This deliciously complex white is a barrel-fermented blend of 54% Roussanne, 30% Chenin Blanc, 9% Verdelho and 7% Viognier. All sourced from a single vineyard at the entrance of the Stark-Conde Oude Nektar farm, it is planted to a mix of varietals in order to match the complex mosaic of soil types found on this unique plot of land. The grapes are all picked at the same time, pressed and co-fermented together as a genuine field blend.
Stark-Conde Field Blend 2021, WO Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.
Very Southern Rhone in its varietal mix, but decidedly Mediterranean on the nose with lifted aromatics of wild garlic leaf, white blossom, sweet green herbs, bruised apple and subtle waxy incense notes over a dusty, stony granitic minerality. The barrel fermentation lends additional savoury, honied notes of lemon biscuits, warm white toast and peach stone fruits. On the palate there is a fabulous vibrancy and tangy acid freshness of crunchy yellow orchard fruits, white peach, ripe tangerines and a long, slightly pithy, phenolic finish of tart green pears and wet river pebble minerality. The richness and textural generosity of the of the Roussanne and Viognier is beautifully managed, enlivened by the salinity and freshness of the Chenin Blanc and Verdelho. Field blends seem to be the new trend setters for white wines in the Cape and I have not tasted many better than this yet. Another super exciting Cape white blend that expresses its own sense of place. Drink this on release and over the next 6 to 8+ years.
The back label of this wine says it all. It starts by proclaiming … “Chenin Blanc is a relatively rare varietal in our area of Stellenbosch, but the higher, cooler slopes and granite soils are well suited to producing an intense, mineral style.” We are of course talking about the Jonkershoek Valley, a Ward of Stellenbosch more famous for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah than Chenin Blanc. But with some super famous Chenin Blanc wines like Mev. Kirsten from Sadie Family Wines, Ian Naude’s Old Vine Series Chenin Blanc and Chris Alheit’s Nautical Dawn all coming from various other top Wards of Stellenbosch, the potential for producing block buster Chenin Blanc wines around Stellenbosch is unquestionable.
Self-taught American cellarmaster Jose Conde (who’s married to the owner Hans Schroder’s eldest daughter) first attempted making wine in 2000, and he chose to experiment with his favourite grape, Cabernet Sauvignon. As luck would have it, his father-in-law Hans Schroder farmed arguably the best Cabernet grapes in the region. Made with basic equipment and using traditional methods, the maiden vintage yielded just 2,400 bottles, but against the odds and to everybody’s surprise the wine went on to win 5-stars in the Platters Wine Guide, rated 92/100 points in Wine Spectator, and was selected by UK wine writer Oz Clarke as one of the Top 20 Wines of the Year. I remember this wine very well as I was one of the first wine merchants in the UK to buy and sell it in the early 2000s. And a cracker it was too!
Today, the team at Stark-Conde includes the prodigiously talented winemaker Rüdger van Wyk who creates fine wines using minimal intervention in the cellar. With vineyards ranging in elevation from 150 to 600 metres above sea level, the Stark-Conde estate offers some incredibly fine red wines of distinct character and sense of place and this new 2021 Chenin Blanc is no different. The winery also produces a well known white field blend which I look forward to tasting and reviewing soon.
Monk Stone Chenin Blanc gets its name from the large boulder which punctuates the organically grown, high-altitude vineyard block at Stark-Conde. This bush-vine Chenin Blanc vineyard is planted along dramatic terraces which were sculpted to prevent rain erosion. The wave and ripple patterns formed by these terraces, together with the large boulder, recall a traditional Japanese rock garden, and hence the name “Monk Stone”.
Stark-Conde Monk Stone Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.
7.6 g/l TA | 3.10 pH
A beautiful rendition of Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc that initially shows a youthful reserve before slowly opening up with aromatics of yellow orchard fruits, granitic minerality, dried green herbs, tangerine peel, green pear and saline oyster shell maritime hints. The minerality and salinity are front and foremost on the palate that shows all the classic 2021 vintage characteristics of purity, clarity, freshness and intensity. Loaded with electric tension, vibrantly fresh acids, the wine reveals a tart juicy green fruited melon concentration and again, an abundance of pithy minerality and rock salt salinity on the persistent finish. Deft winemaking on display here complemented by exceptional vintage quality. Drink this on release and over 8 to 10+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
The wines of Stark-Conde are available to trade and consumers from their UK importer:
There is a lot of uncertainly in the world these days but one thing you can be sure of is that during the year, the top Stellenbosch boutique wine producers will create magic and release some of the most tantalising Cabernet Sauvignon wines imaginable.
The Three Pines single-vineyard iconic Cabernet Sauvignon is based on a high elevation vineyard site (350m). The finely textured decomposed granite soil, cooler temperatures, and ample winter rainfall creates perfect growing conditions for premium Cabernet. The wine is characterized by its silky tannin structure and unique floral notes. Since its maiden vintage in 2000, this has been one of South Africa’s most consistently awarded Cabernets.
Stark Conde Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Jonkershoek Valley, 14% abv.
A 4.5 hectare vineyard from Stark Conde named after where the grapes are grown, the 2018 Three Pines combines Cabernet Sauvignon with 10% Petit Verdot and Malbec to reveal plenty of dark saline black berry fruits, tart black plum, blueberry and complex maritime kelp hints with subtle liquorice notes. The palate is sleek, glassy and super polished with very precise tight knit tannins, a firm structured acid frame and embracing saline black cherry and black berry fruits that lend a lot of mouth-watering pleasure already but leave you in no doubt that this is certainly a wine that will age and improve gracefully for atleast 10 to 12+ years or more. Simply a delight to drink.
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
The Oude Nektar wine is based around the highest elevation vineyard on the Stark Conde estate, which at 550m is arguably one of Stellenbosch’s highest Cabernet vineyards. The site has very stoney decomposed granite soils, and a perfect aspect toward the afternoon sun. Although this vineyard gets a cooling breeze, it averages 45 minutes more sunlight each day which allows for a slower ripening period. This Bordeaux-style blend is matured for about 20 months in French oak barrel (70% new) before being bottled with no fining and no filtration.
Stark Conde Oude Nektar Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Jonkershoek Valley, 14% abv.
This is another really impressive expression of a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine from one of South Africa’s preeminent Stellenbosch proponents. The aromatics are spectacularly lifted and intense with perfumed notes of saline black liquorice, oyster shell, lilac, cassis leaf, black currant and hints of fresh mint, wet tobacco and buttered brown toast. The palate shows incredible precision framed by crisp linear acids that add to both a tightly knit steely texture and wound-spring tension. Lacking no amount of saline black fruit, the wine is also mineral and focused with hints of graphite, sweet cedar spice and a broody, stony veneer on the finish. This wine is all about sinewy tension, complex gravelly minerality and restrained, classical fruit intensity. Stellenbosch and the Jonkershoek Valley excel yet again! Drink from 2022 to 2035+.
I recently reviewed the Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stark-Condé Winery that was launched in Stellenbosch in 1998 by Hans and Midori Schroder with a focus on producing hand-crafted premium wines. Located in the picturesque and ever so dramatic Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch, it is a site with steep changes in vineyard elevation ranging from 150 to 600 metres making for a range of terroirs with distinct characteristics.
At Stark-Condé they stick to traditional winemaking methods using open tank fermentation, meticulous sorting of grapes, hand-punch downs, basket pressing and maturation in small French oak barrels.
With a very limited availability of this superb single vineyard wine, I thought I couldn’t pass on reviewing one of the most exciting Cabernet Sauvignons I have tasted from Stellenbosch in a long time. The vineyard is situated on a south-westerly aspect on decomposed granitic soils and was replanted after tragic bush fires in 2009. The 2017 vintage is of course synonymous with weightless intensity, piercing concentration and sublime elegance and this wine is yet another flag bearer for this iconic vintage and region. The wine was aged for 20 months in 70% new French oak barrels and bottled unfiltered and unfined.
Stark Condé Oude Nektar 2017 Red Blend, WO Jonkershoek Valley, 14% Abv.
6.7g/l TA | 1.9 RS | 32.3 g/l Total Extract
This utterly seductive wine is a bottling of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec. Despite the salt and pepper additions, this is a wonderfully pure classical Cabernet Sauvignon with archetypal aromatics of pressed violets and tilled earth, crushed gravel, graphite, freshly brewed espresso and sweet cedary spice. There is an irony, bloody, iodine and black olive complexity that lends that extra dimension to the wine making it just that little bit more special. The palate is pinpoint 2017 elegance personified with piercing fresh acids, powder puff tannins, weightless saline black currant and black cherry fruit concentration and a wonderfully long, harmonious finish of melted Belgian chocolates, salty kelp, black liquorice and warm buttered brown toast. Just quite simply spellbinding. Drink now and over the next 15+ years. (Only 4,617 bottles produced)
Stark-Condé Wines was launched in Stellenbosch in 1998 by Hans and Midori Schroder with a focus on producing hand-crafted premium wines. Located in the picturesque and ever so dramatic Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch, it is a site with steep changes in vineyard elevation ranging from 150 to 600 metres making for a range of terroirs with distinct characteristics. At Stark-Condé they stick to traditional winemaking methods using open tank fermentation, meticulous sorting of grapes, hand-punch downs, basket pressing and maturation in small French oak barrels.
The 2017 vintage was a warm and dry growing season resulting in wines that were intensely aromatic and admirably elegant and harmonious with suave velvety tannins and a weightless concentration of fruit. If the wines age as well as some people expect they will, tasting the 2017s alongside the block buster 2015s in 10, 15 or 20 years’ time will undoubtedly prove to be a very popular exercise.
Stark – Condé Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.
The grapes for this vibrant single vineyard wine were hand-picked, sorted, basket pressed and then fermented in small batches before being matured in small French oak barrels for 20 months. The wine was bottled without fining or filtration. The aromatics are piquant, spicy and thoroughly enticing with hints of fragrant black berry confit on slightly burnt brown breakfast toast supported by emerging notes of bruleed coffee beans, inky iodine, sweet cherry tobacco, cola, salty cassis and a pronounced under vein of graphite. The palate is super elegant from start to finish, suave, supple and impressively harmonious with a fine textural breadth and depth of black and blueberry saline fruits, soft, sleek silky tannins and all the tell-tale weightless concentration that has come to define this vintage’s greatest red wines. Seamless, precise and incredibly well made, this is sultry, seductive Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon at its best. Drink now or cellar for 12+ years. (8,175 bottles produced.)