The Dawning of a New Era – Tasting the Tantalising Old Vine Treats of Naude Family Wines…

One of my life long mantras has always been that nice people make nice wines. Well, in Ian Naude’s case, you can add chocolate sprinkles and icing sugar to his delicious treats. A veteran of 11 years hard graft at Adoro Wines, in 2018 Ian has finally grasped the prickly chalice and branched out with his own venture, Naude Family Wines.

After much politics, multiple accounting headaches and a lot of strategic and logistic planning, the boat is back on the water and the sails are gathering a heathy turn of speed. Naude Family Wines has graduated and is now in the big ivy league.

A lot of work and many marketing challenges still lie ahead, but the true essence of decades of Ian’s hard work, sweet and tears have established a watertight quality reputation on par with rock star Eben Sadie when it comes to quality Old Vine Cinsault, Grenache, Chenin Blanc and Semillon. Watch this space… the godfather of South Africa’s white blends is back! With a bang!!

The new garagist operation is still bedding in but already shows great excitement.

Naude Family Wines White Blend 2006, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

54% Chenin Blanc – Durbanville, Stellenbosch, Agter Paarl, 37% Semillon – Durbanville and Stellenbosch, 9% Sauvignon Blanc – Stellenbosch, Darling, Paarl, Elgin, Elim. RS 1.6 g/l, pH 3.4, SO2 Free 30ppm / 70 total

A rich expressive nose packed full of exotic fragrance. Evolving beautifully, there are layers of green quince, apple pastille, pineapple and tarte tatin notes. The palate is ripe, concentrated and characterful, brimming with gooseberry confit, spiced pears and complex, textural lanolin notes. The finish is dry and powerful, punchy, disguising it’s 12 years of age masterfully. Drinking well now, this wine still has plenty of legs.

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

Naude Family Wines White Blend 2007, WO Western Cape, 11.5 Abv.

72% Chenin Blanc – Durbanville, Stellenbosch, Agter Paarl, 19% Semillon – Durbanville and Stellenbosch, 9% Sauvignon Blanc – Stellenbosch, Darling, Paarl, Elgin, Elim. RS 1.7, pH 3.16, SO2 Free 52ppm

What a difference one year can make. The 2007 Naude white blend comes from an altogether more complicated vintage for aromatic whites yet with 11 years in bottle this wine is still very impressive. Taut, fresh and lean, there is a wonderful linearity to the wine allied to cool green crunchy fruits and brazen liquid minerality. With an exotic boxwood spice kiss, the palate shows excellent purity of gooseberry, green apple and lime cordial, finishing with plenty of energy and spice. The lower alcohol is just the cherry on the cake. Drink this beauty now with seafood or allow it to age further in your cellar because it gets better every time I taste it.

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

Naude Family Wines Semillon 2016, WO Western Cape, 12 Abv.

Made from Durbanville and Stellenbosch fruit, Semillon gives a much smaller window to pick if you want to capture the seductive green apple, lemon & lime zest vigour. The nose is full of green apple, white peach pastille fruit and delicate orange blossom notes. In the mouth it is full, broad and glycerol with the most delicious texture, twinned with lime cordial, citrus blossom, green apple, white pepper and vanilla pod spice. A wonderfully harmonious, generous wine that retains the intensity and linearity of Semillon but with extra concentration and almost Chardonnay palate power. A real triumph. Drink from release and over 20+ years. One of the best current examples of this variety on the South African market. Snap this up on release in South Africa in June.

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

Naude Family Wines Cinsault 2015, WO Darling, 12 Abv.

100% Darling 37 year old vine Cinsault from the late Boetie van Reenen’s farm, a more classical and characterful varietal Cinsault you won’t find. The nose is all marzipan, Turkish delight, violets and dried rose petals. Wonderfully fragrant and perfumed, there is just the faintest hint of cracked black peppercorns and cedar wood spice notes. The palate is bright and vibrant with the most delicious salty blackberry, Victoria plum and black cherry pastille fruit notes that linger and coat the mouth. So expressive but also impressively classical and restrained. This wine has earned a massive, well deserved following with its superb quality and is known to be one of Old Vine Guru Rosa Kruger’s favourite Cinsault’s in the whole of South Africa.

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

San Lorenzo SW19 Restaurant and Importer Wimbledon Wine Cellars Hosts An Amazing Greek Fine Wine Extravaganza…

18 months after my last epic trip to the Greek Island of Tinos to visit the exciting premium winery of T-Oinos, I recently had another great opportunity to taste a broad selection of offerings from four premium Greek wineries. With some exceptional whites and reds paired with delicious food prepared by Wimbledon Hill restaurant institution San Lorenzo, the scene was set for another Greek fine wine extravaganza in London.

Hosted by their UK importer Wimbledon Wine Cellars, Vassaltis, T-Oinos Clos Stegasta, La Tour Melas and Nopera wineries presented current and new releases to an eager, thirsty audience. While I have never doubted the quality of the wines on show, the occasion served as yet another reminder to reinforce just how world class some of these wines really are.

With Yannis Valambous of Vassaltis.

Greek wines are on the ascendancy, with many nearing a level of mainstream consumer fine wine acceptance on par with other mediterranean countries like Italy and Spain. Plenty of hard work still lies ahead, especially for some of the reds, but overall, the future for premium Greek wineries and wine drinkers is very bright indeed.

Rose Flight

La Tour Melas Idylle D’Achinos Rose 2016

Pristinely pure, dry and mineral with a seductive kiss of strawberry and cherry fruits, taught fresh acids and a delicious liquid minerality on the finish. Just add sunshine!

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

White Flight 1

Vassaltis Assyrtiko 2015 (Magnum), Santorini, 13.5 Abv.

Lovely yellow pithy citrus, white peach, salty sea breeze notes. Impressively dense core of fruit, wonderful concentration and minerality, beautifully embroidered by a fresh, briney acidity. Such class and depth. A real beauty.

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

T-Oinos Assyrtiko (Amphora) 2016, Tinos, 14 Abv.

Taught crisp white blossom, crushed granite and yellow citrus on a restrained, very sophisticated nose. Superbly saline on the palate with tart green apple, bruised white peaches and yellow grapefruit … tasted on a misty, sea spray swept beach. Another sublime pinnacle for the Assyrtiko grape.

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

White Flight 2

Vassaltis Assyrtiko 2016 (Barrel Fermented), Santorini, 13.7 Abv.

Incredibly complex, mineral, yellow stone fruit notes with an expertly judged hint of sappy, resinous oak spice. Beautifully textured palate, pithy, vibrant and saline but with more breadth and creamy depth. Saline, spicy, piquant finish. What a beauty.

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

T-Oinos Assyrtiko (Barrel Fermented) 2016, Tinos, 14 Abv.

Fabulously crystalline and bright, this expression shows such tension, minerality together with bruised orchard fruits, yellow apples and sweet ripe lemon peel notes. Seemlessly cool, fine boned palate with impressive intensity, liquid minerality, green apple pastille fruits and a long, lingering finish.

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

Red Flight 1

La Tour Melas Cyrus One 2016, 14 Abv.

Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Agiorgitiko

Rich ripe expressive nose packed with earthy red berries, sweet red plums, cassis and hints of sour cherry. So pure and attractive, the palate is finely balanced, pitching creamy black berry, vanilla pod spice and buttered brown toast notes dusted with dried herbs and spice. Approachable and accessible. Lovely.

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

La Tour Melas Palies Rizes 2013, 14 Abv.

Rich, plush nose, intoxicating perfume of sweet cherry blossom, violets and red berry liquor notes. Sweet confit, intense and ripe fruit expression from 110 year old ungrafted Agiorgitiko vines. Plush, intense, and texturally very opulent.

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

T-Oinos Mavro 2012, Tinos, 13 Abv.

Sweet raisined black berries, earthy cherry and bruised black plums. Lovely earthy graphite notes, superb lacy tannins and real elegance. Subtle hints of black liquorice and black cherry linger on a long, cool, restrained, elegant finish.

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

Red Flight 2

T-Oinos Clos Stegasta Marvrotragano (Magnum) 2013, Tinos

Delicious classical depth of black cherry, graphite, tart black cherry and earthy cassis berries. Creamy, dense, very textural, there are tantalising liquorice hints, black berry, salty graphite notes and a long opulent, luxurious finish. Real character and class.

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

La Tour Melas 2015, 14.5 Abv.

Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Agiorgitiko

Rich dark broody nose full of black cherry, kirsch liquor, blue berry, graphite and a spicy, cedary, dried herb notes. Quite sweet fruited and opulent, very lush, there is an attractive cassis and black plum confit length. Front loaded with fruit, less minerality. Delicious sweet texture with fine length.

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

La Tour Melas 2014 (Magnum), 14.5 Abv.

Finely piquant, laced with violets, cedar and wood spice with an underlay of ripe cassis, black plum, cassis leaf and saline, fresh black cherry spice. Definite classical under tone of graphite and dried herbs, but the tannins are quite resolved, soft and spicy. Drinking well now.

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

Sweet Flight

Nopera Epitome Muscat de Samos, 13.5 Abv.

Sweet bruleed orange peel, tarte tatin, sweet old honey and marmalade. Lifted by orange zest, grapefruit confit and citrus complexity. Rich, finely textured and integrated acids balanced with toffee apple, caramel and sweet, rich opulent concentration from grapes of vines over 100 years old. Delicious, real class.

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

San Lorenzo Restaurant is located at 38 Wimbledon Hill Road, SW19, London.

Tel: 0208 946 8463

The New CVNE Monopole Clásico 2015 Released – Reinventing the Past For a Future Generation of Wine Drinkers…

The world of wine is a big place with countless grapes, wine styles and production techniques. Indeed, wine has never been more mainstream and more popular than it is now. However, with this populism has come a growing tendency towards homogenisation, taking the safe option and producers not pushing boundaries any longer. A comment from UK wine journalist Jamie Goode recently sticks in my head… “just because most consumers drink boring commercial rubbish a lot of the time, doesn’t mean they don’t actually want to drink exciting, edgy, innovative wines too.” That’s where wonderful wines like the CVNE Monopole Clásico come into their own.

This Monopole Clásico white was produced from a blend of white varieties, hand harvested in 20kg cases at optimum ripeness. Softy pressed, as in the 1960s, the must went into concrete tanks for their debourbage / settling, then into stainless steel tanks for the alcoholic fermentation. Once completed, the wine was transferred with its fine lees into wooden vats and botas of 300 litres and 500 litres that had previously been used two or three times. The wine was then aged for around 8 months.

The uniqueness of this wine lies in the contribution of a small quantity of Manzanilla sherry, developed by the traditional method of crianza under “velo de flor”. The wines’ ageing contributes to its peculiar organoleptic characteristics, adding aromas of chamomile tea, dried fruits and nuts, and a long and salty aftertaste with a marked acidity.

The 2015 vintage proved to be one of the best in recent years, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Starting slightly early and proceeding at pace, throughout the vegetative cycle the weather conditions displayed classical textbook seasonality. A rainy autumn, a dry winter with heavy frosts, a rainy spring and a summer with large diurnal temperature shifts between day and night. Weather during the harvest was exceptional and allowed for a harvest with great quality, superb ripening and very healthy fruit.

CVNE Monopole Clásico Blanco Seco 2015, Rioja, 13.5 Abv.

A wonderfully tangy saline nose full of crunchy pear, sea breeze, oyster shell, almond skins, nutty Manzanilla flor spice and caramelised orange peel. Plenty of tension and coiled spring energy, this wine is known to flesh out further with an extra 6 to 8 months in bottle. The palate revels in its nutty, saline Intensity with oxidative Manzanilla sherry nuances whispering in the background, all the while tempered by pithy gooseberry and white stone fruits, chamomile and a dusty, chalky texture. So characterful and deliciously mouth watering, this is an admirably unique wine style that everyone should experience. Drink now to 2035+

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

Argentinian Malbec Riding Global Demand – Tasting the Zuccardi Aluvional Series That’s Taking Malbec to New Quality Heights…

Zuccardi Wineries Aluvional Series is a selection of wines made from the best soils of alluvial origin in the Uco Valley, Mendoza. In developing the Zuccardi Aluvional Series, the winemaker wanted to highlight the uniqueness and authenticity of each terroir, in this case the Tupungato Alto terroir, using the Malbec grape.

The erosive force of the floods generated by melting glaciers and down water, ice and rock with brutal force, can be seen in the soils with rocks of great magnitude, rounded edges and heterogeneity. It is through these environmental hallmarks that these differences can become key pointers in dictating the style and origin of this type of true terroir driven Malbec.

Zuccardi Aluvional Gualta Tupungato Alto Malbec 2013, Uco Valley, Mendoza, 14.5 Abv.

Deep dense dark opaque colour, as black as a heavily overcast night in the Patagonian dessert. The nose is intricate and complex, teasing you with subtle notes of cedar wood spice, leafy plum skins, sappy black berries and brûléed coffee bean nuances. The palate is as bold and intense as the colour and nose suggest it will be, however, the tart, vibrantly fresh black berry acidity lift raises this wine up as if to make it walk on tip toes. Beautiful freshness, deliciously complex concentration, plenty of sappy, stalky spice and a long, coco powder dusted black berry finish. A very accomplished wine that will no doubt make a lot of friends among Malbec lovers! Drink now to 2028.

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

A Wonderful Maiden Red Release from Thorne & Daughters ~ Tasting the Wanderer’s Heart 2016 Red Blend…

John and Tasha Seccombe operating out of space at the Gabrielskloof Winery have established a massive international following for their deliciously opulent white wines over the past 5-6 years. So of course … that meant it was time for a red!

This maiden vintage was released in mid-2017 and has been met with high critical acclaim internationally. So with some very expensive Welsh lamb cutlets on the menu for Sunday lunch, this red seemed the perfect match! Oh, and what a beautifully designed label.

Thorne & Daughter’s Wanderer’s Heart 2016, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

An interesting red blend made from fruit sourced from all over the Cape including 69% Voor Paardeberg Grenache, 21% Bottelary Cinsault and 10% Bot River Mourvèdre. Unfined and unfiltered, this maiden vintage red was aged in old French oak barrels to create a wine with great purity. What immediately strikes you is an intensely perfumed nose full of violets, dried cranberries, red cherries, tart red plums and hints of black raspberries. A delectable melange of peppery red and black forest berries. The palate is crunchy and fresh with a complex, textured fleshy red berry fruited weight that also reveals savoury hints of dried herbs, raspberries, cranberry coulis and a defined underlying minerality of river pebbles and chalky tannins. The acids are pure and fresh adding a vibrancy and crystallinity without being tart. Light and fresh enough to drink slightly chilled, this impressive Grenache based blend is going to seduce a lot of drinkers now and over the next 10+ years.

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

Winemaker Corlea Fourie and Bosman Family Vineyards Creating Some Profound Benchmark Wines in Wellington…

The extensive Bosman Family vineyard holdings are based primarily in the Wellington region although a new winery in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near Hermanus was added to the portfolio in the last few years. As well as owning large swathes of vineyards, the Bosman Family are also one of the leading nurseries for vine rootstocks in South Africa. Under the lead of head winemaker Corlea Fourie, they make some fantastic white and red wines.

But two whites that really stand out head and shoulders above the rest of the wines in their range are the Fides Grenache Blanc and the Optenhorst Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc. The Fides was first produced in 2013 as a ‘project of passion’ for Corlea who is certainly regarded as one of the most talented and precise winemakers in South Africa. This wild ferment skin contact Grenache Blanc has certainly allowed Corlea to ‘let her hair down’ and experiment with her ‘wild side’.

The second wine of note  is the Optenhorst Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc from bush vines planted in 1952. In 2010 the Chenin Blanc Association funded research into the old vineyards of the Cape and it turned out that this was the 4th oldest registered Chenin Blanc vineyard in South Africa.

Bosman Fides 2016 Grenache Blanc, WO Wellington, 14 Abv.

An alluring old gold colour with just the faintest copper tinge. The aromatics are super complex and a little more ‘wild’ than previous vintages. One almost gets the feeling that Corlea has loosened her winemaker grip slightly and allowed this skin contact Grenache Blanc vintage to really express its own personally a little more. The nose is packed with ginger biscuit spice, tangerine peel, bruised yellow orchard fruits, furry yellow apricots, spearmint and complex savoury herbal nutty notes. The palate is sleek, focused and taught, displaying delicious fresh bristling acids, pithy phenolics, bitter orange peel, sweet pineapple and mango pastille fruits, and finishes with a lovely long, textural, harmonious length. A superb effort if not the best to date. Drink now to 2026+

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

Bosman Optenhorst Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2015, WO Wellington, 14.04 Abv.

The 2015 is an even more profound wine than the excellent 2014 Optenhorst. This superb new vintage plays to this wine’s style perfectly. The big rich bold bouquet is brimming with white peaches, tinned pineapple nuances, Golden Delicious apple puree, waxy pear skins and a fine vein of stony minerality. The palate possesses the most explosive concentration and intensity, coating all corners of the mouth with honied apples, yellow citrus, pineapple pastille and orange peel zest while all the while kept tightly under the firm reins of a mouth watering acidity. This is really one of South Africa’s top Chenin Blancs from one of the oldest vineyards in the country. This wine certainly does this heritage vineyard site justice. A real WOW wine. Drink now to 2035+ (RS 2.1 g/l, TA 7.8 g/l, pH 3.0)

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

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Most Memorable South African Red Wines of 2017…

South Africa must possess some of the most distinguished and diverse high quality white wines in the world. But some how it seems that consumers, connoisseurs and collectors judge a country or region’s prestige almost exclusively based on the quality of the red wines produced. In 2017 South Africa fortuitously released many of its truly greatest 2015 red wines making it a bumper year for red wine ratings and reviews internationally.

My top 10 selection of reds and whites is based on wines that I tasted and drank through the year and that I considered supremely memorable as well as very high in quality. They were not selected purely based on scores.

So again, in no specific order…here is my Top 10 Most Memorable South African Red Wines of 2017.

MR de Compostella Bordeaux Blend 2015, Stellenboch – 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Bruwer Raats may be known as the Chenin King but it has to be his incredible red wines that have truly cemented his global reputation as an iconic fine wine producer. There can be no doubting the quality of his amazing Cabernet Franc reds which he is so proud of. Indeed, who can forget the high powered tasting in Europe where his 2001 Cabernet Franc trumped Cheval Blanc 2001 and was lauded by Jancis Robinson OBE MW as one of the greatest varietal Cabernet Francs in the world. But for me, it is another wine that has always captured my heart.

As a consummate Bordeaux lover, the MR de Compostella has been an absolute eye opener since the maiden 2004 was released. Tasted again recently, the 2004 is still youthfully dense, taught, concentrated and utterly majestic with another 20+ years of life left ahead of it. Having tasted every vintage pre-release since 2004, I like to think I have an intimate knowledge of this wine. So when Bruwer did a pre-release vertical tasting in London earlier this year, we got to see the 2015 in all its noble splendour. I received a few raised eye brows for scoring this wine 98 points, but my argument was simple… When tasted along side critically acclaimed MR vintages that scored 95 or 96 points internationally, the 2015 was considered 15% to 20% better. So I had no hesitation in scoring this wine 98 points and declaring it my 🍷🍷 South African Red Wine of the Year 2017.  

Congratulations Bruwer Raats and team.

Raats Family Wines Eden Single Vineyard High Density Cabernet Franc 2015, Stellenbosch – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

As if making one of the highest rated reds in South Africa wasn’t enough, Bruwer has continued to pursue his passion for all things Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc related, launching the first Raats Eden High Density red and white releases last year to great acclaim. The Eden Cabernet Franc has seduced journalists from far and wide, astounding drinkers with the quality achieved from 6 year old vines. ‘Quality by Design’ is the buzz phrase attributed to these fascinating wines that have been recognised locally in South Africa and internationally as outstanding examples of Cabernet Franc varietal purity and precision. Made in tiny quantities, this is a red wine designed to impress the most accomplished and educated palates. I sense there will be very little disagreement on the inclusion of this wine.

Beeslaar Pinotage 2015, Stellenbosch – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

I recently attended the International Wines & Spirits Competition awards ceremony in London a few weeks ago and sat at the neighbouring table to Abrie Beeslaar and Johan Krige, to witness them being awarded the “International Winery of the Year” for the third year in a row and “Winemaker of the Year” for their outstanding wines at Kanonkop. What an honour. But Abrie also has a small project on the side producing limited amounts of this eponymously named wine from some exceptional Pinotage grapes. Only in its fourth vintage, this impressive Pinotage comes from a 22 year old single block close to Simonsig planted on shale soils. Seeing less new oak than the super premium Kanonkop Black Label, this expression is an opulent, sleek, textured glassful of brilliance with the most incredible harmony, purity and balance. This is exceptional Pinotage that really puts this unique variety on the world wine map. An outstanding effort from Abrie Beeslaar.

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Roundstone Schist Syrah 2015, Swartland – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW  

In March I paid a long awaited visit to Chris and Andrea at their Roundstone farm in the Swartland to taste the new releases of their Mullineux and the Leeu Passant wines. The Schist Syrah, sourced from grapes grown on the Roundstone farm,  has become one of their most sought after wines internationally due to its opulence, fragrance and balanced blueberry fruit intensity that harks back to the great icon wines of the northern Rhone in every way. I do have an inkling that their Granite or Iron Syrah Cuvées may age better over the very long term, but over the medium term, the Schist Syrah represents one of the most outstanding expressions of Syrah coming out of South Africa at the moment.

Duncan Savage Follow the Line 2016 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

Of all the new red wine creations that have come out of the Cape in the past five years, few can rival Follow the Line for its mantel of most delicious cult wine! This wonderful Cinsault / Grenache / Syrah blend from Duncan Savage is a wine that effectively captured the mood of a new generation of wine drinkers looking for characterful, vibrant, energetic, crunchy fresh reds that could be drunk on release or cellared for 10+ years. Since the maiden 2014 release, this wine has got better and better and now that Duncan is settling into his own new urban winery in Salt River in Cape Town, you can expect all his whites and reds to become even more focused and distinguished. One of my favourite red wines from one of my favourite South African winemakers. If you have not tried this wine yet, get your skates on!

Sadie Family Wines Columella Red Blend 2015, Swartland – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

What a year it has been for Eben Sadie! Winemaker awards, sell out wines, continued growing cult status internationally, and high quality wines that seem to get better and better every year despite vintage conditions. With already two whites making my top 10, this has got to be the wine that Eben takes the most pride in producing. He has always been aware of the hype that surrounds the micro vinifications in the Old Vine Series, but the Palladius and Columella are his “day job” and his bread and butter and most certainly his pride and joy. So to have released two of the greatest ever expressions of both of these wines is a true testament to the upward trajectory that Eben continues to travel on. One of the truly great winemakers of the world and one of the greatest wineries. What an accolade to make South African’s proud.

Brian Smith & Niels Verburg The Cabernet Franc 2014, Bot River – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

While neither Brian Smith or Niels Verburg are newcomers to the South African wine scene, their new joint venture red certainly ruffled a few feathers in the local South African wine scene with the release of the THE Cabernet Franc sourced from a small vineyard in the Bot River region. Classy, polished, opulent, and distinguished, this wine has all the attributes of a Napa Valley cult wine including the matching price tag. The greatest thing about this wine has been the discussion and open debate that has resulted after its release… which was one of its primary aims to be fair. The contents is certainly very sexy and luxurious and drinking my first bottle was undoubtedly a very memorable moment.

Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2015, Stellenbsoch – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

I remember seeing my Swartland based Rhone junkie friends Ryan Mostert and Samantha Suddons drinking bottles of Boschkloof Syrah and occasionally Epilogue Syrah years ago and thinking that I need to get to grips with these wines (I grew up drinking father Jacques Bormans’ wines!) When Jamet junkies are raving about them, they must be serious. Last Christmas I reviewed the Epilogue 2014 Syrah and rated it as one of my top reds of the year. Surely the epic 2015 vintage would have to be better!? Well, I would say it is equally as good but not better. It is the perennial trap we fall into thinking that block buster vintages always make better wines. For most producers they do, but for the likes of Reenen Borman, his real talents are revealed in the less than perfect vintages (2014 or 2016). But splitting hairs aside, this is one of the most profound northern Rhone, Cote Rotie’esque  expressions of Syrah available in the New World. Well done Reenen!

Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

What a year of change it has been for Ian Naude. After years of serving other masters, he has finally gone solo and become his own boss. Under the Naude Family wines label he will now seduce us with his very best talents in the form of Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Cinsault and Semillon. But just like last year when I included his “older” Chenin Blanc 2013, this year I have found myself simply unable to exclude his most profound, complex and impressive Grenache 2014. Such is the intrigue surrounding this wine that we felt compelled to repeat the “Wine Cellar / Roland Peens” Rayas blind show down again in London at one of the top Michelin star restaurants. Yet again, this fabulous wine beat off the competition and trounced some of the world’s greatest Grenache reds with ease. Sadly, this vineyard grape contract was subsequently lost and has not been made again since. So it is now not only one of the great red wines of South Africa, but it is firmly moving into the Unicorn ranks of collectability. We stand in hope that Ian will venture back into the Grenache minefield and attempt to craft another gem from this temperamental Rhone grape. Meantime, if you find any of the 2014, snap it up immediately!

Vilafonte Series C 2015, Paarl – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

This is another winery project that I have been following closely since its maiden vintage release in 2003. This joint venture between Warwick Estate’s Mike Ratcliffe and Californian wine guru power couple Phil Freese and Zelma long, unashamedly set out to produce the most precise, polished, high quality expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot possible from their manicured vineyards in Paarl. There is a subtle gloss to the wines, there is incredible polish, and the wines are quite international in style in many ways, but above all, there is a sense that the end goal is extreme quality without compromise. Ok, this approach may not work quite as well with wilder Syrah, Grenache or Cinsault, but for international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec… it is surely the path to greatness. Add to the ingredients a 5 star block buster vintage and hey presto, the Series C 2015 miraculously resembles some of the iconic high scoring Chateaux of Pauillac and St Julien from a riper left bank vintage in Bordeaux but with the precision and polish of Napa Valley.