Stark – Condé’s Pedigree Shines Brightly With Their Exceptional Three Pines Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon…

Stark-Condé Wines was launched in Stellenbosch in 1998 by Hans and Midori Schroder with a focus on producing hand-crafted premium wines. Located in the picturesque and ever so dramatic Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch, it is a site with steep changes in vineyard elevation ranging from 150 to 600 metres making for a range of terroirs with distinct characteristics. At Stark-Condé they stick to traditional winemaking methods using open tank fermentation, meticulous sorting of grapes, hand-punch downs, basket pressing and maturation in small French oak barrels.

The 2017 vintage was a warm and dry growing season resulting in wines that were intensely aromatic and admirably elegant and harmonious with suave velvety tannins and a weightless concentration of fruit. If the wines age as well as some people expect they will, tasting the 2017s alongside the block buster 2015s in 10, 15 or 20 years’ time will undoubtedly prove to be a very popular exercise.

Stark – Condé Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

The grapes for this vibrant single vineyard wine were hand-picked, sorted, basket pressed and then fermented in small batches before being matured in small French oak barrels for 20 months. The wine was bottled without fining or filtration. The aromatics are piquant, spicy and thoroughly enticing with hints of fragrant black berry confit on slightly burnt brown breakfast toast supported by emerging notes of bruleed coffee beans, inky iodine, sweet cherry tobacco, cola, salty cassis and a pronounced under vein of graphite. The palate is super elegant from start to finish, suave, supple and impressively harmonious with a fine textural breadth and depth of black and blueberry saline fruits, soft, sleek silky tannins and all the tell-tale weightless concentration that has come to define this vintage’s greatest red wines. Seamless, precise and incredibly well made, this is sultry, seductive Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon at its best. Drink now or cellar for 12+ years. (8,175 bottles produced.)

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

Glen Carlou Vineyards Pushing Boundries with Their New Collection Range – Tasting the New Release Tannat 2018…

Over recent years, many South African wineries have put more and more time and effort into not only seeking out more ideal terroirs for the mainstream premium grape varieties already dominant on local and international markets but also into experimenting with new and more exotic red and white varieties in an effort to mitigate for future wine market changes as well as possible climate change influences.

Glen Carlou Vineyards with their 145 hectares located in the Simonsberg-Paarl region is one such winery. After being owned for many years by the Swiss Hess Collection, Glen Carlou was brought back into local ownership in 2016 when it was purchased by a South African family consortium. Since then, significant investment has been put into a vineyard replanting programme to secure the future of this respected wine brand. Over the past two years, Glen Carlou has released several interesting “Collection Wines” including Verdelho, Chenin Blanc, Petite Syrah Malbec and Grenache Noir. The latest of these releases is an exciting Tannat red wine made from grapes grown on a 0.6 hectare plot located on the highest point of their estate. The 15 year old block is planted on primarily Tukulu and Vilafonte soils using SO4 rootstocks and clone TT401B.

Cellarmaster Johnnie Calitz and assistant winemaker Phillip Theron have primarily used the wine produced in the past for blending but 2018 sees a single variety Tannat added to the Collection Range. The grapes were fermented in a small single lot and handled with minimal intervention. The wine spent 24 months in second fill French oak barrels being left on its fine lees with no racking or movement during maturation. The 2018 Tannat was recently awarded the 2020 Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year award.

The Glen Carlou Collection Tannat 2018, WO Simonsberg-Paarl, 14.5% Abv.

RS 4.7 g/l | TA 5.9 g/l | pH 3.46

This is a wonderfully intriguing red wine. Tasted from a Zalto Bordeaux glass, the aromatics are lifted, rich and expressive with sappy layered notes of leafy black plums, macerated black berries, piquant black cocoa chocolate and notes of freshly cut hedgerow. On the palate there is a dense, voluptuous, exotic creamy texture with seductive notes of blueberries in melted chocolate, black cherries macerated in sweet liquor with fine glassy framing tangy acids and robust sandy mineral tannins that add sufficient grip but aren’t particularly drying as the palate fruit weight lubricates all the extremities of the mouth. A slightly eccentric wine that challenges and titillates the palate in equal measure. If you have never drunk a French or Uruguayan Tannat, this is certainly a fine introduction to the grape albeit with African styling. This looks a good bet for another 6 to 8+ years in the cellar but also perfect to start drinking now. (900 bottles produced.)

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

Taaibosch Crescendo 2018 – Recreating a Legendary Stellenbosch Wine…

It must surely be one of the most captivating stories to emerge from the Cape winelands in the past decade – the resurrection of one of South Africa’s most famous wines, the Cordoba Crescendo Cape Bordeaux Blend originally made famous by talented wine maker Chris Keet in the mid to late 1990s. For many, drinking a bottle of Crescendo 1995 ranked as one of the pinnacles of local fine wine experiences and then all of a sudden… the winery disappeared.

I started filling my cellar in South Africa in the mid to late 1990s and was fortunate enough to purchases a number of cases of the Cordoba Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and of course the Crescendo from vintages in 1995, 1996 and 1997. While I did drink and enjoy a majority of the bottles, a number of them were left to mature in my cellar. I certainly had no idea what became of the famous Helderberg estate and what the reasons were for its demise, but when the Oddo family who also have wine ventures in Sancerre, Provence, and Sicily, purchased the famous winery in 2017 and recruited cellar master Schalk-Willem Joubert of Rupert & Rothschild fame to oversee proceedings, the scene looked set for the resumption of quality winemaking.

The first new 2018 release from the estate was launched in South Africa under the Taaibosch Crescendo label earlier this year. As I understand it, the owners are not in a position to use the original Cordoba name anymore and thus moved to the Taaibosch title. All grapes on the estate were hand-picked and once received in the cellar, the grapes were gently transferred by means of gravity to both stainless steel and cement vessels for fermentation. A period of cold soaking followed which enabled a rich extraction of colour, aromas and flavours. Extended maceration followed at the conclusion of fermentation, which assists in providing the wine with a soft texture, increased colour intensity and complexity.

The soil of the Helderberg region is fertile and mostly homogenous across the region. It consists predominantly of Table Mountain sandstone resting on Cape Granite. The soil has excellent water and nutrient holding capacity and is rich in kaolinite, iron and aluminium oxides, causing the distinct red colour, associated to the region. Taaibosch is situated on a lens of withered Malmesbury shale, setting it apart from the other vineyards in the region. The Crescendo 2018 was matured in a combination of 225 litre oak barrels, 9000 litre Foudre vessels and traditional 4500 litre cement tanks for a period of three years. These different vessels each add their own personality to the finished wine, ranging from fruity characters to subtle wood influences. All these elements were then brought together selectively to form a harmonious blend.

Taaibosch Crescendo 2018, WO Stellenbosch

pH 3.57 | RS 3.7g/l | 13.5% Abv

This wine conforms to the classically defined Crescendo blend (Cheval Blanc inspired) of 65% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon harvested from vines of 20 years of age or older. On opening in the early afternoon, the Crescendo 2018 was dense, tight and grippy with mouth coating tannins drying the front and sides of the palate. Nevertheless, the over-riding sensation was one of underlying elegance, purity of fruit and intensity sitting in the clutches of a youthful fist clench. Tasting the wine over the following 4 hours started to reveal its true pedigree which admittedly could easily have been missed on the initial pop and pour prognosis. With a little time to open its shoulders, the aromatics really start to unfurl classic notes of sweet cedary briary spice, saline inky black currant fruits, buttered brown toast, rose oil, dried violets, hints of graphite and led pencil shavings. The palate is decidedly mineral and classical with stony, textured fine grained tannins that are powerful and imposing yet ripe and supple enough to allow the layers of black and red berry fruits to slowly emerge. There is fabulous density, plenty of dry extract and concentration all pointing to a power-packed wine that is built with extended ageing in mind. In many ways, the design and texture of this wine harks back to a bygone era where immediacy and complete accessibility on release were not always the winemaker’s primary objectives. This wine has wonderful gravitas, an individual character and a real palate presence and continues to tantalise the senses right up to the very last sip that is loaded with a lovely broad blood orange acidity and mouth-watering salinity. I feel confident this wine is something really special to bury in your cellar for drinking over a good 15 to 20+ years. An impressive homage to the original Crescendo blends of the late 1990s.

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

Tasting the New Leeu Passant 2021 Releases – A Project of Grand Ambition Coming of Age…

It has to be said that when Chris and Andrea Mullineux embarked on their new Leeu Passant adventure with silent partner Analjit Singh, there were many in the industry that thought that this duo would be better off focusing on their successful eponymous Swartland project at Roundstone instead of spreading themselves a bit thin across multiple wine regions. But when you are as driven and as wine curious as Chris and Andrea, holding back on their new winemaking endeavour was never an option. Since the first vintages released from the 2015 vintage, there has certainly been a high degree of evolution and even a bit of revolution as Chris and Andrea have shaken up the establishment in both Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

But in 2021, the Leeu Passant project can finally be considered to have come of age with some of their most compelling releases yet. With a conscious effort to try and realign the vintage releases a little more after choosing to hold back the 2018 Leeu Passant Dry Red and the Basson Vineyard Old Vine Cinsault 2018, they have finally reached a point where the extra year in bottle for these extraordinary wines has allowed them to be appreciated and admired for what they truly are – exceptional winemaking creations.

I normally visit Chris and Andrea at least once a year in the Swartland and then finally fill in the remaining gaps on one of their many trips to London. I certainly miss the Swartland and walking the vineyards with Chris as he explains all the new ideas they’re perpetually putting into practice in the vineyards. But these are strange times and unfortunately I had to make do with a Zoom tasting to acquaint myself with their fabulous new wine releases.

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

Made from a single vineyard in the Helderberg where the climate probably has a bigger fingerprint than even the soils and terroir but at 400 meters plus, the maritime climate really shapes the wine with very consistent temperatures, that yield high acidities and often 9 TA – 9.5 TAs before settling at around 7 TA when all is said and done. Whole bunch pressed with oxidative must handling then to barrel for 18 months in oak without SO2. Barrels were 225L size of which around 30% were new with the rest 2/3/4/5th fill.

The 2019 Chardonnay is a very serious contender for one of the top Chardonnays produced in South Africa along with a very small handful of obsessive producers. This Stellenbosch 2019 is full of power and focus with all the hallmark purity that Andrea Mullineux prides herself in. The aromatics are reminiscent of granitic river pebbles immersed in lemon cordial with a dusting of honey, toffee apples, lemon grass and dried baking herbs. Always brilliantly pure, crystalline and electric, the palate shows tremendous tension and linearity supported by astonishing fruit concentration and intensity. The balance and harmony are spellbinding, revealing sip after sip, the true pedigree of this wonderful Helderberg vineyard site in the hands of a masterful winemaker. Undoubtedly comparable to the very best Chardonnay expressions produced by Leeu Passant to date, this 2019 seems to pack an extra level of lemon and lime intensity making it already an incredibly appealing fine wine. Give this vintage at least three years from release in your cellar and then drink over 10+.

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

Leeu Passant Wellington Old Vine Basson Cinsault 2018, WO Wellington, 13% Abv.

This treasured dry-farmed Cinsault vineyard is the oldest certified red wine vineyard in South Africa, planted in circa 1900 and farmed by the Mullineuxs since 2014. One of the original Old Vine Project “Certified Heritage Vineyards” that has been held up as a shining beacon of education and preservation, these gnarled deep rooted old Cinsault bush vines are planted on deep, weathered sandy Table Mountain sandstone alluvial soils which yield wines deceptively light in colour but also impressively structured, taut and rich. Producing as little as 600 kilograms of fruit in 2015, the plot has now been nursed back to rude health enough to yield two tons of fruit in 2019.

This vineyard always shows plenty of structure, power and focus and the 2018 vintage is considered one of the most structured yet. In its current youthful state, the aromatics are distinctively stony and mineral but also fabulously perfumed showing notes of potpourri, lavender, bramble berries, fynbos and Turkish delight. The palate is incredibly precise and foursquare with a polished structure and frame you just don’t expect from such a delicately fragrant wine. The texture is dense and tightly packed, the wine concentrated and intense but also deceptively light on its feet revealing notes of cranberry, red cherry and wild strawberries on the finish all supported by the most powdery, silky tannins imaginable. A difficult wine even for me to put accurately into words because it is so evocative on both an emotional level as well as on a sensorial level. Drink this wine from release and over the next 30+ years. (Circa 1,800 bottles produced)

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

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv

Chris and Andrea experimented with over 20 different vineyards around Stellenbosch before they started to focus on five specific vineyards including two in the Helderberg, two in the Polkadraai Hills and one 40-year-old parcel in Firgrove close to False Bay. Three of these five vineyards already contribute fruit that goes into their flagship Leeu Passant Dry Red Blend together with components of the Lotter Cinsault, the Wellington Basson Cinsault and a splash of Cabernet Franc. The wine sees only 30% new oak with some extended maceration that changes from site to site with the older Firgrove vineyard seeing the longest maceration. With vines grown on a mix of alluvial soils and decomposed granite soils, the grapes produce a sleek, crystalline, elegant style of Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon that many say harks back to the golden age of Bordeaux’s finest old Clarets. The wines are aged for 12 months before being moved to larger 2000 and 5000 litre upright oak vats for another year of aging before spending several months in bottle before release.

The aromatics are wonderfully lifted and perfumed showing all the intricacies of cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon fruit. There is an intriguing piquant leafy spice that melts into notes of liquid minerality, granitic dust and graphite while underneath the mineral veil is a powerful depth of fruit held on a very short rein lest it bursts out the glass. There are seductive notes of violets, sweet cedary spice, saline black currant, hints of iodine and fresh kelp brought in on the morning’s tide. On the palate there is plenty of textural precision on display for all to see, confidently boasting layer upon layer of stony minerality, sweet cherry tobacco, cassis leaf, black tea, tilled earth and creamy dense powdery tannins. Fabulously old school on so many levels, this wine will undoubtedly age well and develop into something that harks back to the great old Clarets of times gone by. Drink from 2024 until 2040+

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

Leeu Passant Dry Red 2018, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.

The impressive wine is formed of two old vine Cinsault blocks (Basson and Lotter), three Cabernet Sauvignon parcels and Cabernet Franc from the Helderberg. The 2018 is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 16% Cinsault (in 2018 mostly Basson and lesser amounts of the opulent Lotter), with the Basson Cinsault being whole bunch fermented. Some of the Cinsault is co-fermented with the 40+ year old Cabernet Sauvignon while the Cabernet Franc, planted in the early 1990s, if vinified separately. The Dry Red traditionally sees the components aged 12 months in 500 litre oak barrels separately before being blended and aged for another 12 months in large 2000-litre old oak foudre. The wine now also spends an extra year in bottle “because when it was released earlier, the Cinsault component seemed to dominate the style. Now with the extra 12 months in bottle it is a far more harmonious wine”, according to Chris Mullineux. Almost 10,000 bottles were produced in 2018 compared to circa 4,000 bottles in 2015, the maiden vintage.

My experience of tasting this wine has sometimes been somewhat of a challenge because in its early years, the individual components often seemed to intermittently compete with one another for aromatic and flavour dominance. The extra years ageing in bottle has been a game-changer. The wine is now so incredibly lifted and perfumed with a real melange of red currant, wild strawberry, pressed violets and vanilla pod spice bursting out the glass. There is such magnificent purity, precision and a real synergy that shines through the wine. The palate is incredibly dense, textured and luxuriously opulent, packed full of fleshy red cherry and cranberry pastille fruits, Turkish delight and red currant jelly. Perhaps it’s the vintage or perhaps it’s just the extra bottle age but this wine seems so much more complete with less obvious sapidity and spice and much more harmonious fleshy layers of red fruit and creamy, savoury tannins. This is an absolute triumph of a wine and a flagship vintage Dry Red that single-handedly announces the true ‘arrival’ of the entire Leeu Passant project. Drink this phenomenal wine on release and over the next 30+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

A New Benchmark Cap Classique from Colmant Reviewed…

Ever since bubble wizard Paul Gerber moved over from Le Lude to Colmant, everyone knew there would be fizzy fireworks to follow with some exceptional Method Cap Classique wines planned. While the standard estate Blue Label Colmant MCC remains one of my go to sparkling wines along with Graham Beck’s Blanc de Blancs, the release of the new Colmant Absolut has certainly raised some eyebrows.

The Absolu Zero Dosage NV is made from 100% Chardonnay fruit coming from Franschhoek (65%) and Robertson (35%). A portion of the base wine (15%) is fermented in French oak barrels while a further 15% of reserve wine from previous vintages is also blended in. These techniques certainly contribute to the complexity and elegance of the finished product – as does the extended time on lees, 85 months minimum – or seven years in layman’s terms.

Colmant Absolu Cap Classique Zero Dosage NV, WO Western Cape, 12% Abv.

This is a fascinating wine with all the complexity, richness and texture you’d expect from a wine aged for a phenomenal 85 months on its lees. The nose has a wonderful briney, saline lemon brioche character supported by creamy, savoury freshly baked croissants nuances together with a dusty, leesy nutty character. The palate is wonderfully detailed, fresh and pin point with a lively creamy mousse, plenty of maritime saline zip and a lovely long, lingering toasty, leesy, broche finish with a kiss of lemon pastille. This is pure class as it takes very skilful winemaking to make a MCC base wine that can age and improve over 85 months and still show incredible energy, opulence, verve and vigour when bottled. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5+ years.

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

Recommended Retail Price £45-£49 per bottle.

New Release Review – Tasting the Raats Family Wines Eden High Density Chenin Blanc 2019…

There are more than a few top Chenin Blanc wines made in South Africa that capture ones attention when new vintages are released. Indeed the list of iconic high scoring collectable whites from South African grows longer by the day. But one of these benchmark wines, year on year, comes from the Chenin King himself, Bruwer Raats.

While the Raats Family Wines Original Chenin Blanc and Raats Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc are both exceptional wines offering excellent value for money, it is undoubtedly Bruwer’s super-premium Eden High Density Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc that regularly pulls in the star ratings. A Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc vineyard planted in the late 2000’s right behind Bruwer’s house in the Polkadraai Hills, the Eden wine range was conceived with extreme precision viticulture in mind.

Bruwer Raats’s Eden Chenin Blanc Vineyard

This 0.6 hectare Eden Chenin Blanc vineyard is planted with the unique and now rare Montpellier clone that was sourced from the last remaining mother block in the Nuy Valley. Known to give very small, loose bunches, this clone eventually fell out of favour despite its ability to yield very high quality fruit.

Raats Family Winery High Density Eden Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Polkadraai Hills, 13% Abv.

2019 was an exceptional vintage for Chenin Blanc and the quality is clear for all to see on this impressive wine. The aromatics are subtle but sophisticated with delicate notes of yellow peaches, crunchy pears, wax and incense, wet thatch, oat meal and hints of dried orange peel. On the palate, the texture is taut and focused, crystalline and pure with a delicately weighted fruit concentration, vibrant tangy acids and a genteel melange of ripe peach, yellow apple and tangerine fruit zest. This is a very understated wine, an elegant but complex offering with incredible drinkability and a generous accessibility that results in the bottle being finished long before expected. Like all the very best bottles of white, this wine just somehow seems to evaporate out the glass! Drink on release or cellar for 8 to 10+ years. (Only 2,390 bottles produced.)

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

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2018 – The New Release of This South African Icon Wine Reviewed…

With so many of South Africa’s top Cape Bordeaux Blends and Cabernet Sauvignon producers stepping up to the mark to produce their best wines ever across the 2015 and 2017 vintages, 2018 was always going to be under the spotlight to see if some of the magic of these previous vintages could be applied by winemakers to the benefit of the final wines.

Certainly, the winter rainfall was higher than the previous two winters but with irregular temperatures from winter until the flowering period, together with cool growing conditions, there were inevitably some variations in ripening across the Simonsberg vineyards. However, cooler weather and regular rain showers led to less water stress for the vines during the ripening period.

Having tasted most of the top 2018 Cape Bordeaux blends now, the signature style and characteristics of the vintage are becoming clearer and clearer – Very cool, precise wines with impressively glassy acid frames, silky powdery tannins, impressive fruit intensity but without the 2015’s inky dry extract or the 2017’s weightless fruit concentration. The 2018s are very attractive wines, more classically leaning with a little less exoticism but plenty of the traditional characteristics on the aromatics and palate that have made the wines so popular with French Bordeaux collectors and connoisseurs around the world.

The grapes for the 2018 Paul Sauer were fermented in open top concrete fermenters at 29 deg C with the floating skins being punched down by hand every 2 hours during fermentation. The juice was drawn off the skins after 5 days. After malolactic fermentation the wine was matured for 24 months in 100% new 225 litre French Nevers oak barriques.

With only 7,000 cases or 42,000 bottles produced, stake your marker in the allocation queue nice and early as this iconic wine seems to sell out faster and faster every year. This of course is the reward for a proven pedigree and quality track record.

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2018, WO Simonsberg – Stellenbosch, 13.91% Abv.

2.4 g/l RS | 6.2 TA | 3.55 pH | 90 mg/l Total SO2 | 0.63 g/l VA

The 2018 Paul Sauer is a classical blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc from vines averaging 30 years of age grown on dryland vineyards of Decomposed Granite and Hutton and Clovelly soils. Vibrant and ruby / purple, the wine almost glows in the glass with inviting promise. At this youthful stage, the Cabernet Sauvignon component shines through strongly revealing a generally dark, broody, black fruited demeanour embellished with subtle notes of saline crème de cassis, star anise, lead pencil shavings, dried violets and signature nuances of freshly tilled earth, buttered brown toast and hints of breakfast espresso. In the mouth, the palate shows gorgeous elegance, purity and fruit focus with the most fine grained filigree tannins, soothingly generous black berry fruits and delicious mouth-watering acids. This wine is precision personified showing such effortless grace and harmony together with a measured power and intensity. The 2018 is certainly a very classically schooled expression that waltzes across the palate without ever putting a foot out of place. Like all truly great Bordeaux blends, this has the finesse and textural harmony to drink on release but also the intensity and gravitas to age effortlessly for 20 to 30+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Vintage and Another Iconic Cabernet Franc Release – Tasting the New Raats Eden Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2018…

No two single wines in South Africa signal a higher quality ambition than the production of the Raats Family Wines’ Eden high density red Cabernet Franc and white Chenin Blanc. Coming from a 0.2ha high density vineyard (8,000 vines per hectare) meticulously planned and planted 9 years ago by Bruwer Raats at his Polkadraai property in Stellenbosch, the grapes were fermented in tank and then aged for 9 months in new French oak followed by a further 9 months elevage in older French oak barrels.

Ever since tasting a barrel sample with Bruwer Raats back Cape Town in February 2020, I have been awaiting this impressive new wine release. It is now quite simply the leading single varietal Cabernet Franc in South Africa and continues to gain an obsessive following among collectors and connoisseurs across the globe.

In reality, the only thing holding back its even faster success and popularity is the impossibly tiny quantity of wine produced. One single barrel or 365 bottles. This is a true unicorn wine offering and certainly a fine wine that should find a happy home in any of the greatest wine cellars around the world.

Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2018, 13% Abv.

The 2018 vintage yielded another impressive expression of Cabernet Franc and who better than Bruwer Raats to perform his own kind of magic and conjure up another enchanting, seductive rendition of this iconic single vineyard wine. The nose is initially discreet and classical, leaning towards a purer, black and blue berry fruit driven expression with delicate floral notes of violets and rosemary with a youthful backing chorus of fresh brown toast, mocha, sweet tobacco, black currant and sappy cedar notes. Medium bodied but fabulously concentrated and intense, this sleek textured wine shows plenty of power with smooth mineral granitic tannins, mouth watering vitality and simply awesome persistence. This has all the finesse and pedigree you could ever want from a benchmark Cabernet Franc. Give this wine 3 to 5 years to mellow and then enjoy over another 10 to 15+.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Long Awaited Naudé Family Wines 2020 Old Vines Chenin Blanc Is Ready for Release…

Three of my favourite Chenin Blancs have come from the same producer, Ian Naude. The monolithic Coche-Dury’esque 2013 is still one of the most monumental whites that has ever been produced in South Africa while the 2015 is a slightly more classical rendition of this variety. The 2016 however was another blockbuster vintage effort and has sold incredibly quickly as Ian’s stature in the world of fine wine has continued grow incrementally over the past few years as collectors have started to pay serious attention to all his wines.

The follow-on vintage is the 2020 Chenin Blanc produced from an old vine vineyard in the Swartland planted in 1971 making it the first Chenin Blanc from Ian Naude produced from a single vineyard. The grapes were 100% whole bunch pressed and fermented naturally in stainless steel tanks for roughly 14 days with some temperature control being employed to slow the fermentation and retain more of the volatile aromas. After fermentation, the wine was transferred to old oak barrels for 6 months ageing on its lees with bâtonnage employed for the first three months.

Naudé Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 12% Abv.

1.1 g/l RS | 6.1 TA | 3.3 pH | 0.4 VA

I approached this new wine with a little trepidation as I know all too well from previous experience that Ian Naude’s wines always need a few years in bottle to settle in and really start to fan their peacock tail. Happily, this 2020 is already very impressive with wonderfully complex aromatics of crystallised pineapple chunks, bruised yellow orchard fruit, tangerine peal, white peach, wet thatch and sweet & sour notes of passion fruit liquor. The palate shows lovely vibrancy and energy all wrapped up tightly in a fine, harmonious glycerol depth of fruit concentration that seems slightly more exotic than previous vintages with seductive notes of lemon cordial, pineapples in syrup, tart white peaches and pithy green apple candy. Like all Ian’s delightful creations, this wine retains an incredible crystalline purity, tangy fresh acids, nervy textural linearity and a granitic liquid minerality that washes over the palate to counter-balance the fruit intensity. This is signature Naudé Chenin Blanc but with a wonderful hint of Swartland wild child vintage character thrown into the mix. Drink from 2022 to 2040+.

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

A Decade on From the Iconic 2008 Vintage, Bruwer Raats Releases the Impressive MR de Compostella 2018…

It seems quite fortuitous that the very week Bruwer Raats and Mzokhona Mvemve choose to release their new vintage of MR de Compostella 2018, the most famous and influential wine reviewer in the world, Neal Martin chose their MR de Compostella 2008 as his Vinous Cellar Selection and scored it 96/100, matching the original rating he gave this iconic wine exactly 10 years ago.

I was of course lucky enough to host Bruwer Raats in London in October 2019 when we tasted through the first ever complete vertical of MR vintages from the maiden 2004 until the 2017. Then, when I managed to visit Bruwer at the winery in Feb 2020, long before the pandemic struck, he was already talking about another exceptional vintage that was different to many of the others but was perhaps one that clearly reminded him of the famed 2008 vintage. As it turned out, the 2018 ended up spending approximately 27 months in barrel compared to the usual 22 to 24 months for an MR de Compostella, creating another similarity with the famed 2008 vintage.

Whether this extended ageing enhanced the 2008 or whether it was just an exceptional vintage to start with, what I do see are the clear similarities between the 2018 and the 2008 vintages. This is sure to be a very stable, slow burning vintage and undoubtedly, a release you are going to want to have in your cellar.

MR de Compostella 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

The 2018 MR de Compostella is a blend of 54% Cabernet Franc, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 5% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot. Deep garnet-purple in colour, one sniff of the bouquet reveals another truly towering effort with incredible perfume lift, a complex melange of red and black berry fruits and the most fabulously integrated oaking imaginable. The nose is loaded with black cherry kirsch liquor, black truffle, crushed violets, crème de cassis, mulberries, graphite and freshly tilled earth nuances. Despite an extensive elevage in French oak barriques, the sweet cedary wood spice and vanilla pod notes play very much a subtle supporting role allowing the bold multi-dimensional fruit intensity to take centre stage. While only medium-bodied, the palate is super sleek, laser focused and intense, washing over the senses in energetic waves of saline cassis, black cherries, black plum and baked blueberries. This is classical winemaking at its very best where a harmonious freshness combines with beautifully silky poised tannins to deliver a wine with not only overt mouth-watering appeal but also plenty of latent structural depth. Undoubtedly another individually monumental wine that displays the brilliance of the special Mvemve-Raats winemaking partnership clearly for all to see. Old School and New World all at the same time, this is a wine that will appeal to the classicists as much as to the New World connoisseurs. Drink it on release or bury it in your cellar for 25+ years for further rewards.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)