Tasting the New Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2018 Release from Christo Le Riche…

Now established as one of South Africa’s true first growth Cabernet Sauvignons, Christo Le Riche has certainly had a jolly old time of late with an incredible run of form with the Le Riche Reserve 2015, 2016 and 2017 all rated outstanding. This new release 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon combines grapes from vineyards in Firgrove (31%), the Jonkershoek Valley (31%), Raithby (24%) and the Simonsberg (12%) which were aged for 24 months in 76% new French oak barriques to create another notable flagship red worthy of global recognition.

The hand selected grapes from older, lower yielding vines were used and fermentation was done with a selected inoculated yeast strain under controlled temperatures. Manual plunging during this period ensured optimal colour extraction. After five days the tanks were closed and allowed to macerate for a further period of around 10-14 days. Pressing followed and the wine was transferred into barrel for the secondary malolactic fermentation. On completion, a final quality check and analysis was performed and then the Reserve cuvee was prepared for barrel ageing. Bottling was followed by hand labelling and further bottle maturation before release.

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.87% Abv.

1.4 g/l RS | 5.6 g/l TA | 3.77 pH

Another very impressive Cabernet Sauvignon, the aromatics are pure and classy, dominated by cool dark maritime saline notes of salty crème de cassis, kelp, picante black cherry and vibrant scents of crushed blackberries, star anise, cardamom, salty black liquorice and hints of creamy vanilla oak spice. The palate is super sleek, supple and lithe with a fabulously elegant texture, silky soft mineral graphite tannins, a loose knit mid-palate fleshy black fruit generosity and tons of vibrant acid freshness on the finish. This is a classical Le Riche Reserve Cabernet at its most seductive, although it is, rather amazingly, so approachable, expressive and absolutely delicious right now on release but undoubtedly capable of another good 15+ years of prime cellaring.

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

Stark – Condé’s Pedigree Shines Brightly With Their Exceptional Three Pines Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon…

Stark-Condé Wines was launched in Stellenbosch in 1998 by Hans and Midori Schroder with a focus on producing hand-crafted premium wines. Located in the picturesque and ever so dramatic Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch, it is a site with steep changes in vineyard elevation ranging from 150 to 600 metres making for a range of terroirs with distinct characteristics. At Stark-Condé they stick to traditional winemaking methods using open tank fermentation, meticulous sorting of grapes, hand-punch downs, basket pressing and maturation in small French oak barrels.

The 2017 vintage was a warm and dry growing season resulting in wines that were intensely aromatic and admirably elegant and harmonious with suave velvety tannins and a weightless concentration of fruit. If the wines age as well as some people expect they will, tasting the 2017s alongside the block buster 2015s in 10, 15 or 20 years’ time will undoubtedly prove to be a very popular exercise.

Stark – Condé Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

The grapes for this vibrant single vineyard wine were hand-picked, sorted, basket pressed and then fermented in small batches before being matured in small French oak barrels for 20 months. The wine was bottled without fining or filtration. The aromatics are piquant, spicy and thoroughly enticing with hints of fragrant black berry confit on slightly burnt brown breakfast toast supported by emerging notes of bruleed coffee beans, inky iodine, sweet cherry tobacco, cola, salty cassis and a pronounced under vein of graphite. The palate is super elegant from start to finish, suave, supple and impressively harmonious with a fine textural breadth and depth of black and blueberry saline fruits, soft, sleek silky tannins and all the tell-tale weightless concentration that has come to define this vintage’s greatest red wines. Seamless, precise and incredibly well made, this is sultry, seductive Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon at its best. Drink now or cellar for 12+ years. (8,175 bottles produced.)

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

Benchmark Sauvignon Blanc to Die For – Tasting the Impressive Neil Ellis Amica 2017…

Even though I love a great Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, New Zealand or South Africa, I still need to be in the mood for it whereas a great Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay will tick all my boxes any day of the week and accompanying almost any food. However, acting as host and moderator for a recent 67 Pall Mall Zoom Tasting with Warren Ellis gave me the opportunity to revisit this incredible barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc from the Neil Ellis winery. Wow, what a revelation!

The source of the fruit for this wine is a little single vineyard site from the Jonkershoek Valley. The soil consists of decomposed granite and quartz. Grapes were harvested at 21.8 – 22.4ºB with a total acidity of 8.69 g/ and pH of 3.18. The grapes were whole bunch pressed using a Champagne pressing cycle to ensure only the finest quality juice being used. The fermentation was occurred naturally in 500 litre puncheons of which 20% was new. The wine spent 9 months in barrel. (500l).

Neil Ellis Amica Sauvignon Blanc 2017, WO Jonkershoek Valley, 13% Abv.

What a cool. intense, complex glassful. Just brimming with notes of sweet bread fruit, white citrus, white blossom, gooseberry and yellow grapefruit. The wine is rich but exotic evolving slowly in the glass while the palate is power packed, intense and electric with intense, savoury, grassy notes of green quince, green plum, tart yellow grapefruit and savoury, leesy, gooseberry notes. There is oak there but to mention it as a specific descriptive is to deny it’s all encompassing, broad-armed embrace that imbues the wine with extra elegance and grace. This has got to be the most interesting, mouthwatering, juicy, complex Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted in a long time, from anywhere! Superb now, but will age well for another decade or more!

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

Available in the UK from distributor Gonzales Byass.

Neil Ellis – A True Legend of the South African Wine Industry Unveils His 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon in London…

A well known English importer who recently returned to the UK after tasting the new releases in South Africa, commented that one of his best visits was with wine trade great Neil Ellis, a legend in his own time. But he also mentioned that Neil was also perhaps one of the most under appreciated assets of the South African wine scene.

I suppose as a new era dawns and son Warren takes over the reins from his famous father, the attention of the wine drinking public will shift and the achievements of the industry greats will begin to fade from the consumer’s collective memory. Needless to say, legends like Neil, who was instrumental in inspiring a new generation of winemakers to strive for even higher quality standards for reds and whites, will always be held on a high pedestal amongst members of the international wine trade.

Fortunately for us in the UK, Neil recently travelled to London to release his stunning new 2014 Jonkershoek Cabernet Sauvignon to the trade and of course I was there to pick his brains and have a good wine trade chat.

Neil Ellis Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Jonkershoek Valley, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Beautifully expressive nose of crunchy red cherries, violets, cherry sherbet, tart cassis and leafy, sappy black currant fruits. Classical Cabernet Sauvignon at its best. The palate is beautifully suave, sleek textured, ultra polished and plush, boasting incredible grandeur, restraint and a long black berry and tobacco spice laden finish. This is prime Stellenbosch terroir at its very best. With such intensity and balance, this wine will have a long future ahead of it but is already drinking exceptionally well. Cellar your 2013s further and crack open this deliciously forward, attractive 2014 now.

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