A Wine Of Rarity and Beauty ~ Tasting the Sadie Family Old Vine Series Kokerboom 2015…

Within the Sadie Old Vine Series range, the Kokerboom white is probably the most enigmatic and mysterious. But in an intense, near perfect vintage like 2015, this wine’s full potential is revealed in all its regal glory. The biggest challenge then becomes actually getting hold of some to drink!


Made from fruit sourced in the Trekpoort Kloof in the Olifants River Region, this old vine vineyard Semillon was planted in the 1930s on decomposed Table Mountain sandstone and includes a mix of both white and red-skinned versions of this grape once very common in the Cape winelands. A pristine old vineyard, no herbicides or artificial fertilizers have been used on it, and it has been perfectly pruned and cared for over the years. The downside is that it is a very small and low-yielding vineyard. 


The white and red Semillon (approximately a 70 / 30 split), ripen at the same time and are picked and pressed together. The juice is taken from the basket press in buckets to an old cask for natural fermentation, and spends around 18 months on its lees before being bottled from the cask unfined and unfiltered, yielding not much more than 150 cases of 6 per vintage. TA 6.4 g/l and RS 1.8 g/l with a 3.00 pH.


Sadie Family Old Vine Series Kokerboom 2015, WO Olifantsrivier, 14 Abv.

The aromatics grow in the glass showing intense lime, white pepper, lemon herbs, lime peel, soap stone and grey slate. A really intriguing mineral melange of dusty stony complexity mixes with notes of boxwood, fynbos, and beechwood spice. The palate is full and expansive and ethereally complex. Flavours are still tightly wound, taught, and require a little coaxing to reveal a tart, briney, saline palate bite, complex citrus zest and deliciously fresh glassy acids and picante mineral cut. So many layers of lemon grass, tangerine peel, pithy green apple and sweet, freshly cut raw fennel develop. Texturally profound and so beautifully balanced, this wine teases the senses giving the drinker a fleeting glimpse of what’s still to come with further bottle age. World class and eye-opening, the Kokerboom 2015 is most certainly right up there with other sought after white icon wines from around the globe.

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

The True Brilliance of Winemaker Duncan Savage Revealed in His Savage White Blend 2015…

On the eve of the imminent arrival of the 2016 Savage White Blend in the UK, I had the opportunity to present the iconic 2015 White Blend to 25 management consultants at the offices of Boston Consulting Group last night. It went down a storm. In fact, it was so good I bought another bottle to drink at home tonight with my Sicilian style herbed pork caponata. 


Savage White Blend 2015, WO Western Cape, 14 Abv.

There is no doubt that Duncan Savage is one of the best white wine winemakers in South Africa. His track record speaks for itself. Taming Sauvignon Blanc and more so, Semillon, from cool climate sites on the peninsula, has revealed the real potential of these varietals in a blend to a whole new generation of winemakers and consumers. The 2015 however, was one of Duncan’s most anticipated releases with the vintage lauded as possibly the best ever in SA for red and white wines. This Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon based blend incorporates small amounts of Clairette Blanche and Chenin Blanc this vintage. This slightly bigger blend perhaps explains the wines broader aromatic profile. There is still the dusty lemon and herb spice, yellow grapefruit and lime peel freshness, but also extra notes of white pear, white pepper, white crunchy peaches and green apple zest. Once again, the pithy minerality of crushed gravel underpins both the nose and palate and there’s an almost German, Pfalz-like strawberries and vanilla ice cream exotism in play. The palate is bold, intense and concentrated with pithy gravelly notes balanced by massive fruit concentration and length. The vintage’s sublime quality is indeed standing up to be counted! Duncan has perfectly captured the essence of 2015’s greatness. But the wine remains classical, measured, restrained and fresh and finally unlocks its hallmark lemon and pineapple pastille fruit character on the long, intense finish. This is a truly grand expression, a wine that will demand its place in your cellar. Could this be Duncan’s greatest white expression to date? Drink now to 2028+ 

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


Thorne & Daughters Paper Kite Semillon 2016 ~ Another Contender for One of My Top 10 South African Whites of the Year…

A few weeks ago, on a visit to see Peter Allan Finlayson at Gabrielskloof, I managed to also meet up with John Seccombe to taste his new vintages. John has been based at Gabrielskloof for a while now, leasing cellar space to produce his fantastic range of wines.


Last year, the Paperkite Semillon 2015 achieved one of my highest scores for a South African white and flew straight into my top 10, not an easy feat considering all the amazing 2015s that were on the market at the time. This year sees more of the same… and the 2016 version is another cracker!


Thorne & Daughters Paperkite Semillon 2016, 13.2 Abv.

A blend of 85 year old Semillon and 56 year old Semillon Gris from Siebrietskloof in the Paardeberg, the beauty has a rich opulent aromatic lift of lime peel, waxy lemons, white peach and tangerine peel. There are lovely dried herb nuances of thyme combined with sappy crushed leaves. The palate is creamy and intense, brimming with sweet pineapple pastille fruit concentration, tangy fig confit, granitic stoney minerality, finishing with a massively long finish that resonates around the back palate. Wow… A really profound, expressive fine wine. Chase it… buy it… drink it!

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

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.