Tasting and Assessing the The Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction Super Lot Wines in London…

I was recently invited to preview the individual wines of the CF&RA super lot in London at the Goodman Gallery. After a very instructive introduction and overview by Michael Fridjhon, we were let loose on some iconic South African whites and reds.

The Super Lot Auction took take place on Thursday 28th November 2019 at Christie’s London.

 

With Michael Fridjhon in front of a magnificent William Kentridge work of art.

Full list of wines, with The Fine Wine Safari scores from the preview tasting in brackets:

LOT A

Sparkling

Graham Beck, Méthode Cap Classique Blanc de Blancs, Robertson, Western Cape 2009 (92/100 GSMW)

Whites

Alheit Vineyards, Cartology Bush Vines, Western Cape 2011 (96/100 GSMW)

DeMorgenzon, The Divas Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch 2013 (96+/100 GSMW)

Jordan Wine Estate, Nine Yards Chardonnay, Stellenbosch 2015 (93+/100 GSMW)

Ken Forrester Wines, The FMC, Stellenbosch 2009 (92+/100 GSMW)

Reds

De Toren Private Cellar, Fusion V, Stellenbosch 2004 (92/100 GSMW)

Kanonkop Wine Estate, Pinotage, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch 2006 (91+/100 GSMW)

Rustenberg Wines, Peter Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2009 (95/100 GSMW)

LOT B

Whites

David & Nadia, Hoë-Steen, Swartland 2016 (96/100 GSMW*)

*This is my recent tasting score from my sit down archive tasting with David Sadie as the bottle on show here showed slight cork taint.

Kaapzicht Wine Estate, 1947 Chenin Blanc, Bottelary, Stellenbosch 2014 (93/100 GSMW)

Richard Kershaw Wines, Clonal Selection Chardonnay, Elgin 2015 (95/100 GSMW)

Reds

Bartinney, Cabernet Sauvignon, Banghoek, Stellenbosch 2011 (90/100 GSMW)

Eikendal Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2015 (92/100 GSMW)

Plaisir de Merle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paarl 1995 (93/100 GSMW)

Spioenkop Wines, 1900 Pinotage, Stellenbosch 2011 (91/100 GSMW)

Morgenster, Estate Reserve, Stellenbosch 2004 (93+/100 GSMW)

Fortified

Boplass Family Vineyards, Cape Vintage Reserve, Western Cape 2006 (92/100 GSMW)

What this archive selection showed was the incredible age worthy character of South Africa’s Chenin Blanc whites, not too dissimilar to Grand Cru Burgundy, and the classical complexity and elegance of South Africa’s top reds. Considering the cost price of many of these wines on release, these wines represent “fine wine bargains.”

Watch out for further up coming rare South African wine auctions at Strauss & Co Fine Wine Auctions in Johannesburg and Cape Town and further Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auctions in Cape Town.

Vega Sicilia’s New Release Tasting 2019 in London with Antonio Menendez Puente…

The Ribera del Duero is located in Spain’s northern plateau and is one of eleven Quality Wine regions within the autonomous community of Castile and Leon. It is of course also one of the most recognised and admired high quality fine wine producing regions to be found along the course of the Duero river. A largely flat, hot, dry rocky terrain that is centred around the town of Aranda de Duero, the region was upgraded from DOC to DOCa (denominacion de origen calificada) status in 2008 helped in large part by the global reputation and quality of the wines of Bodegas Vega Sicilia.

 

Undoubtedly considered the “first growth” of Spain and one of the most prestigious and respected wineries in Europe, this incredible producer located in the Ribera del Duero east of Valladolid, covers over 1000 hectares with around 230 under vine. Founded in 1864 by Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, who arrived from Bordeaux with cuttings of local grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, and planted them together with Spain’s signature grape Tinto Fino, a local clone of Tempranillo.

 

The nearby Bodegas Alion estate is the final piece in the Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero puzzle, producing superb high quality wines that can normally be enjoyed in their youth or aged for at least a decade or more. Completing the portfolio selection is their Pintia from D.O. Toro and finally the new(ish) Macan Rioja wines made under the Bodegas Benjamin de Rothschild Vega Sicilia joint venture.

Macan Clasico 2016, Rioja DOCa

The hallmark opulent exotic Macan nose is beautifully marked by sweet lavender, black berry fruits, creme de cassis and a plush brûléed veil of vanilla pod and buttered brown toast. The palate texture is fabulously pinpoint and polished with very fine grained stony tannins offset against a fairly classical, medium bodied weight of fruit. Plenty of succulence and appeal.

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

Macan 2015, Rioja DOCa

The Macan big brother shows a noticeably darker tone of berry fruits with lifted notes of black cherry, blue berry and raisined damson plums that combine synergistically with nuances of grey slate, graphite and molasses. Sleek and lush on the entry, the palate is held tightly in check by a fine, noble framing acidity that lends tension and a feel of linearity to the texture. Tannins are very fine, powdery and grippy but we’ll balanced with the intense, saline black berry fruits. A really classy edition that needs nothing more than a few more years in the cellar before drinking.

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

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Pintia 2015, DO Toro

A wine that grows in stature every successive vintage release. This great Spanish vintage offers up a deep, ripe, broody melange of molasses, raisined black plum, black currant reduction and smokey graphite spice. The palate is plump and glycerol with fruit opulence that is slightly clipped in its youth but which shows fine developmental promise with its crystalline acids and super sleek slatey mineral tannins. A lovely expression.

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

Bodegas Alion 2016, DOCa Ribera del Duero

This Alion has a fabulously dark fruited exotic nose with plenty of alluring blue and purple berry fruits, Parma violets and pink rock candy. The wonderful aromatic purity and precision continues on to a super lithe, supple, elegantly textured palate braced with fresh cool acids and tart black berry and black cherry intensity. The oak is impressively integrated already and the palate fruit weighted in the favour of finesse and creamy elegance. A really regal expression of Alion and possibly one of my favourite vintages in several years.

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

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Valbuena No.5 2015, DOCa Ribera del Duero

Initially the aromatics on this Valbuena are tight, classical and ever so slightly broody with subtle notes of brown toast, vanilla pod, molasses and a caramelised plum note. The palate is bold and sleek, finely textured and notably elegant and fine boned. There is also plenty of ripe black fruit, cassis reduction, caramelised nuts and Christmas pudding exoticism. The sleek mid weight concentration and polished, sweet tannins point to possibly a slightly earlier drinking version but certainly no rush to open as usual.

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

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva 2010, DOCa Ribera del Duero

Another finely layered, rich expressive Unico that is just starting to blossom after almost a decade. The nose is deep, dark fruited and earthy with sweet tannery leather, Christmas pudding, molasses and milk chocolate coated raisin nuances. Plummy, sweet fruited and wonderfully complex, this has the acid frame, glycerol concentration and baked black fruit intensity and power for the long haul. A very classy, well balanced sumptuous Unico.

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

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Reserva Especial NV (2020), DOCa Ribera del Duero

Like the Unico, this Reserva Especial is entrancingly deep and savoury with earthy black fruits concertinaed between tannery leather, wet river stones and graphite minerality. The palate is dense, weighty and glycerol with layers of earthy black brambly fruits that coat the mouth. So fabulously full, expansive, plump and concentrated yet it never loses its freshness or textural frame or shape. Lovely intensity and complexity, this is quite simply another blockbuster with youthful purity, glycerol unctuousness and sublime harmony and balance.

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

Naude Family Wines Launches the New Oupa Willem Old Vine Cinsault / Cabernet Sauvignon Heritage Blend 2018…

Fully appreciating a wine region’s heritage is one of the most important building blocks for long term future success. This premium Old Vine red from Naude Family Wines draws on the unique South African expression of Darling bush vine Cinsault blended with prime Cabernet Sauvignon from Durbanville to create something quite magical in the context of cool, classical, linear styles of premium South African red wine. 

Fermented dry naturally to 12% Abv. using 40% whole bunches, this elegant red wine displays a fabulous brightness and a weightless concentration of red and black berry fruits that are embroidered with classical fragrant notes of red cherry, rose petals, violets and marzipan underpinned by a mouth watering acidity.

Indeed all the amazing old historical South African red wines of the 1950s and 1960s exploited this incredible synergy between the elegance, finesse and lithe supple purity of Cinsault and the plushness, power, flesh and textural concentration of the Cabernet Sauvignon. Once these varieties join hands in union, the whole is immediately incrementally greater than the sum of its individual parts. Having tasted and reviewed every wine Ian has ever made, this incredible Oupa Willem 2018 release represents a new pinnacle of quality in the next chapter of Naude Family Wines. Drink now or cellar for 20+ years.

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

A Vintage of Elegant Intensity and Quality Elevates Vilafonte Series C 2017 To Must Have Vintage Status…

While I received a sample of the 2017 Series C to taste a number of weeks ago, I had already heard rumours via the grape vine that the Vilafonte Series C 2016 had won the best red blend at the Six Nations Trophy competition. But of course I knew the incredible quality Vilafonte had achieved with their Series C 2016, having reviewed it way back in October 2018, would be an incredibly hard act to follow. Such was the quality focus at this precision viticulture winery that even the second wine, Seriously Old Dirt 2016 has become something of a collectable commodity in Europe of late.

 

But after the incredibly dry and hot 2016, the 2017 harvest presented an abundant crop of sterling quality. Yields rose by fifty-seven percent, despite the fourth year in a sequence of below-average rainfall for the Western Cape Province. This follows Vilafonte’s smallest per-hectare crop (2016) and moves back to long-term average yields. Welcome post-harvest rains in the preceding year before leaf fall, coupled with well-timed nutrient applications, allowed the vines to build up reserves before going into winter dormancy.

Winter rains in 2016 approached normal levels, but fell below average in late winter to spring. Bud-break in the spring was very even, with rapid shoot growth which ceased well before bloom, allowing excellent fruit-set. Weather leading up to harvest was warm and fair – perfect ripening conditions according to owner Mike Ratcliffe. Harvest commenced on the 6th of February with a few short pauses, and concluded on the 1st of March2017.

 

Mike Ratcliffe states that “at time of blending, varietal components were very expressive, showing a classical elegance rather than an intensity and power”. Aged for 22 months in 70% new French oak barrique, with the balance in older French oak barriques, the Series C 2017 consists of Cabernet Sauvignon (57%), Merlot (21%), Cabernet Franc (13%) and Malbec (9%) with a total of 46 barrels being produced.

 

Vilafonte Series C 2017, WO Paarl, 14.5 Abv.

After the drought of 2016, all producers can honestly admit to being amazed by the quality both the white and red wines realised in 2017. But for Vilafonte, the pressure would have been incrementally higher after defying the vintage odds in 2016 to produced arguably the finest South African red blend of the vintage with their Series C 2016. But great vintages are all about taking the opportunities nature presents and Vilafonte seems to have been equally ready to make the most of this exceptional vintage. The Series C 2017 certainly displays an incredibly deep, dark broody garnet-purple colour with imposing extract and concentration. On the nose, this youthful release is a little closed to begin with but opens up in the glass offering alluring notes of incense, sweet vanilla pod, caramelised cashew nuts, black berry reduction, juniper berry and dusty, graphite tinged black chocolate exoticism. The palate is velvety and supple with a most generous, multi-layered mouthfeel of blueberry, black cherries, saline cassis and a charcoal tinged buttered brown toasty finish. Where the 2015 release showed a more masculine power, the 2017 is the personification of intensity with elegance, finesse and grace. A producer can wait decades to realise a vintage like this that possesses this degree of poise, intensity and weightless concentration combined with a decadently fruited complexity and composure. A spellbinding new release from Vilafonte. Indulge yourself by drinking a few bottles in its youth, however the 2017 is certainly worthy of over a decade or more of cellaring to realise its full potential.

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

The Bizios Estate in Greece’s Nemea Region Releases Its 2018 Asproskampos White Blend…

Elias Bizios is the owner of an impressive estate in Asproskampos, known to the locals as “little Tuscany” in Nemea, Greece. Here Elias has farmed a small patch of vineyards but always found it difficult to make a living with such a small production. So it was always his ambition to acquire additional adjoining vineyard holdings to increase his production. 

In 2016, Wimbledon Wine Cellar owned by Greek Cypriot Andrew Pavli based in London, purchased an additional 3 hectares of prime Malagouzia, Agiorgritiko Assyrtiko and Chardonnay vineyards with view to enlarging the total production at the Bizios Estate. This increased production has now started to come to fruition and the release of the 2018 white blend modelled predominantly around the Malagouzia grape but bolstered by the classism and pedigree of Chardonnay has created yet another exceptional white expression that really shows the potential of well made Greek white wines.

Bizios Aspros Kampos Chardonnay Malagouzia Blend 2018, Nemea, Greece, 13 Abv.

The 2018 vintage is a delicious blend of 65% Chardonnay and 35% Malagouzia ia and presents itself as an impressively fragrant, aromatic expression full of waxy green apples, spiced pears, dried baking herbs, warm fresh white baguette and a fine dusty stony mineral note. The palate is equally appealing with a really harmonious fleshy glycerol round mouthfeel boasting notes of green honeydew melon, apple pastilles and candied sweet fig. The acidity is supple, soft and gentle and keeps the wine pure and vibrant but also incredibly generous and friendly. A really appealing expression and one of my favourites since the 2016!

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines Release Another Sublime Range of New Single Terroir Vintages…

Ask any international critic to mention their top 5 prestige fine wine producers in South Africa and without doubt Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines will feature in the lineup regardless of whether that person is a Syrah or Chenin Blanc obsessive.

Within their range, it is undoubtedly the Single Terroir releases from Andrea and Chris Mullineux representing different terroir expressions that year on year push the boundaries of quality but have also cemented this estate’s international standing amongst the great wineries of the world.

Whether buying for further cellaring or as a sneaky investment, this range of Mullineux wines represents a star buy. Available from Great Domaines in South Africa, Skurnik Wines in the USA and Fields Morris & Verdin in the UK.

Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Swartland

Produced from two 42-year-old parcels on the Paardeberg, the wine shows attractive sweet crunchy green fruits, massive palate concentration of green melon, sweet lemon and herb spice and a very long, plush, bon bon infused candied finish. Plenty of texture and mouthfeel but also a fabulously confident vein of steely Chenin acidity. Truly classy.

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

Mullineux Quartz Leliefontein Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Swartland

From a single 37-year-old vineyard on the Kasteelberg. This youthful wine is steely, tighter and more mineral with dried herbs, lemon grass, apple peel, pithy green fruits and crunchy orchard fruits nuances. Broad and fleshy, a very harmonious mid-palate dominates with the fruit / acid / mineral balance beautifully integrated and seemless. Lovely vein of acidity with impressive generosity and appeal.

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

Mullineux Granite Syrah 2017, WO Swartland

Fruit sourced from a 23-year-old vineyard on the Paardeberg. Shows high toned notes of red fruit, raspberry confit, cherries dipped in chocolate, cinnamon and exotic sweet clove tobacco spice. Sleek, opulent and generous, immaculately polished, concentrated yet weightless, this is super classy and elegant with a certain deft feminine touch.

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

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2017, WO Swartland

This beautifully manicured 20-year-old vineyard on the Mullineux’s Kasteelberg farm Roundstone shows a more tight and broody expression with darker, blacker berry fruits and more classical notes of black olive, cured meets, earthy savoury black plum and a sweet black peppercorn tinged berry spice finish. A super sleek, elegant and consummately confident, self assured polished expression of premium Syrah that epitomises the whole Mullineux red wine experience.

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

Mullineux Iron Syrah 2017, WO Swartland

This single 18-year-old vineyard near Malmesbury is perhaps never as seductive as the Schist cuvée when young but perhaps it’s the extra stern profile that always makes this one of my favourites. A big, bold wine that combines the old world savoury, mineral character of the Northern Rhône with the new world elegance of the Swartland. Plenty of dried allspice, grilled herbs, massively savoury and bloody with a meaty density and a plush, powerful textural depth, spicy, stony mineral tannins and a long, long rasping, powerful chalky length. The very best of both Old and New World styles, this wine is more challenging but will be infinitely more rewarding in the long run.

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

Three Sticks Release their New Benchmark Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2016…

This week in late September was all about Californian wine in London with the Collectable California Tasting at the US Embassy showcasing some incredible wines from Harlan to Scarecrow, Ovid to Silver Oak. However great the Californian reds are, one thing these US producers are masters of is the production of really interesting premium Chardonnay.

One of my favourite whites on show was the exceptional 2016 new release Three Sticks Chardonnay. Owned by proprietor William S. Price III, the Durell Vineyard forms part of this producers flagship vineyard holdings and has been the source of iconic Sonoma Chardonnay for several decades.

Grown on rocky ancient river bed and red volcanic clay soils, this vineyard site has been recognised for its ability to produce exceptional Chardonnay grapes that show wonderful fruit intensity along with impressive harmony while simultaneously expressing the minerality inherent in this site’s terroir.

Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Sonoma Coast, 14.5 Abv.

A delicious bright enticing lemon yellow, this wine has a lofty complex bouquet of pithy white citrus, leesy lemon cream biscuits, dried herbs, gingerbread and a pronounced crushed gravel minerality. Full, round, intense and glycerol in the mouth with the silky, fleshy lemon pastille fruit concentration punctuated by piquant, zippy fresh acids and sweet grapefruit confit and vanilla pod oak complexity. The pedigree of the Durell Vineyard fruit is clear for all to see. Classically cool climate Californian in style, this is a truly flavour packed expression of premium Sonoma coast Chardonnay.

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