This beautiful small boutique farm is situated in the famed Polkadraai Hills region of Stellenbosch, sitting alongside famous neighbours like Reyneke Wines, Raats Family Wines and De Toren. While most of these excellent wines rose to fame for originating in Stellenbosch, more recently, as collectors and connoisseurs have started to scratch a little deeper into the finer details of the individual wards and terroirs of the region, the Polkadraai has risen to new heights of fame globally. Known for its deep fertile soils and well drained decomposed granitic soils and moderating sea breezes off the False Bay lying to the South, the terroir has formed a perfect home to the classic Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
As if the wonderful terroir wasn’t enough, the wines are made by one of the great winemakers of the Cape, Chris Keet, creator of the legendary Cordoba Crescendo 1995 Cape Bordeaux Red that lights up the Cape fine wine auction houses with big R8000+ prices (£400) when bottles occasionally come on the market for sale. Chris is a master with Bordeaux varieties and meticulously crafts an impressive Cape Bordeaux Blend using traditional winemaking techniques combined with modern technology to produce wines with intensity, concentration, balance and structure.
I first became acquainted with the Van Biljon CINQ after tasting the 2013 vintage which I rated 93/100 back in October 2016. Subsequent vintages like the 2014 seemed to just get better and better, rating 94+/100 when tasted in October 2018. I sadly missed the epic 2015 vintage which sold out very quickly to an airline group I understand but was thrilled to taste the fabulous 2017 new release again when Julia Van Biljon was over in London recently. This is definitely a wine that flies under the fine wine radar but undoubtedly deserves to be far better know as it stands among the great Bordeaux Blends produced in the Western Cape winelands.
Van Biljon Wines CINQ 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.4% Abv.
2.3 g/l RS | 5.8 g/l TA | 3.5 pH
The 2017 CINQ is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 11% Merlot, 6% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot and spent 18 months maturing in selected French oak barrels. This is a seductive and enticing Cape Bordeaux blend that utilises all five red Bordeaux varieties to great effect. On the nose there is initially a pronounced sweet cedar and sappy red fruited spiciness from the Cabernet Franc before notes of dried herbs, chai tea, black currant and dusty graphite come to the fore. The well-honed palate shows considerable elegance and harmony with a fine grained textural balance revealing layers of spicy red and black berry fruits, notes of cherry tobacco and a tart, tangy acidity on a long, weightlessly concentrated finish. Stony drying tannins lend a further air of seriousness, structure and age ability on the long sleek finish. An attractive offering that must rank among the finest releases from Chris Keet and the Van Biljon winery to date. Drink this from release or over the next 10 to 15+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
For stock availability, please contact Woodwinters UK for trade allocations.
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.
The De Mour Pomerol is a special Cuvee Bordeaux produced by the Belgian De Schepper – De Mour family and whose wines are for the most part sold in the Benelux, Scandinavia and the UK. The De Schepper family commenced a large scale investment spree in the mid to late 1990’s, bringing the various Chateaux under their ownership into the modern winemaking era, combining Bordeaux’s various sought after terroirs with high-end technology and traditional know-how to create a range of authentic artisanal wines with great opulence, finesse, modernity and personality under the watchful eye of highly respected head winemaker, Jean-Michel Garcion.
The De Schepper – De Mour Bordeaux portfolio now includes several flagship Chateaux in the Haut Medoc, Margaux and St Emilion appellations. Respected for their excellent quality and value for money, their portfolio is now a go-to source for merchants seeking out top quality, direct shipment Chateaux wines from Bordeaux.
De Mour Pomerol 2017, Bordeaux, 13.5% Abv.
This is a fabulously big, bold, opulent Pomerol with an enticing ruby / purple colour and an extravagant and extroverted aromatics of stewed black plums, cherry kirsch liquor, black currant and cherry confit with just a hint of vanilla essence, kelp and subtle top notes of bonfire smoke. The palate is fleshy, showy, rich and boldly ostentatious showing lush, creamy tannins generously supported by sweet black currant fruit intensity, salty cassis, black liquorice and an assortment of other exotic flavours straight from a Michelin Star restaurant’s dessert trolley. Full and fleshy but also finely balanced with fresh acids and spicy mineral tannins, you can drink this wine in its precocious youth to experience its full, succulent personality or age for 6 to 8+ years to experience some tertiary delights. Definitely one for the Bordeaux hedonists.
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
For more information or direct shipment prices ex-cellar, contact: Anthony Crameri – email@example.com
Clos Cantenac is a three hectare wine property on Bordeaux’s right bank with vines planted on a combination of deep gravel, sand and clay over limestone soils. It is situated close to the pre-historic “Megalith de Pierrefitte” in the Saint Emilion wine appellation and was purchased in 2007 by Martin Krajewski, the owner of Chateau de Sours and Chateau Seraphine in Pomerol.
Both Clos Cantenac in St Emilion and Château Seraphine in Pomerol – the properties are barely 5 km away from each other – follow similar strategies in the vineyard and winery having reintroduced cover crops to the vineyards and using only sustainable products and viticultural practices in order to protect the vines and the vineyard environment. With this Petit Cantenac, you certainly get the same feel of care and precision that goes into the Clos Cantenac Grand Vin but with greater accessibility for earlier drinking.
2018 vintage will be remembered as an exceptional year in Bordeaux with a glorious summer that extended long into harvest. However, the year began with many challenges and was initially characterised by a wet winter followed by a seriously cold and damp spring with the threat of mildew from spring onwards the strongest for decades. During this period there were also localised hailstorms in May and July, but the flowering in May and June was largely successful and was followed by good weather with just enough rain in early July to sustain the vines through even the hottest spells. In conclusion 2018 was an unusual vintage with extraordinary amounts of winter rain followed by a humid early growing season and an exceptionally long, hot, dry summer, which finally produced perfect harvest conditions.
Petit Cantenac St Emilion Grand Cru 2018, 13.5% Abv.
The 2018 Petit Cantenac is a blend of 90% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in 40% new French oak and 60% 2nd & 3rd fill barrels for 12 months. The appearance is a classic medium dark red / black plum garnet colour with an open and attractive aromatics of scorched earth, rose petals, red bramble berries, raspberries, red cherries and hints of hedgerow spice, sweet cloves and sandalwood. As so often with second wines from Bordeaux, less is often more and for this Petit Cantenac 2018, the supple medium bodied weight and soft fleshy texture make for an incredibly delicious wine. The palate boasts creamy layers of black currant, black cherry and blue berry fruits finishing with soft sweet tannins, invigorating but harmonious acids and a long, powdery, earthy vanilla pod finish. The over riding impression one is left with is that this is an opulent right bank wine that over delivers big time, offering the savvy Bordeaux drinker a lot of bang for their buck. Drink now and over the next 4 to 6+ years. (12,000 bottles produced.)
As I penned the finishing touches to my tasting notes on the De Toren Z 2018, an email from the estate fortuitously popped into my inbox announcing that the highly rated De Toren Z 2017 vintage was about to run out! But fear not! The 2017 might have been the highest rated Z vintage to date, but the 2018 is a more than worthy follow up expression.
The 2018 vintage was much smaller than average. Extreme drought, which some considered the worst in a hundred years, made the growing season particularly difficult. A cold winter saw bouts of damaging frost which reduced yields early in the season. When the summer did come bringing the usual heat, it also brought the drought and water shortages. Although, one advantage of the dry weather was that it helped prevent the spread of vineyard diseases. However, despite the tough conditions and hugely reduced harvest, some very good wines like the De Toren Z were made.
De Toren Z 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.72% Abv.
2.5 g/l RS | 5.1 g/l TA | 3.55 pH
A blend of Merlot: 54%, Cabernet Franc: 17%, Cabernet Sauvignon: 12%, Malbec: 12% and Petit Verdot: 5%. Always an expressive and more opulent blend, this De Toren Z 2018 combines the rich, fleshy, exotic plummy characters of Merlot with the more structured, black fruited nuances of prime Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine displays lofty aromatics of raisined black cherries, wet tobacco, damson plums and dusty graphite with a sweet sandalwood kiss. The palate is rich and generous with a well honed balance, a full and broad mouthfeel and seductive notes of mocha-laced blueberry, graphite and vanilla pod spice. This characteristically dark horse will undoubtedly challenge the established thinking that Cabernet Sauvignon must lead. The Merlot driven De Toren Z blend is certainly one of the great revelations of the past decade of South African premium red winemaking delivering pure hedonistic palate pleasure with a right bank Bordeaux philosophy. Drink from release and over the next 8-10+ years. (RRP In UK circa £39pb.)
Charles Hopkins has been at De Grendel since the very beginning of winemaking on this famous Durbanville farm in 2005, when Sir David Graaff lured him away from Graham Beck’s red wine production. Charles is a lifelong student of wine and even after 30 years’ experience in the industry and multiple local and international accolades, he remains studious and curious to learn yet more on his winemaking journey.
In November 2019, he achieved a major milestone on this journey, with the award of his first five-star rating in the Platter’s South African Wine Guide, for the 2017 Elim Shiraz from De Grendel – a wine that is especially close to his heart as Charles was born in Somerset West and grew up in Bredasdorp and Strand.
With the accolades growing ever more frequent of late, I thought it was time to assess the current releases on the Fine Wine Safari.
De Grendel Rose 2021, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.
An attractive pale salmon pink colour, this new release dry Rose boasts seductive aromatics of wild strawberries, cranberry and subtle hints of dried herbs and wet slate minerality. There is lovely clarity and purity on the palate with crystalline hints of boiled raspberry candy, red cherry pastilles and a crunchy strawberry fruit complexity. Dry and mineral, light bodied but intense, this is a sophisticated Rose that ticks all the boxes. Drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years.
(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
De Grendel Merlot 2017, WO, 14.5% Abv.
2.1 g/l RS | 5.8 g/l TA | 3.47 pH
This is a classic Merlot that shows a deep garnet-purple colour and displays a highly evocative nose of black cherry kirsch liquor, tart black plums, black currant nuances and a pronounced maritime saline complexity. Notes of black berry fruit melt into layers of violets, graphite and sweet, sappy sandalwood spice making this a very impressive Merlot expression that draws extra gravitas from the exceptional vintage conditions in 2017. Pinpoint and precise, the palate reveals a delightful freshness and a medium bodied fleshy weight of fruit that boasts energetic concentration but also a weightless, mineral laced length. This wine must surely rank among the top Merlot expressions in the Cape. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
De Grendel Shiraz 2017, WO Coastal Region, 14.5% Abv.
2.2 g/l RS | 6.1 g/l TA | 3.44 pH
This 2017 reveals a very impressive aromatic lift that leaves no doubt about its true pedigree. The poise and intricately perfumed aromatics are thoroughly seductive with scents of violets, saline black currant, crushed blueberries, subtle black liquorice, brûléed coffee beans and vanilla pod spice. The palate shows an intense yet effortless complexity of salty black berry, tart pithy black cherry, hints of crunchy strawberry and a weightlessly elegant finish infused with sweet black peppercorns and a delicately savoury, smoky finish. This is a classy wine that is carving out a tangible reputation vintage after vintage.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
De Grendel Rubaiyat 2017, WO Coastal Origin, 14.5% Abv.
2.3 g/l RS | 6 g/l TA | 3.49 pH
Always an impressive blend, the Rubaiyat 2017 performs yet again with a complex blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The aromatics are rich, alluring and seductive with sweet savoury notes of stewed black plums, black currant, wet cherry tobacco, sweet sandalwood and resinous leafy oak spice top notes. The palate is archetypal 2017 vintage in character with sublime elegance but also all the hallmark weightless concentration of black and blue fruits with soft silky tannins underpinned by bright acids on a wonderfully light touch, focused, finely honed harmonious palate. This has all the building blocks to age comfortably for 10+ years and reward patience.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
De Grendel Proposal Hill Pinot Noir Brut Rose Cap Classique 2016, WO Cape Town, 12.5% Abv.
6.3 g/l RS | 5.7 g/l TA | 3.25 pH
An impressive highly accomplished 100% Pinot Noir Cap Classique, this wine shows exotic notes of ginger, rose water, sun dried strawberries, botanical herbs, blood orange and subtle vermouth spices. The palate is rich, fleshy and opulent with a concentrated crystallised orange peel fruit intensity and an incredibly fine creamy mousse that points the way to a long, persistent dry finish. This wine oozes class. Simply delicious.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
De Grendel Sir David Graaff Red 2014, WO Coastal Region, 14% Abv.
2.2 g/l RS | 6.1 g/l TA | 3.5 pH
This premium red is a blend of 58% Shiraz, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot that is aged for up to 16 months in 100% new French oak barrels before the components are blended and returned back to barrel for a further 6 months to integrate. Despite being already 8 years old, this wine is bold and confident portraying an incredibly youthful character of saline cassis, blueberry and mulberry aromas, red cherry kirsch liquor and subtle notes of salty liquorice, kelp and iodine. On the palate the expensive oak is splendidly integrated offering a kiss of sweet cedar spice, notes of vanilla pod, liquorice, tart black cherry and yet more layers of salty cassis and sweet tobacco. While the texture is wonderfully harmonious and balanced, there is massive intensity and a toned muscular depth that conveys the wines pedigree. It must be said that if I tasted this wine blind, I’d almost certainly place it as a super premium Chilean or Australian red blend. The signature magic created by the synergy of the Shiraz and Cabernet makes this a very attractive wine indeed. But of course, this type of premium quality comes with a matching price tag. Drink now or over the next 15-20+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2017, WO Ceres Plateau, 13.97% Abv.
2.4 g/l RS | 5.7 g/l TA | 3.4 pH
This Pinot Noir shows impressive clarity and purity undoubtedly from the cool climate high altitude Ceres terroir. The aromatics reveal dark black berry fruits with hints of raisined black cherry, black plum, black berry compote and an earthy, foresty sappy, resinous complexity. The oak influence seems fleeting with little to no influence allowing the pronounced black berry fruit concentration to shine, embellished by hints of black salty liquorice, kelp, stewed strawberries and a long, finely balanced creamy finish. Drink on release or age 3 to 8 years in your cellar.
Chateau Lafon-Rochet is a famous 4th Growth St-Estephe Bordeaux estate that had previously been owned by the Tesseron family since 1959 but which has recently been purchased by the Jacky Lorenzetti stable of Chateaux. The property was slightly neglected in years gone by before Guy Tesseron extensively replanted the estate as part of a wider rejuvenation project which included rebuilding a completely new château in “chartreuse” style.
Planted to 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc on clay-gravel soils, the vineyards are perfectly sited in the south of the commune opposite prestigious neighbours Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Cos d’Estournel. With an ample amount of quality grapes, the second wine Les Pelerins always shows an excellent balance between the tannic structure and an acid freshness supported by aromatic complexity.
Les Pelerins de Chateau Lafon-Rochet 2019, Saint-Estephe, 14% Abv.
A blend of 57% Merlot and 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine shows the exhilarating lifted aromatics of a rich, ripe, opulent vintage which of course 2019 was. The nose is loaded with exotic blueberry and black berry fruits nuances, freshly baked blueberry crumble, vanilla pod spice, graphite, cut cedar and hints of salted caramel. The texture is rich and intense but also crunchy and fresh with vibrant acids adding a notable linearity and tension to keep the ripe blueberry fruits in check. Deliciously accessible and balanced, this is an impressive red that shows massive drinkability as any second wine should. Classic Claret with an exotic twist. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years.
One of the most exciting Bordeaux finds over the past couple of years has been the wines of Julien Meyre who owns three Chateau in the Medoc. Of the three Chateau, his Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin is undoubtedly the flagship property boasting blends packed with dense, powerful Cabernet Sauvignon fruit supported by fleshy, opulent Merlot. Recent vintages have garnered impressive 90-plus point scores from Neal Martin at Vinous as well as from James Suckling.
But there is another more modest wine that has recently caught my attention and this is the Le Petit Leon that has been styled as a de-facto second wine of Chateau Cap Leon Veyrin even though some grapes are bought in for this wine. But the quality is outstanding and the presentation top drawer! Certainly one to look out for if you are on the hunt for quality at a great price. (Retail circa £15pb)
Le Petit Leon de Cap Leon Veyrin 2019, Bordeaux, 13.5% Abv.
This 50% Cabernet Sauvignon / 50% Merlot blend is a serious offering that shows intricate aromatics of damson plum, black currant, sweet cherry tobacco with underlying notes of sweet cedar oak, bramble berry and graphite spice. The palate strikes an excellent balance between silky black fruit depth, a creamy texture and broody red berry fruit power. Impressive balance and an all round generous personality with a vibrant fresh tangy persistence. A delicious wine from a block buster vintage. Drink on release and over 3 to 5+ years.
This juicy little newcomer to the world of Bordeaux second wines is a selection derived from the Saint Julien vineyards of Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou. Le Petit Ducru portends an introduction to the Borie signature style, lending qualities from its elder siblings, the Ducru-Beaucaillou and the La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou, of plushness, balance and Cabernet Sauvignon elegance and power.
The Petit Ducru sees an equally rigorous grape selection and attention to detail winemaking before being aged in barrel for 12 months with one-third new oak. A traditional Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blend, and depending on the vintage, occasionally with a hint of Petit Verdot, this is an appealing addition to the Bordeaux drinkers’ landscape. Le Petit Ducru aims to be a wine of balance and harmony that is enjoyable in its youth while also possessing enough “stuffing” for moderate beneficial ageing.
Le Petit Ducru de Ducru-Beaucailloux 2018, Saint Julien, Bordeaux, 14.5% Abv.
A new wine in the Ducru-Beaucaillou portfolio launched with the 2018 vintage, Le Petit Ducru wine was formerly called Lalande-Borie. This can loosely be considered the Chateau’s second wine as the La Croix du Beaucaillou, like examples such as Clos du Marquis and Les Forts de Latour, is not a second wine as such, because it comes from a specifically dedicated part of the Ducru-Beaucaillou vineyard located on the south bank of La Mouline. The Le Petit Ducru grapes are all sourced from vineyards of Ducru-Beaucaillou and the maiden 2018 vintage is a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine possesses an impressively deep dark broody opaque colour and shows seductively opulent aromatics of stewed black berries, black currant compote, sweet mulberries, black liquorice, cherry tobacco, grilled herbs and subtle notes of graphite and freshly tilled earth. The palate is plush, bold and opulent with an imposing mouth-filling texture packed with sweet black berry fruits, hints of hoisin plum sauce, burnt brown toast crusts and vanilla pod spice. An impressively opulent and fleshy expression that is kept in check by fresh integrated acids and sweet, creamy tannins which finish with a spicy, dried baking herb piquant twist. Arguably a wine that shows its pedigree and over-delivers for the price. Drink on release and comfortably over the next 8 to 10+ years.
The third wine of the legendary Chateau Margaux, the Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2015 arrives on the market with great expectations for a wine from a highly lauded, ripe, warm Bordeaux vintage. The Margaux du Château Margaux 2015 is the result of the most rigorous selection ever made on their 3rd wine with almost a quarter of the production relegated to a 4th wine sold in bulk. Because of this selection, Chateau Margaux probably have today the most charming and open Margaux du Château Margaux that they have ever produced.
The 2015 winter, which was appreciably colder than those of the previous years, caused a late, but perfectly regular blossoming. Dry and sunny weather in the spring made for optimal conditions, so flowering took place very quickly and homogeneously. The hot, dry weather persisted throughout the months of June and July, to a point where Margaux was afraid there could be water stress, or at least in the most sensitive plots. Fortunately a little rain in August arrived just in time to ensure a quick and regular veraison. The drought, which arrived again in September, together with very warm days and cool nights, enabled the grapes to balance their richness in sugar with good acidity, to render their tannins more silky and to make their aromatic potential more complex.
The harvest of the reds took place from September 18th to October 6th. The small size of the grapes and their thicker skins indicated a very high concentration of tannins and the 2015 weather conditions are in fact the feature of very great vintages, like 2005, 2009 and 2010.
Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2015, AOC Margaux, 14% Abv.
The 2015 Margaux du Chateau Margaux red is a splendid garnet-purple coloured creation with an incredibly inviting aromatics bursting with seductive notes of black berries, crème de cassis, pressed rose petals, lavender, sappy sandalwood and hints of sweet Cohiba cigar tobacco spice. This vintage has got to be the ripest and most opulent expression of this Margaux Bordeaux since the maiden 2009 release, showing a medium to full–bodied flavour packed mouthful, delivering a lush black berry seduction, hints of black forest gateau and a tight knit vein of finely polished spicy tannins which melt away into a fresh, inviting acidity that somewhat reins in the warm 2015 fruit exuberance. But this wine is certainly not lacking in backbone or classicism, revealing plenty of mid-palate concentration and focused precision as you would expect from one of the greatest Chateau in Bordeaux. Drink now on release and over 10 to 15+ years.