Duncan Savage’s Follow-up Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2021 Release Hits the Thirsty UK Market…

Last year Duncan Savage agreed to produce a special release single varietal Sauvignon Blanc made from 32-year-old vines from a Stellenbosch vineyard that was originally destined primarily for on-trade by the glass wine sales. Of course, the pandemic and lockdown hit and much of the wine found alternative routes to market through select independent wine merchants as well as some restaurants in London, New York and across the US East Coast. The small production wine was an instant hit, appealing to all the most committed and fervent of Savage wine fans. So, it was inevitable that a follow up vintage would be forthcoming for this growing brand.

The 2021 vintage is another cracker of a wine with an increased production coming from roughly 50% Stellenbosch fruit and 50% Stanford fruit. This Sauvignon Blanc was fermented in a combination of stainless-steel tanks, concrete eggs and old barrels. The wine spent four months in these vessels before being bottled, followed by a further two months in bottle prior to release. Approximately 30,000 bottles were produced for export to the UK and USA.

Speaking to Duncan Savage, he tells me that the project has simply taken on a life of its own and in 2022, he plans to incorporate addition fruit material into the blend sourced from Danie Carinus’s vineyards in the Polkadraai Hills and also some fruit from the Karibib vineyards where producers like Bernard Bredell and Mick & Jeanine Craven source much of their fruit.

Savage Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2021, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.

Due to the increased production, the bottling of the 2021 Salt River Sauvignon Blanc will necessitate multiple bottling runs. The sample I tasted was from the initial bottling while additional stock will be released from slightly later bottled wine which has spent additional beneficial time on its fine lees in tank. But already, the wine shows a wonderfully expressive textural balance with attractive aromatics of honey suckle, green pear, camomile iced tea, pineapple pastille and crunchy white peaches. The palate is soft, fresh and seamless with a caressing mouthfeel, tangy tangerine citrus acids, notes of white peaches, yellow grapefruit and pithy, stony mineral tannins. Another beautiful creation that benefits from being open and given plenty of air. Drink this delicious Sauvignon Blanc on release but don’t be shy to age a few sneaky bottles for 3 to 5 years.

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

Lokaia Wines – A Project Exploring the Exotic Side of the Franschhoek Ward…

The great thing about the wine trade is that whatever side of the fence you work, whether producing, buying or selling, everyday beckons new discoveries and new experiences. Clayton Reabow and Craig McNaught are the winemakers behind this new innovative Franschhoek-based label and for the owners of the Lokaia brand, it was exactly this driving force that led them to believe that there was more to explore in the potential of the Franschhoek Valley with varieties like Semillon, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc at the forefront of their endeavours.

Clayton has been behind the wheel of Franschhoek’s Moreson winery for fourteen years and counts both the Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the Year and Winemaker of the Year awards among his many accolades. Craig on the other hand is the second-generation winemaker and co-owner of Stony Brook Vineyards in Franschhoek’s Bo-Hoek region and his focus for many years has been on producing traditional, old-world influenced wines with the Lokaia project affording him the opportunity “to delve in to the postmodern.”

The Lokaia range includes a Semillon from Franschhoek’s Bo-Hoek, a Chardonnay from the Franschhoek Valley Floor and a Cabernet Franc from the Dutoitskop Peak grown on sandstone and clay soils. All three wines are vinified with a strong emphasis on the use of Terracotta amphora that allow the wines to breath and evolve slowly with out any oak influence. Each wine also has a varying degree of skin contact during and post fermentation.

Lokaia Call of the Void Dutoitskop Peak Amphora Cabernet Franc 2020, WO Franschhoek, 11.98% Abv.

1.1 g/l RS | 5.9 g/l TA | 3.24 pH

This unique Cabernet Franc expression was fermented and matured on its skins for four months in amphora yielding a meagre production of a mere 530 bottles. Produced in a more natural leaning style that is unfined and unfiltered, the aromatics yield an intriguing expression of crushed leaves, grey slate, green coffee beans, black tea, spicy green peppercorns, sweet cedar and a freshly cut hedgerow spice. On the palate, the theme of cool sapidity and minerality continues with notes of wet river pebble minerality, tart black currants, sweet and sour black berries, crunchy bright acids and a long, tangy fresh finish that is deliciously mouth-watering. The energetic freshness makes this an attractively easy to drink red, yet beneath the wine’s slightly obvious, linear, fruity veneer lie multiple layers that genuinely challenge the senses. Despite the super low alcohol, the wine possesses an impressively fleshy, glycerol texture, soft powdery stony tannins and a long glassy, crystalline finish. Drink on release and over the next 3 to 5+ years.

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

The Resurrection of the Meerlust Red Blend – Tasting the 2019 Vintage Release…

I have made no secret over the years that I love the concept of premium second wines, whether from Bordeaux, Napa Valley or Cape Town. The Meerlust Estate Red Blend last made a local South African market appearance back in 2011, when the Meerlust Estate declassified their Rubicon flagship wine. To avoid confusion, a ‘Meerlust Red’ is made every vintage but only for the international export market where second wines are well entrenched as viable alternatives for mid-week drinking or for less serious occasions but do not cannibalise the sales of the premium cuvee. However, this wine is not normally sold in the home market unless a specific vintage of Rubicon is declassified into the Red Blend like in 2011, 2002, 1990 and 1985.

Inevitably, when the wider market realises that the premium Rubicon Red Blend has not been released, the Meerlust Red acquires a massive and immediate following, such is the pedigree and reputation of the Meerlust Estate. Sold in the local home market for half the price of the Rubicon, the Red Blend is always an exceptional value wine and drinkers would be well advised to fill their cellars to pad out their drinking of the more age worthy vintages of Meerlust Rubicon.

Meerlust Red 2019, WO Stellenbosch

The 2019 Meerlust Red is a blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. Initially a little reticent on opening, this wine quickly sheds its broody, sulky, spicy veil to reveal a wonderfully complex aromatic array of black plum, black berry compote, orange peel, Christmas pudding over hints of pressed violets, sweet cedar spice and graphite nuances. The palate is plush and fleshy from the word go, showing an open knit, expressive opulence of red currant, bramble berry, black currant, sweet oak spice, black tea and a sleek texture that simply embraces the palate and makes you go back again and again for another sip. Refreshingly vibrant and impressively generous, I suspect this wine will age surprisingly well for over 10+ years even though it’s simply a cracking drinker right now on release. Hats off to the entire Meerlust crew.

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

Exploring the Unique Terroir of South African Single Vineyard Pinotage…

Wines of South Africa in the UK do a wonderful job promoting South African wines and the various diverse wine regions in South Africa on a pretty meagre shoestring budget. From premium wines to mass-market high street brands, all producers get a look-in through the year as the full breadth and depth of the industry is conveyed to the UK marketplace. This weekend is National Pinotage Day and to celebrate, Jo Wehring and the WOSA UK team organised a fascinating webinar and tasting with Dr Etienne Terblanche PHD and L’Avenir winemaker, Dirk Coetzee, featuring some excellent examples.

Pinotage knowhow has matured extensively over the years and is now able to highlight new and unique insights into the broader Cape wineland terroirs thanks to the variety being so widely planted and with a relatively large quantity of older vines in the ground. The cliché of Pinotage being a real “marmite” wine is starting to fade as producer after producer starts to produce high quality wines that more than anything else, represent the regional terroir the grapes are grown on.

Pinotage, like Chardonnay, does often allow the winemaker to make their personal mark stylistically, but one thing is for sure, the variety’s true strengths and unique selling points include being able to make a variety of dry red styles, wines with lots of juicy fruit, most wines possessing excellent ageing ability and also the versatility of the variety to make dry reds, Rosé, Method Cap Classique sparkling wines and numerous dessert styles.

Dirk Coetzee and Dr Etienne Terblanche PHD

The pinnacle of quality Pinotage production in South Africa often manifests itself through many of the Cape’s single vineyard wines grown on the three main soil types of Sandstone (300-400 million years old), Shale (Malmesbury Group) and decomposed Granite, which covers all the wines tasted for this seminar.

The Diversity of Pinotage:

Kaapzicht Skraalhans Pinotage 2020, WO Bottelary – Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

A young vine trellised vineyard situated at around 90 to 100-meter altitude on pure washed out granitic soils. Picked early to respect a lighter style with 20% whole bunch, fermented on the skins for three days before being racked off into large old barrels to complete fermentation. Youthful and vibrant, the aromatics are very perfumed and lifted showing wonderfully inviting notes of red cherries, cranberry and red currant. Palate is super soft, fine boned and supple, very cool and precise, showing a delightful light touch extraction. There is layer upon layer of tart red cherry fruit with bright bristling acids that give the mouthfeel incredible energy and mouth-watering freshness with soft powdery tannins and a long, brambly mineral finish with just a subtle hint of flinty reduction. A truly delicious expression.

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

B Vintners Liberté Pinotage 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

Made from 20-year-old bush vines on a south facing False Bay vineyard on washed out granitic soils utilising around 40% whole bunch during fermentation. The aromatics show a cool, savoury red cherry fruited complexity with plenty of maritime sea breeze salinity, sappy cranberry and bramble berry fruits, sweet grilled herbs and hints of potpourri. The palate is exceptionally polished, tight knit and fine grained with a drying tannin density, bright citric acids and a cool, stony, mineral length with a tangy salinity on the finish. Another very accomplished expression from Bruwer Raats and Gavin Bruwer Slabbert.

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

Sangiro Pinotage 2018, WO Piekenierskloof, 12.5% Abv.

A vineyard located three hours north of Cape Town in the Piekenierskloof at 300 to 400 meters altitude with dry grown vines. Made by Rudiger Gretschel (of Reyneke and broader Vinimark winemaking fame), the wine shows plenty of raspberry herbal tea spice, notes of dried herbs and fynbos nuances over red and black berries and damson plums. The palate is rich, plush and structured with spicy tea tannins, black cherry, stony mineral grip, round tangy acids and yet more layers of black cherry and black plum with an intricate apricot stone pip finish. Mineral, savoury, focused and rather bold… this is quite an individual expression of Pinotage.

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

Ashbourne Pinotage 2018, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.5% Abv.

An impressive rich, savoury and expressive red from 16-year-old trellised vines planted on Bokkeveld Shales. Matured for 10 months in 400 litre barrels, 40% of which were new, with approximately 10% of sun-dried stems added back for additional structural complexity during fermentation. The aromatics are lifted, fresh and perfumed with opulent notes of black cherries, red berries, eucalyptus, peppermint crisp milk chocolate and sappy spicy oak nuances. The palate reveals attractively rich, plush, textured fruit notes with bright tangy acids, plenty of red berry freshness and ample mineral fine grained tannin characteristics. An attractive multi-dimensional wine that shows a lot of pedigree.

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

L’Avenir Single Block 02 Pinotage 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

A dryland grown single vineyard planted in 1994 on decomposed shales with plenty of exposure to the salty coastal sea breezes of the False Bay. The aromatics are cool, refined and broody with great precision, purity and focus but also offer up ample depth of black fruits, hints of kelp, liquorice and raisined black cherry liquor notes. The palate is powerful and intense, with piercing sweet – sour acids, rich intense salty black fruits and a long, dense, bold finish with fine grained graphitey, stony, mineral tannins. Undoubtedly a very confident, well-made Pinotage that will appeal to a lot of fine wine lovers.

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

Beeslaar 2018 Pinotage, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

Made by Kanonkop winemaking legend Abrie Beeslaar from 25-year-old dryland bush vines grown on decomposed shale soils with a small portion of decomposed granite. Fermentation took place in open top concrete tanks with regular punch downs performed every 2 hours to maximise extraction. After fermentation, the wine was aged in 40% new 225 litre French oak barrels for 21 months. On the nose, there is plenty of density and broody black fruited depth together with intricate notes of raisined black cherry, raisined cranberry, damson plum and hints of Christmas pudding, incense and crème bruleed caramel oak spice. But for all the richness, intensity and depth, the palate shows a freshness and vitality that is quite startling, helping to balance the expansive fruit concentration and sweet, creamy tannins. Where the 2017 showed a more weightless perfumed concentration of vibrant red fruits, this 2018 is darker fruited and more savoury with plenty of sweetness on the front of the palate but also a fine, drying, tangy finish. Very classy.

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

Iconic Kanonkop Wine Estate Prepares for the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Release…

A wine always released several months after the famed Paul Sauer Cape Bordeaux blend, the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is yet another highly anticipated wine based on the clear established pedigree of the vintage. I am fortunate enough to have drunk several bottles of the 2015 and 2016 Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon over the past few months in preparation for the 2017 release together with enjoying yet another blind 1994 Paul Sauer vs 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon taste-off recently.

With production levels for the Cabernet roughly double that of the now highly allocated Paul Sauer blend, at circa 12,000 cases of 6 compared to 6,000, the new release of the Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon does present a slighty wider opportunity for fine wine drinkers and collectors alike to secure some bottles for their cellar. Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon is riding high and demand across all international markets for the top producers’ wines has never been higher thanks to not only a strong run of quality vintages but also the renewed promotional work of a cohesive group of premium producers.

The preceding winter was the 3rd dry one in a row, with less rain than the previous one and warmer day and night temperatures. A warm spring resulted in early budding and regular rain showers during flowering and berry set saw a high presence of pests. The picking season was very dry with limited water for irrigation, but with cooler nigh-time temperatures during February. Fermentation took place in open top concrete fermenters at 29c. The cap was punched down by hand every 2 hours during fermentation. The juice was then drawn off the skins after 5 days. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was matured for 24 months in 50% new and 50% second fill 225L French Nevers oak barrels.

Kanonkop Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, 14.97% Abv.

2.7 g/l RS | 6.3 g/l TA | 3.47 pH | VA 0.51 g/l

This certainly is a deep, broody exotic expression of Cabernet Sauvignon that is more reminiscent of a cool vintage Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon than anything from Bordeaux or the Cape. Opened and tasted over 4 to 5 hours, the wine hits its stride surprisingly quickly with plenty of perfumed purple flowers, violets, bruleed black berries, baked blueberry crumble, crème de cassis and a pleasing note of mocha and vanilla pod spice. Initial notes of kelp and maritime seashore salinity quickly give way to a more weighty, sensual melange of black berry compote nuances and hints of cherry kirsch liquor. While this wine certainly shows all the deft elegance and finesse we associate with the 2017 vintage, it also displays a certain extra gravitas, power and weight of fruit concentration combined with great poise, density and a seamlessly textured mineral graphite finish. This is a dark horse that will drink well on release and age deceptively well for 20+ years.

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

Imported into the UK wine trade by Seckford Wine Agencies.

Ps. This review is dedicated to the mighty South African Springbok Rugby World Champions who scored a historic victory against New Zealand in Australia in their 101st test match contest. 🙏🏼

Anwilka Winery Reaching New Heights of Quality With the 2017 Vintage Release…

Anwilka is a winery based at the south end of Stellenbosch with views of False Bay and the 40 hectare red wine property is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot. It’s proximity to the sea provides a genuinely specific microclimate that, together with the old ferricrete soils, are perfect for producing rich opulent wines with freshness and balance.

Under the guidance of internationally well-known Bordeaux wine personalities Hubert de Boüard (co-owner of Château Angélus in Saint-Emilion) and Bruno Prats (former owner of Château Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estèphe), Anwilka has established a worldwide reputation for its flagship red blend which has in years gone by been famously described by international wine critic Robert Parker Jr. as “…the finest red wine I have ever had from South Africa”.

For this release, Anwilka had a cold and wet winter allowing for a 2017 vintage that will certainly be remembered as one of the all-time great red wine vintages in Stellenbosch – a warm summer followed by a cooler maturation period allowed for optimal grape ripeness, weightless concentration and intense fruit flavours. It was a vintage that was made entirely in the vineyards as the old adage goes, requiring the winemakers to merely preserve the essence of what the vines and the vintage had to offer.

Anwilka 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

A blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Syrah and 7% Petit Verdot which was aged for 19 months in French oak, 50% new 400 litre barrels and 50% second fill. A seductively perfumed vintage, the aromatics show alluring notes of violets, potpourri and hits of lily over dark bramble berry fruits with hints of mocha espresso notes that combine with subtle buttered brown toast nuances. The palate shows fabulous elegance and finesse with a soft touch concentration of black currant, Christmas pudding, savoury plum compote and black cherry. The tannins are powdery and fine grained but also structured and drying, combining well with a fresh glossy acidity that keeps the finish focused, vibrant and bright. An impressive wine that not only shows off another great vintage in the Cape but also what is increasingly possible with the superb Anwilka Stellenbosch terroir.

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

Tasting the New Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2018 Release from Christo Le Riche…

Now established as one of South Africa’s true first growth Cabernet Sauvignons, Christo Le Riche has certainly had a jolly old time of late with an incredible run of form with the Le Riche Reserve 2015, 2016 and 2017 all rated outstanding. This new release 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon combines grapes from vineyards in Firgrove (31%), the Jonkershoek Valley (31%), Raithby (24%) and the Simonsberg (12%) which were aged for 24 months in 76% new French oak barriques to create another notable flagship red worthy of global recognition.

The hand selected grapes from older, lower yielding vines were used and fermentation was done with a selected inoculated yeast strain under controlled temperatures. Manual plunging during this period ensured optimal colour extraction. After five days the tanks were closed and allowed to macerate for a further period of around 10-14 days. Pressing followed and the wine was transferred into barrel for the secondary malolactic fermentation. On completion, a final quality check and analysis was performed and then the Reserve cuvee was prepared for barrel ageing. Bottling was followed by hand labelling and further bottle maturation before release.

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.87% Abv.

1.4 g/l RS | 5.6 g/l TA | 3.77 pH

Another very impressive Cabernet Sauvignon, the aromatics are pure and classy, dominated by cool dark maritime saline notes of salty crème de cassis, kelp, picante black cherry and vibrant scents of crushed blackberries, star anise, cardamom, salty black liquorice and hints of creamy vanilla oak spice. The palate is super sleek, supple and lithe with a fabulously elegant texture, silky soft mineral graphite tannins, a loose knit mid-palate fleshy black fruit generosity and tons of vibrant acid freshness on the finish. This is a classical Le Riche Reserve Cabernet at its most seductive, although it is, rather amazingly, so approachable, expressive and absolutely delicious right now on release but undoubtedly capable of another good 15+ years of prime cellaring.

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

Draaiboek Wines Releases Their Second Vintage of the Onskuld Chardonnay 2020 From the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge…

Draaiboek wines is a name that might be new to many. Though I did review the maiden release 2019, this is essentially a new wine company that was created by five friends who met while studying at the University of Stellenbosch in the early 2000s. The foundations of their friendship were formed during the frequent wine tastings and wine routing jollies indulged in as students. After graduating, everyone eventually headed out to write their own stories. Yet, despite different borders and time zones, they always checked in with every changing chapter of each others lives. Now, after many years of friendship, the different characters have come together once again to produce Draaiboek Wines, born out of a love for wine and the stories that it tells.

Draaiboek means script in Afrikaans, and as Pieter Lemmer, one of the London based partners tells me, “…we believe every wine has a story to tell. We released our first wine in September 2020, a 2019 Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge Chardonnay. We chose the name Onskuld (meaning innocence) for our first wine to represent our innocent naivety in starting this journey (many lessons were learned in the process!). We operate essentially as a negociant buying in fruit, and so far, we’ve sourced all our grapes from a single block of 10-year-old north-east facing Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge vines at 300 metres altitude planted on Bokkeveld shale with a high clay content”.

The Draaiboek wines are made by another good friend of theirs, Stephanie Wiid from the well know Thistle and Weed winery, who they have also known for many years. Stephanie, along with viticulturalist Etienne Terblanche, have sourced and selected the fruit from a specific single block at La Vierge in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge although in 2021, a second block of Chardonnay has been added to increase the volume of wine produced. For the maiden 2019 vintage only 200 x 6 were produced, rising to 300 x 6 for the 2020 vintage. Watch out for their 2021 Pinot Noir also made from Ridge fruit that is still in the cellar but should be released in 2022.

I recently tasted a sample of the 2020 Onskuld Chardonnay which was aged on its fine lees for 11 months and saw 30% new oak in the final blend, aiming to give the wine more structure than the 2019 while still showing all the hallmarks of Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge minerality. Draaiboek Wines follows a philosophy of minimal intervention in the cellar, allowing the quality of the terroir to express itself. This certainly seems to be a new boutique name to watch.

Draaiboek Wines Onskuld Chardonnay 2020, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5% Abv.

2.4 g/l RS | 6.2 TA | 3.38 pH

In 2020 this Chardonnay is all still sourced from one single Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge block. Mindful of the wine’s youth, I opened my sample and tasted over two days to give the wine the full benefit of oxygen. This certainly is a very impressive wine and a considerable step up on the delicious maiden 2019. The aromatics show complex multi-dimensional layers of sea spray, white flowers, orange citrus oil, freshly baked buttered croissants and pithy lemon rind notes. Very pure and precise, the palate reveals an incredibly elegant, creamy leesy texture with no shortage of tension and minerality, all supported by an intense but seamless concentration of green and yellow fruits, pineapple pastille and lemon bon bons nuances. The length is truly striking, lingering then very slowing fading gradually on the long finish as if someone was slowing turning down the taste volume. The acids are fresh as you’d expect from Ridge fruit but also fabulously tangy and bright. Like a great work of art, this 2020 requires a measure of reflection and contemplation to fully appreciate its beautiful construction, pristine balance and superb harmony. Give the wine plenty of air, decanting if necessary, and don’t serve too cold. A wonderfully complete wine that should drink well from release and over 6 to 8+ years.

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

Sakkie Mouton Family Wines Breaks New Ground Launching a South African Unicorn Vermentino from Koekenaap…

I am a massive fan of Vermentino whether grown in the Italian regions of Liguria, the Maremma, Corsica and Sardinia or down in Provence in the sun-baked South of France where it is generally known as Rolle. This maiden Vermentino release from the hugely talented young gun Sakkie Mouton is certainly an unusual grape to find produced in South Africa but is also an inspired choice for his electric (and eclectic) style of winemaking.

A picture from the Mouton family album… shows his grandfather riding a bull on the beach up the Wes Kus (West Coast) in what looks like circa 1950s to me!? This wine is a celebration of eccentricity in a world of mass conformity.

Like Sakkie’s highly sought-after Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc, this wine is sourced from a tiny patch of Vermentino vines grown on sandy soils in Koekenaap planted in 2017, located 15 kilometres from the cold Atlantic Ocean. For me, one of the most exciting aspects of Sakkie’s winemaking is that whatever grape variety he chooses to turn his hand to, you can be assured that the end result will reflect the regional terroir of Koekenaap almost more intensely than any individual expression of the grape variety. The unwaveringly maritime and saline characteristics of this barren coastal terroir up the West Coast has become almost synonymous as Sakkie Mouton’s signature style and these particular Vermentino grapes are located no more than 600 metres away from his Crayfish Chenin Blanc vineyard with its decomposed sandstone soils with pockets of limestone which lend great minerality and low pH’s to the finished wines.

The Vermentino grapes for this 2021 maiden release actually form part of a complex viticultural story with vines planted originally by Vinpro as part of a programme of small batch experimental vineyards developed around interesting viticultural areas to see if these experimental varieties might work on a more commercial scale. Similar projects today see Vinpro planting Assyrtiko vineyards to assess their future potential, but not to be confused with Gary Jordan who has pioneered this variety in South Africa and is already on his third tranche of vineyard plantings in Stellenbosch!

An animated story for sure but as Sakkie points out, Vermentino did not eventually crack the nod from Vinpro as growers immediately saw that the variety would not produce sufficient yields and the extraction process for Vermentino subsequently proved way too difficult for commercial purposes with lower than expected juice yields.

But with Sakkie ignoring adversity, the grapes from this micro vineyard were hand harvested early in the morning, then taken to a cold room facility for cooling. The grapes were foot trodden as whole bunches in an old basket press with the juice being transferred to cold settle for 12 hours in a stainless steel tank. The clear juice was then racked into 228 litre barrels to ferment naturally. The finished wine was aged on its gross lees for four months with regular stirring of the lees. After four months in the 228 litre barrels, the wine was racked into 500 litre barrels for a further two months of aging. Nothing was added to the wine except sulphur before bottling. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Sakkie Mouton Family Wines Sand Erf Vermentino 2021, WO Koekenaap, 12.5% Abv.

8.2 TA | 1.0 RS | 3.12 pH

This delicious Vermentino expression, like many of the best premium old-world styles offers up an intense, complex aromatic array of crunchy white pears, green apples and white peaches all underpinned by a pronounced stony crushed rock minerality. Give the glass another swirl and yet more aromas of lime peel, honeydew melon and tangerine waft out the bowl. With Vermentino’s higher than usual phenols, the palate shows a delicious green almond bitterness that melts into a mouth-watering melange of glycerol pink grapefruit, pear pastille and freshly cut fennel which bears pronounced maritime notes of rock salt and tangy citric acids. Medium bodied but displaying an almost creamy texture, this wine is both generous and bracing all at the same time, confounding the palate with its profound salinity. If there is one thing that Sakkie Mouton is good at, it is making articulate white wines that challenge the senses before ultimately seducing them with effortless harmony, freshness and balance. Simply delightful to drink now, but with several more years of ageing, this wine will undoubtedly start to show more of its true Vermentino DNA with notes of floral-infused honey, chamomile and toasted almonds. The question is however … can you resist the temptation of the wine’s current youthful allure!? (Total production 620 bottles)

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

Postscript: I opened this bottle at fridge chilled temperature and tasted continuously over 4 hours without returning the bottle back to the fridge. The gradual release of additional flavours, sensations of concentration and an amplified salinity with a searing acidity were very impressive. In the same way a serious white Burgundy does not need to be returned to ice, this wine just unfurled continuously, and I encourage drinkers of this wine to serve it chilled but also to allow it to warm up a little so that it can fan its peacock tail!

Some Exciting New Sauvignon Blanc Releases from 2020 – Tasting the Painted Wolf Lightning…

After eight days of extensive tastings for the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2021 as the South African panel chair, it became very apparent that the 2020 vintage Sauvignon Blancs being released at the moment offer up a real treasure trove of styles and expressions, but all exceptional quality from entry level pricing all the way up to premium single vineyard releases.

This excellent Painted Wolf Sauvignon Blanc made by the talented Jeremy Borg, is named after Lightning, thought to be one of the most famous endangered wild dogs living in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Made from pristine cool climate Walker Bay coastal fruit, this wine exemplifies the quality of many of the premium examples hitting the retail shelves now. Don’t miss out!

(Other cool climate Sauvignon Blanc expressions from nearby to watch out for include Wild Air from Hannes Storm, Southern Right and Creation.)

Painted Wolf Lightning Sauvignon Blanc 2020, WO Walker Bay, 12.5% Abv.

The grapes for this wine were hand picked, hand sorted and whole bunch pressed then fermented in large French oak barrels and a solitary concrete egg using only natural wild yeasts. The aromatics are beautifully pure and high toned with spicy notes of fresh lemon grass, pithy white citrus peel, capsicum and hints of crushed gooseberries. Any oak notes are incredibly delicate and seamlessly integrated highlighting the extreme precision with which this classy Sauvignon Blanc was assembled. The palate is fabulously cool, crystalline and pure laced with crunchy green fruits, subtle green herbs, yellow grapefruit, hints of bell pepper spice and finishes with a stony, flinty, wet river pebble length. Compact, vibrantly cool climate with crunchy acids and wonderfully balanced, this is another class act from Jeremy Borg. Drink now until 2025+.

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