Another Iconic Vin de Constance Release from Klein Constantia – Tasting the 2014…

The 2014 Vin de Constance release sees Klein Constantia winemaker Matt Day deliver a superbly confident display of vinous sweet wine alchemy, conjuring up an impressively fine and balanced rendition of this iconic sweet Muscat dessert wine. Fill your cellars with this vinous gold!

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2014, WO Constantia, 14.2 Abv.

172 g/L RS, matured in 500 litre barrels for around 36 months, the 2014 displays a wonderfully aromatic nose of white blossom, honeysuckle, quince confit and freshly baked brioche smothered in honey and yellow grapefruit marmalade. The 2014 is wonderfully approachable showing a finely poised balance of creamy yellow orchard fruits and superbly elegant integrated acids. The finish is focused and pure, concentrated and beautifully textural, finishing with a delicious melange of orange peel, ginger pastille sweets and caramelised apples dusted with vanilla pod spice. This is a really distinguished expression that shows the winemaker’s growing confidence to be able to deliver an iconic expression of Vin de Constance year after year. Drink from 2019 to 2045+

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

Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance – Still the King of South African Sweet Wines…

Vin de Constance as we all know was drunk by Napoleon in exile and helped sooth lovers’ broken hearts in Charlotte Bronte novels but more significantly, was regarded as one of the most desirable sweet wines in the world often selling for higher prices than Bordeaux’s grandest red wines.

Now days, the winery employs the services of one of the most talented young winemakers in South Africa, Matt Day, who has whole heartedly embraced the quality vision promoted by the new(ish) owners, to make Vin de Constance one of the most desirable sweet wines in the world once again.

It’s actually not too often one gets to drink the older vintages now days but when they do pop up at lunches or dinners, they are always a truly wonderful vinous treat. I recently had the pleasure of enjoying the 21 year old 1997 Vin de Constance at lunch and it was every bit as riveting as expected. My advise is not to neglect this style when purchasing wines to cellar as they will certainly reward patience and appreciate in value.

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 1997, WO Constantia, 14.5 Abv.

Dark golden molasses brown with orange brick rim, this wine is super expressive, complex and intricate showing tertiary aromas of brown sugar, brûléed oranges, barley sugar, honeyed nuts and molasses hints. A subtle toffee apple and burnt sugar opulence underpins the palate which is wonderfully multidimensional, layered with caramelised orange peel, sweet peach ice tea and piquant Seville orange marmalade nuances. Incredible intensity, a regal sugar / acid balance and a superbly focused depth. A really awesome sweet wine expression. Drink now or bury in your cellar for another decade or two.

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

With Klein Constantia Winemaker Matt Day in London recently.

Drinking An Iconic South African Red – Unravelling the Meerlust Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1976 and the South African Fine Wine Investment Market…

In the week that Wine Cellar South Africa launched (and sold out of) its first fine wine investment fund built around (physical) iconic South African wines from the 2015 vintage, I thought it was fitting to drink a wine that illustrates the true greatness of South Africa’s best red wines. In light of the Wine Cellar VIP 2015 offering, many international commentators less intimately connected to the fine wine market have stated that “few South African wines improve appreciably with extended ageing” and thus the fine wine investment model is built on a sandy foundation.

Firstly, one needs to clarify what extended ageing implies. From a wine trade / merchant point of view, one could reasonably expect the quality of wines included in the VIP 2015 Fund to age and certainly improve incrementally for easily 10+ years… and many on the list for certainly 20 years plus. Secondly, to say that there is no secondary market for aged South African fine wine is blatantly wrong. There is massive demand but merely little to no supply… and the older stock that does make it to market commercially is either small parcels kindly released by the wineries themselves from archive stocks as more of a marketing endeavour or the stock is from provenanced private collections. Either way, it is an insignificant, non commercial quantity unable to influence the market in any meaningful way and adds no liquidity.

I have been involved in the top end of the UK fine wine trade for 20 years now, many of which I have actively been promoting and selling the very best wines from South Africa to international collectors and connoisseurs. Admittedly, you need to sell the best names from the best vintages, but that is certainly no different anywhere else in the fine wine world. Many top South African red (and white) wines clearly age very very well and while you always need to be selective and take professional advise, this fact is now indisputable.

To many, the term or idea of investing in a wonderful agricultural product like wine is sacrilege, a dirty word, a dirty concept. But for time immemorial, the concept of “investing in wine” implied buying double your requirements, with money you did not always readily have, and then selling half the wine several years later when more scarce to finance the drinking of the other half. In essence, this is still the model many fine wine investors (drinkers) that I deal with on a day to day basis follow. Indeed, I cannot name one private client on my books who is tea total and who only invests in wine for the hard cold cash returns. They are all passionate about wine.

One thing is very clear to me however. For South African fine wine to gain a genuinely fluid and dynamic foothold in the fine wine investment market globally, there has to be a strong and confident “wine investment culture” locally in the home market of the wines in question. The demand for older vintages needs to begin at home and then ripple out to international markets. For far too long it has been international buyers piling into the Nederburg Auction wines, the Cape Wine Makers Guild Wines or the odd rare fine wine older vintage auction offering. This Wine Cellar VIP 2015 Fund marks the turning of a corner, where locals put their money where their mouths are and invest in iconic wines from possibly a once in a generation quality vintage. With over 12,000 bottles included in this fund, we should over the coming years, see stocks of these perfectly cellared older vintages released onto the market for local and international consumption at a premium that is commensurate to the quality and rarity of the given wine. Supply and demand will decide that premium.

For what it’s worth, I bought this wonderful Meerlust Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1976 from the winery in March 2018 and drank it recently at a South African themed fine wine lunch in London. Poured sighted, there wasn’t a taster on the table of seven that did not sit in awe of its youthful elegance. A true testament to the ageability and longevity of classical Cabernet Sauvignon produced by one of South Africa’s top estates. The message now disseminating out of the South African fine wine scene is not whether the country is able to produce age worthy wines of super premium quality, but whether the industry as a whole has the skills and knowhow to market these wines globally in a proper confident manner, for the correct premium price tag and importantly, to the correct target market segments? Time for everyone to up their game in the South African fine wine trade.

Meerlust Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1976, W.O. Stellenbosch

A beautiful mahogany colour, the nose is initially tight and cedary, spicy and quite restrained, but 20 minutes of air in a decanter after the cork is pulled allows this grand old wine to open its shoulders. Wonderfully mellow but still vibrantly youthful, beguilingly complex, fragrant and intriguing. The palate is loaded with lovely sweet raisined cranberries, violets, sweet tobacco, black tea and an earthy red currant sappy depth. Texturally this is so fine, initially quite piquant and spicy but also beautifully elegant. Incredible to think this wine is 42 years olds and still going strong. A bold, powerful and elegantly regal red showing the real potential of South Africa’s greatest terroirs and the true premium standing of great Cabernet Sauvignon. What a treat!

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

The Old Vine Project Hits London Again to Seduce Us with Some Profound Old Vine Whites and Reds from South Africa…

I’m very excited to be attending the Alheit Family Wines new release 2017 tasting tomorrow in London at the offices of the Institute of Masters of Wine with Chris Alheit. Indeed it was Rosa Kruger and Andre Morgenthal’s recent Old Vines Project Masterclass Tasting a few weeks ago that reignited the excitement surrounding old vines, old vine culture and the changes in philosophy with regards to viticulture and vine growing taking place in South Africa.

A pair of Chris Alheit’s superb 2017 wines featured prominently on the July tasting and certainly helped set the scene for yet another SA tasting of old vine wines that promises to display some of the most exciting dry Chenin Blanc’s produced anywhere in the world. Just reading through the below Old Vine Masterclass tasting notes has already got me salivating.

Below are my raw notes taken from the Masterclass with Andre and Rosa.

Old Vine Project team Andre Morgenthal and Rosa Kruger in front of London’s Millennium Bridge.

Huis van Chevallerie Filia Brut Kap Klassiek 2014, Swartland – Vines Planted 1974

Savoury apple purée, honey and sun dried peaches, vermouth botanicals and sweet fynbos herby spice. Beautiful richness, peachy, leesy autolysis and a gravelly, mineral length.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Huis van Chevallerie Nuwedam Chenin Blanc 2017, Swartland – Vines Planted 1974

Rich, deep, earthy, mealy character, hairy yellow peaches, honey, lanolin, peach purée and a solid vein of gravelly, granitic minerality. Creamy and texturally very fine showing piercing white citrus and crunchy yellow fruit intensity, white peach pastille and a kiss of pineapple. Very impressive.

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

Waterford Estate Library Collection Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch – Vines Planted 1982

Beautifully nuanced nose with pronounced minerality, dusty granite and limestone, where the fruit component of the wine takes a back seat to the terroir minerality. Hints of struck match and tart fresh acids give way to lemon and lime pith, flinty white peaches and savoury pineapple. A really excellent expression.

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

Gabrielskloof Elodie Chenin Blanc 2016, Swartland – Vines Planted 1977

Rich perfumed nose showing soap stone, white citrus, green apple zest, creamy white peach and liquid minerality. Beautifully textured palate, complex and very harmonious. Very classy indeed.

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

Alheit family Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017, Swartland – Vines Planted 1976 and 1986

Wonderful melange of pure mineral, granite, grated apple, white peach and crunchy green pear with hints of orange blossom, tangerine and dried herb spice. Incredible harmony and balance, precise textural focus, sleek concentration and liquid mineral depth. A thought provoking wine, confounding the senses, stimulating the palate. Grand Cru texture, focus and precision.

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

Cartology Chenin Blanc / Semillon Blend, WO Western Cape 2017 – Vines aged between 32 and 82 years old from multiple plots, mostly 40 years old

Big, broad expansive yellow orchard fruit aromatics, subtle yellow blossom and then an overriding dusty gravel quarry minerality. The palate shows amazing depth, typical Alheit pineapple fruit pastille concentration, lemon grass and an incredible saline, grassy, herbal pithy length. Another epic effort from Butch.

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

Alheit Fire By Night 2017, Swartland, 13 Abv. – Vines planted in 1938, 1940 and 1944

Bright, crystalline and intense, wonderfully taut and intense, loaded with liquid minerals, limestone and green gauge, green apple and white pears. Pithy phenolic notes, spicy, pear purée expression and such clarity and focus. Mouth watering acidity, this wine tells an amazing story and delivers on so many levels with subtlety.

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

David & Nadia Perdekamp Semillon 2014, Swartland – Vines Planted 1972

Dusty granitic mineral aromatics, powdered sandstone, white citrus, white pepper and hints of orange blossom. So textural, intense and expertly finessed into a really profound version of Semillon.

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

Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2005, Franschhoek – Vines Planted in 1902, 1936 and 1942

Complex aromatics reveal notes of capsicum, white citrus and chalky granitic herbal green spice aromatics. Plenty of honied lemon, herbal fynbos notes and subtle oxidative, honied, lanolin length. Very expressive and complex.

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

Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2015, Franschhoek – Vines Planted in 1902, 1936 and 1942

Crunchy white peaches, citrus, crushed gravel and white pepper dominate the nose. Palate is packed full of lime peel complexity, vibrant bright acids, textural linearity and a long, wonderfully focused finish. Exceptional.

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

Mullineux & Leeu Dry Red 2015, WO Western Cape – Vines planted in 1932 and 1900

Lovely peppery, spicy leafy nose of plum, peppercorns, sweet bramble berries, hedgerow, bergamot and sappy cherry spice. There’s a real opulent confit fruit character, impressive ripeness, fragrant but simultaneously mineral and restrained. There is also a real dusty granitic vein, a chalky, spicy texture and sweet red currant and raspberry sappy fruit. Punchy, intense, really focused but with real mouthwatering drinkability. Beautifully fine harmonious texture, and tight polished tannins. A very classy wine indeed.

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

Naude Cinsault 2015, Darling – Vines Planted 1980

Wonderfully open, fragrant and exotic nose showing salted cherries, rose petals, lychees and Turkish delight. Palate is incredibly sleek and creamy but impressively intense and focused. Delicious palate complexity of waxy orange peel, naartjie juice and earthy sappy cranberry sauce. Such a very pretty expression.

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

Jamie Goode tasting with Rosa Kruger at the Old Vine Project Masterclass held at High Timber Restaurant in July 2018.

Reacquainting Myself with the Sadie Family Old Vine Series Skerpioen 2016 White Ahead of the 2017 Launch…

The Skerpioen white from Eben Sadie is a field blend of interplanted Chenin Blanc and Palomino vines. These unirrigated old bush vines were planted between the years 1958 to 1967 in extremely chalky soils in one of the coolest locations in the Swartland.

Of all Eben Sadie’s Old Vine Series wines, the Skerpioen white is perhaps the most intriguing, slightly austere in youth, this wine is mineral driven and restrained and often takes a few years to open its shoulders and show it’s hidden depths.

As Christian Eedes from South Africa’s Wine Magazine comments…. “a perplexing wine…” with a minerality and austerity that is often “mesmerising”. Sums this wine up poignantly.

Sadie Family Old Vines Series Skerpioen 2016, WO Swartland, 13.5 Abv.

It’s hard not to approach this wine without preconceptions! I was excited just uncorking the wine. But Skerpioen is always a complex and complicated wine to understand and whenever you open a bottle, you never quite know what mood it is going to be in, a little bit like drinking top red Burgundy. The second of the hot, drought vintages, the 2016 is showing a lot more expressive complexity than when I first tasted this wine on release. It still has a pithy nose of lime peel, lemon grass, apple, dried herbs, talc and dusty granite. A little extra time in bottle has allowed this wine to develop subtle notes of white peach, orange blossom, white pear and an alluring grilled herbs and pork fat complexity. Fleshy and textural with perhaps not quite the same depth, power and intensity of the 2015, this wine remains a very finely poised, beautifully balanced and thoroughly delicious release from Eben Sadie. Start drinking now, but no rush as this will evolve for another 10+ years.

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

What Future For South African Second Wines? Tasting Top Super Premium Vilafonte’s Seriously Old Dirt Cuvee…

South Africa is currently enjoying a very buoyant year for red wine releases at a time when the onslaught of big white wine reviews seems almost relentless. Much of this new found red success is undoubtedly down to the incredible “once in a generation” 2015 vintage that has produced some of the most lauded and iconic red wines in the modern era of the South African wine industry.

One of the questions that this new found success raises for me as prices push to new super premium levels is the potential role second wines currently play or could play in the future development of the South African fine wine market. They are not a new phenomenon. After all, anyone who loves top South African Bordeaux blends will remember the declassified Meerlust Rubicon 2011 blended away into the delicious Meerlust Red 2011, or the MR de Compostella 2010 that was “declassified” to create the new Red Jasper 2010, now an established brand on the market. Or even the De Toren Z, which started off life as an “off-cut” blend of Fusion V but which has now also established itself as a popular fine wine in its own right regularly scoring as high if not higher than the Fusion V from international wine critics.

On this blog, I have already been running a series of reviews on second wines from top Bordeaux Chateaux as I look to identify the over performers, the dark horses and the unexpectedly great second wines worthy of consumer attention. These wines after all serve an important role in the market, giving fine wine consumers a glimpse of the greatness they might encounter with the more expensive, more premium first wines. With a lower price tag comes an abundance of powerful premium branding, desirability but also affordability and of course a greater degree of earlier drinking accessibility.

In this vein, I cracked a bottle of premium brand Vilafonte’s Seriously Old Dirt 2014, a wine produced from unique ancient soils with quality assured for current enjoyment in a true second wine model. Made with a 6-7 day cold soak, partial natural fermentation with an extended fermentation period, the wine was aged in French oak barrels for 22 months. Vine age varies between 4 and 20 years old and the 2014 vintage surpasses both the 2012 and 2013 vintages that were released almost exclusively to the Vilafonte Wine Club and is a blend of Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Vilafonte Seriously Old Dirt 2014, WO Paarl, 13.5 Abv.

Lovely rich, opulent nuanced nose of cedar, vanilla pod, polished teak, creamy choc spice, mocha, black berry, black plum and crushed rose petals. The palate is medium-bodied with a truly plush, succulent mouthfeel, infused with brown sugar, cassis and leafy plum. Tannins are very fine grained and classical, sweet but retaining ample mineral, stony graphite grip. A seductive, enticing wine that definitely shows its aspiring pedigree and noble parentage. Drink now to 2028+

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

Another Eye-Catching Paardeberg Chenin Blanc From the Swartland – Tasting the Fire By Night 2017 from Chris Alheit…

Another new addition to the Alheit Family portfolio as Chris Alheit increasingly starts to focus on his premium range of single site and single terroir Chenin Blancs. This new cuvee is made from grapes sourced from three parcels on grape grower Christa von La Chevallerie’s Paardeberg farm planted between 1974 and 1980 and was tasted in London with Rosa Kruger and Andre Morgenthal at their fantastic Old Vine Project Masterclass.

Fire by Night Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland, 13 Abv.

Old vine Chenin Blanc vines aged 38, 40, and 44 years old are conjured into an intense, complex white offering a bright crystalline purity, wonderful textural tension and intensity, loaded with liquid granite minerality, limestone, crunchy green gauge, apple, white peach and white pears. Pithy with slight phenolic nuances, the palate shows a spicy pear purée expression and such clarity and focus. Mouth watering acidity and subtle maritime salinity, this wine tells an amazing story of top old vine Chenin Blanc from decomposed granite soils made with incredible attention to detail. Another impressive addition to the Alheit range, this wine will drink well on release but also age beautifully for 10-15+ years.

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