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/ℓ 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.
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.
When you have to think of one or two words to sum up a winery and it’s wines, it can sometimes be quite difficult… but sometimes not. After tasting through a large swathe of the current Neil Ellis range with Warren Ellis, I felt the wines could all be quite succinctly described as wines with composure and finesse.
Composure and finesse are perhaps traits Warren has inherited from his legendary winemaker father, Neil Ellis. These labels also apply to Neil’s wines from the late 80s and early 90s. Who can forget the early vintages of Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc from Darling, that set the world on fire, or indeed some of Neil’s Cape Independent Winemakers Guild Cabernet Sauvignons, as the CWG was called back then. Epic, age worthy wines.
Thankfully, Warren’s wines are equally impressive with a quiet, soft spoken elegance and finesse. Don’t miss his impressive Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 available at a bargain price of £25-£26 per bottle in the UK, or indeed his 2014 that only this week was awarded 92 points and top honours in a recent SA Cabernet tasting.
Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection Jonkershoek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, W.O. Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.
Dense aromatic perfumed nose of small black berry fruits, saline cassis, black currant leaf and dusty graphite. This classical Cabernet is cool, elegant, and fine grained, impressively pure fruited with suave, sleek, polished mineral tannins. There is beautiful balance and finely composed complexity leading to a seamless, exotic, finish packed full of red cherry fruits, parma violets and pink musk. A beautifully individual style of Cabernet aged for 18 months in 300 litre mostly blond and medium toast French oak barrels. Pop this in the cellar for another 5 to 8 years to develop a little more tertiary complexity and drink for 10 to 15+.