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.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Chris Alheit is probably one of the hardest working winemakers in South Africa and, rightly so, one of the most successful too. After recovering from his mid-life crisis speed wobble a few years ago when he threatened to terminate the Cartology project, Chris has knuckled down to refocus on not only the quality of his sought-after single vineyard wines but has also continued to increase the quality of his mega-brand Cartology.
So with everything on his plate, Chris of course decided to create yet another SKU in his portfolio, this time a young bush vine Chenin Blanc at a slightly more accessible price point. Certainly not another Flotsam & Jetsam revival brand… the grapes for this new edition come from two young blocks in Stellenbosch, 70% from Polkadraai Hills and 30% from the Upper Blaauwklippen Valley. The juice was spontaneously fermented and matured in used oak barrels before bottling.
Alheit Family Wines Hereafter Here Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.
This is definitely an exciting Chenin Blanc and initially on opening showed some of the opulent, fruity, fleshy exuberance that I remember tasting on the very first Cartology 2011. The aromatics are loaded with ripe pear, quince, peach, apple purée and hints of melted honey on warm white toast with sweet dried herb nuances. The palate is tangy and bright with a fleshy mouthfeel, a creamy rich texture that shows an impressively savoury yellow orchard fruit concentration with deliciously fresh acids that lend structure and balance. This is an impressive debut for this new young vine cuvee from Chris Alheit. Drink now to enjoy its youthful opulence and over the next 3 to 6+ years. (9,036 bottles produced)
2019 represents the first post-drought Series M vintage to be released by the team at the Vilafonte winery in Paarl and the vintage clearly illustrates what is possible when nature decides to co-operate to yield some exceptional raw materials. According to winemaker Chris de Vries, the vintage was really a tale of two seasons. While rains initially remained elusive, there was an upswing in rainfall towards the end of the 2018 winter and continuing into spring and early summer.
Weather fluctuations in the spring did however result in uneven bud-break and berry set. Conditions improved somewhat at the onset of summer with a warmer November being very conducive to healthy vineyard growth. Some uneven ripening was remedied with in-bunch sorting after veraison and by the time harvest arrived at the beginning of February, the fruit quality was looking exceptional.
The Series M 2019 is a blend of 48% Malbec, 34% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc which was aged for 22 months in 22 percent new French oak barriques with the balance in a mixture of older French oak barrels. 51 barrels were produced.
Vilafonte Series M 2019, WO Paarl, 14% Abv.
This excellent vintage has yielded a truly impressive wine for the Vilafonte team displaying a brilliant and intense ruby and red plum hue. The aromatics are expansive and hedonistic sending notes of violets and crushed red cherries, raspberries and pressed rose petals soaring out the glass with confidence and vigour. Fabulously complex and intricate, attractive notes of wild berries and red currant follow to the dense, full bodied palate that boasts a broad seductive array of black liquorice and black plum, cocoa powder and brown toast crust nuances. The Malbec and Merlot are like a marriage made in heaven, offering svelte supple tannins and a texture that wraps its arms around you in the most comforting embrace. With time in the glass, the full fleshy palate shows further layers of baked plums, blue berries and red cherries all underpinned by fresh vital acids. This is most definitely one of the most powerful, potent and heady wines produced in the Series M range to date displaying an impressively ample fine wine self-confident personality. Drink this wine in its youth or cellar for 20+ years.
The Tesselaarsdal wine brand was founded in 2015 by long-standing Hamilton Russell Vineyards employee Berene Sauls and was named after the historic Overberg farming hamlet of Tesselaarsdal, which lies inland from the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge wine appellation where Berene sources all her grapes.
The maiden release of the Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay was only the 2019 and already within three vintages, Berene has managed to fine tune the style of this wine to show the best of a very fine, cool vintage in 2021. Extreme care is taken to ensure that this small-production classically Old World-styled Chardonnay expresses the terroir of the cool maritime Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge fruit sourced from un-irrigated vines grown at elevation on stony clay and iron-rich soils.
Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay 2021, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13% Abv.
This is a supremely elegant, taut mineral expression of cool climate Chardonnay with classically restrained aromatics of green pear, Granny Smith apple, crushed gravel, dried green herbs and hints of white citrus and tangerine peel. Like the subtle aromatics, the palate shows incredible tension and vibrancy but again without overt obvious opulence. This wine is a masterclass in elegance and restraint showing a cool, lean, crystalline palate built around minerality, electric acids, and a lean old world elegance. This is undoubtedly next level quality and intensity for the Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay. Drink this taut focused effort now and over the next 8+ years. Really impressive.
Cousins Danie and Hugo are 5th generation growers with prime vineyards in the Swartland, Devon Valley and the very exciting Polkadraai ward in Stellenbosch. Great wine is made in the vineyards and they supply a roll-call of exceptional producers – names like Alheit Vineyards, Crystallum, Raats Family Wines, Thorne & Daughters, Mulderbosch and LeRiche to name but a few. Embodying the drive of the new generation Hugo and Danie decided not only to sell grapes but to make some wine too. So started Carinus Family Wines using a selection of grapes from their extensive vineyard plantings to focus on producing some high quality reds and whites that offer excellent value for money.
The 2020 Polkadraai Hills Chenin Blanc is already their third release. After whole bunch pressing the juice was moved to concrete eggs for fermentation and ageing which took ten months. The granitic soils and total absence of oak has created a pure but punchy wine with an attractive “nakedness” on display with a perfect balance of pH (3.14) and acidity (6.6g/l) that should allow this wine to develop further beneficial complexity with additional ageing in bottle.
Carinus Family Wines Polkadraai Heuwels Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Polkadraai Hills
An attractive Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc that displays a wonderfully cool, sleek, mineral laden aromatics flushed with stony gravel notes, fynbos, crunchy green pear, white peach and subtle salty citrus zest nuances. On the palate, a lovely full texture marries restrained elegance with a glycerol liquid minerality, lime zest and quince nuances and a long, stony wet river pebble finish. Concrete egg Chenin Blanc has never been more sexy! Drink on release and over 6 to 8+ years.
The rugby community around the world is one of the most tight-knit sporting bodies in existence, with clubs, provinces and nations eternally bound together in the camaraderie of battle on the rugby pitch. So it is no surprise that ex-Springbok rugby legend Schalk Burger Senior stepped up once again to offer to produce a premium wine for the Richmond Heavies of West London Rugby club, Richmond RFC.
The Richmond Heavies were formed in the 1971-72 season and have remained an integral part of the Richmond Rugby Club in West London ever since with a well-earned reputation as a very strong playing side and an even better touring side. As a celebration of their 50th anniversary, a specially crafted red wine was conceived and created that would represent an appropriate tribute. Drawing on the decades of wine experience of Schalk Burger’s Welbedacht Estate in Wellington, Western Cape, this classical Bordeaux blend is the inaugural choice for the Richmond Heavies eponymous label.
With sadly several unexpected fatalities across playing age groups in recent years, the sales of The 1861 Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot will look to raise extra funds to provide much needed medical services at the club. But the crowning glory of this charitable project is that it is based around the sales of a genuinely premium fine wine that will appeal to collectors and connoisseurs alike. Another superb wine for another worthy rugby cause.
Welbedacht Estate The 1861 Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot 2018, WO Wellington, 14% Abv.
This classic 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot Cape Bordeaux blend displays a gorgeously spicy aromatics of black currant leaf, black cherry, freshly cut cedar, burnt matchstick and graphite spice with undertones of fresh tobacco leaf and black plum compote. The palate is intense but sumptuous, beautifully seamless, boasting a cool and creamy black berry, cassis fruited demeanour with plenty of textural precision, a tight knit focus, layers of pithy black cherry and a delicate but detailed, voluminous mocha-tinged mouthful on the finish. Pure, long and suitably fresh, this delicious red blend is another class act from the Welbedacht Estate of ex-Springbok rugby player Schalk Burger Snr. Enjoy this wine now and over the next 5 to 8+ years.
What a whirlwind couple of years it has been for young talent Sakkie Mouton. With his maiden single barrel of Revenge of the Crayfish 2018 sold out practically before it was even released, all eyes turned to his follow up 2019 Chenin Blanc that just about managed to hit several export markets before the pandemic lockdowns descended. However, 2020 saw not only Sakkie’s third release of his Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc but also the new Full On Misfit Blanc, which, in 2020 was based mostly around a solid chunk of 56% Chenel (the Chenin Blanc x Ugni Blanc cross) and a 24% component of Colombard.
I would say that the two lost years of the pandemic have resulted in Sakkie’s wines becoming even more sought after as he has taken this opportunity to focus on fine tuning his winemaking style while experimenting with new varieties such as Colombard and Vermentino. In reality, Sakkie’s wines are almost impossible to get your hands on at the best of times, pandemic or no pandemic! So on my first trip back to South Africa’s winelands since February 2020, I caught up with Sakkie up the West Coast over lunch at Wolfgat Restaurant, recently voted the best restaurant in the world, to try some of his exciting new releases.
The Full On Misfit Blanc 2021 is a white blend of four different areas around the North Western Coast of the Western Cape. Each of these areas are located in close proximity to the cold Atlantic Ocean and the vineyards are a mix of old vines around the West Coast starting in Vredendal, Lutzville and Koekenaap. This year the Full On Misfit is made up of 55% Colombard, 21% Chenin Blanc, 19% Palomino and 5 % Chenel. All of the grapes were picked early in the morning to preserve freshness and then foot stomped in an old basket press without the addition of any additives except for a small amount of sulphur. The grapes were naturally fermented and left to age on their gross lees for eight months prior to being bottled unfiltered and unfined. The maturation took place in a blend of 228 litre and 500 litre 4th fill and older casks.
Sakkie Mouton Family Wines Full On Misfit Blanc 2021, WO Western Cape, 12% Abv.
1.9 RS | 7.6 TA | 3.24 pH
The 2021 Full On Misfit is an incredibly well assembled wine baring all the hallmarks that have made Sakkie Mouton’s previous releases so collectable. The aromatics scream West Coast terroir with layers of salinity, sea breeze and dried kelp over more linear expressions of white peach, freshly squeezed guava, pear puree and honeydew melon nuances. The ever-present crushed granite minerality adds extra complexity and character but also ensures that the wine never becomes too overtly fruity but rather errs on the side of a leaner classical textural restraint. The palate on this young wine shows fabulous crystalline purity and freshness with yet more waves of crunchy peach fruits, maritime salinity and delicate savoury notes of Japanese nori. The finish is taut, pithy and electric with a fine glycerol mid-palate balance and attractive hints of dried orange peel, lime cordial and brine. Another delicious addition to Sakkie’s line up, but more importantly, this is a wine that signals his growing confidence and expertise expressed with a certain ‘West Coast swagger’. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8+ years.
High quality volume brands made with attention to detail are required by all wine industries around the world. Often we just expect that one or another large wine corporation will step into the breach with its branded offerings and simply supply the goods. Well, in South Africa that has not always been the case. Fortunately, times are changing and the fabric of the South African wine industry is changing, allowing new and old players to step up once again and present the world’s consumers with some quality wine brands that do the country proud.
The Roodeberg label is just one such iconic brand that rose to fame in the 1950’s and 1960’s and then icon status in the 1970s and early 1980s before mysteriously losing its way with the changing of the guard post 1994. But the Roodeberg brand is back and with each of the last few vintages, quality has been paramount. With a 90/100 point score awarded for the excellent 2019 red blend by Winemag.co.za, all eyes were always going to be on the new release 2020 to see if the consistency of quality could be maintained. I tasted the 2020 recently and was pleasantly impressed.
KWV Roodeberg Red Blend 2020, WO Western Cape
An unspecified blend of red varieties, this delicious wine looks to tick as many boxes as possible for the consumer and the expressive 2020 certainly does the trick. On the nose the fruits are rich, opulent and pure, loaded with red currant, blue berry and black currant nuances, a real triumphant berry melange that is dusted with subtle brûléed oak notes, roasted coffee beans and vanilla pod spice. The acids are sleek, integrated but fresh and vibrant in the mouth, the fruit concentration textured and expressive showing a real generosity, notable complexity but also plenty of mainstream commercial appeal. Hats off to the Roodeberg winemaking team with this effort. Drink now and over the next 6-8+ years. (Tasted from magnum)
Whether you have tasted this wine with Chris and Andrea Mullineux at their Swartland estate Roundstone or somewhere else around the world, you always get the impression that the Old Vine white holds a very special place close to their hearts perhaps because it’s a wine that encapsulates their 15 year Mullineux fine wine journey to date.
Tasted with Chris and Andrea pre-release, this is a wine that quite obviously fills them both with incredible confidence and pride, as they reflect on the long journey to reach this special point in time. While Chris still waxes lyrical about the exceptional 2010 Old Vine White, which coincidentally “won” the tasters’ top vote at the 10 year white blend vertical a few years back in London, both agree the 2021 possesses characteristics and quality traits not seen before on this specific cuvée, making it a ‘must buy’ later in 2022 on release!
Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines Old Vine White Blend 2021, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.
Bottled after 12 months, this is a very, very pretty vintage with lower yields but also beautiful fruit purity, precision and a wonderful fruit – acid balance. The aromatics are ripe, succulent and opulent showing honeysuckle, white blossom, lemon cordial, dried herbs and lovely white peach and pineapple pastille notes. Nevertheless, the stand out feature on the palate is undoubtedly the textural sophistication, harmony and chalky minerality combined with super tangy acids bursting with lemon rock candy, white peach and crystalline citrus flavours. Simply an incredible intensity with a harmoniously weightless balance combined with a long, piercing finish. This is definitely a noticeable step up on previous vintages and an incredible achievement for the Mullineuxs! Drink now to 2034+.