Oldenburg Vineyards ~ Big Plans, Big Ambition and Unbelievable Potential at this Stellenbosch Winery…

Oldenburg is one of those wineries that has big plans and equally big ambitions for its wines. Today I met up with owner Adrian Vanderspuy to taste through a small selection of their unreleased 2015 reds over lunch at private members club 67 Pall Mall.

With winemaker Phillip Constandius finally hitting his stride at this Banghoek property, the future looks very bright for this dynamic winery. Quality and focus can only be improved further when Oldenburg finally gets its own winery, hopefully in the next 18 to 24 months.

After a delicious glass of 2013 Chenin Blanc, it was time for the first red, the Syrah 2015 with its impressive purity, spicy black berry fruits and wonderful harmonious texture. The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon was a bit more of a gawky teenager, but showed plenty of intensity of dark berry fruit, herbal spice, cassis leaf and spicy cedar and graphite. This needs a few years of slumber before approaching again but should turn into a real cracker.

Finally, a real treat…The Oldenburg Rhodium 2015 Merlot – Cabernet Franc Bordeaux blend. Youthfully confident, this red is still showing a lick of creamy vanilla pod spice, cedar and bruleed coffee beans, with sweet tobacco nuances. There is also some really delicious, compact black and blueberry fruit complexity embroidered with a fresh, piercing, crystalline acidity. Massive intensity, focus and power, this is a really beautiful wine with real poise, balance and concentration. When it is finally released, possibly in 2019, it should be even more integrated and harmonious. A thoroughly distinguished blend.

(Wine Safari Score: 94-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Julien Schaal’s Confluence Chardonnay 2016 Recognized at the Platter 5 Star Awards… 

I have been a long time follower of Julien Schaal’s amazing wines from both Alsace as well as South Africa. Always over delivering in quality terms and offering great value for money, Julien upped the ante in 2014 with the launch of three single vineyard Chardonnay whites: Evidence (Elgin), Confluence (Hemel-en-Aarde), and Renaissance (Elandskloof).


While they are all absolutely delicious terroir specific wines, the Evidence Elgin Chardonnay has always been my perennial favourite. This year however, it was Julien’s Hemel-en-Aarde Confluence Chardonnay 2016 that deservedly cracked him his first 5 Star Platter Wine Guide award. A massive achievement for this young, talented French winemaker, it can only be the beginning of new heights that will surely be reached in coming vintages. 


Julien Schaal Confluence Chardonnay 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13 Abv.

From another drought vintage, this beautiful 2016 shows an opulent lifted nose with real concentration and intense aromatics of sweet honeysuckle, orange blossom, mango peel, lemon and orange rind, and a complex, mineral undertone of wet slate and crushed granite, expertly embellished with brûléed vanilla oak spice, toffee apple and waxy green apple nuances. However impressive the nose is, the palate offers up threefold more. Sculptured acids frame the lush, intense, concentrated citrus fruit flavours, showing layers of lemon marmalade, caramelised oranges, barley sugar, lemongrass spice and pithy apple puree. Rich and fresh, piercing and taught, this wine seems to have it all. Intensity, balance and such mouthwatering length. Well done Julien, this is a truly accomplished Hemel-en-Aarde Chardonnay. Drink now to 2028+

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

The Ageability of South African White Wines ~ Tasting Meerlust Chardonnay 2006…

I’ve been meaning to organise a grand blind South African aged wine challenge in London with Wine Advocate journalist Neal Martin for some years. But life just seems to get busier and busier and time shorter and shorter for both Neal and myself. Profiling aged South African whites is a tricky endeavour, but when you pick the right wines, the results can be a revelation. But of course, the “right wines” are hard to come by, even in South Africa itself.


I had this bottle of Meerlust Chardonnay 2006, bought on release, on my cellar rack for many years and while I thought it would probably be stoically solid, I had no idea how impressive it would actually be on opening. Well, today it was accidentally opened in error by my wife after I was out at rugby practice with my son all afternoon. But, once opened, I certainly decided to indulge and revel in its sublime youthful brilliance. 


The Burgundians often seem annoyed when buyers ask them about their opinion on premox in white Burgundy, in quite the same way many South African producers used to roll their eyes at continual questions over the burnt rubber characteristics perceived in some wines. But it’s only when you taste a wine like this Meerlust 2006 that your blood really starts to boil at the many white Burgundy failures tasted oxidised at only 6 to 8 years old. 


Meerlust Chardonnay 2006, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

Deep golden yellow lemon colour, there is wonderful clarity and rich allure here. The nose is opulent and complex showing buttered sweet corn, lemon marmalade and salted caramel popcorn. So vital, youthful, vibrant, taught and fresh, showing almost no tertiary development at all. Incredible at 11 years old. As the wine opens, subtle notes of dried basil and thyme herbal spice develop mixed with sweet chalk and wet slate notes. The palate reveals amazing tension, maritime salinity, lemon zest and chalky granitic pithy depth. Wow, so tight and citric with youthful breadth and depth. It’s wines like this that make premoxed white Burgundy inexcusable at any price point. This wine could hardly be more fresh, complex or youthful at 11 years old. A real revelation. Absolutely delicious… for a South African benchmark wine.

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

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.