Peter-Allan Finlayson Unveils Some of His New Releases from Crystallum and Gabrielskloof in London…

Maybe it’s because Peter-Allan is the third generation of wine farmers in the Cape or maybe it’s just because he is just very intelligent, but few wine brands have been managed as professionally as Crystallum in global markets since the first Sauvignon Blanc was bottled in 2007.

Now focusing solely on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Peter-Allan was recently in London to unveil some of his new creations. But the secret of Crystallum’s massive success in London can be attributed to a combination of factors that aspiring brand owners should take note of. Firstly, he has a committed and highly professional distributor in the UK with Liberty Wines; the quality of the entire range has remained impressively high from day one; the pricing has been very constant and conservative, rising only very modestly over the past 12-13 years; this price stability and quality has built the brand a strong on-trade restaurant / sommelier following in the fine dining establishments of London.

Add this all up and you have a brand that sells out within a few months of arriving adding further to the all round collectability of the entire range.

 

Gabrielskloof Elodie 2018 Chenin Blanc, WO Swartland

Fermented and aged in old oak barrels, this is just classic intense old bush vine Chenin Blanc from two vineyards of 43 and 45 years old made in a minimalist hands off style. Oozes class and character with aromatics of fynbos, crunchy yellow orchard fruits and wet straw with an intense palate of white peach, granitic mineral spice, toasted almonds and pithy dried orange peel. Lovely definition and length. This is up there with some of the best old vine Chenin Blancs in South Africa.

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

 

Crystallum Clayshales Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

Another superb rendition of this single vineyard wine from Ridge fruit that perfectly captures the cool, crystalline lemon and lime pastille fruit characters of Chardonnay grown at higher altitude. There are lovely white blossom and honey suckle notes with the most subtle kiss of white toast, vanilla pod spice and white peach. Still very youthful, but already the 2019s have a very impressive fruit/acid balance and a wonderfully integrated, harmonious honeyed leesy finish.

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

 

Crystallum The Agnes Chardonnay 2019, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

A beautiful expressive blend of Hemel-en-Aarde and Overberg Chardonnay fruit. The nose displays a wonderful saline, briney, taut mineral expression with notes of lime peel, lemon rind, honeydew melon and white peach. Restrained and focused on the palate entry, this is a very grown up, classy, serious Agnes that shows incredible restraint, minerality and mouth watering green apple crunch on the finish. Wow! This is so, so delicious. Crystalline pure Crystallum at its best! Bravo Peter-Allan!

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

 

Crystallum Peter Max 2019, WO Western Cape, 14 Abv.

A blend of four vineyards, three from the Hemel-en-Aarde and one high altitude Elandskloof vineyard. The nose speaks of old world Pinot Noir with classical mineral restraint, black bramble berries and earthy black currant with sweet, freshly cut straw aromatics. The palate is wonderfully crystalline and pure underpinned by a mouth watering acidity, fabulous varietal intensity, crunchy red berry energy and the most harmonious silky sleek texture. Hard to imagine how you could make a better Pinot Noir at this price point.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Other wines tasted:

Crystallum Mabalel 2018 Pinot Noir – 94+/100 GSMW

Crystallum Whole Bunch 2018 Pinot Noir – 95/100 GSMW

Gabrielskloof Landscape Series Syrah On Sandstone 2017 – 96/100 GSMW

The wines were presented alongside an incredible tasting menu at newly opened Sam’s Riverside Restaurant, the new venue for the famous Sam’s Brasserie that used to be in Chiswick, West London. The food was truly outstanding an helped cap off an superb evening of fine food and wine.

Peter-Allan with host and restaurant owner Sam Harrison.

Sam’s Riverside

1 Crisp Walk

Hammersmith

London

W6 9DN

Crystallum and Gabrielskloof are distributed in the UK by Liberty Wines.

DeMorgenzon Enters the Race Early Doors for Best Chardonnay Release of Vintage 2018…

DeMorgenzon, or ‘the morning sun,’ was so named as it is the first part of the Stellenboschkloof valley to see the sun because of its high altitude and aspects which cover the top southern and eastern slopes of Ribbokkop, overlooking the famous pinnacle of Kanonkop from where a cannon used to be fired to alert the farms in the region that a ship had arrived into Table Bay. The first road from Cape Town to Stellenbosch ran through the Stellenbosch Kloof.

DeMorgenzon farm has a very long history and was originally a section of Uiterwyk, one of the oldest farms in South Africa. In 1682 Uiterwyk, the ‘outer ward,’ was let to Dirk Cauchet before finally being granted to him by Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1699. Fast forward 300 years to 2003 when Wendy and Hylton Appelbaum bought DeMorgenzon and have since transformed it into a 90 hectare wine farm.

Under the expert winemaking guidance of Carl van der Merwe, DeMorgenzon has re-emerged as one of the top wineries in South Africa producing a wide range of white and red wines which is spearheaded by their Reserve Range of wines which includes a Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Syrah together with the wineries iconic Divas Chenin Blanc.

DeMorgenzon Chardonnay Reserve 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

The super expressive 2018 Reserve Chardonnay was hand-picked and whole-bunch-pressed before being matured in French oak barrels, 30% of which were new with the rest second passage and older. The nose hooks you from the very start, beginning an inescapable sensorial seduction. Fabulous layers of bitter lemon, orange peel zest, grapefruit marmalade, green apple and subtle cream soda lift are impressively tightly knit together with the most gentle, mineral suggestion of struck match reduction. The palate displays a notable clarity and purity together with harmony, finesse and a crystalline texture. Waves of orange zest, smokey lemon pastille, ruby grapefruit and yellow plum notes mix with a dusting of vanilla pod spice on a long, dreamy, lingering finish. This is benchmark premium Chardonnay from one of South Africa’s most talented winemakers. Drink now and over 5-8+ years.

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

The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable South African Red Wines of 2019…

What a great year of fine wine it has been yet again. I am in such a fortunate position to be able to no only taste the greatest wines of the world in a regular basis here in London and on my travels, but also taste the finest wines produced in South Africa on a regular basis while retaining a very measured, objective outlook in terms of where they really fit in the pecking order of international fine wine.

For my red top 10 selection, I have not merely selected my highest scoring wines of the year as that would be a little bit predictable, but I have selected wines that I found not only outstanding in quality terms but also memorable and thrilling to drink.

Also, I’d like to offer a special thanks to all the producers, many of them who are very good friends, that have offered me their time for my regular visits, tastings and importantly, lots of joyous eating and drinking together. Your hospitality is never taken for granted and greatly appreciated!

Happy New Year 2019. I believe 2020 is going to be an exceptional year of success.

Top 10 Reds (in no particular order):

Naude Family Wines Old Vine Series Oupa Willem 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

MR de Compostella Red Blend 2017- 98/100 GSMW

Vilafonte Series C Red Blend 2017 – 96+/100 GSMW

Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines Iron Syrah 2017 – 97/100 GSMW

Raats Family Eden Single Vineyard High Density Cabernet Franc 2017 – 98/100 GSMW

Thelema Rabelais Red Blend 2015 – 96+/100 GSMW

Savage Red Blend 2017 – 96/100 GSMW

Kanonkop Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 97/100 GSMW

Porseleinberg Syrah 2017 – 97/100 GSMW

Creation Emma Pinot Noir 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable South African White Wines of 2019…  

What a great year of fine wine it has been yet again. I am so fortunate to be in a position allowing me to taste not only the greatest wines of the world on a regular basis here in London as well as on my extensive travels, but also taste the finest wines produced in South Africa on a regular basis while always trying to retain a very measured, objective outlook in terms of where South Africa’s greatest wines really fit into the pecking order of international fine wine.

For my white top 10 selection, I have not merely selected my highest scoring wines of the year as that would be far too predictable, but I have instead chosen wines that I found not only outstanding in quality terms but also memorable, characterful and thrilling to drink.

I’d also like to offer a special thanks to all the producers, many of them close friends, that have offered me their time for my regular visits, tastings and importantly, lots of joyous eating and drinking together. Your hospitality and friendship is never taken for granted and greatly appreciated and treasured.

Happy New Year 2019. I truly believe 2020 is going to be another exceptional year of success for South African wine.

 

Top 10 Whites (in no particular order):

Restless River Ava Marie Chardonnay 2017 – 96+/100 GSMW

Sakkie Mouton Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

Alheit Family Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2018 – 97/100 GSMW

Cape Winemakers Guild Leeu Passant Radicales Libres Chardonnay 2014 – 97+/100 GSMW

David & Nadia Plat’Bos Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

Sadie Family OVS ‘T Voetpad White Blend 2018 – 97/100 GSMW

Sadie Family OVS Skurfberg Chenin Blanc 2018 – 97+/100 GSMW

Catherine Marshall Chenin Blanc Fermented in Clay 2017 – 95/100 GSMW

Kershaw Deconstructed Bokkeveld Shales Chardonnay 2017 CY548 – 96+/100 GSMW

(Picture courtesy of Keith Prothero)

Lismore Estate Reserve Viognier  2017 – 96+/100 GSMW

The Top 10 South African Reds of 2019 will follow soon!

Reenen Borman and the Patatsfontein Crew Deliver Another Montagu Stunner in 2018…

The low yielding 2018 drought vintage produced a lot of challenges for vintners but more often than not, yielded overall wine quality in bottle that far exceeded wine industry expectations pre-harvest. While the 2018 whites don’t necessarily have the same intensity, piercing concentration and acid frame that the 2017s exhibited, they do processes great flavour subtlety, crystalline purity, fine varietal typicity and an overall harmonious balance. The main vintage downside was that yields for many producers were reduced by between -30% and -60%, and perhaps down to -80% for some old vine dry grown vineyards, representing a mini catastrophe as global demand surged for South Africa’s top producers.

The old vine Patatsfontein Chenin Blanc white, now in its 5th vintage, is produced by winemaker talent Reenen Borman and business partners Henk Kotze and Fritz Schoon under the Ron Burgundy Wines venture and has established a high quality track record that places it among an elite group of top Chenin Blanc wines produced in South Africa.

Henk, Reenen and Fritz… HRF

Patatsfontein Old Vine Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2018, Montagu, 13.5 Abv.

Produced from an old vine single vineyard in Montagu, the 2018 Chenin Blanc represents another great success for the vintage. The aromatics boast mineral laden notes of wet stones, crushed granite, grey slate with dried hay, green pears and tangerine peel. The palate shows a fine harmonious balance with plenty of subtle complexity of pineapple pastille, green apple, crunchy white peach and a pithy stony mineral veneer. It will be interesting to see if the wine moves away from a mineral, lighter weight textural precision towards a more fleshy, glycerol expression after a few years in bottle. Either way, this is a serious top shelf, grown up effort that will have the loyal Chenin collectors scrambling to burying precious bottles in their cellars.

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

Ridge Monte Bello 2018 – Tasting One of the Most Highly Anticipated En-primeur Releases of the Year…

One of my favourite wine producers at anytime of the year let alone around Christmas time has got to be Ridge Vineyards. Is there a more Christmassy wine to match roast turkey and cranberry sauce than a fabulous vintage of Lytton Springs or Geyserville Zinfandel? But for me it has got to be their Monte Bello red blend and Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon that register as two of the most expressive fine wines produced anywhere in the world.

The latest Ridge releases are always highly anticipated and recently I tasted their Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 and also their benchmark Monte Bello red blend 2018. Only 75% of the components made the final blend for Monte Bello. Chatting to Eric Baugher in London, the 2012-2016 vintages were hot and dry, while 2017 was more hot and wet to start before reverting back to a hot and dry summer, with fruit harvested late August.

Tasting with Ridge’s Eric Baugher in London.

The 2018 growing season was marked by unusually erratic and unpredictable swings in temperature and rainfall. The 2018 vintage was back to drought conditions in December – January, usually the coldest and wettest months of winter, with some storms in March with massive rain bringing some relief. Some showers in the Monte Bello vineyard during bloom (mid-May) definitely resulted in reduced yields. The final run up to harvest was mild, not too hot or cold but water stress did finally kick in towards end of August as harvest beckoned, as a result of the dry winter conditions.

Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Santa Cruz Mountains, 13.8 Abv.

77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc blend. This 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon displays a very harmonious, integrated aromatic profile already with subtle notes of violets, lavender and white blossom supported by blueberry and black currant fruits, vanilla pod spice and pretty, complexing spice finery of cinnamon stick, tobacco leaf, and dried mint. The palate shows weight and gravitas, a broad fleshy texture twinned with vibrantly fresh acids and dry, powder fine tannins. Already so elegant and balanced but certainly plenty of extra horsepower waiting to exert itself. Give this wine a couple more years in the cellar and start popping corks from 2022+ onwards.

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

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2018, Santa Cruz Mountains (Barrel Sample Blend)

The Monte Bello site of Ridge Vineyards lies 2600 feet above sea level in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The 2018 is an indicative blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc. Young and plush, the attractive nose is understandably dense and dark fruited with a noticeable vail of brûléed oak spice, buttered brown toast and vanilla pod espresso nuances. But scratch the veneer and there are ample fruit notes of black currant, earthy cassis, black bramble berry dusted with toasted coffee bean spice. On the palate the flavours are more integrated and tight knit with a real freshness of acidity bolstering black berries, black cherry and a crunchy blue berry vitality. Sleek and mouth-fillingly textural but also quite a bit more serious than the Cabernet Sauvignon (blend) with additional multi-dimensional layers of leafy sap, graphite and a pulsating muscular mineral tannin core. An enthralling, captivating wine that carries off a very well rehearsed act of fine wine seduction.

(Wine Safari Score: 97-98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The 2018 Ridge Monte Bello is scheduled for physical release in the Autumn of 2021 but is being offered for sale En-primeur now from fine wine merchants.

Tasting the Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2018 Tinta Barocca…

Made from 44 year old Tinta Barocca sourced from a vineyard in the Swartland planted in 1974, the new 2018 Treinspoor release appears to have found yet another gear of superior quality not often seen with this variety in South Africa.

 

Reading my back notes on previous vintages for Treinspoor, I noted my own enthusiastic score for the 2016 while Eben Sadie regarded the 2015 as one of his finest expressions. This 2018 certainly has an elegance and sophistication I’ve not seen on any Tinta Barocca reds from South Africa before. Chatting to Eben about Tinta Barocca in the past, he always 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.” 

Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2018, Swartland, 13 Abv.

This 2018 aged in old foudres really is a delicious, supremely impressive rendition of one of the slightly less acclaimed reds in the Old Vine Series wine range. Possibly the most seductive vintage produced to date, this incredible Swartland Tinta Barocca boasts a wonderfully perfumed nose of fresh lavender, incense, fynbos and garrigue over a plush aromatic melange of blueberry reduction, black cherry and wood smoked dried herbs. The palate is cool, complex and compact with a fine soft fleshy black berry concentration that shows hints of Parma violet rock candy, grape jelly, pink musk, granitic minerality and finely textured chalky tannins. But it’s the overall harmonious balance paired with a regal intensity and freshness that just possibly elevates this 2018 expression to the finest Treinspoor Eben Sadie has produced so far. A very impressive wine indeed!

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