Raats Family Wines Releases Their New Jasper Red Blend 2019 After Declassifying the MR de Compostella 2019 Flagship Red…

The Raats Jasper Red Blend was first created in 2010 when Bruwer Raats declassified the MR de Compostella for the very first time, and named it the Red Jasper after his father, Jasper Raats Senior, who was one of the founders and first viticulturists of Raats Family Wines. The wine then became a permanent edition to the Raats range establishing its own unique following amongst consumers. Now, for the first time since the 2010 vintage, Bruwer has taken the decision to declassify the MR de Compostella 2019 and blend the component parts into the Jasper Red Blend.

The ethos behind the MR de Compostella always dictates that the final blend needs to pack enough structural muscle and depth of fruit to ensure an age ability of at least 20 to 30+ years if cellared correctly. The declassification is certainly not based on a lesser quality of wines but more on their structural integrity that may not be quite sufficient for the long haul. So once again, the Jasper Red Blend is a super charged baby MR selling at a fraction of the price of the MR de Compostella Grand Vin.

Tasting new releases at Raats Family Wines in March 2022 with Bruwer Raats.

Back at the end of 2019, when I hosted Bruwer Raats in London and presented the world’s first full MR de Compostella vertical from 2004 to 2017, we included a very rare bottle of the Raats Red Jasper 2010 in the line up. The wine had aged beautifully but comparing the 2010 to even some of the older vintages, it did not have quite the density, structure and power that the other MR de Compostella blends had, vindicating Bruwer’s decision to declassify the wine. Having tasted the Jasper 2019 twice in recent weeks, I can’t help feeling that the wine is more serious and more structured than the 2010 was on release, but I trust that Bruwer’s judgement to declassify will be vindicated in years to come. Nevertheless, the Jasper 2019 is a fabulous red blend loaded with Cabernet Franc elegance and should find a willing home in most price savvy collectors’ cellars. So fill your boots I say!

Raats Family Wines Jasper Red Blend 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

The 2019 is a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 43% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% Merlot creating an elegant, generous offering packed full of charm and finesse. The aromatics are delightfully subtle yet complex with notes of sweet allspice, blueberries and black raspberries, dark chocolate, dried cigars, sandalwood and freshly tilled earth nuances. As you would expect from a blend that is half Cabernet Franc, there is a seriously fine pin point texture that is both expansive and creamy but also shows an impressive weightless concentration. Medium bodied, the palate is supple and polished revealing a thirst-quenching freshness and approachable tannins on a long, persistent finish. Ready to drink now, this turbo charged Jasper will undoubtedly benefit from a few more years in the cellar. This is a very classy Cape Bordeaux blend indeed. Drink from 2023 to 2035+.

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

Boekenhoutskloof’s New Release 2019 Reds and Whites Impress at their London Launch…

While some of Boekenhoutskloof’s headlines might have been stolen by its successful Swartland Porseleinberg Syrah project in recent years, its new releases remain a highlight on the wine calendar especially in the South African home market. With much of the fruit for the range now coming from several top properties in the Swartland as well as Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, quality can always be assured to hit an impressively high nouveau.

The 2019 vintage involved one of the earliest pickings to date with their Swartland Syrah vineyards exposed to extremely dry conditions during flowering resulting in earlier than normal bud break. The dry 2019 conditions also resulted in smaller berry clusters and reduced overall yields without compromising quality.

Good to catch up with Marc Kent.

Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2019, WO Franschhoek, 13.2% Abv.

Pristinely pure nose displays all the complexity and exoticism that collectors have grown to know and love on this benchmark white. There are beautiful layers of wax and incense, subtle notes of muscat and multi-dimensional layers of lanolin, white peach and buttered white toast. The palate offers excellent balance and a vibrantly fresh, taut texture with yellow pithy citrus, lemon oil, almond skins and orange peel on the long, bright, concentrated finish. A very classy rendition of this classical grape. Drink now and over the next 15 to 20+ years.

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

Boekenhoutskloof Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 14.86% Abv.

Always a wine with depth and power but this 2019 also displays wonderful precision with pure perfumed aromatics of violets and sappy cassis leaf, sweet tobacco and hints of blackberry, fynbos and cedar spice. Deliciously cool and fresh, this wine shows a lovely acid frame on which there are opulent fruit layers of black currant, black cherry and black chocolate generously draped. An extremely elegant, classy fine wine. Drink from 2024 to 2040+

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

Boekenhoutskloof Franschhoek Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Franschhoek, 14.86% Abv.

Distinctly different to the Stellenbosch cuvee, the aromatics are fleshy and plush, overtly generous on the nose with purple flowers, mulberry, black currant and subtle hints of milk chocolate, salted toffee and creme brûlée. The palate is elegant and polished with fine gravelly tannins, soft black berry compote and a long, chalky finish with espresso and graphite nuances. Deliciously regal as always. Drink now to 2035+.

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

Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2019, WO Swartland, 13.95% Abv.

The aromatics are initially shy, slowly releasing notes of brûléed coffee beans, grilled herbs, cured meats and underlying hints of garrigue and sweet red and black berries. The palate is cool and broody with notes of liquorice and tar, barbecued meats and sun raisined cherries and a touch of smoky bacon fat and coffee beans on the finish. A slightly more restrained expression than other previous drought vintages. Drink now and over 10 to 15+ years.

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

Boekenhoutskloof Noble Late Harvest 2018, WO Franschhoek, 10.85% Abv.

Made from grapes grown along the Franschhoek river on alluvial soils, this 100% Semillon achieves excellent levels of botrytis every year from its own unique meso-climate. Using several traditional tries or passes through the vineyard to pick the fruit, the results are impressive revealing a nose of lime and grapefruit marmalade, honeycomb, buttered warm brioche and cool creamy pineapple pastille with creme brûlée notes on the finish. Certainly shows a punchy sweetness that is more than adequately tempered by fresh tangy acids and harmonious vanilla pod oak spice. Drink now and over 10+ years.

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

Assessing the Ken Forrester 2021 Reserve Chenin Blanc That Won Big at the Decanter World Wine Awards…

As results for the 2022 Decanter World Wine Awards start to be released, it was revealed that the Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2021 from Ken Forrester Vineyards was awarded a show stopping 97/100 points. Tasting a wine blind under competition conditions is always difficult but sometimes does throw up some unique results. As a previous panel chair for South Africa in 2020 and 2021, I know that to receive a 97 point score the wine would have to have been tasted two or three times by different judges as part of the thorough assessment process. So results cannot and should not be viewed as “flukes.”

I recently caught up in London with the legend himself, Ken Forrester, and we tasted the 2021 Chenin Blanc among other wines. Always a wine that represents outstanding quality for the money (circa £14-£15 per bottle retail), it remains one of the great “recession-busting” bargains of the South African wine industry. Imported into the UK by Enotria & Coe.

Ken Forrester Vineyards Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

A wonderfully expressive Old Vine Chenin Blanc for the money with intriguing aromatic layers of rock salt and tangerine peel, white citrus, green fig, yellow grapefruit and green granny smith apple pastille. The palate follows with lovely glycerol layers of pear and white peach, apple bon bons and chalky cream soda melon notes, finishing with yet more salinity and subtle granitic minerality. A delicious wine with great intensity and concentration that will leave drinkers with a smile on their face! Drink now and over the next 8 to 10 years.

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

Brookdale Winery Coming of Age With Their Stunning new 2020 Chenin Blanc Release…

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 fully certified as 37 year old Old Vines planted in 1985, situated at the foot of the lofty Du Toitskloof Pass in Paarl.

The property was bought by the Rudd family who instantly kick started a widespread replanting programme where sustainable viticulture and farming for the future generations were at the centre of their ethos. The first vintage of their new field blend white was recently released and will be reviewed on the Fine Wine Safari in coming weeks. With most of the previous vineyards acquired with the original estate very neglected, most were uprooted with only the old vine Chenin Blanc blocks retained. This exceptional site offers altitude and granitic soils rich in clay and schist that are perfectly suited for Chenin Blanc and in their 4th vintage, the true pedigree of the Brookdale terroir is finally being revealed with an exceptional white wine.

The Paarl Old Vine certified Chenin Blanc vineyard planted in 1985.

With winemaker Kiara Scott taking Brookdale forward from the 2019 vintage, Kiara is a young 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. Duncan Savage, who produced the first two vintages, still acts as a consultant to the ambitious Brookdale project helping them to meet their lofty aspirations.

Brookdale Chenin Blanc Single Vineyard 2020, WO Paarl, 13.5% Abv.

Now a designated single vineyard Chenin Blanc, and newly labelled as such, the 2020 certainly rises to the challenge to offer an old vine intensity and quality that exceeds anything released from Brookdale previously. Everything is text book here and assembled with absolute precision. The aromatics burst forth with lofty notes of tangy sweet and sour yellow citrus, wet straw, hints of pineapple pastille and sweet herbal notes of fynbos and dried thyme. Fabulous lift and intensity continue to the opulent palate that shows an impressive concentration of white peach and citrus fruits with a tangerine kiss underpinned by fabulously tangy acids and a pronounced stony wet river pebble minerality on the long, unctuous finish. A wine with a revved up complexity and intensity but also a delightfully sophisticated balance. This is top level Tetris where all the blocks have slotted in together seamlessly to create a wine of beauty. Enjoy on release and over the next 10 to 12+ years.

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

A Seminal Vintage in the Crayfish Journey – Tasting Sakkie Mouton’s 4th Chenin Blanc Release…

After a two year absence from the Cape, I promised myself that I’d do a little West Coast road trip when I next visited the winelands. With a lot of help from Ian Naudé, this trip came to fruition in March 2022, beginning by collecting Sakkie Mouton in Malmesbury before heading up the coast. We stopped for an incredible Wes Kus lunch at the Wolfgat restaurant and this is where I first tasted Sakkie’s 2021 Full On Misfit as well as a recently bottled Crayfish 2021.

As both bottles were consumed with the incredible Wolfgat tasting menu, I obviously had a pretty good idea what I was in for when Sakkie sent me a finished, labelled and waxed bottle of the Revenge of the Crayfish 2021 to reassess in the more neutral surrounds of London.

Tasting with Sakkie Mouton at the Wolfgat Restaurant in Paternoster.

The vineyards for the Crayfish Chenin Blanc are located on well-drained sandy soils, about five kilometres from the cold Atlantic ocean, which receive a constant cooling effect from the sea that moderates the temperatures in this warm coastal region.

Confident and self-assured… Sakkie Mouton and the Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc 2021!

Grapes were hand harvested early in the morning, then taken to the cold room and cooled down for one night. This was done before being whole bunch pressed in an old basket press, followed by settling for twelve hours without any addition of enzymes except for a little Sulphur. The clear juice was then racked off and taken to 3rd and 4th fill 228L and 400L barrels as well as a batch fermented in stainless steel. Natural fermentation ensued for four weeks. After fermentation was completed the lees was regularly stirred once a week for eight months. Post fermentation carried out over a period of eight months on the gross lees before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Sakkie Mouton Family Wines Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Koekenaap, 12.93% Abv.

1.1 g/l RS | 7.5 g/l TA | 3.11 pH

The refinement of this 2021 Chenin Blanc must surely represent a seminal moment in the evolution of the Crayfish Blanc. All the tell tale signs of the ‘Wes Kus’ are evident on the nose with multiple waves of maritime sea breeze, kelp on the beach and rock salt that combine with distinctly savoury, leesy biscuit nuances, waxy Granny Smith apples, yellow grapefruit citrus and wet stone mineral complexity. The beautiful palate shows noticeably extra textural depth and breadth compared to earlier vintages but also incredible intensity and piercing fruit concentration. There are notes of white citrus, tangerine peel, tart green apples, tangy lemon cordial and subtle notes of fresh litchi juice dusted with rock salt, dried fynbos herbs and nori seaweed. Fabulous precision and focus combine to make this one hell of a wine that finishes with deliciously tangy lemony acids and a pronounced saline white citrus fruit persistency. This is next level Chenin Blanc in my book that celebrates its own unique sense of place together with a maturing winemaking know-how. Simply stunning. Undoubtedly Sakkie’s best yet. Drink from release and over the next 10 to 15+ years.

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

Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 11: Les Pelerins de Chateau Lafon-Rochet 2019…

Chateau Lafon-Rochet is a famous 4th Growth St-Estephe Bordeaux estate that had previously been owned by the Tesseron family since 1959 but which has recently been purchased by the Jacky Lorenzetti stable of Chateaux. The property was slightly neglected in years gone by before Guy Tesseron extensively replanted the estate as part of a wider rejuvenation project which included rebuilding a completely new château in “chartreuse” style.

Planted to 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc on clay-gravel soils, the vineyards are perfectly sited in the south of the commune opposite prestigious neighbours Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Cos d’Estournel. With an ample amount of quality grapes, the second wine Les Pelerins always shows an excellent balance between the tannic structure and an acid freshness supported by aromatic complexity.

Les Pelerins de Chateau Lafon-Rochet 2019, Saint-Estephe, 14% Abv.

A blend of 57% Merlot and 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine shows the exhilarating lifted aromatics of a rich, ripe, opulent vintage which of course 2019 was. The nose is loaded with exotic blueberry and black berry fruits nuances, freshly baked blueberry crumble, vanilla pod spice, graphite, cut cedar and hints of salted caramel. The texture is rich and intense but also crunchy and fresh with vibrant acids adding a notable linearity and tension to keep the ripe blueberry fruits in check. Deliciously accessible and balanced, this is an impressive red that shows massive drinkability as any second wine should. Classic Claret with an exotic twist. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years.

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

Taaibosch – One of the South African Wineland’s Most Exciting New Wineries Releases Their Crescendo 2019 Second Vintage…

There have arguably been few more exciting new releases on the South African wine scene recently than the resurrection of the fabled Crescendo Cape Bordeaux red blend by winemaker Schalk Willem Joubert and the team at Taaibosch, the Helderberg wine farm previously known as Cordoba.

One of the most striking features about their maiden release from the 2018 vintage was the wines notable structure, power and tannic frame which suggested that the owners were not particularly bothered about pandering to a modern aesthetic of instantaneous accessibility with an early drinking styling.

Read my 2018 review here… https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2021/07/03/taaibosch-crescendo-2018-recreating-a-legendary-stellenbosch-wine/

Tasting the maiden 2018, 2019 and 2020 Crescendo red blends with Schalk in the Taaibosch winery.
Revisiting the highly acclaimed 2018 Crescendo.

Classically constructed, the Crescendo 2018 is an age worthy creation that will reward extended cellaring in a style that many modern-day wineries have actively shied-away from recently in search of instant opulence and high critical ratings on release.

Walking the Taaibosch vineyards in the Helderberg where they are among the last to pick red grapes.
The view from the top of the Taaibosch farm overlooking newly planted vineyards.

In my most recent visit to the Cape winelands in March 2022, one of my first ports of call was of course the Taaibosch winery to see cellar master Schalk Willem Joubert to learn more about their vineyard replanting programme and to see their impressive new cellar on the farm. This is a winery experience not to be missed if visiting the Cape.

Visit: http://www.taaiboschwines.com

The impressive new Taaibosch winery.

Taaibosch Crescendo 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.2% Abv.

pH 3.55 | RS 1.8g/l | 13.2% Abv

Fermented in cement and stainless steel followed by full malolactic in 100% cement. After the base blend is made the wine is aged 13 months in 225 litre French oak barriques with a 30% new oak component, where after 70% is moved to large oak foudre for 12 to 13 months and 30% to cement for additional ageing. Once the final blend is assembled, the wine returns to concrete for 3 months. After being bottled unfiltered and unfined, the wine is then aged for a further 5 to 6 months in bottle with a target pre-release offer date of the 1st of May annually.

The large foudre where the Crescendo blend is married and aged.

A right bank blend of 65% Cabernet Franc, 26% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2019 Crescendo shows a big, dense, complex nose with deep dark aromatics of black berries, creme de cassis, sweet cedar and grilled herbs intertwined with graphite, macerated black cherries and a dusty crushed gravel minerality. On the palate the wine is incredibly cool, broad and creamy showing immense power and dry extract concentration on the mid-palate together with wonderfully fine grained spicy mineral tannins and a very long, harmonious focused finish. A superbly complete and texturally pinpoint Cape Bordeaux red blend with a truly Grand Vin classical footprint. An iconic block-buster of the future. Make space in the cellar!

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

The Taaibosch open top fermenters.

Sassicaia 2019 New Vintage Release Tasting In London…

I have commented before that it’s pure genius that Tenuta San Guido release their new Sassicaia vintage every year along side the next years Guidalberto and Le Difese red blends, enabling tasters to indulge in a unique snapshot of what is in the pipeline for the next Sassicaia release. It builds a full year of excitement and anticipation in the wine trade which counts as priceless promotion in marketing terms!

Priscilla Incisa della Rochetta was due to fly into London recently to present the new 2019 Sassicaia release but was sadly confined to her home office after one of her children tested positive for covid after returning from a family ski break. So, we hooked up by zoom instead and shared Tenuta San Guido’s wonderful new releases together virtually.

Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2020, 14% Abv.

A rather challenging, warm vintage especially in the summer that was mitigated by good rains in 2019 and some 2020 Spring showers. With a broad array of vineyards to select fruit from and a percentage of earlier ripening Sangiovese, the blend was assembled to 55% Sangiovese and 45% for the Cabernet Sauvignon, departing from the usual split of 70-30 Cabernet-Sangiovese.

Bight and richly fruited, there are ample layers of black currant, earthy tobacco spice, sweet black plum and bruleed brown toast notes. But the palate is vibrant and electric, full of energy and fresh acids that bring the black and red berry fruits to life while also adding frame and structure in the mouth. The tannins are wonderfully sleek, fine grained and elegant with a subtle minerality and hints of graphite. A deliciously fresh and refined expression of this earlier drinking cuvée.

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2020, 14% Abv.

Slightly higher Merlot component rising from 40% to 50%, with the remainder all Cabernet Sauvignon, sticking with the theme of a higher percentage of the earlier ripening variety than normal. 

Deep and darkly coloured, the aromatics are rich and fruity with opulent savoury aromatic layers of bruleed black currant, creme caramel, cut cedar, sweet tobacco and an exotic dusting of youthful cinnamon spice. The palate is fleshy and opulent with a pronounced sweet and sour tangy acidity, a full sleek mid-palate weight and a long, plumy tobacco spice finish. Harmonious, finely balance and offering a great expectation of drinking pleasure for the next 10 to 15 years.

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

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2019, 14% Abv. 

The 2019 is a very classic vintage that follows a perfect pattern through all phases of the season. Grapes were healthy and perfectly mature allowing a long hang time for the later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon due marked diurnal temperature shifts and a relaxed, gently paced picking window. Great structure, low pHs and a fresh acidity all point to a long ageing potential.

Deep, dark, broody aromatics that are tight and reserved currently, with a traditional blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. The aromatics show layers of violets, damson plum, black currant, blood orange, sweet cedar, grilled herbs, oak spice and black currant infused herbal tea nuances. On the palate the density is clear and present, full, opulent and concentrated, gliding over the tongue with great textural weight but also fleshy fruit power, seamless fine grained creamy tannins and all round finesse and majestic balance. Pure class… profound on so many levels and perhaps, along with the 2016 vintage, one of the most attractive Sassicaia releases in the past 20+ years.

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

The Vilafonte Winery Prepares to Release Another Effusively Modern 2019 Series M Vintage…

2019 represents the first post-drought Series M vintage to be released by the team at the Vilafonte winery in Paarl and the vintage clearly illustrates what is possible when nature decides to co-operate to yield some exceptional raw materials. According to winemaker Chris de Vries, the vintage was really a tale of two seasons. While rains initially remained elusive, there was an upswing in rainfall towards the end of the 2018 winter and continuing into spring and early summer.

Weather fluctuations in the spring did however result in uneven bud-break and berry set. Conditions improved somewhat at the onset of summer with a warmer November being very conducive to healthy vineyard growth. Some uneven ripening was remedied with in-bunch sorting after veraison and by the time harvest arrived at the beginning of February, the fruit quality was looking exceptional.

The Series M 2019 is a blend of 48% Malbec, 34% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc which was aged for 22 months in 22 percent new French oak barriques with the balance in a mixture of older French oak barrels. 51 barrels were produced.

Vilafonte Series M 2019, WO Paarl, 14% Abv.

This excellent vintage has yielded a truly impressive wine for the Vilafonte team displaying a brilliant and intense ruby and red plum hue. The aromatics are expansive and hedonistic sending notes of violets and crushed red cherries, raspberries and pressed rose petals soaring out the glass with confidence and vigour. Fabulously complex and intricate, attractive notes of wild berries and red currant follow to the dense, full bodied palate that boasts a broad seductive array of black liquorice and black plum, cocoa powder and brown toast crust nuances. The Malbec and Merlot are like a marriage made in heaven, offering svelte supple tannins and a texture that wraps its arms around you in the most comforting embrace. With time in the glass, the full fleshy palate shows further layers of baked plums, blue berries and red cherries all underpinned by fresh vital acids. This is most definitely one of the most powerful, potent and heady wines produced in the Series M range to date displaying an impressively ample fine wine self-confident personality. Drink this wine in its youth or cellar for 20+ years.

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

A Vintage Born Out of Adversity – Tasting the Phenomenal Chateau Musar 2015…

When it comes to adversity, there is little that has not been thrown at the people of Lebanon in the past few years. But as expected, resilience has once again become the byword for the tenacious locals in their struggle to resume normal lives after political turmoil, the Syrian refugee crisis, economic difficulties, the Covid pandemic and of course the disastrous Beirut port explosion on the 4th of August 2020. While all this chaos has been going on, the determined winemakers of the Bekaa Valley have soldiered on with their treasured alchemic art of turning grapes into incredibly fine wines.

After an almost 16 month wait, stocks of the highly anticipated 2015 Chateau Musar finally landed in the UK market at the end of 2021 defying ongoing shipping problems and global container shortages. True to the theme of adversity, the 2015 harvest proved to be one of the most challenging in a generation according to Chateau Musar. The start of the year was promising with January and February 2015 offering up plentiful amounts of rain and snow, followed in March by more snow before the weather gave way to warmer conditions in late March. But the optimism was short lived when in mid-April, exceptionally cold nigh time conditions returned with temperatures dropping to as low as -12 degrees C in one instance, damaging the already opening buds. By early May, the vineyards were filled with hectares of blackened vines suggesting a potentially catastrophic vintage ahead.

But miraculously, secondary green shoots emerged from the vines helped by higher temperatures in June and July. Clearly, yields were going to be greatly reduced for this harvest. The Syrah grapes were the first reds to be harvested on the 1st September with reduced yields of between 75% and 80% from the average while fortunately, the Cabernet Sauvignon seemed to be less affected when harvesting started on the 3rd of September. However during September, a heatwave struck the vineyards and while the Cabernet fruit avoided the worst of the frosts, the subsequent heatwave reduced yields by up to 65%. The Cinsault harvest started on the 8th of September with reduction in yields of between 40% and 70% depending on the vineyard location. The Carignan and Grenache were harvested on the 11th September with both varieties experiencing a reduction of 50% in yields before the final bunches of Mourvedre were harvested in early October. 2015 is certainly a year that will be remembered for its climatic difficulties but also hopefully for the final wine quality that reached the bottle.

Chateau Musar 2015, Bekaa Valley, 14% Abv.

Another seductive vintage of Musar with expressive aromatics of sweet red cherries, plum liquor, cinnamon spice, sweet cedar, cherry tobacco and balsamic reduction. The palate shows wonderful textural precision with polished sleek tannins, stewed cherries, hints of cola, pithy black currant and sweet sappy spice and a suave, super elegant finish that possesses an impressively pure, weightless intensity. This is a seriously classy Musar that has more in common with harmoniously elegant vintages like the 2010 than higher horsepower years like 1995 or 1999. Simply beautiful to drink now but exhibits a vibrant freshness that will keep this wine singing for many years to come. Drink now and over the next 20+ years.

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