One from the Cellar – Tasting the Bouchard-Finlayson Kaaimansgat Chardonnay 2018…

The Bouchard Finlayson Crocodile’s Lair Kaaimansgat Chardonnay was fermented in a classic Burgundian fashion and allowed to age in small oak barrels in contact with its fine lees. Although not owned by the estate, Bouchard Finlayson has been linked to the Kaaimansgat or Crocodile’s Lair vineyard for almost 24 years.

The Kaaimansgat vineyard is hidden away in the Elandskloof Valley, behind the village of Villiersdorp, some 80km inland from Hermanus. The Crocodile’s Lair site is located at 700 metres above sea level and its grapes ripen almost a month later than those in other Cape Chardonnay vineyards, benefiting enormously from the cool autumn temperatures. The vines are unirrigated, producing small berries with a correspondingly high skin to juice ratio, perfect for high quality Chardonnay expressions.

Bouchard Finlayson Kaaimansgat Chardonnay 2018, WO Overberg, 13.5% Abv.

The 2018 Crocodiles Lair Chardonnay is a classic Chardonnay that delivers notes of freshly-cut green apples, lemon peel and pineapple pastille on the nutty, mineral nose together with hints of buttered white toast, vanilla pod oak spice and white blossom. The palate is medium-bodied, crystalline and pure with nuances of baked apples and tangy citrus on the long seductive finish. A cool climate Chardonnay expression that always overdelivers and offers incredible value for money. Drink now and over the next 5-6+ years.

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

Fine Wine Safari New Release Notes – Tasting The Maiden Release Crystallum Litigo Pinot Noir 2019…

The Litigo Pinot Noir is an impressive new release for Peter-Allan and Andrew Finlayson after their Bona Fide cuvee was not made into a single vineyard wine but blended away into the very impressive Peter Max 2019. I can’t remember if I knew this fact or not earlier in the year when Peter-Allan hosted a new release tasting dinner in London on the banks of the Thames, but it certainly explains in hindsight the extra depth, precision and concentration evident on the Peter Max 2019!

The new Litigo Cuvee from the Overberg.

The maiden vintage Litigo is made from seven year old vines sourced from Crystallum’s very own Shaw’s Mountain Vineyard just outside the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. The Litigo, meaning ‘discussion’ in legal terms, is a wine made in partnership with lawyer Eben van Wyk. Some cuvees come and go, such as the Paradisum Syrah from the Swartland, but I think this is certainly a wine to watch as the vines slowly notch up a little more age.

The wine was fermented using only native yeasts in stainless steel tanks using a 20% whole bunch component with the rest de-stemmed but left intact as whole berries. The wine spent a total of four weeks on the skins after which it went into French and Hungarian oak barrels (30% new) for 11 months before bottling.

Crystallum Litigo Pinot Noir 2019, WO Overberg, 13.6% Abv.

pH 3.60, 13.67% Abv., 5.0 g/l TA, Total sulphites 46 mg/l, Residual sugar 1.7 g/l.

When initially opened, the aromatics were rather broody and foresty, dominated by bramble berry fruits, red currants and wild strawberries. But chilling the bottle down ever so slightly and affording it a little more time to breath and open its shoulders, the wine really does blossom into something quite beautiful. The aromatics are slightly wild and spicy with notes of red cherries, strawberries and earthy mulberry notes embellished with hints of dried baking herbs. There is subtle spice nuances, an attractive violet and rose petal perfume but no real evidence of the 20% whole bunch component or any overt wood spice notes from the 30% new oak, just harmonious integration. The palate is impressively silky and sleek with beautifully pure refined tannins, a light to medium bodied mouthfeel weight and delicate, integrated earthy red berry and pomegranate fruit notes enlivened by soft fresh acids and a seamless finish. One can’t say this wine has the most mineral of profiles but certainly elegance and finesse are the order of the day. A really gentle, generous wine that speaks softly and is very amiable. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8+ years. (Only 1,264 bottles were produced)

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

Tasting Bouchard Finlayson’s Intriguing Limited Release Kaaimansgat Chardonnay… 

The Kaaimansgat or Crocodile’s Lair vineyard is hidden away in the Elands Kloof Valley behind the village of Villiersdorp, just 80km from Hermanus. A beautiful spot inside a blind valley nestling amongst majestic Cape mountains. 


Bouchard Finlayson has been linked directly to this vineyard for close to twenty-four years. It is located 700m above sea level, ripens a month later than other Cape Chardonnays and benefits enormously from cool autumn temperatures. The vines are not irrigated and they usually produce smaller than normal berries with a high skin to juice ratio, adding an extra flavour component to the wine.


The 2014 vintage commenced on the 12th of February, much later than normal, after a long and possibly the wettest summer on record with 610mm of rainfall recorded from October to March. This atypical vintage initiated a keen sense of urgency from both vineyard and cellar staff. Peter Finlayson’s experience and attention to detail ensured a successful harvest and an excellent vintage for the estate’s white wine.


The optimally ripened grapes were whole bunch pressed to utilise the added complexity derived from the skins and stalks. The acid component of the fruit assisted in arriving at high malic acid levels that enhance the wood maturation according to Peter. The point of departure for this particular “Limited Edition” cuvee was the fact that 50% of the wine was matured in premium new French oak while  the remaining 50% was aged in inert stainless steel. (Alcohol: 12.48%, Acid: 5.4g/l, Residual Sugar: 1.6g/l, pH: 3.44, with only 305 x 12 cases produced.)


Bouchard Finlayson Limited Release Kaaimansgat 2014 Chardonnay, Overberg, 12.48 Abv.

The first thing that strikes you about this fascinating wine is how totally and utterly European it appears on both the nose and palate. The aromatics are both exotic and hugely restrained and classical at the same time, crossing boundaries and pushing boundaries. The nose is seductively fresh, perfumed and complex with lemon grass, grated lime peel, waxy crab apples, incense, quince jelly and bruised yellow summer orchard fruits. But simultaneously there is a real presence of minerality, wet chalk, river pebbles, and petrichor nuances. On the palate, you get hints of smokey reduction, sweet / sour yellow plums, green melon, crunchy white peaches and lime cordial. Plenty of yin and yang but at no point is there ever any discord or dissonance. There is exoticism twinned with linearity, with subtle hints of creamy butterscotch oak emerging on the elegant finish, very much in the mould of a fresh, lightly wooded premium 1er Cru Chablis. Steely, textural, and ultra cool, this is a truly spectacular expression from one of South Africa’s most premium cool climate Chardonnay regions. Drink now to 2030+

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

Footnote: Elandskloof fruit is certainly big news in winetrade circles at the moment  after the recent maiden release of the Leeu Passant Elandskloof Chardonnay 2015 from the Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. Indeed, one of Andrea Mullineux’s winemaking Eureka moments occured while drinking a bottle of Kaaimansgat 1997 Chardonnay from Bouchard Finlayson. I myself only drank my last bottle of the 1997 about 2 years ago and the memory is still very vivid, such was the incredible quality and youthfulness of that particular wine. Elandskloof fruit also notably makes it into the uber premium Capensis Chardonnay from the Jackson Family Winery joint venture with Anthony Beck. 

Tasting and Assessing the Bold Second Chardonnay Release from Capensis Wines…

The Capensis Chardonnay is made at a new South African winery owned by Barbara Banke of Jackson Family Wines in USA and South African Anthony Beck, and is produced from vineyards expertly sourced by renowned viticulturalist Rosa Kruger. The wine is produced by Graham Weerts, from vineyards located in Stellenbosch, the Overberg, and the Robertson region.


The maiden vintage 2013 was reviewed several times on this blog…

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2017/01/22/revisiting-the-intriguing-capensis-chardonnay-2013-from-south-africa/ 

So I was intrigued to taste a pre-European release sample of the follow-up 2014. But then of course I realised I had already tasted the 2014 in November 2016 as part of the extensive Decanter Magazine’s blind Chardonnay tasting review. Reading my November review and noting the three judges scores, one can really see how this wine has evolved and improved with extra time in bottle over the past 5 months. 


Vineyards Used in Capensis…

The Stellenbosch estate of Fijnbosch sits at 1,719 feet in elevation on clay soils with fynbos surrounding the vines, contributing to the Chardonnay’s exceptional natural acidity and complexity.

The Kaaimansgat vineyards in the Overberg, lie at an elevation of 2,484 feet. Impressively remote and resting up in the mountains of the Overberg, the Kaaimansgat vineyard literally translates to “crocodile’s lair” and has long been used in world class examples of Chardonnay from producers like Bouchard Finlayson and more latterly, Leeu Passant.

The final components are sourced from the E. Bruwer vineyard in Robertson, which lies at an elevation of 571 feet in a limestone rich terroir long renowned for producing top Chardonnay grapes.


Capensis Chardonnay 2014, W.O. Western Cape, 14.5 Abv. 

This Chardonnay has an alluring lime green tinged lemon yellow glow. Still very youthful, there are initially intensely bold notes of vanilla bean, creme brûlée, and pannacotta cream. In 2014, 50% of the Cuvee was fermented in small French oak barrels (compared to 100% in 2013), with the balance fermented in stainless steel, and the wine is better for it. All the components were aged on their lees, being hand-stirred monthly for 10 months. Once in the glass, more complex aromas of lemon zest, yellow grapefruit and bergamot develop with subtle truffle oil and shiitaki mushroom notes. On the palate, there is certainly creamy breadth from the partial Malo (30 to 50%) which is beautifully balanced by crisp, pithy, crunchy green fruit acids. The fairground toffee apple nuances are still pronounced but should recede into the background as the wine ages, with the saline yellow citrus, lime cordial and dusty minerality becoming more pronounced. Stylistically a very bold, opulent wine that will appeal more to new world Chardonnay connoisseurs than perhaps Burgundy lovers. But I think that’s kind of the point? Nevertheless, in its youth, this wine is classy, seductive and very well made and should impress the fussiest of global Chardonnay drinkers. 

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