Groote Post has always been best known for its coastal Sauvignon Blanc but in recent years its other wines notably their Chardonnay, Shiraz and Pinot Noir have gained greater recognition from international critics. But it is undoubtedly the Seasalter white blend that seems to garner the most column inches in the wine press. As the story goes, it all happened with owner, Nick Pentz back in 2013, when on one of his regular wine marketing trips to the UK, he visited the tiny mediaeval village of Seasalter, which had been a local centre for salt production in the Iron Age. He immediately fell for the quaint name which resonated with the harsh, barren conditions on the Cape West Coast which is battered by the cold Atlantic Ocean. As Nick says… “one way or another, I was determined that I would use this name on a Groote Post wine one day.”
With the Groote Post winemaker Lukas Wentzel regularly experimenting with Sauvignon Blanc, partial oaking, and the addition of Semillon, the Seasalter blend was a wine just waiting to happen. So in the 2015 vintage, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon was assembled for bottling. The Seasalter is a blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Semillon with 30% of the Sauvignon Blanc fermented and aged for 8 months in 300 litre French oak barrels. The remaining components were fermented in stainless steel tanks and left on the fine lees until bottling.
Groote Poste Seasalter Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon 2022, WO Darling, 13.47% Abv.
This is a delicious West Coast wine that has been earning itself a solid reputation over the past few years. Made in the Darling Hills, just 10 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the cool breezes help keep the temperature in the region down making it a perfect terroir for its blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc with 10% Semillon added to give a bit of richness and extra textural weight. On the nose there are enticing notes of white peach, green apple, freshly cut pears, white citrus, yellow grapefruit zest and a subtle sea spray salinity. The palate is equally captivating with delicious layers of unripe tangerines, passionfruit, yellow citrus, creamy lemon, Granny Smith apples, and yet more maritime coastal salinity. This 2022 is pitch perfect with the Sauvignon Blanc doing all the heavy lifting and the Semillon playing a supporting role in adding palate texture and extra herbal complexity. The touch of oak ageing is almost imperceptible but leaves a subconscious imprint of creaminess and savoury depth. I taste the Seasalter, Groote Post’s highly acclaimed flagship Sauvignon Blanc, every year and I can say with certainly that they have absolutely nailed it with this 2022 release. Drink now on release or cellar for extra complexity for 3 to 5+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Wines available to the UK trade from Hayward Bros and retails for circa £16.99-£17.99 per bottle.
Terre Paisible – meaning Peaceful Land in French – is a new winery in the heart of the Franschhoek Valley. With impressive views of the Simonsberg mountains, the broader winery branding is in keeping with the new owner’s philosophy of “where the land is a source of energy and revitalisation – a place to recharge and re-set, where a sense of abundance and peace envelops you.” All mantras firmly in keeping with the peaceful beauty and luxury of the famed Franschhoek Valley of course. On the estate, old vine plantings are accompanied by productive olive groves as well as several export certified fruit orchards, all of which are said to be farmed sustainably.
The current release range is made up of two tiers covering the Vigne d’Or Red Blend 2018, Chardonnay 2021 and a vibrantly fresh Franschhoek Sauvignon Blanc 2022. Their more premium tier currently only consists of two wines, the Terre Paisible Les Dames de 1987 ‘Old Vine’ Sauvignon Blanc 2022 and the Isabelle Rosé 2022, though this range will surely grow as the winery finds its feet properly. Within the current range, famed winemaker Adam Mason is currently acting as consultant and in this capacity, he blended and bottled the 2018 red and 2021 Chardonnay but fully vinified and bottled the 2022 whites and Rosé releases. I tasted tank samples of the two 2022 Sauvignon Blancs with Adam Mason at Cape Wine in October 2022 and was suitably impressed. On my last visit to the Cape in March 2023, I made a point of tracking down a bottle of the old vine Sauvignon Blanc 2022 to see how this finished wine was developing. Oh boy, I am glad I did!
Harvested from 35-year-old vines, the 2022 Les Dames de 1987 Sauvignon Blanc expresses the more tropical and exotic fruit spectrum of the variety showcasing deliciously complex pineapple and nectarine aromas. After whole bunch pressing and minimal settling the wine was fermented in stainless steel before racking to a 4000 litre foudre for maturation. Ripe but incredibly sophisticated, there is also great precision and textural delicacy in evidence. Nine months maturation on its fine lees in a 4000L foudre provided the wine with a classical French Bordeaux meets Loire Valley character and the wine is undoubtedly made in a style that will reward further ageing in the cellar.
Terre Paisible Les Dames de 1987 ‘Old Vines’ Sauvignon Blanc 2022, WO Franschhoek, 13% Abv.
1.3g/l RS | 5.4g/l TA | 3.29pH
A superb expression of Sauvignon harvested from 35-year-old vines that spent 9 months on its lees in a 4000 litre foudre yielding a classy old world style expression with complex aromatics of leesy white citrus, yellow grapefruit, pineapple, quince and a deliciously fresh, savoury undertone. The palate texture is creamy and silky soft with a supple tangy acidity that highlights the tangerine peel and green apple pastille intensity. Such harmony and balance with vibrant energetic crystalline freshness and purity that draws you back again and again for another sip. This is more Pouilly Fume meets white Bordeaux than barrel aged Kiwi-style Sauvignon Blanc, where minerality and acidity lead and the textural precision and intensity of the old vine fruit dominates the long, persistent finish. This is grown up, top shelf Sauvignon Blanc like only a masterful winemaker like Adam Mason can deliver! Simply one of the most impressive and sophisticated Sauvignon Blancs I have tasted from South Africa in a very long time. Drink on release or cellar for extra complexity for another 5 to 8+ years.
‘The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.’ If that quote could be applied to just one winemaker, it would be André van Rensburg. Never one for mediocracy, he has, over the years, often been accused of being obsessive in the pursuit of his vinous vision and so the madman image has stuck with him for nearly thirty years. Frequently misunderstood, some might say that he suffers a personality disorder, particularly when, in conversation, expletives abound. Opinionated in the extreme, he remains, without exception, respected by his industry peers.
If success can be measured by the countless local and international awards he has enjoyed during his already long and distinguished career, then you could almost argue that André should be ready for retirement. Chatting to his long-time friend and now importer Richard Kelley MW, he describes how his first encounter with the relatively unknown André was in 1995. “Even then, the winemaking genius was apparent. We became good friends. Our long-standing relationship is a tale of two ill-matched individuals: the outspoken rock spider and the quiet English rooinek. The quintessential odd couple. Over the last three decades, I’ve come to understand that André is the greatest winemaker in the world. It’s something he reminds me of every time we meet.”
Everything about these two new wines seems to speak of his almost three decades of experience gained at Vergelegen, yet they also seem to express a certain unique, unbridle passion and artisanal precision that was perhaps more difficult to bottle when creating such large volumes at the Anglo-American owned farm. Both the red and white thrill from the moment they are poured, they impress in a passionate, heartfelt manner which shows that André has undoubtedly poured his heart and soul into these two new maiden releases.
André van Rensburg Artisan Wines Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2021, WO Stellenbosch, 13.86% Abv.
1.6 g/l RS | 6.8g/l TA | 3.11 pH
This very impressive maiden release is a blend of 86% Sauvignon Blanc but also features a 14% splash of Semillon for some extra salt and pepper complexity and mid-palate textural finesse. Regarded as his signature white grape, this beautifully crafted wine is certainly no “facile poolside quaffer” as André’s UK importer and close friend, Richard Kelley MW sternly proclaims. And indeed he is right!
This is a very serious barrel-fermented example in the style of top white Bordeaux expressions that is approachable now but will undoubtedly benefit from further maturation of up to a decade or more in the cellar. In the glass, the aromatics are packed with apple blossom, ruby grapefruit, citrus lemon, crunchy green apple, savoury gooseberry, fresh dill and tantalising touches of lemongrass and tangerine peel. But it’s on the palate where the true class and pedigree of André’s winemaking is revealed, boasting a concentrated, energy packed mouthful bursting with tangy gooseberry, lemon oil, crystallised ginger and lemongrass spice underpinned by a dusty, granitic crushed gravel minerality. The texture is super compact and dense, glycerol and mouth coating with just the most subtle hints of vanilla oak spice, a lick of lanolin, lime leaf and a spine-tingling acidity on the finish. This is certainly one of the finest Sauvignon – Semillon blends I have tasted in the past several years. Chapeau André!
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
André van Rensburg Artisan Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2020, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.
2.8g/l RS | 5.6g/l TA | 3.63 pH
I often wonder whether André made greater red or white wines in his previous life as head winemaker at Vergelegen. The problem is that his whites were so exceptional, that sometimes what he achieved with Cabernet Sauvignon and the other Bordeaux varieties was maybe sometimes overshadowed. But for me, André, the self-proclaimed Chateau Petrus-lover, was always the quintessential red wine obsessive, producing some of the most classically styled reds in South Africa when sweet, fruity, over ripe Parkerized wines were the flavour of the day. Like Sauvignon Blanc is his white signature grape, so too are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot his red counterparts.
This Van Rensburg red features 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Merlot but also includes a small addition of 7% Malbec and 4% Cabernet Franc and the wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barriques, 50% of them new. The aromatics are set to slow-release and gently ease their way out the glass in a leisurely fashion to reveal a complex melange of earthy violets, melted milk chocolate, forest berries, freshly tilled earth, raspberry liquor chocolates and undertones of dried herbs, melted tar and black berry compote. The palate is silky soft and beautifully elegant with a medium-bodied weight, soft brittle tannins and an almost 2017-esque weightless concentration of black berries, red currants, light soy, cherry tobacco and crème de cassis. There is an incredibly fine, seamless mouthfeel that is cool, compact and incredibly classical and fine boned. This is André flexing his winemaking muscles to the max, creating a superstar Bordeaux blend that is going to make some serious waves in the local and international marketplace. I feel privileged to vinously share in the next chapter of this great winemaker’s wine journey. Drink now or cellar for 15+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
The wines are available in the UK from South African specialist Museum Wines at circa £21 and £26 per bottle for the white and red. http://www.museumwines.co.uk
The Klein Constantia Clara Sauvignon Blanc Cuvee forms part of the estate’s wider pursuit to express the true and unique typicity of Sauvignon Blanc grown in Constantia’s exceptional terroirs. Named after Clara Eliza Hussey, an American heiress from Pittsburgh who purchased Klein Constantia in 1913 with her husband Braam de Villiers, and under who’s custodianship the estate was elevated to new heights of quality and fame.
Like all the Sauvignon Blancs in the range, the Clara is made with a minimalistic approach, allowing for the grapes grown on granitic soils to reveal a pure expression. Only free run juice was used and fermented in 500 litre neutral oak barrels with wild yeasts. Ever since it’s inception, this Cuvee has become one of my favourite wines in the entire range with its added richness, textural depth, freshness and intensity that made this a style of Sauvignon Blanc that was originally targeted exclusively for the American market. Certainly a wine to look out for if available in your market.
Klein Constantia Clara Sauvignon Blanc 2021, WO Constantia, 14.15% Abv.
2.18g/l RS | 7.63g/l TA | 3.19 pH
Normally a blend of predominantly blocks 372, 381, and the 361 organic block, as well as oddments of six specially identified blocks in total situated at 260 to 300 metres in altitude, all aged for 9 months in 500 litre French oak and acacia barrels, 30% new. After fermentation, the best barrels are selected from the best blocks and the wine is made in a more opulent, punchy style primarily for the US market, with more richness, texture and generally more rounder Bordeaux-style white wine characters. Once again, the aim of producing a bolder, richer style is carried out to perfection with bright intense aromatics of green apple puree, spicy green pear, white citrus, crushed granitic dust and the most delicate dried green herbal notes. The palate impact is potent and pronounced with an incredible concentration of sour yellow plum, green apple pastille, white peach and tangy green citrus that coats the mouth with a wonderfully broad glycerol texture, tangy acids and very impressive saline depth of flavour. This wine stands up to the very best expressions from Sancerre and Pouilly Fume creating a parallel universe of premium quality and Sauvignon Blanc pleasure. Drink now or over the next 10+ years.
The assessment of any great winery is surely measured by how well they make their largest and most commercially available estate wine. In the case of Klein Constantia, it has been thrilling to see winemaker Matt Day pushing the boundaries of quality and complexity on the estate’s main white release. Not content to merely make something that is commercially appealing, the team at Klein Constantia have over the past few years doubled their efforts to reclaim premium Sauvignon Blanc as Constantia’s number one global calling card.
While the experimentation and single vineyard expressions are fun to taste and write about, it is most pleasing to see that everything they learn making these micro cuvées gets translated back into plain English when applied to improve the balance, texture and complexity of their estate Sauvignon Blanc, just like the Mercedes formula 1 team uses innovations learnt on the track to improve and enhance their commercial mass market models. With intent and focus behind a wine brand like this, how can you not want to fill your cellar with their offerings!
Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Constantia’s Valley, 13.5% Abv.
This 2021 made from over 40 separate parcels employing up to 25% skin contact, is a tantalising expression of pristine cool climate Sauvignon Blanc that combines the most intricate aromatic elements of white lemon blossom, grated lime peel, yellow grapefruit, freshly cut hedgerow and crunchy white peach. There is certainly a nervy saline green fruit crunch to the wine with the palate effortlessly weaving a dusty stony minerality seamlessly together with notes of spicy gooseberry, lemon grass, lime cordial, green apple and lashings of more white citrus and tangerine. This is a very distinguished expression that can be appreciated by serious Loire connoisseurs as well as weekend drinkers looking for a classy fresh glass of premium Sauvignon Blanc to compliment sushi and fresh seafood. This is Constantia Sauvignon Blanc at its versatile best.
On my recent trip to South Africa, I finally popped my cherry and tasted the much talked about Diemersdal New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2020 from Marlborough. Already the third vintage in the collaboration between this South African estate and New Zealand producer Ben Glover from Glover Family Vineyards, tasting this wine inspired me to write a column for Winemag.co.za on chameleon brands. Read here: https://winemag.co.za/wine/opinion/greg-sherwood-mw-is-there-merit-in-chameleon-wine-brands/
The grapes for the 2020 were machine harvested at 21.2 Balling and crushed and destemmed reductively. The juice was co-inoculated with X5 and VL3 yeast which enhance some of the thiol notes but maintain the vibrant ripe herbaceous notes of the vineyard. The approximate time of fermentation was around 2 weeks, at around 12/13°C. The wine was then left on its lees for 3 to 4 weeks before racking and a small SO2 addition. The wine spent a further two months on its fine lees before bottling.
Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Marlborough, New Zealand, 12.5% Abv.
3.6 g/l RS | 7.8 g/l TA | 3.18 pH
First nosing of this Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc indicates that there is a lot going on in the glass. The aromatics are classical and subtle but equally complex with notes of pithy white citrus, green apple cordial, white peach, dried herbs and savoury tinned petit pois nuances. The palate is taut and crisp with a strict linear structure in the mouth bolstered by cool, clean green crunchy acids and layers of green papaya, crunchy pears, apple pastille and peach fruits. Never too fruity or too pungent, but always cool and crystalline with some lovely limestone minerality on the finish, this is quite a grown-up expression of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from the Wairau Valley. Drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years.
Cullen Wines is a certified biodynamic, carbon neutral and naturally powered estate, with a philosophy summed up in three simple words: ‘Quality, Integrity and Sustainability’. Celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2021, it is one of the oldest and most awarded family wineries in Western Australia’s famous Margaret River region. First established in 1971 by Dr Kevin and Diana Cullen, the winery has built an impressive reputation for biodynamic wines over the years.
Di and Kevin’s youngest daughter Vanya, who has worked at the winery since 1983, became Chief Winemaker in 1989 and Managing Director in 1999. She has worked tirelessly to develop the winery over this time, first introducing organic farming in 1998 and then, in 2004, saw it classified as a fully certified biodynamic estate. In 2000, she was named the Qantas/The Wine Magazine Winemaker of the Year, becoming the first Western Australian, and the first woman, to do so.
In 2019, celebrating 30 years at the helm, Vanya received double Winemaker of the Year honours at both the Australian Women in Wine Awards and the Halliday Wine Companion Awards. In July 2021, I was one of a lucky handful of tasters to hook up with Vanya Cullen in London via zoom to taste through an exciting selection of the winery’s current releases.
Cullen Wines Mangan Vineyard Margaret River Sauvignon / Semillon 2019, 12.4% Abv.
Wonderfully subtle, complex aromatics with delicate notes of white peach, green apple, green nettles, white pepper and cut grass underpinned by a fabulous slatey minerality. Palate is bright and crystalline, tart and fresh with a lemon / lime acidity, and a racy palate of white citrus, lime peel and lemon grass. An electric wine!
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Cullen Wines Cullen Vineyard Margaret River Sauvignon / Semillon 2017, 12.4% Abv.
A cooler vintage, the aromatics show a lovely melange of fruit salad and subtle oak notes leading to hints of wet slate white flowers and subtle petrichor notes with just the slightest nuance of wet grass. Cool and racy, there is a fine line of acidity that is balanced by layers of white peach, green apple and tangy yellow citrus. Zesty, pithy and wonderfully cool climate in style with purity and linearity.
A complex aromatic profile with layers of vermouth spices, chalk board duster, peach stone fruits, green tea, jasmine and bitter orange. Certainly fresh, bright and pure with plenty of skin contact phenolic spice (10 days in 300L amphorae and tank). On the palate the acids are mellow and tangy, the yellow orchard fruits cool and soft textured with a fine dusty mineral grip. A lovely characterful wine that is seductively exotic with its bitters and negroni-style finish. The perfect gourmet wine selection.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Cullen Wines Kevin John Wilyabrup Chardonnay 2019, 13.5% Abv.
Yields were reduced in 2019 due to frosts but the rest of the growing season was kind yielding high quality fruit. The wine saw 100% malolactic fermentation and spent eight months in 30% new French oak puncheons and barriques. The aromatics are dusty and spicy, lifted and citrusy with plenty of white flowers, orange blossom, green pear and tangerine cordial. The palate is cool and bright showing a real sweet and sour tangy acidity, massive orange and tangerine fruit concentration with real intensity and expansive depth. Plenty of lime peel, honeysuckle, fig, toffee apple and sweet vanilla pod spice.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Cullen Wines Red Moon Mangan Vineyard Wilyabrup Malbec / Petit Verdot 2018, 13% Abv.
Fermented with natural yeasts, 57% of the wine was matured for five months in seasoned French oak barriques with the balance in stainless steel, being bottle without fining. The nose is deep and broody with plenty of black chai tea, delicate notes of spearmint and black currant and subtle hints of black plum and pomegranate. The palate is plush and lush, filled with plummy, sappy, mulberry and black berry fruits, juicy black cherry acids, finishing with a long, mellow, pithy fine-grained mineral tannin finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Cullen Wines Mangan East Block Margaret River Malbec / Petit Verdot 2019, 13.5% Abv.
Made from grapes harvested from the prime sections of the Mangan vineyard, fruit was destemmed, basket pressed and vinified to accentuate the fruit flavours of the grapes, before being aged for five months in 45% new French oak barrels. The aromatics are richer, deeper and broader with vibrant notes of sappy plum, mulberries, melted chocolate and a melange of black forest berry fruits. The acids are crunchy and the palate loaded with mocha laced black currant, spicy plum, mulberry and hints of bramble berries. Fine structure, impressive density and a long, spicy bitter chocolate finish.
A premier selection of fruit, the grapes were naturally fermented before being basket pressed to barrel where the wine was matured for 15 months in oak of which 45% was new French oak. The aromatics show lovely black berry and red cherry fruits, raspberry herbal tea, hedgerow spice and a fine, leafy vanilla pod complexity. The palate is intense and concentrated, tangy, vibrant and fresh, with a wonderfully lithe textural elegance, an effortlessly classical mouthfeel and a long, suave, powdery tannin grip finish. Very smart in its youth, sure to be even greater with cellar age.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Cullen Wines Margaret River Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 2020, 8.3% Abv.
A cool pale light lemon yellow colour in the glass, the aromatics are expressive and pure but also wonderfully subtle with notes of my yellow citrus pastille, pear purée, passion fruit cordial and green mango hints. The palate is soft, cool and very elegant with a very genteel nature, a soft creamy mouthfeel, supple tangy acids balanced by pure sweet green and yellow orchard fruit and baked apple concentration. Very accessible and smart.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
(The UK importer of Cullen Wines is Liberty Wines)
Last year Duncan Savage agreed to produce a special release single varietal Sauvignon Blanc made from 32-year-old vines from a Stellenbosch vineyard that was originally destined primarily for on-trade by the glass wine sales. Of course, the pandemic and lockdown hit and much of the wine found alternative routes to market through select independent wine merchants as well as some restaurants in London, New York and across the US East Coast. The small production wine was an instant hit, appealing to all the most committed and fervent of Savage wine fans. So, it was inevitable that a follow up vintage would be forthcoming for this growing brand.
The 2021 vintage is another cracker of a wine with an increased production coming from roughly 50% Stellenbosch fruit and 50% Stanford fruit. This Sauvignon Blanc was fermented in a combination of stainless-steel tanks, concrete eggs and old barrels. The wine spent four months in these vessels before being bottled, followed by a further two months in bottle prior to release. Approximately 30,000 bottles were produced for export to the UK and USA.
Speaking to Duncan Savage, he tells me that the project has simply taken on a life of its own and in 2022, he plans to incorporate addition fruit material into the blend sourced from Danie Carinus’s vineyards in the Polkadraai Hills and also some fruit from the Karibib vineyards where producers like Bernard Bredell and Mick & Jeanine Craven source much of their fruit.
Savage Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2021, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.
Due to the increased production, the bottling of the 2021 Salt River Sauvignon Blanc will necessitate multiple bottling runs. The sample I tasted was from the initial bottling while additional stock will be released from slightly later bottled wine which has spent additional beneficial time on its fine lees in tank. But already, the wine shows a wonderfully expressive textural balance with attractive aromatics of honey suckle, green pear, camomile iced tea, pineapple pastille and crunchy white peaches. The palate is soft, fresh and seamless with a caressing mouthfeel, tangy tangerine citrus acids, notes of white peaches, yellow grapefruit and pithy, stony mineral tannins. Another beautiful creation that benefits from being open and given plenty of air. Drink this delicious Sauvignon Blanc on release but don’t be shy to age a few sneaky bottles for 3 to 5 years.
After eight days of extensive tastings for the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2021 as the South African panel chair, it became very apparent that the 2020 vintage Sauvignon Blancs being released at the moment offer up a real treasure trove of styles and expressions, but all exceptional quality from entry level pricing all the way up to premium single vineyard releases.
This excellent Painted Wolf Sauvignon Blanc made by the talented Jeremy Borg, is named after Lightning, thought to be one of the most famous endangered wild dogs living in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Made from pristine cool climate Walker Bay coastal fruit, this wine exemplifies the quality of many of the premium examples hitting the retail shelves now. Don’t miss out!
(Other cool climate Sauvignon Blanc expressions from nearby to watch out for include Wild Air from Hannes Storm, Southern Right and Creation.)
Painted Wolf Lightning Sauvignon Blanc 2020, WO Walker Bay, 12.5% Abv.
The grapes for this wine were hand picked, hand sorted and whole bunch pressed then fermented in large French oak barrels and a solitary concrete egg using only natural wild yeasts. The aromatics are beautifully pure and high toned with spicy notes of fresh lemon grass, pithy white citrus peel, capsicum and hints of crushed gooseberries. Any oak notes are incredibly delicate and seamlessly integrated highlighting the extreme precision with which this classy Sauvignon Blanc was assembled. The palate is fabulously cool, crystalline and pure laced with crunchy green fruits, subtle green herbs, yellow grapefruit, hints of bell pepper spice and finishes with a stony, flinty, wet river pebble length. Compact, vibrantly cool climate with crunchy acids and wonderfully balanced, this is another class act from Jeremy Borg. Drink now until 2025+.
I first met CEO of La Motte, Hein Koegelenberg, in London of all places in mid-March 2018. Tasting through their impressive range of wines with their newly appointed importer, The Wine Treasury, was most enjoyable and enlightening. These were after all some of the wines I had cut my teeth on in the early 1990s when I was working as a commodity trader in Johannesburg spending my hard-earned cash filling up my newly established wine cellar in Pretoria with some of South Africa’s finest red wines. Scratch on the shelves today and you might find some of my treasured bottles of La Motte Shiraz from 1993, 1994 and 1995 or maybe even one of my last bottles of La Motte Millennium 1990 red blend. These are historic wines that hold a special place in my wine development landscape as well as for many South Africans.
With lockdown looming hard and large, we have certainly missed all our regular South African winemaking tourists passing through London to taste the new vintage releases. But as they say, if Mohammed can’t go to the mountain, well then, the mountain must come to Mohammed… and I recently had a wonderful opportunity to taste through the current releases from the stunning La Motte Franschhoek Estate and was impressed with the all-round quality as ever.
La Motte Sauvignon Blanc 2021, WO Western Cape, 12.5% Abv.
3.0 g/l RS | 7.3 g/l TA | 3.39 pH
This 2021 Sauvignon Blanc was made from a blend of grapes sourced in Franschhoek (25%), Stellenbosch (50%) and the Cape South Coast (25%). With multiple vineyards grown in different microclimates and on different terroirs, the final wine in bottle has been expertly blended to ensure ample ripeness with juicy freshness, no overt leafy pyrazine characters but certainly plenty of attractive cool climate purity. A reductive fermentation process in stainless steel was carried out with the wine being left on its fine lees to enhance the tropical flavours. To further add to the complexity, 8% of Semillon was blended into the wine before bottling on the 10th April 2021.
A deliciously vibrant, expressive style of Cape Sauvignon Blanc, this wine displays an impressive purity and crystalline cool vintage clarity of green citrus fruits, green apple, lemon and lime zest and a subtle suggestion of Cape gooseberry. There is just enough fleshy tropical complexity to make this wine very appealing to lovers of fine New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc with a cool 12.5% alcohol supporting an electric acidity and energetic depth of fruit. There is plenty of mouth coating richness, a fleshy glycerol opulence and a long, cool, spicy green herb-tinged finish with tangy acids that keep you coming back again and again for another sip. I’m not sure what more you could want from a young, fresh, unoaked Sauvignon Blanc? Delicious! Drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years.
(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
La Motte The Pierneef Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2020, WO Cape South Coast, 12.62% Abv.
1.8 g/l RS | 6.8 TA | 3.25 pH
The Pierneef Collection is a range of wines from La Motte forming a part of their more premium range as a tribute to the famous South African artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (1886-1957), one of South Africa’s most collectable artists, with each new bottling labelled with a different piece of his art. The 2020 Pierneef Collection Sauvignon Blanc is a blend of 94% Sauvignon Blanc from Elim, Napier and Elgin and 6% Semillon from Elim, all vineyards that now fall under the Cape South Coast region. After four drought vintages from 2015 to 2018, the 2019 season was much more moderate and saw the Cape’s vineyards build up their water reserves which boded well for the follow up 2020 crop. The grapes were afforded 16 hours of skin contact before fermentation and then another 5 months post-fermentation ageing on fine lees before blending. The wine was bottled in August 2020 and 30,000 bottles were produced.
On the nose, this wine is unmistakably cool climate Sauvignon Blanc with all the herby, pithy, spicy, saline notes you’d expect to find on cooler, Coastal Cape Sauvignon. Together with classic Thiol notes of white citrus, Cape Gooseberry and bell pepper, there is an attractive underlying dusty crushed limestone minerality, hints of green apple pastille, lime peel and lemon grass spices. Medium bodied with bright glassy acids but also a wonderfully harmonious textural balance, this is a serious offering for more serious Sauvignon Blanc connoisseurs that celebrates the diversity of premium cool climate coastal maritime styles. Drink on release or cellar for 6 to 8+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
La Motte Franschhoek Chardonnay 2019, WO Franschhoek, 13.4% Abv.
2.2 g/l RS | 6.0 g/l TA | 3.37 pH
While many of Franschhoek’s top wines are produced from grapes sourced from all over the Cape, this Chardonnay is made from fruit grown on the La Motte farm in Franschhoek from vineyards located at 200 metres above sea-level on south and southwestern facing slopes. The vineyard soils are mostly sandstone and granite in origin with the oldest blocks planted in 1997. For the 2019 Chardonnay, 100% the grapes were whole bunch pressed with 66% fermented in 300 litre French oak barrels with malo and 33% in stainless steel without malolactic fermentation. Post ferment, the wines saw regular lees stirring while ageing 12 months in 25% new French oak. After ageing, the wines were blended and bottled in May 2020.
The aromatics on this 2019 Chardonnay boast luxurious zesty notes of tangerine peel, pressed oranges and fragrant citrus blossom together with notes of vanilla pod spice, dried pistachio nuts and lemon butterscotch. The palate is round, creamy and harmonious with a fine textural balance of tangy orange and yellow citrus fruits, succulent white peach and green apple pastille. There is a lovely finesse and fine-tuned elegance to the wine that shows impressive persistence of flavour and a complex leesy, savoury lemon bon bon finish. Enjoy this ‘ready-to-go’ Chardonnay now and over the next 2 to 3+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.
3.2 g/l RS | 6 g/l TA | 3.39 pH
The grapes for this 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon are sourced from two regions including 67% from Stellenbosch and 33% from Franschhoek. 2018 was of course the fourth in a series of drought vintages and resulted in a small, concentrated crop of grapes -15% down on 2017 or the lowest crop in a decade and a half. The Stellenbosch portion of fruit was machine harvested before being transported to the La Motte cellar in Franschhoek while the Franschhoek grapes were hand harvested. All grape batches were fermented separately in stainless steel before being aged for 16 months in 300 litre French oak barrels, 33% new, 33% second fill and 34% older barrels. After blending, the wine was bottled in November 2019. 84,000 bottles were produced.
This Cabernet Sauvignon displays classical aromatics of saline cassis, sweet cedar spice, dried mint leaf, iodine, seashore kelp and subtle hints of graphite, iron and blood. Youthfully piquant but also lush on the palate, like a true 2018 Cabernet, this wine takes a little bit of time to open its shoulders before revealing its full potential. The palate shows an attractive opulence and a fleshy, creamy black cocoa powder complexity with notes of tart black currant, black cherry, crunchy sour plum and a long, mouth-watering finish marked by wonderfully subtle integrated oak spice characters and a delicate kiss of salty liquorice. Ample minerality and more than sufficient structure suggest you can drink this now with a short decant or else cellar for at least 5 to 8+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
La Motte Syrah 2017, WO Franschhoek, 13.69% abv.
2.3 g/l RS | 5.6 g/l TA | 3.44 pH
The Syrah grapes for this wine are all sourced from the La Motte Wine Estate in Franschhoek from vines that are between 10 and 30 years old, situated on varying sandstone and granitic soils at between 200 and 300 metres altitude. While 2017 was the third of the drought vintages in the Cape, it also managed to somehow deliver the raw materials to make some of the greatest red wines ever seen in the Cape. Following a lower than average rainfall in the preceding winter, flowering and fruit set conditions were favourable and followed by a long, dry ripening season with cool nights and a distinct lack of heat waves resulting in very healthy grapes with excellent concentration. For this Syrah, the grapes were 100% destemmed and the whole berries fermented in stainless steel tanks. The finished wine was matured in 300 litre French oak barrels for 14 months, 30% of which were new. Unusually, to add some extra colour to the wine, a 15% portion of Durif (Petit Syrah) was added to the blend. It seems the phenomenally successful 2017 vintage was equally as generous to the quality of premium Syrah wines as it was to top Cabernet Sauvignon and Cape Bordeaux Blends that have lit up critical wine ratings globally.
This is an attractive wine that reveals a wonderfully seductive, generous and elegant expression of Franschhoek Syrah. Dense, dark and opaque, though some of this might be due to a little extra Petit Syrah turbo charging, the aromatics show perfumed notes of earthy lily flowers, black plum, salty black liquorice, black olive tapenade and bruleed Christmas pudding nuances. Complex and layered, there is a sleek meaty, savoury stratum with sweet peppercorn nuances and hints of molasses spice. For all the ripeness, the palate lacks no freshness and is brimming with blue berry and black currant fruits buffered by a subtle chalky mineral tannin and a cool, long oregano and thyme-tinged dried herb finish. A serious effort for the money.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
La Motte The Pierneef Collection Syrah 2017, WO Western Cape, 13.8% Abv.
2.8 g/l RS | 6.0 g/l TA | 3.46 pH
Though not part of the ultra-premium range from La Motte, this wine still has got to be one of the estate’s most impressive quality red offerings. The fruit for this blend originates from 90% Syrah from Elim, 5% Syrah from Walker Bay and 5% Viognier from Franschhoek. Small berries with thick skins and intense fruit flavours in 2017 made for a very serious vintage offering. Some of the Syrah batches were harvested at the same time as the Viognier, sourced in Franschhoek, in order for the grapes to be co-fermented together. After fermentation, the wine was matured for 14 months in 55% new French oak barrels after which time the components were all blended together and then returned to barrel for a further 4 months of ‘marriage’. The wine was bottled in November 2018.
Based on the classical Cote Rotie blend of red and white grapes, this really is a spectacularly well-made wine delivered with intensity, complexity and balance. The aromatics are instantaneously recognizable as being different with the extra tell-tale perfumed lift and peachy bon bon rock candy aromatics from the Viognier that melt into the dark, saline, salty liquorice and black currant fruit nuances of the intense, maritime Elim Syrah. Dark, seductive and decidedly cool and coastal in its profile, this wine sucks up the new oak portion to leave an almost imperceptible purity of tart black berry fruits with just the most subtle lick of creamy warm buttered brown toast smothered in black currant and watermelon preserve on the long finish. Cool, dense, weightlessly concentrated and texturally compact with a high degree of finesse and polish make for a real ‘wow’ wine. Drink this wine now after a good 2 hour decant or else cellar for a further 10 to 12+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
(Wines are distributed to trade in the UK by The Wine Treasury.)