The Hemel-en-Aarde Cabernet Sauvignon that Continues to Defy Expectations – Tasting the Restless River Main Road & Dignity 2018…

Cabernet Sauvignon is not supposed to be this successful in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in the Walker Bay region. But like innovators before him, think Tim Hamilton-Russell, Craig Wessels has never been one to settle for conformity or pre-set industry parameters of quality with his wine styles. The track record is now so firmly established for the Restless River Cabernet Sauvignon that Craig certainly has no problem selling out of allocations of this exceptional expression.

Many of the 2017 reds reached heights of quality not seen for many years (2015 aside), so expectations for 2018 and the last drought vintages were understandably very high. This is a premium priced wine (circa £55 to £59pb retail) which consumers expect to reach certain quality heights every vintage. Craig Wessels has done a sterling job with the 2018 and while the main release in South Africa was already at the beginning of 2022, the wine is only now being offered seriously in the UK. If you have not tried this stunner, treat yourself. It’s a fascinatingly individual expression of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Restless River Main Road & Dignity Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 14.5% Abv.

A 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from two single vineyards, namely Main Road (1.59 hectares) and Dignity (0.71 hectares) in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley matured for 23 months in 225 litre barriques with approximately 25% new oak. Located five kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean in the heart of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir country, this exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon red continues to confound the sceptics. Coming from the last of the proper drought vintages, Craig Wessels has captured a wonderfully opulent and heady expression of Cabernet Sauvignon with plenty of exoticism and ripeness while never losing a certain feeling of classicism and elegance. Tasted over two days, the wine shows an impressive depth of black and blue berry fruits with initial notes of plum skins, pressed violets, wet leaves, sapidity and sweet cedar spice followed by tilled earth, salty black liquorice and cherry kirsch liquor nuances. On the palate the fruit depth is broad and plush with a dark cherry and black currant intensity, hints of graphite and iodine and finishing with a fine-grained mineral tannin grip and yet more salty liquorice notes. The 2018 vintage seems more Napa Valley than Stellenbosch / SA in style but certainly a very well honed, opulent expression. Drink this now and over the next 10 to 15 years. (7,765 bottles produced.)

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

Available to the trade in the UK from SWIG wines. (www.swig.co.uk)

Prime Stellenbosch Winery Waterford Estate Release An Exceptional New Value for Money Cape Bordeaux Red Blend – Tasting the Antigo Red 2019…

The Waterford Estate is probably best known for their great red blend, The Jem. But recently, Waterford have released another little Bordeaux blend to minimal fanfare despite its sexy packaging and exceptional quality in bottle. A superb Cape Bordeaux Blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec, this is a wonderful addition to the ranks of Stellenbosch’s affordable premium reds that will find a thirsty and willing clientele as the cost-of-living squeeze starts to bite. Why compromise on quality when you can buy fabulous wines like this!?

Waterford Antigo Red 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.

A flamboyant and extroverted wine brimming with lifted aromatics of sweet cedar, cherry tobacco, black currant, ground nutmeg and graphite spice. The palate is as bright as the aromatics are lifted with a wonderfully creamy, supple mouthfeel layered with tart black currant, brûléed coffee beans, dried herbs and pithy black cherry on the suave, sleek but densely fruited finish. Elegant and beautifully accessible but also deceptively complex and serious. An impressive and expressive red wine packed full of class. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8 years.

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

Glenelly Estate Establish the Lady May Cape Bordeaux Blend As One of South Africa’s True Icon Reds – Reviewing the 2016 and 2017 Releases…

In some of the biggest wine industry news of the year, it was recently announced that winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain would be leaving the Glenelly Estate to replace the retiring Andre Van Rensburg at Vergelegen Wine Estate. Luke will take up his appointment around September 2022 this year, following in the footsteps of another legendary giant of the Cape wine industry, André van Rensburg (1998-2022) and Martin Meinert (1989-1998).

But Luke O’Cuinneagain, who has been winemaker at Glenelly Estate in Ida’s Valley, Stellenbosch, since 2008, and previously worked for Rustenburg Estate for five years, leaves Glenelly in rude health having recently presided over the release of three of their greatest wines to date: Lady May 2015, 2016 and the soon to be released 2017 Cape Bordeaux red blend.

Luke tasting with Neal Martin from Vinous Media in London recently.

With both estates reaching new heights of quality recently, thanks to extensive virus free replantings at Vergelegen together with maturing vineyards at Glenelly, the future looks very exciting for both wineries, especially when you consider that Luke recons the Lady May 2018, 2019 and 2020, all still in the estate’s cellars, should be better wines than either of the 2015, 2016 or 2017 blends. Of course, only time will tell, but in the meantime, the 2017 Lady May is certainly a creation to behold! Make room in your cellars for this one!

Glenelly are big fans of benchmarking their wines against the very best producers in the world.

Glenelly Estate Lady May 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc.

The 2016 blend throws a particularly dark, opaque red/black colour in the glass. Dark and foreboding but also ever so inviting at the same time. The aromatics are quite defined with perhaps the Cabernet Franc component currently punching way above its weight of 6% with seductive notes of freshly shaved cedar lead pencil spice, graphite, iron filings, iodine and the now hallmark Lady May character of dark, black, menthol cassis and peppermint crisp milk chocolate nuances. The palate is wonderfully suave and sleek, creamy and mouth coating with an accessibility and generosity of black and blueberry fruits that is very comforting and familiar. But just when you think the mouthfeel is all about silky tannins and fleshy black fruit concentration, the delicious tangy acids kick in to land this Hercules of a wine cleanly and effortlessly on the runway without even a hiccup. Like so many 2016 super-premium Cape Bordeaux blends from Stellenbosch, this wine thrills, seduces the senses and certainly impresses for the vintage. Drink from release or cellar for 10 to 15 years.

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

Glenelly Estate Lady May 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot.

If the 2015 Lady May blockbuster resembles a powerful, dense, Pauillac-styled Cabernet Sauvignon led red blend, then the 2017 is pretty much the antithesis, boasting the most elegant, silky, seamlessly harmonious texture combined with an attractively fragrant, Margaux-esque delicacy and graceful precision. While super youthful, the wine inevitably displays some of the lush, alluring and reassuringly expensive new oak creaminess, boasting layers of warm buttered brown toast smothered in black currant preserve, fresh espresso, hints of mocha dust and delicate vanilla pod spice notes. But probably the most pleasing element about this wine is the way winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain has absolutely captured the truest essence of the 2017 vintage with its extreme purity, weightless fruit concentration that dances across the palate together with a focused, piercing intensity on the long, luxurious finish. This is class personified and I for one am completely smitten. Drink on release and over 25+ years.

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

Glenelly Estate wines are available to the trade in the UK through Seckford Wine Agencies. RRP is circa £40 to £45 per bottle.

New Release Preview – Tasting the Raats Family Wines Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2020…

Bruwer Raats has been at the forefront of premium Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc production in South Africa for over 20 years. Now that these two varieties are riding high on a wave of global collector popularity, it is easy to forget the hard yards that were navigated all those years ago when critics wondered why Bruwer Raats persisted with championing two varieties that were broadly speaking unfashionable with little to no mainstream popularity.

Nowadays, Bruwer is lauded for his premium creations of Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, none more so than for the small production Eden Cabernet Franc produced with extreme precision viticulture, or “quality by design” as Bruwer likes to describe his viticulture and winemaking. I recently caught up in London with Bruwer to taste his new releases.

Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8000 vines per hectare) meticuously planned and planted 11 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, 5% of the grapes were whole bunch fermented before being aged for 8 months in new French oak, followed by a further 10 months elevage in older oak barrels.

Raats Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2020, 14% Abv.

The Raats Eden Cabernet Franc is always classical and impressively premium in feel and this 2020 is certainly no different. The aromatics are initially tight and compact at this embryonic stage of development before slowly blossoming into a pristinely pure, precise and wonderfully perfumed offering showing notes of violets, lilac, rose petals, pink musk, sweet sandalwood and subtle hints of crème de cassis, earthy mulberry and sweet vanilla pod spice. The palate displays an incredible tensile linearity together with fabulously compact, tight grained tannins and a sleek graphite laden minerality. This small production wine flaunts its premium pedigree, its supremely manicured textural elegance and effortless finesse to perfection. There is no mistaking that the high-density planting lends an extra dimension of intensity and concentration to the wine. Allow this wine a few more years in the cellar before enjoying over the next 15 to 20+ years. (359 bottles produced.)

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

Wines available to the trade in the UK from Alliance Wines.

Assessing the New Releases from Mullineux Wines – Part 3: Tasting the Olerasay 3º Solera Straw Wine…

Every year since 2008 the Mullineuxs have made a vintage Straw Wine. The two vineyards they chose to make this very sweet but incredibly special Straw Wine are naturally very high in acid, flavour and structure. This way, when they pick the grapes at normal ripeness and then dry them outside during the desiccation process, they are not just concentrating sugar and flavour but also increasing the intense, zesty acidity that is so critically important when making a balanced Straw Wine.

After drying the grapes for several weeks, the grapes are crushed and pressed into barrel where a long, slow natural fermentation takes place. Along with the concentration of acids in the wine, there is a concentration of specifically the malic acid. This high level of malic acid prevents the onset of Malolactic fermentation, which of course seems counter intuitive. The wine always stops its slow fermentation naturally after 8-10 months, so no additional intervention takes place and (here’s where the difference is), while the vintage Straw Wine is bottled, a few barrels are selected that go into a special Solera system of barrel aging that was started with their first Mullineux vintage back in 2008. They decided to bottle the first iteration of OLERASAY (1º) that was a fractional blend of 2008 to 2014, when it was different enough from the regular vintage straw wine. The 2º bottling then took place five years later when the 2008-2019 OLERASAY was considered different enough from the first release.

Now they are releasing the OLERASAY 3º which has not only completed the original drying process off the vine but has continued to concentrate and stabilise in barrel over all of those years, concentrating again in sugar, flavour and natural acidity but also in extract, layers of mouthfeel and additional complexity. As Andrea confidently says… “this wine is bulletproof.” The maiden release was a real revelation and took the market by storm. In a world where apparently fine wine drinkers don’t buy sweet wine anymore, the wine received a rapturous welcome from consumers and collectors alike. The 5,000+ plus bottle production did not last very long in the market making the five year long wait until the second release a very thirsty and gruelling period of time for sweet wine lovers. The second release was rated 99/100 by A FINE WINE SAFARI and an astonishing 100/100 by Neal Martin at VINOUS Media. All eyes are now on the third, smaller bottling, and if initial mutterings from critics are anything to go by, this wine should continue the incredible success the OLERASAY brand has enjoyed since its inception.

Mullineux OLERASAY 3º, WO Swartland, 8.42% Abv.

375 g/l RS | 11.2 g/l TA | 3.3 pH

Picked with yields around 4 tons per hectare with a balling of 22 at harvest, the concentration and intensity of this wine is clear to see from the word go. The aromatics on opening initially were slightly more boldly fruity with youthful nuances of peaches and dried apricot, marmalade, passion fruit and honey. But with a little time and exposure to air, the nose becomes a lot more perfumed and intricate as it starts to unfurl to show more of its solera complexity. The aromatics display notes of dried rose petals, peach tea, chamomile and honey and an underlying note of dried straw, freshly baked apple strudel pastries and crème brulee. On the palate the texture is dreamy and plush, superbly balanced with a silky soft glycerol texture that glides off the tongue like a drop of oil on a block of ice. The intensity is focused and fabulously potent with incredible depth and breadth without ever becoming too unctuous, overwhelming, or too sweet thanks to a deliciously intense, invigorating tangy acidity. The finish is splendidly long and persistent leaving an attractive aftertaste of caramelized almonds, marzipan and dried guava roll. Simply pitch perfect. What else can one say other than this truly is an extraordinary and unique vinous creation. Drink now and over the next 40+ years. (1,800 x 375cl bottles released.)

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

Assessing the New Releases from Mullineux Wines – Part 2: Tasting the Single Terroir 2020 Syrah Reds…

The Mullineuxs have put an immense amount of blood, sweat and tears into creating their Mullineux Old Vine White Blend and their Mullineux Syrah. With the latest releases in 2022, we see both wines rising to unseen level of quality and the 2021 Old Vine White is definitely their most distinguished creation to date. But these wines only tell half the story. Much of the rise in quality of these larger production “estate” wines from a blend of vineyard sites can be attributed to the knowledge and expertise acquired over the past decade of producing the more niche Mullineux Single Terroir wines.

With the 2020 red Syrah releases, the Mullineuxs have been granted permission from all farmers and vineyard owners involved to use the actual farm names on all the labels for the first time across the range. Previously, only the Mullineux Schist wines carried the Roundstone designation on the front labels. With all the experience and expertise has also come an extra confidence for the Mullineuxs to trumpet the site-specific origin of these wines, all of which now show noticeably specific vineyard traits and similarities from their terroirs year after year. I caught up with the Swartland power couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux recently and tasted through their new range of wines together.

The Single Terroir Reds:

Granite Syrah Jakkalsfontein (100% of a set block from the Jakkalsfontein farm recently bought by Eben Sadie and Adi Badenhorst)

Schist Syrah Roundstone (the Mullineuxs own farm vineyard)

Iron Syrah Kasteelsig (Using same 18 rows that have been contracted since 2008)

The 2020 vintage had more warm spells with a roughly one week later picking start date than usual with more warmth than 2021, but which still saw very even ripening across all vineyards with absolutely no pressure to pick according to Andrea Mullineux.

Mullineux Granite Jakkalsfontein Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 13.86% Abv.

1.8 g/l RS | 5.5 g/l TA | 3.67 pH

The deep GRANITE soils on this Jakkalsfontein farm allow for deep root growth and a larger natural canopy. This is incredible for allowing the grapes to retain acidity and purity which ultimately leads to tight, yet fresh tannins and a more lifted perfume. Like all 3 Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks the wine was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled. This allows the tannins to develop, which are very long when Syrah is grown on Granite, one of the prime distinguishing characteristics of the soil type, and then lets the natural fresh and fragrant perfumes develop, and amazing blossoming of soil type-derived personality.

Same block has been bought for over 10 years from 21+ year old vines growing on deep sandy decomposed granite soils with a hint of clay. The aromatics reveal a lovely spicy, floral array with an expressive lavender lift intertwined with sweet black peppercorns, red currants, black cherries and a dusty dry straw and fynbos herbal complexity. On the palate, the incredibly powerful but very fine-grained, drying mineral tannins lend a real classicism to the wine’s mouthfeel and finish. The red and black berry fruits are subtle and restrained showing real precision, purity and focused finesse. While it is probably more of an illusion created by the tannins and the fresh acids, the lasting impression of the wine is its incredible minerality and old world restraint. The sour cherry picante finish just puts the final finishing touches to a very classical and classy expression of Syrah. This is one for collectors and connoisseurs, drinkers who want to age their wines and then sip them slowly in lengthy contemplation. World class Syrah in every sense of the word. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.

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

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 13.34% Abv.

1.8 g/l RS | 5.1 g/l TA | 3.81 pH

These very special and characterful grapes grown on the brown schisty Kasteelberg showcase the Mullineux’s own estate, Roundstone, and its ability to define Syrah grown on SCHIST Soils. These rocky soils limit vine size and so the clusters and individual grapes, in turn remain smaller with a higher skin to juice ratio, offering denser, more brooding tannins. Like all three Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for completely gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks it was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled.

While a higher skin to juice ratio offers a denser, broodier tannic complexity, this wine is always very suave and plush, generous and alluring with complex layers of delicious black berry fruits. The aromatics show hints of lavender and violets, blueberry and black cherries, sweet grilled herbs and fynbos spice and a subtle black olive tapenade nuance. On the palate there is plenty of fleshy weight and texture with a balancing acid freshness and natural fruit concentration boasting vermouth spices, salty nori seaweed, blood oranges and an opulent, rich, meaty finish. A lot of premium wines have sex appeal and allure, it’s just that the Schist Syrah really knows how to flaunt it. A wine that is appealing to drink on release but will age gracefully for 15 to 20+ years.

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

Mullineux Iron Kasteelsig Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 12.66% Abv.

2.0 g/l RS | 5.2 g/l TA | 3.77 pH

Grown on the IRON soils on the rolling red hills that surround Malmesbury, this organic vineyard grows on the clay and gravel rich Koffieklip that is very good at holding water and very generous during primary growth in the sprint, but then around verasion, the clay in the soil stops releasing moisture and the vine compensates during this quick ripening phase by making the smallest grapes out of all the three single terroirs, but because of the canopy, the skins are not too thick. This gives us wines that are rich and round, with gravely but plush tannins, and yet for some reason, always the lowest alcohol conversions for similar sugars across the Single Terroir range (they are all picked at the same ripeness). Like all 3 Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for completely gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks it was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled.

The Mullineuxs have been working with this specific vineyard for 18 vintages making it one of their most well know sites (this includes several years prior for Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards). On the nose there are pronounced notes of scorched earth, tapenade, broody black berry and black cherry fruits together with some red fruit brightness. The slightly reductive palate boasts a great depth of fruit with rich round tannins leading the way structurally. A wine that always has the highest natural extract but like this 2020 release, shows itself with the most generosity, harmony and balance. In common with both the Granite and the Schist Syrah expressions, this wine definitely has its own very unique personality derived from its terroir and typified by its very Northern Rhone physique, its savoury cured meat and irony complexity, the bright fresh acids and the suave powdery tannins. Tasted over three days, this is the wine that unfurled and fanned its peacock tail the most. Another very age worthy expression that is a true testament to the Mullineux’s winemaking prowess. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.

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

Wines available to the wine trade in the UK from the Mullineux Wines importer Liberty Wines and in the USA from Skurnik Wines. RRP in the UK circa £49pb for whites and £78pb for the reds. In South Africa, R1,175pb for the reds and R630pb for the whites cellar door.

Assessing the New Releases from Mullineux Wines – Part 1: Tasting the Single Terroir 2021 Chenin Blanc Whites…

The Mullineuxs have put an immense amount of blood, sweat and tears into creating their Mullineux Old Vine White Blend and their Mullineux Syrah. With the latest releases in 2022, we see both wines rising to unseen levels of quality and the 2021 Old Vine White is definitely their most distinguished creation to date. A wine not to be missed. But these wines only tell half the story. Much of the rise in quality of these larger production wines from a blend of vineyard sites can be attributed to the knowledge and expertise acquired over the past decade of producing the more niche Mullineux Single Terroir wines.

With the 2021 whites and 2020 red releases, the Mullineuxs have been granted permission from all farmers and vineyard owners involved to use the actual farm names on all the labels for the first time across the range. Previously, only the Mullineux Schist wines carried the Roundstone designation on the front labels. With all the experience and expertise has also come an extra confidence for the Mullineuxs to trumpet the site-specific origin of these wines, all of which now show noticeably specific vineyard traits and similarities from their terroirs year after year. I caught up with the power couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux recently and tasted through their new range of wines with them.

The Single Terroir Whites:

Wines were tasted from Zalto Bordeaux glasses and reviewed over the course of three days.

Mullineux Granite Eikelaan Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 13.98% Abv.

1.9 g/l RS | 6.5 g/l TA | 3.27 pH

These grapes grown on the Paardeberg showcase everything the Mullineuxs are looking for in wines that hail from Granite Soils. The roots grow deep, so the canopy remains very full, protecting it from sun and temperature fluctuations. The grapes then retain more freshness and perfume. At the winery, the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its life. All of the juice is racked to barrel (0% new because they want all of the elements of this wine’s terroir to show through so consumers are tasting the soil and not the barrel, but older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred (the texture is coming from the South African Sun and Old Vines) until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months. Andrea leave’s the barrels full as long as possible because a full barrel is a happy barrel. The wine is bottled unfiltered to further showcase the Swartland Granite terroir.

The 2021 vintage in the Swartland was late because it was such a slow, cool and balanced vintage which shows in the wines, especially with the Granite Chenin Blanc due to longer hang times adding extra texture and mouthfeel to compliment the Granite’s racy acidity and linear tension. Across the range, the ripening of the Iron vineyard came first, followed by the Schist vineyard, ending with the Granite vineyard, picked over a 10-day period of time differentiation with no heatwaves. With the two weeks of extra hangtime, the wine displays more alluring yellow orchard fruit notes together with aromatic layers of tangerine, greengage plums and yellow citrus nuances. While there may be ample exotic fruit notes on the nose, all the intense granitic liquid minerality that is so typical for this wine are clear to be seen on the palate, supported by a zippy but tangy fresh acidity, an impressively sleek, sumptuous palate texture and the most delicious mouth-watering intensity on the finish. A super fine expression of how a taut, linear Chenin Blanc can also be so incredibly multi-dimensional in a top vintage. Simply a majestic drop of wine to drink now and over the next 20+ years.

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

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 13.95% Abv.

1.7 g/l RS | 5.8 g/l TA | 3.40 pH

These very special and characterful grapes grown on Kasteelberg showcase the essence of the Mullineux estate, Roundstone, and its ability to define Chenin Blanc grown on Schist soils. These rocky soils limit vine size and so the clusters and individual grapes, in turn remain smaller with a higher skin to juice ratio, offering positive white-wine tannins and texture. At the winery the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its life. All of the juice is racked to barrel (0% new because Andrea wants all of the elements of this wine’s terroir to show through so drinkers are tasting the soil and not the barrel, but older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months.

Coming from fruit from a young vineyard of seven years old which was picked almost two to three weeks later than normal. The shallower, rockier soils of the Roundstone vineyard traditionally yield more stone fruit aromatic nuances with the 2021 expression also boasting multiple layers of white and green citrus, pear puree, golden delicious apples and complex white peach notes intertwined with savoury dried herbs and subtle struck flint reductive hints. On the palate the wine is full and expansive but wonderfully precise and seamless, gliding over the palate with hints of honey of white toast, quince, white peach puree and an incredible concentration before melting away slowly to leave a dry, picante, phenolic tinged impression on the finish. A wine with striking depth, concentration and generosity. Drink now and over the next 15+ years.

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

Mullineux Iron Rondomskrik Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 12.65% Abv.

1.5 g/l RS | 5.7 g/l TA | 3.49 pH

Grown on the Iron soils on the rolling red hills that surround Malmesbury, these vineyards grow on the clay and gravel rich Koffieklip that is very good at holding water and very generous during primary growth in the sprint, but then around verasion, the clay in the soil stops releasing moisture and the vine compensates during this quick ripening phase by making the smallest of grapes, but because of the canopy, the skins are not too thick. This gives us wines that are rich and round, yet for some reason, always the lowest alcohol conversions for similar sugars across the Single Terroir Range (they are all picked at the same ripeness). At the winery the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its evolution. All of the juice is then racked into used oak barrels (older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months.

Only the second white single terroir expression produced from this white vineyard, the aromatics boast and incredibly reductive character with notes of struck flint, wet river stones and wet hay. Always a wine that tends toward reduction making it a real characteristic of the vineyard, even with oxidative handling. The palate is smoky and chalky, thoroughly mineral driven at the moment but with big mid-palate weight and concentration from a high dry extract. There is plenty of inherent detail and precision, an incredibly fine line of acidity supporting distinct notes of quince, chamomile, green herbs, savoury bruised yellow orchard fruits and a dried mint leaf nuance on the long intense finish. This is a wine that will need some extra time in bottle to show at its best but should be a stunner when it approaches its peak maturity. Drink from 2024 to 2035+.

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

Wines available to the wine trade in the UK from their importer Liberty Wines and in the USA from Skurnik Wines. RRP in the UK circa £49pb for whites and £78pb for the reds. In South Africa, R1175pb for the reds and R630pb for the whites cellar door.

An Outstanding Follow-up Vintage from Naude Family Wines – Tasting the Oupa Willem Cape Heritage Red Blend 2019…

New wines from top South African producers like Naude Family Wines are a bit like London buses, nothing for ages and then all of a sudden two or three new wines introduced onto the market. The Langpad Old Vine Colombard, the Groendruif La Colline Old Vine Semillon and the Oupa Willem Old Vine Cape Heritage Red Blend have all been released to great acclaim, further cementing Ian Naude’s status as one of the most admired producers in South Africa.

Deeply involved with the Old Vine Project from the very beginning, the Oupa Willem red blend is perhaps the most nostalgic of his new releases paying tribute to the historic old Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon blends of the 1950s and 1960s that came to define the South African wine industry for many decades.

Tasting with Ian Naudé at his cellar in March 2022.

I remember tasting the maiden 2018 vintage many months before commercial release and thinking that Ian Naude had created something very special indeed. The combination of the ethereal elegance and perfume of the Cinsault seamlessly married with the power and authority of Cabernet Sauvignon made for an incredible wine and my high ratings mirrored this excitement in every way. It was only a matter of time before the word “got out” and sure enough the 2018 was subsequently awarded a massive 5 Stars in the John Platter South African Wine Guide. Few pure Cinsaults or Cinsault blends ever achieve this regal accolade making the award even more significant.

With the Oupa Willem 2020 already in bottle, my review for the follow up 2019 vintage was long overdue.

Naude Family Wines Oupa Willem Cape Heritage Blend 2019, WO Western Cape, 11.5% Abv.

1.2 g/l RS | 5.65 g/l TA | 3.5 pH

This premium red blend draws on the unique South African expressions of 77% Darling old bush vine Cinsault planted in 1978 blended with prime Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon and fermented naturally using 40% whole bunches. Reduced yields in 2019 reminded everyone of the hangover the vines were still experiencing after four years of severe drought despite most regions receiving good rainfall during the season. Grape quantities may have been compromised but the quality was exceptional, and this 2019 red blend shows fabulously lifted notes of pink musk, red cherry, rose petals, violets and Turkish delight with some darker black berry fruit hints together with subtle nuances of raspberry herbal tea, graphite and cherry tobacco. The palate displays a wonderfully linear acid driven structure with a real mouth-watering verve and vigour, a magically textural plushness and weightless elegance. Trying to comprehend the intensity, fruit concentration and glycerol mouthfeel all delivered at an astonishing 11.5% abv. is simply mind blowing. This is another incredible vinous creation that will take its place in the history books of South African winemaking. Sure to be very long lived, the irony is that this wine is also unbelievably drinkable right now and many will find it impossibly hard to resist pulling the cork. Drink now to 2045+.

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

Tasting the Impressive New 2022 Creation Winery Releases With Owners JC and Carolyn Martin…

Probably one of the most important developments in the South African wine industry over the past 30 years has been the success of selecting the most suitable vineyard sites for the correct variety, leading to regions like Stellenbosch being dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, the Swartland by Syrah and Rhone varieties, Constantia Valley by Sauvignon Blanc and of course Walker Bay and the three Hemel-en-Aarde wards by Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You can use the best vine material and the best cellar techniques, but if the variety is not suited to its planted site, quality will inevitably be capped.

JC and Carolyn Martin, the owners of the Creation winery situated in the picturesque Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge ward, are synonymous with the production of world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and bought their original 22 hectares of virgin land in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and completed their cellar in time for their 2007 harvest. Their Walker Bay estate has grown since then and now encompasses 50 hectares planted with over 11 varieties, but focused mainly on the production of premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

I recently caught up with JC and Carolyn over a zoom tasting session hosted in London by Dr Winifred Bowman CWM.

White Wine Flight:

Creation Reserve Chardonnay 2020, WO Walker Bay, 13.5% Abv.

Shows an impressively complex aromatics array of vanilla pod and yellow citrus, where sea breeze and rock salt nuances mingle with hints of reduction, struck flint and tart green melon. The palate shows fabulous freshness, tension and intensity of savoury yellow citrus with hints of leesy lemon biscuits, vanilla pod and a tart apple strudel complexity. Lovely crystalline freshness and an impressive dry, mineral finish. Very difficult to fault this delicious Chardonnay. Drink now and over 10+ years.

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

Art of Chardonnay

Made from 18 year old vines in 2020, only 2,150 bottles were produced. Main soils here are bokkeveld shale with a seam of quartz. Whole berry pressed, unfiltered, straight out of the press made possible with very healthy fruit. It was then fermented in 228 litre French oak barrels with circa 30% new blonde barrels using much more solids than previously. No Battonage on the Art of Chardonnay with also 100% malolactic fermentation. Earlier picking and using the juice straight out the press represent the biggest changes in production.

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2020, WO Walker Bay, 13.5% Abv.

1.8 g/l RS | 6.9 g/l TA | 3.16 pH

Aged 10 months in 30% new, 70% second fill. 50/50 wild yeast and inoculated portions. Dense, rich creamy leesy oak profile, there is massive depth and breadth on the aromatics with lemon butter, dried herbs, tarte tatin, caramelised apples and delicious savoury biscuity notes. The palate is taut and steely with a real malic-styled tension despite the 100% malo. The massive focus and intensity of the aromatics follow to palate which shows impressive linearity, cool yellow citrus pastille and a tantalising stony minerality of limestone with a kiss of spearmint on the finish. Power packed and almost overwhelming at this youthful moment, this is good for ageing in the cellar for at least 3 to 5 years before opening. Seriously impressive world class Chardonnay expression.

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

Creation Glenn’s Chardonnay 2020, WO Walker Bay, 13.75% Abv. 

1.7 g/l RS | 7.0 g/l TA | 3.14 pH

Aged for 10 months in 50% new, 50% second fill barrels. With fruit coming from the Art of Chardonnay grape selection, this is merely the wild yeast fermentation portion. The result is a noticeably more earthy, savoury, leesy expression with subtle hints of struck flint reductive notes, limestone minerality, grilled herbs, sourdough and lemon brioche nuances. The palate is more supple and fleshy than the Art 2020 with a glycerol breadth and depth while all the while being kept in check by racy, tangy acids. Beautiful lemon and lime cordial notes lead to a long, intense, finish that has more in common with Chassagne Montrachet or Puligny Montrachet than anything from the New World. Really very impressive indeed. (600 bottles produced.)

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

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2021, WO Walker Bay, 13.5% Abv.

1.6 g/l RS | 6.3 g/l TA | 3.4 pH

Aged for 10 months in oak, 30% new and 70% second fill. A softer and more accessible expression with slightly lower earlier picked percentage as well as slightly lower acids on the Chardonnay grapes at picking. Plenty of delicious ripe lemon peel, pineapple pastille, grapefruit and a subtle lemon biscuit complexity with a kiss of herbs, vanilla pod and dusty gravel minerality. The texture is noticeably softer, riper and fleshier with lemon butter, grilled herbs and lemon rind but still retains beautifully pure, crystalline acids together with a pithy minerality. Very impressive but should be ready to drink before the 2020 Art.

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

Red Wine Flight:

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2019, WO Walker Bay, 13.5% Abv.

3.1 g/l RS | 5.5 g/l TA | 3.50 pH

60-65% whole bunch on the wine which really shows on the aromatics with elevated notes of chalk board duster, sappy spice and a freshly cut hedge row spice before waves of black bramble berry, mulberry and black currant rise to the fore. The palate is soft and harmonious with a very relaxed feel, boasting sappy leafy black berry note, beautifully supple tannins and a deliciously integrated freshness. Sappy and savoury suggests this is ready to drink now and over the next 8 to 10 years. (3,500 bottles produced.)

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

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2020, WO Walker Bay, 13.2% Abv. 

Already showing a pronounced leafy, grape skin aromatics with sappy sweet phenolic notes, dried herbs and layers of graphite and crushed limestone minerality. Supple and soft on the palate, there is an impressive elegance and finesse leading to impressive textural balance and harmony. Good to go now.

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

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2021, WO Walker Bay, 13.6% Abv. 

80% whole bunch portion in the wine shows through beautiful spice on the nose intermingled with a sweet bramble berry wildness, dried herbs, crushed stone minerality and black plum intensity. The palate is texturally very attractive with a sublime balance, creamy black berry fruits, exotic wild herb nuances and harmoniously integrated acids. Benchmark premium Pinot Noir quality!

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

The Symington Family Return to London to Preview Some of the Most Exciting Vintage Port Releases of Modern Times – Tasting the Graham’s and Warre’s 2020 Vintage Ports…

The 2020 Port vintage was the smallest harvest this century and produced incredibly concentrated, well-structured, dark wines in very low quantities – with the most outstanding wines originating from the Cima Corgo sub-region of the Douro. Accordingly, the Symington family have chosen to do an exceptional limited release bottling of two special edition Vintage Ports from Graham’s and Warre’s – drawn exclusively from a few of the best performing parcels from their estates in the Cima Corgo.

These special Vintage Ports mark the historic milestones in 2020 of Graham’s 200th anniversary and Warre’s 350th anniversary, celebrations for both of which were cancelled by the onset of the Covid pandemic. The fact that the Douro’s terroir provides such a variety of microclimates is a huge advantage in a year like 2020.

It takes a rare constellation of events for quality to be consistently exceptional throughout the region (as in 2011, 2016 and 2017). In 2020, the Symingtons believe the extraordinary conditions of the year gave rise to some truly outstanding wines and were in London recently to preview the new releases with the Portuguese Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

“2020 was a real Cima Corgo vintage” ~ Charles Symington

Warre’s 2020 Vintage Port, 20% Abv.

A wonderfully luscious vintage port with a profound textural depth and aromatic complexity. Beautifully lifted and perfumed, the nose is at once compact, intense and packed full of black and blue berry fruits but also super pure and precise with hints of violets, cherry blossom, melted liquorice, black cherry and mulberry jam. The palate shows a fabulous balance of freshness, power and precision with a dense creamy textural intensity enlivened by the most vibrant integrated acidity together with plush creamy ripe sweet tannins. This Warre’s connects all the dots and delivers one of the most profound and invigorating young Port experiences possible.

(Wine Safari Score: 99/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Graham’s 2020 Vintage Port, 20% Abv.

Another colossal wine, the Graham’s Port displays all the 2020 vintage muscle, power and density with lovely earthy black berry notes, hints of black plum confit, black liquorice, freshly cut hedgerow sappy spice and subtle graphite nuances. The palate is crisp and precise with a magnificently polished marble texture, massive brooding density and a long, profound finish showing saline black currant confit with little fruit spikes of pristine red berry fruits. Impressively compact and complex, this should age incredibly well owing to its seamless harmony and sheer density. Really quite profound.

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