South African Chardonnay On the Cusp of Greatness – Tasting the New Paul Cluver Seven Flags Releases From Elgin…

After the recent Blind Chardonnay Challenge 2018 Results were revealed (Read the write up here… https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2018/06/18/the-great-blind-chardonnay-challenge-2018-new-world-chardonnay-giving-burgundy-a-run-for-its-money/), many questioned why no South African Chardonnay’s made the final line-up. I replied that none scored high enough from the multiple judges in the several preliminary blind selection tasting rounds. But of course, this was not to imply that South Africa does not make exceptional Chardonnay. They do, and in many ways, South African Chardonnay currently sits on the cusp of greatness, just needing to take the final upward quality steps to Valhalla.

Indeed, this belief was reinforced again recently when Andries Burger from Paul Cluver Winery came to visit and show me his latest releases of Paul Cluver’s premium Seven Flags Chardonnay and Pinot Noir range. Some exceptional wines that twinned with an exceptional vintage, really show the potential of these varieties in cooler climate regions of South Africa. Is the work over? Of course not, but the results from the 2017 vintage are very encouraging.

Andries Burger from Paul Cluver

Paul Cluver Seven Flags Chardonnay 2016, Elgin, 13.5 Abv.

Rich opulent toasty lemon nose made from two 31 year old clones of Chardonnay using 100% whole bunch pressing before going straight to barrel for wild yeast fermentation. Around 30% new French oak, there are multiple layers of brûléed lemon peel, lemon pastille, honeydew melon and vanilla pod spice. With only 5-10% malolactic, the wine shows a wonderfully bright, crisp, taut texture with very impressive piquant lemongrass spice, waxy green apple, yellow citrus concentration and a fine generosity and pinpoint salinity on the finish.

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

Paul Cluver Seven Flags Chardonnay 2017, Elgin, 13 Abv.

With slightly more new oak on the 2017 at 35%, this young wine shows a surprising primary fruit driven style with crystalline white citrus, honeydew melon, green apple and white peach purity. But there is also a fine dusty, gravelly minerality emphasising the wines greater restraint, freshness and salinity. A fine core of taut yellow fruits is still very tightly wound. The intense concentration raises its head one more time on the long, complex, linear finish. Very classy and certainly a wine that is more flamboyant in youth but will certainly reward cellaring.

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

Paul Cluver Seven Flags Pinot Noir 2015, Elgin, 13.5 Abv.

A very attractive nose of raspberry confit, red cherry, bramble berry spice with hints of milk chocolate and savoury cured meats. There is great palate power, intensity and fruit focus with earthy meaty red and black fruits, salinity, and piquant foresty brambly wood spice finish. Lovely restrained oak just adding a bit of salt and pepper complexity.

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

Paul Cluver Seven Flags Pinot Noir 2016, Elgin, 13.5 Abv.

Still young and primary, the 2016 initially shows some flinty, spicy reduction, red plum, crushed blackberries and bramble berry hedgerow spice. Includes around 30% whole bunch in the ferment adding sappy, brambly foresty fruit nuances. There is a lot of energy, a super bright acidity and a long, vivacious, dark fruited, linear finish.

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

Pahlmeyer’s Hits the Ground Running with the Launch of Their Fort Ross-Seaview AVA Pinot Noir in the UK…

Produced from fruit sourced from the Wayfarer Vineyard in Sonoma Coast’s relatively newly formed Fort Ross-Seaview AVA which was only established in 2011, this 2014 Pinot Noir is the third vintage release from owner Jayson Pahlmeyer of the Napa Valley Pahlmeyer Estate. With close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, these remote coastal vineyards of Northern Sonoma are situated in one of the most beautiful parts of California with dramatic rolling hills and majestic old redwood trees peppering the landscape.

The Fort Ross-Seaview AVA is fast developing a cult following for its pristine cool climate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs and this is another wine for connoisseurs to follow. Never knowingly sold cheap, the Wayfarer Pinot Noir and Chardonnay will hit the retail shelves in the UK at circa £110-£120 per bottle. Punchy prices but the allocations are small and the demand is high… so expect these to sell out fast.

Wayfarer Pinot Noir 2014 Wayfarer Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview AVA, Sonoma Coast, 14.5 Abv.

Medium ruby red with a bright crystalline rim, the 2014 Wayfarer Vineyard Pinot Noir has bold, opulent, hedonistic aromatics of sweet pomegranate fruits, sun dried cranberries, sweet red cherries and subtle spicy, sappy hemp leaf notes that mingle with lavender and cherry blossom perfume. The palate shows a sleek, concentrated fleshy fruit texture with impressive depth, savoury forest berry complexity and hints of stewed blood oranges, bright intense linear acids and a finely detailed, harmonious chalky tannin finish. Classic cool climate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir that many will find irresistible. Drink now to 2022+

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

Wines available in the UK from The Wine Treasury

Le Lude – The Method Cap Classique Producer Breaking New Quality and Style Barriers in the South African Sparkling Wine Category…

On my most recent trip to Cape Town in April, I took the opportunity to catch up with Paul Gerber, the winemaker of Franschhoek based Method Cap Classique (MCC) sparkling wine producer extraordinaire. While Le Lude is based in Franschhoek, the grapes for its many unique MCC creations are sourced from a variety of regions around the Cape, many of which are specifically cooler climate in nature.

When Le Lude owner Nic Barrow, an attorney by profession, and his wife Ferda bought their Franschhoek farm, it was based on a dream of producing only the finest Cap Classique possible. Over the past years they have planted it with the classic Champagne varietals of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The first harvest took place in 2012, with the maiden Brut and Rosé releases in September 2015.

Winemaker Paul has travelled to Europe to work and learn more about the fine art of bottle-fermented sparkling wine, working in Franciacorta (Northern Italy), the Côte des Blancs (in Champagne, France) and Germany. Like Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira of Graham Beck, South Africa’s most famous quality proponent of MCC, Paul also travels to Champagne every year to hone his winemaking skills, taking part in research and spending time in the place and among the people, terroir and traditions that inspire his passion.

Le Lude is the first winery in South Africa to produce the artisanal ‘Agrafè’ bottle fermented sparkling wine. Agrafè (Tirage Liège) is the method of fermenting the wine under cork instead of crown cap. This method, in their opinion, results in a wine with a more integrated aroma profile and nuanced texture.

Over the past five years Le Lude have planted and sourced grape varieties dedicated to making only the best Method Cap Classique. Le Lude’s first harvest took place in 2012.

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut NV, South Africa, 12 Abv.

A blend of 54% Chardonnay and 46% Pinot Noir is matured for a minimum of 36 months on its lees and 6 months on cork, this wine shows delicious creamy savoury red and white fruits. At 6.5 g/l dosage, the palate is taut, pure and linear but with lovely fleshy citrus, honeysuckle and pear fruit length. Lovely purity and a super fine expression with real intensity, vibrant acids and really pinpoint explosive, mouth-filling mouse on the finish. A South African MCC classic!

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Rose NV, South Africa, 12 Abv.

A very classy, distinguished Rosé that is a classic blend of 35% Chardonnay and 65% Pinot Noir. The wine is matured for a minimum of 36 months on its lees before being matured on the final cork for 6 months before release. With a 5 g/l dosage, this Pinot heavy cuvee shows fleshy red fruits, strawberries and cream, an impressively full mousse, crushed rock candy, red pithy cherry depth and a delicious full, long finish.

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Agrafè -Tirage Liège 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv.

The Brut Agrafè is a blend of 54% Chardonnay and 46% Pinot Noir with 2.8 g/l dosage and only 376 bottles produced. It undergoes traditional cork fermentation and maturation for 36 months. Premium corks are specially imported for this wine. It shows an impressive salty, briney melange of yellow pithy fruits, creamy depth and enticing tertiary complexity. A very impressive wine.

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Rose Agrafè -Tirage Liège 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv.

The Rosé Agrafè is a blend of 35% Chardonnay and 65% Pinot Noir. It undergoes traditional cork fermentation and maturation on cork for 36 months. Only 345 bottles were produced. This expression shows a rich, complex, creamy, structured, super sophisticated style with hints of apricot, lime peel and vanilla pod spice. Super acidity, this cuvee is ready to go now.

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Vintage Cuvée 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv.

The Vintage Cuvée is a premium blend of specially selected tanks. Careful attention is given to blending the best terroirs. Reserve wines are produced to enhance the base wines. The reserve wines spend another two years in barrel before being stored in magnums under cork. As expected, this wine is rich, brûléed and absolutely delicious with hints of toffee sweets, citrus cordial and impressive tertiary brioche notes. Palate is intense and lean but with plenty of power and focus. There is a lovely pithy, briney depth, superb balance and incredible reserve wine intensity.

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Vintage Cuvée Agrafè – Tirage Liège 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv.

The Prestige Agrafè is the best of the best for the Agrafè cuvee. It is fresh and zesty with briney depth and a pronounced saline white citrus intensity. The palate is extra creamy with brioche nuances and an amazingly textured, full, broad mousse. Very intense and utterly delicious.

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

Tasting the Le Lude range with winemaker Duncan Savage, Ian Naude, and Paul Gerber.

Le Lude Magnum Selection:

Special selections are made for the Le Lude magnum bottlings. The maturation times and dosages change depending on the blend but they currently have releases of Brut, Rosé and Vintage Cuvée magnums.

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Vintage 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv. (Magnum)

Only 251 magnums of this cuvee were produced. Aged for 61 months on crown cap, this amazing expression shows a lifted, dense, creamy white citrus intensity with smokey red apple and a rich focused nose. There are hints of brine, sweet lemon, oyster shell, kelp and maritime complexity. A wine with incredible depth, power and precision. Very impressive indeed.

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Vintage Cuvée 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv. (Magnum)

Only 256 magnums of this prestige cuvee were produced. It delivers an exotic melange of yellow orchard fruits, white citrus and saline, alka seltzer briney mineral depth. This magnum is super fresh and animated with a vibrant mousse and an expressive, intense, complex finish. Delicious!

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

An amazing line up of wines. Many thanks to Paul Gerber for taking time to show me this impressive array of premium sparkling MCC wines, to Duncan Savage for offering his new winery cellar space to taste in, and Ian Naude for making it all happen. As a Master of Wine who did their dissertation on MCC production in the Cape, this was a real treat of a tasting for me. Cheers boys! 🍾🍾

Creating A Vinous Stir – Tasting the Impressive New Vintage Releases at Creation Winery…

I recently visited JC Martin and his new right hand man, Gerhard Smith (ex-La Vierge) at their beautiful Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge winery Creation. This was my first, long overdue visit to the winery to taste their current release wines as well as some exciting upcoming new vintages from 2017.

Originally from Switzerland, JC together with his South African wife Carolyn (nee Finlayson), bought their original 22 hectares of virgin land in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and completed their cellar in time for their 2007 harvest. Their Walker Bay estate now encompasses 50 hectares planted with over 11 varieties, but focusing mainly on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Creation is now one of the most successful wineries in the Hemel-en-Aarde / Walker Bay region welcoming over 80,000 visitors per year. A very slick operation with a wonderful restaurant and fabulous wines to match, this winery is now regarded as an absolute “must visit” destination if you are visiting the Cape.

Creation Cool-Climate Chenin Blanc 2017, 14 Abv.

Beautiful floral fragrance, real eloquent lift packed with peaches, white orchard fruits, and pear fruit with real purity and clarity, only using old oak for maturation. Sleek palate, cool fruited, plenty of pithy minerality, honey suckle and a very long, concentrated but subtle length. Very individual style.

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

Creation Viognier 2017, 14 Abv.

Beautiful fragrance, blossom and perfume lift. Musk, dusty talc, peach stone fruits and just a touch of pineapple pastille and honeysuckle. Intense, pithy, peppery yellow orchard fruits, and a crushed gravel minerality. Really expressive cooler climate Condrieu old world style.

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

Chardonnay Flight

Creation Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.

20% new oak used. Rich opulent expressive nose with lemon bon bons, rich lemon pastille fruits and a youthful kiss of butterscotch. Plenty of core concentration, lemon and white citrus power, green apple and a long expressive length. Really classy effort for 25,000 bottle production.

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

Creation Chardonnay Reserve 2017, 13.5 Abv.

40 % new used. Wonderfully tight, closed and restrained nose with a pronounced stony mineral grey slate depth, lemon rind, limestone, lemon grass and a very precise oak spice lift. The palate shows incredible elegance, finesse and a taut mineral mouthfeel. Very classy and old world in essence.

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

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2016, 13.5 Abv.

50-55% new oak used. Richer, more expressive opulent nose than the younger 2017. Lemon confit, honeysuckle, white peach and pithy yellow stone fruits radiate from the glass. Very plush and complex, this wine exudes class with a very fine use of oak supporting intense concentration and a delicious, mouthwatering acidity that is finely integrated and harmonious. Big but supremely classy.

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

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Using around 40% new oak, the integration is impressively fine and understated. The aromatics scream of white citrus, green apple pastille fruits, lemon-lime marmalade, pithy wood spice and a delicious exotic Madagascar vanilla pod kiss. Big intense concentration, massive density and structure, the mouth coating breath and depth of the fruit is really something to behold.

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

Pinot Noir Flight

Creation Pinot Noir 2017, 14 Abv.

Wow, beautifully elegant lifted fragrance with such expressive purity and precision. This wine captures the upward quality movement that underpins the entire Creation range, white and red. This wine has Cotes de Beaune written all over it. Lush red berry fruits, bramble berry, sour cherry skins, red plum and a hint of pomegranate. Lovely tart, pithy acids underpin spicy, red and black cherry fruits, cranberry and crunchy almost-ripe strawberries. Mineral grippy tannins, superb overall purity and afine intense finish.

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

Creation Pinot Noir Reserve 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Opulent, rich cherry kirsch liquor nose, massive intensity with a deft touch of subtle wood spice. Definite notes of sappy, whole bunch character are quite pronounced adding real nuance and complexity. The palate is cool, dense and lush with fleshy, blood orange, pithy red cherry, graphite spice and a long earthy forest berry fruit tartness and pithy spice. Tannins are mineral and expansive suggesting you bury this wine in the cellar for 3 to 5 years before drinking.

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

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2016, 14 Abv.

An impressively complex wine showing great opulence, concentration and depth. The aromatics speak of sun raisined cranberry, red plum, ripe strawberry and sappy red bramble berry fruits. Texturally deep and very expressive, plush and powerful packing a delicious, intense acid – fruit punch. An attractive level of earthy red fruit, blood orange nuances combining with a concentrated frais des boisses finish.

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

Creation E17 2017 (Emma’s Pinot Noir)

Two barrels selected. Spicy, peppery, dark and broody with massive black cherry, dark savoury depth layered with minerality and graphite nuances. Cool, taut, structured and focused, with intensity and forest fruit focus. Finish reveals subtlety, elegance and understated power.

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

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2017 (Barrel Sample)

30% Whole bunch with a 5 to 6 day cold soak in tank pre-fermentation. Another dark broody exotic nose that’s tight and intense. But the flavour profile differs from the norm with enticing layers of saline cassis, sea breeze, root veg earthiness, black cherry and a complexing hint of reduction. Texturally, the palate is dense, elegant and wonderfully salty with beguiling maritime flavours, black currant, powdery tannins and fresh, framing acids. Very impressive effort. Definitely a super luxury wine release to watch out for.

(Wine Safari Score: 94-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gerhard Smith Die Kat Se Snor Pinot Noir 2015, 14 Abv. (The Cat’s Whiskers)

Technically Overberg fruit, this is Gerhard Smith’s own new(ish) project, the 2015 being the second release. Two weeks fermentation on skins, soft press to old barrels, 20% whole bunch used. Lovely spicy intensity and red bramble berry fruits, subtle sweet leafy intensity and an earthy, foresty depth. Fleshy, deep and spicy with fine graphite tannin depth. Drink now.

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

JC Martin’s new right hand man… accomplished winemaker Gerhard Smith (ex-La Vierge)

Gerhard Smith Die Kat Se Snor Pinot Noir 2017, +-13.5 Abv.

3 weeks on skins post ferment, 100% whole bunch fruit. Expressive aromatics of crunchy red berry, peppermint crisp, sweet leaf and sappy, resinous black berry. Cool, creamy, earthy fleshy depth, polished tannins, and really accessible already. A very characterful wine with a minimal intervention leaning.

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

Some Additional Wines Opened:

(But reviewed with more brief notes)

Creation Sumac Grenache 2016, 14.5 Abv.

Vibrant, rich, elegant and fresh, with a delicious cherry cranberry twist!

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

Creation Syrah-Grenache 2016, 14.5 Abv.

80/20 blend. Luscious cinnamon and spice melange, fleshy cool black fruits, sweet tannins and a fine plummy, black cherry depth.

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

Creation Syrah 2017 (Barrel Sample)

Wild yeast, 40% whole bunch ferment. Peppery black liquorice spice with saline cassis, black cherry and piquant, grippy oak spice. Delicious purity, fine maritime salinity, and lovely depth. This is quite serious and could be very impressive on release.

(Wine Safari Score: 92-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Fine Cape Vintage Syrah 2016, 17.5 Abv.

Made in a Port style and fortified with KWV 10 Year Old Brandy spirit. Sweet kirsch liquor and vibrant depth, fresh, sun dried raspberries, black cherry and superb savoury sweet length. Super pure, supremely mouthwatering and impressive depth. One of the best of this style I’ve tasted for some time. The perfect digestive?

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

One of the Leading Lights of Champagne – Tasting the New Release Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 2004…

Founded in 1851 by the man who would become known as ‘Champagne Charlie’, this family-owned Champagne house is the smallest of the Grandes Marques. Their size and commitment to excellence, has been underpinned by a winemaking team that between them have been named ‘Sparkling Winemaker of the Year’ at the International Wine Challenge 15 times.

With commercially released stocks of the long running Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 1995 finally exhausted, the time had come for a new release to seduce the market with and what better vintage to offer than the stellar 2004. Anyone who tasted the 1995 can attest to its incredible quality and complexity… a wine that was able to convert the staunchest Champagne sceptic.

We will probably never again have something this old for the “current commercially available prestige Cuvee release” (at circa £165 per bottle) but we will  no doubt see older archive releases and special recently disgorged oddments trickle onto the market over time. In the meantime, the 2004 is another iconic Champagne release that should find a place in any fine wine lover’s cellar.

The wines were tasted before and during a bespoke lunch with specially selected courses, at the fabulous 1 star Michelin restaurant Trinity near Clapham Common in London.

Charles Heidsieck Brut NV (Current Release in 2018)

Base wine 2010, 40% Reserve wine from 2005 to 1990 (10 year old average) and 60% from 2010.

Very precise, dusty creamy lemon brioche, real reserve wine depth and opulence, concentration and intensity. Plenty of sour dough, saline briney yellow citrus complexity. The mouse is very explosive without being course, expansive yet very creamy and the palate is loaded with delicious nutty almond skin exotism. You just can’t underestimate the influence of the 40 % reserve wines in the blend. It’s signature is super intensity and pin point balance combined with real generosity. This is a fine wine in every sense… and certainly a whole lot of wine for the money!

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

Charles Heidsieck Rose Brut Reserve NV

Base wine of 75% 2012 vintage and 20% reserve wine of 5 to 6 years age. Includes a blend of red wines made by 2-3 suppliers which are aged in tank.

The nose is fairly youthful and vinous, tense and taut with real chalky minerality and overt stony nuances. Still very fresh and tightly wound, delicate savoury red fruits slowly reveal themselves. Pithy cherry skins, cherry pips and cranberry skins. Not quite as saline and briney as the NV white, this Rose NV shows great energy, fine textural shape and a long subtle mineral pithy length. Give this another 1-2 years to open its shoulders and then drink over 5-8+ years.

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

Charles Heidsieck Rose Millesime 2005

8% Pinot Noir (50% Les Riceys and 50% Reims)

Dark copper salmon colour, the nose reveals delicious savoury notes of red berry coulis, cherry pith, strawberry pips, and wet chalk. The palate is explosive, dense, super creamy and expansive in the mouth. Plenty of meaty savoury red berry notes, strawberries and cream with a minerally iron-laden, briney finish. Such impressive concentration and profound depth! Wow. A real block buster Rose release indeed.

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

Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 2004

100% Chardonnay Cuvee, 5 Crus selected from the Cotes de Blancs, 4 Grand Crus and 1 Premier Cru from Vertus, each representing 20% of the blend. 9 g/l dosage. Laid in the cellar in 2005 and aged for 11 years on its lees with disgorgement in November 2016.

Rich deep straw colour, with the most seductive nose of brioche, savoury marmite and leesy complexity, salted sour dough and burnt sugar and nutty ripe lemon biscuit notes. Very dense, weighty yet fresh, this wine shows massive concentration of lemon crumble, salted pretzel dow, and a real dusty, gravelly minerality on the long, power packed finish. So much pedigree in evidence here and expertly delivered. A profound Champagne. Drink now to 2028+.

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

Some of the lovely food from Trinity.

Jessica Saurwein Applying Her Feminine Touch to Another Great Kaaimansgat Pinot Noir…

I have known Roland Peens, head of one of South Africa’s top wine merchant / importers for many years, starting when he was embroiled in his gruelling Master of Wine studies. But as they say, behind every successful man is a woman. In this case, the woman in question is his wife Jessica Saurwein, who after working as the Marketing Manager for wine farm Kleinood / Tamboerskloof for many years, decided to branch out and swop selling for making wine. The result is Saurwein Pinot Noir with the 2015 her maiden vintage.

This new Pinot Noir addition to the Cape Wine scene is made from fruit sourced from a Kaaimansgat (Crocodile’s Lair) vineyard near Villiersdorp. There was a portion of whole bunch fruit employed in the fermentation and the wine was aged for approximately 9 months in French oak barrels. I am not sure how much 2016 was made, but only 3 barrels of the maiden 2015 were produced. Nom stands for the nombulelo, or gratitude in South Africa’s native Xhosa language and also Nomkhubulwane, a forgotten African goddess of agriculture.

This is an impressive Pinot Noir that has been reviewed in the local market to fairly high acclaim. After tasting both the 2015 and the 2016, it is fair to say the 2016 is definitely the more distinguished and classically proportioned of the two vintages. Already carrying a cult following, I fell in love with the 2016 and drank a bottle over two days to give it a proper chance to display all its wares. Well done Jessica. I would be very happy to make a Pinot Noir of this quality and I suspect the wine will only improve with extra time in bottle. I look forward to tasting the 2017 soon!

Saurwein Nom Pinot Noir 2016, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

This Pinot Noir possesses the most clear translucent ruby red colour almost resembling a glass of cranberry juice. But what lies in the glass is far more seductive and complex than mere fruit juice! The aromatics are perfumed and beautifully lifted, slowly revealing notes of sun dried cranberries, red cherries, pithy red plum skins, bloed lemoen and a hint of dusty crushed gravel with a pinch of wood spice seasoning. The mouthfeel too shows great precision, seamless purity and finesse but not at the expense of intensity and core tension. The melange of pure crystalline red fruits follows to the palate, all delivered with great restraint and subtlety. The 2016 shows the character of the dry vintage with more core tannin structure, dry extract and mineral nuances than the lush, opulent, more fruit forward 2015 maiden release. But this is no bad thing. The wine is delicious but serious, bordering on intellectual even, and allows the drinker time to ponder its breadth and depth. The finish is super elegant, dare I say feminine?, leaving your mouth savouring the most succulent earthy red cherry, ruby grapefruit and pomegranate fruit notes on the finish. Give this wine a few more years in the cellar to unwind a little more and then drink comfortably over 10 to 12+ years.

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


Mick and Jeanine Craven Blazing Their Own New Wave Trail In Old School Stellenbosch…

Mick and Jeanine Craven of Craven Wines have been creating some deliciously contemporary wines from single vineyards in one of South Africa’s oldest and grandest appellations, Stellenbosch. Wines are confidently modern and ‘new-wave’ in style, picking early and often using whole-bunch fruit in the natural fermentations. Their Pinot Noir is made from grapes grown in Faure, Stellenbosch and is consistently one of their most popular reds. Before she was a Craven, she was Jeanine Faure and the 650 hectare Faure farm was previously part of Jeanine’s family holdings where she grew up.

450 of the 650 hectares are planted to vines where Mick and Jeanine currently source their Syrah and Pinot Noir grapes. The Faure Pinot Noir block is one of the coolest sites in Stellenbosch on a south-westerly aspect only 4 kilometres away from the ocean and was planted exclusively with clone 115 in 1998 on decomposed granite and sand.

Stellenbosch is not an area synonymous with Pinot Noir, and outside of Meerlust’s excellent example, most people would probably struggle to name more than one or two more wineries successfully making notable wines from this variety. Mick and Jeanine have blazed their own trail and their own style of early picked, sappy, spicy, crunchy Stellenbosch Pinot Noir that should taste decidedly Burgundian once it is aged in bottle for 5 to 6 years.

Craven Wines Faure Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 12 Abv.

A Pinot Noir definitely made in a “less is more kind of style”. The distinctive nose shows sappy red raspberry fruits, raisined cranberries, pithy strawberry, wet chalk, crushed gravel, resinous wood and stalk spice and complex dried flower notes. Whole bunch pressed, the 2016 was also 70% foot trodden leaving some grapes intact. The palate walks lightly buts carries plenty of concentration and sappy, strawberry and raspberry fruit weight dusted with exotic Asian spice complexity. I’ve seen this wine described before as atypical or sometimes idiosyncratic, but I find the purity impressively focused, classically charming with a mouthfeel delicately textured revealing dusty chalky tannins. Made in an earlier picked style, this slightly sinewy bramble berry fruited wine is a really characterful cracker. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5+ years.

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