The Stellenbosch Hills are Alive… Tasting Reenen Borman’s Kottabos Grenache – Syrah 2016 Blend…

Hot on the heals of the super sexy single clone Syrah, Sons of Sugarland, comes another delicious red from young Reenan Borman of Boschkloof fame. This small project wine called Kottabos is a stunning blend of 87% Grenache and 13% Syrah, both sourced in Stellenbosch from the Polkadraai area. 


The grapes both had 50% whole bunch fermentation and were then aged in used oak for approximately 11 months. Only 1,760 bottles were produced. Reenen describes the Kottabos as “a project of exploration in the Stellenbosch hills, the sole purpose being to showcase what this unique terroir has to offer.”


Reenen Borman’s Kottabos Grenache – Syrah 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

Another micro-vinification offering from the beautiful hills of Stellenbosch. In the glass, this wine has the alluring colour of young red Burgundy and shows a crystalline, translucent ruby glow. The nose offers up incredible perfume lift of cherry bon bons, blood oranges, rose petals, parma violets, pomegranate and subtle cedary, boxwood, marzipan spice. Notes of black pepper and earthy bramble berry sappy spice develop with time in the glass. The palate is very fine boned, precise, and light on its feet with an almost Pinot Noir elegance and finesse, framed beautifully by crunchy, sappy, tart cranberry acids and subtle, fine powdery tannins. The wine is so effortless, brimming full of energy, and really shows off Reenen Borman’s extensive winemaking expertise. Drink this wine now or over 3 to 8 years as it develops more forest floor and savoury bramble berry spice nuances.

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


The Making of An Icon Wine ~ Tasting Patatsfontein 2016 Chenin Blanc…

I probably discovered this gem a little late in the day to properly appreciate the 2014 maiden vintage of Patatsfontein Chenin Blanc, only getting to drink the odd bottle or two with local South African winemakers. But the cat was out the bag, and I subsequently made sure I received a good chunk of the fabulous 2015, which is reviewed here:


https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2017/01/15/chenin-blanc-south-africas-new-international-calling-card/

The 2015 vintage yielded some fantastic, iconic wines, but during my visit in March 2017, I managed to taste many of the 2016s, and was so impressed with the top expressions from this tricky, drought stricken vintage. Many were picked earlier to retain acidity, but displayed massive concentration due to dramatically lower yields. A thoroughly collectable vintage indeed. 


Patatsfontein Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2016, Montagu, 13.5 Abv.

The 2016 was fermented with natural yeasts and aged in a mixture of old oak barrels of various sizes for approximately 10 months. It has a most precise, piercing nose of stoney yellow fruits, bruised yellow peaches, saline briney white citrus, pithy tangerine peel and all the hallmark Patatsfontein aromatics of waxy yellow apples, potpourri and exotic curry leaf incense notes. Very seductive, alluring, confident wine. The palate is even more concentrated and structured than the 2015, no easy feat in itself, proving yet again what great pedigree this wine has. The finish shows great energy, fine purity, and impressive, creamy textural length. It seems young Reenen Borman can do no wrong. Congratulations. Drink now to 2030+.

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


You can’t hold greatness back, and while the Patatsfontein is one of the most sought after Chenin Blanc whites in South Africa, the European market has yet to truly wake up to the exceptional quality of this wine. Sadly, when they do (which they will), we’ll all struggle to get even the current allocations we currently do due to its tiny single vineyard production. But the success will have been well earned and well deserved. 

The Exuberance of Fresh Youthful Chenin Blanc – The Perfect Everday White?

I recently got back from another short trip to South Africa and while I was there, I looked to try and taste as many 2017 new release young whites as possible. Coming to market only a few months after harvest, I’m always intrigued by how quickly producers can release a new wine in bottle. 
Young Sauvignon Blancs are going to be fresh, unoaked, and normally quite primary, perhaps even a tad boring and predictable. But young, fresh Chenin Blanc holds a lot more potential interest for consumers.


The Steytler family has been producing wine on the Kaapzicht Estate in Stellenbosch since 1946 and have always been acknowledged for producing outstanding Chenin Blanc, including their famous 1947 Chenin Blanc Old Vine white which I also tried again recently at the Old Vine Project tasting in London.


Kaapzicht Estate Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch WO, South Africa, 13 Abv.

The 2017 vintage was another of the drought years in the Cape, but this little Kaapzicht white shows impressive freshness, zip and zest. The palate is multi-dimensional with crunchy green apple, pithy aromatic phenolic spice, white peach, cream soda and dusty cut grass complexity. On the palate the wine really comes alive, showing taught zippy acids, crunchy green gauge fruits, Granny Smith apples, lime zest and a subtle honey dew melon fleshy sweetness on the finish. Fine acid cut and frame, this wine typifies well made Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc at an affordable, everyday price point. With the strength of the Euro, you won’t easily find a quality Loire domaine produced Chenin Blanc this pure and precise for the same money, highlighting yet another top trump in South Africa’s hand. Drink and enjoy this wine’s delicious vibrancy now and over the next 2 to 3 years. 

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Tasting Bouchard Finlayson’s Intriguing Limited Release Kaaimansgat Chardonnay… 

The Kaaimansgat or Crocodile’s Lair vineyard is hidden away in the Elands Kloof Valley behind the village of Villiersdorp, just 80km from Hermanus. A beautiful spot inside a blind valley nestling amongst majestic Cape mountains. 


Bouchard Finlayson has been linked directly to this vineyard for close to twenty-four years. It is located 700m above sea level, ripens a month later than other Cape Chardonnays and benefits enormously from cool autumn temperatures. The vines are not irrigated and they usually produce smaller than normal berries with a high skin to juice ratio, adding an extra flavour component to the wine.


The 2014 vintage commenced on the 12th of February, much later than normal, after a long and possibly the wettest summer on record with 610mm of rainfall recorded from October to March. This atypical vintage initiated a keen sense of urgency from both vineyard and cellar staff. Peter Finlayson’s experience and attention to detail ensured a successful harvest and an excellent vintage for the estate’s white wine.


The optimally ripened grapes were whole bunch pressed to utilise the added complexity derived from the skins and stalks. The acid component of the fruit assisted in arriving at high malic acid levels that enhance the wood maturation according to Peter. The point of departure for this particular “Limited Edition” cuvee was the fact that 50% of the wine was matured in premium new French oak while  the remaining 50% was aged in inert stainless steel. (Alcohol: 12.48%, Acid: 5.4g/l, Residual Sugar: 1.6g/l, pH: 3.44, with only 305 x 12 cases produced.)


Bouchard Finlayson Limited Release Kaaimansgat 2014 Chardonnay, Overberg, 12.48 Abv.

The first thing that strikes you about this fascinating wine is how totally and utterly European it appears on both the nose and palate. The aromatics are both exotic and hugely restrained and classical at the same time, crossing boundaries and pushing boundaries. The nose is seductively fresh, perfumed and complex with lemon grass, grated lime peel, waxy crab apples, incense, quince jelly and bruised yellow summer orchard fruits. But simultaneously there is a real presence of minerality, wet chalk, river pebbles, and petrichor nuances. On the palate, you get hints of smokey reduction, sweet / sour yellow plums, green melon, crunchy white peaches and lime cordial. Plenty of yin and yang but at no point is there ever any discord or dissonance. There is exoticism twinned with linearity, with subtle hints of creamy butterscotch oak emerging on the elegant finish, very much in the mould of a fresh, lightly wooded premium 1er Cru Chablis. Steely, textural, and ultra cool, this is a truly spectacular expression from one of South Africa’s most premium cool climate Chardonnay regions. Drink now to 2030+

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

Footnote: Elandskloof fruit is certainly big news in winetrade circles at the moment  after the recent maiden release of the Leeu Passant Elandskloof Chardonnay 2015 from the Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. Indeed, one of Andrea Mullineux’s winemaking Eureka moments occured while drinking a bottle of Kaaimansgat 1997 Chardonnay from Bouchard Finlayson. I myself only drank my last bottle of the 1997 about 2 years ago and the memory is still very vivid, such was the incredible quality and youthfulness of that particular wine. Elandskloof fruit also notably makes it into the uber premium Capensis Chardonnay from the Jackson Family Winery joint venture with Anthony Beck. 

Another Excellent White from Reenen Borman ~ Tasting the Patatsblanc 2016…

The Patatsfontein Old Vine Chenin Blanc made by Reenen Borman has taken the South African market by storm and is now super collectable, being tightly allocated due to its high quality and small production. I first encountered the 2014 vintage while out on the town in Stellenbosch with Silvervis / Terracura winemaker Ryan Mostert and partner Samantha Suddons. I subsequently managed to secure a tiny 2015 allocation. Boy, what a wine! 


But not everyone knows about the “second wine” Patatsblanc, a superb, well priced Colomard white with around 10% of Chenin Blanc in the blend. I really loved the 2015, which I reviewed on this blog, but the 2016 represents yet another step up in quality.


Patatsblanc N Versnit Wit 2016, Montegu, Western Cape

Taught, dusty aromatics lift out the glass, suggesting impressive depth and intensity. Like the 2015, this is a ultra mineral, super focused, terroir orientated expression. The 2016 feels slightly denser, riper and more expressive than the excellent 2015 expression. This well balanced, intense white is cool and dusty, showing sweet lemon & herbs, yellow grapefruit, powdered gravel minerality, talc and dried cut grass. This wine is just that little bit more fleshy, concentrated and self assured than the 2015. Definitely a wine for people with a sophisticated, old world inclined palate. Worth searching out and buying if you love dry, mineral, slightly reductive whites made in a Chablis’esque style. 

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

Tasting the Highly Lauded Opstal Estate Carl Everson Chenin Blanc 2015…

This is not a wine or producer that I’m particularly familiar with other than seeing and hearing a lot of people raving about the wines being made by seventh generation winemaker Attie Louw at the Opstal Estate in Slanghoek, north of Stellenbosch.


The Opstal Estate Carl Everson Chenin Blanc at 14 Abv, is Attie’s interpretation of how he sees his pure expression of Old Vine Chenin Blanc represented. Made from fruit sourced from a single vineyard planted in 1981, the grapes were fermented in old French oak for a slow, extended 8 months in barrel due to a slightly nutrient deficient must. This is definitely an ambitious wine.


The colour is a noticeably dark straw, lemon yellow suggesting power, ripeness and weight. There is indeed a rich, exotic sweetness on the nose reminiscent of Madagascan vanilla pod, creme brûlée and a panna cotta opulence mixed with dried mango strips, passion fruit, tangerine peel, and caramelised apples. But you’d be wrong to mistake this wine as being rich and monotone, because the longer it sits in the glass, the more complex it becomes. Sweet bay leaf baking herbs give way to yellow grapefruit preserve and crunchy yellow peaches. Dense and textural, this wine treads a fine line with fruit richness, sweet oak and bruleed length without ever being vulgar, over blown or excessive. In a riper vintage, who knows, but this beautiful 2015 picked earlier in a drought year, retains sufficient acidity and displays fantastic balance and intensity. The wine tightens up impressively on the finish and displays more overt minerality with spicy ginger and lemon herb complexity. A lot to think about and a lot to digest with this profound expression of Chenin. Best to make space in your diary! Drink now to 2028+

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

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.