Attending the London Launch of Bodegas Noemia’s New Releases with Owner ~ Winemaker Hans Vinding-Diers…

I have been buying the impressively individual Patagonian Malbecs from Bodegas Noemia for several years. But unlike the swathes of other Argentinian Malbecs on the market, however well made and enjoyable to drink they may be, many lack that extra individuality, tension, freshness, finesse and complexity. These are all the characteristics that for me, typify the wines made by Hans Vinding-Diers.

Listening to Hans speak is such a privilege as he conveys so animatedly, his passion and determination to make the very best wines possible, very much in the same vein that other winemaking greats do such as Dirk Niepoort in Portugal or indeed his cousin, Peter Sisseck of Dominio de Pingus in Spain.

The new releases for Bodegas Noemia included the new, never before tasted, 2016 A Lisa in its new style Burgundy bottle, the J.Alberto Malbec 2015, and lastly the hotly anticipated Noemia 2015 old vine Malbec.

Bodegas Noemia A Lisa Malbec 2016, Patagonia, 13 Abv.

The new bottle shape seems to be in recognition that this wine is pulling in a different direction to most Malbecs. Pie Franco vines from selection massale, grown on sandy soils from multiple selected vineyards, yearns to be more Burgundy than Bordeaux. Still in a very youthful posture, the nose is rich and spicy with layers of cedar and sappy spice, stem ginger, clove and boxwood. In its Burgundian guise, the wine is impressively elegant and fragrant, showing violets, incense and waxy red berry fruit lift. The palate possess a wonderful, delineated texture, being formed of a 75% stainless steel portion and a 25% portion aged in 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels for 9 months. This new release is superbly suave, elegantly fleshy, and true to its feminine form. A great buy for the price point. 

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

J.Alberto Malbec 2015, Patagonia, 13.5 Abv.

This stalwart of the range is a 95% Malbec and 5% Merlot blend from a 4 hectare vineyard that has been farmed organically and biodynamically since 2006. 30% was aged in cement tank and 70% in second fill French oak. Vines were planted in 1955 on gravel and clay, with alluvial riverbed soils. At 1.8 meters depth, the vines hit the slightly saline water table, anecdotally adding a slight salty twang to the musts. The 2015 is voluptuously rich, dark and broody with notes of incense, spice, bramble berry, cassis and sweet Victoria plum. There is such a dense texture, an opulent fleshy mocha tinged mulberry depth and a beautifully complex breadth. This is a seriously impressive wine with focus, balance and length. 

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

Bodegas Noemia 2015, Patagonia, 14.5 Abv.

I recently reviewed the amazing 2012 from Hans and the wine still lingers in the back of my mind. Again, this is another 100% Malbec from the designated 1.5 hectare old vine Malbec vineyard planted in 1932. Cropped at only 30 hectolitres per hectare, this premium wine displays a rich, intense broody nose of black plum, cassis, and strawberry confit, with a really dense core and intensity. The nose draws you in and holds you transfixed. 33% new French oak in 600 litre barrels is used making the palate seamless, harmonious and creamy but also with such impressive balance and finesse. The wine has a start but no defined finish, with complex, opulent flavours that just linger on, and on, and on! Such subtlety, this wine really shows a happy vineyard made by a happy winemaker. A real beauty. (Bottled December 2016)

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

Torbreck The Laird Launch Tasting ~ Pitching the New 2012 Release Head to Head with the Highly Acclaimed 2006…

After attending the launch of Torbreck Winery’s new vintage release of their super premium Shiraz Cuvee The Laird, all I could conclude is that perhaps I don’t drink enough of these great wines. Torbreck especially, has long been regarded as one of Australia’s top wineries producing world class wines from dry grown old vines on the north western fringe of the Barossa Valley.

The Laird Cuvee is certainly top of the tree in quality, coming from an old vine Shiraz single vineyard in Marananga. First produced in 2005 and launched to much acclaim, it soon garnered the perfect 100 points from The Wine Advocate. Aged for 3 years in Dominique Laurent barriques, this perfect southeast facing, dry grown, old vine Shiraz vineyard was planted in 1958 on classic western Barossa soils. The resulting small, concentrated berries produced consistently from this site make The Laird Cuvee a wine capable of long-term cellaring. 

Northern Grounds – Altitude 280-450m 

This includes vineyards in the vicinity of Seppeltsfield, Marananga, Stone Well, Greenock, Gomersal, Ebenezer and Kalimna. The renowned Western Ridge runs from the north of Greenock, through Seppeltsfield and pushes into the Central Grounds near Gomersal.

The soils here are predominately red-yellow brown loams over red clay. Shattered ironstones are found in the soils of the Western Ridge and the soils are shallower here than elsewhere. A small section of yellow and white sands is found in the area of Kalimna. Wines from the Western Ridge are full-bodied, rich and concentrated with a deep purple red colour. The texture is round, velvety and firm with strong expressive tannins and aromas of blueberry, chocolate and cocoa powder. 

Torbreck The Laird Shiraz 2012, Barossa Valley, 15.5 Abv.

The latest release from this Marananga single vineyard is another block buster Shiraz. Rich, opulent and laden with black berry fruits, this wine has a seductive nose of tar, black liquorice, bruleed black fruits, Victoria plum spice, blue berry crumble freshly out the oven and a measured lick of expensive sophisticated oak. The secret of this Vineyard is its ability to produce fruit with great phenolics, excellent pHs and super acid / fruit balance combined with a harmonious structure. Indeed, the concentration of fruit is amazingly intense yet so balanced with complex hints of roasted coffee beans, creme brûlée, espresso, savoury cassis, and blue berry with a most luxuriously opulent, ageless finish. This certainly is a super luxury wine worthy of its premium price. Drink from 2020 to 2045+

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

Torbreck The Laird Shiraz 2006, Barossa Valley, 15 Abv.

As if tasting the new release Laird Shiraz 2012 wasn’t special enough, I got to taste it along side the second release 2006 to compare and contrast and to assess this wine’s style 11 years on. The aromatics remain sweetly fruited with an exotic lifted nose of creme brûlée, creme de cassis, blue berries and perfumed black berry spice. There is also an incredibly opulent vein showing tantalising saline cassis, salty liquorice, and a sappy, savoury complexity combined with the most youthful fragrant lift. The palate is soft, supple, opulent and supremely luxurious in feel. The complexity is staggering, the texture and concentration awe inspiring, and the finish impressively long and vibrant. Makes you wonder how much better a wine of this style can get? Whether or not you like Australian wines, or even riper styles of Shiraz, this is a monumental effort. Drink now to 2040+

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

Tasting Andre Bruyns’ Superb Second Vintage of City On A Hill 2016 in the Swartland…

So yesterday, after a very hectic weekend of vineyard exploration and tasting in the Swartland, I headed back to Stellenbosch stopping enroute at David Sadie’s leased cellar at the Paardebosch farm in the Paardeberg area of the Swartland where decomposed granitic soils rule the roost.

I have to say this was a double appointment as I also came to taste David’s assistant, Andre Bruyns’ second vintage release of his City On A Hill 2016 from 36 year old Chenin Blanc vines. Sourced from two old vine vineyards planted 1981, the 2016 incorporates 8% of Viognier in this 92% Chenin Blanc blend, producing 2,600 bottles.

(David Sadie’s new 2016 releases will be reviewed separately.)

Looking out across Dassenbosch towards Adi Badenhorst winery

Tasting Note: City On A Hill 2016 Chenin Blanc, Swartland, 12.5 Abv.

This is an alluring wine with complex dried herbs, dried mint leaf, garrigue and baking spices. So much oregano and thyme beautifully melded with dry yellow stone fruits and white citrus. I just love the nuances of pithy tart yellow peaches and the rich but linear taught structure that defines this and so many other 2016 wines. The palate seems to move into a 6th gear, where the impressive 2015 only had 5. Vibrant crunchy yellow citrus fruits, peach stone, and peppery, dusty slatey granitic minerality. This wine has energy and verve, massive intensity, pithy yellow pineapple and white peach concentration and a real dusty granitic finish that is direct, nervy, tightly wound and very focused. Well done Andre, not easy to make a better wine than you did in 2015, but I believe you succeeded in doing so. 

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

Ian Naude’s Adoro Old Vine Masterclass at Handford Wines…

It’s funny how there are always certain tastings you do every year that turn out to be so engaging, enlightening but most of all, fun. Tonight’s Masterclass with Ian Naude certainly falls into this category.

I’ve known Ian for over 20 years and have always admired the way he goes about making wines. Known as a master blender of whites as well as reds, it is generally accepted that Ian Naude is the father of the white blend movement in South Africa. 

With Ian Naude and Elliot Awin, Naude’s agent in UK

I was lucky enough to be asked to be one of the guest speakers at the 4th White Blend Conference at Forest 44 in Stellenbosch way back in 2009. Arriving in Cape Town a few days after one of the most devastating storms in recent Stellenbosch history, I joined the stage with German winemaker Peter Fischer and Eben Sadie, to host an incredible event in front of over 90+ winemakers. In the audience were most of the next generation of winemakers…. the current young guns… Chris Mullineux, Donovan Rall, Gottfried Mocke and Chris Alheit etc. I hardly knew these names at the time. Now they are all long term suppliers and close friends.

Tonight Ian got another opportunity to expound his philosophy of blending as well as his passion for South Africa’s Old Vine culture. Billed primarily as an Old Vine Masterclass, the tasting happily started with a tasting of Ian’s Adoro 3 Regions Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ( 90/100), his Naude White Blend 2009 (93/100) and his Adoro Red Blend 2007, featuring Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot (93+/100). All beautifully complex and youthful.

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chenin Blanc blend

Then on to the real business at hand, the Naude Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Cinsaut, and Semillon… with his “Rayas’esque” Grenache ending the flight before sweetening our palates up with his excellent late harvest Mourvèdre. 

Naude Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2013, 12 Abv ~ Perfumed peach stone fruits, green pear, quince, and lovely complex struck match flinty notes. Subtle smokey depth, pineapple, jasmine and supple soft texture. Very elegant with ultra fine musk and spiced apple richness. Wow, what a wine. True marriage of classism and precision (95/100).

Naude Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2015, 12.5 Abv ~ Perfumed apple skins, boiled green apple Bon Bons, musk and waxy incense. Palate is youthful, sleek, and light on its feet. Acids are soft and rounded by extra lees contact making this wine so creamy, luxurious, and and voluptuous. Very opulent and youthful but should evolve nicely (94/100).

The legendary Semillon Old Vine maiden release

Naude Old Vine Semillon 2014 ~ Dusty, spicy wet grey slate, crushed gravel, green tinned fruit freshness. Layers of white fruit, white pepper, and mouth watering stone fruits make for a crisp, electric palate with a spicy apple and herby green tea finish. Very classy (93/100).

Naude Old Vine Cinsaut 2014 ~ Dusty, musky perfume rise out the glass, showing nuances of rose petals and strawberries. Pithy, garrigue herby notes develop. Palate is fleshy, mid weight suave and seamless with precise tannins, harmonious elegance and a lovely jasmine, rhubarb crumble finish (93+/100).

Naude Old Vine Cinsaut 2015 ~ All together more youthful, taught and exotic than the 2014. Shows complex layers of lychee, rose petals, fleshy yellow fruits, raspberry, and bramble berry fruit with a pronounced granitic mineral accent underpinned by chalky tannins. Plenty of structure and intensity. An impressive wine in its youth (94/100). 
Naude Grenache 2014 ~ Not quite qualifying for the Old Vine Series status with “only” 18 year old vines, this wine is equally impressive with deep, dark, earthy, foresty, bramble fruits, caramelised cherries, pink musk and Bon Bon sweet fruits. Plenty of old world furry tannins, mid palate density and an intense, profound, exotic finish. Let’s hope this is not a one-off jackpot wine! (95/100)

Adoro Late Harvest Mourvèdre 2013 ~ An icon wine in the Adoro range, this late harvest wine has around 60g/l RS with a balancing 9TA and 14 Abv natural. Soft and fresh fruited, there is beautiful crunchy, plummy forest fruits, subtle sweetness, tart crunchy acids and pithy bitter black chocolate opulence. Very vinous and luxurious but not heavy or laboured in any respect. The perfect restaurant digestive (93/100).

With BBC’s Jeremy Bowen and Ian Naude after the Masterclass

After the tasting, Ian confided in me that halfway through the masterclass, he felt really worried as the 18 guests were so silent! He was concerned he was boring them. On the contrary, they were absolutely enthralled, hanging on every word from his lips. Spellbound.

This memorable evening was capped off with a fantastic meal together at Medlar Restaurant in Chelsea. Head sommelier Christopher Delalonde MS expertly conducted proceedings, serving several fantastic blind wines over the course of dinner. 

Fab Saumur Blanc Monopole from the famous village of Breze, home of Clos Rougeard whites!
Beautiful 2015 Hermitage Blanc
Pork Belly with Kimchi and Pak Choi

Big thank you to everyone who made this such an enjoyable evening. Can’t wait to do it all again next year! 

Ruth Lewandowski Wines ~ Purity and Precision with 105 Year Old Vines…

The 2015 Naomi is 100% Grenache gris made by Evan Lewandowski, with 105 year old vines from the Gibson Ranch of Mendocino’s McDowell Valley. Rather than treating this fuchsia-toned grape like a red wine and macerating it with its skins, Evan whole cluster pressed the fruit and seperated the juice from the skins to ferment in an egg-shaped tank. The manually controlled press cycle was a long, fairly rough one to extract a higher than average amount of phenolic material from the beautiful, unique fruit.

After about three weeks, native alcoholic fermentation was complete along with malolactic fermentation. The 2015 Naomi saw no winemaking additions of any kind except for a scant 20ppm of SO2 before being bottled unfiltered and unfined.

Ruth Lewandowski Wines’ winemaker Evan Lewandowski

“Contrary to who most people imagine Ruth to be, she is not my mother, nor my grandmother, but my favorite book in the Bible.  Without sounding ‘preachy,’ and in the interest of concisely summing things up, there is no better depiction of death and redemption than the book of Ruth (who just happened to be from a town called “Moab”).  Much of my philosophy of farming and, in turn, winemaking is derived from this cycle of death and redemption (both in the physical realm we can see and the spiritual realm we often do not). Death is, indeed, the engine of life.” ~ Evan Lewandowski.

Tasting Note: Ruth Lewandowski Naomi Gibson Ranch 2015, California, 12 Abv. ~ Beautiful pale marmalade orange colour with a hint of pink blush. The nose is rich, expressive, pithy showing zesty marmalade jam, orange peel, salty briney gravelly minerals, wet river pebbles and an alka seltzer lift, dried herbs and grassy elderflower nuances. There is a fine density on the palate from these 105 year old Grenache Gris vines, with tangerine peel, lemon grass and spicy green pears. The subtle grape skin grip and spicy tannins add to the palate texture, all in beautiful balance. This is a complex, seductive wine that wills you to drink it! A real pleasure giver. No surprise then that this wine sold out within days of release… entering it into the unicorn lexicon! (Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Naomi’s Grenache Gris ferment