The Original Swartland Maverick Adi Badenhorst Presents His New 2021 Wine Releases…

The Kalmoesfontein farm is the home of Adi Badenhorst Family Wines situated in the Heart of the Paardeberg in the Swartland. An historic old farm, it was already planted with some of the oldest Grenache blocks in the country when Adi bought the farm in the mid-2000s. One of the original Swartland mavericks, Adi Badenhorst had already carved out a formidable winemaking reputation at Rustenburg before moving to the Swartland in 2006/7.

I recently caught up with Adi over a zoom tasting to taste a lovely array of his newest releases (from small decanted sample bottles which in some instances can affect a wine’s ultimate score detrimentally.)

AA Badenhorst New Releases:

AA Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

Made from up to 30 vineyards from different terroirs with the juice often being blended in tanks and 30% fermented in wooden vats. No yeasts added, no acidification, focusing on an honest, affordable, non-manipulated Chenin Blanc with a lot of the fruit from old bush vines. The 2020 is packed with peach stone fruits, yellow orchard fruits, hints of wet thatch, green melon and green apple nuances with a fine textural mouthfeel, juicy acids and a peachy, pithy length. A very versatile wine that offers great value for money.

(Wine Safari Score: 88/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

AA Badenhorst Secateurs Riviera Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

A component of the Secateurs that was bottled on its own in 2018 for the first time using layers of fruit in tank to get carbonic maceration and skin contact. Mostly Chenin Blanc with a splash of Grenache Blanc. Then they draw off components of the wine at different stages and no sulphur is added. The wine is picante and aromatic, spicy and complex with delicious notes of tangerine peel, oranges, sea breeze and kelp and crunchy peaches. Definite skin contact aromas and subtle skin contact flavours on the palate but nothing enough to scare off novices. Texturally it’s full, glycerol harmonious and round and just a lovely complex glassful of wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

AA Badenhorst Sout van die Aarde Palomino 2019, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Another unique wine from Adi. Up the west coast, so one of the only vineyards quite a distance from Kalmoesfontein. Grapes from old vines (planted 1950s & 1970s) are grown in limestone chalky sandy soils, pressed and fermented in vats. The nose is pure sea breeze and oyster shell with back notes of grapefruit, white citrus and limestone minerality. On the palate, the 2019 is soft and fleshy, textured and harmonious with a cool, glycerol density, weightless concentration and a soft, almost creamy, salty finish. No edges, fabulous balance and just a pleasure to drink. 

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

AA Badenhorst Family White Blend 2018, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

Made from 10 to 12 different varieties, the grapes are all sourced from the Swartland and the wine tries to represent the region instead of a specific variety or style but with all grapes grown on decomposed Granite soils. The nose is pithy and spicy with hints of pear, fynbos, dry thatch and back ground hints of tangerine, naartjie, peach and green apples. The palate is crisp, crystalline, pure and bright with a lovely harmonious balance, a delicate lick of vanilla and oak, subtle savoury lees characters and a long, sweet / sour intense finish loaded with pineapple pastille and yellow rock candy. Powerful, intense and textural. A really lovely Swartland expression. 

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

AA Badenhorst Golden Slopes Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 12.5% Abv.

Another superb single vineyard bottled by Adi, the 2019 Golden Slopes Chenin Blanc is an old vines vineyard grown on decomposed granite soils and often tends to shine as one of Adi’s most accomplished expressions of Chenin Blanc. Planted at 320m above sea level on granite, with heavier clay rich soils. The heavier soils yield a more unctuous, textural Chenin expression loaded with white peach, pithy yellow orchard fruits, granitic dust and a lovely round, rich glycerol textured palate wth fabulous intensity and superb length. What not to love about this wine?

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

AA Badenhorst Klip Kop Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

Old vine bush vines near the Golden Slopes vineyard but just a bit lower down the slope or around 120 metres lower down at 200 metres above sea level, located on a rocky outcrop with more austere soils which comes through on the more steely, mineral nature of the wine. The aromatics are austere and picante, mineral and tense, loaded with stony, granitic white citrus, white grapefruit, green apple and crushed rocks. The palate is pure and linear, with a glassy defined vein of acidity and a pure, crunchy peach stone fruit finish. I love the tension, the nervous energy married to a harmonious equilibrium. Superb.

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

AA Badenhorst Family Red Blend 2018, /WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Another of Adi’s signature wines, using 5 to 6 different varieties fermented in concrete, some portions in tank and then they are transferred back into concrete with around 10,000 bottles produced. Nose shows delicious complexity with savoury, meaty, red fruited notes with hints of back currant, black olive tapenade and raw marinated meat. The palate shows a lovely balance and elegance, textural finesse and seamless mouthfeel where one variety melts into the other. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A truly delicious wine. 

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

AA Badenhorst Family Ramnasgras Cinsault 2019, WO Swartland, 12.5% Abv.

Located next to the Raaigras Grenache vineyard, located on the farm and always shows a unique character from vines planted in the early 1960’s. The secret to quality is old vines, low cropping and well tended vineyards. The nose is jam packed full of savoury red berry fruits, sun raisined cranberry, red cherry, Turkish delight and rose petals perfume but with this Swartland expression showing another layer of earthy red currant fruit, Sous Bois and leafy sapidity. On the palate the texture is cool and creamy, fabulous textural balance and finesse with silky, chalky tannins, a soft fleshy depth and an almost Pinot Noir elegance and mouthfeel. Really impressive.

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

AA Badenhorst Family Raaigras Grenache 2019, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

A wonderfully exotic, perfumed wine that is supposed to come from the oldest Grenache vineyard in South Africa planted in the 1950s. There is a lovely creamy, savoury, earthy red berry intensity with super polished tannins, an incredibly finessed palate texture and a long, bramble berry, cranberry and rose hip finish. This 2019 shows some of the most harmonious elegance I’ve seen on any of Adi’s reds and really is a true hommage to this ancient vineyard. Bravo!

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

The Judgement of Wimbledon – Assessing Some of the World’s Greatest Grenache Reds in a Blind Tasting…

It all started a few years ago when Roland Peens of Cape Town wine merchant Wine Cellar held a blind Grenache Taste-Off with some of the most famous expressions from around the world. In an astonishing result, the Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014 trumped the competition coming out top against examples that included several wines from French icon producer Chateau Rayas. This was a result that would go a long way in establishing the cult status of the maiden Naude 2014 Grenache.

Some years later in December 2017, the Naude Grenache 2014 was put through its paces once again being pitched in a blind tasting featuring several top examples of Grenache including three wines from Chateau Rayas. In a repeat of the famous Cape Town result, the Naude Grenache 2014 triumphed yet again in spectacular fashion and this tasting became known as the Judgement of Chiswick, named after the location of the superb Michelin starred La Trompette restaurant where the tasting was held. The write-up of this tasting can be read here… https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2017/12/09/creating-a-future-icon-wine-tasting-the-incredible-naude-grenache-2014-blind-with-chateau-rayas-at-the-judgement-of-chiswick/

After only one vintage, Ian unfortunately lost the contract to the fruit from this vineyard and with the maiden Naude Grenache 2014 red riding high in the market, no further releases were forthcoming… that is until 2019, when Ian managed to once again agree access to the fruit from this vineyard that was now nearing 24 years old. With a December 2020 release of this new wine scheduled by Ian Naude, myself together with two of the original judges from the Judgement of Chiswick decided it was time to put the new 2019 vintage to the test against some of the most sturdy international Grenache competition available.

Tasting with Barry and Riaan

In the past few years since the original tastings, the extraordinary Grenache wines from the Sierra de Gredos situated west of Madrid have seduced the world’s top wine critics with their precision, perfume, old vine structure and purity. Spain in general has seen a notable Grenache wine revolution unfold to include high altitude, old vine expressions from Rioja, Navarra, Priorat and Madrid. The blind line up this year would include some spectacular examples including the 100 RP Comando G Rumbo al Norte 2018, the 100 RP Les Manyes 2016 from Terrior Al Limit and also a 98 RP Les Amis 2015 Grenache from Australia’s Torbreck estate in the Barossa. Of course no line up would be complete without the original Naude Grenache 2014 as well as a young vine expression Ian Naude made in 2017 as an entry level offering primarily for the UK market, under the A Naude Wine label.

Below are my own notes and scores on the wines tasted blind:

1 – Bernabeleva Garnacha de Vina Bonita 2016, DO Vinos de Madrid, 14% Abv.

Intense aromatics of liquid minerality, crushed granite with notes of dried herbs and sappy oak spice with an underlay of supporting vermouth botanical herbs. Palate is cool and precise, layered with chalky tannins, some chewy grip and a wild herb, red candied cherry and wet river stone finish. 92+/100 GSMW

2 – Naude Family Wines A Naudé Grenache 2017, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.

Deep rich and broody with bold dark fruited berry aromatics, graphite, pithy red plum and botanical spices. The palate is crystalline and pure, vibrant and lifted with bright juicy acids, creamy caramelised cranberry and red cherry and a cool, harmonious finish. Dense ripe tannins but seamless. Each sip beckons another. 95-96/100 GSMW

3 – Terroir Al Limit Les Manyes 2016, DOC Priorat, 14% Abv.

A little more complexity and evolution on the nose with hints of bramble berry, sweet kirsch liquor, sweet tobacco, wet tannery leather and wild stewed black plums. Fabulously seamless snd fleshy, there is incredible harmony and balance, depth and breadth on the palate. The finish focused and intense with subtle sweet red currant, graphite, brambly spice and fine powdery dusty tannins. Classy. 96+/100 GSMW

4 – 4 Monos Cien Lanzas Cenicientos 2016, Vino de Pueblo, Sierra de Gredos, 14.5% Abv.

This wine has pretty aromatics with showy sweet red berry fruits, stewed red cherries and red plum confit. Generous, fleshy and suave this has a wonderful harmonious texture, glycerol weight and a spicy, sappy bramble berry finish. Not quite the extreme complexity of the other wines but absolutely delicious. 93/100 GSMW

5 – Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat 2017, WO Piekenierskloof, 13.5% Abv.

Another deep and complex nose with broody bramble berry fruit, sappy spice, rose water and subtle botanical herbal spice. Full, round and expressive, it shows intensity and richness without sweetness or showy extravagance. Lovely weight and balance, this is another classy Grenache. 94/100 GSMW

6 – Comando G Viticultores Vino de Parcela Rumbo al Norte 2018, Villanueva de Avila, Valle de Alto Albereche, Sierra de Gredos, 14% Abv.

This red shows exotic spicy lift with subtle reductive hints of graphite, tar, black cherry, pink musk, green olive and smoky, spicy dried lavender. Palate shows lovely weight and depth, a glycerol opulent weight, smoky spicy fruits, powder tannin and a waxy liquid mineral finish. Intense, focused expression. 95-96/100 GSMW

7 – Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.

Big expressive aromatic profile with sweet cherry kirsch liquor, sweet vermouth herbs, spicy red plums and caramelised red berries. There is an oak influence but more than adequately balanced by a sweet red fruit intensity, vermouth sweetness, dried mint leaf, bramble berry herbal notes and then a more purer fruit expression emerging on the finish. 97/100 GSMW

8 – Aseginolaza & Leunda Camino de Otsaka 2018, Vino de la Tierra, 14.5% Abv.

Lovely lush dark berry fruited nose with lactic red & black berry complexity, milk chocolate and a Logan berry complexity. Perhaps a subtle lick of oak mingling with creamy cherry kirsch liquor, bright tangy acids and a finish that seems perfectly endless. Massive intensity, concentration and finesse tied together with delicious acids. This is just lovely if not a little more extrovert and opulent than the others. 94/100

9 – Naude Family Wines Grenache 2019, WO Western Cape, 12% Abv.

This shows a fascinating aromatic profile of crystalline red berry fruits, pure cranberry boiled sweets, hints of saline creme de cassis and tart red cherry coulis. Fabulous freshness, purity and linearity follows to the palate that shows well judged reductive spicy graphite hints, chalky stony tannins and a liquid mineral finish with a polished, accessible structure. Lighter touch style with elegance and finesse chosen over horsepower. 94+/100

10 – Torbreck Les Amis Grenache 2015, Barossa Valley, 15.5% Abv.

A big, full opulent expression with deep broody black berry fruit notes, sweet caramelised red plums, sweet kirsch liquor and a slightly brûléed edge. The palate follows the nose with slightly brûléed, caramelised notes, with hints of coffee bean, vanilla spice and creamy oak. Slightly obvious but fabulously punchy. 95+/100

The Judges’ Individual Blind Results:

Judge 1 (BvB)

1 – No 7

2 – No 6

3 – No 2

Judge 2 (RPot)

1 – No 6

2 – No 3

3 – No 2

Judge 3

1 – No 7

2 – No 5

3 – No 2

Judge 4 (GSMW)

1 – No 7  97

2 – No 3  96+

3 – No 2  95-96

4 – No 6  95-96

5 – No 10  95+

6 – No 9  94+

7 – No 5  94

8 – No 8  94

9 – No 4  93

10 – No 1 92+

Overall Group Results:

1st Place Wine – Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014 (No.7)

2nd Place Wine – Terroir Al Limit Les Manyes 2016 (No.3)

3rd Place Wine – A Naude Wine Grenache 2017 (No.2)

When the grand reveal was made at the end of the tasting after the scores were collated, all judges were surprised how well the Naude Grenache 2014 performed yet again, however, it was the almost unanimous third place for Ian’s ‘baby Grenache’ from 2017 that really blew everyone’s mind. Nobody expected this wine to feature in the top half of the ratings due to the formidable brands tasted alongside it. But this wine was of course rated 94 points in Decanter Magazine last year and also received a very solid 92 points from the world’s most famous reviewer, Neal Martin, writing in his 2019 South Africa Report for Vinous.com – His note for this wine was…

“The 2017 Grenache, from young Wellington vines with 80% whole bunches, is more reticent on the nose than the Cinsault 2017, offering dark berry fruits, fynbos and light rose petal scents. It needs a little more coaxing than I expected. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins that frame the maraschino cherry and strawberry fruit. There is moderate depth and a fleshy, sous-bois-tinged finish. Very fine.” 92/100 Neal Martin, Vinous

As for the new Naude Family Wines Grenache 2019, for such a young wine, it performed exceptionally well, lining up just behind some of the highest rated Grenaches in the world. With only a half point difference between my blind rating (94+) and my sighted review (95), I think this wine will equal and probably surpass the heights achieved by the 2014 as I truly believe that the 2019 is a more focused and accomplished wine. It has just been commercially released in South Africa, so do order some for your cellar!

This was a fabulously fun event to take part in and a special word of thanks should go to Barry van Bergen for hosting the tasting in Wimbledon and to Riaan Potgieter for helping to put together a seductive range of wines. Congratulations Ian and Merry Christmas!!

The Phoenix Rises Once Again – Tasting the New Release Naude Family Wines Grenache 2019 Red…

This is a journey that all started in 2014 with one experimental tank of Grenache from a special 18 year old vineyard parcel in the Agter Paardeberg, that Rosa Kruger had identified for Ian Naude. I just happened to be visiting Ian to taste his new Chenin Blanc and Cinsault vintages in barrel when I noticed this large stainless steel tank fermenting away in the corner of Ian’s cellar. When I enquired what it was and whether I could taste it, Ian suddenly appeared rather nervous and seemed quite reluctant. In the end, I did taste this magical wine that finally blossomed into one of the finest Grenache single varietal wines ever produced in South Africa.

But don’t take my word for it. There have been at least three large blind tastings carried out that I know of where the Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014 trumped the competition, coming out top against some of the finest Grenache examples from not only South Africa but also France and Spain, including twice beating the legendary Chateau Rayas in a blind line up. So the credentials of this vineyard as well as Ian’s winemaking prowess cannot be doubted. But not all stories have a happy ending. After only one vintage, Ian unfortunately lost the contract to the fruit from this vineyard, and with the maiden Naude Grenache 2014 red riding high in the market, no further releases were forthcoming… that is until 2019, when Ian managed to once again agree access to the fruit from this vineyard that was now nearing 24 years old.

In 2019, the Grenache crop was unfortunately one of the smallest ever due to the ongoing effects of a four year drought. Severe weather fluctuations during bud break and flowering also contributed to an already challenging season. There were some small positives however, with the small crop yielding exceptional fruit quality. Ian points out that the winter preceding the 2019 harvest received a high, drought busting rainfall allowing the vineyards and soils to start their long road to recovery after almost half a decade of drought conditions.

With healthy fruit beckoning, Ian consciously wanted to produce a red that moved away from the jammy, heavy, earthy ‘barnyard’ style that Grenache wines so easily orientate towards. After many visits to the vineyard and picking at a ripeness that would make a lighter, more elegant style of Grenache, the grapes were naturally fermented with minimal intervention. A combination of whole bunch, destemmed grapes and stalks where utilised during a natural fermentation in stainless steel tanks. After one or two soft pump-overs per day, the wine was left to settle for two weeks before being pressed and transferred into older 225 litre small French oak barrels where the wine was aged for 12 to 15 months.

Due for general release in mid-December 2020, this wine will almost certainly find an instant fine wine audience not just from those Grenache lovers that were lucky enough to savour Ian’s legendary 2014 release, but also from new consumers who have subsequently got to know Ian through his exceptional Chenin Blanc and white blends as well as his highly lauded Old Vine Cinsaults from Darling. This is yet another tantalising new release from a winemaker that is currently reaching new heights of fame and popularity both at home in South Africa but also internationally.

Naudé Family Wines Grenache 2019, WO Western Cape, 12% Abv.

RS 1.2 g/L | TA 6.1 g/L | pH 3.2 g/L 

There are many wonderful styles of Grenache around but one thing you can be assured of is the “Naude style” will always offer plentiful notes of perfume and fragrance, tart bright lively acids, red earthy fruits, pinpoint precision and above all, pronounced purity. This 2019 is vibrantly youthful allowing the aromatics to sing in unison with complex notes of violets and rose petals, bright red berry fruits and subtle notes of ruby grapefruit and red bramble berry spice. Cool, crystalline and wonderfully pure, the palate is steely and classically focused with a tart tangy acidity, zesty hints of blood orange citrus, cranberry and red plums and a backing mineral undertone of stony grey slate and fine grained gravelly tannins. Comparisons with Ian’s iconic 2014 Grenache expression will be inevitable but in many ways, the 2019 release is more polished, fine boned, focused and self-assured with more of the signature Naudé purity, tautness and light touch intensity in evidence. Once again, this impressive new release ranks amongst the finest single varietal Grenache reds produced in the Cape. Drink on release or age for 10-15+ years.

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

Creation Shifts Into Rhone Gear with the Release of Their New Grenache 2019 Red…

JC and Carolyn Martin, the owners of the Creation winery situated in the picturesque Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge region, are synonymous with the production of world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. But slightly less well known is that they also produce a deliciously seductive Grenache red that is made from grapes harvested from mature, virus-free vines which allows them the opportunity to create a wine with greater fruit purity, focus and precision.

I recently sampled the wonderful new 2019 expression of this impressive wine and can confirm that there is definitely a new Rhone ranger in town. The traditional skin fermentation was followed by malolactic fermentation in barrels with around 2-3 rackings over circa 14 months maturation with just a rough filtration before bottling.

Creation Sumac Grenache 2019, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

This bright and lively Grenache comes from another exceptional vintage across the country for both reds and whites, delivering impressively expressive aromatics, a surfeit structural tension, delicious fruit purity and the classic 2019 mineral backbone. Still youthful and full of vigour, the nose boasts hints of crushed rose petals, Chinese five spice, black currant liquor, juniper, black cherry and savoury black bramble berry nuances. The melted black liquorice and crème de cassis complexity mingles with notes of roasted earth, bruleed oak, black olive tapenade and freshly cracked black peppercorns. The palate shows an impressively fleshy weight, an intensity of salty black fruits, sleek fine grained tannins and finishes with a slightly raw, mineral youthfulness. While the mid-palate remains quite tightly wound and a little shy, this wine should grow into its skin with another 6 to 12 months of bottle ageing. Yet another cracking red wine from this leading light producer in the Walker Bay. Oh, and a better braai / barbeque red wine you’ll struggle to find!

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

Fine Wine Safari Vertical Masterclass with David & Nadia – Tasting Elpidios Red Blend 2011 to 2017…

While David Sadie has made a serious name for himself with his single vineyard Chenin Blancs and his white blends, he is of course a crafty expert with red varieties like Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, blended together in his classy red called Elpidios.

On David’s last trip to London, we cracked open a lovely little vertical of his Elpidios with his importer Justerini & Brooks. “Syrah is the most important grape variety for the Swartland… the next range of wines I feel tell our story the best” David told the guests, addressing the table in front of a delicious vertical of the Elipidios from 2011 to 2017.

David Sadie… a giant not only in winemaking circles.

This Rhône-inspired red blend from David & Nadia was interestingly a Syrah based red blend from vintages 2011 to 2014, a Carignan based red blend in 2015 and 2016 before changing to a Grenache based blend in 2017. “This wine feels like a tip of the hat to a more experimental mindset that I love to attribute to the Swartland.” ~ David Sadie

David & Nadia Elpidios Red Blend Vertical:

David & Nadia Elpidios 2011, WO Swartland,14% Abv.

3 barrels. Earthy, brambly, cheese cloth notes with supporting notes of tar, black olive, cured meats and black berry fruit. Very northern Rhône in character, this wine is fresh and vibrant, layered with boiled red berries, sweet black currant, granitic grainy tannins and a long, fresh, crunchy, sleek old world finish. Very classy indeed.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2012, WO Swartland,14% Abv.

A more savoury, richer, earthy aromatic profile with sun baked red berry fruits, sweet plum, creamy plum confit, red liquorice and a stony, piquant graphite finish. Slightly stewed, but again a very old world Rhône style.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

David & Nadia Elpidios 2013, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

A darker expression with plenty of bramble berry fruit, black plum, saline cassis reduction, sweet black berry, sweet black plum, graphite and soft, dry powdery tannins. Acids are soft and finely integrated making for a well rounded, brambly wild finish.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2014, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Beautifully perfumed lifted nose with pink flowers, red cherry zest, cranberry and sour red plum. Palate is very fresh, pure and crystalline with Parma violets, red berry crunch, red forest berries and an alluring brambly finish. Polished, satin tannins and a long vibrant finish.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2015, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Carignan based wine. Lifted perfumed nose of black berries, graphite, black kalamata olives, cured meats and sweet peppercorns. Tightly coiled, focused compact texture, super polished texture with enticing spicy red cherry concentration, glassy acids, bramble berries and sweet / sour plums. Very serious effort from a great vintage. Still super youthful.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2016, WO Swartland,13% Abv.

Lovely saline cassis and black berry aromatics, sea breeze, iron filings and bloody meat. The palate is fuller, grippy and rustic with black olive, wildness, sweet grilled herbs and sweet red plum, black olive, bresaola meaty finish. Fine effort in a very hot, dry vintage.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2017, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

Interesting lactic, red cherry, meaty, red currant nose with plenty of spicy, pithy, plummy depth. Superb elegance, classy old world granitic mineral tannins, fine grip and tension but fabulous length and concentration. Intense, vibrant and focused. A very fine effort showing not only the quality of the 2017 vintage but the influence of a growing Grenache proportion.

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

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

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

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

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

Savage Follow the Line Cinsault 2018, 13% Abv.

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

(95/100 Greg Sherwood MW )

 

Savage Thief in the Night 2018, 13% Abv.

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

(94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

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

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

(94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Savage Girl Next Door 2018 Syrah, 13.5 Abv.

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

(95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Savage Red Blend 2017, 13.5% Abv.

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

(96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Savage White Blend 2018, 13.5% Abv.

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

(95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

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

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

(94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Not Tonight Josephine Straw Wine 2018, 11% Abv.

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

(95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Garnacha not Guerra – The Creation of a Sardinian Cult Wine…

If you are looking for a Grenache with a difference, Garnacha not Guerra is for you. A fabulous interpretation of Cannonau / Grenache from clay – sand soils over granite in Sardinia. Mick O’Connell MW has basically taken one variable out (picking date is always in the couple of days before 1st September) so the wine can show clearly how the vintage treats Grenache in the two plots he picks each year.

Winemaking is the same each year, using whole bunches, spontaneous fermentation, foot treading, a short maceration, no oak use, no fining or filtration and only a tiny bit of SO2 is used at bottling.

The biggest difference between 2017 and 2018 was that 2017 was ridiculously hot and dry and it shows in the firmness and structure of the wine. But 2018, by Sardinian standards, was cool and wet producing a much prettier, juicy, bright style with a much lighter colour. A short maceration is employed partly because Mick isn’t too concerned about the wine’s colour and also because he tries to avoid any astringency being extracted from the stems.

The story of the label – When Mick had the original idea of making a wine in Sardinia, he really wanted it to be the antithesis of the other red wines he was drinking there, most of which were flabby, oaky and just flat lacking freshness. So the answer was doing the opposite of everything the other producers were doing. He couldn’t go and call it Cannonau then depsite the fact the fruit could all be classed as Cannonau di Sardegna DOC.

There’s a bit of graffiti in a town called Orgosolo near where he sources some of the fruit which says “concimi non proiettili” which means “compost not bullets” – Mick absolutely loved that name but couldn’t say the last word – very tough Italian pronunciation! But it did inspire his wine’s original name.

For the 2017 vintage Mick moved into the corner of a winery where previously he had been in a garage. Since moving in there he’s had to play by their rules which has meant having to adjust the labels a bit. Because he’s only claiming classification as a “table wine” legally there shouldn’t be a vintage on the label, so 2018 is being called V4 or Version 4.

There’s also a bit of funniness around the use of “Garnacha” or not – for Vino Rosso you can use an international variety but because there is a DOC with Cannonau in the name you can’t use synonyms of Cannonau unless you claim the DOC. So the 2017 and 2018 labels have been renamed G not Guerra.

Cancedda O’Connell Garnacha not Guerra 2018 V4, Sardinia, 12 Abv.

The fourth vintage of this wine harks back to the maiden 2015 with its light 12 percent alcohol and crystalline, translucent purity. Mouthwatering and seductive the 2018 is fabulously pale in colour, almost like a rosato. But there is nothing timid about this wine whatsoever with its superbly lifted aromatics of sun raisined red cherries, cranberries and red plum spice. Delicate notes of dried tangerine peel and wild botanical herbal notes add an extra complex dimension to the wine. The palate is resplendently light, pure and elegant with the texture of a fine Pinot Noir with the mid palate plumped up with sweet sappy cherry fruits, tart cranberry, grilled Mediterranean herbs and a spicy, peppery note on the finish. Seamless and silky, vibrant and deliciously fresh, this wine has a real inner harmony and beauty that will seduce on the first sip. Possibly my favourite vintage yet.

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

Marelise Niemann Making Waves in the Bot River – Tasting the Anysbos Maiden Releases…

Marelise Niemann officially launched her own Momento label in 2013 when she was still working for Beaumont winery in the Bot River region. She has recently taken up wine making duties at Anysbos Winery in the Bot River owned by Peter-Allan Finlayson’s uncle-in-law. Marelise has been making her Momento wines at Gabrielskloof along side Peter-Allan and John Seccombe (Thorne & Daughters) but will move production of these to Anysbos as well.

I recently tasted the two new releases from Anysbos here in London with their newly appointed importers Woodwinters and was totally blown away by the very high quality of both the white and red. There is no doubting Marelise’s expert winemaking skills, but you do need good fruit to make great wines and judging from these new releases, this is definitely a winery to follow if you are a wine connoisseur!

Tasting with Marelise in London in 2018.

Anysbos Disdit 2017, WO Bot River, 13.5 Abv.

A Chenin Blanc 61%, Roussanne 21% and Grenache Blanc 18% blend fermented with natural yeasts and aged 10 months in old oak barrels. Wonderfully opulent and expressive from the first pour over flowing with aromatic notes of tangerine, sweet pineapple pastille and green apple peel. So voluptuous, generous and fleshy with superb textural balance, impressive fruit concentration and a singing blood orange and mango flesh finish! Very impressive.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg sherwood MW)

Anysbos Grenache Noir 2017, WO Bot River,13.5 Abv.

Super complex and expressive nose that is very precise, detailed and perfumed with notes of cherry confit, botanicals, vermouth spice and a striking line of blood orange and pomegranate spice. The balance and weight is super fine, concentrated and harmonious, quite discreet and feminine in its own kind of way. If this is the quality Marelise has achieved with her maiden Anysbos vintages, it makes the mind boggle at the end game potential. Really delicious!

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

Sardinian Wine But Not As You Know It – Tasting the Delicious New Garnacha not Guerra 2017 Rosso…

Mick O’Connell MW and Sardinian brother-in-law business partner Gianluca Cancedda finally deliver their third release in their Garnacha winemaking journey in Sardinia. Picked on the 27th and 28th of August 2017 from 250 and 350 metre altitude organic Garnacha vineyards, the date was actually slightly earlier than the lower Abv first release 2015 and second release 2016 vintage.

2017 was indeed very hot and dry but careful berry sorting ensured raisined grapes were discarded to avoid any jammy flavours during vinification. The wild yeast fermentation used only whole bunch clusters with the juice spending four days macerating on the skins.

Garnacha not Guerra 2017, Vino Rosso, Sardinia, 14 Abv.

The colour of this riper 2017 vintage is darker, blacker and more opaque but the nose retains an impressively expressive aromatic lift of cherry blossom, sweet lavender, grilled herbs, sweet raspberry confit, crushed gravel minerality and a lick of balsamic richness. On the palate, the hallmark Garnacha not Guerra drinkability is definitely evident with bright juicy acids but within the textural context of a slightly darker, blacker, broodier berry fruit profile together with more muscular, grippy mineral tannins. All this intensity translates into a slightly more serious offering but certainly no less delicious and mouth watering. It is going to be a wonderful wine to watch evolve and mature over the next 3 to 5 years.

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

The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable “Off-Piste” Red Wines of the Year 2018…

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Red Wines of the Year was a modest attempt to illustrate South Africa’s finest benchmark wines and styles for all to see and to give international collectors and drinkers a handful of names and labels to look out for. However, one of the absolute cornerstones of the recent global success of the South African wine category has been its incredible diversity and in many cases it’s inspired eccentricity combined with outright quality.

So in an attempt to show the more experimental and alternative “off-piste” face of South African wine, I have enjoyed compiling my Top 10 list of most memorable reds, truly outstanding wines produced by producers that do not necessarily aspire to 100 point ratings or mass market appeal. Nevertheless, these wines are all more than worthy of a slot in your cellar!

Sadie Family Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2017, Swartland

Franco Lourens Howard John Red Blend 2017, WO Western Cape

David & Nadia Pinotage 2017, Swartland

Fram Grenache Gris 2017, Swartland

Kleine Zalze Amphora Grenache 2017

Craven Wines Cinsault 2017, Stellenbosch

Restless River Wanderlust Grenache 2017, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Scions of Sinai Feniks Pinotage 2017, Stellenbosch

Sutherland Petit Verdot Reserve 2015, Elgin

Welbedacht Estate Patriot Cape Blend 2014, Wellington