Another Noteworthy 2017 Stellenbosch Red Blend Released By Ernie Els Wines…

The Proprietor’s Red Blend is a selection of six varieties all of which are sourced from the Ernie Els winery property. These vineyards are grown primarily on the warmer, north-facing slopes of the Helderberg within the Stellenbosch region.

These particular varieties thrive under these conditions and result in rich, full-bodied red wines with balancing freshness. At an altitude of approximately 250 metres above sea level, together with the cooling influence of the Atlantic Ocean, the ripening period or hang time of the grapes can be extended, resulting in wines with optimal phenolic ripeness and pure, bold, concentrated flavours. This of course is one of the reasons Stellenbosch has become so famous for successfully growing premium Bordeaux varieties as well as some excellent Syrah / Shiraz.

I recently tasted the Ernie Els Proprietor’s Blend and was pleased to see the pedigree of the 2017 vintage captured in this new release.

Ernie Els Proprietor’s Blend 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

A premium red blend made up of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Shiraz, 5% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. The result is a rich enticing blend with expressive aromatics laced with tannery leather, decomposing forest floor, sweet black berry compote, black currant pastille, graphite and nuances of freshly tilled earth. The palate is finely weighted with creamy round tannins, layers of crunchy black currant, black cherry and blueberry spice with delicately integrated cedar wood vanilla spice notes. This wine shows impressive density, power and concentration for a vintage renowned for having a more lithe, silky, weightless character. Here we see the elegance and textural finesse of 2017 but certainly with a little more dry extract, stuffing and grip. Nevertheless, this is a wine that can be enjoyed now on release or cellared for 10-12+ years comfortably. Another triumph for prime Stellenbosch terroir.

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

The Ernie Els Wines are distributed in the UK by Seckford Wine Agencies.

Catherine Marshall Releases Another Benchmark 2020 Fermented in Clay Chenin Blanc…

I’ve been following the new releases of this wine for several years now and it has certainly proven beyond doubt to be one of the most accomplished Chenin Blancs on the South African fine wine scene.

Grapes for the 2020 were again selected from a single vineyard in Elgin grown on red Laterite soils also known as “koffieklip” or coffee stone as it resembles the same structure as ground coffee, and also from from grapes grown in the Bottelary Hills in Stellenbosch on old bush vines in lighter soils, which were harvested in early March. Once fermentation was completed in the clay amphorae, 800 litres of wine was decanted to oak casks for a further 9 months maturation.

The wine portion aged in the clay amphorae had no malolactic fermentation so that the fresher flinty characters would be maintained. After 9 months, the two components were blended together and lightly filtered before bottling.

Catherine Marshall Fermented in Clay Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.

TA 5.6g/l | pH: 3.4 | RS: 2.1g/l | Total Extract: 23.2g/l

After the phenomenal 2017 and eye-watering 2019 Fermented in Clay Chenin Blanc, expectations for follow up vintages become almost impossibly high. But this 2020 is another real head turner with aromatics brimming with crunchy white peaches, tangerine, orange peel, green pears and a beguiling melange of grilled herbs and stony granitic minerality. On the palate this youthful 2020 is cool, crisp, focused and texturally quite linear and taut with tangy acids, a steely concentration of peach pastille, yellow tropical fruit bon bons, clementines and yet more unfurling layers of wet river pebbles and stony liquid minerality. Cathy has now established a rock solid track record for this wine which must surely rank in the top 10 Chenin Blancs produced in South Africa.

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

Wines available to the trade in the UK from Seckford Wine Agencies.

New Release Review – Tasting the Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines 2018 Syrah…

I recently tasted the phenomenal 2017 Mullineux Syrah again with Andrea Mullineux and was just blown away by the balance, intensity and poise of the wine. While chatting about the 2017, Andrea expressed her real excitement surrounding the release of the new 2018 Syrah which she thought might just be their winery’s best effort yet. High praise indeed.

While 2018 was the last of four drought vintages in the Cape and severely affected the Swartland region, there seems to be some consensus that the vines had slowly started to become more accustomed to the severely dry conditions. This new release was made from grapes grown in seven different vineyards all with differing terroirs – four vineyards on shale and schist, two on granite and one on iron soils. Up to 80%-90% of the fruit was whole-bunch fermented and was then matured for a further 14 months in 15% new French oak barrels, old oak barrels and also foudre.

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Syrah 2018, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.

This is a very expressive wine with complex aromatics loaded with grilled herbs, lavender, fresh bresaola, red berries, cherry cola and savoury black berry notes with a tantalising dusting of white pepper. The palate is full, fleshy, layered and impressively textured with a weightless harmonious clarity of savoury red and blue berry fruits, soft mellow acids and light airy tannins that show a fine liquid mineral schisty grip on the finish. A wonderfully supple Syrah expression that throws a spotlight on the impressive winemaking talents of the Mullineuxs. Drink now and over 10 to 15+ years.

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

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Release an Impressively Sophisticated New 2020 Chardonnay…

Hamilton Russell Vineyards run under the watchful eye of Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell are well established as one of the most respected Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producers in South Africa. With their winery retaining an obsessive and loyal legion of drinkers and collectors only matched by the likes of fellow icon brands like Meerlust Rubicon or Kanonkop Paul Sauer, quality and consistency has always been the Hamilton Russell calling card.

With Emul Ross firmly in control of winemaking since the 2015 vintage, it is incredible to think that after 30+ years, this estate’s finest wines may lie in future vintages still to be born.

Winemaker Emul Ross and Anthony Hamilton Russell at the barrel cellar.

The 2020 vintage was a touch earlier than usual beginning in the first week of February and was also wetter than the previous few vintages. A standout feature of 2020 was however the exceptional phenolic ripeness at lower-than-normal alcohol levels which helped produce a wine that is taut, tight, minerally expressive and texturally very classical showing the usual Hemel-en-Aarde Valley cool climate length and complexity.

95% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation in 228 litre Francois Freres French oak barrels before being aged for a total of 9 months in 24% new French oak with 5% aged in foudre.

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2020, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 12.9% Abv.

3.45pH | 6.90 TA | 2.20 RS

If 2018 produced a super taut, reductive serious expression and 2019 showed a lusher, more forward, accessible opulence, then 2020 is perhaps a marriage of these two styles. This is a wine full of confidence and composure, brimming with taut white citrus pith, green pear and lime peel, bruised green apples, white blossom and a complexing saline oyster shell minerality. On the palate there is a feel of density, dry extract, concentration and a really precise harmonious balance with layers of green melon, sweet lime jelly, melted butter and a full glycerol finish with just the faintest hint of butterscotch, lime cordial and vanilla pod spice. Seemless and sleek, the layers just melt into each other leaving a sensation of utter completeness. What a truly fabulous wine, resplendent in its mellow classical restraint, intense concentration and harmonious length. A big high five for Emul Ross!! Drink on release and over the next 10-12+ years. (51,516 bottles produced)

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

Tasting Imvini Wethu – Another Incredible Old Vine Project Wine Hits the EU Market…

This is a super exciting new wine from South Africa made in association with the Protégé Programme run under the supervision of Andrea Mullineux (Mullineux Wines), the current Cape Winemakers Guild Chair.

Imvini Wethu means “our vines” in Zulu, and the 2019 vintage is the maiden release of a wine conceived by the German trade with the intention of empowering future winemakers and protecting South African wine heritage, with the Cape Winemakers Guild’s Protégé Programme and the Old Vine Project run by Rosa Kruger and Andre Morgenthal being the specific beneficiaries.

Imvini Wethu Old Vine Cinsault Pinotage 2019, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.

All this wine needed was 15 minutes in a decanter before it really started to perform! A blend of 70% Cinsault and 30% Pinotage, this wine shows the very best of both varieties in a wonderful synergy. The Cinsault grapes come from a Franschhoek vineyard planted in 1932 and the Pinotage from a vineyard in Stellenbosch planted in 1973. There is plenty of perfume and lift with seductive notes of Turkish delight, rose petals and violets. The nose is packed full of red and black berry fruits, black cherry, dark sweet plum, vanilla spice and a dusting of mocha choc powder. The palate is fleshy and fresh, juicy and accessible with a sleek seamless texture, soft creamy tannins and a long harmonious finish. A wine that delivers a whole lot of frolicsome pleasure in a very more’ish manner. Drink now and over 6-8+ years.

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

Warwick Winery Joins the Cape Heritage Blend Club With a Very Classy Effort…

The Warwick winery has dabbled with new creations over the years with some of the Black Lady Syrahs standing out as memorable. But what could be more inspirational than a fine Simonsberg Cape Heritage Blend featuring a slug of Cabernet Sauvignon with 13% of Cinsault. A match made in heaven the old boys will tell you.

With the Simonsberg ward making some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon in Stellenbosch, I was fascinated to see if the Cinsault would add that little Je ne sais quoi to the blend.

Warwick Professor Black Pitch Black 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

This well crafted red was matured for 18 months in French oak barrels and is made up of a trendy blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Cabernet Franc, 13% Cinsault, 10% Merlot , 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec. Wonderful to have another Cape Heritage Blend enter the fray. This exciting expression shows a rich earthy aromatics initially dominated by alluring notes of capsicum, red currants, iodine, fresh cedar and vanilla pod spice. The palate texture is spicy and a little prickly but boasts ample depth and extract. There are layers of black current, tart black plum, dried herbs and hoisin plum sauce. There is plenty of elegance and harmony but to be honest, little sign of the Cinsault component at this youthful stage. With the natural 2017 vintage weightless elegance an succulent freshness, this is another mouth-watering red blend that will appeal to Cabernet Franc converts. Prep the slow roast leg of lamb to accompany! Drink on release and over 15+ years. (90 barrels produced, or approximately 27,000 bottles)

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

A Great Initiative Combining Rugby, Charity and Fine Wine – Tasting the Number 5 Doddie’s Blend 2019 Red…

Doddie Weir OBE is one of the most recognisable faces of the game of rugby earning 61 caps playing for Scotland. But in June 2017, Doddie revealed he was suffering with the onset of Motor Neuron Disease, an illness that as yet has no known cure. In November 2017, Doddie Weir and his trustees launched a registered charity called My Name’5 Doddie Foundation to raise funds to aid the research into Motor Neuron Disease.

In the past, the foundation has already collaborated with a premium gin producer to create a limited release Doddie Weir Gin and more recently, ex-Scotland rugby international and foundation supporter, Kenny Logan, launched a new wine initiative with the Sporting Wine Club headed by ex-England rugby International and head of European rugby, Simon Halliday. The new wine, in collaboration with ex-Springbok great Schalk Burger Snr. and his Welbedacht Estate in South Africa, was suppose to tie into the upcoming Lions tour to South Africa as Doddie had himself also earned his Lions cap for the 1997 winning tour against the Springboks.

Tasting in London with Welbedacht Estate owner and ex-Springbok rugby great Schalk Burger Snr., producer of Doddie’s Blend.

The Lions tour might now be in disarray and currently undergoing a mid-pandemic rethink with a move back to the UK, but the Doddie’s Red blend from the beautiful Welbedacht Estate in Wellington is very much a reality with the soft launch being planned in the UK in the coming weeks. As an extra gesture of support to the wider rugby fraternity, the limited release bottling includes a very special label painted by accomplished artist, Henry Fraser.

Henry Fraser played rugby for the Saracens Academy before suffering a freak injury at the age of 17 that resulted in him being paralysed from the shoulders down. Teaching himself to paint, Henry is now a most talented ‘mouth painter’ and was specially commissioned to design the labels for Doddie’s Blend.

If ever there was an initiative close to every rugby players’ heart, this is it. A genuinely exciting new wine release in support of an important cause. I hope rugby clubs and players across the country will give this initiative their full backing.

Welbedacht Estate Number 5 Doddie’s Red Blend 2019, WO Wellington, 14% Abv.

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, this is a genuinely impressive red Cape Bordeaux blend assemblage made in a true style where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its individual parts revealing very pretty, seductive aromatics of fine dried herbal spice, ripe black plums, earthy black currants, sappy cedar spice and a delicate brûléed kiss of oak. The palate is equally alluring showing a harmonious creamy opulence and a super silky texture together with a real accessibility, finessed tannins and a weightless brambly black berry fruit concentration on the finish. Youthfully exuberant and utterly delicious already, this is a fine wine with character and class… just like the man in who’s honour it was created to celebrate. Drink now and over 8+ years.

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

The Iconic Swartland Porseleinberg Syrah 2018 Assessed and Reviewed…

Having seen the stick Christian Eedes (SA Winemag.co.za editor) received for posting a belated Porseleinberg Syrah 2018 review, long after it scored 100 points from Tim Atkin MW and also long after it had sold out, I approached the issue with a certain amount of circumspect. But sometimes great wines need to be reviewed and reassessed regardless of their first release status, so that secondary market consumers can add further perspective to their prospective purchases.

Like many regular consumers, I was ‘forced’ to make a decision on buying this wine without tasting, long before it arrived in the UK in 2020 due to the pandemic chaos. But like the Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015, the Porseleinberg 100 point choice was fairly bullet proof from real criticism for Tim Atkin in the same manner scoring a modern Bordeaux first growth 100 points in a good vintage might be debatable yes, controversial, not at all.

I recently spent two evenings enjoying a bottle of this famed 2018 Syrah and became close bedfellows with this lastest release from Callie Louw and the Boekenhoutskloof stable.

Porseleinberg Syrah 2018, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

The 2018 vintage yielded some very supple, pretty, lithe Syrahs with delicacy, elegance and seamless textures. Well known for its power and structure, this Porseleinberg shows a lighter, finer, more accessible expression with delicately savoury velvety tannins and fleshy red and black berry fruits. Initially quite reticent on opening, the nose slowly unfurls with aromatics laced with grilled herbs, cured meats, black liquorice, black olive tapenade and chargrilled meat nuances. The wine is more mineral than floral at this youthful stage yet still shows a lovely precision, intensity of black berry fruit and well judged oak handling. There’s a lovely tenderness and complexity to the wine that reminds you of just what a very special schistous terroir lies behind the production of this world class Syrah. Drink from 2023 to 2034+

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

The Emergence of Another South African Grand Cru Chardonnay – Tasting the Iona Kloof 2018…

Since the late 1990’s when Andrew Gunn bought and planted the Iona estate, the focus of production has been on Sauvignon Blanc, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot being the first vineyards planted in 1998, followed by Chardonnay, Semillon and Pinot Noir. In these early days, no one could have known the true quality potential of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Elgin region.

With the new Monopole varietal releases from Iona in 2020, quality has been taken up a notch or two and when I reviewed the full range last year with Rozy Gunn in London just before lockdown 1.0, I realised these were indeed very special wines worthy of all the home market hype. I recently had a chance to taste some of the follow up releases and of course, I was intent on finding out whether the fabulous 2017 Kloof Monopole Chardonnay had just been a fluke or if this wine really was a new budding Grand Cru creation in the South African wine landscape.

Iona Monopole Kloof Chardonnay 2018 Limited Release, WO Elgin, 13% Abv.

Clones are CY95, CY96 and 227 grown on soils with large deposits of rocky quartzite silica with underlying clay with a north facing aspect and east / west row direction. The pruning style is cane double guyot.

After a block buster performance from the maiden 2017 Kloof Chardonnay and an impressive score to match, all eyes were on Andrew Gunn and the Iona team to see what they could pull out the bag in 2018. Once again, the vineyard and its terroir are the winner with a decidedly classical slant on the wine once again, boasting complex aromatics of crushed rocks and flint, gravel and white citrus with hints of green Granny Smith apples and spicy lemon grass. The palate reveals wonderful clarity and definition, precise crystalline white citrus fruits, tangy acids and a perfectly weighted, harmonious length that is so pure and detailed with a delicious finale of orange citrus zest. A very distinguished wine that’s establishing a growing quality reputation for itself. Drink from release and over 10-12+ years.

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

Craven Wines Releases Another Distinguished Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon…

Jeanine and Mick Craven are the winemaking duo behind this vibrant Cape wine brand established in 2013. While their range has pretty much been bedded in over the past few years with minor tweaks, additions and the odd cuvee trimming here and there, their Devon Valley Firs Syrah continues to retain a prime position as their most distinguished wine produced. However, ever since I tasted their maiden 2018 Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon from barrel in late 2018, I have been bewitched by the succulence, freshness, varietal purity and precision of this new addition to their range.

I recently tasted their new releases which now includes a very Chablis-like mineral 2019 Chardonnay together with their exciting second release 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon made from the same premium Polkadraai Hills Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from vines grown on decomposed granite soils. This wine has an incredibly classical old-world Bordeaux feel to its demeanour and is truly unique in terms of style compared to most other beefier Stellenbosch or Helderberg Cabernet Sauvignons produced.

The beautiful Polkadraai Hills, now it’s own ward within the Stellenbosch region.

Whether it’s those stunning Polkadraai soils, their earlier picking regime or simply the skill of Jeanine and Mick in capturing the wonderful terroir of the area with their own fingerprint, this wine remains an incredibly exciting cuvee and one all self-admitted Cabernet Sauvignon obsessives should track down and try.

Craven Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

What an impressive effort. The wine making philosophy of Jeanine and Mick really seems to shine through brightest with their Cabernet Sauvignon expression. Sourced from the Karibib vineyard in the Polkadraai Hills in Stellenbosch and grown on decomposed granite soils, this taut, fresh, earthy black currant fruit laden expression is fabulously precise and pure with mesmerising aromatics of violets, creme de cassis, freshly tilled earth, raisined black plums, black cherry and a lick of sweet sappy cedar oak spice. With perhaps a little more middle palate extract and texture than the 2018, this wine really ticks so many boxes and is an absolute drinking pleasure. What a stunner! It seduced me at the very first sip and continued to do so until the last glass. Drink from 2021 until 2030+.

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