This unique white wine is sourced from a tiny patch of Vermentino vines grown on orange sandy soils in Koekenaap planted in 2017, and which are located only 15 kilometres from the cold Atlantic Ocean up the barren West Coast. The unwaveringly maritime and saline characteristics of this dry coastal terroir up the West Coast has become almost synonymous as Sakkie Mouton’s signature style and these particular Vermentino grapes are located no more than 600 metres away from his old vine Crayfish Chenin Blanc vineyard with its decomposed sandstone soils with pockets of limestone which lend great minerality and low pH’s to the finished wines.
After tasting a few tank samples with Sakkie Mouton at the Cape Wine Trade Fair in Cape Town in October 2022, it was inevitable that the excitement would build until he released his second Vermentino vintage. More importantly, after Cape Wine, I made the five hour trek up the West Coast with Sakkie after the trade fair to go and visit not only his famous Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc vineyard, but also the two long rows of Vermentino that were planted originally as an experimental grape.
The 2022 Sand Erf was harvested in two separate parcels, with the first parcel getting 12 hours on the skins before pressing, and the second parcel getting whole brunch pressed. After pressing, both parcels were blended together. After a one month fermentation, the wine was racked into one 300 litre barrel for ageing for four months with regular stirring of the lees.
The wine was bottled as Wine of Origin Koekenaap, unfiltered and unfined, with just the smallest addition of sulphur. While the one parcel only saw 12 hours of skin contact, Sakkie feels this factor has had a significantly positive influence on the finished wine, helping it to portray a slightly fuller, fleshier, more textural expression in the glass.
Sakkie Mouton Family Wines Sand Erf Vermentino 2022, WO Koekenaap, 11.93% Abv.
1.4g/l RS | 6.9g/l TA | 3.4pH
This white wine is classic Wes Kus misfit Sakkie Mouton at his best. The nose is packed full of youthful cream soda and rock candy aromatics before notes of peach kernals, crunchy green pear, white blossom and lime peel emerge to spar with the ever-present layers of maritime salinity, dried kelp, nori seaweed and rock salt complexity. The extra time on the skins lends the palate just that little extra fleshy, glycerol weight and roundness in the mouth to balance the intense briney rock salt salinity. The palate remains rapier fresh and precise but just that little bit broader and more architecturally layered, revealing a delicious green apple freshness and white peach and dried herb nuances on the long, generous finish. This is a wine that speaks of a specific maritime terroir and its harsh corresponding wind-swept coastal environment. In Koekenaap, the people are as hardy as the vines, but both are equally generous and expressive when handled correctly. A beautiful follow-up release that grows in confidence like Sakkie’s very own winemaking prowess. Drink this wine on release with wild Wes Kus oysters or fresh line fish or else watch it unfurl extra layers of complexity over the coming 3 to 5+ years.
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard et Fils is one of the most famous red Burgundy domaines in the Cotes de Nuits and today the estate rests in the capable hands of Sébastien Cathiard, Sylvain’s son. Often described as a “thoughtful and focused winemaker” who seeks to improve the wines with each and every vintage that he’s in charge, is a philosophy that has helped make an already high collectable domaine even more so, with their profound Pinot Noirs commanding massive prices, elevating this Vosne Romanée producer to one of the perennial must-have allocations every vintage. But did you know that even this iconic winery produces an esteemed Aligoté white?
The 2020 Aligoté is normally bottled in around April along with their red wines after being vinified in stainless steel. Sourced from 2 hectares, 95% coming from Villiers Lafaye, which according to Jasper Morris MW, is mostly from vines planted in 1945 and 1948, with the remaining 5% coming from grapes in and around Nuits St Georges. Hitting the shelves at between £40 and £50 a bottle, this is certainly positioned in the premium premier league of Aligoté wine offerings. So how did it perform?
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard et Fils Bourgogne Aligote 2020, 12.5% Abv.
Quite golden yellow in colour, this is classical Aligoté on the nose with notes of freshly cut apples, citrus oil, tangerine, greengage and white flowers. The palate is full, glycerol and opulently textural with a soft fleshy acidity and a luxurious mouthfeel more reminiscent of a Bourgogne Blanc or Cotes de Beaune village white wine made from Chardonnay than Aligoté. This is undoubtedly a serious expression that is full in the mouth, displays a fine harmonious balance with plenty of apple and pear puree honied intensity on the long, persistent finish. A lovely wine but be prepared to pay an extra premium for the fabled Domaine Sylvain Cathiard name on the label. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5+ years.
The Brookdale Estate, situated at the foot of the lofty Du Toitskloof Pass in Paarl, is a very impressive boutique winery owned by Englishman Tim Rudd and is planted with not only 25+ year old Chenin Blanc vines but also several other special Chenin Blanc blocks that are now over 35 years old and certified under the Old Vine Project as Heritage Vines. When Tim Rudd bought the farm, most of the existing vineyards were in very poor condition necessitating their removal to make way for broad new plantings of not only Syrah but also several massive white and red field blends.
I believe the field blend plantings were initially inspired by Duncan Savage, the original consulting winemaker at Brookdale until Kiara Scott took over the winemaking, producing Brookdale’s third vintage of premium Chenin Blanc in 2019. But when I visited the estate back in 2018 to meet Tim Rudd for the first time, I was fascinated by these impressive field blend plantings which contained a broad array of varieties.
So it was with great excitement and anticipation that I sat down recently with a bottle of the maiden Brookdale Field Blend 2021 to assess this fascinating young vine wine. Having recently tasted and reviewed the excellent white field blend from Jonkershoek Valley winery Stark Conde, I looked forward to cracking this maiden release from Tim Rudd and Kiara Scott and comparing the viticultural theory with what was actually bottled.
The Sixteen Field Blend is comprised of 16 different varietals, interplanted as bush vines and essentially seeks to recapture the lost art of field blend winemaking as practiced all over Europe in the last century before the rise of mono-culture winemaking.
Brookdale Estate Sixteen White Field Blend 2021, WO Paarl, 14% Abv.
The aromatics are classical yet ever so slightly exotic all at once with a pronounced dusty granitic minerality fading into dried baking herbs, sage, jasmine, dried stable straw, desiccated coconut and acacia honey on warm buttered white toast. The palate is silky, crystalline, fresh and lithe with plenty of front palate peach, apricot, honied fruit concentration on the entry before the wine’s gravelly minerality reasserts itself again to offer a complex liquid minerality with appealing wet river pebble nuances. Such a wonderfully considered and intricate wine in its maiden release with a beautiful green apple, nectarine and stone fruit depth, harmonious glycerol waves of texture and an impressive resinous fine wine palate breadth. Drink this on release or watch it evolve in unknown directions over the next 6 to 8+ years.
The Brookdale wines are exclusively imported and distributed in the UK by South African fine wine specialist, Museum Wines. http://www.museumwines.co.uk
Sadie Family Wines are located in the Swartland region of South Africa and is without doubt one of South Africa’s most sought-after producers. But it wasn’t always like this. Before Eben Sadie settled down to carve out his career as a winemaker, he travelled and worked extensively in several major wine regions of the world, including Germany, Austria, Italy, Oregon and Burgundy. After returning to South Africa, he found employment alongside South African icon Charles Back, at The Spice Route in 1998. Sadie Family Wines, as we know it today, was founded in 1999, with the first two vintages produced at Charles Back’s Spice Route facilities.
While everything Eben puts his hand to nowadays becomes instantly collectable, his personal winemaking focus remains his signature wines, namely his white blend Palladius and his red Syrah based blend, Columella. But the fine wine world often has other designs, relentlessly craving his small production single vineyard wines made from some of South Africa’s oldest vineyards in the Cape. One of these, the Soldaat Old Vine Series, is made from ungrafted and unirrigated old bush vines that are planted at 708m altitude on decomposed granite soils on a 6-hectare site that Grenache shows such a great affinity for, and it really shows on this incredible wine. After manual harvesting, fermentation occurs spontaneously with indigenous yeasts. Maceration and fermentation is carried out in concrete tanks for 30 days and aging lasts on average 12 months in old oak barrels.
Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2012
Pronounced earthy, sappy, green leaf style with notes of dried herbs, fynbos, sandalwood and leafy red currant tangy berry fruits. The acids are electric, cool and glassy. Just a measured amount of tertiary complexity developing. 92/100? (95/100 Jan 2023 Tasting)
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Note: In the original vertical tasting, this wine seemed more evolved and savoury, but on tasting again in January 2023 from a different batch, the wine positively radiated energy and freshness, implying that the 2012 bottle initially assessed was perhaps not in top condition. Even my note on this wine in 2016 said… “you best bury a few bottles away if you have any left! (Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW) – This could potentially be a 95, 96, 97 point classic one day when it nears maturity. Yes, it’s that good!”
Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2016
Lovely warming nose of strawberry jam on warm scones, crushed gravel and sweet fynbos herbal notes before bramble berry fruits with a distinct savoury, meaty finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2017
Definite note of reduction evident with hints of wet slate, crushed chalk, black currant, oyster shell and bramble berry spice. The palate is taut and compact, sappy and intense with a creamy textural balance and a herby, brambly, savoury finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2018
Lovely bright red fruited nose with red currant, crushed strawberry and bramble berry spice. Palate is glycerol, dense and super serious with stony tannins, graphite spice and a savoury red berry finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2019
Offers a beautiful melange of fynbos, crushed granite, dried herbs and red currant spice. Plush, opulent and seductive, this is a very impressive wine with superb power, precision and balance.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2020
Dense, bright, pure red fruited nose with delicious creamy depth, layers of red currant, strawberry and seductive red cherry fruit together with a complexing sapidity, tobacco leaf and a stony minerality. Beautiful harmony, seamless balance, and a long, pristine finish. Wow!
(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Wines are available on strict allocation to the trade in the USA from Broadbent Selections and in the UK from FMV. Retail is circa £50 per bottle on release.
I am on record for describing Merlot as a bit of a weed. I mean, when you compare it to even Malbec, Petit Verdot or Cabernet Franc let alone the grandeur of Cabernet Sauvignon, it soon becomes apparent that this is a very difficult grape to produced high quality, premium iconic wines from. Which is why for many years I have said there were only three places in the world that should bottle single varietal Merlot: Bordeaux (specifically Pomerol and St Emilion), Tuscany (specifically Bolgheri) and California (more specifically the Napa Valley and Sonoma).
But every time I get comfortable in my mindset, a wine like this delicious Thelema Merlot comes along to challenge my perceptions. Normally a straight Thelema Merlot release will be produced only if the quality of the vintage does not merit the Reserve selection. Whether it is the use of the Clone 102 Merlot grown on Richter 99 rootstocks in Hutton and decomposed granite soils or perhaps the age of the vines, planted in 1988, this is certainly a Stellenbosch wine that often over performs. In 2019, no Merlot Reserve was produced due to severe weather fluctuations during bud break and flowering, followed by cool windy conditions which contributed to less and more uneven bunches with smaller berries and generally lower alcohol levels.
The grapes for this 2019 Merlot were gently de-stemmed, retaining as many whole berries as possible after which the fruit was transferred to its stainless-steel fermentation tank. The grapes were then inoculated with a commercial yeast which the estate feels helps the fermented wine develop a more beneficial flavour profile. Malolactic fermentation took place in barrel where the wines were aged for 18 months with a 25% new French oak portion. The wines were only racked once during this period before being prepared for bottling.
Thelema Mountain Vineyards Merlot 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.
2.8g/l RS | 5.4g/l TA | 3.55pH
Displaying an attractive medium deep ruby colour in the glass, the 2019 Thelema Merlot has an open and expressive aromatics with notes of bruleed coffee beans, piquant red berry fruits, red currant, red plum, dried mint leaf, sage and hints of Chinese five spice mixed with sweet cedar. There is a definite generosity of fruit on the palate with a plush, soft textured mouthfeel that boasts spicy, fleshy, chocolatey tannins, yet more red berry fruit characters and a notable balance that really shines the light on the harmonious elegance Merlot can attain. A delightful, characterful Merlot that will offer a lot of drinking pleasure to followers over the next 6 to 8+ years.
I first discovered the incredible wines of Bruno Desaunay-Bissey in January 2021 when I was invited to review the “in-bottle” 2018 vintages with his main UK importer Wimbledon Wine Cellar. I had never heard of Bruno’s wines, never tasted them and was unable to even find anything of interest online about his wines… not on Vinous, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate or even Jasper Morris’s new Burgundy web resource. Bruno genuinely seemed to not only fly below the radar but remained one of the best kept secrets of the Cotes d’Or.
Together with his wife, Marie-Christine Bissey and his son, Bruno manages this small family domaine based in Flagey-Echezeaux that consists of 6 hectares, some of which is owned by the family, including prestigious old vine plots in Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux, with additional plots farmed on a “fermage” basis. With first vintages produced in 1975, it seems almost inconceivable that wines of this quality have managed to enter the market almost unnoticed, especially considering the current clamour and fervour of wine merchants to discover “the next big thing” in Burgundy. Over the years, some of the production was sold off to other domaines and as recently as the mid-1990’s, several of Bruno’s valuable barrels of Grands Echezeaux were being sold to illustrious names like Dominique Laurent. The Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru appellation takes the shape of a triangle with its northern point orientated towards Musigny, its eastern flank bordered by the Clos Vougeot Grand Cru and its western flank by Echezeaux Grand Cru. The Desaunay-Bissey old vine parcel, planted from 1928 onwards, is located on the point of this triangle.
Come the UK Winter, in November and December, all attention and thoughts automatically swing back to the Burgundy En-primeur tastings that will occupy the minds and palates of most Burgundy lovers in the UK for the duration of January and February. Just to get some customers back in the mood, Wimbledon Wine Cellars hosted an incredible food and wine paired dinner with 30+ private clients to taste through a cross section of Burgundy’s best kept secrets from Bruno.
The evening started with a delicious glassful of Bruno’s Bourgogne Blanc 2019 (89/100 GSMW) as an aperitif. Rich and textured with fleshy, citrus oil layers infused with minerality, combining with pithy, waxy lemon peel nuances that made this wine a perfect piquant aperitif white Burgundy before launching into the reds. The opening salvo from the first pair was incredible and really set the tone for the rest of the evening. The Nuits Saint Georges Les Belles Croix 2017 from Vieilles Vignes (94+/100 GSMW) was dark and deep with bottomless layers of blue and black berry fruits, a subtle oystershell salinity and an incredibly mouth-watering underlying acidity that energised the wine beautifully. One of the night’s favourite wines despite only being a lieu dit and not a Premier Cru.
The Nuits St Georges was followed by a vibrantly youthful 2014 Gevrey Chambertin that I had not tasted before. This rich, deep, earthy black fruited example showed an impressive depth of fruit and fine tannins wrapped around a fleshy, earthy, plummy, cured meat core of intensity. Plenty of vibrancy and youthfulness evident (93/100 GSMW). As if not to be outdone by the savoury black fruited opulence of the Gevrey Chambertin, a beautiful 2017 Chambolle Musigny from Combe d’Orveaux more than held its own alongside the Gevrey, showing impressive classical precision, focus and spicy mineral tannins as well as all the text book elegance you’d expect from a top Chambolle Musigny (94/100 GSMW).
The next flight was made up of two Vosne Romanee Premier Cru classics, Les Beaut Monts 2018 and Les Rouges 2018, both of which left a long-lasting impression on me the first time I had the privilege to taste and reflect on these wines. The Beau Monts 1er Cru remained classical and regal with fabulous power and depth of black berry fruit, intense cassis fruit concentration and subtle bramble berry and Vosne five-spice notes scattered liberally across the palate making for a very complex expression (95+/100 GSMW). The Les Rouge 2018 was another standout expression showing plenty of opulent concentration, blue and black berry fruits, purple rock candy and all the textural power and drive that you could hope for from a top Vosne Romanee producer (95/100 GSMW).
Just like a wintery November Guy Fawkes fireworks evening, there always needs to be a few big guns to end the show to reiterate the absolute pedigree of the finest red Burgundies produced. An incredible final pair including an Echezeaux Grand Cru 2018 (95+/100 GSMW) and a very regal Grands-Echezeaux 2019 (96/100 GSMW), were alluringly bold, concentrated and red fruited displaying incredible purity, power and textural promise, helping to end a most spectacular evening of food and wine in true style. Sadly, Bruno was not there to share his unique story, but the wines were as fascinating and beguiling now as they were the very first time I tasted them.
Watch out for Bruno Desaunay-Bissey’s incredible 2019 reds that have arrived in the UK and will be hitting the shelves of a few select merchants. Unfortunately, most of his prestigious wines will have sold out already on En-primeur release. But the eagle-eyed Burghound might still be able to sniff out a few rogue bottles of back vintages. Otherwise, you can beg and grovel for a small allocation of his 2021s which will be offered in the UK in the coming months. This is most definitely one producer in Burgundy to watch very closely indeed.
Contact importer Wimbledon Wine Cellar to register for a future allocation.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the bedrock of the Stark Conde winery in the Jonkershoek Valley ward of Stellenbosch and at 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2019 new release also includes a small percentage of 10% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec. This super concentrated vintage sees a pronounced intensity and flavour focus as a result of the reduced peaberry-sized crop that yielded high colour, very good phenolics and a lower-than-average alcohol level.
Stark Conde also produce two more premium Cabernet Sauvignon based blends in the Three Pines and the Oude Nektar cuvées, both of which have much higher price tags than this beautiful benchmark “estate” Cabernet blend. Quite simply, very few wine producing countries can hit this level of age-worthy, classical quality for such an incredibly affordable price. Seek it out and make some space in your cellar! (Recommended retail price at £24.99 per bottle in the UK)
Stark Conde Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.
This 2019 is certainly deep, dark and opaque with a broody blackberry and black plum core from 18- to 30-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vines. On the nose, the wine really impresses with alluring aromatics of violets, raspberry herbal tea, sweet tannery leather, freshly tilled earth and mocha spice before opulent notes of earthy blackberry, blueberry and graphite. With such incredible power and intensity of fruit on display here, the subtle cedar wood and black chai tea spice nuances are absorbed by the black fruit and mineral depth. Despite the vintage’s slightly lower-than-average alcohol level, the palate is wonderfully plush and dense with a classically fresh sweet and sour vein of crème de cassis, black cherry and leafy mulberry over sweet expansive fleshy tannins. When the perfect terroir meets the perfect variety and the finest winemaking know-how is utilised to capture that in a bottle, this is what you get – mesmerising quality at such an affordable price. Drink this classically configured Cabernet powerhouse over the next 10 to 15+ years. What an absolute steal… only possible from South Africa!
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Available in the UK from their exclusive importer, the South African Fine Wine Specialist, Museum Wines.
In September, Chris “Butch” Alheit returned to the United Kingdom to present his new 2021 vintages at his importer’s portfolio tasting. With over 120+ wines from South Africa being poured, most with their producers in attendance, I decided to write up a series of “snap-shot” tastings for drinkers and collectors to use as a quick and easily accessible reference for a whole series of new releases. I fortuitously had another opportunity only a few weeks later to retaste the entire Alheit range again with Chris in Cape Town at the Cape Wine 2022 wine show in October. So my below scores are an aggregate of the two tastings.
Chris explained that in general, his vineyards ripened around 10 days later in 2021 than the previous year, with low yields but very high quality across the board. In 2021, no Huilkrans Chenin Blanc was made as the crop from this Skurfberg “lieu dit” vineyard was simply too small. Then there was the Magnetic North catastrophy which saw the entire tank of Chenin Blanc from this famous vineyard ruined by a faulty tank gasket seal that imparted an unpleasant bitterness to the wine. As if Alheit demand and supply is not strained enough in a regular vintage, 2021 with its exceptional white wine quality will create even more severe headaches for collectors and drinkers looking for allocations of these incredible wines. But I recommend you persevere as the wines are once again truly outstanding.
Alheit Vineyards Hereafter Here 2021, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.
Made from young vine Chenin Blanc vineyards from Upper Blaauwklippen, Polkadraai and the Swartland, the idea is that some of these grapes will eventually be channelled into Cartology in years to come as the vines age. Deliciously cool, silky and taut with green fruits, white flowers, white citrus, green apple and crunchy peach nuances. Acids are mouth-wateringly tangy and the fruits crystalline and pure with impressive clarity and balance. A clear step up in quality and intensity on the maiden 2020 release.
Alheit Vineyards Cartology 2021, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.
A blend of 90% Chenin Blanc and 10% Semillon from circa nine dryland bush vine parcels around the Cape with a minimum age of 35 years but with most between 40 to 80 years old. The entry shows a massive vibrant concentration of white citrus, peach and tangerine with complexing notes of wet thatch, fynbos and struck flint reduction. The palate is rich and textured, plush and fleshy, showing the true class and pedigree of the 2021 vintage. This must be among the finest Cartology releases produced to date. Do not miss it!
Alheit Vineyards Fire By Night Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.
Previously known as Broom Ridge, this wine has reverted back to its original name and label due to popular demand. From vineyards on the property Chris bought in the Swartland, the vines were planted between 1971 and 1985 on decomposed granitic soils. The aromatics are predictably stony, dusty and pithy with white peach, crunchy pear, green tea, fynbos and tangerine undertones. The palate shows its usual tell-tale reductive flinty hints together with an incredible liquid minerality that is supported by crystalline pure fruits and pinpoint fresh acids. Once again, a very impressive showing from this Paardeberg vineyard.
Alheit Vineyards Nautical Dawn Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Helderberg, Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.
Grapes for this single vineyard wine come from a beautiful higher altitude site in the Helderberg planted in 1978 that overlooks False Bay. The soils are weathered decomposed granite that look like caster sugar in texture. True to this vineyard’s terroir, there is an incredibly pronounced rock salt salinity on the wine with an overt maritime sea breeze complexity that combines with notes of peach, pear, lime peel, tangerine and a savoury liquid minerality on the finish. Intense, complex and certainly quite profound. Wow!
The grapes from this famous La Colline vineyard were planted in 1936 and offer up complex notes of melted bee’s wax, incense, sweet baking herbs, black currant, lemon rind and tangerine. There is a generous, concentrated fleshy savoury fruit core all held in perfect equilibrium by fresh taut acids. Still showing a complexing hint of smoky reduction, this is undoubtedly a profound Semillon offering from one of the most famous vineyards in the country. Pop this in your cellar for 3 to 5 years and then drink over 8 to 10+ years.
Alheit Vineyards Hemelrand Vine Garden 2021, WO Hemel-en-Aarde, 13.5% Abv.
A blend of 36% Chardonnay, 27% Roussanne, 18% Chenin Blanc, 16% Verdelho and 3% Muscat. This field blend offers up rich earthy, peachy fruit notes with yellow orchard fruits, white flowers, citrus oil and lychee with subtle baking spice nuances. The palate is fresh and full fruited with a fruit salad melange enlivened by juicy, tangy acids and a delicately savoury, mineral finish. Plenty of intensity on display here but also a fine purity and a harmonious balance. One of the best Hemelrand Vine Garden releases to date.
Alheit Vineyards Lost and Found Hanepoot Straw Wine 2019, WO Breedekloof, 7% Abv.
Looking at this rich, unctuous wine in the glass is akin to gazing through an ancient piece of Jurassic fossilized amber – ripe, captivating and most definitely warmly inviting. But this is no normal sweet wine and one sniff of the rich, ripe, potent aromatics reveals an enchanting bouquet of freshly boiled marmalade jam, green mango preserve, barley sugar, sweet herbs, wet straw and dried apricots. Give the dense, glycerol wine another slow swirl in a big Zalto Bordeaux bowl and it shifts gears again to offer yet more pithy orange peel nuances and seductive notes of quince jelly, pressed grapes and burnt caramel. Like some of South Africa’s other truly great sweet wines, the aromatics are so complex and seductive that you almost forget to sip the wine! Incredibly viscous and fleshy on the palate with a round glycerol opulence, there is no suggestion at any point that this wine is going to be overly sweet and clawing with its 450 g/l RS. In fact the sweetness is kept smartly in check by a searing acidity that scythes through the caramel and barley sugar laden fruit layers with samurai sword precision. The finish is gloriously mouth coating, hedonistic and persistent with just the most subtle sappy, pithy, bitter orange peel vermouth twang.
Jasper Wickens started working with Adi Badenhorst at the Kalmoesfontein property in the Paardeberg in 2009 and was a central character in the whole Swartland Revolution movement. As the dynamic Swartland movement gathered pace, Jasper met his now wife, Franziska Wickens (néé Schreiber), who is the third generation of a Swartland farming family in the Siebritskloof Valley in the Paardeberg and studied viticulture at Elsenberg with a focus on cellar management. Their relationship grew at a similar pace to the popularity of the Swartland’s red and white wines and were finally married in 2016 on Franziska’s Waterval farm.
Exactly 10 years after he first moved to the Paardeberg, Jasper completed his final harvest at AA Badenhorst Family Wines in 2018 as he prepared to move full time into the repurposed wine cellar at his Waterval farm next door to focus on his own Swerwer range that was established back in 2012 with the sole purpose of creating authentic “wines of place” that represented the true essence of their local terroirs. Franziska owns and manages extensive family vineyard plantings and now supplies some of the most sought after Swartland grapes to producers such as JH Meyer, AA Badenhorst, Blacksmith Wines, Paul Jordaan’s Bosberaad, John Seccombe, Samantha Suddons’ Vinevenom label and Martin Lamprecht’s Marras label.
Jasper’s Swerwer range is now quite extensive and includes, among others, a Chenin Blanc, an old vine skin contact Tiernes Chenin Blanc, a Semillon Gris, as well as reds made from Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Tinta Barocca and Touriga Nacional. Jasper is undoubtedly making some of the most exciting wines in the Swartland that will surely become a lot harder to buy as his reputation for quality continues to grow year by year. So if you haven’t tasted the wines from his Swerwer range yet, the Chenin Blanc and his Red Blend made from Cinsault, Grenache, and Tinta Barocca are the perfect place to start your discovery. Jasper is definitely a Swartland producer to follow closely.
JC Wickens Swerwer Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.
This is another beautifully expressive Chenin Blanc from warm granitic mountain slopes in the Swartland region. Jasper and Franziska Wickens own and farm some truly profound vineyards in the Paardeberg area and this Chenin Blanc is a classically styled steely white shaped by its decomposed granitic terroir. The aromatics are cool and supremely mineral with layers of crushed gravel, dried green herbs, oatmeal biscuits, lemon rind, yellow orchard fruits and sweet wet hay nuances. The palate reveals lovely textural tension and fruit / acid intensity without losing any elegance and precision, showing plenty of pineapple pastille, bruised yellow orchard fruits, wet river pebble minerality and a pithy, leesy finish. This is a wine that speaks volumes of its origin, expresses its unique terroir and seduces the drinker in doing so. There are many far more expensive Swartland Chenin Blancs on the market but few which reach this level of complexity and palate-appeal for a similar price. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8 years.
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
The Cinsault and Grenache were sourced from vineyards growing on well drained, granite soils. Cinsault was often known as the workhorse variety and of the rare Grenache only very few old vineyards remain. Tinta Barocca has proved itself in the Swartland already for decades and completes this traditional blend. Here it is sourced from a warmer clay–rich vineyard.
JC Wickens Swerwer Red Blend 2020, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.
An eclectic blend of Cinsault, Grenache, and Tinta Barocca make for a truly delicious Swartland red blend. The deep, dark aromatic base notes of the Grenache and Tinta Barocca are raised out the glass by the delicate rose petal perfumed lift of the Cinsault before more complex notes of cured meats, bramble berries, red cherries, cola, and Turkish delight come to the fore. The palate is both compact, concentrated, and sleek but also wonderfully light on its feet, enlivened by a mouth-watering red berry acidity, hints of cranberry, wild strawberry and smoky, meaty charcuterie savoury nuances. This certainly is a very impressive versatile red that can be sipped on its own or paired with almost any food dishes. Jasper Wickens is truly a master craftsman and this fabulous red is a tribute to his winemaking skills. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5+ years.
As the world’s wine merchants return from Burgundy after tasting the almost non-existent 2021 vintage, Domaine de la Romanee Conti prepares for the latest ‘in-bottle’ releases of their 2020 vintages in early 2023. But as I tasted the 2019 releases earlier this year, it was certainly clear for all to see that a new era was dawning at the Domaine with Bertrand de Villaine taking over from his uncle Aubert, and Perrine Fenal moving into the place of the late Henry-Frédéric Roch. For an estate that is based on tradition and unerring continuity, these changes constitute a true “changing of the guard” and must be considered substantial and significant in nature.
So sadly, this occasion probably constituted the last new vintage tasting I will ever do with Aubert de Villaine in attendance. Thankfully, the 2019’s are another truly incredible array of Burgundy wines.
Domaine de la Romanee Conti Corton Grand Cru 2019
Launched in 2009, the Corton Grand Cru blend delivered a truly graceful expression in 2019 showing its perfumed elegance to perfection, with complex aromatics of rosehip, violets, brambly sweet vermouth spices over dark black berries, fruit cake and dried orange peel. The fruits of the palate are dark, earthy and sweet with impressive concentration, a rounded mouthfeel and a harmonious yet fresh interwoven acidity. The finish is elegant, mineral-laced and very precise.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Domaine de la Romanee Conti Echezeaux Grand Cru 2019
As the last of the domaine’s reds to be harvested, this 2019 reveals a fully ripe, exotically red and fruited core boasting notes of mulberry, spicy blackberry compote and stewed winter black fruits. The palate follows with notes of macerated black berries, stewed black cherries, plum stone and brambly wild nuances laced with dried mint and wild herbs. A ripe, opulent, generous expression of Echezeaux.
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Domaine de la Romanee Conti Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru 2019
Paler and brighter than the Echezeaux, the aromatics are equally seductive and complex showing lovely perfumed notes of Rosehip, pressed violets and top notes of cherry kirsch liquor. The palate follows with a similar sense of graceful power and coiled intensity of red and black berries, blood orange and pomegranates over limestone minerality and a cool freshness the accentuates this wines purity. A very classy Grands Echezeaux vintage.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Domaine de la Romanee Conti Richebourg Grand Cru 2019
Harvested slightly earlier than some of the other cuvées, this Richebourg offers up a wonderfully perfumed richness and generosity of violets, cherry blossom and intense notes of red cherries, pink musk and sweet exotic vermouth spices. The first sip confirms the wines intensity and power, racy freshness and piercing concentration that arrives in supple waves, drenching the palate in refined flavours of red and black berries, sun dried cranberries and pink rock candy nuances. Lovely focus and precision but also super refinement.
(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Domaine de la Romanee Conti Romanee St Vivant Grand Cru 2019
This vintage offers up a distinctly rich, round, opulent expression cool aromatics of stony blue and black berry fruits, black cherry and bramble berry spice. Its boldness lies in fruit generosity rather than ethereal perfumed intricacy with a real sweet and sour acid vibrancy on the palate, piercing concentration and a seamlessly elegant persistence. Simply beguiling harmony and power.
(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Domaine de la Romanee Conti La Tache Grand Cru Monopole 2019
A wine Aubert suggests rivals the great 2018 in its youth, this is certainly a rich, ripe expressive La Tache with plenty of dark mysterious black earthy berry fruits, raisined cranberry, sweet black berry compote overlying a resinous sapidity and richly extracted depth of fruit. The freshness is uplifting and effortless and helps invigorate the long, persistent finish mixed with dried herbs and crushed mint. A wine of great substance.
(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Domaine de la Romanee Conti Romanee Conti Grand Cru Monopole 2019
A decidedly deep, taut and broody expression of Romanee Conti that reveals imposing old vine concentration and an aromatic melange of pressed roses, chalky minerality, black fruit purity and baked black plums. The palate is silky and effortless, intense and concentrated with regal depth, contemplative textural intricacy and delectable prowess. A Pinot Noir blessed by the gods themselves!
(Wine Safari Score: 99/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Domaine de la Romanee Conti Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2019
Always special to taste a maiden release especially when it’s from DRC, and this new white conjures up the same excitement as tasting the maiden 2009 Corton red. Rich and golden, the aromatics offer up all the classic Charlemagne notes of lemon pastille and butter, lemon cream biscuits and a deliciously complex mealy, leesy intensity. On the palate there is clear pedigree with generous, unctuous, mouth-coating concentration and fabulously savoury, harmonious balance with freshness and a light touch elegance on the long finish.