Laura Lorenzo and Daterra Viticultores Creating Breath-Taking Wines in the Val do Bibei, North West Spain…

Hailing from Allariz in the province of Ourense, Laura Lorenzo enrolled in the local enology school at the tender age of 16 with definite ambition to become a winemaker. Upon graduation, she worked at the nearby Adega Cachín, and then overseas with Eben Sadie in South Africa and Achaval Ferrer in Argentina. After her various apprenticeships, Laura took over the reins at Dominio do Bibei, a dynamic, pioneering producer of fine wine in the Quiroga-Bibei subzone of Ribeira Sacra.

Laura worked there for 10 years developing an attractive style of winemaking that was fine-tuned and focused on the hillsides of the region, specifically to the terruño around the village of Manzaneda. In 2014 Laura and her partner, chef & artist partner Alvaro Dominguez, branched out on their own and formed Daterra Viticultores to cultivate the mountainside vineyards of the Bibei Valley.

Gavela da Vila is comprised of 100% old vine Palomino organically farmed at a variety of elevations, expositions, and soil types in the Val do Bibei. 90% of the grapes were destemmed, with the must seeing just a few hours of skin contact before pressing.

The wine was fermented with wild yeast in used 225 liter French oak barrels, and then raised on the lees in the same barrels for 6 months. Small amounts of sulfur were added after fermentation and at bottling. The wine was not clarified, cold stabilized or filtered.

Daterra Viticultores Gavela da Vila Palomino 2015, Manzaneda, Val do Bibei, 12.5 Abv.

A bright pale gold straw colour, there are plenty of tell tale signs of the wine’s short skin contact. The nose is rich and very expressive with complex notes of savoury pithy yellow citrus, yellow blossom, hazelnut and walnuts, dried orange peel and the most seductive saline, baked apple, aldehydic and oxidative Sherry-Manzanilla notes. The palate entry is electric and vibrant challenging the palate and provoking thought, but most certainly makes your mouth salivate with a saline briney zest, fresh zippy acids and a delicious spicy oxidative leaning yellow fruited finish laced with baked pears and vermouth spices. A really tantalising effort from an incredible new talent in Spain. Only 1,590 bottles produced. Drink now to 2026+.

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

A Photographic Record of My Year in Wine – 2017 – Part Four: October to December

So with my final instalment of my year in wine in photographs, I’d like to thank all my friends for helping to make 2017 such a rich and exciting year full of treasured experiences. Long may they continue in 2018!!

Happy New Year!

Pieter Ferreira from Graham Beck was back over in the UK to host an incredibly interesting and enjoyable food and wine matching lunch. Plenty of their premium Cuvee Clive was poured. We were joined by Gary and Cathy Jordan who are also in the process of planting and planning their own English sparkling wine.

One of the most enjoyable tastings of the year involved the highly talented Reenen Borman giving a sell out crowd an excellent masterclass on all the wines and projects he is involved with. We were joined by his successful and dynamic UK importer Preet from Edgmond Wines, who represent some top young stars.

Hot on the heels of the Reenen Borman tasting was the highly anticipated Eben Sadie Masterclass showing a packed room multiple back vintages of both Columella and Palladius. We all know Eben is not big on travelling overseas too often so it becomes all the more special when he does visit us in London. Needless to say, the tasting attracted big guns like Steven Spurrier.

Then finally, it was time to welcome all the South Africans back to London again for the SA New Wave Tasting including Ryan Mostert, Chris Alheit, Craig Wessels, Duncan Savage and Donovan Rall.

The slightly shy, soft spoken Callie Louw who makes the incredible wines of Porseleinberg in the Swartland was certainly one of the big draw cards at the New Wave Tasting. The greatness of these wines will only truly be appreciated in 20 years time.

I was so pleased Chris Williams won the Platter Guide SA White Wine of the Year 2017 with his delicious Foundry Grenache Blanc. Such a talented winemaker crafting his magic equally with whites and reds. I love all his wines.

The following evening after the SA New Wave Tasting, Handford Wines took the opportunity to host its South Africa Icon Tasting at the SA High Commission with the support of WOSA UK. Lovely having several winemakers in attendance including Adam Mason, Carl van der Merwe and of course Schalk Burger Snr… though James Handford MW might beg to differ!

Yet another lovely fine wine lunch punctuated the year this time with Neal Martin and my ex-colleague Mick O’Connell MW who flew in from Dublin specially.

One of the biggest success stories of the year has been the resurgence of Greek wines in the UK and especially the wines of Santorini. There are none better than Yiannis Valambous and his incredible Assyrtiko expressions from Vassaltis Winery!

October also saw one the most fantastic fine wine lunches at Michelin Starred Chez Bruce to toast the departure of Keith Prothero back to the Cape! Great having Neal Martin join once again and owner Bruce Poole on hand to curate a fantastic lunch menu!

Not all Saffers visiting London make South African wine! Manfred Ing is making some wonderful expressions in Chianti Classico at Querciabella and on the island of Giglio.

With Xito Olazabal passing through London for the New Douro Tasting, we were very fortunate enough to grab him to present a sell out Quinta do Vale Meao Douro Masterclass for private clients followed by a lovely dinner. Had to introduce Xito to Eben’s amazing Old Vine Series Treinspoor Tinta Barroca red.

Next up, a wonderful evening at Vintners’ Hall in November to celebrate the graduation of the new Masters of Wine including the Noble Rotter, Mark Andrews. A big congrats.

Of course, always lovely to catch up with South African MW No.3 and Chair of the Education Committee, Cathy van Zyl MW.

November saw two more significant wine trade events, the first being the superb Wines of California Napa Valley Vintners Tasting. Always fun tasting with talent like Mike Turner and the legend Oz Clarke.

The other big gathering was the International Wine and Spirits Competition Awards ceremony which saw Joe Fattorini honoured as best communicator of the year and Abrie Beeslaar and Kanonkop winning Winery of the Year and Winemaker of the Year! What an coup for SA!

With December near, there was still time to host legendary SA Winemaker Jeremy Walker for a top tasting in London.

Many fine oyster lunches were enjoyed with my good friend Anthony Crameri from St Emilion. He is officially one of the founding members of the #handfordoysterclub

But there was still time to inaugurate Car Boot Ruth Spivey into the #handfordoysterclub. She seemed suitably impressed with the honour!

Here’s hoping that in 2018 I will be able to lure Mr Zalto UK Daniel Primack to South Kensington so that he can be inaugurated into the #handfordoysterclub!

End of November also saw a rarified gathering of global wine talent to celebrate the 50th birthday of Jamie Goode at the Winemakers Club wine bar in London. Thank you to all the Winemakers who flew in for the party… Rajat Parr, Dirk Niepoort, Duncan Savage, Mick Craven, Brian and Marion Smith, Norm Hardie just to mention a few. What an epic night of fine wine.

Finally, a last throw of the dice celebrating Andrew Johnson’s birthday at the best restaurant in London and possibly the UK… the Ledbury. Farewell to Sam Lucas who has worked at the Ledbury for longer than I can remember and who takes up a top job in New York at Per Se Restaurant. You will be missed.

Oh, and thank you to Ledbury regular and Richmond neighbour Gareth Birchley for the photo! You scraped in Gazza! 😂🍷

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Most Memorable South African Red Wines of 2017…

South Africa must possess some of the most distinguished and diverse high quality white wines in the world. But some how it seems that consumers, connoisseurs and collectors judge a country or region’s prestige almost exclusively based on the quality of the red wines produced. In 2017 South Africa fortuitously released many of its truly greatest 2015 red wines making it a bumper year for red wine ratings and reviews internationally.

My top 10 selection of reds and whites is based on wines that I tasted and drank through the year and that I considered supremely memorable as well as very high in quality. They were not selected purely based on scores.

So again, in no specific order…here is my Top 10 Most Memorable South African Red Wines of 2017.

MR de Compostella Bordeaux Blend 2015, Stellenboch – 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Bruwer Raats may be known as the Chenin King but it has to be his incredible red wines that have truly cemented his global reputation as an iconic fine wine producer. There can be no doubting the quality of his amazing Cabernet Franc reds which he is so proud of. Indeed, who can forget the high powered tasting in Europe where his 2001 Cabernet Franc trumped Cheval Blanc 2001 and was lauded by Jancis Robinson OBE MW as one of the greatest varietal Cabernet Francs in the world. But for me, it is another wine that has always captured my heart.

As a consummate Bordeaux lover, the MR de Compostella has been an absolute eye opener since the maiden 2004 was released. Tasted again recently, the 2004 is still youthfully dense, taught, concentrated and utterly majestic with another 20+ years of life left ahead of it. Having tasted every vintage pre-release since 2004, I like to think I have an intimate knowledge of this wine. So when Bruwer did a pre-release vertical tasting in London earlier this year, we got to see the 2015 in all its noble splendour. I received a few raised eye brows for scoring this wine 98 points, but my argument was simple… When tasted along side critically acclaimed MR vintages that scored 95 or 96 points internationally, the 2015 was considered 15% to 20% better. So I had no hesitation in scoring this wine 98 points and declaring it my 🍷🍷 South African Red Wine of the Year 2017.  

Congratulations Bruwer Raats and team.

Raats Family Wines Eden Single Vineyard High Density Cabernet Franc 2015, Stellenbosch – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

As if making one of the highest rated reds in South Africa wasn’t enough, Bruwer has continued to pursue his passion for all things Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc related, launching the first Raats Eden High Density red and white releases last year to great acclaim. The Eden Cabernet Franc has seduced journalists from far and wide, astounding drinkers with the quality achieved from 6 year old vines. ‘Quality by Design’ is the buzz phrase attributed to these fascinating wines that have been recognised locally in South Africa and internationally as outstanding examples of Cabernet Franc varietal purity and precision. Made in tiny quantities, this is a red wine designed to impress the most accomplished and educated palates. I sense there will be very little disagreement on the inclusion of this wine.

Beeslaar Pinotage 2015, Stellenbosch – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

I recently attended the International Wines & Spirits Competition awards ceremony in London a few weeks ago and sat at the neighbouring table to Abrie Beeslaar and Johan Krige, to witness them being awarded the “International Winery of the Year” for the third year in a row and “Winemaker of the Year” for their outstanding wines at Kanonkop. What an honour. But Abrie also has a small project on the side producing limited amounts of this eponymously named wine from some exceptional Pinotage grapes. Only in its fourth vintage, this impressive Pinotage comes from a 22 year old single block close to Simonsig planted on shale soils. Seeing less new oak than the super premium Kanonkop Black Label, this expression is an opulent, sleek, textured glassful of brilliance with the most incredible harmony, purity and balance. This is exceptional Pinotage that really puts this unique variety on the world wine map. An outstanding effort from Abrie Beeslaar.

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Roundstone Schist Syrah 2015, Swartland – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW  

In March I paid a long awaited visit to Chris and Andrea at their Roundstone farm in the Swartland to taste the new releases of their Mullineux and the Leeu Passant wines. The Schist Syrah, sourced from grapes grown on the Roundstone farm,  has become one of their most sought after wines internationally due to its opulence, fragrance and balanced blueberry fruit intensity that harks back to the great icon wines of the northern Rhone in every way. I do have an inkling that their Granite or Iron Syrah Cuvées may age better over the very long term, but over the medium term, the Schist Syrah represents one of the most outstanding expressions of Syrah coming out of South Africa at the moment.

Duncan Savage Follow the Line 2016 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

Of all the new red wine creations that have come out of the Cape in the past five years, few can rival Follow the Line for its mantel of most delicious cult wine! This wonderful Cinsault / Grenache / Syrah blend from Duncan Savage is a wine that effectively captured the mood of a new generation of wine drinkers looking for characterful, vibrant, energetic, crunchy fresh reds that could be drunk on release or cellared for 10+ years. Since the maiden 2014 release, this wine has got better and better and now that Duncan is settling into his own new urban winery in Salt River in Cape Town, you can expect all his whites and reds to become even more focused and distinguished. One of my favourite red wines from one of my favourite South African winemakers. If you have not tried this wine yet, get your skates on!

Sadie Family Wines Columella Red Blend 2015, Swartland – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

What a year it has been for Eben Sadie! Winemaker awards, sell out wines, continued growing cult status internationally, and high quality wines that seem to get better and better every year despite vintage conditions. With already two whites making my top 10, this has got to be the wine that Eben takes the most pride in producing. He has always been aware of the hype that surrounds the micro vinifications in the Old Vine Series, but the Palladius and Columella are his “day job” and his bread and butter and most certainly his pride and joy. So to have released two of the greatest ever expressions of both of these wines is a true testament to the upward trajectory that Eben continues to travel on. One of the truly great winemakers of the world and one of the greatest wineries. What an accolade to make South African’s proud.

Brian Smith & Niels Verburg The Cabernet Franc 2014, Bot River – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

While neither Brian Smith or Niels Verburg are newcomers to the South African wine scene, their new joint venture red certainly ruffled a few feathers in the local South African wine scene with the release of the THE Cabernet Franc sourced from a small vineyard in the Bot River region. Classy, polished, opulent, and distinguished, this wine has all the attributes of a Napa Valley cult wine including the matching price tag. The greatest thing about this wine has been the discussion and open debate that has resulted after its release… which was one of its primary aims to be fair. The contents is certainly very sexy and luxurious and drinking my first bottle was undoubtedly a very memorable moment.

Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2015, Stellenbsoch – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

I remember seeing my Swartland based Rhone junkie friends Ryan Mostert and Samantha Suddons drinking bottles of Boschkloof Syrah and occasionally Epilogue Syrah years ago and thinking that I need to get to grips with these wines (I grew up drinking father Jacques Bormans’ wines!) When Jamet junkies are raving about them, they must be serious. Last Christmas I reviewed the Epilogue 2014 Syrah and rated it as one of my top reds of the year. Surely the epic 2015 vintage would have to be better!? Well, I would say it is equally as good but not better. It is the perennial trap we fall into thinking that block buster vintages always make better wines. For most producers they do, but for the likes of Reenen Borman, his real talents are revealed in the less than perfect vintages (2014 or 2016). But splitting hairs aside, this is one of the most profound northern Rhone, Cote Rotie’esque  expressions of Syrah available in the New World. Well done Reenen!

Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

What a year of change it has been for Ian Naude. After years of serving other masters, he has finally gone solo and become his own boss. Under the Naude Family wines label he will now seduce us with his very best talents in the form of Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Cinsault and Semillon. But just like last year when I included his “older” Chenin Blanc 2013, this year I have found myself simply unable to exclude his most profound, complex and impressive Grenache 2014. Such is the intrigue surrounding this wine that we felt compelled to repeat the “Wine Cellar / Roland Peens” Rayas blind show down again in London at one of the top Michelin star restaurants. Yet again, this fabulous wine beat off the competition and trounced some of the world’s greatest Grenache reds with ease. Sadly, this vineyard grape contract was subsequently lost and has not been made again since. So it is now not only one of the great red wines of South Africa, but it is firmly moving into the Unicorn ranks of collectability. We stand in hope that Ian will venture back into the Grenache minefield and attempt to craft another gem from this temperamental Rhone grape. Meantime, if you find any of the 2014, snap it up immediately!

Vilafonte Series C 2015, Paarl – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

This is another winery project that I have been following closely since its maiden vintage release in 2003. This joint venture between Warwick Estate’s Mike Ratcliffe and Californian wine guru power couple Phil Freese and Zelma long, unashamedly set out to produce the most precise, polished, high quality expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot possible from their manicured vineyards in Paarl. There is a subtle gloss to the wines, there is incredible polish, and the wines are quite international in style in many ways, but above all, there is a sense that the end goal is extreme quality without compromise. Ok, this approach may not work quite as well with wilder Syrah, Grenache or Cinsault, but for international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec… it is surely the path to greatness. Add to the ingredients a 5 star block buster vintage and hey presto, the Series C 2015 miraculously resembles some of the iconic high scoring Chateaux of Pauillac and St Julien from a riper left bank vintage in Bordeaux but with the precision and polish of Napa Valley.

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Most Memorable White South African Wines of 2017…

What a busy year it’s been. No sooner had the smoke from the New Year’s Eve 2017 fireworks cleared then it seemed plans were being made for Christmas lunch 2018. Where did the year go?

Fortunately, I can punctuate my year with some of the exciting wines I have tasted and drunk along the way… and there have been a lot of them. My Top 10 list of whites and reds is not necessarily made up of the 10 highest scoring wines I tasted but is more focused on wines that were very memorable and enjoyable to experience. Inevitably, most of them will be among my highest rated wines of the year.

And the winners are… in no particular order… though I’m starting with Raats Family Wines as a nod of respect to Bruwer Raats for winning the Platter Wine Guide Winery of the Year 2017 Award.

Raats Family Eden High Density Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2015 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

I first tasted the first release 2014 with Bruwer Raats in South Africa at his winery tasting room pre-release. I thought it was knock out good. I couldn’t believe you could make a wine this profound from vines so young (4 or 5 years old back then). Tasting the 2015 merely reinforced Bruwer’s incredible achievement, making another fabulous wine of note from young high density Montpellier Clone plantings of Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc. If the vineyards remain healthy, the mind boggles at the potential quality that might be seen in 15 or 20 years time!

Alheit Family La Colline Semillon 2016 – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Made from vines planted in 1936 on a southern slope at 320 metres in the Franschhoek Valley, this old vine Semillon blended with a little Semillon Gris, is a very profound offering. Such complexity with notes of peaches, beeswax, jasmine, custard pie, tangerines, and yellow citrus. But the wine also manages to remain dense and concentrated yet light on its feet, understated and restrained, classically shaped, but also showing a touch of struck match reduction. I tasted this wine several times, but it was during the Old Vine Project tasting at the South African High Commission in London that this wine really stood out in the same way a Grand Cru white Burgundy would in a tasting of village wines. An amazing winemaker using an amazing vineyard. One of South Africa’s very own Grand Cru expressions.

Sadie Family Old Vine Series ‘T Voetpad 2016 – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

While they are all incredible wines, there is always a stand out wine in the Old Vine Series range every year. This year the Kokerboom Semillon and Skurfburg Chenin Blanc were both very impressive but it was the extra depth and complexity of the Voetpad field blend that captivated me. This is a wine that ages incredibly well and previous vintages tasted blind at lunches have been called out as Grand Cru Burgundy before. This is the league in which this wine comfortably sits. Only small quantities are produced and allocations are always small, but it is a wine worth tracking down and spending a few bob on.

Sadie Family Palladius White Blend 2015 – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

While we are talking about the incredible talents of Eden Sadie, it seems appropriate to highlight one of his most outstanding achievements. As a part time hobby winemaker myself, I qualified as one of the Masters of Wine who got to cast a vote for the Institute of Masters of Wine’s Winemakers Winemaker Award 2017… which thankfully went to Eben Sadie. I have been voting to Eben for years and it is rewarding that his talents have well and truly been internationally recognised now. So it is fitting that he released what is probably his finest expression of the Palladius White blend to date this year. Tasted again most recently at his masterclass held in London, this is a wine that can hold its own against the greatest whites from around the world. Every connoisseurs’ cellar should have a few cases in it!

Reyneke Natural Chenin Blanc 2016 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

I have always loved the purity and energy of the biodynamic wines of Reyneke especially the reserve white which often appears in journalists’ top wines of the year lists. This Natural Chenin was a latecomer for me as I did not taste it earlier in the year in South Africa and stock only just arrived in the UK in December. But I reviewed this wine on the Fine Wine Safari site recently and it really blew me away. The energy, intensity, complexity and drinkability really took me by surprise and pleasingly, another Stellenbosch Old Vine Chenin Blanc squeezed its way into my top 10 wines of the year. Well done to Rudiger Gretschel and Johan Reyneke.

David & Nadie Hoe Steen Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2016 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

I feel intimately related to this wine having been one of the Decanter judges on the blind panel that made history and awarded the 2015 Hoe Steen 98/100 and the unofficial Chenin crown. Again, the 2016 like the 2015, was made in tiny quantities and will be sold out before most people even get to hear about it. But this is a wine and a vineyard site that is being made into something really great by the gentle giant David Sadie (no relation to Eben Sadie). Together with his wife Nadia, they are producing some of the top white and red wines in South Africa. If you can’t get your hands on the Hoe Steen or his other Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc Skaliekop, then just buy his amazing regular David & Nadia Chenin Blanc. Another successful year for this lovely couple.

Thorne & Daughters Paper Kite Semillon 2016 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Another of my favourite producers in South Africa, everything John Seccombe touches seems to turn into something magical, none more so than his Paper Kite Semillon old vine white. With all their successes, it is hard to believe John and Tasha Seccombe only started their winery in 2012. Funnily enough, I tasted this wine earlier in the year in March with John and proclaimed at the time that this wine could already be a candidate for my top 10 whites of the year. Nothing has changed since then and along with the Alheit La Colline, remains one of the most tantalising expressions of this varietal in South Africa.

Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2015 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

It’s safe to say a lot of planning and hard work went into the sourcing of suitable fruit and the subsequent production of this amazing wine. But of course, Chris and Andrea Mullineux don’t do things by half measure. Released earlier this year to great acclaim, the Leeu Passant range consists of two Chardonnays and one red blend. Just in the same way I love to taste profound Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, after all the headline stealing wines from the Swartland, so too is it rewarding to taste a great Stellenbosch Chardonnay in the face of incredible upstarts and challengers from top wineries in Elgin and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. This is a delicious wine and yet another success story for this winemaking power couple based in the Swartland.

(A previous deconstructed vintage label)

Kershaw Wines Deconstructed Chardonnay Bokkeveld Shales CY548 2016 – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Talking of upstarts from Elgin… Richard Kershaw MW has turned the world of New World Chardonnay on its head and succeeded in producing one of, if not the most profound examples ever seen from South Africa. His deconstructed range takes the terroir and clonal components of his main Kershaw Wines Chardonnay and bottles small amounts of them individually to illustrate the unique character and winemaking results of the soils and clones on their own. This version is spellbinding, with nuances harking back to the greatest Premier Cru vineyards of Meursault in Burgundy. Almost impossible to buy now, but if you come across this wine via the internet or on a restaurant list, pay the money and drink this profound wine. It could change your life!

Patatsfontein Old Vine Steen Montagu Chenin Blanc 2016 – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

2016 was the second of what looks like being four years of difficult drought vintages in South Africa… 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. After a wet winter, the 2015 whites had plenty of water reserves to ripen wonderfully healthy fruit and the resulting wines have been every bit the expected block busters. So it was with great surprise that I tasted and rated this 2016 Chenin Blanc from Reenen Borman even more highly than the delicious 2015. A masterful, intelligent winemaker, Reenen has crafted a real gem from this Montagu vineyard. If the partnership involved in producing this wine can retain the vineyard fruit contract in Montagu, drinkers will be in for several more years of incredible Chenin Blanc treats from Patatsfontein.

So those were my Top 10 Most Memorable Whites of 2017. As it’s not based on scores, it becomes a very much more subject exercise. Wine is based on enjoyment and sharing experiences with friends. These experiences in turn hopefully become treasured memories.

Watch out for my high powered “Top 10 Most Memorable South African Reds of 2017” coming soon as well as “My Year in Wine 2017 in Pictures.”

Merry Christmas! 🎅🏼

Creating A Future Icon Wine ~ Tasting the Incredible Naude Grenache 2014 Blind with Chateau Rayas at The Judgement of Chiswick…

Already described as one of the finest and most exciting Grenache reds made in South Africa, 2017 saw this wine introduced to some of my biggest collectors and connoisseur clients in London. Many had heard of the blind tasting held in South Africa pitching the Naude Grenache against the world famous Chateau Rayas from the Southern Rhône. So after a certain amount of planning and diary co-ordinating, the Naude Grenache was again pitched against two Chateau Rayas wines in a small blind line up at one of London’s top Michelin Star restaurants, La Trompette in Chiswick, West London, owned by restauranteurs Nigel Platts-Martin and Bruce Poole.

In the blind line up with the Naude Grenache 2014 was the David & Nadia Grenache 2013, Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape Pignan Reserve 2007, and Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve 2004.

The grapes for the Naude Grenache come from an 8 year old vineyard in the Paardeberg in the Swartland which was renowned for its 2 to 3 week slower ripening in previous seasons, allowing the fruit to mature and ripen more slowly and evenly. A combination of whole bunch, destemmed grapes and stalks were fermented in a stainless steel tank with one or two gentle pump overs per day before being pressed off into 225L French oak barrels for 12 to 15 months. The wine was first released in 2015 with a 14 Abv., 1.3 RS g/L, 6g/L TA, and a 3.37 pH.

Naude Grenache 2014, Swartland, 14 Abv.

The wines colour seems to have gained a little extra depth of colour in the past year showing a crystalline red plum and red cherry glow. The nose is spectacular with a most complex and evocative perfume of violets, lavender, cherry blossom, polished oak, frais des boisses, cured meats, marzipan, red plums and red cherry confit. Just so much going on and so much depth and earthy complexity. The palate shows a fine sleek medium bodied texture, impressive tension and delicious expressive wild strawberry, bramble berries, cut hedge row, Chinese five spice and subtle sappy peppery spice on the finish. Such lovely cool freshness, intensity, focus and polish, without being at all heavy at 14 Abv. A wonderfully classic Grenache with subtle mineral balance and real personality. This wine is a towering achievement in the unfolding history of South African Grenache. Drink now and over the next 20+ years.

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

Over a fantastic meal, the reds were served blind by the sommelier in his chosen order. The Naude was served first followed by the David & Nadia 2013 Grenache which showed great purity, linearity, polished granitic tannins and crystalline red fruits. While the mid palate felt a little flat footed some guests commented, overall this was another accomplished wine. (92+/100 GS).

Next up was the Rayas Pignan 2007. This instantly showed great ripeness, fruit weight and some earthy, jammy, bruleed red fruit notes. Perhaps in hind sight, a little more evolved than we would expect such a youthful Pignan to be. (91/100 GS) Finally, the Chateau Rayas 2004. Along with the Naude, these two wines were considered the most profound and impressive of the flight. Despite the 13 years of age, the 2004 was youthful, taught, focused and beautifully balanced with real black cherry and stony raspberry fruit precision, mineral tannins and bright pure acids. True class evident for all to see. (94+/100 GS)

La Trompette’s famous sour dough waffle with egg, chanterelle mushrooms and truffle.

With the blind results in, the Naude Grenache 2014 came out on top again by a whisker … and “the Judgement of Chiswick” was forever etched into the history of South African fine wine.

Langoustine tails and butternut.

The amazing recently disgorged Ca del Bosco Dosage Zero 2001 method champenoise sparkling wine.

Etienne Sauzet Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2001 Burgundy.

Wonderful Welsh salt marsh lamb.

Another Cracking White Wine From South African Franco Lourens…

Last year I tasted and reviewed the delicious Verdelho 2015 from Franco Lourens. So I was even more excited to taste his new white blend which still features a sizeable 30% of Verdelho, but is now also accompanied by some white Rhone varietals and a trusty slug of Chenin Blanc.

Lourens Family Wines Lindi Carien White Blend 2016, 13 Abv.

34% Grenache Blanche, 30% Verdelho, 21% Roussanne, and 15% Chenin Blanc.

A beautifully complex wine from Franco Lourens with plenty of opulence and allure. Another superbly well constructed white blend using varietals from around the Western Cape that are becoming so well suited to South African terroir. The nose is ripe and expressive, slightly lactic and creamy, brimming with exotic yellow pastille, tinned pineapple, vanilla pod spice and rock candy notes. The palate has laser like freshness and crisp, polished precision. Texturally very fine and focused with wound spring tension, underpinned by bristling acids and a tart pineapple and white citrus vivacity. This is such a distinguished blend with the multiple varieties so tightly interwoven so as to become one entity. Lovers of serious Cape white wines will find this new release hard to resist! So start drinking now until 2025+

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

Tasting the Impressive New Naude Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016…

However many great wines Ian Naude has made in his long career at multiple wineries, it only seems fitting that his most exciting vinous expressions have come under his eponymous Naude label. For Ian, Chenin Blanc has always been one of his great strengths, none more so than his amazing 2013 Old Vine Chenin Blanc which featured in my Top 10 Wines of the Year in 2016.

Made from three vineyards, two from Durbanville and one from the Swartland, the vines are on average 40 years old. Picked on taste and flavour ripeness and not analysis ripeness, the juice is naturally fermented with no additions after the fruit is crushed in whole punches and then transferred direct in 300 and 500 litre French oak barrels. Wines are left as long as possible on their lees with batonage once a week.

The essence of the Old Vine Series is to allow this high quality fruit to express itself as naturally as possible and allow it to tell its own authentic story.

The 2016 Chenin Blanc at this embryonic phase in many ways reminds me more like the 2015 expression from Naude. The nose is very dusty, pithy and laden with liquid minerals. There are aromas of crushed granite, chalk dust, peach stone, green apples, with a sprinkling of dried green baking herbs and fynbos. The palate shows harmonious weight, flesh and sleek textural depth, but remains quite broody and tight in its youth. All very subtle and tightly packaged, there are nuances of white crunchy pears, dusty white citrus, wet river pebbles, tart white peaches, citrus oil and picante tangerine peel. Fine mid-palate tension, vibrant fresh acids and as expected from a warm, dry vintage, plenty of concentration and length, albeit a little closed up and tight right now. This looks like a worthy follow up to the impressive 2015. Drink now to 2030+

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