Tasting A Superb Archive Vertical with Beyerskloof Icon Winemaker Beyers Truter…

You simply don’t get bigger names in South African winemaking folklore than Beyers Truter who undoubtedly made his name and established it on the global wine map producing the fine wines of Kanonkop. While winemaker there he won numerous prestigious awards including the highly coveted Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Trophy for the World’s Best Red Blend with his iconic Paul Sauer 1991 Bordeaux blend.

But the true love affair in Beyer’s life has always been another grape variety, Pinotage which will probably be the one that defines his lasting legacy and high standing in the South African Winemaking Hall of Fame.

Like a school boy watching their Springbok rugby idols on tv, I used to stand in awe of Beyers whenever I’d attend a wine tasting. But of course many of those school boys came good and ended up playing rugby alongside their idols. I too grew up, became qualified in wine and now feel honoured to call people like Beyers Truter a good friend. One will never shake off the surreal feeling that accompanies these unique paths in life.

In 2019 it was with great honour that I was invited to judge on the ABSA Top 10 Pinotage Competition overseen by the Pinotage Association and of course Beyers Truter. It was a truly fantastic and enlightening experience getting to taste and assess so many top expressions of Pinotage in one moment. But after judging was completed, I could not pass up on the opportunity to visit the great man himself at his eponymous winery Beyerskloof to taste through a fabulous archive selection of his wines.

The Stellenbosch estate was planted in 2003 and started using their own fruit from the 2007/8 vintages.

Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve 2005, WO Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Normally a combination 30% New oak using a selection of 2 or 3 better blocks. Bright earthy brambly nose with graphite an wood spice. Bright crisp acids with vibrant nervy black fruits and a savoury, steely finish. Holding up very well.

(Wine Safari 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve 2004, WO Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Rich savoury oak complexity with boot polish, black cherry and graphite notes. Palate shows sweet and sour plum, plenty of punchy depth, mineral tannins and fine pin point freshness.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood)

Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve 2003, WO Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, 15 Abv.

From a warm, dry year, the nose shows slightly riper baked, sun dried fruit notes, strawberry jam, raisined cranberries and a round opulence with a creamy oak profile, plenty of generosity and great drinkability. The aromatics may have suffered from the heat but the palate fruit is certainly vital and punchy.

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

Beyerskloof Synergy 2006 Cape Blend, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

A blend of 41% Pinotage, 41% Shiraz, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot. Rich bright youthful nose, this is a really complex melange of black fruits, and savoury meaty fruit. On the palate there is a smokey charcoal embers spice, gun smoke and sweet black fruit, cured meats and clean bright acids.

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

Beyerskloof Synergy 2005 Cape Blend, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

A blend of 50% Pinotage, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. Savoury ripe brambly fruits, earth and wood spice. The palate is vibrant yet mature, but shows a beautiful texture and polish demeanour. There are some stewed fruit notes to begin but the lasting impression is overt opulence, good purity and a harmonious texture.

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

Beyerskloof Synergy 2004 Cape Blend, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

A blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Pinotage, 30% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot. Opulent nose of sweet wet tobacco, cassis, black cherry and blue berry fruits. Wonderfully sleek, lithe, harmonious and finely poised with light touch tannins, superb acidity and an overall youthful persona. Delicious.

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

Beyerskloof Field Blend 2009, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

A blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37% Merlot. Aged in 100% new French oak for 21-23 months. Attractive fragrant nose of dried mint leaf, potpourri, violets and savoury black currant and black plum. Grilled herbs and spice show a more compact, dense vintage that is 2009 with multi layers of flavour, texture and nuanced black berry complexity. A very smart expression.

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

Beyerskloof Field Blend 2008, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

A blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37% Merlot. Dark deep, broody black fruit with notes of grilled herbs, sweet tobacco, black currant and leafy spice. The palate shows a sappy sweet / sour note, spicy wood tannins and good opulence but the showy nose is a little less revealing on the palate finishing with stewed red fruit notes.

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

Beyerskloof Field Blend 2007, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot. Cool dark broody nose with earthy sweet smokey spicy black fruits, tobacco and tannery leather, mint leaf and savoury black currant. Fleshy, balanced, a touch of sappy leafy fruit and a graphite finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Kaapzicht Winery in Safe Hands with the Next Generation – Tasting with Winemaker Danie Steytler Junior…

Kaapzicht has been a family owned estate since 1946 producing high quality wines from their Bottelary Hills fruit. With the winemaking reins now firmly handed over from patriarch Danie Steytler Snr to next generation Danie Steytler Jnr, some incredibly exciting new wines are already being produced.

I recently caught up with Danie Steytler Jnr in London to talk wine, Stellenbosch politics, old vines, the future of Kaapzicht and also taste some of his exciting current releases.

Kaapzicht Estate Skuinsberg Bush Vine Cinsault 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

80 to 380 metres aspect vineyard. All 1991 dry land bush vine on 3.3 hectares. Lovely dense earthy savoury sun dried strawberry and bramble berry fruit nose. Full and fleshy, this is showy, bright and mouth watering, displaying a crunchy edge, saline acidity and a fine sweet macerated red currant finish. Delicious.

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

Kaapzicht Estate The 1952 Bush Vine Cinsault 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

This wine was made by Danie using grapes sourced from a 1952 block planted on Bellevue. One ton with 30% whole bunch in two 500 litre barrels for fermentation. A much more fragrant, lifted perfumed nose with sweet cherry, sun dried cranberry, rose petals and Turkish delight. Very pretty and deliciously complex with a tantalising sappy, stalk spice character. Palate speaks confidently but softly and is beautifully nuanced, vibrant and premium in feel. Another wine that shows the great potential of Cinsault.

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

Tasting with the talented winemaker Danie Steytler Junior.

Kaapzicht Estate Pinotage 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

Dark deep depth of black plum with an opulent, slightly reductive nose of black cherry, mulberry and stewed plum. The oak is very subtle and integrated playing to the strengths of the fruit purity and precision emphasising the wines wild edge. Texturally there is impressive focus, balanced finesse and a classy, cool, elegant mouthfeel punctuated with soft supple black fruits and oak spice. This is an impressive expression of this uniquely South African variety.

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

Kaapzicht Estate Kliprug Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Grapes from Bottelary, Stellenbosch. 6000 bottles produced, 60% in 500 litre oak, 20% in concrete egg and 20% stainless steel tank. Rich, deep, complex nose of bruised yellow fruits, white peach, creamy and plush, showing honied pineapples, leesy yellow fruits. Plenty of gravitas, fruit weight, focus and textural complexity.

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

Kaapzicht Estate The 1947 Chenin Blanc, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

From 70 year old vines, the aromatics are super complex and spicy with lovely nuances of wet straw, dusty white citrus, honied yellow peaches, fynbos and sweet pineapple confit. There is such focused depth, full bodied plump texture and complexity with fabulous nuances of tangerine peel, naartjie pulp, lychee concentrate and a honied bon bon intensity. A super impressive wine with power, breadth and weight but a balancing harmonious acidity. The true personification of delicious old vine Chenin Blanc statesmanship. World class from every angle. Drink now and over the next 25 years.

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

Kanonkop 2017 Black Label Pinotage – A Wine for the Most Intellectual of Palates… we

“The 100pt rating was most certainly a terrific boost for the brand,” says Johann Krige, co-proprietor of Kanonkop. “We have never experienced such a demand for the Paul Sauer and it looks as though the interest is spilling over into our next release, namely the Black Label Pinotage 2017 of which only 6 900 bottles are available – far less than the Paul Sauer 2015.”

Black Label is made from one of the oldest Pinotage vineyards in South Africa, one planted in 1953 on a site that has over the years proved to produce fruit of specific excellence and deemed special enough to be bottled under an own label. According to Kanonkop cellarmaster Abrie Beeslaar, the 2017 vintage was truly excellent for the Black Label. “It did not initially look as if this was going to be the case, as 2017 was the third very dry year in a row on the farm,” he says. “We only had 500mm of rain, 250mm less than the long-term average.” But the final results are captured in the bottle and are results worthy of adoration.

Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage 2017, Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

When it comes to Pinotage, there may certainly be bigger wines, bolder opulent wines or more funky wines on the market but nothing ticks all the fine wine boxes like Kanonkop Black Label. The 2017 release marks the dawning of a new era where the local sales in the home market are properly mirrored with an enthusiastic international collector market pre-release offer for the first time. And what better way to do this with than with the 2017 expression which now comes from noble 67 year old vines which create a majestic elixir matured entirely in new French oak for 18 months before release. What Abrie Beeslaar has created in this vintage is a marvel to behold marrying new world hedonistic opulence with old world, Bordeaux’esque delineation and structure. This is a block buster that tantalises and teases the palate in the most intellectual sense and rewards the palate with a cornucopia of stimulation. The bouquet is positively bursting with lifted maraschino cherry, kirsch liquor, clove spice, blueberry, earthy mulberry and plum coulis. But it doesn’t stop there, before this block buster even gets out the starting blocks and close to your palate there are complex notes of sweet cloves, wood shavings, branded oak, iced tea and fresh oregano, sage and rose petal to behold. The palate is equally complex and alluring, exotically seductive in the most sensual sense of the word, showing the succulent delineation you would hope for and expect from a wine of this pedigree and price point but also a complexity of sweet bramble berry fruits, cut hedgerow, freshly tilled Stellenbosch earth and cherry kirsch liquor chocolates. But the stand out quality of this wine is undoubtedly the bright, crunchy yet sultry saline acidity that leaves you coming back for one sip after another. The lasting impression of this wine on the palate is the vitality, precision, knowhow and authority that beam from the glass akin to facing down a glass of Romanée Conti Burgundy. But I’ll stop there… the rest is up to you… the consumer! Dive in now or over the next 20+ years.

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

Elegant and Characterful – Tasting the Bosman Family Vineyards Pinotage 2014…

The extensive Bosman Family vineyard holdings are based primarily in the Wellington region although a new winery in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near Hermanus was added to the portfolio in the last few years. As well as owning large swathes of vineyards, the Bosman Family are also one of the leading nurseries for vine rootstocks in South Africa. Under the lead of head winemaker Corlea Fourie, they make some fantastic white and red wines.

Jannie Bosman (snr) planted these vines back in 1994, seeing the exceptional quality of the one year old vines being classed and graded in their vine nursery. Since then, many Top 10 Pinotages have been produced from this vineyard.

Bosman Family Vineyards Pinotage 2014, WO Wellington, 13.5 Abv.

Wonderfully exotic nose brimming with parma violets, marzipan, brûléed red berries, espresso and pomegranate. The palate is impressively detailed and elegant with a vibrant core of freshness, delicious chocolate raspberry nuances, cherry liquor and pithy blood orange sweetness. Lovely to see how the lower alcohol level and reined in ripeness allows this wine to express all its true Pinotage characteristics while retaining impressive elegance and textural finesse. A smart wine indeed.

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

Head to Head ~ Kanonkop Versus Beyerskloof Pinotage…

My recent tasting and lunch with Beyers Truter raised a lot of questions around Pinotage – it’s styles, it’s ageability and it’s future. Who better to explore these questions with than Mr Pinotage himself, Beyers Truter. So after our lunch, I assured him I’d explore these questions in more depth when I had access to my cellar in Pretoria where many of his vinous gems lurk. Here’s my assessment…


Kanonkop 1997 Vs Beyerskloof 1998:


Kanonkop Pinotage 1997 Magnum, Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

Perfect cork, this Magnum started off a touch muted as would be expected. But 30-45 minutes of breathing reavealed a dense, powerful wine. From a very late, long hanging vintage, the nose is full of sweet bramble berry fruits, cedar spice, raisined red berries, strawberry confit and cherry pastille sweets. Hardly any tertiary notes at 20 years of age suggest this wine is still a baby. The palate is fleshy and opulent, showing sweet tannins, raisoned cranberries, red orchard fruits, strawberry jam, red apples and black plum. The texture is dense and broad, carrying much more concentration and weight of fruit than you’d expect on a 13 Abv wine. The finish is sappy and spicy, sweetly fruited and complex with a long, youthful finish. Give this another 10+ years I reckon. 

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



Beyerskloof Pinotage 1998, Stellenbosch, 13 Abv. 

Interesting style departure between these two wines, with the Beyerskloof coming across in a much crunchier, red fruited expression as if it was trying to advertise its Cinsaut parentage. The nose is bright and spicy, with cedary, sappy, stalky complexity marrying well with red plum, bramble berries, redcurrant and cranberry tartness. Whether from vintage variation or fruit source, there is much more herbal tension, crushed leaves and spicy sappy red berry fruit. The tannins are soft, precise and very sweet, with the mid palate developing a ‘strawberry jam on white toast’ opulence. Due to its crunchier, fresher style, the granitic minerality is much more pronounced than on the Kanonkop, making this feel more like a food wine than the Kanonkop. No rush to drink this up as I’d like to see more tertiary Pinot Noir’ish, foresty complexity in another 8 to 10 years. An intriguing expression. 

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


So after much tasting and retasting, I put the question to my guests… which did they consider the better wine? A tough question considering the Beyerskloof probably cost less than a third of the price of a bottle of Kanonkop at the time and was also probably made to be drunk younger (the label says drink within 8 years).

So the verdict is the same score with Kanonkop getting an extra + based on its assured age ability, its youthfulness, its density and its track record. But the real winner has to be Beyerskloof for is freshness, purity, mineral depth, and great value. 

Catching Up In London with “Mr Pinotage”, Beyers Truter ~ A South African Wine Trade Legend…

It was great to spend time catching up with Beyers Truter at the London Wine Trade Fair this past week to taste a selection of his wines including his new(ish) Trail Dust Pinotage, Cinsaut and Pinot Noir Blend as well as his full Beyerskloof range. His Bordeaux blends, needless to say, have always been real favourites of mine. But it is of course Pinotage that he is best known for. 


Beyers is the founder and Chairman of the Pinotage Association starting his own practical career actually working with table grapes before starting his winemaking career at the now famous Kanonkop winery. Known as Mr Pinotage, he has been producing Pinotage wines since 1981 and it has always been one of his greatest passions, or even obsessions. 


Today he is the cellarmaster and owner of Beyerskloof winery near Stellenbosch. In 1991 he was named international Winemaker of the Year for his Kanonkop Pinotage 1989 at the International Wine and Spirit Competition and also famously won the prestigious Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Trophy for the World’s Best Bordeaux Blend with his 1991 Kanonkop Paul Sauer. 


Spending a last few days in London with his partner Lorraine Geldenhuys, who runs the Elsenberg Wine Cellar, taking in the summer sights and sounds of London, Beyers and I made a date to meet up again for a last few glasses of fine wine and fabulous oysters and seafood, before they headed back to South Africa.


I was fascinated to hear about the wine making venture Beyers is heading up in Angola with one of the countries 4 top army generals, planting among other things, Cabernet, Rubernet, Syrah and Pinotage. The vines are still young but the high altitude vineyards show great potential and it will be fascinating to taste these wines in due course.


Over lunch we enjoyed a few beautiful bottles including a Jean-Claude Ramonet Pernand Vergelesses 1er Cru Les Belles Filles 2014 Blanc that was salty, briney, fresh and supremely intense and focused with pithy white citrus and liquid minerals (94/100 GS); a fabulously serious Comtes Lafon Meursault 2011 that was initially tight and dense, but slowly opened up to unfurl a masterclass in Chardonnay showing yellow citrus, pithy minerality, dry lemon, a touch of reduction and just a delicate lick of oak (94+/100 GS); and finally a very attractive bottle of Domaine Dujac Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2011 which it turns out is one of Beyers’ favourite Burgundy appellations. The wine was beautifully fragrant with violets, cherry blossom and sappy forest fruits, following to a sappy, spicy, chalky palate with polished black berry fruits, plum and forest strawberries. Over lunch the wine just opened up to give more, and more, and more! A wow wine that’s young but sooo pretty. (96/100 GS).


Such a privilege to spend quality time with another of my ultimate South African wine legends. I look forward to visiting Beyers at Beyerskloof Winery hopefully later in the year. 

The Changing Face of Fine Wine Consumers in the UK…

Last night I attended a lovely dinner at the superb 1 star Michelin restaurant Harwood Arms, with a group of private clients who are all high flying corporate lawyers in the city. I was invited to attend their quarterly get-together where they choose a fine wine theme and then all bring a few top bottles.


Nothing unusual about this gathering, which must be replicated daily across the city. What was slightly unusual was the fine wine theme they chose… top South African whites and reds. A few years ago, these sort of gatherings would be exclusively dedicated to fine Bordeaux, Burgundy or Rhone wines.

But the South African fine wine scenery has changed dramatically and so too has consumers’ perceptions of the wines. South Africa’s best wines now regularly rub shoulders at fine wine lunches and dinners with the most accomplished Cru Classe Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundy.


The dinner theme had been set as South African fine wines and I was tasked with bringing the “controversial” grape… using my clients words, being a Pinotage of course. I don’t drink a massive amount of Pinotage, but when I do, it will surely be one of a handful including Kanonkop, Beeslaar, Chamonix, David Sadie, B Vintners or something similar.

The evening’s wines were set against a backdrop of some fantastic game food dishes from the kitchen of Brett Graham, better known for his flagship 2 star Michelin site The Ledbury in Notting Hill. 


First up two Boekenhoutskloof Semillon whites … the awesome 2004 and a more youthful 2010. The 04 showed brilliant honey, wax and yellow peach nuances with pear purée and a most impressive, dense tight knit texture (94+/100). The 2010 took a while to blow off its hallmark reduction, but eventually revealed sweet root veg notes, swedes, turnips, and savoury yellow waxy lanolin lemon butter depth. (92+/100)


Biggest excitement and subsequent disappointment revolved around the Sadie Family Old Vine Series Mev. Kirsten 2011. Sadly the wine was corked. We were all gutted and tried to look beneath the taint. Such a shame! 


Legal eagle lawyers never travel without backups! In this case a Mullineux Granite 2014 that showed austere, taught, tight crushed gravel notes, and mineral driven white fruits (94/100). The Rall White blend 2014 was open, expressive, rich, textural, with orange peel, yellow pastille fruits, and real Burgundian grand cru weight (94+/100). Noted by the tasters as not more impressive than the Mullineux but just more ready to drink.


Next up a fantastic red pair… Hamilton-Russell Pinot Noir 2006 and 2009 from their archive box sets. The 2006 was dense and forest floor laden (92/100) while the 2009 started initially with choc peppermint crisp, and fresh foresty black fruits but opened up beautifully to reveal a really seductive side (92+/100).


Then the “controversial” grape came next. My Pinotage from Abrie Beeslaar. The 2012 maiden release. Wow. This was a rich, bright, sappy, stoney, earthy wine with a dusty gravelly note. Very pure, spicy, elegant and balanced with a seductive mulberry fruit core and a harmonious finish (94/100).


Making up numbers were the beautifully bright, youthful Simonsig Redhill Pinotage 2005 laden with wood smoke and cedary red cherry fruit (91+/100), a vibrant Rust en Vrede Estate Red 2003 with rich spicy peppery black fruits and a powerful depth (94/100), and last but not least, a seductively sweet fruited Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2006 endowed with rich black currant and raspberry fruits, forest berry complexity and a superbly elegant finish (93/100).

Well, all in all a night of fantastic food, amazingly accommodating staff and a few very attractive wines paired with amazing Michelin starred food. If anyone was left in any doubt about the quality of SA wines, the final glass of Mullineux Olerasay No.1 would have silenced any doubters. An epic wine of intriguing complexity (98/100).

South African fine wine has hit the big time… and is now enjoying its moment in the bright lights! Long may it last.