Lismore’s Samantha O’Keefe Comes to London to Launch Her Phenomenal New Releases – Part 2: Reviewing her Lismore Age of Grace Viognier 2020…

In a second instalment to my new release tasting with Samantha O’Keefe, the owner of Lismore Winery in Greyton, who was recently in London for the first time in over two years, I tasted the highly acclaimed 2020 edition of her ‘Age of Grace’ Viognier.

The grapes for this release were sourced in the Bot River, Elgin and Stellenbosch. The wine was matured in a combination of concrete eggs and used oak barrels of which 10% were new for the 2020 cuvee. The Age of Grace is a wine that actually helped establish the Lismore brand globally in the mid to late 2000s. With so little top quality Viognier being grown and produced in the Western Cape, what Sam has achieved with both this wine and previous vintages of her Viognier Reserve is truly remarkable.

Viognier Age of Grace Viognier 2020, WO South Coast, 14.5% Abv.

Rich, soft and fleshy, this unique, aromatically expressive Viognier is packed full of struck flint, white peaches, tart yellow plums, yellow apple purée and delicate musky, lychee nuances with a hint of buttered white toast. Beautifully textured, fleshy and glycerol, this wine is so expressive, individual and complex with sufficient pithy phenolics, bright peach stone fruits and a luxuriously long, persistent finish in a most mouth watering way. Whether produced from the Northern Rhone or the Cape, it is not easy to make Viognier this attractive and refreshing. Bravo Sam! Drink now to 2028+.

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

Lismore’s Samantha O’Keefe Comes to London to Launch Her Phenomenal New Releases – Reviewing the Lismore Chenin Blanc 2020…

In London for the first time in two years, Samantha O’Keefe brazenly announces that she is not yet ready to forget the trauma of her tragic winery fire on the 17th December 2019 and ‘move on’. The reflective tragedy and trauma are still just too great. She admits it will take time for the scars to heal, but if there was ever a more effect balm to help heal these deep scars, it is the support proffered from the local wine industry.

As a true testament to Sam’s tenaciousness and resilience, this maiden release Chenin Blanc has almost come to signify the new dawn at Lismore, being made from fruit donated by a neighbour in nearby Stanford. This is an outstanding benchmark cool climate expression of Chenin Blanc unlike anything produced in the Swartland or even Stellenbosch for that matter, and the 2,000 bottles deserve to be snapped up in the blink of an eye. Track this wine down if you can, if will certainly reward long term cellaring.

Lismore Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Cape South Coast, 12% Abv.

Made from grapes grown in Stanford with a small portion of skin contact, this maiden Chenin Blanc from Samantha O’Keefe is deliciously focused, pure and precise with a pronounced stony minerality of crushed gravel over lemon and tangerine peel, tart pear, white peach and flinty nuances suggesting a hint of reduction. Counter intuitively, the palate is explosive and intense, bristling with green apple pastille, crunchy pear, liquid minerality infused with fresh fennel, dried herbs and hints of fynbos. But ultimately, this wine is defined by its uniquely taut, glassy acids that are cool, linear, crystalline and electrically fresh. A lovely lean, cool climate expression of Chenin Blanc fruit! Drink from 2022 to 2034+. (Circa 2,000 bottles produced.)

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

Tasting Lismore Reserve Syrah 2018 – The Evolution of Greatness…

By now we all know the tragedy that befell Samantha O’Keefe at her Greyton winery in 2019 when wild bushfires destroyed her winery and homestead together with her entire 2019 vintage. Fortunately, her 2018s were stored at another location and survived.

Samantha is thankfully back up and running in temporary cellar space and with the help of many in the SA wine industry, has produced wines from the superb 2020 vintage. With the 2018 vintages arriving in the UK in March, escaping the shackles of the South African export lockdown, I thought it was the perfect time to post this stellar review.

I tasted the 2018 Reserve Syrah for the first time in October 2019 and kept a second bottle until May 2020 to watch it settle further. This wine is a towering achievement and in one glassful, summarises the greatness being achieved with all the wines at Lismore, especially the Reserve ranges made from Greyton estate fruit, but also makes the pain of losing the entire 2019 production that much more heartfelt and tragic.

Tasting with Sam O’Keefe in London in September 2019.

If you can get your hands of some of this wine, you absolutely must!

Lismore Reserve Syrah 2018, WO Greyton, 12.5 Abv.

This suave, sophisticated Syrah offering made from 100% Greyton estate fruit used 50% of whole bunches in the fermentation before being aged in both 500 and 700 litre French oak barrels with roughly a third of new oak. After following this wine from its maiden release, the 2018 towers above anything that has come before. The bouquet is mesmerising, lifted, intricate, showing perfumed violets and fragrant dried lavender with striking notes of pink musk, dusty limestone minerality, grilled winter chestnuts, bonfire cinders and an attractive savoury, earthy black berry, black cherry complexity. The palate is so incredibly lithe and elegant, pure, fresh and linear with fabulous luminosity and brightness of fruit. Wonderfully intense and focused yet simultaneously light on its feet, this stellar release is a dead ringer for the finest, most elegant Cote Roties from the Northern Rhône. A truly epic, spellbinding creation from Samantha O’Keefe. Drink on release or cellar for 10+ years.

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

Lismore Pinot Noir Growing in Stature ~ Tasting the 2017 Vintage Pre-Release with Samantha O’Keefe…

It was almost a year ago that I tasted Samantha O’Keefe’s first vintage of Pinot Noir. Today I got a sneak preview of the follow up 2017 vintage. For someone who is only two vintages in with this heartbreak grape, the 2017 is a significant step up in both precision, quality and overall construction on the 2016.

Made from a blend of Elgin and Walker Bay fruit, the grapes were fermented in 5000 litre wooden fermenters with gentle pump overs twice a day. The wine was then aged in a mix of older 225L barriques and new 500L barrels for almost 12 months.

Lismore Pinot Noir 2017, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

Pale translucent ruby red, this new Pinot Noir was bottled in early January 2018 and already shows a nuanced complexity of red bramble berries, strawberry herbal tea, bright crystalline cranberry and cherry stone fruit. Moving from 15% to 30% whole bunch for the 2017, the palate instantly shows a more multi-textural, layered depth, resinous sappy grip, cherry skin spice, red berry flesh and a delicious mouth watering fresh acidity on the finish. The wine already possesses an attractive savoury strata and a beautiful red fruit intensity, suggesting this Pinot is a definite step up on the 2016 at this early point in its development. More confident and self assured in style, the Lismore Pinot Noir is certainly becoming a wine worth following with closer interest over the coming vintages. Drink from 2018 to 2028+.

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

Lismore Pinot Noir 2016 ~ A Cheeky Preview in London…

On Tuesday this week I met up with the lovely Samantha O’Keefe to taste through her impressive new Lismore releases. What a pleasant surprise to get a sneak peek at her newly bottled Lismore Pinot Noir 2016!


Made from a blend of 50% Stanford Pinot Noir and 50% Kaaimangat Pinot Noir fruit, all 115 clone, coming in at 13 Abv. Grapes were fermented in a 5000L tank with 10% whole bunch. The wine was then aged in a mix of older 225L barriques and new 500L barrels.


Tasting Note: This wine, despite being newly bottled, is fabulously vibrant and fresh with the most attractive sour cherry, sweet spice, cherry blossom nose. The fruits are so pure and crunchy and display wonderful mid palate tension and superb textural elegance. I love the pristine purity of the fruits, very much in the red berry spectrum with plenty of Cotes de Beaune nuances. The finish is focused, soft and linear with attractive strawberry fruit and foresty bramble berry notes, pointing to the Stanford influence. A wonderful vein of acidity is evident throughout, balanced by the weightier, fleshy Kaaimansgat fruit density. A truly impressive wine that definitely has Burgundy in its DNA. 

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