Sam Lambson is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s rising star producers and after only four vintages (2018 to 2021), has introduced another exciting single site Syrah to his growing range. The 2020 Minimalist Wines ‘Experimental’ Syrah was produced from this same Elgin vineyard but was made differently, showing a more accessible, crunchy, fresh, herbal fruity expression compared to this very fine, focused, cool fruited 2021 bottling that is greatly elevated in stature, joining Sam Lambson’s Stars In the Dark Syrah among his more premium range of wines.
The grapes all come from Niemandsrivier, a beautiful 3 hectare vineyard in Elgin that are leased from Johan and Milanie Vosloo and farmed by the Minimalist team themselves. Planted in 2006, the vineyard features three Syrah clones on a geographically complex mix of Sandstone and Shale soils and is the perfect canvas to produce fine premium Syrah wines. Vines located in the same block can react to their environment in unique ways, says Sam Lambson, and No Place Like Home is an exploration of the variation that exists within a single vineyard. Using a mix of drone technology (with a Near Infrared Camera flying 80m above the vineyard) and good, old-fashioned soil analysis, Sam and his team identified four distinct pockets across the 3 hectare parcel, then harvested and fermented them separately before marrying them together for this unique wine.
I met up with Sam in the UK in the Autumn of 2022 and was thrilled to taste this new, premium expression of Elgin Syrah. I was one of the first wine trade professionals to taste a barrel sample of his 2018 Stars in the Dark way back in late 2018 and knew from that moment that this was the beginning of a new exciting wine. When I tasted the maiden No Place Like Home 2021 Elgin Syrah with him in September 2022, I experienced a similar feeling and felt confident that this was also the beginning of something special. Track down an allocation now before the hype goes mainstream!
Minimalist Wines No Place Like Home Syrah 2021, WO Elgin, 13.5% Abv.
An alluring and instantly impressive classically styled wine aged in neutral 228 litre French oak barrels for 16 months, reveals complex aromatics of ripe black plum, boysenberry, potpourri, sweet black peppercorns with a hint of sweet grilled herbs and black berry reduction. The intensity and precision of this 2021 are notable and follow to an elegant, medium-bodied palate that coats the mouth with sumptuous, saline cassis fruit layers, sweet smoky black currant and subtle hints of kelp and oyster shell minerality. This is another delightfully vibrant expression that will seduce many Syrah obsessives, with its 20% whole bunch portion adding an extra little complexing sapidity on the long finish. Undoubtedly a wine that is going to cause a stir… but that is exactly what Sam Lambson has become famous for! Start chasing an allocation now and drink this beauty on release and over the next 6 to 10+ years.
This unique white wine is sourced from a tiny patch of Vermentino vines grown on orange sandy soils in Koekenaap planted in 2017, and which are located only 15 kilometres from the cold Atlantic Ocean up the barren West Coast. The unwaveringly maritime and saline characteristics of this dry 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 old vine 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.
After tasting a few tank samples with Sakkie Mouton at the Cape Wine Trade Fair in Cape Town in October 2022, it was inevitable that the excitement would build until he released his second Vermentino vintage. More importantly, after Cape Wine, I made the five hour trek up the West Coast with Sakkie after the trade fair to go and visit not only his famous Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc vineyard, but also the two long rows of Vermentino that were planted originally as an experimental grape.
The 2022 Sand Erf was harvested in two separate parcels, with the first parcel getting 12 hours on the skins before pressing, and the second parcel getting whole brunch pressed. After pressing, both parcels were blended together. After a one month fermentation, the wine was racked into one 300 litre barrel for ageing for four months with regular stirring of the lees.
The wine was bottled as Wine of Origin Koekenaap, unfiltered and unfined, with just the smallest addition of sulphur. While the one parcel only saw 12 hours of skin contact, Sakkie feels this factor has had a significantly positive influence on the finished wine, helping it to portray a slightly fuller, fleshier, more textural expression in the glass.
Sakkie Mouton Family Wines Sand Erf Vermentino 2022, WO Koekenaap, 11.93% Abv.
1.4g/l RS | 6.9g/l TA | 3.4pH
This white wine is classic Wes Kus misfit Sakkie Mouton at his best. The nose is packed full of youthful cream soda and rock candy aromatics before notes of peach kernals, crunchy green pear, white blossom and lime peel emerge to spar with the ever-present layers of maritime salinity, dried kelp, nori seaweed and rock salt complexity. The extra time on the skins lends the palate just that little extra fleshy, glycerol weight and roundness in the mouth to balance the intense briney rock salt salinity. The palate remains rapier fresh and precise but just that little bit broader and more architecturally layered, revealing a delicious green apple freshness and white peach and dried herb nuances on the long, generous finish. This is a wine that speaks of a specific maritime terroir and its harsh corresponding wind-swept coastal environment. In Koekenaap, the people are as hardy as the vines, but both are equally generous and expressive when handled correctly. A beautiful follow-up release that grows in confidence like Sakkie’s very own winemaking prowess. Drink this wine on release with wild Wes Kus oysters or fresh line fish or else watch it unfurl extra layers of complexity over the coming 3 to 5+ years.
The Brookdale Estate, situated at the foot of the lofty Du Toitskloof Pass in Paarl, is a very impressive boutique winery owned by Englishman Tim Rudd and is planted with not only 25+ year old Chenin Blanc vines but also several other special Chenin Blanc blocks that are now over 35 years old and certified under the Old Vine Project as Heritage Vines. When Tim Rudd bought the farm, most of the existing vineyards were in very poor condition necessitating their removal to make way for broad new plantings of not only Syrah but also several massive white and red field blends.
I believe the field blend plantings were initially inspired by Duncan Savage, the original consulting winemaker at Brookdale until Kiara Scott took over the winemaking, producing Brookdale’s third vintage of premium Chenin Blanc in 2019. But when I visited the estate back in 2018 to meet Tim Rudd for the first time, I was fascinated by these impressive field blend plantings which contained a broad array of varieties.
So it was with great excitement and anticipation that I sat down recently with a bottle of the maiden Brookdale Field Blend 2021 to assess this fascinating young vine wine. Having recently tasted and reviewed the excellent white field blend from Jonkershoek Valley winery Stark Conde, I looked forward to cracking this maiden release from Tim Rudd and Kiara Scott and comparing the viticultural theory with what was actually bottled.
The Sixteen Field Blend is comprised of 16 different varietals, interplanted as bush vines and essentially seeks to recapture the lost art of field blend winemaking as practiced all over Europe in the last century before the rise of mono-culture winemaking.
Brookdale Estate Sixteen White Field Blend 2021, WO Paarl, 14% Abv.
The aromatics are classical yet ever so slightly exotic all at once with a pronounced dusty granitic minerality fading into dried baking herbs, sage, jasmine, dried stable straw, desiccated coconut and acacia honey on warm buttered white toast. The palate is silky, crystalline, fresh and lithe with plenty of front palate peach, apricot, honied fruit concentration on the entry before the wine’s gravelly minerality reasserts itself again to offer a complex liquid minerality with appealing wet river pebble nuances. Such a wonderfully considered and intricate wine in its maiden release with a beautiful green apple, nectarine and stone fruit depth, harmonious glycerol waves of texture and an impressive resinous fine wine palate breadth. Drink this on release or watch it evolve in unknown directions over the next 6 to 8+ years.
The Brookdale wines are exclusively imported and distributed in the UK by South African fine wine specialist, Museum Wines. http://www.museumwines.co.uk
Sadie Family Wines are located in the Swartland region of South Africa and is without doubt one of South Africa’s most sought-after producers. But it wasn’t always like this. Before Eben Sadie settled down to carve out his career as a winemaker, he travelled and worked extensively in several major wine regions of the world, including Germany, Austria, Italy, Oregon and Burgundy. After returning to South Africa, he found employment alongside South African icon Charles Back, at The Spice Route in 1998. Sadie Family Wines, as we know it today, was founded in 1999, with the first two vintages produced at Charles Back’s Spice Route facilities.
While everything Eben puts his hand to nowadays becomes instantly collectable, his personal winemaking focus remains his signature wines, namely his white blend Palladius and his red Syrah based blend, Columella. But the fine wine world often has other designs, relentlessly craving his small production single vineyard wines made from some of South Africa’s oldest vineyards in the Cape. One of these, the Soldaat Old Vine Series, is made from ungrafted and unirrigated old bush vines that are planted at 708m altitude on decomposed granite soils on a 6-hectare site that Grenache shows such a great affinity for, and it really shows on this incredible wine. After manual harvesting, fermentation occurs spontaneously with indigenous yeasts. Maceration and fermentation is carried out in concrete tanks for 30 days and aging lasts on average 12 months in old oak barrels.
Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2012
Pronounced earthy, sappy, green leaf style with notes of dried herbs, fynbos, sandalwood and leafy red currant tangy berry fruits. The acids are electric, cool and glassy. Just a measured amount of tertiary complexity developing. 92/100? (95/100 Jan 2023 Tasting)
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Note: In the original vertical tasting, this wine seemed more evolved and savoury, but on tasting again in January 2023 from a different batch, the wine positively radiated energy and freshness, implying that the 2012 bottle initially assessed was perhaps not in top condition. Even my note on this wine in 2016 said… “you best bury a few bottles away if you have any left! (Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW) – This could potentially be a 95, 96, 97 point classic one day when it nears maturity. Yes, it’s that good!”
Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2016
Lovely warming nose of strawberry jam on warm scones, crushed gravel and sweet fynbos herbal notes before bramble berry fruits with a distinct savoury, meaty finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2017
Definite note of reduction evident with hints of wet slate, crushed chalk, black currant, oyster shell and bramble berry spice. The palate is taut and compact, sappy and intense with a creamy textural balance and a herby, brambly, savoury finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2018
Lovely bright red fruited nose with red currant, crushed strawberry and bramble berry spice. Palate is glycerol, dense and super serious with stony tannins, graphite spice and a savoury red berry finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2019
Offers a beautiful melange of fynbos, crushed granite, dried herbs and red currant spice. Plush, opulent and seductive, this is a very impressive wine with superb power, precision and balance.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2020
Dense, bright, pure red fruited nose with delicious creamy depth, layers of red currant, strawberry and seductive red cherry fruit together with a complexing sapidity, tobacco leaf and a stony minerality. Beautiful harmony, seamless balance, and a long, pristine finish. Wow!
(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Wines are available on strict allocation to the trade in the USA from Broadbent Selections and in the UK from FMV. Retail is circa £50 per bottle on release.
I am on record for describing Merlot as a bit of a weed. I mean, when you compare it to even Malbec, Petit Verdot or Cabernet Franc let alone the grandeur of Cabernet Sauvignon, it soon becomes apparent that this is a very difficult grape to produced high quality, premium iconic wines from. Which is why for many years I have said there were only three places in the world that should bottle single varietal Merlot: Bordeaux (specifically Pomerol and St Emilion), Tuscany (specifically Bolgheri) and California (more specifically the Napa Valley and Sonoma).
But every time I get comfortable in my mindset, a wine like this delicious Thelema Merlot comes along to challenge my perceptions. Normally a straight Thelema Merlot release will be produced only if the quality of the vintage does not merit the Reserve selection. Whether it is the use of the Clone 102 Merlot grown on Richter 99 rootstocks in Hutton and decomposed granite soils or perhaps the age of the vines, planted in 1988, this is certainly a Stellenbosch wine that often over performs. In 2019, no Merlot Reserve was produced due to severe weather fluctuations during bud break and flowering, followed by cool windy conditions which contributed to less and more uneven bunches with smaller berries and generally lower alcohol levels.
The grapes for this 2019 Merlot were gently de-stemmed, retaining as many whole berries as possible after which the fruit was transferred to its stainless-steel fermentation tank. The grapes were then inoculated with a commercial yeast which the estate feels helps the fermented wine develop a more beneficial flavour profile. Malolactic fermentation took place in barrel where the wines were aged for 18 months with a 25% new French oak portion. The wines were only racked once during this period before being prepared for bottling.
Thelema Mountain Vineyards Merlot 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.
2.8g/l RS | 5.4g/l TA | 3.55pH
Displaying an attractive medium deep ruby colour in the glass, the 2019 Thelema Merlot has an open and expressive aromatics with notes of bruleed coffee beans, piquant red berry fruits, red currant, red plum, dried mint leaf, sage and hints of Chinese five spice mixed with sweet cedar. There is a definite generosity of fruit on the palate with a plush, soft textured mouthfeel that boasts spicy, fleshy, chocolatey tannins, yet more red berry fruit characters and a notable balance that really shines the light on the harmonious elegance Merlot can attain. A delightful, characterful Merlot that will offer a lot of drinking pleasure to followers over the next 6 to 8+ years.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the bedrock of the Stark Conde winery in the Jonkershoek Valley ward of Stellenbosch and at 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2019 new release also includes a small percentage of 10% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec. This super concentrated vintage sees a pronounced intensity and flavour focus as a result of the reduced peaberry-sized crop that yielded high colour, very good phenolics and a lower-than-average alcohol level.
Stark Conde also produce two more premium Cabernet Sauvignon based blends in the Three Pines and the Oude Nektar cuvées, both of which have much higher price tags than this beautiful benchmark “estate” Cabernet blend. Quite simply, very few wine producing countries can hit this level of age-worthy, classical quality for such an incredibly affordable price. Seek it out and make some space in your cellar! (Recommended retail price at £24.99 per bottle in the UK)
Stark Conde Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.
This 2019 is certainly deep, dark and opaque with a broody blackberry and black plum core from 18- to 30-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vines. On the nose, the wine really impresses with alluring aromatics of violets, raspberry herbal tea, sweet tannery leather, freshly tilled earth and mocha spice before opulent notes of earthy blackberry, blueberry and graphite. With such incredible power and intensity of fruit on display here, the subtle cedar wood and black chai tea spice nuances are absorbed by the black fruit and mineral depth. Despite the vintage’s slightly lower-than-average alcohol level, the palate is wonderfully plush and dense with a classically fresh sweet and sour vein of crème de cassis, black cherry and leafy mulberry over sweet expansive fleshy tannins. When the perfect terroir meets the perfect variety and the finest winemaking know-how is utilised to capture that in a bottle, this is what you get – mesmerising quality at such an affordable price. Drink this classically configured Cabernet powerhouse over the next 10 to 15+ years. What an absolute steal… only possible from South Africa!
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Available in the UK from their exclusive importer, the South African Fine Wine Specialist, Museum Wines.
Happy New Year from the Fine Wine Safari. May your 2023 year be filled with fine food, fine wine and enduring wine sharing friendships. To all my readers out there, I thank you for your ongoing support and will endeavour to bring you many more “hot off the press” wine reviews and new “star wine finds” in the year ahead.
As the fine wine marketplace consolidates ever more with an increasing number of customers and merchants chasing an ever-smaller concentric group of allocated wines, I feel stronger than ever that it’s part of my job to try and discover and raise the new fine wine stars out of industry obscurity, highlighting their incredible wines and telling their unique heart-warming stories so that wine drinkers can fill their cellars with as many diverse fine wines from around the world as possible.
Of course, South African fine wines will continue to occupy many column inches on my website as I truly believe, more so than ever, that the country and its dynamic winemakers offer some of the most enticing and exciting wines being produced anywhere in the world and are, for the time being, still available at a fraction of what they are really worth.
So let’s all raise a glass to the exciting wine journey we will travel in 2023.
In September, Chris “Butch” Alheit returned to the United Kingdom to present his new 2021 vintages at his importer’s portfolio tasting. With over 120+ wines from South Africa being poured, most with their producers in attendance, I decided to write up a series of “snap-shot” tastings for drinkers and collectors to use as a quick and easily accessible reference for a whole series of new releases. I fortuitously had another opportunity only a few weeks later to retaste the entire Alheit range again with Chris in Cape Town at the Cape Wine 2022 wine show in October. So my below scores are an aggregate of the two tastings.
Chris explained that in general, his vineyards ripened around 10 days later in 2021 than the previous year, with low yields but very high quality across the board. In 2021, no Huilkrans Chenin Blanc was made as the crop from this Skurfberg “lieu dit” vineyard was simply too small. Then there was the Magnetic North catastrophy which saw the entire tank of Chenin Blanc from this famous vineyard ruined by a faulty tank gasket seal that imparted an unpleasant bitterness to the wine. As if Alheit demand and supply is not strained enough in a regular vintage, 2021 with its exceptional white wine quality will create even more severe headaches for collectors and drinkers looking for allocations of these incredible wines. But I recommend you persevere as the wines are once again truly outstanding.
Alheit Vineyards Hereafter Here 2021, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.
Made from young vine Chenin Blanc vineyards from Upper Blaauwklippen, Polkadraai and the Swartland, the idea is that some of these grapes will eventually be channelled into Cartology in years to come as the vines age. Deliciously cool, silky and taut with green fruits, white flowers, white citrus, green apple and crunchy peach nuances. Acids are mouth-wateringly tangy and the fruits crystalline and pure with impressive clarity and balance. A clear step up in quality and intensity on the maiden 2020 release.
Alheit Vineyards Cartology 2021, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.
A blend of 90% Chenin Blanc and 10% Semillon from circa nine dryland bush vine parcels around the Cape with a minimum age of 35 years but with most between 40 to 80 years old. The entry shows a massive vibrant concentration of white citrus, peach and tangerine with complexing notes of wet thatch, fynbos and struck flint reduction. The palate is rich and textured, plush and fleshy, showing the true class and pedigree of the 2021 vintage. This must be among the finest Cartology releases produced to date. Do not miss it!
Alheit Vineyards Fire By Night Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.
Previously known as Broom Ridge, this wine has reverted back to its original name and label due to popular demand. From vineyards on the property Chris bought in the Swartland, the vines were planted between 1971 and 1985 on decomposed granitic soils. The aromatics are predictably stony, dusty and pithy with white peach, crunchy pear, green tea, fynbos and tangerine undertones. The palate shows its usual tell-tale reductive flinty hints together with an incredible liquid minerality that is supported by crystalline pure fruits and pinpoint fresh acids. Once again, a very impressive showing from this Paardeberg vineyard.
Alheit Vineyards Nautical Dawn Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Helderberg, Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.
Grapes for this single vineyard wine come from a beautiful higher altitude site in the Helderberg planted in 1978 that overlooks False Bay. The soils are weathered decomposed granite that look like caster sugar in texture. True to this vineyard’s terroir, there is an incredibly pronounced rock salt salinity on the wine with an overt maritime sea breeze complexity that combines with notes of peach, pear, lime peel, tangerine and a savoury liquid minerality on the finish. Intense, complex and certainly quite profound. Wow!
The grapes from this famous La Colline vineyard were planted in 1936 and offer up complex notes of melted bee’s wax, incense, sweet baking herbs, black currant, lemon rind and tangerine. There is a generous, concentrated fleshy savoury fruit core all held in perfect equilibrium by fresh taut acids. Still showing a complexing hint of smoky reduction, this is undoubtedly a profound Semillon offering from one of the most famous vineyards in the country. Pop this in your cellar for 3 to 5 years and then drink over 8 to 10+ years.
Alheit Vineyards Hemelrand Vine Garden 2021, WO Hemel-en-Aarde, 13.5% Abv.
A blend of 36% Chardonnay, 27% Roussanne, 18% Chenin Blanc, 16% Verdelho and 3% Muscat. This field blend offers up rich earthy, peachy fruit notes with yellow orchard fruits, white flowers, citrus oil and lychee with subtle baking spice nuances. The palate is fresh and full fruited with a fruit salad melange enlivened by juicy, tangy acids and a delicately savoury, mineral finish. Plenty of intensity on display here but also a fine purity and a harmonious balance. One of the best Hemelrand Vine Garden releases to date.
Alheit Vineyards Lost and Found Hanepoot Straw Wine 2019, WO Breedekloof, 7% Abv.
Looking at this rich, unctuous wine in the glass is akin to gazing through an ancient piece of Jurassic fossilized amber – ripe, captivating and most definitely warmly inviting. But this is no normal sweet wine and one sniff of the rich, ripe, potent aromatics reveals an enchanting bouquet of freshly boiled marmalade jam, green mango preserve, barley sugar, sweet herbs, wet straw and dried apricots. Give the dense, glycerol wine another slow swirl in a big Zalto Bordeaux bowl and it shifts gears again to offer yet more pithy orange peel nuances and seductive notes of quince jelly, pressed grapes and burnt caramel. Like some of South Africa’s other truly great sweet wines, the aromatics are so complex and seductive that you almost forget to sip the wine! Incredibly viscous and fleshy on the palate with a round glycerol opulence, there is no suggestion at any point that this wine is going to be overly sweet and clawing with its 450 g/l RS. In fact the sweetness is kept smartly in check by a searing acidity that scythes through the caramel and barley sugar laden fruit layers with samurai sword precision. The finish is gloriously mouth coating, hedonistic and persistent with just the most subtle sappy, pithy, bitter orange peel vermouth twang.
Jasper Wickens started working with Adi Badenhorst at the Kalmoesfontein property in the Paardeberg in 2009 and was a central character in the whole Swartland Revolution movement. As the dynamic Swartland movement gathered pace, Jasper met his now wife, Franziska Wickens (néé Schreiber), who is the third generation of a Swartland farming family in the Siebritskloof Valley in the Paardeberg and studied viticulture at Elsenberg with a focus on cellar management. Their relationship grew at a similar pace to the popularity of the Swartland’s red and white wines and were finally married in 2016 on Franziska’s Waterval farm.
Exactly 10 years after he first moved to the Paardeberg, Jasper completed his final harvest at AA Badenhorst Family Wines in 2018 as he prepared to move full time into the repurposed wine cellar at his Waterval farm next door to focus on his own Swerwer range that was established back in 2012 with the sole purpose of creating authentic “wines of place” that represented the true essence of their local terroirs. Franziska owns and manages extensive family vineyard plantings and now supplies some of the most sought after Swartland grapes to producers such as JH Meyer, AA Badenhorst, Blacksmith Wines, Paul Jordaan’s Bosberaad, John Seccombe, Samantha Suddons’ Vinevenom label and Martin Lamprecht’s Marras label.
Jasper’s Swerwer range is now quite extensive and includes, among others, a Chenin Blanc, an old vine skin contact Tiernes Chenin Blanc, a Semillon Gris, as well as reds made from Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Tinta Barocca and Touriga Nacional. Jasper is undoubtedly making some of the most exciting wines in the Swartland that will surely become a lot harder to buy as his reputation for quality continues to grow year by year. So if you haven’t tasted the wines from his Swerwer range yet, the Chenin Blanc and his Red Blend made from Cinsault, Grenache, and Tinta Barocca are the perfect place to start your discovery. Jasper is definitely a Swartland producer to follow closely.
JC Wickens Swerwer Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.
This is another beautifully expressive Chenin Blanc from warm granitic mountain slopes in the Swartland region. Jasper and Franziska Wickens own and farm some truly profound vineyards in the Paardeberg area and this Chenin Blanc is a classically styled steely white shaped by its decomposed granitic terroir. The aromatics are cool and supremely mineral with layers of crushed gravel, dried green herbs, oatmeal biscuits, lemon rind, yellow orchard fruits and sweet wet hay nuances. The palate reveals lovely textural tension and fruit / acid intensity without losing any elegance and precision, showing plenty of pineapple pastille, bruised yellow orchard fruits, wet river pebble minerality and a pithy, leesy finish. This is a wine that speaks volumes of its origin, expresses its unique terroir and seduces the drinker in doing so. There are many far more expensive Swartland Chenin Blancs on the market but few which reach this level of complexity and palate-appeal for a similar price. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8 years.
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
The Cinsault and Grenache were sourced from vineyards growing on well drained, granite soils. Cinsault was often known as the workhorse variety and of the rare Grenache only very few old vineyards remain. Tinta Barocca has proved itself in the Swartland already for decades and completes this traditional blend. Here it is sourced from a warmer clay–rich vineyard.
JC Wickens Swerwer Red Blend 2020, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.
An eclectic blend of Cinsault, Grenache, and Tinta Barocca make for a truly delicious Swartland red blend. The deep, dark aromatic base notes of the Grenache and Tinta Barocca are raised out the glass by the delicate rose petal perfumed lift of the Cinsault before more complex notes of cured meats, bramble berries, red cherries, cola, and Turkish delight come to the fore. The palate is both compact, concentrated, and sleek but also wonderfully light on its feet, enlivened by a mouth-watering red berry acidity, hints of cranberry, wild strawberry and smoky, meaty charcuterie savoury nuances. This certainly is a very impressive versatile red that can be sipped on its own or paired with almost any food dishes. Jasper Wickens is truly a master craftsman and this fabulous red is a tribute to his winemaking skills. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5+ years.
Clayton Reabow of Môreson and Craig McNaught of Stony Brook winery are the winemakers behind this new head-turning Franschhoek-based label and the owners of the Lokaia brand. It was their belief that there was more to explore in the potential of the Franschhoek Valley with varieties like Semillon, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc that led to an exciting new range of wines. With second vintages of all three wines hitting the market both in South Africa and further afield, it seems the hype and excitement around the wines has been well founded.
The name “Lokaia” is derived from Ole Lukøje, the title of a fairy tale by author Hans Christian Andersen about the God of Dreams, and I’m sure neither Clayton nor Craig could have imagined the level of acclaim to which their three new wines would be received by markets, both locally in South Africa and internationally.
I really loved the electric early picked freshness on the whites and the purity and precision on their Cabernet Franc red. The market, as a whole, is so often top heavy with ripe, alcoholic, fruit bomb wines that sometimes fine wine lovers of elegance, tension, purity and freshness at lower alcohol levels are often forgotten about. But thankfully Clayton and Craig have created a tight range of wines that ticks so many boxes while also playing to the strengths of their local Franschhoek terroirs.
Such is the popularity of these wines and the instant following (and small production) that all three new releases sell out instantly on release in the local market. So worth looking out for these in the UK and further afield while they are still slightly less well known! It’s certainly not going to last!
Lokaia Pound of Flesh 2021, WO Bo-Hoek, Franschhoek, 10.5% Abv.
This impressive wine comes from a vineyard planted in 1995 on the Stony Brook farm in the Bo-Hoek area of Franschhoek. Despite its ultra-crystalline clear translucent colour, the wine saw a small amount of skin contact in the press before an extra four months ageing in stainless steel. There is an alluring dusty, stony mineral aromatic character on the attractive nose before more complex notes of lemon grass, lime peel, white pear, green herbs and lemon pastille emerge. At 10.5% Abv. the wine is impressively ample and ripe with taut textural layers of tart peach stone fruits, wet river pebble minerality and lime cordial, all framed by a steely, intense, glassy acidity that has more in common with Australia’s tart, dry Hunter Valley expressions than the more generous, glycerol, lanolin and lemon fruited expressions we are more used to from Franschhoek’s famous old vine vineyards. Like Lokaia’s other wines, this is another super classy expression that will seduce the fussiest of Old World fine wine aficionados. Drink from release and over the next 8 to 10+ years.