The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable “Off-Piste” Red Wines of the Year 2018…

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Red Wines of the Year was a modest attempt to illustrate South Africa’s finest benchmark wines and styles for all to see and to give international collectors and drinkers a handful of names and labels to look out for. However, one of the absolute cornerstones of the recent global success of the South African wine category has been its incredible diversity and in many cases it’s inspired eccentricity combined with outright quality.

So in an attempt to show the more experimental and alternative “off-piste” face of South African wine, I have enjoyed compiling my Top 10 list of most memorable reds, truly outstanding wines produced by producers that do not necessarily aspire to 100 point ratings or mass market appeal. Nevertheless, these wines are all more than worthy of a slot in your cellar!

Sadie Family Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2017, Swartland

Franco Lourens Howard John Red Blend 2017, WO Western Cape

David & Nadia Pinotage 2017, Swartland

Fram Grenache Gris 2017, Swartland

Kleine Zalze Amphora Grenache 2017

Craven Wines Cinsault 2017, Stellenbosch

Restless River Wanderlust Grenache 2017, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Scions of Sinai Feniks Pinotage 2017, Stellenbosch

Sutherland Petit Verdot Reserve 2015, Elgin

Welbedacht Estate Patriot Cape Blend 2014, Wellington

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 South African White Wines of the Year 2018…

What a fabulous year for South African wine it has been! Of course for many 2018 was extra special because a lot of people who may not normally go to South Africa regularly made the pilgrimage down to Cape Wine 2018 in September. Personally, I made four separate visits to South Africa this year including a mammoth 10 day mega session that covered both the Nederburg Auction and the entire week of the Cape Wine trade fair.

— 🥁🥁🥁🥁🥁 …. drum roll ….

So for 2018, my Top 10 South African White Wines of the Year are as follows:

Alheit Family Wines Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017, Swartland – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sadie Family Wines Old Vines Series ‘T Voetpad 2017, Swartland – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Lukas Van Loggerenberg Kameraderie Chenin Blanc 2017 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sadie Family Wines Palladius White Blend 2016, Swartland – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Alheit Family Wines Magnetic North Chenin Blanc 2017, Skurfberg – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2017, Swartland – 96+/100 GregSherwood MW

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Radicales Libres White Blend 2012, Swartland – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Restless River Ava Maria Chardonnay 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Naude Family Wines Old Vines Semillon 2016, Western Cape – 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015, Constantia – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

A huge heartfelt congratulations to all the distinguished producers who made my Top 10 Whites this year. Merry Christmas! 🎄🍷

Coming up next before the New Year… the ultimate Fine Wine Safari Top 10 South African Red Wines of the Year 2018. Definitely not to be missed!

The Dawning of a New Era – Tasting the Tantalising Old Vine Treats of Naude Family Wines…

One of my life long mantras has always been that nice people make nice wines. Well, in Ian Naude’s case, you can add chocolate sprinkles and icing sugar to his delicious treats. A veteran of 11 years hard graft at Adoro Wines, in 2018 Ian has finally grasped the prickly chalice and branched out with his own venture, Naude Family Wines.

After much politics, multiple accounting headaches and a lot of strategic and logistic planning, the boat is back on the water and the sails are gathering a healthy turn of speed. Naude Family Wines has graduated and is now in the big ivy league.

A lot of work and many marketing challenges still lie ahead, but the true essence of decades of Ian’s hard work, sweet and tears have established a watertight quality reputation on par with rock star Eben Sadie when it comes to quality Old Vine Cinsault, Grenache, Chenin Blanc and Semillon. Watch this space… the godfather of South Africa’s white blends is back! With a bang!!

The new garagist operation is still bedding in but already shows great excitement.

Naude Family Wines White Blend 2006, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

54% Chenin Blanc – Durbanville, Stellenbosch, Agter Paarl, 37% Semillon – Durbanville and Stellenbosch, 9% Sauvignon Blanc – Stellenbosch, Darling, Paarl, Elgin, Elim. RS 1.6 g/l, pH 3.4, SO2 Free 30ppm / 70 total

A rich expressive nose packed full of exotic fragrance. Evolving beautifully, there are layers of green quince, apple pastille, pineapple and tarte tatin notes. The palate is ripe, concentrated and characterful, brimming with gooseberry confit, spiced pears and complex, textural lanolin notes. The finish is dry and powerful, punchy, disguising it’s 12 years of age masterfully. Drinking well now, this wine still has plenty of legs.

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

Naude Family Wines White Blend 2007, WO Western Cape, 11.5 Abv.

72% Chenin Blanc – Durbanville, Stellenbosch, Agter Paarl, 19% Semillon – Durbanville and Stellenbosch, 9% Sauvignon Blanc – Stellenbosch, Darling, Paarl, Elgin, Elim. RS 1.7, pH 3.16, SO2 Free 52ppm

What a difference one year can make. The 2007 Naude white blend comes from an altogether more complicated vintage for aromatic whites yet with 11 years in bottle this wine is still very impressive. Taut, fresh and lean, there is a wonderful linearity to the wine allied to cool green crunchy fruits and brazen liquid minerality. With an exotic boxwood spice kiss, the palate shows excellent purity of gooseberry, green apple and lime cordial, finishing with plenty of energy and spice. The lower alcohol is just the cherry on the cake. Drink this beauty now with seafood or allow it to age further in your cellar because it gets better every time I taste it.

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

Naude Family Wines Semillon 2016, WO Western Cape, 12 Abv.

Made from Durbanville and Stellenbosch fruit, Semillon gives a much smaller window to pick if you want to capture the seductive green apple, lemon & lime zest vigour. The nose is full of green apple, white peach pastille fruit and delicate orange blossom notes. In the mouth it is full, broad and glycerol with the most delicious texture, twinned with lime cordial, citrus blossom, green apple, white pepper and vanilla pod spice. A wonderfully harmonious, generous wine that retains the intensity and linearity of Semillon but with extra concentration and almost Chardonnay palate power. A real triumph. Drink from release and over 20+ years. One of the best current examples of this variety on the South African market. Snap this up on release in South Africa in June.

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

Naude Family Wines Cinsault 2015, WO Darling, 12 Abv.

100% Darling 37 year old vine Cinsault from the late Boetie van Reenen’s farm, a more classical and characterful varietal Cinsault you won’t find. The nose is all marzipan, Turkish delight, violets and dried rose petals. Wonderfully fragrant and perfumed, there is just the faintest hint of cracked black peppercorns and cedar wood spice notes. The palate is bright and vibrant with the most delicious salty blackberry, Victoria plum and black cherry pastille fruit notes that linger and coat the mouth. So expressive but also impressively classical and restrained. This wine has earned a massive, well deserved following with its superb quality and is known to be one of Old Vine Guru Rosa Kruger’s favourite Cinsault’s in the whole of South Africa.

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

A Wine Of Rarity and Beauty ~ Tasting the Sadie Family Old Vine Series Kokerboom 2015…

Within the Sadie Old Vine Series range, the Kokerboom white is probably the most enigmatic and mysterious. But in an intense, near perfect vintage like 2015, this wine’s full potential is revealed in all its regal glory. The biggest challenge then becomes actually getting hold of some to drink!


Made from fruit sourced in the Trekpoort Kloof in the Olifants River Region, this old vine vineyard Semillon was planted in the 1930s on decomposed Table Mountain sandstone and includes a mix of both white and red-skinned versions of this grape once very common in the Cape winelands. A pristine old vineyard, no herbicides or artificial fertilizers have been used on it, and it has been perfectly pruned and cared for over the years. The downside is that it is a very small and low-yielding vineyard. 


The white and red Semillon (approximately a 70 / 30 split), ripen at the same time and are picked and pressed together. The juice is taken from the basket press in buckets to an old cask for natural fermentation, and spends around 18 months on its lees before being bottled from the cask unfined and unfiltered, yielding not much more than 150 cases of 6 per vintage. TA 6.4 g/l and RS 1.8 g/l with a 3.00 pH.


Sadie Family Old Vine Series Kokerboom 2015, WO Olifantsrivier, 14 Abv.

The aromatics grow in the glass showing intense lime, white pepper, lemon herbs, lime peel, soap stone and grey slate. A really intriguing mineral melange of dusty stony complexity mixes with notes of boxwood, fynbos, and beechwood spice. The palate is full and expansive and ethereally complex. Flavours are still tightly wound, taught, and require a little coaxing to reveal a tart, briney, saline palate bite, complex citrus zest and deliciously fresh glassy acids and picante mineral cut. So many layers of lemon grass, tangerine peel, pithy green apple and sweet, freshly cut raw fennel develop. Texturally profound and so beautifully balanced, this wine teases the senses giving the drinker a fleeting glimpse of what’s still to come with further bottle age. World class and eye-opening, the Kokerboom 2015 is most certainly right up there with other sought after white icon wines from around the globe.

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

Sadie Family Old Vines Series ‘T Voetpad 2016 ~ South Africa’s Grand Cru of White Blends…

Every few weeks I get a phone call from an UK journalist looking for commentary for an upcoming piece in one journal / supplement or another. How is the premium South African category faring? What are South Africa’s best USP’s? (unique selling points), What are the most exciting regions or varietals etc? While Chenin Blanc and more latterly, Cinsaut, have become two of South Africa’s trendiest “calling cards”, there is still only one true wine category in South Africa (other than Pinotage perhaps), that remains completely unrivalled in the global world of fine wine… the great Cape White Blend.


There can be few doubts that the Sadie Family Wines Palladius White Blend is one of the best white blends in South Africa at the moment, however, the truth remains that it is the small production, almost unobtainable ‘T Voetpad from the Sadie Old Vine Series that has emerged in the last few years as the most coveted white blend for collectors. An exquisite field blend of Semillon Blanc, Semillon Gris, Palomino, Chenin Blanc and Muscat d’Alexandrie, the name refers to ‘the footpath’ and is one of South Africa’s most remote vineyards, a 1.4 hectare site planted on their own rootstocks between 1900 and 1928, which are picked together and fermented together in old wooden casks.

The Cape White Blend in all its forms remains a very special category because the greatest expressions are not just conjured up creations, they are formidable, thoughtful wines with a sense of confidence, terroir, balance, and delicious synergistic flavours. Varietals you’d expect to be incongruous marry seamlessly and genuinely create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This synergy factor is the Holy Grail that other international producers have found almost impossible to replicate. The South African wine industry is truly blessed to have this joker in its marketing hand.

Sadie Family Old Vines Series ‘T Voetpad 2016, Swartland, 13.5 Abv.

This eclectic 2016 white blend of Semillon Blanc, Semillon Gris, Chenin Blanc, Palomino and Muscat d’Alexandrie has a wonderfully dusty, aromatic, complex nose of stony, pithy, crunchy yellow pears, pineapple pastille, pear drop bon bons, lemon rind, sea breeze and nutty, piquant nuances. The palate shows such wonderful salty, briney intensity without any heavy, unctuous weight of fruit. Plenty of richness certainly, with a fine grained pithy, grippy texture and impressively fresh acids. I love the purity and inner energy of this wine. The finish is fresh, precise, full of vigour and long, with hints of lemon butter, lanolin, hazelnut and pear skins. This may be the product of a warm, dry, slightly awkward vintage, but the finished results in the bottle are every bit as impressive as the wine’s reputation. Drink now to 2028+

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

“The amazing thing about ‘T Voetpad is the fact that it is our most diverse co-planted vineyard with 5 varieties, but it is usually our most harmonious wine at bottling; something that is nearly impossible to comprehend. Our only explanation is that when vines grow together for more than 100 years, they all become one ‘mind’!” ~ Eben Sadie

The Sadie Family Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2016 from the Swartland Strikes the Grand Jackpot…

Having just tasted Duncan Savage’s new 2016 Are We There Yet? Touriga Nacional based blend, reinforced again what great potential these “alternative” warm climate varieties have in a future South African wine landscape. While this was Duncan’s first release, Eben Sadie on the other hand is already half a decade into the Treinspoor releases.


Made from 42 year old Tinta Barocca sourced from a vineyard in the Swartland, the 2016 new release appears to have reached a nouveau of quality not seen before for this variety in South Africa. This latest bottling rides on a wave of lifted perfumed perfection, with intense red cherry pastille, parma violets, rose water and sweet jasmine all mingling with seductive, piecing red and black bramble berry fruits. The palate shows a vibrant focus and purity of fruit I don’t recall ever seeing to this degree on this wine before. There are lashings of sweet cherry sherbet bon bons, pink musk sweets, red currant confit , purple nastergal (African nightshade berry), and tart Victoria plums. Wonderful concentration, palate tingling acidity freshness and superb harmonious depth. The ‘poor cousin’ in the Old Vine Series has just hit the jackpot and is riding high. Drink now to 2030+

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

The new Sadie Family Cellar in the Swartland

I guess it makes complete sense then when Eben says he feels that this red grape Tinta Barocca “might well transport the Swartland Terroir best into liquid form, purely because it captures the soils and the earthiness of the place.” 

New mixed plantings at the winery including Grenache, Carignan, Cinsaut, Counnoise, Terret Noir, Alicante Bouchet, Pontac, and Tinta Barocca.

Eben regarded his 2015 as the most refined version ever, but for me, the 2016 I tasted surpasses even this monumental achievement.
Visiting Eden Sadie in March 2017

Tasting The Highly Lauded Skerpioen 2015 Old Vines Series White From Sadie Family Wines… 

A warm balmy evening in London with a fish braai in prospect called for an appropriate white wine match. With my sea bass marinating away and my prawn skewers primed for the BBQ, a saline, mineral driven white was called for. 


This beauty from Eben Sadie is a field blend of interplanted Chenin Blanc and Palomino vines. These unirrigated old bush vines were planted between the years 1958 to 1967 in extremely chalky soils in one of the coolest locations in the Swartland. 

Tasting with Eben and Rosa Kruger in March 2017

Of all Eben Sadie’s Old Vine Series wines, the Skerpioen white is perhaps the most intriguing of the lot. Often austere in youth, this wine is so mineral driven and restrained that it often confounds the critics. As Christian Eedes from South Africa’s Wine Magazine comments…. “a perplexing wine…” with a minerality and austerity that is often “mesmerising”. 


Sadie Family Old Vines Series Skerpioen 2015, Swartland, 14 Abv.

Pale straw yellow, this expressive 2015 has a spicy pithy nose of lime peel, lemon grass, dried herbs, liquid minerals and wet chalk. Very grown up and old-worldy. Layer upon layer of granite, crushed gravel and briney sea breeze salinity notes resonate. But there is a white peach, grassy, aromatic, savoury buttery note riding in tandem with the intense liquid minerality. The nose follows to the palate in a very precise, pin point manner. There is plenty of glycerol depth, pithy, dusty phenolic aromatics, and a rasping dry lemon, apple purée and a mineral austerity finish. From start to finish, the palate is electric and fresh with racy acids and remains thoroughly linear and focused. This wine’s greatness is firmly embedded in the philosophy of ‘less is more’.

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