South African Winemaker Eben Sadie’s Greatness is Recognized Internationally at Prowein…

The Institute of Masters of Wine and international trade publication The Drinks Business are delighted to announce Eben Sadie as the winner of the 2017 Winemakers’ Winemaker Award.The honour, which has been given annually since 2011, recognises outstanding achievement in the field of winemaking. The winner is chosen each year by Master of Wine Winemakers and previous winners of the award.


Eben was revealed as the Winemakers’ Winemaker at ProWein today, in front of Masters of Wine and industry professionals. On receiving his award Eben said, “It is a major honour to be receiving this award and I would like to dedicate this to the great team of people I have by my side that have helped me over the years to grow closer to a dream. For a great wine is not the work of one.”
Eben graduated from Elsenburg College, Stellenbosch in 1994, and worked various harvests in Germany, Spain, France, United States and South Africa. He ventured out on his own in 2000 to pursue his passion for blends and terroir in his Swartland home. From what Eben describes as a ‘little shack’ in the Paardeberg, he began creating The Sadie Family Wines’ two signature wines – Columella (a red blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Tinta barocca) and Palladius (a white blend of Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Semillon, Clairette, Verdellho and others).

After a decade of producing these signature wines the Family released the Old Vine Series, a bottling of eight single vineyard old vine parcels; Skerpioen, Skurfberg, Voetpad, Mev. Kirsten, Kokerboom, Pofadder, Soldaat and Treinspoor.

Jane Masters MW, Chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine said, “Eben’s determined search to produce outstanding wines has put Swartland and South Africa on the map. I am delighted that the Master of Wine Winemakers have rewarded his dedication and talent – it’s truly well deserved.”


Eben now joins Peter Sisseck (2011), Peter Gago (2012), Paul Draper (2013), Anne-Claude Leflaive (d) (2014), Egon Muller (2015) and Alvaro Palacios (2016) as winners of the Winemaker’s Winemaker Award. 

Catching Up With the Legendary Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira in London…

It’s been a long week with moderate jeg lag after arriving back from San Francisco last Sunday. By Friday, I felt I was just about back to normal, only waking up at 5am… instead of 3am. But there can certainly be no better pick-me-up than some bubbles, and today I had a lovely visit from Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira himself, the master of Cape MCC.


As someone who did their MW dissertation on MCC Production in Constantia Valley, I am of course a great lover and eternal ambassador of fine Cape Methode Champenoise sparking wines, or Methode Cap Classique as they are classified in South Africa. And there are no greater names in MCC circles than Bubbles Ferreira, who makes some of the greatest examples of bottle fermented sparkling wine outside of Champagne.


Interesting to hear from Pieter that MCC sales continue to grow around 14% per year for them in SA and I suspect this is probably only slightly higher than the overall category average. For three quarters of the year, South Africa is almost too hot to drink too much red wine, so beer, white wine and of course chilled bubbles are the order of the day. South Africa has developed into a serious producer and quality of MCC across the board is very high on average. Not surprisingly, South Africa is now also the largest market for French Champagne on the African continent.


So it was great to have another look at the famous Graham Beck Cuvee Clive 2009, the most prestigious cuvee in the Graham Beck portfolio and an absolute personification of Pieter’s passion and obsession for creating the perfect sparkling wine. Grab a bottle if you can get your hands on some of the tiny allocation that has made it to the UK for the first time.


Tasting Note: A blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, both were whole bunch pressed and only the tete de cuvee was used, being mostly fermented in stainless steel but with a small percentage in Piece Champenoise 205 litre oak barrels. The wine is pale straw and wonderfully vibrant and fresh. The nose is rich, subtly savoury and exceptionally complex, showing wonderful opulence and attractive notes of biscuit, dusty limestone, shitake mushrooms, and white truffles. The whole while, the nose and palate are underpinned by vibrant, creamy citrus fruit purity. Lemon and dried herbs, yellow grapefruit and white citrus blossom. The texture is hedonistic and luxurious with a real salty, briney sea breeze character coming through on the long, toasty, nutty finish. Beautiful creamy mousse is perfectly assembled and in fine balance with fresh acids and elegant mineral finesse. A truly world class expression. Bravo Bubbles Ferreira.

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

Testalonga El Bandito Queen of Spades 2016 Tinta Amarela – Perfect Saturday Quaffing…

Tonight I’m enjoying an easy drinking red from Craig Hawkins of Testalonga. This new Cuvee made from Tinta Amarela (or Trincadeira) is just perfect to accompany the opening matches of the 6 Nations Rugby Championship. 


A red wine grape that is commonly used in Port wine production. This grape is often noted for its dark colouring and its use in the Douro region has certainly been increasing in recent years as still wine production increases at the expense of Port.


Not sure what inspired Craig to make this wine as I’ve not had a chance to ask him but I’d hazard a guess it’s got something to do with his time spent making wine in the Douro and also because of his love of the fresh, vibrant red varieties found in the Iberian Peninsula. 


Indeed, this wine does have a dark purple black plum colour and a nose jam packed with red and black fruits, cranberries, brambley perfume, black forest berries and savoury hedgerow spice notes. There is also a lovely wild, earthy complexity. This is a super quaffable, characterful style revealing a lighter, medium bodied texture, sleek soft sweet sappy tannins and modest complexity. The finish is fresh and earthy with an attractive crushed gravel mineral note. I’m certain a little extra time in bottle for this 2016 red has benefited the wines elegance and tannin balance greatly. At the moment, it delivers lovely drinking pleasure but I suspect another 12 months in bottle will benefit this very oldy-worldly style further.

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

Lismore Pinot Noir 2016 ~ A Cheeky Preview in London…

On Tuesday this week I met up with the lovely Samantha O’Keefe to taste through her impressive new Lismore releases. What a pleasant surprise to get a sneak peek at her newly bottled Lismore Pinot Noir 2016!


Made from a blend of 50% Stanford Pinot Noir and 50% Kaaimangat Pinot Noir fruit, all 115 clone, coming in at 13 Abv. Grapes were fermented in a 5000L tank with 10% whole bunch. The wine was then aged in a mix of older 225L barriques and new 500L barrels.


Tasting Note: This wine, despite being newly bottled, is fabulously vibrant and fresh with the most attractive sour cherry, sweet spice, cherry blossom nose. The fruits are so pure and crunchy and display wonderful mid palate tension and superb textural elegance. I love the pristine purity of the fruits, very much in the red berry spectrum with plenty of Cotes de Beaune nuances. The finish is focused, soft and linear with attractive strawberry fruit and foresty bramble berry notes, pointing to the Stanford influence. A wonderful vein of acidity is evident throughout, balanced by the weightier, fleshy Kaaimansgat fruit density. A truly impressive wine that definitely has Burgundy in its DNA. 

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


The Epic Raats Family Wines Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2014 Reviewed…

When it comes to the Loire varieties of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, no one in South Africa delivers quite like Bruwer Raats of Raats Family Wines in Stellenbosch. A passionate obsessive, Bruwer has dedicated most of his winemaking career to mastering these two varieties. 


In the Eden High Density Cabernet Franc, Bruwer has conjured up such vinous brilliance, producing probably the finest pure varietal version South Africa has ever seen. 300 vines in a single vineyard produced just 260 bottles, making this probably one of the rarest “new release” wines out of the Cape. But trust me, making the effort to hunt a bottle down will definitely be worthwhile!


Tasting Note: A mysterious dark opaque black plum colour that’s every bit as deep and alluring as the wines bouquet. At first, when poured, there are broody Cabernet Franc notes of cassis leaf, capsicum, graphite and cedar spice. But given five minutes of air, this wine blossoms like a Namaqualand wild flower field after August rains. Lush black peppercorns, cassis, saline briney black berry complexity. There are so many layers of orange blossom, orange peel and black  forest berries. The palate is tight and pin point on the entry, layered, with dusty silky tannins, tart linear acids and a cool 13.5 Abv. The fruit concentration seems at once dense but also weightless, as the dark earthy fruits dance across the palate with such elegance. The peacocks tail of fruit complexity fans out on the mid-palate and then constricts again, leading to a focused, taught, fresh, long vibrant finish. The pieces of this vinous puzzle fit together seamlessly. One can only imagine how profound this wine will be in 10-15 years time. Bravo Bruwer! 

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


Sons of Sugarland Syrah 2015 Reviewed ~ Sometimes, Less is Definitely More…

In 2016, so many new micro brands and single vineyard / single site wines were launched in South Africa. I consider myself relatively up to date with all the new offerings visiting South Africa several times a year. But last year, after four visits, even I was running just to keep up at times. Some of these eye catching wines including Andre Bruyn’s City on a Hill Chenin Blanc, Bruwer Raats’ Eden range, and Chris Alheit’s Hemelrand Vine Garden white blend were launched with great acclaim. 


Another one of these wines was the Sons of Sugarland Syrah 2015 produced from “superior” pure SH99 clone 100% Whole-bunch fermented Syrah grapes sourced from a vineyard in Stellenbosch. I reviewed many wines from Stellenbosch young gun Reenen Borman, and this red is another one of his collaborative works falling under the Patatsfontein joint project. 


Tasting Note: Sons of Sugarland Syrah 2015, 14 Abv. ~ Beautiful vibrant purple red cherry colour. The nose is delicately perfumed with bruised black plums, macerated red cherries, sandalwood, wood spice, dried black and green pepper corns, sweet savoury cured meats and a honeysuckle twist. The palate is medium bodied and elegantly classical, very much in the mould of the Northern Rhone masters like Rene Rostaing, where Syrah takes on the weight, focus and texture of Pinot Noir rather than full blown ripe Rhoney Syrah. There are beautifully fine glassy acids elevating the majestic fine, soft silky tannins. This wine is all about subtlety, finesse and femininity and never tries to shout, but rather talks softly with a voice of confident winemaking. The finish is deceptively long, concentrated and suave. Testament to the philosophy that sometimes less is more. (Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Post Script: I opened this bottled, allowed it to breath (in bottle) for 20-30 mins, tasted and wrote my notes. Initially I was around the 93-93+ score mark, but after enjoying this wine subsequently with beautiful organic Welsh lamb chops, I upped my score to 94. Wines cannot just be enjoyed in some kind of clinical isolation. They are part of our daily lives, and primarily made to be enjoyed with food. So I’m going stick with my latter rating of this elegant, classical, food friendly wine.

Armstrong’s of Richmond’s finest lamb chops…

Another Fantastic Preview – Tasting the Impressive Meerlust Chardonnay 2016 with Owner Hannes Myburgh…

I was so pleased to catch up with Hannes Myburgh several times during his short trip to the UK recently to hear all about the great progress being made at the estate and also taste probably the best full range of wines I’ve ever tasted from one South African producer.


So many highlights, but tasting the 2015 Meerlust Pinot Noir again was very special and the Chardonnay 2015, wow, beautiful. If you bought the 2015, you are going to want to tuck into the 2016 with equal enthusiasm.


Tasting Notes: Bright clear brilliant straw yellow, this Chardonnay has a beautifully dusty fragrant nose of fresh straw, lemon peel, lees contact, biscuits and savoury wet chalk. Tasted along side the 2015, a 5 Star Platter award winner, you have the perfect benchmark to really compare and contrast the absolute quality of the 2016. This wine is every bit as impressive, with incredible concentration, seamless textured layers of cantaloupe melon, yellow citrus, waxy lemons, pineapple pastille and the most subtle, integrated oak notes. While the 2015 leans towards Meursault, the 2016 is slightly more Puligny Montrachet in character with nuanced nuttiness and vital, fresh acids. It’s certainly a wine that carries real presence, projects massive intensity of flavour and does not put a foot wrong. If this does not get another 5 stars, I’ll eat my hat! (Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)