Duncan Savage Releases His Most Sophisticated Range of Wines Yet – Tasting the Savage 2018 Vintage Wines…

I have been very fortunate to have tasted and reviewed every single vintage of red and white Savage Wines since the maiden 2011 red and 2012 white. Duncan Savage is certainly now well bedded into his new urban winery in Salt River and the 2018 range of new releases represents probably Duncan’s finest, most self assured range of wines produced to date. While certain individual back vintages may have recorded higher critical scores for wines in his range, this year’s releases are not only his most consistent quality wise but also the most confident and well honed wines produced.

With many of the Savage cuvees selling out on release, followers of Duncan’s exceptional wines are encouraged to get in quickly to avoid disappointment. As for Duncan himself, he is of the firm opinion that the Savage Red 2017 and Savage White 2018 are probably two of the best wines he has ever produced and more specifically, were made in a style that he is striving to perfect.

Tasting with Duncan Savage at his winery in Salt River, Cape Town in April 2019.

Savage Follow the Line Cinsault 2018, 13% Abv.

While only in its 5th vintage, if there was a race to create a cult wine in South Africa in the shortest time possible, this wine would stand a very good chance of winning. But with instant fame comes increased pressure and expectation and the 2018 vintage was not one of the easiest in South Africa due to drought conditions. But these 38 year old south-east facing Darling origin bush vines once again showed their true pedigree. Labelled as Cinsault, the 2018 includes 85.4% Cinsault and a slightly elevated 14.6% of Syrah, which were aged five weeks on their skins with the use of 50% of whole-bunches. The wine was aged 10 months in oval foudre (1500-2000 litre capacity). Always sublimely perfumed and fragrant, the nose boasts lifted layers of dried lavender, violets, rose petals, red crystallised cherries and hints of Turkish delight. But it is on the palate that the wine reveals a classy weightless streamlined concentration, fabulously sleek polished mineral tannins and an all round sense of finesse and harmony. A terrifically serious effort from Duncan. Pressure? What pressure! Drink from release but do cellar a few bottles for 5 to 8+ years. 

(95/100 Greg Sherwood MW )

 

Savage Thief in the Night 2018, 13% Abv.

The maiden 2017 vintage of this wine was released to rave critical reviews last year despite this cuvee still being a work in progress. The 2018 blend retains a punchy slug of 54% Grenache, a slightly elevated 24% Syrah and a fine supporting 22% Cinsault from the Piekenierskloof. Components were fermented separately unlike 2017, with the grapes spending 10 days on their skins using 20% whole-bunches. After 10 months of ageing in 3,200 litre conical foudre and one new 225 litre barrel, the wine was bottled unfiltered off its fine lees. When I tasted this wine from barrel, I instantly remarked what a step up I thought it was even on the excellent 2017. In bottle, the aromatics display a wonderfully crisp, pure delineated red cherry scented top note with plenty of granitic minerality and graphite in support. Subtle notes of sweet sappy red currant and red plum confit allow the nose to retain an element of broodiness but there is no holding back the palate however, which bristles with delicious vibrancy, wild strawberry, a bright pin point acidity and again an opulent, glycerol weightless intensity and concentration. This really is a genuinely thrilling wine!

(94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Savage Are We There Yet 2018, Malgas, 13% Abv.

Where the 2016 was perhaps a little later picked, the 2017 certainly turned heads and found and extra gear. In 2018, the blend is a 50/50 split between Touriga Nacional and Syrah, with the Syrah using 50% whole-bunches with two weeks skin contact. The wine was aged 15 months in old 500 litre barrels before bottling. This wine certainly has its own bold vinous personality and reveals a dark, deep damson plum colour and an equally deep, dark broody aromatic profile. Loaded with blue and black berry fruits, you can almost smell the sea as layers of saline black currant, kelp and piquant salty black liquorice are underpinned by a pronounced dusty, granitic, rocky minerality. With a mindful focus on freshness, Duncan manages to retain plenty of pithy mineral spice framed by dusty graphite tannins that flex a bit more muscle than either the Follow the Line or Thief in the Night blends. This is a really stellar vintage for this cuvee and perhaps the 13 year old bush vines show why Touriga and Syrah are so well suited to drought conditions. Very pure and super classy with a fine saline cassis density, this wine shows the same impressive gravitas and complexity seen on the previous 2017 vintage. A wine that looks set to impress the critics.

(94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Savage Girl Next Door 2018 Syrah, 13.5 Abv.

If Follow the Line has grown into a Savage cult wine, this tiny production Syrah single vineyard of 0.38 hectares grown on sandy gravel soils overlooking the Atlantic Ocean near Fishhoek, is most certainly the more serious icon wine of the range. The knarled wind battered and salt affected 13 year old trellised vines are made to struggle and normally yield little more fruit than a meagre 200 cases in a good year. 100% Syrah using 70% whole-bunches spends two weeks on its skins followed by malolatic and 10 months ageing in old neutral 600 litre barrels. South Africa has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great Syrah wines, yet for me this wine, along with perhaps only one or two others, consistently represents the pinnacle of classical, restrained, old world character that I often envisage could have come from a grand old appellation vineyard of the northern Rhone. Always beautifully deep, rich and textured, the nose has a beguiling complexity of earthy black currants, sweet black peppercorns, black olive tapenade and cured meats. The mind and senses start wondering to foreign shores long before you even put the first sip in your mouth. Fabulously tight knit, creamy, mineral and restrained, blueberry nuances slowly give way to tart black cherry and sour raspberry coulis on the long, lingering finish. Peppery mineral tannins guide this wine confidently and elegantly like a firm hand on a boats rudder. A truly special creation, this is one wine worth hunting down and duelling for!

(95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Savage Red Blend 2017, 13.5% Abv.

After a bit of vintage shuffling, last years 2015 blockbuster was the last Savage Red blend to be bottled, reverting in 2017 to a pure 100% Syrah wine made from vines grown exclusively on granitic soils in both Stellenbosch and the Swartland. Farmed biodynamically, the Stellenbosch vineyard fruit makes up the lion’s share of this wine and indeed will comprise 100% of the Savage Red in 2018.The grapes spend two weeks on their skins with 50% whole-bunches used before spending 13 months in 500 litre barrels and a further 9 months in 3,200 litre conical foudre, or just under two years elevage in the cellar. A super smart and super concentrated expression, this later release allows one to revisit the fabulously complex aromatics and balance of the exceptional 2017 vintage. Loaded with piquant blueberries, saline cassis and blackberry opulence, the nose shows strikingly complex notes of pink musk, sweet grilled herbs, black peppercorn spice and is embellished with an intoxicating exotic sweet white lily blossom fragrance. The palate intensity is also tremendously impressive with a harmonious crystalline purity and classical elegance in abundance. Showing a slightly more overt, opulent personality to the broody foursquare 2015, this wine represents an evolution and growing maturity in the red winemaking of Duncan Savage. One of his best efforts to date no doubt.

(96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Savage White Blend 2018, 13.5% Abv.

As Duncan’s flagship white, the blend might sometimes evolve and alter depending on vintage conditions, but quality, freshness and balance is never compromised. From another warm, dry vintage, the vines have gotten seemingly more used to the drought conditions and winemakers have also tweaked their picking dates to focus on freshness and purity of fruit. The 2018 is an impressive blend of 54% Sauvignon Blanc, 28% Semillon and a slightly larger than usual 18% Chenin Blanc. Grapes were all whole bunch pressed and fermented with approximate 80% of the wine undergoing malolactic fermentation before being aged 10 months in old 500 litre oak barrels. A magnificently intelligent blend of Kaaimansgat, Villiersdorp and Piekenierskloof fruit, it displays a fresh, cool, crystalline vibrancy, fragrant pithy white citrus and green apple zest and a subtle waxy, fleshy, bruised pear savoury hint. On the palate, the message of clarity, purity and precision is clear to see with sherbety acids spritzing up the fringes and adding extra frame and linearity to the exotic tart tangerine, grapefruit, kumquat and pineapple pastille concentration. A very distinguished winemaking display yet again to produce a wine that is lithe and elegant, finely balanced yet intense and surely among the most sophisticated Savage white blend vintages produced to date. Drink on release and over the next 4 to 8+ years.

(95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Savage Never Been Asked To Dance Chenin Blanc 2018, 13.5 Abv.

Duncan’s knowledge of old vine Paarl vineyards is well known and this 100% Chenin Blanc from 64 year old dry land grown bush vines on granite soils is a fabulous expression of what is possible in this region. Whole bunch pressed and fermented and aged in neutral Stockinger 600 litre barrels for 10 months, this second vintage rises to new heights after a very solid 2017 effort. The 2018 is altogether less pithy and herbal than the last vintage, instead conveying more classical notes of dusty granitic minerality, white citrus, creamy pineapple pastille fruits and sweet lemon biscuit notes. Top quality old vine Paarl Chenin Blanc has a pronounced signature and this wine has it written all over it thanks to Duncan’s minimal intervention and focus on terroir and site. Elegant and harmonious across the palate, this wine is deliciously fleshy and glycerol, ultra pure and cool but also sophisticated and seamlessly light on its feet. You could not ask for more purity or varietal typicity. Duncan has really nailed it in 2018 with this fabulous old vine Chenin fruit.

(94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Not Tonight Josephine Straw Wine 2018, 11% Abv.

As a category, Chenin Blanc straw wine can probably be regarded as one of the most successful and critically acclaimed in South Africa if international journalists’ scores are to be followed. But having tasted a lot of straw wine globally, the purity, richness, balance and intensity that Duncan has achieved on this maiden 2018 is certainly quite impressive. 100% Chenin Blanc grown on rocky sandstone from the Pienenierskloof farm of Tierhoek was dried for three weeks and then left for five days on its skins as whole-bunches followed by foot treading. Resulting grapes were basket pressed into small barrels for the remainder of fermentation and for a further 10 months of ageing. At 294 g/l residual sugar, a 9.5g/l TA and with only 850 x 37.5cl bottles produced, you can expect the scramble to begin swiftly for this little rarity. Dark yellow golden in colour, the nose exhibits fabulously exotic notes of granadilla, sun dried yellow peaches, dried straw spice, orange marmalade, creamy yellow fruit pastries with custard and classic dried apricot roll. Super supple, elegant and fleshy in the mouth, at no point does it become clawing or over bearing. Fabulously balanced with finesse and well honed winemaking, this wine will appeal to a whole new cross section of Savage consumers. Eminently ageworthy of course, you can drink this sweet gem over the next 20+ years.

(95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Brookdale Winery Prepares to Preview their Noteworthy Second Chenin Blanc Vintage at the New Wave 2019 Tasting in London…

Brookdale is a fabulous new 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 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 estate have already been uprooted and only the old vine Chenin Blanc blocks were retained. The site is regularly exposed to strong winds that often reduce yields and offer much-needed cooling in Paarl’s warm inland climate. This site offers altitude and granitic soils rich in clay and schist that are ideal for Chenin Blanc.

Brookdale is also very excited about its unique blends. There will be a white blend in future from a 16 varietal field blend that will be fermented and aged in amphorae. The red wines will consist of a Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Petit Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Petit Manseng and also a 20 varietal red field blend. The reds will be aged in older barrels and a small percent of new oak will be used for the Touriga Nacional.

While the first two Chenin Blanc vintages were made under the close guidance of winemaker rock star Duncan Savage, he was also instrumental in bringing in their new full time winemaker who was previously Duncan’s assistant winemaker at Savage Wines.

Taking Brookdale forward from 2019 is Kiara Scott, a young 27 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 super exciting and this is most definitely an estate to follow closely.

Brookdale Chenin Blanc 2018, 13.5 Abv.

Like the maiden 2017 release, the 2018 Brookdale is a blend of Chenin Blanc Block 2, Block 5 and Block 10.1 using 50% new oak (1 x new 500 litre and 1 x 10 year old 500 litre barrel). The aromatics are slightly more restrained and subtle coming together to yield a classical Paarl Chenin melange of gravelly pineapple pastille, warm buttered croissants, sweet orange citrus zest and wet thatch herbal spice. On the palate the wine shows impressive oak spice, fruit and savoury leesy lemon biscuit integration and complexity but also superb fleshy, stony yellow orchard fruit notes, bruised green apples and acids that are bright and tangy but finely balanced by a fleshy glycerol texture. Ultimately, it’s the wine’s harmony and intensity with finely judged balance that really leaves a long lasting impression. Thoroughly seductive and captivating, this wine is a total show stopper and a new icon Chenin Blanc in the growing ranks of South Africa’s new wave producers.

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

David and Nadia Aristargos – Another Leading Light in the Swartland White Blend Genre…

With the 2018 new releases of the David & Nadia Single Vineyard Chenin Blancs setting the South African industry alight with excitement, it is easy to forget that David has also been producing one of the Swartland’s top white blends for over 10 years with high scoring consistency.

The Aristargos is traditionally a blend of 14 to 16 different vineyards based around Chenin Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne which are often picked in over 20 batches such as in 2018. I recently tasted an interesting mini vertical of this superb white blend and was very impressed with the wine’s intensity, balance, structure and complexity.

At a fraction of the single vineyard Chenin Blanc prices, the Aristargos and David & Nadia straight Chenin Blanc are certainly wines collectors should take note of and seek out. They offer impressive value and outstanding quality.

David & Nadia Aristargos 2012, 13.5 Abv.

Six vineyards from the Swartland used in total. Chenin Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Chardonnay and Viognier. 100% malolactic employed with regular battonage. Delicious, lifted aromatics of wet thatch, orange peel, peaches and honey on white toast. Rich and creamy with finely toned supporting acids, toffee apple and peach purée. Lovely balance, length and complexity.

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

David & Nadia Aristargos 2014, 13.5 Abv.

Six vineyards used in total. Chenin Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Viognier, Roussanne and around 5% Paardebosch Semillon. 100% malolactic employed with no battonage. Rich creamy peaches and cream notes, dusty granite, gravel, dry hay and ripe pear. Cool, crystalline, classical palate with taut frame, subtle vanilla pod richness, white peach, pear and lovely focus with purity. Ageing well.

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

David & Nadia Aristargos 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Chenin Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Viognier, and Roussanne. Lovely pithy, sappy mineral aromatics with dry thatch, fynbos, sea breeze maritime notes and crunchy white peach. Fabulous length and breadth, creamy glycerol texture, salinity and fabulous fleshy yellow orchard fruit balance with a subtle piquant tangerine peel kiss on the finish. Very impressive.

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

David & Nadia Aristargos 2017, 13.5 Abv.

53% Chenin Blanc, 13% Clairette Blanche, 13% Semillon, 10% Roussanne, 9% Viognier and 2% Marsanne. Complex nose with greengage, lactic yellow fruits, pineapple, crushed gravel, fynbos, granite and crunchy green pear nuances. Harmonious and fabulously luxurious texture that combines fruit concentration, pineapple pastille fruit intensity, vibrant balancing acids and a long, piercing saline finish. A benchmark white blend.

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

David & Nadia Aristargos 2018, 13 Abv.

A blend of 53% Chenin Blanc, 13% Clairette Blanche, 13% Semillon, 10% Roussanne, 9% Viognier and 2% Marsanne from 14 vineyards. The aromatics of this youthful blend are dominated by the Grand Cru intensity of the Chenin Blanc with sweet floral white blossom notes, dried thatch, crunchy white peaches, honey on white toast and delicious pure pineapple pastille nuances. The palate shows wonderful intensity, concentration and fruit purity framed by vibrantly crisp acids, a pithy yellow fruit melange, distinctive salinity and a genuinely superb granitic mineral complexity. Long, focused and very precise. Winemaking par excellence.

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

The David & Nadia wines are distributed in the UK market by Justerini & Brooks.

Catena At Hide London – Tasting a Selection of the Catena Winery’s Top Offerings With Laura Catena…

It is always wonderful to catch up with Laura Catena in London to taste through her winery’s fantastic benchmark Argentinean wines. The UK remains one of the Catena’s strongest markets according to Laura, with sales growing both on the high quality end and also on the more affordable value end of the Catena brand range.

But certainly the wineries reputation has come a long way since Laura attended the 1995 Fine Wine Experience in the United States representing the first South American brand to be invited to show their wines at this prestigious tasting event.

Today, the wines remain some of the most respected Argentinean wine brands on the global market with their single vineyard Chardonnays and Malbecs true quality leaders. I joined Laura for another superb London tasting, this time at the excellent Michelin starred Hide restaurant in Piccadilly, where Ollie Dabbous matched courses for a stunning array of Catena wines.

The artistry of Ollie Dabbous at Hide.

White Flight:

Catena Adrianna Vineyard White Stones Vino de Parcela Chardonnay 2015, 13 Abv.

5000ft elevation of the Adriana Vineyard. Dusty lifted aromatic profile with unique notes of dried grass, spearmint, wet pebbles and crushed limestone underpinned by white grapefruit and citrus notes. The palate is lively and energetic packed full of picante lime cordial, freshly squeezed tangerine juice and sleek dry bitter lemon zest. Lovely mineral grip lingers on the long finish. Very grown up style with a real gout de Terroir. Give this wine time in bottle.

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

Catena Adrianna Vineyard White Bones Vino de Parcela Chardonnay 2015, 13 Abv.

5000ft elevation of the Adriana Vineyard. Similar to the White Stones Cuvee but with deeper, richer minerality of Wet chalk, limestone, cassis leaf, black currant reduction and subtle cut grass and crushed mint leaf complexity. Palate texture is full and round showing exceptional freshness but impressive gravitas and concentration while retaining its true Terroir feel and mineral restraint. The finish is exotic and long, teasing the palate with clementine pastilles, lemon cordial and orange peel zest. Very fine indeed.

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

Reds Flight:

Catena Alta Malbec 2015, 13.5 Abv.

Blend of 5 parcels from cuttings from the same parcels but grown on different souls. The nose is very culinary in style, full of dusty chocolate, mocha, cocoa, black currant, brûléed cedar spice and dusty crushed stones. Very Bordeaux’esque in an exotic kind of style, the palate is luxurious and sleek but also tantalisingly fresh, crunchy and pure fruited with a fine cedar and graphite mineral frame and a long, lush sappy finish of bramble berries, black berry confit and damson plum. Wonderful classism and restraint.

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

Nicolas Catena Zapata 2013, 13.5 Abv.

Beautifully precise fragrant nose brimming with the 70+ percent Cabernet Sauvignon notes of dried violets, tart black cherry, savoury wet tobacco, cassis and sappy spice. Very direct and pure fruited with a fine salinity that melts into fine mineral notes of graphite, black currant pastille and creamy, oak spice. Tannins are powdery and fine grained, the acidity bright and potent. A very polished, suave expression with real intensity. Still so very youthful at 5+ years old.

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

Catena Zapata Malbec Nicasia Vineyard La Consulta 2014, Mendoza, 14 Abv.

A beautifully fashioned hedonistic red with great subtlety, delicacy, violet perfume and red cherry and piquant wood spice intensity. All finely integrated and seamless, coating the palate with great lush intensity, creamy tannins, concentrated sappy sweet black and red berry fruits and fabulously juicy acidity. Such harmony and balance with a delicious coffee bean, cocoa and mocha finish. Dreamy and very pretty.

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

Catena Zapata Argentino Malbec 2013, Mendoza, 14 Abv.

Another big, intense, deliciously opulent expression with lifted layers of purple flowers, violets, cherry blossom and pithy crushed blueberries. Quite immediate and upfront, this wine is not only hedonistic, opulent and showy but ultra suave, finely textured, delicately mineral finishing with satin soft black berry confit and graphite spice. A very classy, distinguished expression that is a thoroughly seductive and profound picture of Malbec. Delicious.

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

Catena Zapata Argentino Malbec 2015, Mendoza, 14 Abv. (En Magnum)

A superbly opulent and expressive red that after one sniff leaves you in no doubt that this is another deliciously hedonistic expression. Nose bursts with a measured intensity of creamy brûléed black berry, black cherry pastille and a touch of blue berry crumble with a dusting of mocha choc spice. This vintage offers up extra layers of textured depth and richness with an opulent glycerol mouthfeel, sweet plump tannins and well integrated acids.

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

The Catena wines are distributed by Bibendum / Walker Wodehouse in the UK market.

David Sadie Makes His Annual Pilgrimage to London to Unveil His New 2018 Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc Releases…

Few white wines from South Africa have emerged from the vinous landscape to stake a greater claim to Grand Cru quality status than the single vineyard Chenin Blanc expressions from David and Nadia Sadie. With a formidable track record being established for the Hoe Steen and Skaliekop bottlings, these wines have found a strong following among collectors and connoisseurs and are now joined by the excellent Plat’Bos single vineyard cuvée.

These wines just seem to tick all the requisite boxes… exceptional quality, consistency, age ability, limited production, old vines, site specific and international critical acclaim… making these annual new releases an important feature of the South African fine wine landscape.

David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc Single Vineyard 2018, WO Swartland, 13.5 Abv.

Single vineyard planted in 1985 on brown shale soils with a north west facing aspect. Picked in the last week of January over two or three passes through the vineyard. Instantly taut, restrained and mineral driven with gravel, green apple pastille, crunchy pear and dry bush veld spice nuances. Palate shows a sleek texture, fabulous intensity and balance, fresh electric acids, salinity and an impressively long, white peach and pear purée finish. Nice coiled tension and eminently age worthy without any doubt.

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

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc Single Vineyard 2018, WO Swartland, 13.5 Abv.

Planted in 1968 with a massale selection of grapes with at least two clones of Chenin Blanc. A south facing vineyard with little terraces, the soils are clay rich with lots of coffee klip. Aromatics are very dusty, spicy and gravelly with perhaps hints of the other aromatic varieties like False Pedro, Semillon, Palomino and Crouchen Blanc interplanted shining through. Fabulously spicy and saline with dried herbs, pear purée, apple pastille and crunchy pineapple. Incredible Grand Cru palate weight and breadth, coating concentration and length without ever losing poise and finesse. Wow, what a wine. The ultimate Grand Cru Chenin!

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

David & Nadia Plat’Bos Chenin Blanc Single Vineyard 2018, WO Swartland, 13 Abv.

Little bush vines planted in 1981 next to the Skaliekop vineyard but on 100% granitic soils. Nose shows a lovely balance between minerality, pithy spicy yellow orchard fruits, crushed granite and dry fynbos and thatch herbal spice. Cool, clean, crystalline, powerful and linear, this cuvée shows the classic tension of Chenin Blanc grown on granite soils, an entrancing saline crisp acidity and a sleek, polished marble textural harmony and finesse. Really quite impressive now but this is most certainly a wine for medium to long term cellaring. One for the collectors!?

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

David & Nadia wines are distributed to the trade in the UK by Justerini & Brooks.

Another Amphora Wine from Thierry Germain – Tasting the Exotic Domaine des Roches Neuves Outre Terre Qvevri Saumur Champigny…

Thierry Germain’s domaine Roches Neuves, whose vineyards are planted in Saumur for white wines and the Saumur-Champigny appellation for red wines, has rightfully become one of the greatest examples of biodynamic vine growing throughout France. His total dedication to site specific wines producing “parcellaires” wines from Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc often with the added exotism of flor or amphora ageing, has allowed him to produce some of the most exciting wines in the entire Loire Valley.

Thierry relocated to the Loire from Bordeaux in the early 1990s and soon fell under the influence of his spiritual father, Charly Foucault of Clos Rougeard. Thierry would ultimately convert his entire domaine to biodynamic viticulture. His incredibly diverse terroirs are translated into wine in bottle with utter clarity and precision making Thierry arguably one of the top producers in the Loire Valley and certainly one of the most highly sought after by Loire wine lovers and collectors alike.

Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves Outre Terre Cabernet Franc Amphora 2014, Saumur Champigny, Loire, 13 Abv.

From one of my favourite Loire producers, the Outre Terre is among his rarest and smallest production reds. Fermented and macerated for 8 months in 800 litre Georgian Qvevri (amphora), this 2014 is still opaque and dark with a purple black plum rim. Initially on opening the bottle, the wine reveals some lifted notes of sweet plum, earthy bramble berries, dried herbs and a sweet raisined black currant note. But interestingly this slightly stewed berry note blows off fairly quickly to reveal the real inner workings of an intricate amphora engine. There are all the mineral, rocky, gravelly tell tail signs of amphora ageing complemented by piquant black cherry skin spice, thyme, potpourri, violets and bath soap perfume. There is certainly a clarity, purity and minerality that carries over to the palate which is tart and crystalline, refreshing and electric, showing off Cabernet Franc’s fine powdery tannins but supported by a linear, crunchy line of acid. Wonderfully energetic and fabulously balanced, this wines only fault at this stage is that it’s too youthful still. The finish is spicy, pithy and slightly savoury with sweet black currant, tart Victoria plum, graphite spice and a weightless concentration and focus. Give this superb 2014 another few years to uncoil its tension and flesh out. A truly classy, nuanced expression of Cabernet Franc.

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

B Vintners Starts Pushing Terroir and Quality Boundaries With Their New Terroir Specific Range…

Founded by cousins Gavin Bruwer and Bruwer Raats, B Vintners have always had an innovative approach to winemaking while simultaneously trying keeping things simple and authentic, nurturing the grapes from vine to bottle and allowing the wines to express their sense of place. All the vineyards across the range are distinct, mostly from high-lying areas, close to the ocean and planted on ancient weathered soils with the aim of capturing the Cape’s true heritage and terroir in the bottle.

With the launch of the Terroir Specific series, this is when you really get to see Gavin and Bruwer’s philosophy at work. Quality by design, leveraged from the unique terroir sites of the Sondagskloof in the Walker Bay region and a unique old vine Cinsault site in Stellenbosch.

The estate where the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes are sourced is owned by the family of assistant winemaker at Leeu Passant, Wade Sander. Indeed the Pinot Noir vineyard is shared between Gavin and Wade and while their wines are slightly different stylistically, they definitely share a common terroir note. This really is one of the rising stars of the new South Africa and most definitely a winery worth following closely.

 

A contemplative Gavin Bruwer tasting the range with me at the Raats Family Winery.

B Vintners Fire Heath Chardonnay Terroir Specific 2017, WO Sondagskloof, Walker Bay, 12.5 Abv.

Taut steely nose shows the altitude and the rocky limestone and sandstone soils. There’s a cool, stony, lemon and lime pithy white citrus freshness, leesy biscuit depth and a subtle sweet dried herb complexity. Acids are bracing and fresh yet cushioned by a deliciously tart, zippy sweet / sour fleshy concentration that electrifies the palate. The oak is delicately integrated already from a 75% oaked portion including 25% new 500 litre barrels. Wonderfully linear and restrained in style, this fabulous 2017 signals a massive step up in Chardonnay quality for B Vintners and the region.

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

 

B Vintners Black Bream Pinot Noir Terroir Specific 2017, WO Sondagskloof, Walker Bay, 12.5 Abv.

Aged in 500 litre barrels, 15% new with a small portion in used 300 litre barrels. As is typical to the higher elevation terroir, there is a real crystalline purity and salinity to the fruit profile which shows wonderfully lifted perfumed notes of sweet fynbos, lavender, cherry blossom and cranberry cordial. There is a subtle restrained sappy, freshly cut hedge row note that adds complexity to the nose and palate while the acids remain linear and pure, the mineral tannins crisp and ever so slightly edgy. A fine wine with good structure, restrained gravelly mineral breadth and a certain kind of ‘old world’ classical austerity.

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

 

B Vintners Lone Wolf Cinsault Terroir Specific 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

60 x 6 cases total production – About a ton of Cinsault from the bottom of a Pinotage vineyard at Bellevue in the Bottelary Hills planted in the early 1950’s on granite and schist soils. Fabulously lifted and finely perfumed, this wine screams individuality, with potpourri spice, rose petals, dried violets, Turkish delight and cranberry reduction. Suave and cool, there is lovely liquid minerality, piercing concentration and a long, restrained red currant berry fruit length. A wonderful old vine expression of Cinsault that really is noteworthy. Minute production that might just possibly have been exported all to the UK.

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

Imported and distributed in the UK by Alliance Wines.