If it’s Pure Hedonistic Pleasure You Are Looking For, the New Vilafonté Series M 2016 Release is Probably For You…

I recently tasted and reviewed the 2016 Vilafonté Series C Cabernet Sauvignon based blend in London before its acclaimed launch in South Africa. What struck me with this wine as well as the Series M 2016 which I am tasting ahead of its 1st March release, is the distinctive quality evident in the wine. We all know 2015 was a red wine block buster but we were somehow led to believe that the drought conditions perhaps got the better of the wines in 2016?

Indeed 2016 was characterized by substantial drought conditions through the preceding winter and into the growing season. Warm, dry conditions in Spring were extremely favourable for a compact one week bloom period, leading to outstanding evenness of maturity in all vineyard blocks. The hot pre-harvest weather conditions and early picking, combined with concerns of fire risk, made for a uniquely demanding vintage. The Simonsberg mountain suffered fire damage, but fortunately, Vilafonté was not directly affected by fire nor smoke. Strategies implemented by the Vilafonté team protected the vines against heat, resulting in a surprisingly healthy vineyard with bright green leaves through harvest.

Harvest commenced on the 3rd of February and concluded on the 8th of March. In mid-February, the weather cooled and our Cabernet Sauvignon ripened under consistently cooler, more favourable circumstances than the early-season Merlot and Malbec, resulting in an unusually extended picking window. Severe drought conditions led to Vilafonté’s smallest per-hectare crop on record.

Vilafonté Series M 2016 Red Blend, WO Paarl, 14 Abv.

This red bend saw 22 months in 21% new French oak barrique with the balance aged in older French oak. The 2016 blend consists of 50% Malbec, 36% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc with 75 barrels or around 22,500 bottles produced. Lush and plush, this wine reveals a deep dark purple-garnet colour. While initially quite sweet, sappy and resinous on opening, a little time in glass allows the wine to gracefully compose itself and push its shoulders back to boldly reveal a beautiful nose of blackberry pie, cola, blueberry crumble, Ceylon tea, sweet cherry tobacco, sun raisined cranberry, a sweet toffee apple opulence and a gravelly, blackberry compote complexity. This wine is quite unlike many of the 2016 reds I have tasted, instead showing incredible aromatic lift, sweet berry fruited concentration, purity and a sense of utter winemaking control. With 50% of Malbec in the blend, the wine was always destined to resemble the more profound expressions of old vine La Consulta Malbecs from the Uco Valley in Argentina than any straight laced right bank blend dominated by Merlot or Cabernet Franc. But as I have learned over the last few years tasting the Vilafonté wines, this estate has taken Malbec to its heart and learnt to cherish the sappy sweet seductive opulence that this variety has offered as it has bedded into the local terroir. Indeed, its success can be regarded as one of the most significant fine wine phenomenons in the past 15 years and Vilafonté Series M personifies the potential of this grape married to the other classical Bordeaux varieties. My past experience of the Series M wines has taught me not to underestimate the satisfying underlying tension in the wines that sometimes take a few years to assert itself. This is no doubt an incredibly well crafted wine from one of the most up and coming wineries in South Africa and delivers a gorgeously honed hedonistic glass of vinous pleasure. Allow this wine to settle and gain more structural delineation with extra time in bottle, but if you simply can’t wait, pop it in a decanter for 2 hours and let the bouquet light up your life! Drink now to 2038+.

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

Watch out for the South African release on the 1st of March 2019. For further information, click here: https://www.vilafonte.com/members/

Putting the 2019 Platter 5 Star Wines through Their Paces – The Fine Wine Safari Assessment…

The Platter Wine Guide is the undisputed wine bible of South African wines. While this multi-award winning wine guide is not totally faultless in its approach to rating new release wines, it certainly is still the best all round annual informational resource guide a tourist or local South African wine enthusiast can buy.

So when Wines of South Africa UK presents the annual Platter Wine Guide 5 Star Tasting at the South African High Commission, it is always one of the most eagerly anticipated and well attended events for wine professionals whether they be journalists, a blogger, a wine commentator, restauranteur or a wine buyer.

Here is the Fine Wine Safari assessment of the 2019 Guide’s 5 Star wines. Over 70 wines were tasted and I have only listed the wines I rated 94 points or higher.

Whites:

Vergelegen G.V.B White 2015 

Varieties: 60% Schaapenberg Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon 

Region: Stellenbosch

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016

Varieties: 100% Chardonnay

Region: Stellenbosch

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Restless River Ava Marie Chardonnay 2016

Varieties: 100% Chardonnay

Region: Upper Hemel-enAarde Valley

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Bot River, Overberg

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Botanica Mary Delany Chenin Blanc 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Citrusdal Mountain

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

David & Nadia Hoe-Steen 2017 

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Swartland

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

David & Nadia Skaliekop 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Swartland

96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

De Morgenzon The Divas 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Stellenbosch

97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Thistle & Weed Duwweltjie Chenin Blanc 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc

Region: Paarl

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

B Vintners Haarlem to Hope white blend 2017 

Varieties: 64% Chenin Blanc, 28% Semillon, 4% Muscat d’ Frontignan and 4% Muscat d’ Alexandrie 

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Old Vines 2017

Varieties: 65% Chenin Blanc, 13% Grenache Blanc, 10% Viognier, 10% Clairette Blanche, 2% Semillon Gris

Region: Swartland

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sadie Palladius 2016

Varieties:  Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, ClairetteBlanche , Viognier, Verdelho, Roussanne, Semillon Gris, Semillon Blanc and Palomino

Region: Swartland

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Savage white blend 2017

Varieties:  Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chenin Blanc

Region: Western Cape

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Stark-Condé The Field Blend 2017 

Varieties:  36% Chenin Blanc, 36% Roussanne, 17% Viognier, 11% Verdelho

Region: Stellenbosch, Jonkershoek Valley

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse white blend 2017

Varieties:  Roussanne, Chardonnay, Semillon, Clairette Blanche and Chenin Blanc

Region: Western Cape

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Red Wines:

Elemental Bob Graveyard Tinta Barocca 2017

Varieties:  100% Tinta Barocca

Region / WO: Stellenbosch

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Crystallum Cuvée Cinéma Pinot Noir 2017

Varieties:  100% Pinot Noir

Region: Hemel-enAarde

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Thelema Sutherland Petit Verdot Reserve 2015

Varieties:  100% Petit Verdot

Region: Elgin

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Raats Cabernet Franc 2016

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Franc

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Raats Dolomite Cabernet Franc 2016

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Franc

Region: Stellenbosch

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Stellenbosch 

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Reyneke Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Stellenbosch 

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Warwick The Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Varieties:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Stellenbosch 

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Hartenberg CWG Auction Reserve Shiraz 2015

Varieties:  100% Shiraz

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2016

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Swartland

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Leeuwenkuil Heritage Syrah 2015

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Swartland

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Porseleinberg Syrah 2016

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Swartland

95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Rust en Vrede Single Vineyard Syrah 2015

Varieties:  100% Syrah

Region: Stellenbosch

94/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Erika O Syrah-Grenache Noir-Cinsault 2016

Varieties: 53 % Syrah, 28 % Grenache Noir and 19 % Cinsault

Region: Western Cape 

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Saronsberg Full Circle Red 2016 

Varieties: 82% Shiraz, 11% Grenache, 6%  Mourvèdre, 1% Viognier

Region: Tulbagh

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015

Varieties: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot

Region: Stellenbosch

98/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Beeslaar Pinotage 2016 

Varieties:  100% Pinotage

Region: Stellenbosch

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2016 

Varieties:  100% Pinotage

Region: Stellenbosch

95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Kanonkop Black Label 2016

Varieties:  100% Pinotage

Region: Stellenbosch

97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Sweet Wines:

Klein Constantia Estate Vin de Constance 2014 

Varieties:  100% Muscat de Frontignan

Region: Constantia

97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest 2017

Varieties:  100% Riesling

Region: Elgin

96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Straw Wine 2017

Varieties: 100% Chenin Blanc 

Region: Swartland

97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2016 

Varieties: 74% Touriga Nacional, 18% Tinta Barocca, 8% Tinta Roriz

Region: Calitzdorp

94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux Old Vines White Vertical Tasting in London From 2008 to 2017…

Chris Mullineux was recently in London to showcase a superb retrospective of Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Old Vine Whites from 2008 to current release 2017.

Interestingly, Chris mentioned that he thought 2003 was a date after which white blends really started to become famous with the release of now iconic white wines like Palladius from Eben Sadie. “At the time, it seemed a strange concept to blend Chenin Bland with exotic varieties like Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette Blanc, Verdelho etc. Now white blends are some of South Africa’s best wines in its offering.”

The Swartland is perfectly suited for white blends and Mulliineux Wines use Viognier, a pungent creamy grape that can be quite intense but is kept in check with the addition of small amounts of Clairette Blanche, with other varieties joining the blend for more recent vintages.

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Old Vines White Vertical Tasting Led by Chris Mullineux:

Mullineux Old Vine White 2008 (86% Chenin Blanc, 7% Clairette Blanche, 7% Viognier)

13.5% Abv, 2.4 RS, 5.9 TA, 3.41 pH
Subtle notes of honey, white toast, bruised yellow orchard fruits and saline, oxidative peachy notes. Lovely dusty mineral vein adding aromatic complexity. Incredibly rich and textural, honied and fleshy with an unctuous mouthfeel, sweet caramelised peach notes, herbal peach tea spice and a harmonious, glycerol broad mouthfeel. Very complex and classy, pure and vibrant with pleasing oxidative nuances.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2009 (61% Chenin Blanc, 23% Clairette Blanche, 16% Viognier)

134% Abv, 3.4 RS, 5.7 TA, 3.25 pH
From a warmer year, this shows more pithy, dusty, fynbos herbal lift, with plenty of gravel and stone fruit aromatics. Notes of honey, dried peach and dried guava roll with a maritime saline lift. Palate is beautifully creamy, sleek and balanced with amazing fleshy, peachy pastille fruit, dried yellow fruits and a real focused, pinpoint, intense finish.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2010 (80% Chenin Blanc, 10% Clairette Blanche, 10% Viognier)

13.5% Abv, 2.8 RS, 5.9 TA, 3.21 pH
Creamy, limey, waxy when it was young. Now the wine retains a more Burgundian presence with dusty vanilla pod, lemon pastille, dried mint leaf and baking herbs with subtle white citrus and granitic minerality. Palate is taut, mineral, focused and tight with honey and lime peel, lime cordial, buttered brown toast and a delicious crunchy, bright, crystalline green apple pastille finish. Young, bright and super youthful. Precision personified. Really exceptional!

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

Tasting with UK based South African restauranteur Neleen Strauss and Chris Mullineux.

Mullineux Old Vine White 2011 (65% Chenin Blanc, 26% Clairette Blanche, 9% Viognier)

13% Abv, 2.3 RS, 5.7 TA, 3.38 pH
A more spicy, lifted, piquant nose with spicy roasted almonds, walnut skins, buttered sweet corn and ripe lemon cordial. Palate is finely balanced with fleshy soft mouthfeel, vanilla and white toast drizzled with honey finishing with a sleek creamy texture and wonderful focus and harmonious, mellow balance. Despite spicy oxidative notes on the bouquet, the palate is super fresh and youthful.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2012 (76% Chenin Blanc, 16% Clairette Blanche, 8% Viognier)

13.5% Abv, 3.2 RS, 5.1 TA, 3.45pH
Quite an even vintage, not too hot or dry. Rich, creamy and round, with very fine purity, liquid mineral depth with pithy lemon peel, dusty gravel, piquant almond and roasted nuts. Palate is soft and broad, creamy and harmonious with quite a fleshy full mouthfeel, loaded with ripe glucerol fruit weight and finishes with very soft mellow acids. Cool and dreamy, still very youthful.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2013 (80% Chenin Blanc, 13% Clairette Blanche, 7% Viognier)

13.5% Abv, 1.5 RS, 5.8 TA, 3.29 pH
Above average rainfall in the Swartland, this was the last vintage where the Mullineux’s owned none of their own vineyards. The nose is quite sappy and herbal with notes of fynbos, dried mint leaf, green apple, piquant almond skins and dusty chalky notes. Palate shows great tension, focus and a deep core of glycerol yellow orchard fruit weight. Creamy yet fresh, crystalline and taut with out being too fat. Very youthful but in a slightly awkward phase at the moment. Leave in the cellar!

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2014 (73% Chenin Blanc, 13% Clairette Blanche, 10% Viognier, 4% Semillon Gris)

13.5% Abv, 2.7 RS, 5.6 TA, 3.5 pH
A big ripe opulent wine loaded with peach purée, honey, white toast and crushed gravel minerality. Plenty of aromatic gusto and power leading to a palate that equally shows impressive power and depth all in a subtly restrained framework of elegance and harmony. Peaches and creamy, lemon pastille, peach bon bons and a harmonious, mellow intense finish. Super young and backward, texturally very fine, but needs more time to blossom. A real classic and one of Andrea’s personal favourites.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2015 (74% Chenin Blanc, 12% Clairette Blanche, 6% Viognier, 4% Semillon Gris, 4% Grenache Blanc)

14% Abv, 2.2 RS, 5.2 TA, 3.30pH
After a wet 2014, this year saw around half of the annual rainfall with most falling in winter and almost none in summer months. Yields were naturally low and some fruit was dropped. The wine shows great textural intensity and concentration but also fine freshness and power. The nose is full of white blossom, pineapple pastille, citrus rock candy and creamy lemon biscuits. The palate follows the nose showing massive intensity, huge peachy concentration and a long crystalline finish. Young and bold, bury this in your cellar for 5 to 8+ years.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2016 (62% Chenin Blanc, 15% Grenache Blanc, 11% Viognier, 8% Clairette Blanche, 4% Semillon Gris)

13% Abv, 2.5 RS, 5.1 TA, 3.31 pH
Very dusty and chalky with notes of dry bush veld and fynbos, sweet botanical herbs and a savoury, peachy, earthy bruised orchard fruit complexing note. Palate is taut and tight, showing impressive tension and precision, a delicious orange peel and honeysuckle note and a superbly long, concentrated finish that shows the intensity of a drought year but also the precision of expert winemaking using fruit from great terroirs. Delicious now but certainly a keeper.

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

Mullineux Old Vine White 2017 (65% Chenin Blanc, 13% Grenache Blanc, 10% Clairette, 10% Viognier, 2% Semillon Gris)

13.5 Abv. 2.1 RS, 5.6 TA, 3.46 pH
Second year of drought with 280mm rain and slightly more than 2016 with some falling in January to help the vines recuperate as they neared harvest time. Following in the vein of the larger more complex blend, the wine shows massive aromatic complexity unfurling layers of dusty white peach, dried herbs, citrus blossom, honey, yellow fruits and a pronounced liquid mineral intensity. The palate shows spectacular focus and precision, pin point textural harmony and balance where the wine slips off the tongue leaving a powerful, unctuous, long, concentrated imprint on the senses. Super interplay between fruit intensity, acid freshness and liquid minerality with intelligent winemaking drawing the best out of these great Swartland terroirs. A very very impressive wine indeed. Another one for the cellar!

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

Mullineux Radicales Libres White blend 2012, WO Swartland, 14.5 Abv.

(76% Chenin Blanc, 16% Clairette Blanche, 8% Viognier) Deliciously alluring nose showing incredible richness and high tone complexity. Super exotic with notes of peach tea, vanilla pod spice, lemon biscuits, orange blossom pastille, dried yellow peaches and subtle hints of barley sugar. The palate reveals incredible richness and fruit concentration where you really feel the power of the wine amplified by the process of extended, oxidative barrel ageing. There is cedar spice, creamy vanilla wood tannins but also such incredible length that the palate gives the illusion of an addition of dollop of straw, ginger, grapefruit and candied fig. Incredible expression. Drink now to 2040+. Another unicorn wine from the Mullineux’s and one of my Top 10 SA Whites of 2018.

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

Many thanks to Berry Bros and Rudd for hosting this fascinating tasting in their St James’s Cellars. Mullineux Wines available to the trade in the UK through Fields, Morris & Verdin.

Vilafonte Blazing an Impressive Quality Trail with Their Seriously Old Dirt Second Wine – Their 2015 and New Release 2016 Reviewed…

I have been following Vilafonte’s Seriously Old Dirt releases quite closely since I first quaffed a few sneaky “members only” 2012 maiden release bottles with Mike Ratcliffe back in 2014 in Stellenbosch. But as a proper, true second wine of Vilafonte Series C and M, Seriously Old Dirt is a cuvee that has increased in quality in parallel to the amazing Vilafonte first wine releases.

But of course, everyone likes a fine wine bargain and everyone likes a plush, elegant premium wine with engineered structural accessibility while retaining age worthy credentials. So on the eve of the 2016 Vilafonte Series M release, I took the opportunity to re-examine not only the epic 2015 Seriously Old Dirt release but also taste the 2016 vintage for the first time. I was suitably impressed on many levels!

Vilafonte Seriously Old Dirt 2015,  WO Paarl, 13.5 Abv.

With more than a decade of vintages and a wealth of critical accolades and 90+ point ratings, Vilafonté has become a benchmark for South African Bordeaux blends. In 2012 they introduced a limited-production 2nd label – Seriously Old Dirt – that was initially only made availble to their private mailing list of international wine club members. Roll on three years and the epic 2015 follows on where the confident and solid 2014 (92/100 Greg Sherwood MW) left off. A wonderfully dense polished wine that is rich and full-bodied with complex aromas of pure black currant, black cherries, balsamic and fruitcake, lifted with Christmasy aromas of freshly cut cedar, nutmeg and all spice. The palate is impressively elegant and soft on entry with a ‘light on its feet’ texture but also a supremely concentrated, luscious mouth feel framed by a vibrant, fresh acidity that adds to the premium feel and expressiveness of this wine. Made in a proper second wine production model, this vintage is dead serious but can be approached and drunk now but will undoubtedly age beautifully for a decade and a half plus.

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

 

Vilafonte Seriously Old Dirt 2016, WO Paarl, 13.6 Abv.

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 76%, Merlot 13% and Malbec 11%. A deep purple black plum robe is cast by this new release Bordeaux blend. The nose is aromatically very complex and expressive, slowly unfurling layers of sweet fragrant black currant, blueberry compote, sweet pithy black cherries and alluring notes of sweet tobacco, wet autumn leaves, violets and dried mint leaf. Beautifully modern and incredibly precise, this medium bodied red blend observes the signature light touch accessibility of a genuinely premium second wine while teasing the palate with tremendous intensity of Cabernet-led creme de cassis, black currant pastille fruits, fruitcake, macerated damson plums and sun raisined black cherries. The flavours gently build in the mouth making you more and more aware of not only the persistent intensity of fruit but also the vibrant chiselled acids and chalky, powdery tannins. This is probably the most impressively assembled Bordeaux blend yet produced under the Seriously Old Dirt label and mirrors the incredible quality ascent witnessed in both the Vilafonte Series C and M 2016 releases. A really fabulous cuvee that imparts a lasting feel of grandeur and pleasure to the drinker. Like all previous releases, this is ready to go now but will age gracefully for at least 10 to 15+ years. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 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)

The Fine Wine Safari – 2018 in Pictures : Part 1…

What a fabulous year 2018 was for wine. Some excellent vintages were put to bed, plenty of energy and enthusiasm was shared by global winemakers and overall, there seemed to be a growing appreciation for interesting wines from all regions of the world, not just from the classics.

What ever 2019 throws at us, I think it is safe to say that those who are prepared to join the journey and immerse themselves into the wonderful and intriguing world of fine wine, they will come out the other side socially, intellectually and experientially greatly enriched.

 

Beginning the year with the annual Romanee Conti new vintage release with Aubert de Villane and his amazing, possibly best ever, 2015 vintages.

A new recruit to the Handford Oyster Club… the multi-talented Peter Allan Finlayson.

Tasting a sample of Meerlust Rubicon 2015 with owner Hannes Myburgh in London. The greatest release yet!?

Samantha O’Keefe from Lismore Winery in Greyton, Western Cape, making some exceptionally exciting wines in an off the beaten track area of outstanding beauty.

One of the high lights of the year for me was a fabulous wine dinner at my rugby club London Welsh where I help coach, with the great Sir Gareth Edwards who scored THAT TRY for the Barbarians in 1973!

A real behind the scenes operator and all round great wine maker, Luis Seabra, making his own Xisto Cru wines and also consulting to great names like Suertes del Marques in Tenerife.

Rajat Parr over in London again showing off his fabulous Evening Land wines from Oregon. But his Sandhi whites from Santa Barbara County are also to die for!

Meeting up with Vassaltis Winery owner Yiannis Valambous for a Greek wine extravaganza lunch. His wines from Santorini are among the very best on the island.

Recently described as the “Clarke Gabel and Vivian Leigh” of the South African wine scene, also two of my favourite people anywhere… Olive and Anthony Hamilton-Russell from the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley winery.

An epic catch up at one of my favourite London Michelin Star restaurants, La Trompette, with Anthony, Olive and Neal Martin from Vinous.com

The legend, the maestro, Steven Spurrier … if anyone deserves a knighthood on the honours list, this is the chap! Tasting Burgundy En-primeur 2016.

One of my favourite rising talents in the world of wine communications, education and media… Amelia Singer. Catch her at http://www.Amelias-wine.com

It’s not just the South African wine makers setting the South African social scene on fire. Bertus and Marelise Basson making incredible food to accompany the fine wine. A lovely catch up at Spek & Bone in Stellenbosch.

One of the greats of the South African wine industry, Ian Naude now solo as of 2018 and making some of the most stimulating and profound old vine whites and reds in South Africa.

Friendships forged through wine… Donovan Rall, Ian Naude and Bruwer Raats. Some of South Africa’s greatest talents.

No one is making greater wines in the Swartland or South Africa than this dynamic duo… Andrea and Chris Mullineux. Perennial Winery of the Year winners.

The hottest talent to hit the headlines internationally in 2018… the incredibly talented Lukas van Loggerenberg. Track his eponymous wines down!

My fellow MW class mate, Bordeaux marathon 2014 team mate and now Decanter Man of the Year 2018… Eduardo Chadwick.

Bordeaux En-primeur fires the starting gun for the new South African fine wine fund managed by financial wizard, the highly talented Ken Kinsey-Quick. Tasting the Chateau Le Pin 2017 with Jacques Thienpont and son in April 2018.

Chateau Lafleur winemaker Omri Ram presenting an outstanding tasting and lunch in London’s St James’s.

Always a privilege to judge South African wines with Fiona McDonald … the Decanter South African panel chair.

An incredible flying visit and marathon tasting with JC Martin at Creation Winery in the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. Some of South Africa’s finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines!

Tasting the 2017 Port component parts in London with the legend of Portuguese wines and Ports, Dirk Niepoort.

One of my favourite tastings of the year with Allegra Antinori tasting a vertical of one of my favourite white wines in Italy, Cervaro della Sala from Umbria.

Tasting the new Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2007 at the London launch with the new Taittinger maitre de chais Alexandre Ponnavoy and the irrepressible fine wine aficionado Gareth Birchley, now ex-BBR and taking up the buying reins at Burns & German fine wine merchants in Chelsea in 2019.

A very proud moment in 2018 seeing South African artist William Kentridge being selected to design the Vendemmia d’Artista label for Ornellaia 2015. Tasting here with Ornellaia wine maker Axel Heinz and Steven Spurrier at the V&A for the launch.

More great friendships forged through wine. Tasting at Duncan Savage’s new urban winery with Ian Naude and bubbly producer extraordinaire Paul Gerber from LeLude in Franschhoek.

A highlight of the year, visiting Raffaele Pagano at Joaquin Winery in Campania to taste his iconic wines. Unquestionably one of the best kept fine wine secrets of Italy!

Celebrating a triumphant year of success for Meerlust with Hannes Myburgh, viticulturalist Roelie Joubert and wine maker Chris Williams.

Another epic visit to Montalcino to taste the barrel samples of Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino with owner Vincenzo Abbruzzese together with his son and his UK importer Masi Jacobacci. Truly epic age worthy wines.

After 11 years of carrying the mantle of being the 4th and last South African to pass the rigorous Master of Wine exams, in 2018 I finally passed the baton on to London based South African Cassidy Dart MW who became the 5th South African MW to pass since the institute started in 1953. Seen here celebrating with guest appearances by Chris Mullineux and wine journalist Angela Lloyd at Michelin Star Trinity restaurant in Clapham, London.

Another day, another epic tasting. This time a sweet Chenin Blanc tasting of the wines of Moulin Touchais back to 1947… with the current export manager Frederic, Chris Mullineux and Roger Jones.

Another real highlight for me was attending a Masterclass with these two Californian legends of Chardonnay… Jim Clendenen and David Ramey. Incredible benchmark wines from both these wineries.

Happy faces all round after another incredibly successful Old Vines Project Tasting In London at High Timber restaurant with Andre Morgenthal and IWC Wine Personality of the Year 2018, Rosa Kruger. Two people doing such important work to save South Africa’s old vine heritage.

One of the beneficiaries of the work of Rosa Kruger and the Old Vine Project… Chris Alheit, who probably produced the unanimous South African white wine of the year with his lieu dits Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017 from old Skurfberg vines sourced by Rosa Kruger.

A rare relaxed lunch with my favourite Bloemfontein gal in London. High Timber restauranteur Neleen Strauss joined our South African wine lunch with Keith Prothero at La Trompette restaurant for a day of fine wine. Neleen is another unsung champion of South Africa’s fine wines in London.

Watch out for the Fine Wine Safari year in Pictures part 2…. coming soon!

The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable “Off-Piste” Red Wines of the Year 2018…

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Red Wines of the Year was a modest attempt to illustrate South Africa’s finest benchmark wines and styles for all to see and to give international collectors and drinkers a handful of names and labels to look out for. However, one of the absolute cornerstones of the recent global success of the South African wine category has been its incredible diversity and in many cases it’s inspired eccentricity combined with outright quality.

So in an attempt to show the more experimental and alternative “off-piste” face of South African wine, I have enjoyed compiling my Top 10 list of most memorable reds, truly outstanding wines produced by producers that do not necessarily aspire to 100 point ratings or mass market appeal. Nevertheless, these wines are all more than worthy of a slot in your cellar!

Sadie Family Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2017, Swartland

Franco Lourens Howard John Red Blend 2017, WO Western Cape

David & Nadia Pinotage 2017, Swartland

Fram Grenache Gris 2017, Swartland

Kleine Zalze Amphora Grenache 2017

Craven Wines Cinsault 2017, Stellenbosch

Restless River Wanderlust Grenache 2017, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Scions of Sinai Feniks Pinotage 2017, Stellenbosch

Sutherland Petit Verdot Reserve 2015, Elgin

Welbedacht Estate Patriot Cape Blend 2014, Wellington