The Silent Operator… Master Winemaker Adam Mason Really Knows His Stuff…

I was so pleased to catch up with Adam Mason recently to taste the ex-Klein Constantia winemaker’s delicious range of wines produced outside of his day job at Mulderbosch. The Raised By Wolves selection is really quite awesome and definitely worth tracking down, being made from different old vine vineyards across the Cape. Adam has crafted some very serious wines and while the La Colline Semillon is a benchmark classic, the Chenin Blanc represents a real classical expression that has massive punter-appeal.

Adam Mason Raised By Wolves 2016 Chenin Blanc Driehoek, Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

Another fine expression of South African Chenin Blanc made from the rare Montpellier clone, resurrected and made famous (again) by Bruwer Raats with his high density Eden Chenin Blanc. This 2016 is elegant, rich and opulent showing creamy yellow fleshy fruit, lemon biscuits, salty sea breeze notes, brine, and pithy white peach and pear fruit. Lovely concentration, excellent core tension, and impressive complexity and focus. A wine that conveys confidence and precision. The finish is long, vibrant and intense with attractive dried herb notes and mint leaf spice which combine well with the most seductive orange blossom and tangerine peel depth. This is one to buy now and drink, or even cellar for 5 to 8 years for more complexity.

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

Chris and Andrea Mullineux Capture the Essence of the 2015 Vintage with Their Impressive Single Terroir Granite Chenin Blanc…

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines is on top of its game at the moment. Inspired by the successful range extension with their uber premium but equally high quality Leeu Passant wines, it seems Chris and Andrea can do no wrong. But of course their phenomenal success globally is purely down to good old hard work in the vineyards and the winery. When you make outstanding wines, marketing and selling them becomes an altogether easier, more enjoyable endeavour.


Grapes for their 2015 Granite Chenin were sourced from 2 parcels of sustainably farmed old vine, dry farmed bush vines planted in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg. The vineyards are 39 and 43 years old. These very deep decomposed Granite soils tend to produce wines with great acidity and a flinty, stony aromatic profile. Grapes were harvested between the 29th January and 6th February 2015 with a yield of 6 tons/ha (30HL/ha).

Chris showing me their Granite, Schist and Quartz Chenin Old Vine vineyards in March.

Grapes were first chilled in their cold room then pressed whole-bunch and the juice allowed to settle overnight. Minimal SO2 is added and, as with all their wines, no further additions are made. The juice is then racked to barrel for fermentation which is with indigenous yeasts and lasts for about 4 weeks. The wine is left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation has completed. The barrels are then racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. 12 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%, RS 1.6 g/l, TA 5.6 g/l, pH 3.3.


Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2015, WO Swartland, 13.5 Abv

A beautifully crafted wine from the Mullineuxs, this single terroir expression of Chenin Blanc shows incredibly flinty minerality and salinity. The nose bursts with crushed granite dust, lemon grass, dried herbs, and dried orange peel. I love the austerity and dried grass spice. The aromatic breadth and complexity follows to the palate except the volume is turned up a few notches. Pin point purity, intense electric acids and amplified tangerine and orange citrus zest cloak the palate and almost overwhelm the senses. A very measured, well proportioned wine with extra concentration and acid intensity to suggest a long life lies ahead if we’ll cellared. Drink now to 2030+

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

With Chris in an old vine Chenin vineyard near Siebrietskloof on the decomposed Granite slopes of the Paardeberg

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Old Vine Swartland Chenin Blanc Proves Its Pedigree Yet Again…

David Sadie was born and bred in the Swartland and studied viticulture and oenology at the University of Stellenbosch. It was there that he met and later married Nadia, a qualified soil scientist and viticulturalist. Together, they have crafted some of the most profound wines coming out of South Africa. 


I became acquainted with the single vineyard wines a few years back when David was making 3 different versions. Last year, the 2015 Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc trounced all before it in the annual Decanter Magazine Blind South African Chenin Blanc Tasting, scoring an eye watering 98 point consensus with all three judges. Well yes, I was one of the three judges and I stand by my score, blind or sighted.

With David Sadie and my fellow 98 point Decanter Magazine judge, Tim Atkin MW

Sadly, the 2015 stock disappeared like a small rain puddle evaporating in the midday heat of the Karoo dessert. But what do you expect when only just over 300 bottles or one barrel were produced. In 2016, David bottled two single vineyard wines, the Hoe Steen and the Skaliekop Chenin Blanc. 

Made from dry land farmed bush vines planted in 1968 on decomposed granite based soils with Koffee Klip and Quartz on top, on the western side of Malmesbury. The grapes were wholebunch pressed using minimal sulphur during the short cold settling for the juice before being wracked into barrel for spontaneous fermentation and malolactic fermentation. The wine ages for around 12 months in two old 400 litre French oak barrels. In 2016, production was upped to a massive 530 bottles. pH 3.41, RS 3.0 g/l, TA 5.5 g/l, total SO2 127 mg/l.


David & Nadie Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Swartland, 13.39 Abv.

Like many of the 2016 Chenin Blancs, this wine displays more subtlety, restraint, elegance and finesse with a slightly more refined, fine boned structure than the big, broad, intense 2015 expressions. The nose is more delicate and soft spoken, showing white peach, crunchy green pear, tangerine peel, fynbos, baking herbs, and incredible dusty, crushed granite mineral lift. The palate is electric and fresh with a dry lemon, rasping mineral intensity, subtle smoky reduction and picante spice notes. Like the 2015, there are beautiful, beguiling saline maritime notes that spar with the bold zippy acids. This vintage is all about speaking intelligently with authority and sophistication rather than preaching in a loud, punchy, doctrinal style. The extra restraint, twinned with balance, harmony and inner core tension make for another profound Chenin Blanc expression. Drink now or keep for 8 to 15+ years.

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

Assyrtiko – The Grape and the Winery That Could Show South Africa the Way Forward… 

In the wake of the Greek financial crisis in 2010, Yannis Valambous, who lived around the corner from my shop in South Kensington, came in and bid his farewell, saying he was heading back to Greece to open a winery. Needless to say, I rolled my eyes, wished him all the best and thought he might possibly be the craziest or bravest individual I knew. And that was the last I heard from him… until 2016.


Yiannis returned to Santorini, his childhood holiday destination, with a plan that was part dream, part folly, which was to revive the family vineyards he inherited from his father and create a modern, state-of-the-art, boutique winery.

Fast forward and the Vassaltis Winery is now the latest addition to Santorini’s booming wine culture, with construction completed in April 2016. Together with Oenologists Elias Roussakis and Yannis Papaeconomou, who complete the team, they share the vision that Santorini can produce world class wines, and that a new generation of Greek winemakers can deliver big results, given the opportunity.
Typically, the white wine vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks, under controlled temperature. The wine remains on its lees for 6 months, in the tank before bottling.


Vassaltis Assyrtiko 2016, DO Santorini, 13.5 Abv.

A deceptively dark straw colour, this wine is as fresh as a Greek Spring morning. The nose is so pronounced and precise being an incredible mix of salty sea breeze, kelp beds, crushed granite, dried orange peel and dusty dried baking herbs. But there is also an undertone of richness and citrus fruit freshness that follows to a palate of vibrant yellow stone fruits, white peach, grapefruit, mineral austerity, and a saline, tart acidity. But with all great Assyrtiko whites, the over riding influence is maritime, salty, mouth watering acidity and rasping, mesmerising mineral austerity. A wine Eben Sadie in the Swartland would be proud to have made, which is a real badge of honour! Drink now to 2025+

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

The winery is open to visitors year-round, in addition to tours that introduce visitors to the indigenous grape varieties of the island and the unique viticultural practices that have been a tradition in Santorini for centuries.

Vassaltis Vineyards Winery:

Vourvoulos, Santorini

84700, Greece

Contact: Yannis Valambous

Tel: +30-22860-22211 

Fax: +30-27110-544450

info@vassaltis.com

http://www.vassaltis.com

Visiting Hours: 11am – 8pm (or by appointment for Groups)

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)

The Monday Morning Fog Clears in London to Reveal Another Delicious Wine From Mullineux Family Wines…

Fog Monster wines from Amador County, California (Sierra Foothills) is another boutique project from Andrea and Chris Mullineux of Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. Andrea, originally from California, together with husband Chris, have been sourcing unique vineyard parcels in the Sierra Foothills, where the vineyards are exposed to interesting Californian climatic conditions.


In the case of coastal California, the offshore marine layer is typically propelled inland by a pressure gradient which develops as a result of intense heating inland, blanketing coastal communities in cooler air which, if saturated, also contains fog. The fog often lingers until the heat of the sun becomes strong enough to evaporate it, often lasting into the afternoon.


I have not tasted this wine for several years, even though I have several bottles hidden in my cellar, but today it stood out as a real revelation, brimming with characterful energy and freshness. Made from Chenin Blanc from the Story Vineyard (un-grafted rootstocks at 1900 feet), the wine is essentially esoteric in nature, but certainly delicious with broad appeal.

Fog Monster Chenin Blanc 2012, Amador County, California, 12 Abv.

Rich Sauternes yellow colour, the aromatics are initially tight and broody, showing pithy mineraly lemon zest and peach stone fruit. Complexity grows rapidly in the glass where apple puree, orange blossom, and dried Sauternes-like notes of orange peel and lemon / peach tea infusions develop. The mouthfeel is so cool, taught, and tight knit, bristling with wound spring tension and core freshness on a most seductive, textured, lengthy finish. Beautiful weight, fine balance and incredible precision. A really lovely natural leaning, minimal intervention wine. 

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

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting Suertes del Marques Blanco Dulce Solera NV (Nov 2014 Edition)…

Since circa 2011, Suertes del Marques has produced a tiny amount of dessert wine from primarily Listan Blanco. The must is drawn off the other white cuvées and fermented to around 8 or 9 Abv before being fortified with spirit to 15% Abv. Only around 100 x 50cl bottles are produced each year and are marked with the date they were drawn from the Solera. They did not have an accurate spec sheet for the wine when I visited, but based on taste, this wine must have an RS of between 80 and 120 g/l residual sugar(?)


Suertes del Marques Blanco Dulce Solera NV (Nov 2014 Edition), Listan Blanco / Malvasia Aromatica, Valle de la Orotava DO, Tenerife, 15 Abv.

The colour is striking, being a wonderfully translucent shade of old gold and dark straw. On the nose, the senses are assaulted with notes of caramelised nuts, toffee apples, butterscotch, Madagascan vanilla pod, caramelised white peaches and the most vivid Sauternes like notes of dried apricots and bruleed oranges. But this is neither a late harvested wine nor a botrytis wine, and so the fruit aromatics remain pure and intense. The palate reveals great harmony and elegance, superb integration of sweet fruit and vanilla oak spice notes with seamless fresh acids and a long, honied, nutty finish. There are no clawing sugary notes or any tiring jammy fruits. Everything is superbly well proportioned and eminently drinkable. I expressed my dismay that Suertes del Marques don’t commercialise this wine further. It’s so delicious and food friendly (we enjoyed a bottle with Tenerife goats cheese and walnuts) that it would certainly find an instant cult following on the dinner party tables of London. In the past, only a handful of bottles were exported, but hopefully we will see a little more of this wine in London.

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