Tasting the Casanova di Neri Flagship Brunello di Montalcino Cerretalto 2012 with Giacomo Neri…

The most famous vineyard sites produce the most famous wines and Montalcino is certainly no different. Casanova di Neri was founded by Giovanni Neri in 1971 and since his passing in 1991, his son Giacomo Neri has run the farm overseeing all vineyard and cellar activities personally where they produce six different wines.

 

The Cerretalto vineyard cuvee is however an exceptional flagship expression in the Casanova di Neri range producing extraordinary Brunello’s with a real concentration of fruit and minerality but are only bottled in the most expressive vintages. Of the total 8 hectares of the vineyard, only 4 hectares of vines lying on the red iron soils are used for this special cuvee.

The first Cerretalto vintage was 1981, followed by 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 and now finally 2012… a wine always released after 6 years aging in the cellar of which 28-30 months are in 300 and 500 litre French oak barrels and the remaining 30 months in bottle.

 

Tasting with Giacomo Neri, the current owner.

Casanova di Neri Cerretalto Brunello di Montalcino 2012, 15 Abv.

One of the most famous ferrous iron rich soil sites of Montalcino located east of the town continuously produces incredibly profound, potent wines with a very classical cool personality in the context of Brunello di Montalcino. The aromatics possess a wonderfully lifted perfumed fragrance laden with intense notes of dried rose petals, exotic baking spices, graphite, sun raisined cherries, Arabian prunes, iron filings, bresaola, liquorice and tar. On the palate, the flavours are bold and powerful with an incredible cherry fruit intensity layered with nuances of aniseed root, gravelly minerality and creamy sweet tannins that embrace the palate and then gently tail off slowly to leave a lasting imprint of sublime complexity, textural depth and superb elegance. This wine is a revelation and once again, top terroir trumps vintage conditions. Drink from 2020 to 2035+

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

Another Amazing Aligoté Discovery – Tasting the Superb Nicolas Faure Bourgogne Aligoté ‘La Corvee de Bully’ 2017…

Followers of my blog will know that there are a couple of more obscure wines I follow with close interest and try and feature regularly. One such wine is the poor cousin in Burgundy, Aligoté. With the stellar rise of prices across Burgundy over the past decade, every plot of land has had to pay its way and that includes gnarled old plots of once unfashionable Aligoté. But of course, the grape is experiencing a complete renaissance, one that I am following with great interest.

At a recent new release En-primeur 2017 tasting, I had the pleasure to meet Nicolas Faure, a passionate and driven winemaker running a small negociant business alongside an equally small domaine in Meuilley in the Hautes Cotes de Nuits. But he is also a member of a 50+ producer grouping called “Les Aligotéurs” who champion top premium quality Aligoté from Burgundy. Created by the French Chef Philippe Delacourcelle and winemakers Sylvain Pataille, Laurent Fournier, Pablo Chevrot, Anne Morey and Nicolas Faure, members are required to have some track record of Aligoté production and the wines need to be quality wines of note. April 2018 saw the first professional meeting of Les Aligotéurs in Burgundy in Flagey-Echezeaux. Nicolas’s 2017 is another worthy addition to the premium ranks of collectable Aligoté.

Nicolas Faure Bourgogne Aligoté ‘La Corvee de Bully’ 2017, 13 Abv.

Another exciting Aligoté discovery, this time made from old vines planted in 1914. Nicolas Faure farms 0.13 hectares of the total lieu dits block of around 4 hectares of La Corvee de Bully. The grapes were picked on the 17th September which is more than a week later than most other Domaines. The grapes were vinified using wild yeast natural fermentation in old 4th and 5 fill 228 litre Burgundy barrels and the results are truly profound. There is an incredible aromatic complexity with serious layers and nuances. The nose is packed full of white citrus, cut straw, dusty minerality, bruised pears and a leesy savoury earthy yellow orchard fruit depth. The palate is no less tantalising, showing impressive artisanal winemaking that has captured the fantastic old vine fruit concentration perfectly with incredible stony minerality and a delicious depth of flavour. Everything you could possibly expect and hope for from a top Aligoté… serious vigour, balance, finesse and an almost Chardonnay-like premium Burgundian complexity. Very classy expression indeed and a wonderful new discovery. Drink now to 2024+

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

The Fine Wine Safari – 2018 in Pictures : Part 1…

What a fabulous year 2018 was for wine. Some excellent vintages were put to bed, plenty of energy and enthusiasm was shared by global winemakers and overall, there seemed to be a growing appreciation for interesting wines from all regions of the world, not just from the classics.

What ever 2019 throws at us, I think it is safe to say that those who are prepared to join the journey and immerse themselves into the wonderful and intriguing world of fine wine, they will come out the other side socially, intellectually and experientially greatly enriched.

 

Beginning the year with the annual Romanee Conti new vintage release with Aubert de Villane and his amazing, possibly best ever, 2015 vintages.

A new recruit to the Handford Oyster Club… the multi-talented Peter Allan Finlayson.

Tasting a sample of Meerlust Rubicon 2015 with owner Hannes Myburgh in London. The greatest release yet!?

Samantha O’Keefe from Lismore Winery in Greyton, Western Cape, making some exceptionally exciting wines in an off the beaten track area of outstanding beauty.

One of the high lights of the year for me was a fabulous wine dinner at my rugby club London Welsh where I help coach, with the great Sir Gareth Edwards who scored THAT TRY for the Barbarians in 1973!

A real behind the scenes operator and all round great wine maker, Luis Seabra, making his own Xisto Cru wines and also consulting to great names like Suertes del Marques in Tenerife.

Rajat Parr over in London again showing off his fabulous Evening Land wines from Oregon. But his Sandhi whites from Santa Barbara County are also to die for!

Meeting up with Vassaltis Winery owner Yiannis Valambous for a Greek wine extravaganza lunch. His wines from Santorini are among the very best on the island.

Recently described as the “Clarke Gabel and Vivian Leigh” of the South African wine scene, also two of my favourite people anywhere… Olive and Anthony Hamilton-Russell from the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley winery.

An epic catch up at one of my favourite London Michelin Star restaurants, La Trompette, with Anthony, Olive and Neal Martin from Vinous.com

The legend, the maestro, Steven Spurrier … if anyone deserves a knighthood on the honours list, this is the chap! Tasting Burgundy En-primeur 2016.

One of my favourite rising talents in the world of wine communications, education and media… Amelia Singer. Catch her at http://www.Amelias-wine.com

It’s not just the South African wine makers setting the South African social scene on fire. Bertus and Marelise Basson making incredible food to accompany the fine wine. A lovely catch up at Spek & Bone in Stellenbosch.

One of the greats of the South African wine industry, Ian Naude now solo as of 2018 and making some of the most stimulating and profound old vine whites and reds in South Africa.

Friendships forged through wine… Donovan Rall, Ian Naude and Bruwer Raats. Some of South Africa’s greatest talents.

No one is making greater wines in the Swartland or South Africa than this dynamic duo… Andrea and Chris Mullineux. Perennial Winery of the Year winners.

The hottest talent to hit the headlines internationally in 2018… the incredibly talented Lukas van Loggerenberg. Track his eponymous wines down!

My fellow MW class mate, Bordeaux marathon 2014 team mate and now Decanter Man of the Year 2018… Eduardo Chadwick.

Bordeaux En-primeur fires the starting gun for the new South African fine wine fund managed by financial wizard, the highly talented Ken Kinsey-Quick. Tasting the Chateau Le Pin 2017 with Jacques Thienpont and son in April 2018.

Chateau Lafleur winemaker Omri Ram presenting an outstanding tasting and lunch in London’s St James’s.

Always a privilege to judge South African wines with Fiona McDonald … the Decanter South African panel chair.

An incredible flying visit and marathon tasting with JC Martin at Creation Winery in the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. Some of South Africa’s finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines!

Tasting the 2017 Port component parts in London with the legend of Portuguese wines and Ports, Dirk Niepoort.

One of my favourite tastings of the year with Allegra Antinori tasting a vertical of one of my favourite white wines in Italy, Cervaro della Sala from Umbria.

Tasting the new Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2007 at the London launch with the new Taittinger maitre de chais Alexandre Ponnavoy and the irrepressible fine wine aficionado Gareth Birchley, now ex-BBR and taking up the buying reins at Burns & German fine wine merchants in Chelsea in 2019.

A very proud moment in 2018 seeing South African artist William Kentridge being selected to design the Vendemmia d’Artista label for Ornellaia 2015. Tasting here with Ornellaia wine maker Axel Heinz and Steven Spurrier at the V&A for the launch.

More great friendships forged through wine. Tasting at Duncan Savage’s new urban winery with Ian Naude and bubbly producer extraordinaire Paul Gerber from LeLude in Franschhoek.

A highlight of the year, visiting Raffaele Pagano at Joaquin Winery in Campania to taste his iconic wines. Unquestionably one of the best kept fine wine secrets of Italy!

Celebrating a triumphant year of success for Meerlust with Hannes Myburgh, viticulturalist Roelie Joubert and wine maker Chris Williams.

Another epic visit to Montalcino to taste the barrel samples of Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino with owner Vincenzo Abbruzzese together with his son and his UK importer Masi Jacobacci. Truly epic age worthy wines.

After 11 years of carrying the mantle of being the 4th and last South African to pass the rigorous Master of Wine exams, in 2018 I finally passed the baton on to London based South African Cassidy Dart MW who became the 5th South African MW to pass since the institute started in 1953. Seen here celebrating with guest appearances by Chris Mullineux and wine journalist Angela Lloyd at Michelin Star Trinity restaurant in Clapham, London.

Another day, another epic tasting. This time a sweet Chenin Blanc tasting of the wines of Moulin Touchais back to 1947… with the current export manager Frederic, Chris Mullineux and Roger Jones.

Another real highlight for me was attending a Masterclass with these two Californian legends of Chardonnay… Jim Clendenen and David Ramey. Incredible benchmark wines from both these wineries.

Happy faces all round after another incredibly successful Old Vines Project Tasting In London at High Timber restaurant with Andre Morgenthal and IWC Wine Personality of the Year 2018, Rosa Kruger. Two people doing such important work to save South Africa’s old vine heritage.

One of the beneficiaries of the work of Rosa Kruger and the Old Vine Project… Chris Alheit, who probably produced the unanimous South African white wine of the year with his lieu dits Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017 from old Skurfberg vines sourced by Rosa Kruger.

A rare relaxed lunch with my favourite Bloemfontein gal in London. High Timber restauranteur Neleen Strauss joined our South African wine lunch with Keith Prothero at La Trompette restaurant for a day of fine wine. Neleen is another unsung champion of South Africa’s fine wines in London.

Watch out for the Fine Wine Safari year in Pictures part 2…. coming soon!

The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable “Off-Piste” Red Wines of the Year 2018…

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Red Wines of the Year was a modest attempt to illustrate South Africa’s finest benchmark wines and styles for all to see and to give international collectors and drinkers a handful of names and labels to look out for. However, one of the absolute cornerstones of the recent global success of the South African wine category has been its incredible diversity and in many cases it’s inspired eccentricity combined with outright quality.

So in an attempt to show the more experimental and alternative “off-piste” face of South African wine, I have enjoyed compiling my Top 10 list of most memorable reds, truly outstanding wines produced by producers that do not necessarily aspire to 100 point ratings or mass market appeal. Nevertheless, these wines are all more than worthy of a slot in your cellar!

Sadie Family Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2017, Swartland

Franco Lourens Howard John Red Blend 2017, WO Western Cape

David & Nadia Pinotage 2017, Swartland

Fram Grenache Gris 2017, Swartland

Kleine Zalze Amphora Grenache 2017

Craven Wines Cinsault 2017, Stellenbosch

Restless River Wanderlust Grenache 2017, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Scions of Sinai Feniks Pinotage 2017, Stellenbosch

Sutherland Petit Verdot Reserve 2015, Elgin

Welbedacht Estate Patriot Cape Blend 2014, Wellington

The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable “Off-Piste” White Wines of the Year 2018…

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Whites and Reds of the Year was a modest attempt to illustrate South Africa’s finest benchmark wines and styles for all to see and to give international collectors and drinkers a handful of names and labels to look out for. However, one of the absolute cornerstones of the recent global success of the South African wine category has been its incredible diversity and in many cases its inspired eccentricity combined with outright wine quality.

So in an attempt to show the more experimental and alternative “off-piste” face of South African wine, I have enjoyed compiling my Top 10 list of most memorable whites and reds of truly outstanding wines produced by producers who do not necessarily aspire to 100 point ratings or mass market appeal. Nevertheless, these wines are all more than worthy of a valued slot in your cellar!

(In the true spirit of these wines, they are not scored here and are presented in no particular order of preference!)

Alheit Family Wines Vote For Pedro 2017

Francois Bezuidenhout Leenders Baviaan White Blend 2018, 13 Abv.

Pieter Walser Blank Bottle Winery Epileptic Inspiration Semillon 2016, Elgin

Terracura Smiley V4 Chenin Blanc NV, Swartland

Donovan Rall Grenache Blanc 2017, Swartland

Andre Bruyns City on a Hill Dry Muscat de Alexandrie 2017, Swartland

Bosman Family Wines Fides Skin Contact Grenache Blanc 2016, Wellington

Iona 8 + 8 Riesling 2017, Elgin

A.A.Badendorst Family Wines Geelkapel Dry Muscat de Frontignan 2017, Swartland

Momento Grenache Gris 2017, Voor-Paardeberg

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 South African Red Wines of the Year 2018…

What a fascinating and historical year 2018 was for red wines in South Africa. With the exception of only a few wineries, most premium producers released their incredible 2015 wines made from what is generally being regarded as probably the best quality vintage in South Africa’s modern post-apartheid era of winemaking.

Having already released the Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Whites of the Year, I have been overwhelmed with the comments of agreement and support for my selections. But then again, many will argue that the list included a multitude of excellent 2017 vintage wines and that the “white category” still remains South Africa’s strongest talent. While all of this may be true, 2018 saw the release of multiple red wines that pushed quality boundaries like never before. We’ll hand some of that to the vintage conditions of 2015 and 2017 but I’d also like to credit the growing confidence, expertise, knowhow and ambition of winemakers across the South African landscape.

If you are a seasoned veteran of premium South African wines, you will nod knowingly and expectantly at many of my red selections. If you are new to the South African category, perhaps living in the USA, Europe or Asia, make an effort to track these wines down now as many might still be available and all are definitely worth buying, even at their sometimes lofty price points! In my mind, they all represent relative value for money for what they are. Enjoy!

Kanonkop Paul Sauer Red Blend 2015, Stellenbosch – 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Meerlust Rubicon Red Blend 2015, Stellenbosch – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Vilafonte Series C 2016 Red Blend, Paarl – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Boekenhoutskloof Journeyman Red Blend 2015, WO Western Cape – 97+/100 GregSherwood MW

Donovan Rall Ava Syrah 2017, Swartland – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Tokara Telos Red Blend 2015, Stellenbosch – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

MR de Compostella Red Blend 2016, Stellenbosch – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Iron Syrah 2016, Swartland – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Stellenbosch – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Duncan Savage Red Blend 2015, WO Western Cape – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone who helped make 2018 such a memorable year! 🍷🎄 🦄

Don’t miss my “Year in Photographs” coming up before New Years Eve 2018.

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 South African White Wines of the Year 2018…

What a fabulous year for South African wine it has been! Of course for many 2018 was extra special because a lot of people who may not normally go to South Africa regularly made the pilgrimage down to Cape Wine 2018 in September. Personally, I made four separate visits to South Africa this year including a mammoth 10 day mega session that covered both the Nederburg Auction and the entire week of the Cape Wine trade fair.

— 🥁🥁🥁🥁🥁 …. drum roll ….

So for 2018, my Top 10 South African White Wines of the Year are as follows:

Alheit Family Wines Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017, Swartland – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sadie Family Wines Old Vines Series ‘T Voetpad 2017, Swartland – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Lukas Van Loggerenberg Kameraderie Chenin Blanc 2017 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sadie Family Wines Palladius White Blend 2016, Swartland – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Alheit Family Wines Magnetic North Chenin Blanc 2017, Skurfberg – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

David & Nadia Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc 2017, Swartland – 96+/100 GregSherwood MW

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Radicales Libres White Blend 2012, Swartland – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Restless River Ava Maria Chardonnay 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Naude Family Wines Old Vines Semillon 2016, Western Cape – 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015, Constantia – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

A huge heartfelt congratulations to all the distinguished producers who made my Top 10 Whites this year. Merry Christmas! 🎄🍷

Coming up next before the New Year… the ultimate Fine Wine Safari Top 10 South African Red Wines of the Year 2018. Definitely not to be missed!