After Five Superb Vintages of Pinot Noir Tesselaarsdal Prepares to Release Their Maiden Chardonnay 2019…

Of all the new start up wineries in South Africa over the past three or four years, one of my favourites has got to be Berene Saul’s Tesselaarsdal winery who’s wines are currently made at Hamilton Russell Vineyards in consultation with winemaker Emul Ross, from fruit contracted in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge ward of the Walker Bay Region.

Ever since I first tasted the first release of Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir 2015 in January 2016, I have been smitten by the wine’s reoccurring freshness, purity, and intensity, vintage after vintage.

So when I visited Berene and Emul for a flying visit in May 2019, I was thrilled to taste the component parts of the new maiden release Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay. Due to be bottled in early September, the pre-release samples I tasted back in May were most definitely super expressive and very exciting meriting a pre-release note and score.

Tasting with Berene Sauls and Emul Ross in May 2019.

Watch out for this new white addition to the Tesselaarsdal range as this wine is likely to sell out as quickly as its Pinot Noir sibling. Made from fruit sourced from the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge from 12 year old vines, 3000 litres was produced from 5 tons of grapes or 600 cases of 6. A portion of the wine was aged in amphora and the rest in French oak barriques.

Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Amphora Portion:
A bright and attractive nose of citrus blossom, acacia, sweet lemon grass and leesy spice with a fine dusty mineral note. Palate is super concentrated and lush but also shows a reluctant restraint. Plenty of creamy lemon pie, lemon peel, white toast and green apple purée. Again, very expressive but also deliciously classical and restrained.

Barrel Portion:
More expressive white citrus with melted honey on warm white toast, white citrus blossom and dusty vanilla spice. Palate is creamy, glycerol and rich with a fantastic textural mouthfeel, a harmonious balance and a lemon / lime acidity to add vibrant vigour. Together with the amphora portion, this should make for a very impressive glass of ‘old world’ styled classical cool climate Chardonnay.

(Wine Safari Score: 91-93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Fine Wine Safari’s South African Wine Stars at the London Wine Fair 2019…

There has been a lot of speculation over the years about the usefulness of the London Wine Fair. I for one am very pleased it moved back to its home in Olympia from Excel, Docklands a couple of years ago. But ultimately, if we want such an institution to succeed, the broader London / UK wine trade needs to support the Fair with its attendance and engagement.

Personally, I found the London Wine Fair 2019 the perfect opportunity to catch up with some of South Africa’s top producers and taste a huge swathe of new releases. By the looks of the below scores, consumers are in for a block busters year of new releases!

London Wine Fair 2019: Highlights…

Cap Maritime Pinot Noir 2017, 14 Abv. – 92/100 GSMW

Rich, creamy and textural. Plenty of foresty bramble berry spice and delicious, ponderous vanilla pod nuances.

Cap Maritime Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv. – 94/100 GSMW

Rich, broad and concentrated. Freshness with glycerol mouthfeel. Class written all over it. One to watch in the coming years!

Reyneke Reserve SB 2016, 12.5 Abv. – 94/100 GSMW

Sweet & sour pineapple pastille, root veg, wet thatch and a long bruised yellow orchard fruit length. The complexity is beguiling!

Reyneke Reserve Syrah 2015, 14 Abv. – 93/100 GSMW

Sweet plummy black berry nose full of peppercorns, wood spice and meaty, blueberry, liquorice length. Young but super impressive.

Boekenhoutskloof Franschhoek Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, 14.5 Abv. – 93+/100 GSMW

Sweet caramelised lick of black berry, cassis and vanilla oak spice. Plush, opulent, finely honed. Classy, pure expression of Cabernet.

Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2016, 14 Abv. – 94/100 GSMW

Brûléed earth, black berry confit and sweet grilled herbs. Impressive concentration, sweet, suave texture and an intense cured meat and barbecue smoke finish. Delicious.

Kanonkop 2009 Pinotage – 92/100 GSMW

Cool, bright fresh tart acids, bramble berry, freshly cut cedar, suave texture, ripe but also quite a chiselled, vibrant expression.

Kanonkop Pinotage 2017, 14 Abv. – 95/100 GSMW

Piquant and lifted with exotic red fruits, incense, coffee bean and dried potpourri. Oh the perfume! Mesmerising expression.

Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, 14 Abv. – 93+/100 GSMW

Bright, soft earthy violets, lavendar and freshly tilled earth overlaying savoury spicy black berry fruits. Powder fine tannins, bright acids and superb structure. Classical expression of this cooler vintage.

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2016 – 95+/100 GSMW

Deep and broody full of sweet grilled herbs, cured meats, bloody meat and earthy red currants with bright cherry acids, chalky tannins and a classically dry, mineral finish with just a kiss of blueberry rock candy on the finish. Thoroughly distinguished expression of this South African benchmark classic.

Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage 2017 – 97/100 GSMW

Sweet perfumed black berry, incense, coffee bean and black and blue berry spice. Suave and ultra hedonistic, liquid luxury with very fine freshness, great concentration and a super fine, pinpoint long finish. A new world Grand Cru.

Bouchard Finlayson Crocadile’s Lair Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv. – 94/100 GSMW

Super bright citrus lemon and lime cordial lift, concentrated sweet lemon pastille, green apple, chalky minerality and super crystalline purity. Classy Chardonnay!

De Morgenzon The Divas Chenin Blanc 2017, 14 Abv. – 97+/100 GSMW

Dusty, pithy crunchy yellow apricot, white peach and baked yellow apples in pastry. Lovely tension, bright acids, stony minerality and a fine linear finish. As serious as a £100 bottle of white wine should be.

Rustenberg Five Soldiers Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv. – 94+/100 GSMW

Super lifted chalky lemon and lime complexity with sappy spice, apple cordial and lemon pastille. Lovely concentration, creamy depth and beautiful opulence. Very fine. Best since 2015.

Oldenburg Chardonnay 2018, Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv. – 92+/100 GSMW

Dusty sweet lemon rock candy, wet chalk and spicy wet thatch. Cool, bright lemon cordial fruit, kiss of vanilla oak and a beautifully long, focused finish. Lovely.

Oldenburg CL Shiraz – Merlot 2017 – 90+/100 GSMW

Super lush and vibrant, mouth filling and rich with bright acidity, attractive sweet black fruits and an enticing savoury, caramelised, meaty edge. Really superb!

Oldenburg Rondekop Rhodium 2015, 14.5 Abv. – 94+/100 GSMW

Rich, opulent and deep with sweet wet tobacco, brûléed coffee bean, buttered brown toast and sweet black currant reduction. Suave, polished and fleshy, this is a very classy rendition of a Bordeaux blend with all the requisite chalky tannin grip, linear acids and a focused, pin point finish. The class of the vintage shines through without doubt!

Elgin Ridge Chaos White Blend 2017, 14 Abv. – 95/100 GSMW

Rich and exotic with delicious sweet white peach, green plum and pineapple pastille. Round, fleshy and long. A whole lot of wine.

Newton-Johnson Albariño 2018, 13 Abv. – 94/100 GSMW

Deliciously fleshy and round, sweet yellow fruit, white peach, green apple, sweet herbs and citrus peel. Very juicy and individual. Just love this wine!

Savage Follow the Line 2017, 13 Abv. – 95/100 GSMW

Soft pulped strawberry, raspberry pith, sweet cherry confit and an impressively tight, focused, pure finish. Profound expression without doubt.

Illimis Chenin Blanc 2016, 14.5 – 93+/100 GSMW

Creamy and glycerol with dried herbs, lemon biscuits and a vanilla pod finish. Impressive.

Stand Alone Gamay Noir 2018, 13 Abv. – 92+/100 GSMW

38 year old vine Gamay planted in 1981. 30% whole cluster layered in tank. Sweet candied red fruit, red cherry zip and a long red currant confit finish. Very juicy. A wine that wants to be noticed! (Fruit sourced from the Villiera farm)

Blank Bottle Little William Ceres Syrah 2018 – 92+/100 GSMW

Beautifully leafy, sappy, ripe and intense with exotic crushed raspberry, cranberry with a fine grained palate of dried guava roll, marzipan and juicy red fruits. A thoroughly amiable wine.

Oak Valley Groenlandberg Chardonnay 2018, 13.5 Abv. – 93/100 GSMW

White blossom, lemon rock candy, green melon Bon Bons and hints of spearmint. Cool, crystalline and pure fruited, this shows distinguished structure, impressive fruit concentration and a long intense finish.

Oak Valley Groenlandberg Pinot Noir 2018, 13.5 Abv. – 92+/100 GSMW

Rich expressive nose of brûléed bramble berry fruits, blood orange and pomegranate earthy red fruits. Sappy hedgerow spice, creamy concentration and pronounced finesse and harmony. Classy. Something very more’ish about this wine!

Tokara Directors Reserve 2016 White Blend, 14 Abv. – 95/100 GSMW

70/30 Sauvignon – Semillon. Creamy and plush, super intense yellow citrus, super glycerol but fresh. Harmonious and elegant texture, this is a very smart blend. Very few vintages of this classy wine I have not fallen in love with.

Tokara Directors Reserve Red Blend 2015, 14.5 Abv. – 93/100 GSMW

71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 4% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc. Wonderfully suave, creamy and round, saline cassis, wood spice, sappy black berry and sweet tobacco. Another ultra luxurious expression.

Jordan Whole Nine Yards Chardonnay 2016, 13 Abv. – 93+/100 GSMW

Rich and textured, classically pure and punchy with orange blossom, vanilla oak spice and a honied brightness. Lovely classy expression.

Jordan Sophia Red Blend 2014, 14.5 Abv. – 93+/100 GSMW

Freshly rolled tobacco, sweet red currant, tannery hide and sweet bramble berry. Plush, classy and super polished texture. Very smart.

Lowerland Tolbos Tannat 2016, Prieska, 13.5 Abv. – 92/100 GSMW

Another Lukas Van Loggerenberg offering. Ultra plush and sensual, this is full of sappy red and black fruits, freshly cut hedge row and sweet bramble berry confit. Exotic but very fine craftsmanship indeed.

Catherine Marshall Chenin Blanc Fermented in Clay 2017, 13.5 Abv. – 95/100 GSMW

Elgin with a dash of Stellenbosch Chenin. 12 months in amphora. Piquant, savoury Chenin Blanc expression with bruised orchard fruits, apple purée and super broad concentration of pineapple and apple pastille. Really very impressive indeed. One for collectors to seek out!

It’s Evolution Versus Revolution at Tesselaarsdal – Tasting the Third Release of their Elegant Pinot Noir…

The brand that is Tesselaarsdal was established in 2015 by long time employee Berene Sauls who started at Hamilton Russell as an au pair originally. With higher vinous aspirations and then valiant  support financially and emotionally from Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell, Berene was cast adrift to fend for herself in the wide world of fine wine after her first release in 2015. Proudly, one of my claims to fame is that I was the first to taste the maiden release 2015 in January 2016 at breakfast, as you do in the trade, at Hamilton Russell when I was invited over to be the panel chair and guest speaker for the Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir Celebration 2016.

As delicious as it was, the 2015 now starts to pale into insignificance along side newer releases like the 2017 and 2018 vintages. With the 2018 about to land in the UK, I took an opportunity to reacquaint myself with the 2017 that has had a nice amount of time to settle in storage.

Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir 2017, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

A winemaking collaboration hand in hand with Emul Ross, the winemaker at Hamilton Russell, Tesselaarsdal 2017 is made from fruit 100% sourced from a vineyard leased from La Vierge in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge from totally unirrigated vineyards. A style of wine that always shows a little bit of sulky reduction early in its evolution, the 2017 seems to have blow most of this off and now starts to up the ante with notes of wild fraises de bois, red bramble berry fruits, freshly cut hedgerow and an interesting melange of sappy red berry fruits, limestone minerality and dried herb spice. On the palate there is a real luminescent brightness, crisp freshness, salinity, and purity of crunchy red berry fruits. Tannins are soft and supple, very elegant as you would expect from the sultry 2017 vintage in Hemel-en-Aarde making the wine very friendly, accessible and opulent already. Ultimately, what I love about this wine is its completeness, its textural harmony, its fruit intensity and of course its saline bite. Only the third vintage, this remains one of my favourite Pinot Noirs produced in South Africa.

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

Tasting Hamilton Russell’s 2018 Releases – A Small Concentrated Vintage of Distinguished Power and Depth…

I recently caught up with my favourite Hemel-en-Aarde couple Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell in London while en route to Prowein. I always love tasting their new releases because you can rest assured that the quality of both their iconic Chardonnay and their Pinot Noir will be pushed higher every year, vintage permitting, as maestro winemaker Emul Ross spins his magic and learns to harness something extra from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley terroir of the winery.

According to Anthony, the 2017 releases were stylistically considered a very elegant vintage and the subsequent 2018s a very low yielding year primarily due to damaging winds at flowering. But they managed to achieve an impressive fruit intensity at low alcohols using their own propagated Hamilton Russell yeasts developed after 1993. The Chardonnay 2018 was bottled in late December 2018.

Tasting the new 2018 releases with Anthony Hamilton Russell and Steven Spurrier.

The Pinot Noir 2018 release shows a tantalising melange of dark Gevrey Chambertin styled fruit with the structural richness of the 2016 combined with the Chambolle Musigny elegance and purity of the Hamilton Russell 2017. But apparently the 2018 wine continues to divide local opinion. The wine was bottled in late January 2019 unfined and with only the very coarsest of filtration.

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2018, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.2 Abv.

Chatting to Anthony before tasting the 2018, he warned there might still be a hint of reduction on this young white wine. But to be honest, I found it very fresh, pure and delightfully fragrant, though perhaps aromatically a little more restrained and mineral at the moment, showing more yellow citrus, lemon pastille and wet chalk rather than struck match reduction. There is still a very subtle juvenile lick of salted caramel and vanilla spice from the oak barrel ageing, but on the palate, this is where the real pedigree of this wine is revealed. An ultra tight, pinpoint textural finesse, plenty of core energy and a classically restrained Burgundian dry lemon and limestone finish. Wonderfully intense and focused but simultaneously a suave and supremely balanced Chardonnay from the Walker Bay. Give this wine another 6 months in bottle after release and then indulge at will.

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

Enjoying some fine red and white Burgundy with Olive and Anthony while exploring the nuances of the 2018 vintage in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2018, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.4 Abv.

Every new release reveals a vintage of Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir that is again purer, finer and more distinguished than the previous vintage. The 2018 is no exception showing a broody dark fruited nose with lashings of black cherry, black currant and salted black plums. At this young stage, the oak is incredibly well integrated allowing both the purity of black berry fruit and the limestone minerality to really shine through. On the palate, alluring hints of blueberry and mulberry dance a tightly choreographed routine supported by a well drilled accompaniment of mineral tannins finishing with a long, sappy, black bramble berry finish. This must surely rank as one of the finest young Pinot Noirs produced at the winery to date. Drink from 2020 until 2035+

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

A wine that divides opinion? Well, if the 2016 Pinot Noir can be considered more structured and Gevrey in style, the 2017s certainly earned an instant following with their feminine Chambolle styled elegance. For me, the 2018 Pinot is a dead ringer for a 1er Cru Nuits St Georges displaying depth and power, concentration and intensity of fruit with an artisanal workman-like Pinot Noir rusticity showing it’s hand. Classicists will be bowled over, novices might initially be slightly more challenged. Either way, the 2018 represents one of the highest quality “new era” Pinot Noir releases from the winery yet.

Affordable and Accessible Pinot Noir from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley – Tasting the La Vierge The Affair 2016…

Everyone knows Pinot Noir is not an easy grape to cultivate to high quality standards and certainly it does not make for good cheap wine very easily… if at all! The grapes for the La Vierge The Affair Pinot Noir were harvested in six batches by hand for this delicious cuvee, enjoying cool early morning temperatures with vines yielding 2 to 4 tons/ha (13 – 26 hl/ha)… which is relatively meagre.

In the cellar, after overnight cold storage the grapes were sorted, destemmed and gently crushed into fermentation tanks. Cold maceration occurred for an average of 3 days until spontaneous fermentation begun. The wine was then fermented under controlled temperatures until dry. The skins were then lightly pressed and the wine racked into a selection of French oak barrels for 9 months ageing and maturation. The final blending occurred one month prior to bottling and the wine was allowed to develop further in bottle prior to release. The results are impressive for this heartbreak variety!

La Vierge lying just north of Hermanus in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

La Vierge The Affair Pinot Noir 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

The Affair Pinot Noir 2016 is a refined, stylish Pinot Noir showcasing the love affair between the soft feminine side of Pinot Noir, being the lifted floral perfume, hints of potpourri and spice, the textural silkiness; and the masculine linear strength of the mineral tannins, hints of oak and brooding dark forest floor aromas. The palate is both silky and textured, displaying a lovely fleshy rondeur as well as soft, integrated tannins, crisp bright acids and impressive length. High quality cool climate Pinot Noir for an excellent price… the vinous holy grail! Drink now and over 5 to 8 years. 

(90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Recommended Retail Price in the UK £18.99pb

Another Benchmark South African Sauvignon Blanc from Hannes Storm…

I remember reviewing the delicious 2016 maiden vintage of Wild Air in September 2017, with its wonderful minerality, crystalline purity and old world restraint. (See review here…)

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2016/10/28/yet-another-epic-wine-from-hannes-storm/

The 2017 vintage somehow manages to up the intensity and precision yet another notch to deliver a very special expression of Hemel-En-Aarde Sauvignon Blanc. Track this down from Indigo Wines for summer drinking!

Wild Air Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, 13 Abv.

Wonderfully dusty mineral aromatics that immediately suggest an accomplished terroir driven wine. There are multiple layers of talcum powder, crushed granite , limestone and green apple pith beautifully interwoven with greengage, Granny Smith pastille fruits and crunchy white pear nuances. The palate is equally grown up and complex, deliciously fresh and concentrated with a long, glycerol finish … but most importantly, very impressive harmony and balance. A really beautiful wine from a fantastic vintage for aromatic whites.

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

Tasting with Wineanorak’s Jamie Goode and Hannes Storm at last year’s New Wave Tasting in London.

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, A Benchmark Wine In the South African Wine Industry – The 2017 Vintage Reviewed…

I recently caught up with Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell to taste their new releases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. So much has been written about 2017 as the third consecutive “drought savaged” vintage in South Africa. But in reality, Walker Bay and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley got off relatively unscathed, producing wines with great concentration, vigour and freshness. No doubt this will Be yet another fast selling vintage for this dynamic estate.

90% of the 2017 Chardonnay was barrel fermented and aged in 228 litre barriques for 9 months, 31% first fill, 33% second fill, 33% third fill and 3% fourth fill… 47% blonde, 40% medium, 10% medium long toast, with 4% aged in foudre, 5% stainless steel, and 1% in ceramic eggs. 1.4 g/l RS.

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.16 Abv.

This wine was tasted from barrel in March 2017 and showed great potential with bright acidity accentuating the wine’s natural limestone minerality. After 9 months ageing in French oak barrels, the wine is still very primary on the nose, revealing notes of sweet lemon cordial, green honeydew melon, green pear, white blossom and waxy green apple skins. There is lovely nervy tension to the palate which is much tauter and leaner than the nose suggests. Framed by vibrant, steely acids, the white citrus and lemon butter flavours are concertina’d into a complex press of green apple pastilles, pithy green gauge fruits and a stony liquid minerality. Not revealing all its grandeur just yet, but undoubtedly serves as a grand road map to the full pleasures that await the drinker in 6 to 12 months time. A real triumph for the vintage and another benchmark Chardonnay from this winery. Drink now to 2030+

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