Wine Safari Cellar Notes – Revisiting the Sadie Family Old Vine Series Skurfberg Chenin Blanc 2012…

I recently watched another zoom interview with Eben Sadie after his new 2019 vintage releases and it became crystal clear that he has now officially joined the exclusive global ranks of iconic wine producers who don’t actually have to “sell” their wines but merely allocate them on a spreadsheet, thus joining the likes of Coche-Dury, Romanee Conti, JL Chave, Thierry Allemande etc., as one of the most sought after producers in the world.

But with this fame comes the added clamour from customers to drink his wines on release, highlighting and indeed exacerbating one of Eben’s greatest disappointments – that not enough people cellar his wines long enough to allow them to reach their true drinking potential. So, with the recent 2019 Skurfberg Chenin Blanc garnering a lofty 100 points from Tim Atkin MW in his recent South Africa 2020 report, I thought I’d revisit an older vintage of this iconic wine to check on its evolution.

Made from unirrigated parcels of old bush vines planted between 1940 and 1955 on decomposed sandstone in the Oliphants River Region, these knarled dry grown old vines struggle to survive with only the sparse local rainfall to rely on. But it is precisely this struggle that makes these old vines produce such sumptuously expressive grapes. So if you have the ability to cellar any wines, save some of your allocation and follow Eben’s advice.

Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Skurfberg Chenin Blanc 2012, WO Olifantsrivier, 14.5% Abv.

Drunk over 3 nights, just incredible to see this wine slowly unwind and unfurl over time. At its height of expressiveness, the bouquet positively bursts forth with lemon and lime marmalade, tangerine peel zest, pressed oranges, sweet dried herbs, honeysuckle, nougat and a fantastically expressive granitic mineral under vein. The breadth, depth and complexity of flavour on the palate is just mind boggling, with multiple layers of lime preserve, caramelised figs, grapefruit jelly and an intense finish of lemon cream biscuits and spicy, pithy gravelly minerality punctuated by a final zippy acid reprise. A wine that encapsulates perfectly why Eben Sadie’s wines are so sought after the world over! Start drinking this one now but certainly no rush. A true white icon wine for a new generation of drinkers.

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

Tasting the Impressive Wines Selected for the 2020 Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction…

The 2020 Nedbank CWG Auction hosted by Bonhams London will be held online on Saturday 3rd October from 12h00 (BST). Due to Coronavirus, there were no public tastings prior to sale making the limited tastings by a select group of wine journalists even more important this year. The line-up comprises 28 wines with total cases on offer amounting to 564 cases (6 x 750ml) compared to 45 wines and 1,932 cases in 2019.

One of the eye catching wines in 2020…

In support of one of the Guild members, buyers will have the opportunity to bid on smaller lots – the funds raised by the first case of six bottles of every wine will be given as financial assistance to Samantha O’Keefe, whose Lismore property in Greyton was devastated by fire in December last year. The CWG will also be hosting a 50 – item Vinotheque Auction made up of select older wines donated by members with express objective being to raise funds to assist employees within their businesses whose livelihoods have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 CWG Selection:

CWG host and Jordan Winery owner Gary Jordan taking us through the 2020 CWG wines.

Graham Beck Cuvée 129 Extra Brut 2009, WO Western Cape

Winemaker: Pieter Ferreira. 51% Pinot Noir, 49% Chardonnay. Cuvée 129 refers to the number of months on the lees aging – 10 years and 9 months.

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

Silverthorn Big Dog VI Méthode Cap Classique 2015, WO Robertson

Winemaker: John Loubser. 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. Chardonnay fermented and aged in old French oak, Pinot Noir in steel. 50 months on lees.

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

De Grendel Wooded Sauvignon Blanc 2019, WO Darling.

Winemaker: Charles Hopkins. Crushed, 18 hours skin contact, then settled and fermented in old oak.

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

Bartho Eksteen Vloekskoot Sauvignon Blanc 2019, WO Cape Coast

Winemaker: Bartho Eksteen. Whole bunch pressed, no settling. Naturally fermented in older, big wood.

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

Simonsig Mediterraneo 2015, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Johan Malan. 66% Roussanne, 28% Grenache Blanc, 6% Verdelho. Whole bunch pressed, mix of wild and cultured yeast.

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

Miles Mossop Wines Saskia-Jo 2018, WO Swartland

Winemaker: Miles Mossop. 65% Chenin Blanc, 25% Clairette Blanche, 10% Grenache Blanc. Decomposed granite soils.

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

Rijk’s CWG Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Tulbagh

Winemaker: Pierre Wahl. 14-year-old bush vines, fermented in new and used French oak.

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

Raats Family Wines The Fountain Terroir Specific Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Bruwer Raats. Rich, creamy but super bright with leesy, peachy fruit complexity and incredible precision and vibrant intensity.

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

Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2018, WO Elgin

Winemaker: Andries Burger. From the oldest Chardonnay vineyard on the Estate, planted in 1987 (the oldest vines in Elgin).

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

Leeu Passant Radicales Libres Chardonnay 2015, WO Klein Karoo

Winemaker: Andrea Mullineux. 100% Chardonnay, long elevage inspired by Jura and Rioja. From the incredibly cool Barrydale Valley in the Klein Karoo, after fermentation this Chardonnay was aged in barrel for five years.

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

Ataraxia Under The Gavel Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Winemaker: Kevin Grant.  Cool and Crystalline with a stony minerality, pithy peachy yellow citrus concentration and a long, pure brilliance.

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

Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Windansea Pinot Noir 2017, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Winemaker: Gordon Newton Johnson. Stoniest, most clay-rich parts of the vineyard used for this. No sulfites in the winemaking. 11 months in barrel then six months in large oak.

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

Neil Ellis Wines Amper Bo Tempranillo 2015, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Warren Ellis. Whole berry fermentation then 18 months in 60% new French oak barrels and 40% in second fill.

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

Rust en Vrede CWG Auction Estate 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Coenie Snyman. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah.

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

Ernie Els CWG 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Louis Strydom. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Shiraz, 10% Cinsault. Fermentation in small 300 litre open top oak barrels with three weeks extended maturation.

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

Luddite The Lone Stranger Mark II 2018, WO Bot River

Winemaker: Niels Verburg. 50% Mourvèdre, 40% Shiraz, 10% Grenache Noir. Small open fermenters then pressed to barrel for two years.

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

Delaire Graff Estate Banghoek Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Morné Very. 55% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec. Whole berry fermentation with limited punch downs. Four weeks post-ferment maturation on skins before being basket pressed. Matured in 40% new French 225 litre barrels for 16 months.

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

Spier Frans K Smit Auction Selection 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Frans K Smit. 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Organic.

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

Strydom Family Wines The Game Changer 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Rianie Strydom. 80% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot. North facing slopes on the Helderberg.

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

Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Abrie Beeslaar. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot. From Simonsberg. Fermented in open top ‘kuipe’ for six days, then malolactic fermentation in tank, and matured in new French oak for two years.

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

Groot Constantia CWG Gouverneurs Reserve 2018, WO Constantia

Winemaker: Boela Gerber. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Cabernet Franc. 75% new oak.

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

Villiera Drip Barrel Cabernet Franc 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Jeff Grier. 18 months in new and used French oak.

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

Edgebaston Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: David Finlayson. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. From the clay-heavy section of their GS vineyard, picked five days earlier than the rest of the vineyard. New French oak for two years.

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

Hartenberg CWG Auction Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Carl Schultz. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bottelary Hills. 20 days on skins, 20 months in 50% new 225 litre French oak barrels.

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

Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Jacques Borman. Harvested in three tranches, 30% whole bunch. Some matured in concrete, some in barrel (30% new).

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

Cederberg Teen Die Hoog Shiraz 2018, WO Cederberg

Winemaker: David Nieuwoudt. Red slate soils. 85% new oak.

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

Saronsberg Die Erf Shiraz 2017, WO Tulbagh

Winemaker: Dewaldt Heyns. The best barrel of Block 27. Aged for 20 months in a new French Allier oak barrel.

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

Boplaas Cape Vintage CWG Reserve 2015, WO Western Cape

Winemaker: Carel Nel. 80% Touriga Nacional, 10% Touriga Franca, 6% Souzão, 4% Tinta Barocca. Fermented and fortified in small lagares and barrel matured in large seasoned oak barrels.

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

The CWG dinner at the River Cafe London.

Tasting the Super Santorini Ancestral Vines “Assyrtiko 34” from Artemis Karamolegos…

Artemis Karamolegos is one of the most dynamic wineries on the unique volcanic island of Santorini. Led by his grandfather, who started making wine and cultivating vines as a hobby in the 1950s, Artemis founded the winery in 2004. The local variety Assyrtiko, which has become the flag bearer for quality wine across the whole of Greece, is at the heart of the estate’s production.

They own just over 3ha of vineyards (some over 100 years old) from many of the best villages to grow Assyrtiko – Pyrgos, Megalorchori, Exo Gonia, Akrotiri and Fira. Long-term leases on another 5 hectares allows them to manage and work with an amazing range of aspects, altitudes and local varieties. Their hugely talented young winemaker Lefteris Anagnostou crafts a small range of cuvées ranging from premium single vineyard wines though to multi-site blends using a marriage of modern and ancient winemaking techniques.

Assyrtiko 34 is the name of one of the Karamolegos winery’s top old vine cuvées that pays tribute to the 34 centuries that Santorini has been re-inhabited after one of the most awesome volcanic eruptions in the history on mankind. Throughout these 34 centuries, viticulture has continued uninterrupted, cultivating among other varieties, the noble and indigenous grape of Assyrtiko. Grapes for this cuvée are sourced from specially selected very old vine vineyards of Assyrtiko mainly from around Pyrgos, Megalochori and Exo Gonia.

I recently held a fascinating tasting with the winemaker at Artemis Karamolegos winery, Lefteris Anagnostou, who expertly outlined the fascinating history of viticulture in Santorini and the philosophy behind the superb wines of the Karamolegos winery.

Artemis Karamolegos Santorini Ancestral Vines Assyrtiko 34 2018, PDO Santorini, 14% Abv.

This delicious Assyrtiko 2018 is a really masterful exercise in mouth watering wine pleasure delivery. Classic white wine vinification is employed with a percentage of pre-fermentation cold soak with only the free-run juice used, fermented in stainless steel tanks under controlled temperatures with the use of selected neutral yeast but also some wild yeasts for different tanks in order to express the pure varietal character of Assyrtiko. The Cuvée 34 shows a minimalistic approach in the winemaking process using maturation on total fine lees for at least five months with frequent stirring (bâtonnage). On the nose, this white screams Assyrtiko typicity, displaying all the liquid minerality and basaltic volcanic rock intensity you’d hope for together with rich concentrated notes of crunchy white peaches, tart green apple, chamomile tea, pear drop and a rasping saline, briney, leesy flavour of the sea. The palate also shows piercing, well defined acid freshness, a fleshy intense concentration but also ample dry extract and palate weight to make this wine into a truly exciting proposition. Fabulously long, the finish is pure liquid minerality with a hint of savoury, almond piquant spice. Drink now or keep for 2 to 3+ more years.

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

Artemis Karamolegos wines are imported into the UK by WoodWinters Vintners.

Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé Kiara Scott Releases Her 2019 Brookdale Winery Chenin Blanc…

Brookdale is an impressive winery owned by Englishman Tim Rudd that is planted with 20+ year old Chenin Blanc vines as well as several other special Chenin Blanc blocks that are now almost 35 years old situated at the foot of the lofty Du Toitskloof Pass in Paarl.

The property was bought by the Rudd family which kick started a widespread replanting programme where sustainable viticulture and farming for the future generations are at the centre of their ethos. Most of the previous vineyards acquired with the original estate were very neglected and so uprooted with only the old vine Chenin Blanc blocks retained. The site is regularly exposed to strong winds that often reduce yields but also offer much-needed cooling breezes in Paarl’s warm inland climate. This site offers altitude and granitic soils rich in clay and schist that are perfectly suited for Chenin Blanc.

Taking Brookdale forward from the 2019 vintage is Kiara Scott, a young 28 year old winemaker who studied at Elsenberg before being selected to join the Cape Winemakers Guild Protege Programme. Kiara has worked vintages in the Rhône Valley, Sancerre and the Russian River in Sonoma, California. The future at Brookdale is looking super exciting with Kiara at the day to day winemaking helm and Duncan Savage, who produced the first two vintages, acting as a consultant.

Brookdale Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Paarl, 13.5% Abv.

The third vintage of the Brookdale Chenin Blanc sees Kiara Scott firmly in the winemaking driving seat with the majority of the vineyards employed starting the near the magical 35 year old mark making them eligible for Old Vine certification. With the use of large 500 litre oak barrels, the oak imprint on the wine is sensitive but complimentary, allowing lovely complex aromatics of white flowers, wet straw, white toast, tangerine peel and stem ginger to mingle effortlessly with notes of leesy biscuits and savoury vanilla pod spice. While the palate has a beautiful textural feel with mouth coating concentration, you can feel the pineapple pastille and smoky yellow orchard fruit notes are underpinned by the classical, stony mineral notes of the 2019 vintage. Showing an opulence and an attractive overt appeal already, this wines is once again a superb counterfoil to the overpriced, heady whites of Burgundy. Yes, I know its Chenin Blanc, but that is of course the wonder of this versatile premium white grape that reaches extra levels of intricacy when harvested from old vines and aged in oak. A delicious white wine that will drink well on release but should age and improve in the cellar comfortably for another 5 to 8+ years.

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

Fine Wine Safari Vertical Masterclass with David & Nadia – Tasting Elpidios Red Blend 2011 to 2017…

While David Sadie has made a serious name for himself with his single vineyard Chenin Blancs and his white blends, he is of course a crafty expert with red varieties like Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, blended together in his classy red called Elpidios.

On David’s last trip to London, we cracked open a lovely little vertical of his Elpidios with his importer Justerini & Brooks. “Syrah is the most important grape variety for the Swartland… the next range of wines I feel tell our story the best” David told the guests, addressing the table in front of a delicious vertical of the Elipidios from 2011 to 2017.

David Sadie… a giant not only in winemaking circles.

This Rhône-inspired red blend from David & Nadia was interestingly a Syrah based red blend from vintages 2011 to 2014, a Carignan based red blend in 2015 and 2016 before changing to a Grenache based blend in 2017. “This wine feels like a tip of the hat to a more experimental mindset that I love to attribute to the Swartland.” ~ David Sadie

David & Nadia Elpidios Red Blend Vertical:

David & Nadia Elpidios 2011, WO Swartland,14% Abv.

3 barrels. Earthy, brambly, cheese cloth notes with supporting notes of tar, black olive, cured meats and black berry fruit. Very northern Rhône in character, this wine is fresh and vibrant, layered with boiled red berries, sweet black currant, granitic grainy tannins and a long, fresh, crunchy, sleek old world finish. Very classy indeed.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2012, WO Swartland,14% Abv.

A more savoury, richer, earthy aromatic profile with sun baked red berry fruits, sweet plum, creamy plum confit, red liquorice and a stony, piquant graphite finish. Slightly stewed, but again a very old world Rhône style.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2013, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

A darker expression with plenty of bramble berry fruit, black plum, saline cassis reduction, sweet black berry, sweet black plum, graphite and soft, dry powdery tannins. Acids are soft and finely integrated making for a well rounded, brambly wild finish.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2014, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Beautifully perfumed lifted nose with pink flowers, red cherry zest, cranberry and sour red plum. Palate is very fresh, pure and crystalline with Parma violets, red berry crunch, red forest berries and an alluring brambly finish. Polished, satin tannins and a long vibrant finish.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2015, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

Carignan based wine. Lifted perfumed nose of black berries, graphite, black kalamata olives, cured meats and sweet peppercorns. Tightly coiled, focused compact texture, super polished texture with enticing spicy red cherry concentration, glassy acids, bramble berries and sweet / sour plums. Very serious effort from a great vintage. Still super youthful.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2016, WO Swartland,13% Abv.

Lovely saline cassis and black berry aromatics, sea breeze, iron filings and bloody meat. The palate is fuller, grippy and rustic with black olive, wildness, sweet grilled herbs and sweet red plum, black olive, bresaola meaty finish. Fine effort in a very hot, dry vintage.

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

David & Nadia Elpidios 2017, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

Interesting lactic, red cherry, meaty, red currant nose with plenty of spicy, pithy, plummy depth. Superb elegance, classy old world granitic mineral tannins, fine grip and tension but fabulous length and concentration. Intense, vibrant and focused. A very fine effort showing not only the quality of the 2017 vintage but the influence of a growing Grenache proportion.

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

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Release a Trio of Benchmark 2018 Single Terroir Syrahs…

With the allocation list opening for the Mullineux single terroir wines, casual drinkers, connoisseurs and collectors alike are going to be in for a big treat with the new 2018s. These three superb single terroir Syrah expressions have over the past eight years garnered almost every possible award available to South African producers reaffirming their exceptional quality but also the foresight, vision and attention to detail that has become a relentless crusade for Chris and Andrea Mullineux.

The five new single terroir releases.

I tasted these three unique single terroir expressions with Chris and Andrea recently and was very, very impressed by the consistently excellent quality of these 2018 Swartland Syrahs. So much hype and media attention has rightly centred around the 2017 vintage reds primarily thanks to the incredible Cabernets and Cabernet based blends from Stellenbosch. But 2018 represents something very special in the Swartland and finally we are able to see the results. So get on to the Mullineux allocation hotline pronto!

Mullineux Granite Syrah 2018, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

RS 2.1 g/l  – TA 5.1 g/l  – pH 3.672

Sourced from a single parcel of 24 year old dry land grown Syrah planted on decomposed granite in the Paardeberg, the grapes were foot trodden in 500 litre French oak barrels to break the berries and release the juices. After 4 days of macerating, the fermentation begun naturally with indigenous yeasts and lasted around 10 days. After fermentation, the wine saw a further 4 weeks of skin maceration before being pressed into barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. Pigeage was performed once a day before, during and after fermentation. In the Spring, the wine was racked after 21 months in barrel and was bottled unfiltered and unfined. The wine saw 12 months in French oak 500 litre barrels, 25% new, followed by 9 months in 2nd fill foudre. A final 9 months of ageing in bottle was carried out before release.

Syrah vines in the Granite vineyard.

Just as Andrea Mullineux always enthuses, this Granite Syrah is yet again just so exquisitely perfumed with fragrant lifted notes of lavender and lilac, hints of violets and subtle notes of cherry blossom. A veritable Rhoney Garden of Eden. There is a wonderous beauty to the wine that teases the senses with multiple complex aromatic layers of wet gravel, fresh black currants, sun baked strawberries and hints of savoury cured meats, subtle juniper berry notes and sweet red and black peppercorn nuances. Intricately crafted and sublimely expressive, the palate shows a very pure and focused precision with silky, powdery almost creamy tannins that combine with dense, concentrated, tight knit red and black berry fruits, red currant compote, pithy blood orange zest and a long, fine-grained lingering finish that leaves you feeling so utterly charmed. The purity of fruit and compact textural focus and concentration is almost faultless and suggest that this wine is going to evolve into one hell of a Syrah beauty if allowed to age 10 to 15 years for starters. While always fabulous on release, these wines are built to reward extended ageing and so 6 to 8 years should be considered the minimum ageing requisite if you really want to start seeing some of the extra hidden dimensions of this wine. (5,376 bottles produced.)

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

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2018, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

RS 1.9g/l  – TA 4.9 g/l  – pH 3.72

The grapes for the 2018 Schist Syrah were sourced from 21 year old vines planted on stony shale and schist soils on the Roundstone farm where the Mullineux winery is based next door to the Kasteelberg. As with the Granite and Iron cuvees, the grapes were foot trodden in 500 litre French oak barrels to break the berries and release the juices. After 4 days of macerating, the fermentation begun naturally with indigenous yeasts and lasted around 10 days. After fermentation, the wine saw a further 4 weeks of skin maceration before being pressed into barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. Pigeage was performed once a day before, during and after fermentation. In the Spring, the wine was racked after 21 months in barrel and was bottled unfiltered and unfined. The wine saw 12 months in French oak 500 litre barrels, 25% new, followed by 9 months in 2nd fill foudre. A final 9 months of ageing in bottle was carried out before release.

The brown Schist soils of the Roundstone farm.

While the Mullineux’s are adamant that the Schist Syrah is always one of the most structured wines out of their single terroir reds range, the density and structure always seems to translate into extreme finesse, plush concentration and a seductive elegance, making this one of the most sought after cuvees by the “man in the street.” But like all great fine wines, when supreme quality is present, these wines can be drunk literally from the barrel with equal pleasure offered in youth as with bottle age. The 2018 Schist continues the vintage theme of mid-palate concentration and fruit density with an incredibly rich, plummy, fragrant aromatics laced with lavender and incense, savoury barbequed meats, charcoal embers, olive tapenade and earthy blackberry fruits. The palate is cool and velvety with a massive mouth coating concentration of red and black berry fruits, powdery dry tannins and all the depth and breath you’d expect from a wine of this pedigree. Decant and drink this beauty on release or bury away in your cellar for a good 10 to 15 years. (5,340 bottles produced.)

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

Mullineux Iron Syrah 2018, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

RS 2.2 g/l  – TA 5.1 g/l  – pH 3.78

Grapes for the 2018 Iron Syrah were sourced from a single parcel of 19-year old organically farmed dry land bush vines on the rolling iron-rich soils west of Malmesbury. This parcel of Syrah gives one of the best expression of the “koffieklip” terroir – notably broadness and mid-palate concentration. As with the Granite and Schist cuvees, the grapes were foot trodden in 500 litre French oak barrels to break the berries and release the juices. After 4 days of macerating, the fermentation begun naturally with indigenous yeasts and lasted around 10 days. After fermentation, the wine saw a further 4 weeks of skin maceration before being pressed into barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. Pigeage was performed once a day before, during and after fermentation. In the Spring, the wine was racked after 21 months in barrel and was bottled unfiltered and unfined. The wine saw 12 months in French oak 500 litre barrels, 25% new, followed by 9 months in 2nd fill foudre. A final 9 months of ageing in bottle was carried out before release.

The dry grown Syrah vines of the Iron vineyard.

Often described as one of the most intellectually challenging wines in the Mullineux line up, the Iron Syrah also happens to be the most powerful, dense, concentrated and broody of the single terroir Syrah releases. Perhaps it is my love for the classical Northern Rhone Syrah expressions of France that make this wine so singularly and utterly seductive and beguiling. The aromatics are indistinguishable from a top Cote-Rotie Syrah with fabulous layers of sweet heady lavender perfume, rooibos, garrigue and savoury grilled herbs, barbequed meats and hints of iron and blood, iodine, bruleed earth and hedonistic notes of sweet oak spice, roasted coffee beans and a kiss of mocha complexity. So impressively compact, dense and concentrated, every component seems to add synergy to the seamless balance with the tannin management excelling yet again. This is truly a wine of impressive power and beauty within an international fine wine context. Drink from release after decanting or age for 15 to 20+ years. (2,628 bottles produced.)

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

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Release Another Incredible Pair of Whites – Tasting the 2019 Quartz and Granite Single Terroir Chenin Blancs…

Always a highly anticipated white wine new release, the Single Terroir cuvees from Chris and Andrea Mullineux continue to generate a lot of excitement year after year. With just two white cuvees this year, the Mullineux Old Vine white becomes the lucky beneficiary of the Schist portion yet again.

With a lot of discussion surrounding the incredible quality of the 2019s, I asked Andrea if she saw any similarities with their 2017 releases. Both vintages showed general character traits of intense liquid minerality and tight wound-spring tension though Andrea pointed out that not only does the 2019 Granite have a noticeably higher acidity at 7.2 TA, it also possesses an incredibly concentrated and intense density of glycerol fruit at a meagre 13% Abv.

The 2019s are definitely going to impress collectors looking to buy wines to lay down. Look out for the SA release in mid-September through Méridien Wines or across Europe in the Autumn.

Mullineux Quartz Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

RS 1.1 g/l  – TA 5.1 g/l  – pH 3.49

The grapes for the 2019 Quartz Chenin Blanc were sourced from a single parcel of sustainably farmed 38 years old vines planted in a quartz kloof on the Kasteelberg on the Leliefontein farm. This parcel of Chenin gives the best expression of the quartz terroir on the Kasteelberg, always displaying a fresh minerality and a lovely textural breadth. The grapes for the 2018 were whole-bunch pressed before settling and then racked into barrel for fermentation with indigenous yeasts which lasts around 4 weeks. The wine is then left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation is completed. The barrels are racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. Total maturation was 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels.

The rocky Quartz soils

Tasting the Quartz Chenin Blanc with the Mullineuxs recently, Chris described how their customers are finely divided by their preferences for either the tension and minerality of the Granite Chenin Blanc and the broader, richer, more texturally opulent Quartz Chenin Blanc which almost resembles a 1er Cru Meursault in character with overt flesh and opulence, a broad mouthfeel and a focused concentration of white citrus and green orchard fruits. The aromatics are certainly as expressive as the best wines out of the Swartland with clear, defined aromas of crunchy green apples, white pear pastille and a thrilling melange of orange peel and naartjie zest all under pinned by a chain gang dusty crushed rock minerality. The palate is fabulously crystalline and pure with a slightly saline green melon and granny smith apple concentration and a cool, fine focused finish that suggests plenty of textural generosity. Drink from release and over the next 8 to 10+ years. (2,880 bottles produced.)

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

Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 13% Abv

RS 2.1 g/l  – TA 7,2 g/l  – pH 3.36

The grapes for the 2019 Granite Chenin Blanc were harvested from a 43 year old parcel of dry farmed bush vines planted in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg. These very deep decomposed Granite soils tend to produce wines with great acidity and a flinty, stony aromatic profile with notes of sea salt and brine. The grapes for the 2018 were whole-bunch pressed before settling and then racked into barrel for fermentation with indigenous yeasts which lasts around 4 weeks. The wine is then left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation is completed. The barrels are racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. Total maturation was 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels.

Traditional old vine Chenin Blanc bush vines in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg.

While yields in 2018 were decimated by the drought, down by up to -80%, the 2019 season also suffered a -30% reduction in yields resulting in another vintage with a dense glycerol texture, depth and intensity of fruit. The 2019 Granite is certainly classically proportioned displaying all the intense liquid minerality, crushed gravel and granitic spice that is so typical of the finest terroir wines grown on ancient decomposed granitic soils. With this minerality come layer upon layer of complex dried green herbs, green apple bon bon rock candy, crunchy white peach and salty, briney notes of a Cape west coast sea breeze. But unlike some previous vintages, this wine not only displays an incredibly piercing nervous acidity, picante white citrus and crunchy green fennel notes, it also impresses with an unbelievably expressive glycerol palate concentration with intricate notes of quince, greengage, rock salt and pear puree. With one of the highest total acidities yet registered for this cuvee, combined with its mind blowing depth of fruit, this is going to make Chenin collectors shiver with excitement. Drink from release and enjoy this wine’s evolution over 20+ years.

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

Fine Wine Safari Regional Masterclass Tasting with the Top Wine of Origin Breedekloof Wineries…

I was recently asked to participate in an interesting Wine of Origin Breedekloof masterclass featuring 10 Chenin Blanc wines and another 5 alternative varieties such as Semillon, Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanche and Pinot Blanc. A big thank you to winemaker Attie Louw from Opstal Winery for heading up the winemaker group from the valley and also Emile Joubert for acting as facilitator during the online tasting.

“It has been four years since a group of winemakers from the Breedekloof Wine Valley decided to band together to collectively showcase South Africa’s greatest white grape, Chenin Blanc, under the Breedekloof Makers banner. What started out as a dream in 2015, has since established firm roots with a collection of individual Chenin Blancs that perfectly illustrate the quality of the Breedekloof terroir. Although the humble nature of this group of winemakers remain unshakeable, their Chenin Blanc continue to draw plenty of local and international praise to boast about.” ~ Breedekloof Makers

The international panel discussing the Breedekloof wines.

If these 15 producers represent 95% of the wine produced in the Breedekloof and Slanghoek areas, then the future is undoubtedly bright for this region. The quality of wines across the board is exceptionally high and the attention to detail noticeable. The region really has its own terroir feel and fruit character allowing for the region to really hone its own wine style and expression further.

If the producers can stick together and jointly promote and market their region and its best wines in the future, which will surely be challenging for the entire South African wine industry due to the Coronavirus pandemic, then I see a bright future ahead. It won’t necessarily be easy, but these lovely wines certainly deserve wider exposure and international attention. So if you are an importer in the USA or Europe, here is a bunch of cracking wines with fantastic consumer appeal.

Botha Amyah Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Breedekloof, 13.5% Abv.

Fermentation: 25-28 days barrel fermented. 42% Natural fermentation, 58% Inoculated yeast: QA23, CY3079. 20% in barrels and maturation on lees in barrels for 10 months. Normal bâtonnage (once every week for 4 weeks). Malolactic fermentation. Oak maturation was in 35% new 500 litre French oak barrels.

Soil: Fernwood – sandy with medium organic content (adjacent to the Breede River). Elevation: 200m above sea level. Trellis System: Bush Vines (planted east –west orientation) 2.7m x 1.2m. Age of vines: 30 years. RS 5.6 g/l.

The aromatics display a distinct dusty, biscuity, leesy note with ripe lemon peel zest, fresh straw and dried herbs. There is a noticeable pithy tension and structure to the wine, a finely balanced acidity and earthy, savoury yellow stone fruit length. Considering this wine has seen malo, it has lovely round depth, vibrant intensity and concentration.       

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

Merwida Winery Family Vintners Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Breedekloof, 13.97% Abv.

Fermented in stainless steel and transferred to barrel at 18 balling. Fermentation with inoculated Vin 7, Anchor Exotics yeasts). No malolactic fermentation. Lees contact / bâtonnage: Regular bâtonnage for one month post fermentation. Oak maturation was 9 months in older French oak barrels on gross lees.

Soil:  Glenrosa and Sandstone. Elevation: 200m above sea level. Trellis: 6 wire extended Perold. Age of vines:  15 years. Clone:  SN 1064. RS 2.4 g/l.

This shows a lovely delicate complexity of lemon herb butter, warm white toast, tangerine peel, pronounced petrichor mineral notes of rain on sun baked granite. The palate benefits from plenty of air to reveal ripe lemon and white citrus notes, pithy pear and a cool, taut herbal mineral finish with just the faintest hint of phenolic grip. The extra spice and tension from the 2017 vintage is clearly noticeable. A fine effort.

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

Opstal Estate Carl Everson Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Slanghoek, 12.95% Abv.

Fermented in old French oak 400 and 500 litre barrels which lasted 10 weeks. 100% malolactic fermentation with wine kept on gross lees entire time of ageing with only occasional bâtonnage to finish fermentation.

Soil: Ancient Sand stone. Elevation:  275m. Trellis:  Low Trellised, 3 wire. Age of vines: 37 years old. Clone: SN1061. RS 3.5 g/l.

One of the most confident and intense expressions of Chenin Blanc in the region. The precision, poise and complexity on the palate is truly impressive. The aromatics show sweet yellow citrus, exotic banana rock candy and sweet grassy wet thatch notes. There is such a lovely balance between stony minerality and pithy herby spice and white citrus and green apple persistence. The oak is so integrated and subtle making it a footnote in the overall greatness of this wine. A real benchmark for the region.

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

Jason’s Hill Beatrix Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.40% Abv.

Fermented in 500 litre amphorae and Hungarian oak barrels. Fermentation was all natural with 1/3 whole bunch, skin fermentation in amphorae. No malolactic but with lees contact for 5 months, no bâtonnage. Oak maturation was in Hungarian oak, 1st and 3rd fill barrels of 300 litres.

Soil: Terrace gravels, deep stony soils & micro jets are being used for irrigation purposes. Elevation: 360m. Trellis: Perold system. Age of vines: 16 year old vines from the SN24 clone grafted on Richter 99 rootstock. RS 3.36 g/l.

This really opens up with some air to fan its tail. There are lush complex notes of sweet lemon cordial, crunchy yellow peaches, Seville oranges and a stony, dusty dried herb mineral lift. The palate is cool, focused and quite precise with a crystalline purity, tart tangerine acids and a long, stony, wet river pebble finish. Lovely classical restraint.

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

Badsberg Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.28% Abv.

Fermented in barrel for 25 days. Fermentation was with no malolactic. Wine aged on its lees for 3 month with monthly bâtonnage. Oak maturation lasted 3 months after fermentation.

Soil: Rocky and alluvial. Elevation: 225m. Trellis system: Extended Perold. Age of vines:  30 years old. RS 3.52 g/l.

The nose shows attractive notes of dried straw, lemon peel, tangerine and white citrus with an underlying mineral, dried herb and mint leaf complexity. The palate is cool and sleek, with dusty minerality, pithy green apple peel and a fairly elegant, light weight palate concentration. There is something very attractive about this wine.

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

Bergsig Estate Patmos Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Breedekloof, 14.2% Abv.

Fermented in 300 litre French oak first and second fill barrels (50/50%). Fermentation started in stainless steel tank then racked in to barrel and slow fermented for 4-6 weeks. Natural malolactic fermentation. Lees contact / bâtonnage: 4 weeks bâtonnage and left on lees for 60 days. Oak maturation for 12 months in barrel.

Soil: Mostly alluvial topsoil. The vineyard is planted on the Worcester fault line. Underground is partly Cape sandstone and partly Malmesbury Shale. Elevation: 230m above sea level. Trellis: 2 wire Perold. Age of vines: 35 years old. RS 3.58 g/l.

This is a big bold aromatic expression with plenty of bruised yellow orchard fruit complexity, savoury lemon and dried herbs, orange peel and sweet peachy notes. The palate is impressively opulent and concentrated with white citrus, yellow stone fruits and a dusty, gravelly minerality. Again, the 2017 vintage intensity and tension defines this wine.

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

Lateganskop Zahir Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Breedekloof, 12,5% Abv.

Fermented in tank and 225 litre French oak barrels. Fermentation started in tank and then wine was transferred to barrel with no malolactic fermentation. Lees contact / bâtonnage for 3 months with oak maturation for 12 months.

Soil:  Sandy clay. Elevation: 248m. Trellis: Bush vines with high density. Age of vines: 24 years old (planted 1993). RS 3.65 g/l.

This wine shows a distinctly different aromatic profile with sweet lemon oil, grilled herbs, sweet lemon cordial and an almost Mosel Riesling like note of white peach, apple bon bons and grey slate minerality. The palate is cool and steely with delicious Clementine citrus zesty acids, crunchy white peach and a linear mouth-watering liquid mineral finish. Very impressive wine.

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

Slanghoek Cellar Legends Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Slanghoek, 13.16% Abv.

Fermented in stainless steel with cooling at 16°C  for 5 days then transferred to barrels. No malolactic with lees contact / bâtonnage for 20 months. Oak maturation in 50 % new 225 litre French oak + 50% 2nd fill French oak barrels.

Soil:  Deep, rocky terrace. Trellis system: 5 wire extended Perold system. Age of vines: 30 years old. RS 3.45 g/l.

This shows a lush, intense exotic expression of waxy orange peel, yellow peach stone fruits, cigar smoke, crushed gravel and a long, rich textural mouthfeel with a very fine balance of peach and orange citrus fruits and sappy, spicy, mineral notes and an unctuous, vibrant, concentrated finish that bristles with vivacity and piercing intensity.

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

Mountain Ridge Romansrivier Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.5% Abv.

Fermented in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation allowed. Lees contact / bâtonnage lasted 9 months with oak maturation of 95% new 225 litre + 5% 500 litre old oak.

Soil: Deep rocky alluvial. Elevation: 230 m. Trellis: 4 wire wedge. Age of vines: 13 years old. RS 3.43 g/l.

This is a rather exotic version of Chenin with lush sweet fruited yellow peach notes, white pepper, dried mint leaf, yellow citrus and hints of hedgerow spice. The palate is cool and linear with iced tea notes, tart peach and green apple pastille complexity and an impressive overall concentration. Really quite enticing.

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

Du Toitskloof Wines Quest Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.5% Abv.

Fermented in French oak barrels. Fermentation was started in stainless steel tanks at 15°C. When sugar levels reached 10 balling the wine was transferred to barrels. No malolactic. Lees contact / bâtonnage for 3 months and overall oak maturation for 8 months.

Soil: Relatively dry sandy deep alluvial soils, highly weathered with mostly fine to medium sand fractions. Well drained without any major limiting factors. Elevation: 270m. Trellis: 5 wire lengthened Perold. Age of vines: 16 years old. RS 3.19 g/l.

This shows a decidedly biscuity aromatics with lemon tart, custard cream and tarte tatin caramelised apple richness punctuated with saline mineral notes, hints of brine, dried herbs and a cool, intense concentrated finish. Rather impressive indeed.

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

Stofberg Estate Borderstone Semillon 2018, WO Breedekloof, 13% Abv.

Fermented in stainless steel. Fermentation was inoculated with Yeast Alchemy 2. No malolactic. Bâtonnage once a week for 5 weeks and lees contact 10 months during oak maturation in French oak.

Soil: Sandy loam. Elevation: 220m above sea level. Trellis: 4 Wire extended Perold. Age: 26 years old. Clone: 317. RS 3.4 g/l.

The aromatics show a leesy, buttery, creamy white citrus complexity with notes of grilled herbs, lemon peel and white toast. The palate is pithy and fresh with pronounced orange peel zest, grassy spice and a piquant, bitter lemon creamy lanolin finish.

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

Daschbosch Avon Clairette Blanche 2019, WO Breedekloof, 13.14% Abv.

Fermented in barrel using wild and commercial yeasts. The wine saw malolactic fermentation with lees contact and bâtonnage for 4 months and oak maturation for 6 months.

Soil: Longlands / Westleigh. Elevation: 270 metre. Trellis: Bush vines of 43 years old. RS 3.16 g/l.

This has a powerful overt aromatic nose with dried green herbs, lemon peel, green apple and a chalky crushed gravel minerality. The palate is crystalline and fresh with a beautiful vein of acidity, tart green pear, white peach, and a sweet / sour stony finish. This really is an exciting expression of this variety expertly handled. Very smart indeed.

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

Le Belle Rebelle Mariette Pinot Blanc 2018, WO Breedekloof, 14.26% Abv.

Fermentation vessel were 225 litre French oak barrels using wild yeasts. No malolactic fermentation with lees contact for 9 months with first 3 months also bâtonnage. Oak maturation was 9 months in second and third fill French oak.

Soil: Primarily clay to loam with sandy alluvial soils sections. Sandstone rocks also present. Elevation: 208m. Trellis: 5 wire guyot trellis. Age of vines: 33 years old.  Clone: Mutation from Pinot noir. RS 3.31 g/l.

The nose shows a waxy apple, herby, white citrus complexity with a smoky, waxy soap stone minerality. The palate is cool, crisp and bright with a certain vivacity and generosity of crystalline pure white peach and white citrus fruits. Lovely linear precision and focus.

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

Olifantsberg Grenache Blanc 2018, WO Breedekloof, 13% Abv.

Fermentation vessel was a 2000 litre foudre, 300 and 500 litre barrels. Fermentation used natural yeasts with a subsequent portion of malolactic occurring naturally. Lees contact on full fermentation lees for 10 months. Oak maturation for 10 months in foudre and barrels.

Soil: Clay-shale with quartz. Elevation: 460m. Trellis: Stok-by-paaltjie. Age of vines: 5 years old. RS 3.22 g/l.

This wine reveals a bold, stony mineral aromatics of crush gravel, grey slate and piquant white citrus peel and dried herbs. The palate is cool and generous, loose knit and fresh with orange peel, lemon rind zest and a charmingly bitter lemon pithy finish. There is a lot of interest packed into this bottle.

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

Deetlefs Estate Family White Semillon 2018, WO Breedekloof, 13.96% Abv.

Ferment in barrel with 60% of must inoculated with cultured yeast while 40% underwent spontaneous wild fermentation. 5% skin fermented Sémillon adds complexity and texture to the palate. The grapes are destemmed and given six hours skin contact before a light pressing. Oak maturation lasted a total of nine months in 300 litre French oak barrels. 16% first fill, 16% second fill and balance in older seasoned oak. The best barrels are selected for this special and rare take on Sémillon.

Soil: cultivated on Sandy loam soils. Elevation: 400m above sea level. Trellis: Three-wire Perold. Age of vines: 27 years old. Clone: The clone is GD 121 and is grafted on Richter 99. Cultivated on an open canopy basis to allow for at least 85% sunlight penetration to enhance photosynthesis and thus bettering berry development. High density planting, which is 25% more vines per hectares then the norm, allows for better competition of rootstocks and thus building a healthy branched root system. RS 3.38 g/l.

This reveals a charming aromatic nose of honey suckle and sweet white blossom perfume, honeycomb and sweet grilled herb spices. There is a lovely soap stone, dusty minerality that carries to the palate with spicy yellow peach, sappy baking herbs, wet river pebbles and a stony graphite finish. A very serious expression of Semillon without doubt.

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

Wine Safari New Release Notes – Tasting the Ground Breaking Naude Old Vine Series Colombard 2020…

Always at the cutting edge of winemaking and experimentation, whether it’s perfecting the Cape white blend or the use of old vines, if Ian Naude puts his mind and efforts into a new project, rest assured the results will be spectacular.

Previously inspired by not only the renaissance of Cinsault in South Africa but also more latterly, the reinvention of Cape Heritage Blends using Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon, Ian has now turned his expertise back to white wine and old vines. His newest creation is the first premium old vine certified Colombard white wine to be bottled in South Africa from a majestically beautiful old vineyard hidden away up the Cape West Coast near Vredendal.

Old Vine Colombard planted in 1985

Made from vines planted in 1985, this old vine bottling of Colombard represents the beginning of new era for South African white wines where previously less lauded varieties are highlighted for their excellent potential.

Tasting the old vine Colombard from tank with Ian Naude earlier in the year pre-lockdown.

So if you are a fan of more alternative varieties like Semillon, Verdelho, Grenache Blanc, Assyrtiko and Albariño… this new old vine release from Naude Family Wines is going to bowl you over. (But act quickly as quantities produced are tiny.)

Langpad 2020 (long road) – The very first “old vine certified” Colombard produced in South Africa.

Naude Family Wines Old Vines Langpad Colombard 2020, WO Western Cape, 12.5 Abv.

This fabulous white has all the seduction and appeal you could possibly want from an old vine expression showing amplified aromatics of crunchy white peaches, green apple pastille, cream soda nuances, grated limes, crushed tangerine peels and a dusty, granitic liquid minerality. On the palate, Ian Naude has managed to coax out the most regal of the old vine Colombard characteristics, revealing an impressively linear, taut mid-palate texture, crisp crystalline green fruit notes and a clarity as pure as freshly driven snow. With just enough glycerol weight and acid effervescence, this wine will not only make the perfect stand alone aperitif white but will also be a champion food matching partner with its pronounced pithy, piquant, subtly bitter lemon finish and its classic Cape West Coast bite of sea salt on the long, briney, granadilla and guava tinged finish. This wine is the taste of excitement, long hot balmy carefree summers that you don’t want to end and chilled fresh Bellini cocktails on a Cape West Coast beach. A truly evocative wine. Drink from release or cellar comfortably for 3 to 8+ years.

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

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going – Tasting the Phenomenal New Release Savage Wines 2019 Vintages…

Thankfully I managed to visit South Africa just before lockdown in February 2020. While I had limited access to Duncan Savage who was deeply ensconced in his Salt River urban cellar busy pressing his 2020 grapes coming in, I did get sufficient opportunity to drill down on the phenomenal new 2019 vintage releases and the conditions that shaped Duncan’s newest and possibly greatest wines.

With allocations imminent, and after a lengthy 3 month lockdown in the UK, these wines are undoubtedly one of the most exciting releases of the calendar year along with Eben Sadie and Chris Alheit’s sought after old vine single vineyard wines. If you are lucky enough to get offered an allocation, the signal is BUY BUY BUY!

Savage White Blend 2019, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.

In 2019 the Savage White Blend is made up of 64% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon and 16% Chenin Blanc with the Sauvignon portion increasing +10% on the 2018 due to the yields from the individual component blocks. Fruit was sourced from Kaaimansgat, Villiersdorp, Piekenierskloof and Stellenbosch. After being whole bunch pressed, the fermentations for various batches lasted from between 1 and 6 months with all components finishing secondary malolactic fermentation. The wine was aged for 10 months in old 500 litre French oak barrels along with a portion in concrete eggs. But certainly the 2019 whites are turning out to be as distinctive and expressive as Duncan’s 2018 wines were in their own characterful way but perhaps having more in common stylistically with the 2017 vintage. The 2019’s taut, smoky bouquet shows a slightly reductive liquid minerality that is utterly captivating, slowly unfurling layer upon layer in the glass. The initial petrichor notes of wet slate give way to crushed granite and dusty gravel nuances underpinned by aromatics of waxy green apples, dried fynbos, peach stone fruits and pithy white citrus. Initially dominated by the Sauvignon Blanc and creamy grapefruit notes of the Semillon, a little time in the glass eventually sees the Chenin Blanc component assert itself with hints of bruised yellow orchard fruits and a soft, pineapple pastille kiss. On the palate, the unmistakable Duncan Savage hallmark brilliance again shines with an outstanding balance and harmony, highlighting his masterful blending of these three white varieties. At once fresh, bright and supremely pure fruited, the 2019 Savage white is all about textural finesse, seamless equilibrium and pinpoint precision. The finish is long, persistent and intensely concentrated throwing out yet more teasing notes of passion fruit, white peach and candied pineapple. A very, very smart white blend in anyone’s language. Drink from release and over 10-12+ years. (9,900 bottles produced.)

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

Savage Follow the Line 2019, 13% Abv.

I always joke that this wine from Duncan has one of the biggest cult followings globally only because no one can ever buy any Girl Next Door Syrah! But seriously, this wine has joined a very elite group of Cinsault dominant wines produced in the Cape that speak authoritatively year after year. In 2019, the blend is made up of 89% Cinsault from 39 year old dry farmed Darling bush vines together with 11% Syrah, a percentage that would easily allow Duncan to bottle this wine as a mono-varietal. It spent 3 to 5 weeks on its skins with 50% whole bunches employed. Ageing took place over 10 months in an oval foudre of 1,500-2000 litre capacity. True to form, this wine is ultra perfumed and incredibly pretty with soft seductive aromatics of crushed rose petals, spring cherry blossoms, dried lavender, a melange of red summer berry fruits and an exotic Turkish delight twist. The palate shows a fabulously self assured, compact core of bright red fruits, intense zippy red cherry Kool Aid, candied red berry notes and a super dense yet supple core of purity rarely seen on modest Cinsault. The tannins are fleshy, silky soft and almost imperceptible with the harmonious finesse of the sublime palate texture grabbing all the drinker’s attention. Superbly balanced, subtly piquant and saline, this wine has such a dreamy, creamy finish, breath taking purity of fruit and the most well honed, elegant Grand Cru poise to suggest that this could be one of Duncan’s finest expressions of Cinsault to date. A truly profound wine. Wow! Drink this from release and over the next 10 to 15+ years. (8,000 bottles produced.)

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

Thief in the Night 2019, 13% Abv.

Only three years into this grandiose “Grenache project” and the quantity of the old, dry land Grenache in this blend has already grown to 61%, supported by 26% Cinsault and 13% Syrah. The wine spent 2 weeks on its skins employing only 20% of whole bunches this year to maximise the fruit’s true terroir expression. All components were picked on the same day and co-fermented from the same property in Piekenierskloof before spending 11 months in 3,400 litre conical foudre. Every vintage I have tasted of this wine has been a step up on the previous year’s effort and of course I wondered whether this would be possible again in 2019. Having a fabulously crystalline, translucent ruby red colour, this wine is sassy and confident from the get go, showing a rich, deep, savoury spicy aromatic depth of autumnal leaves, freshly cut hedge row, sappy earthy black cherry fruits and a subtle peppery broody depth. Yet again, the compact, signature 2019 palate texture density and harmony is unambiguous, with a seamless fruit – acid balance and a savoury earthy red currant and bramble berry spice complexity asserting itself on the long, plush, polished finish. I don’t know if Duncan is just simply mastering his Grenache fine tuning evermore or if 2019 was just an incredible vintage for this style of blend? But needless to say, this is his most confident and accomplished expression of the Thief in the Night cuvee produced to date. Drink from release and over 8 to 10+ years. (4,400 bottles produced.)

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

Are We There Yet 2019, WO Malgas, 13% Abv.

Last year I noted early on that the 2018 Are We There Yet cuvee had really found another quality gear on previous vintages. Looking back, this was genuinely born out in the real world as this slightly quirky Malgas red blend ended up selling out in the UK market even faster than many of the other more prestigious Savage red cuvees with only the exception of the Girl Next Door Syrah. But results like this are to be expected as Duncan strives to fine tune the winemaking of this wine year on year to match the style of this wine to its unique river pebble on shale terroir and its unique blend of varieties. The 2019 is again a blend of 14 year old bush vines from 50% Touriga Nacional and 50% Syrah, which spent 2 weeks on their skins before being aged 11 months in neutral oak foudre. A lot of the work done to fine tune this cuvee, like the 100% destemming, has resulted in one of the most plush, opulent and seamlessly harmonious reds in Duncan’s entire range. The aromatics retain their underlying dark, plumy, black fruit complexity with intriguing nuances of blueberry pie, black currant confit and sweet melted black liquorice candy. The palate incredibly shows a level of refinement that is more reminiscent of a Grand Vin from Cote Rotie, with tangy acids, sweet savoury velvet tannins, a fleshy luxurious core of black currant and blue berry fruits and a finish with the most suave, fine grained mineral texture possible. All in all, the 2019 shows a little more refinement, a pinch more plushness and a polished finesse that marks this wine as a very smart effort once again. Drink from release as you won’t be able to resist its overt charms, and then over the next 10+ years. (2,100 bottles produced.)

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

Girl Next Door Syrah 2019, WO Cape Town, 13.5% Abv.

Unless you are completely new to Duncan Savage’s range of wines, this incredible cuvee will need no introduction at all. Made in miniscule quantities from the most salty, wind swept and battered 0.38 hectare Syrah vineyard plot near Fishhoek, these gnarled 14 year old trellised vines planted on sandy gravel soils for ornamental value originally, have latterly provided some of the finest Syrah grapes in the entire Western Cape. This labour of love for Duncan sees 50% whole bunches employed in fermentation followed by two weeks maceration on skins, malolactic fermentation in 600 litre neutral French oak barrels and finally a further 11 months maturation in barrels. The aromatics are suggestive but initially offer up a shy, retiring bouquet of dark damson plums, Kalamata olives, sweet savoury cured meats, Tuscan wild bore sausage nuances, sweet green peppercorns, dried coriander and a lovely subtle waft of lavender blossom perfume. The front and sides of the palate bristle with mouth watering crystalline pure fresh acids, a seamlessly plump fleshy opulence and the most suave, sophisticated, lithe concentration and fruit density. While many high quality premium wines become sought after purely based on scarcity, I would suggest that the overriding factor for the Girl Next Door’s cult following is the undeniable knowledge that if Duncan is going to bother making this wine in such small quantities, he has to believe heart and soul that this vineyard has something very, very special to offer in the context of world class Syrah. Mouth coating and utterly entrancing, this is next level Syrah indeed. Drink from release and over the next 12+ years. (1,500 bottles produced.)

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

Savage Red 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv. 

Duncan Savage is unquestionably proudest of both his eponymous signature white blend and of course his Savage red, and rightly so. These wines represent the true essence of the Savage brand however many new labels may be added to the range now or in years to come. Since 2017, this flagship wine has been made exclusively from 100% pure Syrah, and from 2018, 100% pure Stellenbosch Syrah! Produced from fruit grown on the famous Polkadraai Hills decomposed granite soils of Southern Stellenbosch, these organically farmed grapes spent three weeks on their skins with 50% whole bunches employed in fermentation. After secondary malolactic fermentation, the wine spent 13 months in 500 litre French oak barrels and then a further 9 months in 3,200 litre conical foudres. The aromatics chime a different tune to those of the meaty Swartland Syrahs. More base than treble, this wine’s aromatics show an impressively deep, compact red berry fruit concentration, a savoury, brambly, damson plum palate breadth that’s delicately massaged by a soft, pure granitic acidity. There is a real translucent, weightless, purity of flavour to the fruits, a true crystalline 2018 elegance and a supple, fleshy, seamless talcum powder fine tannin texture on the finish. True to the vintage, this wine will give immense drinking pleasure from release and probably hit its quality zenith at 8 to 10+ years of age. (11,400 bottles produced.)

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