A Vintage of Elegant Intensity and Quality Elevates Vilafonte Series C 2017 To Must Have Vintage Status…

While I received a sample of the 2017 Series C to taste a number of weeks ago, I had already heard rumours via the grape vine that the Vilafonte Series C 2016 had won the best red blend at the Six Nations Trophy competition. But of course I knew the incredible quality Vilafonte had achieved with their Series C 2016, having reviewed it way back in October 2018, would be an incredibly hard act to follow. Such was the quality focus at this precision viticulture winery that even the second wine, Seriously Old Dirt 2016 has become something of a collectable commodity in Europe of late.

 

But after the incredibly dry and hot 2016, the 2017 harvest presented an abundant crop of sterling quality. Yields rose by fifty-seven percent, despite the fourth year in a sequence of below-average rainfall for the Western Cape Province. This follows Vilafonte’s smallest per-hectare crop (2016) and moves back to long-term average yields. Welcome post-harvest rains in the preceding year before leaf fall, coupled with well-timed nutrient applications, allowed the vines to build up reserves before going into winter dormancy.

Winter rains in 2016 approached normal levels, but fell below average in late winter to spring. Bud-break in the spring was very even, with rapid shoot growth which ceased well before bloom, allowing excellent fruit-set. Weather leading up to harvest was warm and fair – perfect ripening conditions according to owner Mike Ratcliffe. Harvest commenced on the 6th of February with a few short pauses, and concluded on the 1st of March2017.

 

Mike Ratcliffe states that “at time of blending, varietal components were very expressive, showing a classical elegance rather than an intensity and power”. Aged for 22 months in 70% new French oak barrique, with the balance in older French oak barriques, the Series C 2017 consists of Cabernet Sauvignon (57%), Merlot (21%), Cabernet Franc (13%) and Malbec (9%) with a total of 46 barrels being produced.

 

Vilafonte Series C 2017, WO Paarl, 14.5 Abv.

After the drought of 2016, all producers can honestly admit to being amazed by the quality both the white and red wines realised in 2017. But for Vilafonte, the pressure would have been incrementally higher after defying the vintage odds in 2016 to produced arguably the finest South African red blend of the vintage with their Series C 2016. But great vintages are all about taking the opportunities nature presents and Vilafonte seems to have been equally ready to make the most of this exceptional vintage. The Series C 2017 certainly displays an incredibly deep, dark broody garnet-purple colour with imposing extract and concentration. On the nose, this youthful release is a little closed to begin with but opens up in the glass offering alluring notes of incense, sweet vanilla pod, caramelised cashew nuts, black berry reduction, juniper berry and dusty, graphite tinged black chocolate exoticism. The palate is velvety and supple with a most generous, multi-layered mouthfeel of blueberry, black cherries, saline cassis and a charcoal tinged buttered brown toasty finish. Where the 2015 release showed a more masculine power, the 2017 is the personification of intensity with elegance, finesse and grace. A producer can wait decades to realise a vintage like this that possesses this degree of poise, intensity and weightless concentration combined with a decadently fruited complexity and composure. A spellbinding new release from Vilafonte. Indulge yourself by drinking a few bottles in its youth, however the 2017 is certainly worthy of over a decade or more of cellaring to realise its full potential.

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

Tasting a Complete MR de Compostella Vertical From 2004 to 2017 in London With Bruwer Raats…

Bruwer Raats is a larger than life character making larger than life wines from both his Raats Family Winery in Stellenbosch as well as for his cult wine label MR de Compostella at which he is partnered by the accomplished Zulu winemaker Mzokona Mvemve. While riding high on the instant success of memorable early wines like his maiden 2001 Raats Family Wines Cabernet Franc, Bruwer entered into the collaborative project of MR de Compostella and finally released the maiden vintage 2004 back in 2006.

 

Guided by a lofty and ambitious philosophy of achieving the very best final quality blend through extremely ruthless barrel selection and an over riding obsession with consistency of quality vintage after vintage before any uniformity of blend percentages, what was developed was an incredibly fine wine with breath taking complexity and depth as well as notable age ability. All the blends so far, excluding the declassified 2010, have made use of all five Bordeaux red varieties namely Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot… and normally in descending percentages similar to this order with alcohol levels of between 14 and 14.5 Abv.

 

As part of London fine wine merchant Handford Wines’ 30th Anniversary celebrations, Bruwer Raats was recently in London to present the first ever full vertical of MR de Compostella reds covering 13 vintages from 2004 through to the current release 2017. The flight also included the only ever declassified vintage, the 2010, which was used to create a second wine under the name of Red Jasper. Named after Bruwer’s father, the ‘Jasper’ red Bordeaux blend is now in its seventh vintage and the current release 2017 has also been highly lauded by critics becoming a distinguished red wine in its own right.

 

One of the most outstanding features of this impressive cult wine is undoubtedly its age ability, so much so that much of the past stocks sold and exported around the world still reside in collectors’ cellars globally. Having the opportunity to taste effectively 14 vintages back to back is almost certainly a once in a life time affair for most people but also a crucially important exercise to reveal and document the ongoing evolution of these great wines. While I tasted and made notes for all the wines, the focus centred more around appreciating the wines stylistically and evaluating where how well they were evolving rather than placing them in a scored hierarchy.

 

MR de Compostella Vertical 2004 to 2017:

MR de Compostella 2004, 14.5 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 GSMW)

33% Cabernet Franc, 18% Petit Verdot, 17% Malbec, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot

An incredibly dense, dark, youthful wine that obviously has benefitted from being made in one of the best red wine vintages in several decades at the time. Full and broad, the wine retains freshness, complexity, creamy dense dark fruits and a long vital finish. Tannins are starting to resolve but certainly this wine has another 20+ years ahead of it. Very impressive debut.

 

MR de Compostella 2005, 14.5 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 GSMW)

33% Cabernet Franc, 17% Petit Verdot, 17% Malbec, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot

From a warm dry vintage, the 2005s were perhaps lauded more highly across the industry under the halo of another very fine vintage in the northern hemisphere and Bordeaux in particular. While many are maturing and losing a bit of lustre, this 2005 certainly shines, retaining a sleek structure, sweet ripe black brambly fruits and plenty of youthful elegance and freshness. Drinking well now but will certainly cellar for 10+ more years easily.

MR de Compostella 2006, 14.5 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 GSMW)

26% Cabernet Franc, 18% Petit Verdot, 8% Malbec, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot

From another block buster vintage, 2006 was good for whites and reds and this wine really is shining at the moment. Dense, concentrated but weightlessly intense, this wine has lovely mineral tannins, a full, sleek silky mouthfeel and a general aura of distinguished elegance. Certainly no rush here at all. Lovely wine.

MR de Compostella 2007, 14 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 GSMW)

32% Cabernet Franc, 16% Petit Verdot, 20% Malbec, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot

From a cool, difficult year that had heat spikes at harvest time. Wines generally were leafy and packed full of pyrazines and while this wine has a lovely complex leafy, sappy berry fruit base, the green herbal notes melt into the black fruit and with 10 years of age, this wine is starting to resemble a classic, fragrant, complex French Bordeaux more and more by the day. Super expressive aromatics, sleek creamy black and red berry fruits and a long, fine grained finish with plenty of acidity to preserve it further. Not the most iconic MR but certainly drinking very very well at the moment.

MR de Compostella 2008, 14.5 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 GSMW)

37.5% Cabernet Franc, 7.5% Petit Verdot, 10% Malbec, 37.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7.5% Merlot

Ooh, the 2008. The vintage that put MR on the map with the chunky 96pt score from Neal Martin writing for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. While the wines had never scored less than 93, this moved the wine into a new league, a new ball game… and made global collectors sit up and take serious notice. Like a purring Rolls Royce engine… I think MR has been described before… and this 2008 while certainly not as rich, showy and opulent as some vintages, displays an incredible focus, sleek graphite tannin structure, intensity of black saline fruit and the most old world Bordeaux Grand Cru Classe elegance and linearity. Wow! While currently in a more understated phase of evolution than some of the other vintages, it’s definitely a wine built for the long haul. A true collectable classic.

MR de Compostella 2009, 14.5 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 GSMW)

25% Cabernet Franc, 12.5% Petit Verdot, 25% Malbec, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12.5% Merlot

Another highly lauded red wine vintage across the industry in SA, this wine is in a more muscular, dense, power packed mould with rich layers of earthy black fruits, tannery leather, sweet baking herbs and a lovely sheen of cedary spice. Full bodied and broad shouldered, this will be an interesting wine to follow into the future. Drinking well now after a little decant.

Raats Red Jasper 2010, 14 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 GSMW)

80% Cabernet Franc, 7.5% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec, 7.5% Cabernet Sauvignon

Bruwer has always been very clear about the standards expected from his wines to make the MR blend. First and foremost, they need to be as good or better that the preceding vintage’s components. While I was a little critical of him at the time for not bottling a 2010, tasting this wine shows why he didn’t. Delicious and totally impressive now with 7 years of age, the wine simply does not have the same length, power or concentration experienced on other MR vintages. Beautifully elegant, packed full of cedary, earthy black bramble berry fruits, the tannins are very sleek and soft and the finish a touch short. But still a pleasure to drink nonetheless.

MR de Compostella 2011, 14.5 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 GSMW)

52% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 20% Malbec, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot

Showing a little bit of earthy, savoury, coffee bean, leathery evolution on the nose, the palate is still taut and vital with savoury red and black berry fruits, a fine line of acidity and a long finish of graphite and mineral dust. Perhaps a bit shut down now but another one to watch into the future.

MR de Compostella 2012, 14.5 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 GSMW)

28% Cabernet Franc, 18% Petit Verdot, 21% Malbec, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot

Never shy and always a real charmer, the 2012 does what it says on the tin and then a whole lot more. Rich, cool, dark fruited opulent nose full of blueberry, vanilla pod, black currant and cassis leaf. So sumptuous, generous in fruit and utterly charming while retaining a distinguished air of quality. Always been a lovely wine and I suspect there is not a lot of it around now as it is such a seductive wine that’s hard to resist drinking in its youth. Drink now or bury in your cellar for another 10+ years.

MR de Compostella 2013, 14.5 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 GSMW)

41% Cabernet Franc, 9% Petit Verdot, 17% Malbec, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot

A vintage that did not stand out on paper but in the vertical flight was one of the most impressive wines. With a dusty nose full of wet stone minerality, the aromatics speak of a cooler vintage style laced with graphite, dried straw, baking herbs and pithy black berry fruits. The palate is where the wine takes off like a rocket and really shines. Woven together very tightly, the intensity and vibrant saline black berry intensity combined with tart crunchy acids make this wine stand out from the rest at the moment. So elegant and persistent on the finish, this is the real deal. A super classy wine drinking well now but with many years ahead of it still.

MR de Compostella 2014, 14.5 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 GSMW)

45% Cabernet Franc, 18% Petit Verdot, 17% Malbec, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot

Like the 2012, the 2014 has always been moulded an opulent and generous style with creamy overt black and blue berry fruits, sweet vanilla spices and a rich, layered, textured palate that just keeps on giving. Probably a vintage that won’t shut down, so if you enjoy youthful opulence, this is the one for you.

 

Tasting in the private room at London restaurant High Timber owned by Neleen Strauss and Gary Jordan.

MR de Compostella 2015, 14.5 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 GSMW)

40% Cabernet Franc, 11% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Merlot

The 2015 is genuinely a compelling wine with a classic nose more reminiscent of a fine, opulent Cru Classe Pauillac. There are beautiful perfumed notes of assorted purple flowers and fresh violets that melt away to reveal ripe, intense notes of crème de cassis, blueberry crumble, cherry kirsch liquor and damson plum. More structured and intense than its riper, plumper predecessor 2014, the 2015 delivers more intensity with tannic restraint and brooding classical depth. Bit of a block buster but also shutting down a bit now. A wine for 30 to 40 years surely.

MR de Compostella 2016, 14.5 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 GSMW)

17% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 12% Malbec, 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot

A warm, dry vintage that is reflected in the lower than usual Cabernet Franc and the higher Cabernet Sauvignon portion from a cooler vineyard close to the sea in False Bay. Rich, plush and ultra opulent and expressive but also perfumed and lifted with violets, sweet lavender and sleek polished oak melting into classic Cabernet cassis and saline black berry opulence. Lovely precision and focus but is also sufficiently taut and textured. A wonderfully luxurious style of MR.

MR de Compostella 2017, 14.5 Abv.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 GSMW)

43% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 10% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Merlot

The nose chimes with the beautiful aromatics of the black Cabernet fruits, both Franc and Sauvignon. Superbly bright and lifted, this classy wine reveals attractive perfumed notes of cherry blossom, violets, lilacs and fresh rose petals underpinned by seductive chocolate coated red cherries and crème de cassis. On the palate the wine is medium bodied but very refined and elegant balancing intensity of fruit and flavour with textural harmony and finesse. Super fine and minerally tightly focused, this is a wine for the long haul but which can also be drunk in its youth due to its bright freshness and creamy elegant length. Is this the best MR to date? I think so… but only time will tell.

Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines Release Another Sublime Range of New Single Terroir Vintages…

Ask any international critic to mention their top 5 prestige fine wine producers in South Africa and without doubt Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines will feature in the lineup regardless of whether that person is a Syrah or Chenin Blanc obsessive.

Within their range, it is undoubtedly the Single Terroir releases from Andrea and Chris Mullineux representing different terroir expressions that year on year push the boundaries of quality but have also cemented this estate’s international standing amongst the great wineries of the world.

Whether buying for further cellaring or as a sneaky investment, this range of Mullineux wines represents a star buy. Available from Great Domaines in South Africa, Skurnik Wines in the USA and Fields Morris & Verdin in the UK.

Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Swartland

Produced from two 42-year-old parcels on the Paardeberg, the wine shows attractive sweet crunchy green fruits, massive palate concentration of green melon, sweet lemon and herb spice and a very long, plush, bon bon infused candied finish. Plenty of texture and mouthfeel but also a fabulously confident vein of steely Chenin acidity. Truly classy.

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

Mullineux Quartz Leliefontein Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Swartland

From a single 37-year-old vineyard on the Kasteelberg. This youthful wine is steely, tighter and more mineral with dried herbs, lemon grass, apple peel, pithy green fruits and crunchy orchard fruits nuances. Broad and fleshy, a very harmonious mid-palate dominates with the fruit / acid / mineral balance beautifully integrated and seemless. Lovely vein of acidity with impressive generosity and appeal.

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

Mullineux Granite Syrah 2017, WO Swartland

Fruit sourced from a 23-year-old vineyard on the Paardeberg. Shows high toned notes of red fruit, raspberry confit, cherries dipped in chocolate, cinnamon and exotic sweet clove tobacco spice. Sleek, opulent and generous, immaculately polished, concentrated yet weightless, this is super classy and elegant with a certain deft feminine touch.

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

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2017, WO Swartland

This beautifully manicured 20-year-old vineyard on the Mullineux’s Kasteelberg farm Roundstone shows a more tight and broody expression with darker, blacker berry fruits and more classical notes of black olive, cured meets, earthy savoury black plum and a sweet black peppercorn tinged berry spice finish. A super sleek, elegant and consummately confident, self assured polished expression of premium Syrah that epitomises the whole Mullineux red wine experience.

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

Mullineux Iron Syrah 2017, WO Swartland

This single 18-year-old vineyard near Malmesbury is perhaps never as seductive as the Schist cuvée when young but perhaps it’s the extra stern profile that always makes this one of my favourites. A big, bold wine that combines the old world savoury, mineral character of the Northern Rhône with the new world elegance of the Swartland. Plenty of dried allspice, grilled herbs, massively savoury and bloody with a meaty density and a plush, powerful textural depth, spicy, stony mineral tannins and a long, long rasping, powerful chalky length. The very best of both Old and New World styles, this wine is more challenging but will be infinitely more rewarding in the long run.

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

Three Sticks Release their New Benchmark Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2016…

This week in late September was all about Californian wine in London with the Collectable California Tasting at the US Embassy showcasing some incredible wines from Harlan to Scarecrow, Ovid to Silver Oak. However great the Californian reds are, one thing these US producers are masters of is the production of really interesting premium Chardonnay.

One of my favourite whites on show was the exceptional 2016 new release Three Sticks Chardonnay. Owned by proprietor William S. Price III, the Durell Vineyard forms part of this producers flagship vineyard holdings and has been the source of iconic Sonoma Chardonnay for several decades.

Grown on rocky ancient river bed and red volcanic clay soils, this vineyard site has been recognised for its ability to produce exceptional Chardonnay grapes that show wonderful fruit intensity along with impressive harmony while simultaneously expressing the minerality inherent in this site’s terroir.

Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Sonoma Coast, 14.5 Abv.

A delicious bright enticing lemon yellow, this wine has a lofty complex bouquet of pithy white citrus, leesy lemon cream biscuits, dried herbs, gingerbread and a pronounced crushed gravel minerality. Full, round, intense and glycerol in the mouth with the silky, fleshy lemon pastille fruit concentration punctuated by piquant, zippy fresh acids and sweet grapefruit confit and vanilla pod oak complexity. The pedigree of the Durell Vineyard fruit is clear for all to see. Classically cool climate Californian in style, this is a truly flavour packed expression of premium Sonoma coast Chardonnay.

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

Tasting A Superb Archive Vertical with Beyerskloof Icon Winemaker Beyers Truter…

You simply don’t get bigger names in South African winemaking folklore than Beyers Truter who undoubtedly made his name and established it on the global wine map producing the fine wines of Kanonkop. While winemaker there he won numerous prestigious awards including the highly coveted Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Trophy for the World’s Best Red Blend with his iconic Paul Sauer 1991 Bordeaux blend.

But the true love affair in Beyer’s life has always been another grape variety, Pinotage which will probably be the one that defines his lasting legacy and high standing in the South African Winemaking Hall of Fame.

Like a school boy watching their Springbok rugby idols on tv, I used to stand in awe of Beyers whenever I’d attend a wine tasting. But of course many of those school boys came good and ended up playing rugby alongside their idols. I too grew up, became qualified in wine and now feel honoured to call people like Beyers Truter a good friend. One will never shake off the surreal feeling that accompanies these unique paths in life.

In 2019 it was with great honour that I was invited to judge on the ABSA Top 10 Pinotage Competition overseen by the Pinotage Association and of course Beyers Truter. It was a truly fantastic and enlightening experience getting to taste and assess so many top expressions of Pinotage in one moment. But after judging was completed, I could not pass up on the opportunity to visit the great man himself at his eponymous winery Beyerskloof to taste through a fabulous archive selection of his wines.

The Stellenbosch estate was planted in 2003 and started using their own fruit from the 2007/8 vintages.

Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve 2005, WO Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Normally a combination 30% New oak using a selection of 2 or 3 better blocks. Bright earthy brambly nose with graphite an wood spice. Bright crisp acids with vibrant nervy black fruits and a savoury, steely finish. Holding up very well.

(Wine Safari 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve 2004, WO Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Rich savoury oak complexity with boot polish, black cherry and graphite notes. Palate shows sweet and sour plum, plenty of punchy depth, mineral tannins and fine pin point freshness.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood)

Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve 2003, WO Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, 15 Abv.

From a warm, dry year, the nose shows slightly riper baked, sun dried fruit notes, strawberry jam, raisined cranberries and a round opulence with a creamy oak profile, plenty of generosity and great drinkability. The aromatics may have suffered from the heat but the palate fruit is certainly vital and punchy.

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

Beyerskloof Synergy 2006 Cape Blend, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

A blend of 41% Pinotage, 41% Shiraz, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot. Rich bright youthful nose, this is a really complex melange of black fruits, and savoury meaty fruit. On the palate there is a smokey charcoal embers spice, gun smoke and sweet black fruit, cured meats and clean bright acids.

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

Beyerskloof Synergy 2005 Cape Blend, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

A blend of 50% Pinotage, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. Savoury ripe brambly fruits, earth and wood spice. The palate is vibrant yet mature, but shows a beautiful texture and polish demeanour. There are some stewed fruit notes to begin but the lasting impression is overt opulence, good purity and a harmonious texture.

(Wine Safari Score: 90/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Beyerskloof Synergy 2004 Cape Blend, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

A blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Pinotage, 30% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot. Opulent nose of sweet wet tobacco, cassis, black cherry and blue berry fruits. Wonderfully sleek, lithe, harmonious and finely poised with light touch tannins, superb acidity and an overall youthful persona. Delicious.

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

Beyerskloof Field Blend 2009, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

A blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37% Merlot. Aged in 100% new French oak for 21-23 months. Attractive fragrant nose of dried mint leaf, potpourri, violets and savoury black currant and black plum. Grilled herbs and spice show a more compact, dense vintage that is 2009 with multi layers of flavour, texture and nuanced black berry complexity. A very smart expression.

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

Beyerskloof Field Blend 2008, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

A blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37% Merlot. Dark deep, broody black fruit with notes of grilled herbs, sweet tobacco, black currant and leafy spice. The palate shows a sappy sweet / sour note, spicy wood tannins and good opulence but the showy nose is a little less revealing on the palate finishing with stewed red fruit notes.

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

Beyerskloof Field Blend 2007, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot. Cool dark broody nose with earthy sweet smokey spicy black fruits, tobacco and tannery leather, mint leaf and savoury black currant. Fleshy, balanced, a touch of sappy leafy fruit and a graphite finish.

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

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Release Two Incredible Benchmark Wines For the 2019 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction…

One of the original goals of the Cape Winemakers Guild was to allow an elite group of producers in South Africa an opportunity to push boundaries and experiment in order to produce the most profound quality wines on the market. Some of the specially selected winemakers at the CWG have made a little more effort than most to take this opportunity to make and profile wines that leave you speechless and that command instant respect.

Few have done this more effectively than Andrea Mullineux, one half of the wunderkind duo at Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. The other half of this duo, Chris Mullineux was recently in London for the New Wave Tasting 2019 and I caught up with him over lunch at the iconic Chez Bruce restaurant to taste not only these two new CWG releases, but also the full line up of their white and red single terroir new releases.

The CWG wines are only available to buy at the auction in Cape Town but if you can’t make it, speak to Roland Peens at Wine Cellar who can bid on behalf of consumers and private clients. Contact him at: Roland@winecellar.co.za

Cape Winemakers Guild Leeu Passant ‘The Gris’ Semillon Old Vines 2018, WO Paardeberg, 13.5 Abv.

Super fragrant and lifted with aromatics dominated by an incredible saline, mineral spicy note underpinned by stalk spice, tangerine peel and white citrus. Creamy and glycerol on the palate, the concentration is clearly marked and the white blossom, green apple and briney pithiness is effortless and magically long. Outstanding effort once again.

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

Cape Winemakers Guild Leeu Passant Radicales Libres Chardonnay, 14.9 Abv.

Grapes from Bokkeveld Shale soils on the Tradauw-Joubert estate in Barrydale but produced and aged in the Leeu Passant cellars in Franschhoek. The aromatic profile screams ‘Jura meets Tondonia’ with plush saline, spicy, peppery white citrus fruits with top notes of dusty, stony minerality. The palate is big and bold but very expressive with density, breadth and incredible concentration. Of course the wine is defined by superb balance, piercing acidity which is padded out by sensual fleshy savoury fruit gravitas. The finish shows fabulous crystallised lemons, white peach pastilles and an exotic candied persistence. Really something very special.

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

Marques de Murrieta Launches Their Spectacular New Reserva Tinto 2015 In London and Previews Their Castillo Ygay 2010 For the First Time…

As well as being the oldest winery in the new era of Rioja, being established in 1852, Finca Ygay remains the largest single estate in Rioja (Alta) with 300 hectares of prime vineyards. Current owner, Vicente Dalmau Cebrian-Sagarriga, Count of Creixell, has over the past 25 years in charge focused on updating and upgrading both the quality of Marques de Murrieta’s wines as well as the international reputation of the entire estate.

My last visit to the Finca Ygay estate was in 2017 after they had broken ground on their new wine cellar which received the 2018 harvest and will also take in the 2019 vintage despite the new layout only being due for completion in 2020.

With wine distribution now in 100 countries around the world, Vicente chose London as one of his first stops to launch the new 2015 Reserva Tinto and also preview their new 2010 Castillo Ygay, due for release next year.

Marques de Murrieta Reserva Rioja Tinto 2015, 14 Abv.

Grapes are sourced at the estate from vineyards located at 320m to 485m altitude with harvest starting on the 14th September and finishing on the 16th October. The 2015 is a traditional blend of 80% Tempranillo, 12% Graciano, 6% Mazuelo and 2% Garnacha. Grapes are destalked and destemmed before fermentation in stainless steel followed by 18 months ageing in 225 litre American oak barrels 7 of which are in new oak before being racked to 2nd and 3rd fill barrels.

A deliciously seductive nose of sun dried strawberries dipped in milk chocolate, ripe cherries and red bramble berries drizzled with balsamic with a subtle top note of mocha, cocoa and vanilla pod spice. The texture is plush and sensual, wonderfully elegant and fresh yet so supple and harmonious with the finest of powdery chalky tannins, sweet cherry liquor notes, strawberry confit and spicy vanilla pod oak notes on the finish. A really impressive benchmark expression of Reserva Tinto from a very good vintage in Rioja.

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

Marques de Murrieta Dalmau Reserva 2014, Rioja DOCa, 14 Abv.

A selection of the best fruit from a 465 meter altitude plot. The 2014 is a blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Graciano which was fermented for 11 days before 21 months ageing in new French oak Allier 225 litre barriques.

Rated internationally by critics from between 97 and 99/100, this wines reputation certainly preceded it. The aromatics are big and bold, packed full of dark chocolate, sweet black cherry and black current laced with cocoa powder and espresso vanilla pod spice. Seductive brambly black fruit notes fill the palate, punctuated by intense smokey black cherry concentration, piercing acids and layers of unctuous, hedonistic, opulent sweet tannins and glycerol fruit weight. This is certainly a very serious effort and possibly the best expression of the Dalmau blend produced to date. A seductive, thought provoking wine. Modern styled Rioja doesn’t get much better than this.

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

Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Rioja Tinto 2010, Rioja Alta, 14 Abv.

Castillo Ygay is always made from the grapes from the same La Plana single vineyard planted in 1950 and located on the highest plateau of the Finca Ygay estate at 485 meters altitude. A classical blend of 85% Tempranillo and 15% Mazuelo grapes that were picked on the 21st October. After fermentation, the wines were aged for 24 months in 225 litre American and French oak barriques.

The perfume and lifted fragrance on this wine are profound. The aromatics are more complex, nuanced and delicate than its predecessor 2009 with ethereal sweet violets, dried lavender, cherry blossom, kirsch liquor and hints of balsamic spice. The palate is more Burgundian than Bordeaux with incredible intensity and purity but also a lithe, delicate texture, weightless concentration and a long, sun raisined strawberry fruit finish. The tannins are like silk and the oak immaculately integrated already. While deemed “not ready” for release until March 2020, further time in bottle should only make this special wine even more spectacular. A real show stopper that is certain to take the world by storm. One of the best Ygay Tintos since the epic 2001 vintage.

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