Creating A Future Icon Wine ~ Tasting the Incredible Naude Grenache 2014 Blind with Chateau Rayas at The Judgement of Chiswick…

Already described as one of the finest and most exciting Grenache reds made in South Africa, 2017 saw this wine introduced to some of my biggest collectors and connoisseur clients in London. Many had heard of the blind tasting held in South Africa pitching the Naude Grenache against the world famous Chateau Rayas from the Southern Rhône. So after a certain amount of planning and diary co-ordinating, the Naude Grenache was again pitched against two Chateau Rayas wines in a small blind line up at one of London’s top Michelin Star restaurants, La Trompette in Chiswick, West London, owned by restauranteurs Nigel Platts-Martin and Bruce Poole.

In the blind line up with the Naude Grenache 2014 was the David & Nadia Grenache 2013, Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape Pignan Reserve 2007, and Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve 2004.

The grapes for the Naude Grenache come from an 8 year old vineyard in the Paardeberg in the Swartland which was renowned for its 2 to 3 week slower ripening in previous seasons, allowing the fruit to mature and ripen more slowly and evenly. A combination of whole bunch, destemmed grapes and stalks were fermented in a stainless steel tank with one or two gentle pump overs per day before being pressed off into 225L French oak barrels for 12 to 15 months. The wine was first released in 2015 with a 14 Abv., 1.3 RS g/L, 6g/L TA, and a 3.37 pH.

Naude Grenache 2014, Swartland, 14 Abv.

The wines colour seems to have gained a little extra depth of colour in the past year showing a crystalline red plum and red cherry glow. The nose is spectacular with a most complex and evocative perfume of violets, lavender, cherry blossom, polished oak, frais des boisses, cured meats, marzipan, red plums and red cherry confit. Just so much going on and so much depth and earthy complexity. The palate shows a fine sleek medium bodied texture, impressive tension and delicious expressive wild strawberry, bramble berries, cut hedge row, Chinese five spice and subtle sappy peppery spice on the finish. Such lovely cool freshness, intensity, focus and polish, without being at all heavy at 14 Abv. A wonderfully classic Grenache with subtle mineral balance and real personality. This wine is a towering achievement in the unfolding history of South African Grenache. Drink now and over the next 20+ years.

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

Over a fantastic meal, the reds were served blind by the sommelier in his chosen order. The Naude was served first followed by the David & Nadia 2013 Grenache which showed great purity, linearity, polished granitic tannins and crystalline red fruits. While the mid palate felt a little flat footed some guests commented, overall this was another accomplished wine. (92+/100 GS).

Next up was the Rayas Pignan 2007. This instantly showed great ripeness, fruit weight and some earthy, jammy, bruleed red fruit notes. Perhaps in hind sight, a little more evolved than we would expect such a youthful Pignan to be. (91/100 GS) Finally, the Chateau Rayas 2004. Along with the Naude, these two wines were considered the most profound and impressive of the flight. Despite the 13 years of age, the 2004 was youthful, taught, focused and beautifully balanced with real black cherry and stony raspberry fruit precision, mineral tannins and bright pure acids. True class evident for all to see. (94+/100 GS)

La Trompette’s famous sour dough waffle with egg, chanterelle mushrooms and truffle.

With the blind results in, the Naude Grenache 2014 came out on top again by a whisker … and “the Judgement of Chiswick” was forever etched into the history of South African fine wine.

Langoustine tails and butternut.

The amazing recently disgorged Ca del Bosco Dosage Zero 2001 method champenoise sparkling wine.

Etienne Sauzet Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2001 Burgundy.

Wonderful Welsh salt marsh lamb.

Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks ~ Tasting a Pair of Memorable Grenache Reds from Vriesenhof Vineyards…

A legend on and off the rugby pitch, Vriesenhof Vineyards’ owner has been crafting sturdy classical wines since the early 1980’s when Jan “Boland” Coetzee purchased his farm in the Paradyskloof Valley and planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinotage and Pinot Noir.

The south facing slopes of the vineyards allow Jan and head winemaker Nicky Classens to produce wines of exceptional character and quality. Situated at varying altitudes, the vineyards are exposed to the cool coastal breezes from False Bay, their soils consisting mostly of decomposed granite and Malmesbury shale. The hilltop is home to Pinotage bush vines where the rich shale soils enhance the fruit purity in the Pinotage grapes.

But it is the wines produced from Grenache grapes sourced in the Piekenierskloof that has been turning heads and raising eyebrows of late. So I was pleased to taste two vintages together including Jan’s new 2016 release.

Vriesenhof Vineyards Grenache 2014, Piekenierskloof, 14 Abv.

Lovely translucent and bright colour. There is a wonderful lifted perfume of dried rose petals, hedge row and cherry blossom mixing with smokey, earthy red berry and bramble berry spice. The palate is laser like with crisp acids and plenty of bright crunchy red fruits. Wonderful focus and intensity for this vintage. The finish is zesty, concentrated and long with a seductive tart cranberry finale. Really quite impressive. Drink now to 2028+

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

Vriesenhof Vineyards Grenache 2016, Piekenierskloof, 14 Abv.

Crystalline bright ruby, this wine shines in the glass. The nose is rich and warming with notes of cherry confit, cured meats, strawberry jam and raisined cranberries. There is also a complexing earthy, peppery savoury depth counter balancing the lifted jasmine blossom perfume. Fleshy and sweet fruited, there is similar palate concentration to the 2014 Grenache but is delivered in a more opulent style with softer, rounder acids and suave creamy powdery tannins. A warmer, riper, dryer vintage executed with class and flair. Drink now to 2026+

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

South African Grenache for Collectors & Connoisseurs ~ Tasting the Seriously Structured Raaigras 2015 from Adi Badenhorst…

One of the original young gun pioneers of the Swartland, Adi Badenhorst is making some startling single vineyard wines from Palomino, Chenin Blanc and Grenache. They are all very impressive examples of specific varieties that seem to be excelling in the hot, dry vineyards of the Cape. 


The Raaigras Grenache is made from possibly the oldest registered vineyard of this varietal in the Cape on his Kalmoesfontein farm and the 2015 is only his second release of this single vineyard old vine red. 


Where Adi’s version differs from many of the others on the market, is the level of minerality, tannin and structure he illicit from his old vine fruit while managing to retain a modest alcohol of only 12.5 Abv. Quantities produced are tiny, so if you manage to track this one down, snap it up and pop it in your cellar.


AA Badenhorst Family Wines Raaigras Grenache 2015, WO Swartland 12.5 Abv.

This is must be one of South Africa’s best Grenache reds. Coming from old vines planted on Adi Badenhorst’s farm on the decomposed granite hills of the Paardeberg, Swartland in 1951, this wine shows such Grenache purity, power and authenticity. Made using only old oak and 30% whole bunches, the fragrant perfume is intoxicating, showing fraises des bois, parma violets, lavender, dried rose petals, bramble berry fruits, garrigue, and a delicious, savoury bresaola cured meat complexity. Plenty of textural precision, the more this wine opens up, the more minerally pronounced the tannins become, finishing with an intense, rasping granitic dry grip. Plenty of mineral tension, the finish remains very pure with great clarity and purpose together with the most alluring vermouth botanical herbal complexity. Drink now with food or age for another 3 to 5 years before cracking into your case. This one promises a long drinking curve, 10 to 15+ years. Well done Adi. 

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

The Stellenbosch Hills are Alive… Tasting Reenen Borman’s Kottabos Grenache – Syrah 2016 Blend…

Hot on the heals of the super sexy single clone Syrah, Sons of Sugarland, comes another delicious red from young Reenan Borman of Boschkloof fame. This small project wine called Kottabos is a stunning blend of 87% Grenache and 13% Syrah, both sourced in Stellenbosch from the Polkadraai area. 


The grapes both had 50% whole bunch fermentation and were then aged in used oak for approximately 11 months. Only 1,760 bottles were produced. Reenen describes the Kottabos as “a project of exploration in the Stellenbosch hills, the sole purpose being to showcase what this unique terroir has to offer.”


Reenen Borman’s Kottabos Grenache – Syrah 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

Another micro-vinification offering from the beautiful hills of Stellenbosch. In the glass, this wine has the alluring colour of young red Burgundy and shows a crystalline, translucent ruby glow. The nose offers up incredible perfume lift of cherry bon bons, blood oranges, rose petals, parma violets, pomegranate and subtle cedary, boxwood, marzipan spice. Notes of black pepper and earthy bramble berry sappy spice develop with time in the glass. The palate is very fine boned, precise, and light on its feet with an almost Pinot Noir elegance and finesse, framed beautifully by crunchy, sappy, tart cranberry acids and subtle, fine powdery tannins. The wine is so effortless, brimming full of energy, and really shows off Reenen Borman’s extensive winemaking expertise. Drink this wine now or over 3 to 8 years as it develops more forest floor and savoury bramble berry spice nuances.

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


Reviewing a Cask Sample of Domaine Les Cailloux Cuvee Centenaire 2015 with Fabrice Brunel…

Last week I had a wonderful opportunity to catch up with the amiable Fabrice Brunel of Domaine Les Cailloux in Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhone, to taste his new vintages. The CNDP Cuvee Centenaire 2015 cask sample I tasted was a beautiful, picturesque, snapshot into the final cuvee due to be released in about 12 months time at the end of 2017. The 2015 vintage will of course be the most hotly anticipated release from this domaine since the 97 point 1998 and possibly even since the 100 point 1990!

Pure Grenache barrel sample

The sample I tasted was the pure 100% Grenache version, but as Fabrice confirmed… “we will add one barrique of Syrah to enhance the complexity of the wine on the finish and to enhance it’s ageing capacity.” The domaine will release about 3,000 bottles, of which only around 250 bottles will be allocated to the UK market. So expect a bit of a gold rush on this wine.

Fabrice Brunel

Tasting Note: Domaine Les Cailloux Cuvee Centenaire 2015 (Grenache Barrel Sample Feb 2017) ~ This rich, decadent Grenache is made from vines planted in 1889, and is due to be aged up to 24 months in 500L oak casks. It has soft, lush, lifted exotic aromatics of ripe quince confit, sweet black peppercorns, raisined cranberries and red caramelized plums. The palate is full and fresh with a powerful, tight knit texture of pithy black cherries, graphite, crushed gravel and hints of hedgerow spice. The tannins are dense and gravelly and add beautiful structure and frame to the wine. Plenty of power, even a touch four-square at the moment, but there is also linear, compact purity too. While still a touch broody in its barrel sample format, there is more than enough to confirm the true greatness and potential that lies in store. Definitely going to be one for the cellar that will require aging.

(Wine Safari Score: 96-98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaines Les Cailloux’s main estate wine