Ridge Vineyards Prepares For An Iconic Monte Bello Chardonnay 2016 Release…

Ridge produced its first Chardonnay in 1962 from mature vines planted in the late 1940s on the Monte Bello estate vineyard. Production has never exceeded ten barrels, and Monte Bello Chardonnay was sold principally at the winery cellar door. Several great vintages, among them the 1973, ‘74, ‘79, and ‘84, showed that the cool climate and fractured limestone sub-soils were well suited to this varietal.

By 1985, the old vines were producing less then a half-ton per acre and were pulled out. The younger vines, planted in the 1970s, provide the majority of grapes today. Initially these newer plantings were on the “lower” vineyard, not yet farmed as part of the Monte Bello estate, so the wine was called “Santa Cruz Mountains” but these vines have long since been included in Monte Bello. Since 2009 the wine has been designated Ridge Estate Chardonnay. In years when differences among the multiple lots are sufficient to warrant a separate bottling, Ridge produce a limited amount of Monte Bello Chardonnay as well.

From a superb vintage, the Ridge Estate Chardonnay 2016, now sold out ex-cellar, garnered some massive scores from US wine critics on release further helping to build the expectations for the premium Monte Bello Chardonnay 2016, due for release in August/September 2019.

Tasting with Eric Baugher from Ridge Vineyards in London.

Winter 2015/16 was long and cold and for a second year, crop size was reduced by Spring rains at bloom. Cool weather in August slowed ripening and stretched the Chardonnay harvest out to mid-September 2016.

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Chardonnay 2016, Santa Cruz Mountains, 14.4 Abv.

Deadly serious expression of Chardonnay from this famed vineyard. Nose is ultra complex and mineral with smokey yellow citrus fruits, hints of struck match reduction and a alluring yellow grapefruit and pear purée note. The palate shows such wonderful balance and harmony, piercing white citrus pastille fruit intensity, crushed limestone minerality and pithy lemon grass spice leading to the most memorable, seductive fresh finish punctuated with delicious saline nuances. Another profound Burgundian Chardonnay expression from Ridge Vineyards that is unquestionably a drop dead gorgeous wine to rival any Grand Cru white from the Cote d’Or.

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

An Exciting New South African Chenin Blanc Project From Carl van der Merwe and Betz Family Winery in Washington State Hits the Streets…

I had a wonderful tasting of Betz Family Wines in London recently looking at their delicious 2015 Bordeaux based varietal reds from Washington State. Bob Betz is of course a fellow Master of Wine who graduated in 1997 and made a name for himself making some truly superb wines across primarily micro sites in Yakima Valley AVA, Red Mountain AVA and Walla Walla AVA. Bob Betz sold his winery around 6 years ago to Steve Griessel and still acts for the winery occasionally in a consulting capacity.

However, I was very surprised to learn of their exciting new project in South Africa where Steve Griessel has taken a 50% shareholding in a new project with Carl van der Merwe of The Great South African Wine Co. (part owned between Wendy Applebaum and winemaker Carl van der Merwe).

 

A new Chenin Blanc venture of which Carl is the head winemaker, uses four old vine vineyard sites in Stellenbosch that are on long term leases – one 40 year old vineyard in the Bottelary Hills, two 35 to 40 year old vineyards in the Helderberg and one 38 year old vineyard in Faure. All vines are unirrigated to produce a fantastic Chenin Blanc that is fermented with 100% wild yeasts in barrel, 20% new French oak for nine months, with the total ageing of the 2017 vintage lasting for around 13 months with the remaining wine in used neutral oak. Around 20% of the 2017 underwent malolactic fermentation in barrel.

Based on Chenin Blanc from some sandy and rocky sites, the vines are located primarily on granitic soils only 9km from the sea, conditions that help deliver fruit with a wonderful maritime salinity and bright freshness. Carl van der Merwe is one of South Africa’s most talented winemakers and never one to enter into new projects lightly. The end goal of this venture is undoubtedly to produce some truly profound Chenin Blanc wines which will be sold exclusively in the USA. So something to look out for in the States to bring back home. Everyone loves a unicorn… especially if it’s old vine Chenin!!

 

Quinta Essentia Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

This really is an impressive wine and once allowed a little time in the glass explodes on your palate like an avalanche of flavours. The aromatics are loaded with sweet pineapple pastille, orange blossom, lemon cordial, sweet yellow nectarine nuances before a final reprise of tangerine zest and Seville orange confit. Intricately multi-layered between granitic minerality and sweet yellow fruit intensity, there is also a subtle hint of lactic vanilla oak spice but it is already beautifully integrated. The palate is incredibly intense and fleshy with more wet thatch notes, pineapple pastille, crunchy white peach and honey drizzled on warm white toast. The acids bristle on the palate and perfectly balance the rich, fleshy fruit concentration leading to a very long, bold, complex finish. Not quite in the league of Carl’s epic Diva Chenin Blanc produced at De Morgenzon but certainly a show stopper in its own kind of way.

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

David & Nadia Wines Producing Grand Cru Quality Chenin Blancs in South Africa…

I’ve written a number of articles and been involved in numerous discussions about Chenin Blanc and whether or not it might just be the only grape out there that can truly rival the greatness, diversity of styles, ageability and collectabity of Chardonnay. To my surprise, I am yet to be berated by any journalists, wine commentators or consumers for making such assertions.

While my belief is not restricted solely to South African expressions, it is certainly solidified by the premium quality of wines now being produced by a multitude of top drawer wineries in the Cape. One such winery is David & Nadia run by David Sadie (no relation to Eben Sadie). David was born and bred in the Swartland and studied viticulture and oenology at the University of Stellenbosch. It was there that he met and later married Nadia, a qualified soil scientist and viticulturalist. Together, they have crafted some of the most profound wines coming out of South Africa including the fabulous Skaliekop and Hoe Steen single vineyard Chenin Blancs.

David & Nadia sell around 30% of their wines to the local market with 70% exported around the world. David says that their philosophy is simple… “they are just trying to be honest with every vintage” using 25 hectares of vineyards of which they farm 16 of those hectares. The 2016 yields were the lowest recorded to date until the 2018 vintage which marked the fourth consecutive year of drought in the Western Cape.

David Sadie tasting with UK wine critic Jancis Robinson MW OBE… who appears to be enjoying his wines!

The 2018 harvest saw a 90% loss of yield, certainly conditions not seen in the Swartland since a drought cycle in the 1960s. With the help of Andre Bruyns, their assistant winemaker, they tried to alleviate conditions with what David calls “biological wine making” – not specifically organic or biodynamic, but often incorporating best practices from both philosophies.

In the last three years since 2016 they have invested heavily in Grenache, trying to plant at least a hectare per year, a variety closer to David’s long term vision and hopefully leading to single vineyard cuvees in future. David has planted old clones normally used for bulk production as they appear to work well in the dry land conditions of the Swartland. Grenache is certainly seen as the future red variety for the winery as opposed to the Swartland stalwart Syrah.

The stellar 2017 vintage is often compared to the excellent 2015, where producers did not experience the heat spikes seen in 2016, but was certainly an exciting vintage to taste alongside expressions going back to 2014.

Mixed Flight:

David & Nadia Chenin Blanc 2017, 13 Abv.

From seven different vineyards with one new addition planted in the 1960s. Cool restrained nose of fresh straw, white citrus, pineapple pastille and peach pips. Spent a year in old oak without imparting any oak character but enhancing the textural breadth of the wine. Palate shows impressive fleshy concentration, bristling acids and delicious sweet pineapple, pear puree, granitic minerality and a long, intense, persistent finish.

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

David & Nadia Aristagos 2017, 13 Abv.

A blend of 58% Chenin, 14% Viognier, 13% Clairette Blanche, 7% Semillon, 5% Roussanne, and 3% Marsanne and shows a wonderfully complex aromatic profile with orange blossom, fresh hay, yellow citrus, waxy peaches, incense and yellow peaches. Massive breadth and depth, full of vibrance, spicy yellow orchard fruits, marzipan and a sleek, linear granite and salty pineapple finish.

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

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2017, 13 Abv.

Famously including some sparsely interplanted Crouchen Blanc, Palomino, Semillon, Muscat and False Pedro adding extra complexity when all harvested together. Rich and textured, opulent and plush with great waxy, yellow fruit aromatics, tangerine, naartjie peel, pineapple, yellow apples and dusty minerality. Pithy, piquant and packed full of mineral spice. Plenty of power and impressive brawn and concentration.

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

David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc 2017, 12.5 Abv.

From vines planted on shale soils in 1985. A complex melange of waxy yellow fruits, incense, lanolin, marzipan and greengage plum fruits. Searing bright acids enliven the palate that shows vibrant concentration, hints of soap stone, white pepper and yellow orchard fruits. So pure, so precise and wonderfully elegant with a delicious tangy pear drop finish.

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

David & Nadia Topography Semillon 2017, 11 Abv.

Siebritskloof fruit made 100% in stainless but finished off with 12 months in old big foudre. Shows obvious green apple, green peppercorn, lanolin, pithy granitic mineral spice. Wonderful freshness, fine balance and a real stony, dusty depth with hints of lemon sherbet, crunchy pear and tart green apple. Really delicious expression.

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

Red Flight:

David & Nadia Grenache 2017, 13 Abv.

Up to 50% whole bunch with four months ageing on its skins finished off with 12 months in old 500 litre oak barrels. 70% loss of yields in the vintage lead to an intensely focused, perfumed spicy red Grenache brimming with rose petals, violets and cherry blossom and multiple layers of red cherry and cranberry fruits. The palate is sleek, cool, ultra pure and bright with such elegance, crystalline red cherry and a slightly dry, gritty tannin grip on the finish. Wonderful allure and fleshy mineral depth. A super pretty but serious effort.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2016, 13 Abv.

34% Carignan, 33% Syrah, 14% Cinsault, 14% Pinotage, 5% Grenache. Lovely smokey melange of reds and black berry fruits, sweet plum, raisined cranberry and granitic spice. Wonderfully integrated, harmonious and balanced with impressive spiced complexity.

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

David & Nadia Topography Pinotage 2017, 12 Abv.

Spent 21 days on skins with a lot of whole berries. Lovely elegant pure aromatics of oak spice, marzipan, Turkish delight and an almost Cinsault styled finesse and perfumed complexity. Super fine texture, subtlety and elegantly fleshy but fresh, rounded and wonderfully cool and saline with plenty of red and black berry fruits, pithy spice and fine granitic powdery grippy tannins. Very impressive expression.

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

Vintage Flight: David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc Single Vineyard

David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc 2016, 13 Abv.

Creamy, rich and opulent expression, touch of sweet & sour, pineapple pastille, liquid minerality, sweet lemon cordial and piercing yellow citrus. Lovely power, flesh, and sumptuous hedonism.

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

David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc 2015, 14 Abv.

Surprisingly quite closed and restrained. Taut and mineral. Granite and slate, white citrus and spicy nuances with touches of straw, thatch, herbs and lemon confit and a subtle, linear finish. Closed for business.

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

David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc 2014, 13.5 Abv.

Rich expressive nose with dusty granitic spice, stony minerality, yellow orchard fruits, waxy green apples and subtle exotic vanilla pod finish. Lovely elegance, harmonious concentration and fruit intensity but certainly quite subtle and softly spoken expression.

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

Vintage Flight: David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc Single Vineyard

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2016, 13 Abv.

1 x 400 litre barrel. Superb complexity and textural finesse. This has a Grand Cru feel to the wine, plush concentration, focused yellow fruit concentration and harmonious acids, amazing balance and a delicious white pear, pineapple pastille finish. Wow.

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

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2015, 13 Abv.

Quite dusty and restrained, intense, concentrated textural balance with superb depth. Fresh and piquant, powerful yet regal showing elegance with fleshy concentration, pineapple pastille nuances and a structured acid frame. Very impressive indeed. Everything and more you could hope for from one of South Africa’s Grand Crus of Chenin Blanc.

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

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, 13 Abv.

2 x 300 litre barrels. Touch of smokey, flinty struck match mixed with yellow apple purée and citrus pastille fruit nuances. Sleek, very polished and dusty liquid minerality with pithy pear and reductive herby, saline restraint. Characterful effort for the vintage.

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

Wines are distributed to the trade in the UK by Justerini & Brooks.

Andrea Mullineux Reveals the New Leeu Passant Wine Releases at Roundstone Farm in the Swartland…

With the Mullineux brand more than a decade old now, it has firmly been established as one of South Africa’s top fine wine labels with every new release highly anticipated. Their Leeu Passant brand on the other hand is only three vintages down but also seems to have garnered its own more individual, eclectic wine following among old vine collectors and connoisseurs.

I recently visited the Mullineux’s Leeu Passant winery in Franschhoek where Chris Mullineux showed me the ropes and I also got to meet Wade Sander, Andrea Mullineux’s assistant winemaker who works solely on the Leeu Passant wines.

The Leeu Passant winery in Franschhoek with assistant winemaker Wade Sander (below).

With the 2015 vintage certainly very famous now, the 2017 releases from all of South Africa’s top producers, look set to once again take local and international markets by storm and fill the cellars of a new thirsty generation of South African fine wine lovers.

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Single vineyard on the maritime slopes of the Helderberg where temperatures seldom rise above 28 degrees C. One of the rare sites that the Mullineux’s actually have to wait for the acidity to drop before picking. The aromatics are pure and lifted expressing the usual crystallinity of the style and site. Bottled in October 2018, the wine is still super youthful, taut and fresh but with a touch of creamy malo to take the edge off the electric acidity. Beautifully intense and citrus driven, the wine has a wonderful textural balance and freshness with incredible poise and focus. Long and pin point, superb harmony and purity, this wine has impressive salinity and tart lemon / lime brilliance and brightness to invigorate the palate. A great effort.

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

Leeu Passant Dry Red 2017, 14.5 Abv.

This red blend of 56% Cabernet Suavignon, 26% Cinsautl and 18% Cabernet Franc spent 12 months in 500 litre barrels and around 10 months in neutral foudre. Explosive and expressive, this wine literally leaps out the glass to greet you. Hugely aromatic, it unfurls with intense black berry, red currant, bramble berry and raspberry jam nuances. Such opulence and freshness, on the palate there is an incredible balance and harmony. Fabulous layers of red and black berry, strawberry confit, sweet tobacco, leafy spice and the most alluring foresty bramble berry seduction. A truly beautiful, complex and expressive red blend that changes in the glass continuously. What a super classy red wine that really is worthy of its collectible fine wine status.

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

Mullineux Old Vines White 2018, 14 Abv.

A blend of 69% Chenin Blanc, 12% Clarette Blanche, 9% Grenache Blanc, 7% Viognier and 3% Semillon. Rich and opulent, the nose is broad and ultra aromatic with complex notes of dry grass, wet thatch, soap stone, lemon rind and apple skins. Deliciously ripe and intense, the palate is sleek but fleshy, crystalline and super pure… a feature emerging as a characteristic of the 2018 vintage. The last of the drought vintages, this wine really shows beautiful minerality and dry extract, concentration and intense yellow fruit focus. Really impressive, broad and powerful, this is going to be another super classical white blend for medium to long term ageing.

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

Mullineux Chenin Blanc Straw Wine 2018, 9% Abv.

Liquid gold, this has the classical nose of sweet caramelised orchard fruits, quince preserve, dried guava and a savoury, sweet peach brightness. Glycerol and rich, powerful and intense, it is more in the marmalade and citrus rind character than the tropical passionfruit style. Textural and finely balanced this is an incredibly well honed and focused sweet wine style that is certainly a benchmark for this genre.

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

Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Blazing It’s Own Trail of Greatness in the World of Fine Wine…

I can’t deny that I have said it many times across many media platforms that when it comes to truly great, great red wines, nothing beats a blend. Well, ok… maybe a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee Conti Grand Cru Romanee Conti is about as famous and site specific as you can get for a single varietal icon.

But with Bordeaux blends, the whole is almost always greater than the sum of its parts. So when you consider a phenomenal wine like Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015, rated 98/100 GSMW on this site (and also South Africa’s first 100/100 point wine from critic Tim Atkin MW), it does make you ponder the greatness of the Cabernet Sauvignon component of this famous wine. Always set for a release at least 12+ months or more after the Paul Sauer blend, I managed to get a sneak peak of the newly bottled Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon… set for general release in October 2019 in the local South African market.

 

Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Stellenbosch

A wine with this level of anticipation needs time and consideration. This wine was opened and tasted several times over a matter of hours and my conclusions were all the same. We are in the presence of greatness, a creation that is an absolute thing of vinous beauty that is certainly unrivalled in quality since the famous 2004 Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon that controversially trumped the Paul Sauer 2004 to win the Platter Red Wine of the Year. At this super youthful stage of its development, this wine is all about the future potential and not many other South African red wines have the track record that Kanonkop has. From the block buster 2015 vintage, the newly bottled Cabernet Sauvignon reveals an incredibly restrained and self assured bouquet of black raspberries, fallen leaves, wet tobacco, freshly tilled earth and a tantalising note of graphite, Chinese black tea, dried violets and cigar box. Despite its intensity in the mouth, the wine retains a classy and classical textural demeanour with a medium bodied weight but also silky smooth sweet tannins and layer upon layer of crunchy red and black fruits. Incredibly finely proportioned and crisply chiselled, the palate slowly shows extra dimensions of saline cassis, baking chocolate, espresso roast, sweet cedar spice and just the most subtle hints of red plum skins and thyme spice on the finish. Architecturally, this has the shape and precision of a majestic Sir Norman Foster sky scraper that towers above its neighbours. Never over worked, never over oaked, this is surely one of the greatest single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon’s produced in South Africa.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 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!

The Iconic Magnificence of Chateau Lafleur – Tasting the 2018 Barrel Blend and Older Vintages with Omri Ram…

I’m very fortunate to meet up with some very gifted and highly talented winemakers who oversee the production of some of the great icon wines of the world. As a bit of pre-En Primeur 2018 campaign orientation, I caught up with Omri Ram from Chateau Lafleur in London to contemplate the true potential of the 2018 vintage and also reflect on some older classics over lunch.

Omri Ram presenting a selection of 2018 Barrel Samples in the Justerini & Brooks cellars

My initial Chateau Lafleur 2018 Barrel sample rating came in at a lofty 97-98/100 GSMW for what almost certainly must rate as one of the top wines of the vintage. But more interestingly, after the 2018 sample we got to drink some older vintages over a superb lunch laid on by Chateau Lafleur’s UK agent, Justerini & Brooks.

Pensees de Lafleur 2009, Pomerol, 14.5 Abv.

A very small vintage for Pensees, the nose is superbly fragrant, perfumed, earthy and expressive with layers of black currant, sweet tobacco, lavendar and earthy cassis. The palate is super polished, elegant and an all round uber suave crowd pleaser with a very sophisticated manner. Does not put a foot out of place. Classical, elegant yet open and overt, this is a wine for Bordeaux lovers looking to start tucking into a very smart, earlier drinking icon wine!

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

Chateau Lafleur 2007, Pomerol (Magnum), 13.5 Abv.

Along with 1999, Omri Ram’s favourite wine to drink. The end of an era where there was more Merlot that Cabernet Franc. An underestimated vintage for sure that in many ways breaks the stigma of the “7s” curse. 67, 77, 87, 97… etc. This wine is now beauty personified. Fragrant ethereal perfume wafts from the glass with intense nuances of cedar spice, caramelised cranberries, plum liquor and black berry depth. Underpinning the whole expression of the wine is dusty, stony minerality with the most incredible elegance, satin soft tannins and sublime harmony. If the Queen was coming for dinner and you knew she loved Claret, this would be the dream ticket to seal the relationship! Benchmark Pomerol.

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

Chateau Lafleur 2000, Pomerol, 13.5 Abv.

This block buster vintage displays a wonderfully expressive nose of gunpowder, struck flint, graphite, piquant black berry and herby grassy spice notes. Quite soft, fleshy and accessible, this wine has density, gravitas, concentration and weight of fruit with a subtle soft rounding acidity with a plush, creamy mineral tannin texture. Still youthful but deliciously opulent and seductive now. Start drinking but no rush at all. An iconic vintage from an iconic winery.

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