoek Valley Floor and a Cabernet Franc from the Dutoitskop Peak grown on sandstone and clay soils. All three wines are vinified with a strong emphasis on the use of Terracotta amphora that allow the wines to breath and evolve slowly with out any oak influence. Each wine also has a varying degree of skin contact during and post fermentation.
Lokaia Call of the Void Dutoitskop Peak Amphora Cabernet Franc 2020, WO Franschhoek, 11.98% Abv.
1.1 g/l RS | 5.9 g/l TA | 3.24 pH
This unique Cabernet Franc expression was fermented and matured on its skins for four months in amphora yielding a meagre production of a mere 530 bottles. Produced in a more natural leaning style that is unfined and unfiltered, the aromatics yield an intriguing expression of crushed leaves, grey slate, green coffee beans, black tea, spicy green peppercorns, sweet cedar and a freshly cut hedgerow spice. On the palate, the theme of cool sapidity and minerality continues with notes of wet river pebble minerality, tart black currants, sweet and sour black berries, crunchy bright acids and a long, tangy fresh finish that is deliciously mouth-watering. The energetic freshness makes this an attractively easy to drink red, yet beneath the wine’s slightly obvious, linear, fruity veneer lie multiple layers that genuinely challenge the senses. Despite the super low alcohol, the wine possesses an impressively fleshy, glycerol texture, soft powdery stony tannins and a long glassy, crystalline finish. Drink on release and over the next 3 to 5+ years.
I first met CEO of La Motte, Hein Koegelenberg, in London of all places in mid-March 2018. Tasting through their impressive range of wines with their newly appointed importer, The Wine Treasury, was most enjoyable and enlightening. These were after all some of the wines I had cut my teeth on in the early 1990s when I was working as a commodity trader in Johannesburg spending my hard-earned cash filling up my newly established wine cellar in Pretoria with some of South Africa’s finest red wines. Scratch on the shelves today and you might find some of my treasured bottles of La Motte Shiraz from 1993, 1994 and 1995 or maybe even one of my last bottles of La Motte Millennium 1990 red blend. These are historic wines that hold a special place in my wine development landscape as well as for many South Africans.
With lockdown looming hard and large, we have certainly missed all our regular South African winemaking tourists passing through London to taste the new vintage releases. But as they say, if Mohammed can’t go to the mountain, well then, the mountain must come to Mohammed… and I recently had a wonderful opportunity to taste through the current releases from the stunning La Motte Franschhoek Estate and was impressed with the all-round quality as ever.
La Motte Sauvignon Blanc 2021, WO Western Cape, 12.5% Abv.
3.0 g/l RS | 7.3 g/l TA | 3.39 pH
This 2021 Sauvignon Blanc was made from a blend of grapes sourced in Franschhoek (25%), Stellenbosch (50%) and the Cape South Coast (25%). With multiple vineyards grown in different microclimates and on different terroirs, the final wine in bottle has been expertly blended to ensure ample ripeness with juicy freshness, no overt leafy pyrazine characters but certainly plenty of attractive cool climate purity. A reductive fermentation process in stainless steel was carried out with the wine being left on its fine lees to enhance the tropical flavours. To further add to the complexity, 8% of Semillon was blended into the wine before bottling on the 10th April 2021.
A deliciously vibrant, expressive style of Cape Sauvignon Blanc, this wine displays an impressive purity and crystalline cool vintage clarity of green citrus fruits, green apple, lemon and lime zest and a subtle suggestion of Cape gooseberry. There is just enough fleshy tropical complexity to make this wine very appealing to lovers of fine New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc with a cool 12.5% alcohol supporting an electric acidity and energetic depth of fruit. There is plenty of mouth coating richness, a fleshy glycerol opulence and a long, cool, spicy green herb-tinged finish with tangy acids that keep you coming back again and again for another sip. I’m not sure what more you could want from a young, fresh, unoaked Sauvignon Blanc? Delicious! Drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years.
(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
La Motte The Pierneef Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2020, WO Cape South Coast, 12.62% Abv.
1.8 g/l RS | 6.8 TA | 3.25 pH
The Pierneef Collection is a range of wines from La Motte forming a part of their more premium range as a tribute to the famous South African artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (1886-1957), one of South Africa’s most collectable artists, with each new bottling labelled with a different piece of his art. The 2020 Pierneef Collection Sauvignon Blanc is a blend of 94% Sauvignon Blanc from Elim, Napier and Elgin and 6% Semillon from Elim, all vineyards that now fall under the Cape South Coast region. After four drought vintages from 2015 to 2018, the 2019 season was much more moderate and saw the Cape’s vineyards build up their water reserves which boded well for the follow up 2020 crop. The grapes were afforded 16 hours of skin contact before fermentation and then another 5 months post-fermentation ageing on fine lees before blending. The wine was bottled in August 2020 and 30,000 bottles were produced.
On the nose, this wine is unmistakably cool climate Sauvignon Blanc with all the herby, pithy, spicy, saline notes you’d expect to find on cooler, Coastal Cape Sauvignon. Together with classic Thiol notes of white citrus, Cape Gooseberry and bell pepper, there is an attractive underlying dusty crushed limestone minerality, hints of green apple pastille, lime peel and lemon grass spices. Medium bodied with bright glassy acids but also a wonderfully harmonious textural balance, this is a serious offering for more serious Sauvignon Blanc connoisseurs that celebrates the diversity of premium cool climate coastal maritime styles. Drink on release or cellar for 6 to 8+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
La Motte Franschhoek Chardonnay 2019, WO Franschhoek, 13.4% Abv.
2.2 g/l RS | 6.0 g/l TA | 3.37 pH
While many of Franschhoek’s top wines are produced from grapes sourced from all over the Cape, this Chardonnay is made from fruit grown on the La Motte farm in Franschhoek from vineyards located at 200 metres above sea-level on south and southwestern facing slopes. The vineyard soils are mostly sandstone and granite in origin with the oldest blocks planted in 1997. For the 2019 Chardonnay, 100% the grapes were whole bunch pressed with 66% fermented in 300 litre French oak barrels with malo and 33% in stainless steel without malolactic fermentation. Post ferment, the wines saw regular lees stirring while ageing 12 months in 25% new French oak. After ageing, the wines were blended and bottled in May 2020.
The aromatics on this 2019 Chardonnay boast luxurious zesty notes of tangerine peel, pressed oranges and fragrant citrus blossom together with notes of vanilla pod spice, dried pistachio nuts and lemon butterscotch. The palate is round, creamy and harmonious with a fine textural balance of tangy orange and yellow citrus fruits, succulent white peach and green apple pastille. There is a lovely finesse and fine-tuned elegance to the wine that shows impressive persistence of flavour and a complex leesy, savoury lemon bon bon finish. Enjoy this ‘ready-to-go’ Chardonnay now and over the next 2 to 3+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.
3.2 g/l RS | 6 g/l TA | 3.39 pH
The grapes for this 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon are sourced from two regions including 67% from Stellenbosch and 33% from Franschhoek. 2018 was of course the fourth in a series of drought vintages and resulted in a small, concentrated crop of grapes -15% down on 2017 or the lowest crop in a decade and a half. The Stellenbosch portion of fruit was machine harvested before being transported to the La Motte cellar in Franschhoek while the Franschhoek grapes were hand harvested. All grape batches were fermented separately in stainless steel before being aged for 16 months in 300 litre French oak barrels, 33% new, 33% second fill and 34% older barrels. After blending, the wine was bottled in November 2019. 84,000 bottles were produced.
This Cabernet Sauvignon displays classical aromatics of saline cassis, sweet cedar spice, dried mint leaf, iodine, seashore kelp and subtle hints of graphite, iron and blood. Youthfully piquant but also lush on the palate, like a true 2018 Cabernet, this wine takes a little bit of time to open its shoulders before revealing its full potential. The palate shows an attractive opulence and a fleshy, creamy black cocoa powder complexity with notes of tart black currant, black cherry, crunchy sour plum and a long, mouth-watering finish marked by wonderfully subtle integrated oak spice characters and a delicate kiss of salty liquorice. Ample minerality and more than sufficient structure suggest you can drink this now with a short decant or else cellar for at least 5 to 8+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
La Motte Syrah 2017, WO Franschhoek, 13.69% abv.
2.3 g/l RS | 5.6 g/l TA | 3.44 pH
The Syrah grapes for this wine are all sourced from the La Motte Wine Estate in Franschhoek from vines that are between 10 and 30 years old, situated on varying sandstone and granitic soils at between 200 and 300 metres altitude. While 2017 was the third of the drought vintages in the Cape, it also managed to somehow deliver the raw materials to make some of the greatest red wines ever seen in the Cape. Following a lower than average rainfall in the preceding winter, flowering and fruit set conditions were favourable and followed by a long, dry ripening season with cool nights and a distinct lack of heat waves resulting in very healthy grapes with excellent concentration. For this Syrah, the grapes were 100% destemmed and the whole berries fermented in stainless steel tanks. The finished wine was matured in 300 litre French oak barrels for 14 months, 30% of which were new. Unusually, to add some extra colour to the wine, a 15% portion of Durif (Petit Syrah) was added to the blend. It seems the phenomenally successful 2017 vintage was equally as generous to the quality of premium Syrah wines as it was to top Cabernet Sauvignon and Cape Bordeaux Blends that have lit up critical wine ratings globally.
This is an attractive wine that reveals a wonderfully seductive, generous and elegant expression of Franschhoek Syrah. Dense, dark and opaque, though some of this might be due to a little extra Petit Syrah turbo charging, the aromatics show perfumed notes of earthy lily flowers, black plum, salty black liquorice, black olive tapenade and bruleed Christmas pudding nuances. Complex and layered, there is a sleek meaty, savoury stratum with sweet peppercorn nuances and hints of molasses spice. For all the ripeness, the palate lacks no freshness and is brimming with blue berry and black currant fruits buffered by a subtle chalky mineral tannin and a cool, long oregano and thyme-tinged dried herb finish. A serious effort for the money.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
La Motte The Pierneef Collection Syrah 2017, WO Western Cape, 13.8% Abv.
2.8 g/l RS | 6.0 g/l TA | 3.46 pH
Though not part of the ultra-premium range from La Motte, this wine still has got to be one of the estate’s most impressive quality red offerings. The fruit for this blend originates from 90% Syrah from Elim, 5% Syrah from Walker Bay and 5% Viognier from Franschhoek. Small berries with thick skins and intense fruit flavours in 2017 made for a very serious vintage offering. Some of the Syrah batches were harvested at the same time as the Viognier, sourced in Franschhoek, in order for the grapes to be co-fermented together. After fermentation, the wine was matured for 14 months in 55% new French oak barrels after which time the components were all blended together and then returned to barrel for a further 4 months of ‘marriage’. The wine was bottled in November 2018.
Based on the classical Cote Rotie blend of red and white grapes, this really is a spectacularly well-made wine delivered with intensity, complexity and balance. The aromatics are instantaneously recognizable as being different with the extra tell-tale perfumed lift and peachy bon bon rock candy aromatics from the Viognier that melt into the dark, saline, salty liquorice and black currant fruit nuances of the intense, maritime Elim Syrah. Dark, seductive and decidedly cool and coastal in its profile, this wine sucks up the new oak portion to leave an almost imperceptible purity of tart black berry fruits with just the most subtle lick of creamy warm buttered brown toast smothered in black currant and watermelon preserve on the long finish. Cool, dense, weightlessly concentrated and texturally compact with a high degree of finesse and polish make for a real ‘wow’ wine. Drink this wine now after a good 2 hour decant or else cellar for a further 10 to 12+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
(Wines are distributed to trade in the UK by The Wine Treasury.)
It has to be said that when Chris and Andrea Mullineux embarked on their new Leeu Passant adventure with silent partner Analjit Singh, there were many in the industry that thought that this duo would be better off focusing on their successful eponymous Swartland project at Roundstone instead of spreading themselves a bit thin across multiple wine regions. But when you are as driven and as wine curious as Chris and Andrea, holding back on their new winemaking endeavour was never an option. Since the first vintages released from the 2015 vintage, there has certainly been a high degree of evolution and even a bit of revolution as Chris and Andrea have shaken up the establishment in both Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.
But in 2021, the Leeu Passant project can finally be considered to have come of age with some of their most compelling releases yet. With a conscious effort to try and realign the vintage releases a little more after choosing to hold back the 2018 Leeu Passant Dry Red and the Basson Vineyard Old Vine Cinsault 2018, they have finally reached a point where the extra year in bottle for these extraordinary wines has allowed them to be appreciated and admired for what they truly are – exceptional winemaking creations.
I normally visit Chris and Andrea at least once a year in the Swartland and then finally fill in the remaining gaps on one of their many trips to London. I certainly miss the Swartland and walking the vineyards with Chris as he explains all the new ideas they’re perpetually putting into practice in the vineyards. But these are strange times and unfortunately I had to make do with a Zoom tasting to acquaint myself with their fabulous new wine releases.
Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.
Made from a single vineyard in the Helderberg where the climate probably has a bigger fingerprint than even the soils and terroir but at 400 meters plus, the maritime climate really shapes the wine with very consistent temperatures, that yield high acidities and often 9 TA – 9.5 TAs before settling at around 7 TA when all is said and done. Whole bunch pressed with oxidative must handling then to barrel for 18 months in oak without SO2. Barrels were 225L size of which around 30% were new with the rest 2/3/4/5th fill.
The 2019 Chardonnay is a very serious contender for one of the top Chardonnays produced in South Africa along with a very small handful of obsessive producers. This Stellenbosch 2019 is full of power and focus with all the hallmark purity that Andrea Mullineux prides herself in. The aromatics are reminiscent of granitic river pebbles immersed in lemon cordial with a dusting of honey, toffee apples, lemon grass and dried baking herbs. Always brilliantly pure, crystalline and electric, the palate shows tremendous tension and linearity supported by astonishing fruit concentration and intensity. The balance and harmony are spellbinding, revealing sip after sip, the true pedigree of this wonderful Helderberg vineyard site in the hands of a masterful winemaker. Undoubtedly comparable to the very best Chardonnay expressions produced by Leeu Passant to date, this 2019 seems to pack an extra level of lemon and lime intensity making it already an incredibly appealing fine wine. Give this vintage at least three years from release in your cellar and then drink over 10+.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Leeu Passant Wellington Old Vine Basson Cinsault 2018, WO Wellington, 13% Abv.
This treasured dry-farmed Cinsault vineyard is the oldest certified red wine vineyard in South Africa, planted in circa 1900 and farmed by the Mullineuxs since 2014. One of the original Old Vine Project “Certified Heritage Vineyards” that has been held up as a shining beacon of education and preservation, these gnarled deep rooted old Cinsault bush vines are planted on deep, weathered sandy Table Mountain sandstone alluvial soils which yield wines deceptively light in colour but also impressively structured, taut and rich. Producing as little as 600 kilograms of fruit in 2015, the plot has now been nursed back to rude health enough to yield two tons of fruit in 2019.
This vineyard always shows plenty of structure, power and focus and the 2018 vintage is considered one of the most structured yet. In its current youthful state, the aromatics are distinctively stony and mineral but also fabulously perfumed showing notes of potpourri, lavender, bramble berries, fynbos and Turkish delight. The palate is incredibly precise and foursquare with a polished structure and frame you just don’t expect from such a delicately fragrant wine. The texture is dense and tightly packed, the wine concentrated and intense but also deceptively light on its feet revealing notes of cranberry, red cherry and wild strawberries on the finish all supported by the most powdery, silky tannins imaginable. A difficult wine even for me to put accurately into words because it is so evocative on both an emotional level as well as on a sensorial level. Drink this wine from release and over the next 30+ years. (Circa 1,800 bottles produced)
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv
Chris and Andrea experimented with over 20 different vineyards around Stellenbosch before they started to focus on five specific vineyards including two in the Helderberg, two in the Polkadraai Hills and one 40-year-old parcel in Firgrove close to False Bay. Three of these five vineyards already contribute fruit that goes into their flagship Leeu Passant Dry Red Blend together with components of the Lotter Cinsault, the Wellington Basson Cinsault and a splash of Cabernet Franc. The wine sees only 30% new oak with some extended maceration that changes from site to site with the older Firgrove vineyard seeing the longest maceration. With vines grown on a mix of alluvial soils and decomposed granite soils, the grapes produce a sleek, crystalline, elegant style of Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon that many say harks back to the golden age of Bordeaux’s finest old Clarets. The wines are aged for 12 months before being moved to larger 2000 and 5000 litre upright oak vats for another year of aging before spending several months in bottle before release.
The aromatics are wonderfully lifted and perfumed showing all the intricacies of cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon fruit. There is an intriguing piquant leafy spice that melts into notes of liquid minerality, granitic dust and graphite while underneath the mineral veil is a powerful depth of fruit held on a very short rein lest it bursts out the glass. There are seductive notes of violets, sweet cedary spice, saline black currant, hints of iodine and fresh kelp brought in on the morning’s tide. On the palate there is plenty of textural precision on display for all to see, confidently boasting layer upon layer of stony minerality, sweet cherry tobacco, cassis leaf, black tea, tilled earth and creamy dense powdery tannins. Fabulously old school on so many levels, this wine will undoubtedly age well and develop into something that harks back to the great old Clarets of times gone by. Drink from 2024 until 2040+
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Leeu Passant Dry Red 2018, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.
The impressive wine is formed of two old vine Cinsault blocks (Basson and Lotter), three Cabernet Sauvignon parcels and Cabernet Franc from the Helderberg. The 2018 is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 16% Cinsault (in 2018 mostly Basson and lesser amounts of the opulent Lotter), with the Basson Cinsault being whole bunch fermented. Some of the Cinsault is co-fermented with the 40+ year old Cabernet Sauvignon while the Cabernet Franc, planted in the early 1990s, if vinified separately. The Dry Red traditionally sees the components aged 12 months in 500 litre oak barrels separately before being blended and aged for another 12 months in large 2000-litre old oak foudre. The wine now also spends an extra year in bottle “because when it was released earlier, the Cinsault component seemed to dominate the style. Now with the extra 12 months in bottle it is a far more harmonious wine”, according to Chris Mullineux. Almost 10,000 bottles were produced in 2018 compared to circa 4,000 bottles in 2015, the maiden vintage.
My experience of tasting this wine has sometimes been somewhat of a challenge because in its early years, the individual components often seemed to intermittently compete with one another for aromatic and flavour dominance. The extra years ageing in bottle has been a game-changer. The wine is now so incredibly lifted and perfumed with a real melange of red currant, wild strawberry, pressed violets and vanilla pod spice bursting out the glass. There is such magnificent purity, precision and a real synergy that shines through the wine. The palate is incredibly dense, textured and luxuriously opulent, packed full of fleshy red cherry and cranberry pastille fruits, Turkish delight and red currant jelly. Perhaps it’s the vintage or perhaps it’s just the extra bottle age but this wine seems so much more complete with less obvious sapidity and spice and much more harmonious fleshy layers of red fruit and creamy, savoury tannins. This is an absolute triumph of a wine and a flagship vintage Dry Red that single-handedly announces the true ‘arrival’ of the entire Leeu Passant project. Drink this phenomenal wine on release and over the next 30+ years.
Semillon is a complicated grape variety that could probably be thought of as the white equivalent of Cabernet Franc – neither being easy varieties for wine novices to get their heads around, but once you fall in love with them, there is no looking back. These 116-year-old vines come from the famous Landau du Val vineyard in the Bo-Hoek area of the Franschhoek Valley, owned by Basil Landau, really do yield some very special fruit capable of making some truly profound white wines.
Harvested February 2017, the fruit was picked and chilled overnight before being destemmed without crushing and left to macerate on the skins for 24 hours before pressing. The juice was settled in tank and then transferred to old 500 litre French oak barrels for natural fermentation which lasted 6 weeks. After fermentation, bâtonnage was performed once a week to add richness and texture to the wine. The wine was bottled unfiltered and unfined after 12 months ageing in barrel.
As with many other complex wines, cuisines and works of art, it seems unreasonable to expect that every critic will taste and understand classic old vine Semillon in the same manner and see eye to eye with their critical ratings. But this is undoubtedly an impressive wine fashioned by subtlety and whispered nuances, austere liquid minerality and a slowly evolving textural passion play that eventually seduces the drinker.
Black Elephant Vintners & Co. The Dark Side of the Vine Semillon 2017, W.O. Franschhoek, 12.25% Abv.
pH 3.41 | TA 5.6 g/l | RS 2.30 g/l
Old Vine Semillon doesn’t come much more serious than this wine. Add to the equation a high quality, super taut, tightly wound vintage and you have all the building blocks for a truly special wine. This vintage requires plenty of time and breathing to release its intricacies, but after several hours, the aromatics rise to a fine classical crescendo of pithy white citrus, nectarine peel, crushed gravel and dusty chalk minerality, hints of white pepper, dried nuts and a lick of lanolin and tinned petit pois. On the palate, the structure is super taut with an iron grip that releases the underlying intensity of the old vine fruit in a slow and measured manner. There is plenty of crunchy white peach stone fruit, dried herbs, tart green pear, yellow grapefruit pith and a long, spicy, leesy finish framed by linear acids. Another complex, restrained offering that will take a little time in the cellar to show at its best. An educated palate will undoubtedly recognise and enjoy the classism and quality of this very fine Semillon expression. Drink from 2022 to 2034+.
There are few places more beautiful than an ancient old vine vineyard perched high in the mountains above a beautiful hamlet like Franschhoek. But that’s where you’ll find the magical 84 year old vines that have produced the fruit that made the new release Naudé Family Old Vine Semillon Gris 2019 bottled exclusively in magnum. In fact that’s actually a godsend as the wine is so delicious, at 12% Abv, one regular 75cl bottle will hardly touch sides!
This famous vineyard has over the years supplied fruit to such iconic producers as Alheit Family Wines, Boekenhoutskloof, John Seccombe of Thorne & Daughters and Adam Mason of Raised By Wolves. Now Naudé Family Wines joins this elite club. When chatting to Ian Naudé, he requested that I taste and review the wine over several days. Having done exactly that with incredible results for some of the Leeu Passant old vine reds recently, I had no objections what so ever in doing so. Also, tasting from magnum surely demands it!?
My impressions of this profound wine are captured below over three days of tasting.
Naude Family Wines La Colline Groendruif Semillon Gris 2020, WO Franschhoek, 12% Abv. (Bottled in Magnum)
Rich and fleshy with a broad glycerol weight and textural harmony. Lots of white peach and yellow orchard stone fruits with a spicy, grassy, herby peppery finish. There’s a lot going on here. Certainly a contemplative wine.
The wine seems to have really tightened up to show nervy white citrus, white pepper, liquid minerality, pithy peach stone, lemon iced tea with textural spice, phenolic grip, grape skin tannins and a dry bitter lemon persistence. Lovely wound spring tension with a stony pure focus on the finish.
Super excited to taste this again on day three and see what direction the wine has travelled. The nose is now full of pithy citrus and hints of crunchy green fruits with exotic notes of unripe tangerines and naartjies. The palate remains steely and crisp, bright and super taut with tart green apple, white peach and complexing layers of dried herbs and crushed granite minerality. Piercing and super focused, this is a very serious fine wine expression of majestic old vine Semillon bottled exclusively in magnums. Drink now and over the next 10-15+ years.