One from the Cellar – Tasting the Bouchard-Finlayson Kaaimansgat Chardonnay 2018…

The Bouchard Finlayson Crocodile’s Lair Kaaimansgat Chardonnay was fermented in a classic Burgundian fashion and allowed to age in small oak barrels in contact with its fine lees. Although not owned by the estate, Bouchard Finlayson has been linked to the Kaaimansgat or Crocodile’s Lair vineyard for almost 24 years.

The Kaaimansgat vineyard is hidden away in the Elandskloof Valley, behind the village of Villiersdorp, some 80km inland from Hermanus. The Crocodile’s Lair site is located at 700 metres above sea level and its grapes ripen almost a month later than those in other Cape Chardonnay vineyards, benefiting enormously from the cool autumn temperatures. The vines are unirrigated, producing small berries with a correspondingly high skin to juice ratio, perfect for high quality Chardonnay expressions.

Bouchard Finlayson Kaaimansgat Chardonnay 2018, WO Overberg, 13.5% Abv.

The 2018 Crocodiles Lair Chardonnay is a classic Chardonnay that delivers notes of freshly-cut green apples, lemon peel and pineapple pastille on the nutty, mineral nose together with hints of buttered white toast, vanilla pod oak spice and white blossom. The palate is medium-bodied, crystalline and pure with nuances of baked apples and tangy citrus on the long seductive finish. A cool climate Chardonnay expression that always overdelivers and offers incredible value for money. Drink now and over the next 5-6+ years.

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

Jessica Saurwein Applying Her Feminine Touch to Another Great Kaaimansgat Pinot Noir…

I have known Roland Peens, head of one of South Africa’s top wine merchant / importers for many years, starting when he was embroiled in his gruelling Master of Wine studies. But as they say, behind every successful man is a woman. In this case, the woman in question is his wife Jessica Saurwein, who after working as the Marketing Manager for wine farm Kleinood / Tamboerskloof for many years, decided to branch out and swop selling for making wine. The result is Saurwein Pinot Noir with the 2015 her maiden vintage.

This new Pinot Noir addition to the Cape Wine scene is made from fruit sourced from a Kaaimansgat (Crocodile’s Lair) vineyard near Villiersdorp. There was a portion of whole bunch fruit employed in the fermentation and the wine was aged for approximately 9 months in French oak barrels. I am not sure how much 2016 was made, but only 3 barrels of the maiden 2015 were produced. Nom stands for the nombulelo, or gratitude in South Africa’s native Xhosa language and also Nomkhubulwane, a forgotten African goddess of agriculture.

This is an impressive Pinot Noir that has been reviewed in the local market to fairly high acclaim. After tasting both the 2015 and the 2016, it is fair to say the 2016 is definitely the more distinguished and classically proportioned of the two vintages. Already carrying a cult following, I fell in love with the 2016 and drank a bottle over two days to give it a proper chance to display all its wares. Well done Jessica. I would be very happy to make a Pinot Noir of this quality and I suspect the wine will only improve with extra time in bottle. I look forward to tasting the 2017 soon!

Saurwein Nom Pinot Noir 2016, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

This Pinot Noir possesses the most clear translucent ruby red colour almost resembling a glass of cranberry juice. But what lies in the glass is far more seductive and complex than mere fruit juice! The aromatics are perfumed and beautifully lifted, slowly revealing notes of sun dried cranberries, red cherries, pithy red plum skins, bloed lemoen and a hint of dusty crushed gravel with a pinch of wood spice seasoning. The mouthfeel too shows great precision, seamless purity and finesse but not at the expense of intensity and core tension. The melange of pure crystalline red fruits follows to the palate, all delivered with great restraint and subtlety. The 2016 shows the character of the dry vintage with more core tannin structure, dry extract and mineral nuances than the lush, opulent, more fruit forward 2015 maiden release. But this is no bad thing. The wine is delicious but serious, bordering on intellectual even, and allows the drinker time to ponder its breadth and depth. The finish is super elegant, dare I say feminine?, leaving your mouth savouring the most succulent earthy red cherry, ruby grapefruit and pomegranate fruit notes on the finish. Give this wine a few more years in the cellar to unwind a little more and then drink comfortably over 10 to 12+ years.

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


Tasting Bouchard Finlayson’s Intriguing Limited Release Kaaimansgat Chardonnay… 

The Kaaimansgat or Crocodile’s Lair vineyard is hidden away in the Elands Kloof Valley behind the village of Villiersdorp, just 80km from Hermanus. A beautiful spot inside a blind valley nestling amongst majestic Cape mountains. 


Bouchard Finlayson has been linked directly to this vineyard for close to twenty-four years. It is located 700m above sea level, ripens a month later than other Cape Chardonnays and benefits enormously from cool autumn temperatures. The vines are not irrigated and they usually produce smaller than normal berries with a high skin to juice ratio, adding an extra flavour component to the wine.


The 2014 vintage commenced on the 12th of February, much later than normal, after a long and possibly the wettest summer on record with 610mm of rainfall recorded from October to March. This atypical vintage initiated a keen sense of urgency from both vineyard and cellar staff. Peter Finlayson’s experience and attention to detail ensured a successful harvest and an excellent vintage for the estate’s white wine.


The optimally ripened grapes were whole bunch pressed to utilise the added complexity derived from the skins and stalks. The acid component of the fruit assisted in arriving at high malic acid levels that enhance the wood maturation according to Peter. The point of departure for this particular “Limited Edition” cuvee was the fact that 50% of the wine was matured in premium new French oak while  the remaining 50% was aged in inert stainless steel. (Alcohol: 12.48%, Acid: 5.4g/l, Residual Sugar: 1.6g/l, pH: 3.44, with only 305 x 12 cases produced.)


Bouchard Finlayson Limited Release Kaaimansgat 2014 Chardonnay, Overberg, 12.48 Abv.

The first thing that strikes you about this fascinating wine is how totally and utterly European it appears on both the nose and palate. The aromatics are both exotic and hugely restrained and classical at the same time, crossing boundaries and pushing boundaries. The nose is seductively fresh, perfumed and complex with lemon grass, grated lime peel, waxy crab apples, incense, quince jelly and bruised yellow summer orchard fruits. But simultaneously there is a real presence of minerality, wet chalk, river pebbles, and petrichor nuances. On the palate, you get hints of smokey reduction, sweet / sour yellow plums, green melon, crunchy white peaches and lime cordial. Plenty of yin and yang but at no point is there ever any discord or dissonance. There is exoticism twinned with linearity, with subtle hints of creamy butterscotch oak emerging on the elegant finish, very much in the mould of a fresh, lightly wooded premium 1er Cru Chablis. Steely, textural, and ultra cool, this is a truly spectacular expression from one of South Africa’s most premium cool climate Chardonnay regions. Drink now to 2030+

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

Footnote: Elandskloof fruit is certainly big news in winetrade circles at the moment  after the recent maiden release of the Leeu Passant Elandskloof Chardonnay 2015 from the Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. Indeed, one of Andrea Mullineux’s winemaking Eureka moments occured while drinking a bottle of Kaaimansgat 1997 Chardonnay from Bouchard Finlayson. I myself only drank my last bottle of the 1997 about 2 years ago and the memory is still very vivid, such was the incredible quality and youthfulness of that particular wine. Elandskloof fruit also notably makes it into the uber premium Capensis Chardonnay from the Jackson Family Winery joint venture with Anthony Beck.