25 Great South African Wines Under £25 Retail – Red and Whites Not to Miss…

Value versus quality. It’s the eternal debate with all New World wine producing nations. Peg your marker in the sand and stand up for top premium quality at the price you think the wine deserves or take perhaps the long view and sell your wine at a more affordable price level with more market accessibility. Who knows what’s right?

All I know is that some of the cracking whites and reds in my 25 for £25 selection could easily sell for a lot more money and no consumers would blink an eye. So does that mean the producers are under pricing themselves? No, not necessarily. Everybody produces different quantities, works from a different cost base and has a different long term business sales vision.

This eclectic collection of reds and whites does not stand alone to make a statement or indeed even seek to provoke discussion but merely serves to illustrate to consumers that South Africa is not only about £35-£75 bottles of white and red from trendy producers. Crack open any of these below wines with absolute confidence!

White Wines 

Fram Grenache Gris 2017, WO Voor-Paardeberg, 11 Abv.

Pithy bramble berry, stalk spice and sap with a zesty tart strawberry pip fruit note, crushed stone minerality and grippy tannin. Class. (£24)

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

Winterhoek 2015, WO Ceres, 13.5 Abv.

Earthy savoury quince, cassis leaf, sweet sour plum and oxidative notes. A different take on Sauvignon more in the Pouilly Fume style. Unique but a bit of a marmite wine. (£8.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Foundry Roussanne 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Fragrant white peach, citrus, orange peel zest with a creamy core and yellow pastille fruit finish. Superb! World class. (£15.99)

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

The Foundry Grenache Blanc 2017, 13.5 Abv.

White peach, yellow citrus and pithy stony fruits. Juicy to its core. Incredible quality with a nutty marzipan finish. Wow! (£15.99)

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

Naudé White Blend 2009, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc Blend. Packed full of white citrus, white pepper, stalk spice and bruised orchard fruits on a finish with bright acids. Delicious and super classy. (£17.99)

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

Craven Clairette Blanche 2015, WO Stellenbosch, 11.5 Abv.

Quince, wet grass, apple peel, leesy white peach Bon Bon finish. Drinking very well. (£17.99)

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

Hannes Storm Wild Air Sauvignon Blanc 2017, 13 Abv.

Quince, tropical yellow fruits, gooseberry and a hint of green mango peel. Creamy, mineral, super concentration. Old World style at its best! (£18.99)

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

Craven Chenin Blanc 2017 Karibib Vineyard, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

Dusty, stony mineral fruits, hints of wet bushveld, white peach stone and crushed gravel on the finish. Very youthful. (£20.99)

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

Elgin Ridge Chardonnay 2017, WO Elgin, 13 Abv.

Grapefruit Bon Bon concentration, citrus pastille, lime peel and a toffee apple kiss. Vibrant, intense, incredible piercing length. Really very very special and worthy of an upgraded score since my last tasting note! (£22.95)

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

Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2016, 13 Abv.

Semillon, Chardonnay, Roussanne, Clairette Blanche, Chenin Blanc, and Viura Blend. Creamy, complex and such interwoven intrigue. Flavours melt into one another. Fabulously complex, harmonious effort. (£24.99)

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

Julien Schaal Confluence Chardonnay 2017, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13 Abv.

Pithy, citric, mineral and super energetic. Overtones of expensive fresh white Burgundy. Among South Africa’s best Chardonnays no doubt. (£24.99)

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

Rall Grenache Blanc 2017, WO Piekenierskloof, 13.5 Abv.

Piekenierskloof fruit selection. Deliciously stony with pithy white citrus, peach stone and crushed granite minerality. Very pure and elegant. Lovely subtle yellow sour plum finish. Fabulous. (£23.49)

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

Red Wines

Primordial Soup 2017 Blend, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

Light fresh sappy red bramble berry fruits. Bright, savoury stewed strawberry hints and a long juicy finish. Great value for money. (£7.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 86+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Zorgvliet Silver Myn Argentum 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec blend. Shows sweet plum, cassis and tannery leather. Classical notes with sweet black fruited savoury depth. Well-proportioned and great value. (£9.99)

(Wine Safari Score: 87/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Kaapzicht Cinsault Skuinsberg 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

Stewed winter fruits, damson plum and raisined cranberry with a hint of marzipan and rose petals. Soft, sleek with a granitic minerality. Very fine. (£18.99)

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

Bohemian Syrah 2016, WO Wellington, 14.5 Abv.

Rich savoury, bramble berry black fruits, sweet cassis, cured meats and crushed coriander and peppercorns. V8 Chevy engine under a Porsche bonnet. Plush, smokey savoury finish. Punchy style. (£18.99)

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

Cricket Pitch Red Blend 2013, WO Wellington, 14.5 Abv.

Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc blend. Super perfumed notes of rose petals, violets, lilies with sweet cassis fruit. Sleek, classical Bordeaux Blend expression with fine pedigree. (£19.99)

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

Hat Trick 2012 Cape Blend, WO Wellington, 14.5 Abv.

Pinotage, Merlot, Grenache Blend. Sweet sappy bramble berry savoury black fruited nose. Exotic with hints of peach juice and black currant and a long, musk laden finish. (19.99)

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

La Vierge The Affair Pinot Noir 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

Savoury bramble berry fruits, pomegranate exoticism, tilled earth and blood orange. Fresh, cool and precise. Lovely. (19.99)

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

Crystallum Peter Max Pinot Noir 2016, WO Coastal, 14 Abv.

Starts a bit reductive so give it air. Packed full of cherry stone and cranberry with hints of Victoria plum and pink rock candy. Cool, creamy, sublime balance and delicious depth with typicity. (£24.99)

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

Naude Adoro Red Blend 2007, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz blend showing classic notes of sweet tannery leather, raisined plums, winter stewed compote and earthy black bramble berry fruits with ample spice, salinity and cured meat complexity. A real consumer favourite! (£20.95)

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

David & Nadia Pinotage 2016, WO Swartland, 12.5 Abv.

Deliciously light, lithe and fresh with perfumed, chalky red fruits and luscious, sappy red apple and cranberry intensity on the long, pure finish. Fabulous expression. (£22.99)

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

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

Stony granitic cranberry and sweet tart red cherry. Super pure and precise with amazing freshness and depth with a light weight texture. (£24.99)

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

Kottabos Grenache Syrah 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

Lifted dried rosemary and oregano herbal notes melt into sweet red berry fruits, liquorice, dried mint leaf, peppercorn and a subtle eucalyptus kiss. Delicious. (£24.99)

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

Savage Thief in the Night 2017, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah blend showing wonderfully expressive perfumed nose with crystallised cherries, cranberry, Turkish delight and red bramble berry fruits. Such purity, class and distinction. Just wow! (£24.99)

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

One of the Finest Semillons On the Market – Tasting the Dark Side of the Vine Semillon 2016 From Jacques Wentzel…

Semillon has always been a grape that has struggled to resonate with the consumer. Yes, fabulous dry versions from Tyrrells and other Hunter Valley producers in Australia have made the headlines globally, but in South Africa, I think it is fair to say that this variety has historically not been very popular.

However, things are changing. A new generation of winemakers has cracked the Semillon code and worked out how to produce styles that show great appeal. What all the top producers’ expressions have in common, from Chris Alheit to John Seccombe, Marc Kent to Eben Sadie, is exceptional fruit from historic old vine vineyards.

 

Jacques Wentzel from Black Elephant Vintners is another producer accessing fruit from one such vineyard for his Dark Side of the Vine cuvee. Basil Landau’s old vine Semillon block in the Bo-Hoek area of the Franschhoek Ward was planted in 1905 and is one of the oldest white wine vineyards in South Africa. The grapes see around 24 hours of skin contact before being fermented with natural indigenous yeasts followed by 12 months ageing in 500 litre French oak barrels. The results are exceptional and this wine now joins the ranks as one of South Africa’s very finest expressions of dry Semillon.

Black Elephant Vintners The Dark Side of the Vine 2016 Semillon, WO Franschhoek, 13 Abv.

The 2016 Semillon leans more towards fruit and flesh and less towards spice and herbal complexity like the 2015 vintage.  The wine displays a wonderfully intense aromatic nose with sensational lemon and lime zest and perfume. It unfurls wave upon wave of lemon confit, fresh peach juice, dried herbs, crushed walnut, nutmeg, tangerine peel, wet stones and dry thatch nuances. The palate is beautifully full and fleshy, almost unctuous but framed with the most delicious piercing, mouth-watering acidity. Super concentrated and broad but profoundly sensual and textural, the wine finishes with pure white citrus, black currant leaf and yellow tropical fruit candy notes. A joy to taste a wine that really does full justice to these centenary old vines from this famous vineyard in Franschhoek. Drink now or age for 8 to 10+ years.

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

Wines are distributed in the UK by Red Squirrel Wines. Approximate retail price £55.99 per bottle.

Tenerife Wine Odyssey – Jetting Off to Tenerife For the Bodegas Suertes del Marques New Cellar Opening Celebration…

When I last visited this island winery in August 2017, owner Jonatan Garcia Lima elucidated his grand plans for a new winery. Then when I caught up with him at subsequent tastings in London in early 2018, he asked me to put Monday 4th of March 2019 in my diary to make sure I did not miss his grand cellar opening celebration at the El Esquilon winery in La Orotava.

 

Roll on another year and before I knew it, it was time to jet off to Tenerife. I was accompanied on the same flight by Tenerife aficionado Daniel Primack, the UK Zalto glasses distributor, as well as jet setting wine journalist extraordinaire, Jamie Goode from www.wineanorak.com.

 

With Daniel Primack, Jonatan and Jamie Goode.

After a very quick hotel check in, we were whisked straight off for a comprehensive barrel tasting of all the 2018 red and white cuvees in the grand new cellar. Suertes del Marques produces around 55 different cuvees which are then blended into around 17 different wines. However, their Vino de Parcela (single vineyard) wines are easily the most important component of their range.

 

The lower vineyards at Suertes del Marques planted on clay loamy soils.

Vidonia 2018 was still completing malolactic fermentation when we tasted it but all the wines, almost without exception, showed an attractive accessible purity and opulence akin to the excellent quality 2017 vintage, another warm year with plenty of moisture. Almost all the wines produced are from the La Orotava Valley, however, there are of course a couple of interesting experimental barrels lurking in the cellar like the excellent Sortevera Amogoje 2018 white blend from the Taganana area and also the Taganana Margalagua red 2018. Both show excellent potential.

 

The 200 to 250 year old Listan Blanco vines on the property trained in the Cordon Trenzado method.

I wrote an extensive description of the vineyards and winery in 2017 which you can read here… https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2017/08/22/the-tenerife-wine-odyssey-exploring-the-wines-of-suertes-del-marques/

 

The Stockinger barrels in the new cellar.

The basic terroir of the La Orotava Valley on the North coast of the island revolves around the Listan Negro red wines from vines grown on the more Easterly aspects, with their heavier clay / sandy soil components. In the West, vineyards are dominated by sandy stony basaltic soils which have proved more suitable for white varieties, primarily Listan Blanco, otherwise known as Palomino Fino.

 

As the El Esquilon Estate of Suertes del Marques sits in the middle of the La Orotava Valley, approximately 80% of the vineyards are planted to red varieties and 20% to white, with lower slopes dominated by loamy clay and the higher slopes basaltic sandy loam. Their main grape Listan Negro is a cross between Listan Blanco (Palomino fino) and Tinta Negro Mole, a variety better know in Madeira.

 

Tasting 2018s from barrel with owner Jonatan in the new cellar.

New 2017 Vintage Tasting:

Suertes del Marques La Floridita 2018, 12.5 Abv.

Pale cherry red, this wine is still very reductive but shows delicious strawberry pith and raspberry fruit underneath with a smokey basaltic mineral core.

(Wine Safari Score: 87/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques Suertes Cool 2018, 11.5 Abv. (NatCool presented in the 1 Litre bottle)

Listan Negro from 450m mid-slope vineyards. This new addition to the NatCool international offering shows a lovely fresh nose balancing crushed red berries, basalt minerality and bramble berry notes. Palate is sleek, ripe but noticeably lithe and elegant. Not challenging at all but retains wonderful complexity. A really pleasurable glassful best served slightly chilled.

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

 

Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes 2017, 13 Abv.

A fine Listan Negro parcel blend with the majority aged in concrete tanks. Jammed packed full of smokey volcanic minerality, strawberry and crushed raspberry fragrance, illustrating the plush elegance and accessible balance of the vintage. Sappy and fleshy, this red is already showing very well.

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

 

Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes El Lance 2017, 12.5 Abv.

Fine sappy nose with hints of whole bunch and resinous black berry crunch. Quite finely textured, harmonious balance and a chalky, mineral powder tannin finish. Very friendly wine with impressive mid-palate depth.

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

 

Suertes del Marques La Solana Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 13 Abv.

Fresh sappy nose packed full of leafy bramble berry fruits, subtle hint of reduction and a basaltic mineral undertone. Finely embroidered texture, chalky dry tannins and a smokey graphite finish. Pop this in the cellar for 5 years.

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

 

Suertes del Marques Candio 2017 Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 13.5 Abv.

Very attractive nose of red bramble berry fruits, lavender and crushed rose petals. Super elegant with a creamy texture embellished by a lick of classy oak spice. Really harmonious and balanced, this is a class act. Crack into these on release!

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

 

Suertes del Marques El Chibirique 2017 Listan Negro Vino de Parcel, 13 Abv.

Dark and broody nose, this shows railway yard reduction, coal smoke, blackberry confit and a sappy leafy complexing aromatic edge. Medium bodied, suave and elegant but noticeably more restrained and mineral in style with a graphite, stony bite on the finish. Still very youthful, this is one for the cellar.

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

 

Suertes del Marques El Esquilon 2016 Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 12.5 Abv.

Rich opulent forward vintage showing plenty of verve and vigour. Displays a lovely melange of chalky, stony, basaltic mineral tannins and dense, concentrated black berry fruits. Lovely accessibility, classy balance but real drive and intensity. Very impressive cuvee.

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

 

Suertes del Marques El Ciruelo 2017 Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 13 Abv.

100% Whole Bunch and foot trodden in concrete. This has a fabulously complex nose with just the right amount of complexing reduction, struck match and smokey, sappy black bramble berry fruit. Very youthful at the moment but this shows as much potential as the epic 2016 I reviewed recently. Such balance and class. Shows everything that’s great about premium Tenerife Listan Negro.

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

 

Suertes del Marques Los Pasitos 2017 Vino de Parcela, Baboso Negro. 12.5 Abv.

Lovely nose full of gun powder smoke, graphite and crushed bramble berries, wet leaves and sap. Crunchy and fresh with taut glassy acids and a tightly wound finish with fabulously polished tannins. Very serious.

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

 

Suertes del Marques Cruz Santa 2017 Vino de Parcela, Vijariego Negro, 12.5 Abv.

Grown on clay soils. Soft sweet sappy and cool with plenty of base and treble. Pure black chalky fruits, fine minerailty, sweet and sour black plum hints and finely polished, tight grained tannins. Wow! Not a wine / cuvee I know very well but this is very impressive indeed.

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

 

Suertes del Marques Vidonia 2017 Listan Blanco Vino de Parcela, 12.5 Abv.

Alluring aromatics of white citrus, wet chalk, crushed green apples and pear purée. Lovely pure smokey note balanced by sweet quince, white peach and a spicy, lemon and herb complexity. Creamy and cool on the palate, this Listan Blanco parcela wine shows a lot of similarities to a fine slightly reductive white Burgundy. Really delicious but also quite a serious glassful!

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

Tasting Vidonia Parcela Listan Blanco 2018 from barrel.

 

Suertes del Marques Trenzado Listan Blanco, 12.5 Abv.

This Listan Blanco 6 parcel blend reveals a more lifted, exotic, fragrant nose than Vidonia brimming with yellow citrus pastille, waxy lemon peel, struck match reduction, maritime salinity and a wet chalk mineral note. Lovely fleshy concentration and depth with real class and complexity. Not quite the same textural delineation as Vidonia but wow, this wine packs a punch for a super price!

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

 

Looking South up the hill behind the winery.

Looking north down past La Orotava to Puerto de la Cruz.

The Suertes del Marques wines are imported into the UK by Indigo Wines.

Suertes del Marques Releases One of Their Most Elegant Vino de Parcela Reds to Date – Tasting the Ethereal El Ciruelo 2016…

Despite the warmth of the 2016 vintage, the top quality reds from Suertes del Marques display impressive freshness after owner Jonatan Garcia Lima adjusted the picking dates and the vinifications to counterbalance the effects of the warmth and remove any chance of over ripeness in the fruit. The results of these decisions are most marked in their Vino de Parcela wines and especially the El Ciruelo 2016.

The grapes come from a circa 100 year old vineyard grown at 480 to 520 metres altitude on sandy soils. It was made using 100% whole bunches with a 30 day maceration and alcoholic fermentation completed in concrete tanks before being aged 11 months in used 500 litre French oak barrels.

Tasting in London in February 2019 with owner Jonatan Garcia Lima.

Suertes del Marques Vino de Parcela El Ciruelo Listan Negro Vinas Viejas 2016, DO Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife

Like many of the 2016 tintos, this one is very noticeably lighter and brighter in colour than either the 2015 or 2014 reds. The El Ciruelo has an enticingly light translucent cherry red colour and while it is initially tighter with stony basalt aromatic restraint and some reductive notes to begin with, the wine soon opens its grip to reveal wonderfully pure red fruited Listan Negro aromatics of red cherry, red plum confit, wood smoke, sun dried cranberries and a volcanic, mineral, chalky terroir complexity. The palate is sleek, incredibly precise, slightly sappy and fabulously elegant with a lean, well defined textural frame on which a considerable amount of pithy, sweet, sappy brambly red berry fruit concentration is adorned. Perhaps shows a little less muscle power than the El Esquilon 2016, but what this wine lacks in density and brute force it more than compensates with finesse, freshness, accessibility and mesmerising harmonious balance. This wine has certainly emerged unexpectedly out of the 2016 vintage shadows as a very special cuvee indeed and one that will impress the most demanding Tenerife red wine connoisseur. Drink now to 2030+

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

Terroir Sense Fronteres – Launching Dominik Huber’s New Monsant Wines at Cabotte in London…

Dominik Huber was never destined to end up behind a desk in an office job. Son of a German butcher, he always desired a career path that would allow him to use his hands. In 2001 he started a wine project with Eben Sadie in Priorat, making the Terroir al Limit wines. After several years working together, Eben departed the project in 2012 to focus on his iconic Sadie Family Wines, leaving Dominik solo to refocus and try and take the winery and its wines on to the next level.

In 2015 Dominik finally managed to purchase his beloved Les Manyes Old Vine Grenache (1.5 ha) vineyard from a local farmer. But with this sale also came a parcel of 4 hectares of neighbouring vineyards. However, these vines were not DOC Priorat but DO Monsant… and so the new winery “project” found its inspiration.

Brisat 2017, DO Monsant, 12 Abv.

15 to 35 year old vines of 75% Grenache Blanc and 25% Macabeo grown on clay rich sandy soils at 300-350 metre altitude. Nose is rich and exotic with honied pear purée, pineapple pastille, savoury leesy bruised yellow orchard fruits and a slight oxidative, salty lift with a strong dusty mineral veil. The palate is cool, sleek and fresh with a lovely linear acidity and tension, smokey, stony minerality, wet river pebbles, ripe pears and yellow crunchy peach stone fruits. A real food wine that packs a punch.

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

Negre 2017, DO Monsant, 13 Abv.

15 to 35 year old vines of 75% Grenache Noir and 25% Carignan grown on clay rich sandy soils at 300-350 metre altitude. Colour is a surprisingly dense, dark purple black plum colour. Made using old school Burgundy techniques, 100% of the fruit was whole bunch fermented using native yeasts and minimal interaction for a gentle fermentation. The nose is a little reticent at first with subtle notes of black plum, black berry, sun ripened black cherry and savoury, earthy, meaty hints. The palate is more explosive with incredible layers of sweet & sour Victoria plum, tart black berries, a graphite rich stony minerality and complexing notes of sweet grilled herbs and spice. Deliciously bright fruited showing plenty of nervous energy, the finish is fine but drying with pin point dusty mineral graphite tannins. Should flesh out further with age as the coiled tension unwinds.

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

Dominik Huber at Cabotte Restaurant in London.

Vertebra de la Figuera 2017, DO Monsant, 12.5 Abv.

40 to 80 year old vines of 100% Grenache Noir grown on red clay and gypsum rich layered soils at 700 metres altitude. The high altitude yields grapes that produce a very light colour despite being vinified the same as the other darker wines. The nose is seductive and perfumed with lofty notes of cherry blossom, crushed strawberries, raisined cranberries and a raspberry rock candy confectionary note. The palate is linear and cool with laser like purity and textural light touch precision. The tannins are sleek and polished allowing the wine to tread very lightly despite its incredible intensity. The finish is taught and fine with delicious strawberry pip and stony mineral precision. Very impressive expression with a definite Burgundian feel.

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

Guix Vermell Negre 2017, DO Monsant, 13 Abv.

75 year old vines of 100% Grenache Noir grown on red clay rich with gypsum soil layers at 800 metres altitude. It has a beautiful bright purple ruby colour with the nose being richer, deeper, darker and creamier than the Vertebra, possessing an alluring depth of black plum, tart black berries, graphite, grey slate and dusty piquant exotic spices. There is a sense of something quite serious and profound in the glass with more classical austerity and dusty slatey mineral restraint tempering the bright vibrant fruit purity. Creamy dreamy wine with textured chalky tannins, this has the stuffing to age and the balance to evolve for sure. Something very special indeed that could finally put premium DO Monsant wines on the map. Let’s hope so.

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

These wines will be launched more broadly in Europe in March but will be available from UK trade supplier Armit wines from February.

Putting the 2019 Platter 5 Star Wines through Their Paces – The Fine Wine Safari Assessment…

The Platter Wine Guide is the undisputed wine bible of South African wines. While this multi-award winning wine guide is not totally faultless in its approach to rating new release wines, it certainly is still the best all round annual informational resource guide a tourist or local South African wine enthusiast can buy.

So when Wines of South Africa UK presents the annual Platter Wine Guide 5 Star Tasting at the South African High Commission, it is always one of the most eagerly anticipated and well attended events for wine professionals whether they be journalists, a blogger, a wine commentator, restauranteur or a wine buyer.

Here is the Fine Wine Safari assessment of the 2019 Guide’s 5 Star wines. Over 70 wines were tasted and I have only listed the wines I rated 94 points or higher.

Whites:

Vergelegen G.V.B White 2015 

Varieties: 60% Schaapenberg Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon 

Region: Stellenbosch

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016

Varieties: 100% Chardonnay

Region: Stellenbosch

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Restless River Ava Marie Chardonnay 2016

Varieties: 100% Chardonnay

Region: Upper Hemel-enAarde Valley

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Bot River, Overberg

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Botanica Mary Delany Chenin Blanc 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Citrusdal Mountain

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

David & Nadia Hoe-Steen 2017 

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Swartland

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

David & Nadia Skaliekop 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Swartland

96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

De Morgenzon The Divas 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Stellenbosch

97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Thistle & Weed Duwweltjie Chenin Blanc 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Paarl

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

B Vintners Haarlem to Hope white blend 2017 

Varieties: 64% Chenin Blanc, 28% Semillon, 4% Muscat d’ Frontignan and 4% Muscat d’ Alexandrie 

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Old Vines 2017

Varieties: 65% Chenin Blanc, 13% Grenache Blanc, 10% Viognier, 10% Clairette Blanche, 2% Semillon Gris

Region: Swartland

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sadie Palladius 2016

Varieties:  Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, ClairetteBlanche , Viognier, Verdelho, Roussanne, Semillon Gris, Semillon Blanc and Palomino

Region: Swartland

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Savage white blend 2017

Varieties:  Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chenin Blanc

Region: Western Cape

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Stark-Condé The Field Blend 2017 

Varieties:  36% Chenin Blanc, 36% Roussanne, 17% Viognier, 11% Verdelho

Region: Stellenbosch, Jonkershoek Valley

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse white blend 2017

Varieties:  Roussanne, Chardonnay, Semillon, Clairette Blanche and Chenin Blanc

Region: Western Cape

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Red Wines:

Elemental Bob Graveyard Tinta Barocca 2017

Varieties:  100% Tinta Barocca

Region / WO: Stellenbosch

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Crystallum Cuvée Cinéma Pinot Noir 2017

Varieties:  100% Pinot Noir

Region: Hemel-enAarde

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Thelema Sutherland Petit Verdot Reserve 2015

Varieties:  100% Petit Verdot

Region: Elgin

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Raats Cabernet Franc 2016

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Franc

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Raats Dolomite Cabernet Franc 2016

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Franc

Region: Stellenbosch

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Stellenbosch 

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Reyneke Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Stellenbosch 

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Warwick The Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Stellenbosch 

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Hartenberg CWG Auction Reserve Shiraz 2015

Varieties:  100% Shiraz

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2016

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Swartland

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Leeuwenkuil Heritage Syrah 2015

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Swartland

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Porseleinberg Syrah 2016

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Swartland

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Rust en Vrede Single Vineyard Syrah 2015

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Stellenbosch

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Erika O Syrah-Grenache Noir-Cinsault 2016

Varieties: 53 % Syrah, 28 % Grenache Noir and 19 % Cinsault

Region: Western Cape 

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Saronsberg Full Circle Red 2016 

Varieties: 82% Shiraz, 11% Grenache, 6%  Mourvèdre, 1% Viognier

Region: Tulbagh

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015

Varieties: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot

Region: Stellenbosch

98/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Beeslaar Pinotage 2016 

Varieties:  100% Pinotage

Region: Stellenbosch

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2016 

Varieties:  100% Pinotage

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Kanonkop Black Label 2016

Varieties:  100% Pinotage

Region: Stellenbosch

97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sweet Wines:

Klein Constantia Estate Vin de Constance 2014 

Varieties:  100% Muscat de Frontignan

Region: Constantia

97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest 2017

Varieties:  100% Riesling

Region: Elgin

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Straw Wine 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc 

Region: Swartland

97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2016 

Varieties: 74% Touriga Nacional, 18% Tinta Barocca, 8% Tinta Roriz

Region: Calitzdorp

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Tasting Domaine de la Romanee Conti 2016 New Releases – An Excellent Vintage Born of Tumult and Despair…

After the success of the 2015 vintage at Domaine de la Romanee Conti which Aubert de Villaine described as one of the three most successful vintages ever at the domaine, the wines from 2016 had a seemingly impossible act to follow. In the end, some incredibly beautiful wines were produced … “an unexpected success, which now places 2016 amongst the most perfect vintages of these past few years.” ~ Aubert de Villaine.

While the excellent 2015s were born out of a superb vintage and growing season, the 2016s were the prodigy of a tumultuous season, born out of tumult and even despair at great cost. The winter of 2015-2016 was very mild with none of the usual frosts or snow to cleanse the vineyards of latent pests and diseases. Budburst was early in April and the Spring was also the wettest on record with 516mm (20.31 inches) of rain between January and May making for a very busy time in the vineyard for the Chef de Culture Nicolas Jacob.

A momentary cessation of the dreary weather at the end of April was a false dawn with three days of savage frosts descending upon the vineyards of Montrachet, Batard Montrachet, Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux, burning off virtually all the young shoots. The remaining vineyards in the DRC holdings were miraculously almost untouched yielding an average crop load of exceptional quality. Readings of anthocyanins and tannins taken around the 18th September were superior to even those in 2015. Harvesting started on the hill of Corton on the 23rd September.

Corton Grand Cru 2016

With an average vine age of 46, the three 2016 Corton vineyards yielded a miserly 22 hl/ha to produce 5,040 bottles. With a deep ruby colour, the aromatics of this wine offer up classically mineral, stony, dusty notes of chalk, limestone, unripe red cherries, small black berries, graphite and a touch of sappy stem spice and pink musk. Unmistakably cool climate Pinot Noir. The palate has fine focus and density, fanning out from the front of the mouth to enliven and invigorate the palate with tart red berry fruits, logan berries, cranberry and tart strawberry, all with a characterful mineral laden under tone. There is plenty of concentration, poise and a generous intensity all finely framed by fresh crunchy acids and powder-fine tannins. A very classy expression of Corton. One of the best ever from DRC?

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

Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux were bottled only in Magnum format and not shown for tasting. 980 of the first and 710 of the latter, will be released at a later date. The yields were a spectacularly small 6hl/ha for the Echezeaux vines and 7hl/ha for the Grands Echezeaux vines. No decision has been made on the release date or who they will be offered to.

Romanee St Vivant Grand Cru 2016

The 2016 RSV vines of an average age of 38 years of age yielded a slightly higher 27 hl/ha or 15,648 bottles. Vintage similarities with the Corton continue here with extra powerful, lifted aromatics. Once again there is the ethereal perfume of sweet red and black berries, Parma violets, pink musk, pink rock candy and sappy strawberry cream all underpinned by classical stony mineral and crush limestone dust. The palate texture is supremely polished and harmonious with noticeably rich fruit concentration, a creamy intensity and pin point balance. This is a deliciously opulent headstrong RSV that shows off the vintage’s small yield concentration concisely. Wonderful length, profound sweet and sour cherry and strawberry promise and feminine, dreamy tannins. Very impressive and oh so mouth watering.

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

Richebourg Grand Cru 2016

The vines in the DRC Richebourg parcel are now averaging 46 years of age and in 2016 yielded 24 hl/ha or 10,416 bottles. If ever there was a vintage that lends itself to the flamboyance of the DRC Richebourg style, you would imagine that the concentration and power of 2016 to be the perfect moment. Indeed, the nose is bold and opulent, rich and seductive showing a wonderfully lifted melange of red and black crunchy berries, exotic baking herbs, graphite spice and complexing dried tobacco leaf and cigar ash nuances. The palate shows fabulous fruit concentration and vibrant freshness but also clear and evident coiled spring tension and intensity, linear acids and an overall powerful, taught skeleton. The finish suggests great potential but is perhaps a little compressed at the moment. Another thoroughly beguiling, characterful, concentrated Richebourg.

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

La Tache Grand Cru Monopole 2016 

Produced from a monopole vineyard with vines averaging 51 years old, the site yielded 31 hl/ha or 21,768 bottles. This famous noble monopole Grand Cru produced a fabulously aristocratic expression in 2016 with floral, fragrant aromatics almost unmatched by any of the other wines. The lifted perfume of dried rose petals, cherry blossom, raspberry herbal tea and crushed violets mingles effortlessly with creamy, spicy red cherry, strawberry and small crunchy black berry fruit nuances. The palate too is powerful, regal and supremely polished with a seamless texture that boast authoritative dusty, powdery tannins harmoniously balanced by intense sappy, spicy red fruits and a leafy, red plum and loganberry confit concentration that lingers with such prowess. A impressively generous, rich and finely crafted La Tache that will turn many heads once again.

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

Romanee Conti Grand Cru Monopole 2016

This legendary vineyard now boasts vines with an average age of 57 years old. In 2016 the site yielded a modest 24 hl/ha or 5,280 bottles. Always producing a profound expression of Pinot Noir, the 2016 is no exception and boldly delivers a supremely complex array of aromatics that seem to have extra levels of depth and intrigue. Together with lifted, perfumed cherry blossom, rose petals and violets there is an extra broody, savoury, bruised red fruit and blood orange note that gracefully teases the senses. The palate as usual combines the most awesome fruit and acid intensity with creamy, supple mineral tannins and a sweet, sappy seductive old vine depth. What a beautiful wine with a splendidly tender, harmonious intensity and a confident, precise regal finish. Always a privilege to taste this wine.

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