Stark-Condé Wines was launched in Stellenbosch in 1998 by Hans and Midori Schroder with a focus on producing hand-crafted premium wines. Located in the picturesque and ever so dramatic Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch, it is a site with steep changes in vineyard elevation ranging from 150 to 600 metres making for a range of terroirs with distinct characteristics. At Stark-Condé they stick to traditional winemaking methods using open tank fermentation, meticulous sorting of grapes, hand-punch downs, basket pressing and maturation in small French oak barrels.
The 2017 vintage was a warm and dry growing season resulting in wines that were intensely aromatic and admirably elegant and harmonious with suave velvety tannins and a weightless concentration of fruit. If the wines age as well as some people expect they will, tasting the 2017s alongside the block buster 2015s in 10, 15 or 20 years’ time will undoubtedly prove to be a very popular exercise.
Stark – Condé Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.
The grapes for this vibrant single vineyard wine were hand-picked, sorted, basket pressed and then fermented in small batches before being matured in small French oak barrels for 20 months. The wine was bottled without fining or filtration. The aromatics are piquant, spicy and thoroughly enticing with hints of fragrant black berry confit on slightly burnt brown breakfast toast supported by emerging notes of bruleed coffee beans, inky iodine, sweet cherry tobacco, cola, salty cassis and a pronounced under vein of graphite. The palate is super elegant from start to finish, suave, supple and impressively harmonious with a fine textural breadth and depth of black and blueberry saline fruits, soft, sleek silky tannins and all the tell-tale weightless concentration that has come to define this vintage’s greatest red wines. Seamless, precise and incredibly well made, this is sultry, seductive Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon at its best. Drink now or cellar for 12+ years. (8,175 bottles produced.)
It has to be said that when Chris and Andrea Mullineux embarked on their new Leeu Passant adventure with silent partner Analjit Singh, there were many in the industry that thought that this duo would be better off focusing on their successful eponymous Swartland project at Roundstone instead of spreading themselves a bit thin across multiple wine regions. But when you are as driven and as wine curious as Chris and Andrea, holding back on their new winemaking endeavour was never an option. Since the first vintages released from the 2015 vintage, there has certainly been a high degree of evolution and even a bit of revolution as Chris and Andrea have shaken up the establishment in both Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.
But in 2021, the Leeu Passant project can finally be considered to have come of age with some of their most compelling releases yet. With a conscious effort to try and realign the vintage releases a little more after choosing to hold back the 2018 Leeu Passant Dry Red and the Basson Vineyard Old Vine Cinsault 2018, they have finally reached a point where the extra year in bottle for these extraordinary wines has allowed them to be appreciated and admired for what they truly are – exceptional winemaking creations.
I normally visit Chris and Andrea at least once a year in the Swartland and then finally fill in the remaining gaps on one of their many trips to London. I certainly miss the Swartland and walking the vineyards with Chris as he explains all the new ideas they’re perpetually putting into practice in the vineyards. But these are strange times and unfortunately I had to make do with a Zoom tasting to acquaint myself with their fabulous new wine releases.
Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.
Made from a single vineyard in the Helderberg where the climate probably has a bigger fingerprint than even the soils and terroir but at 400 meters plus, the maritime climate really shapes the wine with very consistent temperatures, that yield high acidities and often 9 TA – 9.5 TAs before settling at around 7 TA when all is said and done. Whole bunch pressed with oxidative must handling then to barrel for 18 months in oak without SO2. Barrels were 225L size of which around 30% were new with the rest 2/3/4/5th fill.
The 2019 Chardonnay is a very serious contender for one of the top Chardonnays produced in South Africa along with a very small handful of obsessive producers. This Stellenbosch 2019 is full of power and focus with all the hallmark purity that Andrea Mullineux prides herself in. The aromatics are reminiscent of granitic river pebbles immersed in lemon cordial with a dusting of honey, toffee apples, lemon grass and dried baking herbs. Always brilliantly pure, crystalline and electric, the palate shows tremendous tension and linearity supported by astonishing fruit concentration and intensity. The balance and harmony are spellbinding, revealing sip after sip, the true pedigree of this wonderful Helderberg vineyard site in the hands of a masterful winemaker. Undoubtedly comparable to the very best Chardonnay expressions produced by Leeu Passant to date, this 2019 seems to pack an extra level of lemon and lime intensity making it already an incredibly appealing fine wine. Give this vintage at least three years from release in your cellar and then drink over 10+.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Leeu Passant Wellington Old Vine Basson Cinsault 2018, WO Wellington, 13% Abv.
This treasured dry-farmed Cinsault vineyard is the oldest certified red wine vineyard in South Africa, planted in circa 1900 and farmed by the Mullineuxs since 2014. One of the original Old Vine Project “Certified Heritage Vineyards” that has been held up as a shining beacon of education and preservation, these gnarled deep rooted old Cinsault bush vines are planted on deep, weathered sandy Table Mountain sandstone alluvial soils which yield wines deceptively light in colour but also impressively structured, taut and rich. Producing as little as 600 kilograms of fruit in 2015, the plot has now been nursed back to rude health enough to yield two tons of fruit in 2019.
This vineyard always shows plenty of structure, power and focus and the 2018 vintage is considered one of the most structured yet. In its current youthful state, the aromatics are distinctively stony and mineral but also fabulously perfumed showing notes of potpourri, lavender, bramble berries, fynbos and Turkish delight. The palate is incredibly precise and foursquare with a polished structure and frame you just don’t expect from such a delicately fragrant wine. The texture is dense and tightly packed, the wine concentrated and intense but also deceptively light on its feet revealing notes of cranberry, red cherry and wild strawberries on the finish all supported by the most powdery, silky tannins imaginable. A difficult wine even for me to put accurately into words because it is so evocative on both an emotional level as well as on a sensorial level. Drink this wine from release and over the next 30+ years. (Circa 1,800 bottles produced)
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv
Chris and Andrea experimented with over 20 different vineyards around Stellenbosch before they started to focus on five specific vineyards including two in the Helderberg, two in the Polkadraai Hills and one 40-year-old parcel in Firgrove close to False Bay. Three of these five vineyards already contribute fruit that goes into their flagship Leeu Passant Dry Red Blend together with components of the Lotter Cinsault, the Wellington Basson Cinsault and a splash of Cabernet Franc. The wine sees only 30% new oak with some extended maceration that changes from site to site with the older Firgrove vineyard seeing the longest maceration. With vines grown on a mix of alluvial soils and decomposed granite soils, the grapes produce a sleek, crystalline, elegant style of Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon that many say harks back to the golden age of Bordeaux’s finest old Clarets. The wines are aged for 12 months before being moved to larger 2000 and 5000 litre upright oak vats for another year of aging before spending several months in bottle before release.
The aromatics are wonderfully lifted and perfumed showing all the intricacies of cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon fruit. There is an intriguing piquant leafy spice that melts into notes of liquid minerality, granitic dust and graphite while underneath the mineral veil is a powerful depth of fruit held on a very short rein lest it bursts out the glass. There are seductive notes of violets, sweet cedary spice, saline black currant, hints of iodine and fresh kelp brought in on the morning’s tide. On the palate there is plenty of textural precision on display for all to see, confidently boasting layer upon layer of stony minerality, sweet cherry tobacco, cassis leaf, black tea, tilled earth and creamy dense powdery tannins. Fabulously old school on so many levels, this wine will undoubtedly age well and develop into something that harks back to the great old Clarets of times gone by. Drink from 2024 until 2040+
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Leeu Passant Dry Red 2018, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.
The impressive wine is formed of two old vine Cinsault blocks (Basson and Lotter), three Cabernet Sauvignon parcels and Cabernet Franc from the Helderberg. The 2018 is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 16% Cinsault (in 2018 mostly Basson and lesser amounts of the opulent Lotter), with the Basson Cinsault being whole bunch fermented. Some of the Cinsault is co-fermented with the 40+ year old Cabernet Sauvignon while the Cabernet Franc, planted in the early 1990s, if vinified separately. The Dry Red traditionally sees the components aged 12 months in 500 litre oak barrels separately before being blended and aged for another 12 months in large 2000-litre old oak foudre. The wine now also spends an extra year in bottle “because when it was released earlier, the Cinsault component seemed to dominate the style. Now with the extra 12 months in bottle it is a far more harmonious wine”, according to Chris Mullineux. Almost 10,000 bottles were produced in 2018 compared to circa 4,000 bottles in 2015, the maiden vintage.
My experience of tasting this wine has sometimes been somewhat of a challenge because in its early years, the individual components often seemed to intermittently compete with one another for aromatic and flavour dominance. The extra years ageing in bottle has been a game-changer. The wine is now so incredibly lifted and perfumed with a real melange of red currant, wild strawberry, pressed violets and vanilla pod spice bursting out the glass. There is such magnificent purity, precision and a real synergy that shines through the wine. The palate is incredibly dense, textured and luxuriously opulent, packed full of fleshy red cherry and cranberry pastille fruits, Turkish delight and red currant jelly. Perhaps it’s the vintage or perhaps it’s just the extra bottle age but this wine seems so much more complete with less obvious sapidity and spice and much more harmonious fleshy layers of red fruit and creamy, savoury tannins. This is an absolute triumph of a wine and a flagship vintage Dry Red that single-handedly announces the true ‘arrival’ of the entire Leeu Passant project. Drink this phenomenal wine on release and over the next 30+ years.
The 2019 vintage in Santorini was described as the “pocket vintage” with circa 1,000 tons of grapes harvested on the island compared to the normal 3,000 tons. Fortunately, quality was high and new boutique producers like Vassaltis Winery, who have already established a very high quality track record, were able to source sufficient quantities of high quality old vine Assyrtiko.
For the vintage, owner and proprietor Yiannis Valambous stated that “our source vineyards in Vourvoulos yielded approximately 50% less than they did in 2018. Yields were approximately 6 hl/ha. It is scary, but it is what it is… on the upside, quality seems to be outstanding.” I recently tasted a bottle of the Vassaltis Black Label “estate” Assyrtiko and was suitably impressed.
Vassaltis Assyrtiko 2019, PDO Santorini, 14% Abv.
Summer is in the air and this new 2019 Assyrtiko from Yiannis Valambous is another serious benchmark Santorini white. With the island’s unique volcanic terroir and old vines, you always know there will be freshness combined with a concentration of flavour and minerality. This classical rendition speaks of Santorini’s maritime terroir with a fabulously complex nose of dusty basaltic minerality, crushed gravel, salted almonds, lemon bon bons and dried summer grasses. On the palate there is impressive purity and precision, a hallmark of all the Vassaltis wines that combine a palate tingling intensity of salty, briney zest, deliciously tangy acids and a remarkable palate breath that leaves a long lasting impression. Drink now and over 3-5 years.
Equilibrium, harmony, finesse and elegance characterise the great Vintage Ports of Noval, which are declared only when they are certain that the year has produced a blend, however small, that is worthy of bearing the name of Quinta do Noval Vintage Port.
Noval always follows its own path in its approach to declaring Vintage Ports. If they believe that they have the wines of the right quality and personality to join the ranks of the Quinta do Noval Vintage Ports of previous years, they will bottle it and declare it, even if this means declaring several years in a row, and even if it means, as is often the case, bottling only a few hundred cases of Quinta do Noval Vintage Port, representing a tiny percentage of the total production of the Quinta. In the case of 2019, the selection of 2,780 cases represents just 14% of their production.
2019 was marked by a mild winter and generally dry conditions, with almost no rain from May to the end of August. While in many parts of Europe producers faced heat waves, and although the Douro Valley enjoyed prolonged sunny weather, summer temperatures were fortunately lower than usual this year, making the absence of rain easier to bear for the vines. Moreover, low humidity led to low disease pressure in the vineyards and beautifully healthy grapes. Harvest started on September 9th for the red varieties. Harvesting conditions were ideal, with moderate temperatures and overall dry weather. A small amount of helpful rain fell on September 21st-22nd and later between October 14th and 17th. Yields were slightly higher than their 10-year average and musts showed great natural acidity and freshness.
Quinta do Noval 2019 Vintage Port, 19.5% Abv.
100 g/l RS | 5.55 TA | 3.63 pH
Made from a fine selection of grapes including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinto Cão, Sousão and Tinta Roriz sourced from 145 hectares over three large areas of vineyards allowed for a lot of flexibility at blending time, with the 2019 representing 13 different parcels that all add a unique character to the finished wine. Elegance and balance are the hallmarks and are all present in the 2019 in abundance. In many ways, the 2019 resembles the 2018 on steroids with just more profundity. Immediately attractive, deliciously forward and fresh, there is great finesse and balance in evidence with a silky, creamy texture and a youthful approachability. Gone are the old school grippy tannins of years gone by that used to be found on most young vintage Ports. Indeed the 2019 shows no less tannins and structure, just much more precision, purity, freshness and black fruit focus. (2,780 cases produced)
ALS is the exceptional new creation from three young Greek winemaking talents in Yiannis Papaoikonomou, Ilias Roussakis and Alexis Kolovos. Yiannis Papaoikonomou studied oenology in Athens before coming to Santorini in 2009 to work at Domaine Sigalas, where he worked as a vineyard manager (under the guidance of a consultant) and as an assistant winemaker. In 2013, Yiannis left Santorini to go to Chile (Vina Maquis), New Zealand (Oyster Bay) and France (Chapoutier) for further work experience and in 2015 he finally returned to Santorini to literally help build the Vassaltis Winery from scratch with Ilias Roussakis.
Ilias studied agronomy in Athens and oenology in Montpellier. He started to work in Santorini’s vineyards, working at Sigalas and Hatzidakis while he also worked at T-Oinos on the island of Tinos as chief oenologist. His broad based experience helped him to consult at wineries all around the Cycladic islands with great success. The third member of the team behind ALS is Alexis Kolovos, who originally studied agronomy and now works as a landscape architect all around the Cyclades. But his goal was always to manage a vineyard and finally with the ALS project, this has become a reality.
While sharing the same vision for Santorini’s terroir, there is also a strong friendship that connects the three ALS partners. In 2015, they finally got the opportunity to rent a vineyard in Imerovigli with a 25 year contract…. that you can find on Google maps at:
The vineyard is 2,5ha and certainly wasn’t in a great condition when they took it on. Year after year, they started renting more vineyards and also started renting fields to convert into vineyards. They created a company which today runs 6,5ha of healthy, productive vineyards in Vourvoulos, Oia, Megalochori and Imerovigli.
While most of their grapes are now sold to wineries like Vassaltis, they just couldn’t resist the temptation to vinify a part of their own grape yields and so in 2018 they decided to make their first wine. With the help of their good friend Nikos Chatzakis, a fellow winemaker on the island of Syros, who agreed to host them and allow them to vinify ALS in a corner of his premises, their first pure Assyrtiko creation was born.
Selecting the only the very best clusters from every plant, they harvested their first grapes on the evening of the 19th of August 2018, loading a refrigerated truck before taking the ferry across to Syros. Four hours later they were pressing the Assyrtiko whole bunch grape clusters in a pneumatic press. They kept the juice in a tank for a day, with low temperatures to let it clarify a little and then racked the wine the following day. The juice was pumped gently into their small inox tank where the fermentation took place at 20-21 degrees centigrade with selected yeast. The wine stayed on its lees for 12 months with battonage for 4 months before being bottled on the 11th of July and spending an additional 16 months in the bottle before being released. The current release is still the 2018 but they also produced 1,300 bottles in 2019, 2020 and 2021. From 2022, they hope to increase their production quantity.
ALS Extreme Terroir Dry White Wine 2018, 14%, Greece
RS 2.5 | pH 2.97 | TA 6.8 | VA 0.4
This is certainly a unique expression of Assyrtiko unlike any other wines I have tasted from Santorini to date. With 12 months ageing on its lees in tank and a further 16 months ageing in bottle, the aromatics show complex layers of bruised yellow orchard fruits, bees wax, ripe pears, chamomile tea, briney sea breeze salinity and pronounced mineral nuances of crushed basalt and gravel. There are some truly alluring, dusty, leesy notes but the nose still retains impressive purity, focus and depth. The palate is broad, plump and quite glycerol with soft, creamy, spicy yellow fruits, green herbal tea nuances, spicy almonds and walnuts and then yet more savoury peachy, salty, briney maritime complexity. This certainly is a very impressive maiden release white wine with exceptional depth, palate concentration and a mellow, harmonious balance. The wine coats the palate and from the last swallow, the flavours resonate with leesy, savoury intensity and persistence for over a minute before the clean, soft acids bring the extravaganza to a final curtain call. An extraordinary creation. (Only 1,300 bottles were produced)
With so many of South Africa’s top Cape Bordeaux Blends and Cabernet Sauvignon producers stepping up to the mark to produce their best wines ever across the 2015 and 2017 vintages, 2018 was always going to be under the spotlight to see if some of the magic of these previous vintages could be applied by winemakers to the benefit of the final wines.
Certainly, the winter rainfall was higher than the previous two winters but with irregular temperatures from winter until the flowering period, together with cool growing conditions, there were inevitably some variations in ripening across the Simonsberg vineyards. However, cooler weather and regular rain showers led to less water stress for the vines during the ripening period.
Having tasted most of the top 2018 Cape Bordeaux blends now, the signature style and characteristics of the vintage are becoming clearer and clearer – Very cool, precise wines with impressively glassy acid frames, silky powdery tannins, impressive fruit intensity but without the 2015’s inky dry extract or the 2017’s weightless fruit concentration. The 2018s are very attractive wines, more classically leaning with a little less exoticism but plenty of the traditional characteristics on the aromatics and palate that have made the wines so popular with French Bordeaux collectors and connoisseurs around the world.
The grapes for the 2018 Paul Sauer were fermented in open top concrete fermenters at 29 deg C with the floating skins being punched down by hand every 2 hours during fermentation. The juice was drawn off the skins after 5 days. After malolactic fermentation the wine was matured for 24 months in 100% new 225 litre French Nevers oak barriques.
With only 7,000 cases or 42,000 bottles produced, stake your marker in the allocation queue nice and early as this iconic wine seems to sell out faster and faster every year. This of course is the reward for a proven pedigree and quality track record.
Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2018, WO Simonsberg – Stellenbosch, 13.91% Abv.
2.4 g/l RS | 6.2 TA | 3.55 pH | 90 mg/l Total SO2 | 0.63 g/l VA
The 2018 Paul Sauer is a classical blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc from vines averaging 30 years of age grown on dryland vineyards of Decomposed Granite and Hutton and Clovelly soils. Vibrant and ruby / purple, the wine almost glows in the glass with inviting promise. At this youthful stage, the Cabernet Sauvignon component shines through strongly revealing a generally dark, broody, black fruited demeanour embellished with subtle notes of saline crème de cassis, star anise, lead pencil shavings, dried violets and signature nuances of freshly tilled earth, buttered brown toast and hints of breakfast espresso. In the mouth, the palate shows gorgeous elegance, purity and fruit focus with the most fine grained filigree tannins, soothingly generous black berry fruits and delicious mouth-watering acids. This wine is precision personified showing such effortless grace and harmony together with a measured power and intensity. The 2018 is certainly a very classically schooled expression that waltzes across the palate without ever putting a foot out of place. Like all truly great Bordeaux blends, this has the finesse and textural harmony to drink on release but also the intensity and gravitas to age effortlessly for 20 to 30+ years.
Three of my favourite Chenin Blancs have come from the same producer, Ian Naude. The monolithic Coche-Dury’esque 2013 is still one of the most monumental whites that has ever been produced in South Africa while the 2015 is a slightly more classical rendition of this variety. The 2016 however was another blockbuster vintage effort and has sold incredibly quickly as Ian’s stature in the world of fine wine has continued grow incrementally over the past few years as collectors have started to pay serious attention to all his wines.
The follow-on vintage is the 2020 Chenin Blanc produced from an old vine vineyard in the Swartland planted in 1971 making it the first Chenin Blanc from Ian Naude produced from a single vineyard. The grapes were 100% whole bunch pressed and fermented naturally in stainless steel tanks for roughly 14 days with some temperature control being employed to slow the fermentation and retain more of the volatile aromas. After fermentation, the wine was transferred to old oak barrels for 6 months ageing on its lees with bâtonnage employed for the first three months.
Naudé Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 12% Abv.
1.1 g/l RS | 6.1 TA | 3.3 pH | 0.4 VA
I approached this new wine with a little trepidation as I know all too well from previous experience that Ian Naude’s wines always need a few years in bottle to settle in and really start to fan their peacock tail. Happily, this 2020 is already very impressive with wonderfully complex aromatics of crystallised pineapple chunks, bruised yellow orchard fruit, tangerine peal, white peach, wet thatch and sweet & sour notes of passion fruit liquor. The palate shows lovely vibrancy and energy all wrapped up tightly in a fine, harmonious glycerol depth of fruit concentration that seems slightly more exotic than previous vintages with seductive notes of lemon cordial, pineapples in syrup, tart white peaches and pithy green apple candy. Like all Ian’s delightful creations, this wine retains an incredible crystalline purity, tangy fresh acids, nervy textural linearity and a granitic liquid minerality that washes over the palate to counter-balance the fruit intensity. This is signature Naudé Chenin Blanc but with a wonderful hint of Swartland wild child vintage character thrown into the mix. Drink from 2022 to 2040+.
The 2017 Niepoort Vintage Port was one of the fastest selling ports released by the winery… or at least it was until they released the 2019. At the release tasting of the 2019 Niepoort vintage Port, Dirk interestingly also showed us his 2000 Vintage Port because this was probably the vintage where he started to redefine how the Niepoort wines were made, with extra special attention to the little details that certainly make a very big difference to the final finished product.
In 2019, the average rainfall was low in the winter months but throughout the year, to make up for this, the Douro and in the case of Niepoort, the Cima Corgo sub-region, was lucky due to two compensating factors: firstly, the summer months were unseasonably cool and secondly the timely rainfall on the 26th-27th of August was invaluable, allowing fruit to reach complete maturity.
At Vale de Mendiz, harvesting started on the 2nd of September under fine conditions and the last grapes were received in the first week of October. All years are remembered for different and unique reasons, and 2019 will surely go down as a year with amazing natural, acids, balanced musts and very cool weather, reminiscent of the elegant year of 2008 – all in all perfect conditions in which the Niepoort house style thrives.
All the components for 2019 Vintage Port were trodden by foot in circular granite lagares with 100% of stems. The wines were racked soon after harvest, aged in “tonéis” (large oak vats) in the Douro over the winter, and then moved to the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia in the Spring of 2020. The average vine age is 80 to over 100 years old and the key grape varieties used in the blend were Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Amarela, Sousão, Tinta Roriz as well as a few others. At the time of tasting samples, the winery was already sold out of the 2019, so consumers will have to hunt down allocations in their individual markets from Niepoort’s importers.
Niepoort Vintage Port 2019 (Proposed Blend)
This lovely signature Niepoort 2019 vintage Port apparently has higher tannins than the famed 2017, but at this youthful stage, it is hard to comprehend this with its rich, accessible, voluptuous layers of silky, juicy soft black fruits. Benchmark certainly, a notable success – absolutely. The aromatics are so much more important than the palate flavours at this early blending phase (according to Dirk) and this enticing 2019 shows attractive notes of sweet sun ripened black berry fruits, hints of creamy molasses, savoury black stewed winter orchard fruits and a dusty, stony, smoked cigars complexity. Beautifully silky, supple and textured, there is also a fine, stony, grippy mineral tannin mouthfeel that lends a wonderful frame for the juicy blue and black berry fruit finery to be displayed. Fabulously drinkable, deliciously fresh and vibrant, but eminently bold and characterful, this is certainly another very accomplished wine from the House of Niepoort. (Residual Sugar: 88 g/l RS)
I first reviewed this wine back in December 2020. But with its release in the UK market imminent, I thought I would have another look at what must surely rank as one of the top Grenache reds produced in South Africa. Despite over 30+ producers producing in excess of 100 Grenache-based wines – mostly blended – from the 350 hectares of Grenache planted in South Africa, it still ranks as somewhat of a curiosity variety compared to industry stalwarts like Syrah or Cinsault.
But there is no doubt about the quality heights this grape is capable of in regions like the Swartland. If Grenache is a variety that gets you excited, look no further than the new Naude 2019.
Naude Family Wines Grenache 2019, WO Swartland, 12% Abv.
RS 1.2 g/L | TA 6.1 g/L | pH 3.2 g/L
While this may only be Ian Naude’s second Grenache attempt from this special Swartland vineyard, he certainly seems to have done the fruit justice creating a wonderfully expressive red. A light translucent cherry red colour, the aromatics are jam packed with crunchy red berry fruits, rose petals, musk, lavender, dried baking herbs and enticing savoury Chinese five spice nuances. The clarity and purity of fruit on the nose translates into an incredibly precise, focused invigorating palate with mouth-watering juicy fresh acids, crystalised red cherries, tart red cranberry and a long, linear finish that reveals a fine stony minerality. Lovely wound spring tension lends a serious note to the wine ensuring that this fabulous 2019 will be as equally long lived as its maiden predecessor, the 2014. However, this wine definitely has more Naude signature elegance, freshness, linearity and precision than the 2014 had at the same youthful stage. The five-year wait has certainly been worthwhile! This is a triumph of skilful winemaking utilising outstanding fruit. Bravo Ian! Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years.
Sakkie Mouton is the epitome of the classic West Coast maverick or perhaps the West Coast misfit to use his own words. But whatever descriptives you use to describe his unique brand of winemaking and marketing, there is no denying this young man’s incredible talent, passion and vision. Almost uniquely, despite his enviable and obvious rock star talents, he has never been too confident or arrogant to dismiss advice or unwilling to alter course in the name of producing the very best possible end product.
With his 2018 maiden release, I likened Sakkie’s unique talents to something I had not seen since Eben Sadie hit the South African wine scene properly in the early 2000s, at first with the Spice Route Winery and then subsequently with his own labels. Perhaps the real similarity lies in both being able to elicit something quite unique and magical from varieties and vineyards that so many before them had managed to produce merely average wines from. Who knows? The industry is lucky to have them both for sure!
This new 2020 Crayfish edition was picked in two different passes through the vineyards before being fermented with wild yeast in used 228 litre barrels and aged on the gross lees for eight months. The wine was then bottled unfiltered and unfined with minimal intervention.
Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Koekenaap, 13.5% Abv.
With two vintages under his belt, Sakkie Mouton must surely have a fairly watertight idea of what he is trying to create with his unique Chenin Blanc fruit sourced from his homeland vineyards of Koekenaap up the West Coast. While super youthful and fresh, this 2020 expression does indeed display an impressive clarity and composure with wonderfully pure aromatics of crunchy green apples, pear drops, bay leaves, dried green baking herbs, lime peel and of course the signature West Coast notes of oyster shell and maritime sea breeze salinity. On the palate, there is notable concentration and depth of zippy white citrus, savoury yellow orchard fruits and a briny rock salt salinity reminiscent of river pebbles washed in sea water. Never a wine to reveal all its secrets willingly, a little more coaxing in a big Zalto glass allows the wine to show hints of orange citrus peel, a lovely fresh tangy sweet / sour acidity and yet more layers of maritime intensity. This new release might not be quite as wild and rebellious as some of Sakkie’s previous releases, but it certainly shows a growing confidence, maturity of thought, and texturally, an intricacy and purity that makes this wine very much one of his most complete creations to date. Give this white one to two years in the cellar from release before opening and then enjoy over 12 to 15+ years. Congratulations Sakkie on another distinguished wine!
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Wines available in the UK on allocation from Vino SA and Handford Wines.