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)

Alheit Family Wines 2017 New Vintage Release Tasting in London…

The 2017 vintage releases sees Chris Alheit expand his single site range of white wines and stake his marker firmly in the sand, pointing to the future direction that the Alheit Family Winery will be pursuing in future.

His overall vision has evolved since starting out with his first Cartology release in 2011, a wine Chris feels helped give birth to the newest range of single site wines from the winery. These new wines further help define the history, origin and outright pedigree of old vine Chenin Blanc in South Africa. Or as Chris says… “the journey of diversity continues.”

Cartology Tasting Flight 1:

Cartology 2011, 14 Abv.

A wonderfully expressive, detailed wine that really pays testament to Chris’ vision for creating a blended old vine white from multiple sites. The famous 96 pointer from Neal Martin, this wine is the antithesis of global score inflation. Wonderful pedigree, the aromatics are packed with sweet honeysuckle, pear purée, white peaches and yellow orchard fruits with a expressive vein of granitic minerality, dried herbs, dusty gravel and lemon peel zest. The palate shows textured weight, flesh and depth with layers of honied yellow peaches, orange peel, tangerine, honeydew melon and buttered brown toast with honey. All this fruit and concentration is tightly hemmed in by bracing acids that are in fine balance and integrated, helping the wine build to a tumultuous, intense and incredibly long profound finish. Surely not much of this icon left in consumers cellars setting it up to be a true unicorn wine one day. Drink now or cellar confidently for another 10-15+ years. (3.8 g/l RS)

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

Cartology 2012, 14 Abv.

A wine that was slightly misunderstood on release, being dryer, tighter and decidedly more minerally focused than the 2011. With valuable time in bottle, this wine still shows a certain strictness but is already developing super complex notes of dusty gravel, pine needles, resinous sappy spice, yellow peach, waxy yellow apples and intriguing fynbos herbal, earthy nuances. The palate is crisp and bright with a clear honied, yellow fruited depth, a slight spicy oxidative complexity and a pithy, salty, briney finish. A wine that still retains a certain amount of intrigue. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8 years.

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

Cartology 2013, 14 Abv.

Cooler and tighter nose, the aromatics show complex notes of soap stone, talc, dried herbs, rosemary, tarragon, hints of yellow orchard fruits and a dusty, sappy fresh fig top note. The palate is rich and expressive, brimming with lemon butter, lemon biscuits, fresh pastries, white peach, tangerine and toffee apple exoticism. Super pure and crystalline, this wine shows admirable youthfulness, clarity and focus and a real sense of core tension. A very fine expression of Cartology, this is a youthful example with superb freshness, harmonious balance and lovely lingering length. Keep this in your cellar.

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

Cartology 2014, 13.7 Abv.

This is a big bruiser, with immediate, opulent aromatics that show exoticism, power and definite botrytis influences. The nose is full of bruised yellow orchard fruits, ripe quince, honied peaches, buttered white toast drizzle with honey and hints of dried peaches, guava roll and dried mango. As expected, the palate is full and fleshy, dense and full, round, with a delicious sweet and sour yellow plum acidity, bright fresh acids and a tangy, honied, textural earthy dried mango peel finish. Slightly atypical but oh so delicious and hedonistic. Drink now and over the next 10 years.

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

Cartology Tasting Flight 2:

Cartology 2015

A serious vintage, this wine shows complex aromatics and palate depth in a way that really ticks all the boxes. The nose is pure and bright, focused but expressive, with multiple layers of yellow peach, yellow apples, dusty sappy spice and a lovely granitic, crushed gravel minerality underpinned by subtle notes of fynbos and green herbs. The palate shows impressive power and shape, flesh and coiled textural tension with incredible polish and harmony twinned with intensity. The fruit purity is very noticeable, embroidered by bright, mouth watering acidity, mouth coating intensity and impressive white peach and green apple length. Youthful for sure, this wine has plenty of legs. Drink now for a hedonistic experience or cellar for 15+ years.

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

Cartology 2016

The 2016 shows a real immediate generosity both on the nose and palate. The aromatics are intricate and nuanced showing crunchy white peach, hairy yellow peaches, green apple, wet river pebble minerality and subtle fynbos lift. The palate is super fresh, bright and energetic with real purity, polish and textural finesse. A clear favourite of Chris’s, this wine definitely shows more core tension, leaner, slightly sour green acids and a very intense, focused, tight finish. This wine is impossible not to like, but perhaps takes a little time to get to know. Leave it in your cellar, it will reward 10 to 15 years of bottle ageing.

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

Cartology 2017

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)

Tasting Flight 3:

Radio Lazarus 2017, 13 Abv.

The effort that goes into making this cuvée shows immediately on this wine with the most expressive aromatics that seduce you and draw you in. There are lovely notes of white peach, crunchy yellow fruits, yellow plum, white citrus, pear and green apple brightness. The palate is dusty and sappy with hints of stalk spice, crushed fynbos, green herbs, apple skins and crushed gravel minerality. The acids are bright and intense, not sharp at all, but coat the palate and make your mouth water with its sheer purity and clarity. This is a wine of a gnarled, struggling old vine vineyard that is more about dusty minerality, austerity and terroir than any kind of fruit opulence. A heartbreak venture, this is a true heritage wine of the Cape. Drink this fairly open expression on release or age for 20+ years.

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

Nautical Dawn Chenin Blanc 2017, 13 Abv.

Another classic Chenin Blanc parcel from the False Bay that again shows wonderful defined site specific characters. Very different to Swartland expressions, this Rustenhof vineyard wine from bush vines planted in 1978 yields expressive aromatics of white citrus, white peach pastille, tart sour plum, crushed gravel, limestone and a dusty lemon rind note. On the palate, this wine shows incredible tension, acid frame, brightness and purity, so beautifully balanced but still slightly raw and saline at the moment. A wine of intensity and vibrancy, this wine packs a punch of note. This looks a good bet for ageing.

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

Tasting Flight 4:

Fire By Night 2017, 13 Abv.

Bright, crystalline and intense, wonderfully taut and intense, loaded with liquid minerals, limestone and greengage, green apple and white pears. Pithy phenolic notes, a 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 great subtlety.

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

Huilkrans 2017, 14 Abv.

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)

Magnetic North Mountain Makstok 2017, 14 Abv.

A stern, lean, focused, striking wine with tension, tightly meshed acids and phenolics and a wonderfully lean and mesmerising nose of liquid minerality. Like the Lazarus, this is dusty and restrained, gravelly and austere but delivers an impressive focus and intensity on the palate. Crystalline, saline, bright and tart, backed with incredible white peach and white citrus, pithy granitic limestone minerality, this wine has greatness in its DNA, a wine that is initially less generous, more austere, packed with briney tart acidity but with the most incredible intensity, energy, and electric length. Another ageworthy gem for the cellar. Drink from 2020 to 2040+

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

“Not really thirst quenching, more thirst provoking.” ~ Julia Harding MW

Tasting Flight 5:

La Colline Semillon 2017, 13..5 Abv.

Planted in 1936, this is a selection massale block from original genetic material brought to the Cape in the 1600s. Plenty of pedigree here showing white citrus, yellow grapefruit, lime cordial, fresh asparagus and pithy tangerine peel complexity. The palate is loaded with yellow grapefruit, white peach, waxy green apple and tart, lanolin tinged gravelley complexity often seen on Bruce Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon from Hunter Valley. There is great intensity, breadth and power that tantalises the palate with apricot and earthy spice on a long, profound finish. Bench mark in every way.

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

Hemelrand Vine Garden 2017, 13.5. Abv.

One of Chris Alheit’s young vine wines from the farm they live on in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. A blend of Roussanne, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Verdelho and Muscat, this 2017, the third edition shows an enticing nose of lime peel, fragrant cantaloup melon, lychee, fresh rose petals and ripe pineapple pastille. Steely, bright, intense with searing freshness, this wine has an electric core, plugged straight into the mains. A wine that becomes more accomplished with every subsequent release.

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

(Wines available to the trade in the UK from importer Dreyfus Ashby)

The Most Hotly Anticipated Red Wine Release from the 2015 Vintage – Tasting Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015, South Africa’s Very Own First Growth…

The Kanonkop Estate is situated on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain in the Stellenbosch Region of the Cape and consistently boasts some of South Africa’s most famous premium wines. A fourth generation family estate, Kanonkop was originally purchased by JW Sauer, a cabinet member in the parliament of the Union of South Africa and the estate has been handed down from father to son for over 40 years, now residing in the capable hands of its current owners Paul & Johann Krige.

The name Kanonkop was derived from a kopje (hillock), from which a cannon was fired in the 17th Century to alert farmers in outlying areas that sailing ships plying the waters between Europe and the Far East had entered Table Bay for a stopover at Cape Town. The Estate is situated on 125 hectares, of which 100 hectares are planted with vines. A small quantity of these red grapes are selected for the production of around 7,000 cases of 6 of the Estate’s flagship red Bordeaux blend Paul Sauer, produced by one of South Africa’s most intelligent winemakers, Abrie Beeslaar.

A traditional blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, the vines are on average 25 years old grown on decomposed Granite, Hutton and Clovelly soils and usually aged around 24 months in new 225 litre French Nevers oak barrels with medium toast.

Kanonkop Wine Estate Paul Sauer 2015, 14 Abv.

The goal with any vintage of Paul Sauer is to find the perfect balance between power and concentration, structure and freshness… allowing a certain amount of tamed accessibility combined with immaculate ageworthy credentials. Indeed, this is the DNA which has allowed a wine like Paul Sauer to become firmly established as one of South Africa’s most respected ‘first growths.’ Given the incredible opulence and concentration of the 2015 vintage, this expression dazzles the senses with the most alluring heady nose of sun dried cherries, black currant pastille sweets, blueberries, plummy hoisin sauce, cedar spice and fragrant violets. There is intensity, an abundance of concentration and impressively integrated wood spice, salted toffee and vanilla pod complexity. The acid-fruit equilibrium is perfectly balanced, wrapped in a velvety cherry kirsch liquor texture and a finely focused blueberry and juniper berry finish. Truly effortless class and so beautifully light on its feet with the most suave, polished tannin symmetry. I cannot think of a better expression of Paul Sauer than this 2015 in the past 25 years of tasting. This is possibly one of the finest South African red wines of my generation. Drink from 2022 to 2055+.

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Block Buster Cabernet Sauvignon From Stellenbosch – Tasting the Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Pre-Release…

The flagship of Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is the expression of the very best barrels produced at the Le Riche winery. From vines grown on decomposed granite and duplex gravels in Raithby, Firgrove and Jonkershoek, the quality of the fruit is often of sensational quality.

Rigorous vineyard selection, multiple micro-vinifications, extended skin contact after fermentation and approximately 60% of new oak is used to compliment the pristine fruit balance ensuring the pedigree of this presitige wine.

Reserve status is only endowed if the grapes and resulting wine measures up to exceptional standards. Hand selected grapes from older, lower yielding vines are used. Fermentation is done with a selected yeast strain under controlled temperatures. Manual plunging during this period ensures optimal colour extraction.

After five days the tanks are closed and allowed to macerate for a further period, normally 10-14 days. Pressing follows and the wine is transferred to barrel for the secondary fermentation. On completion a final quality check and analysis is performed and the Reserve is then prepared for barrel ageing.

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

It was written in the stars, predicted by Nostradamus and also probably a handful of Stellenbosch fortune tellers, that the Le Riche 2015 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was going to be a wine of epic proportions. The generosity of this game-changing vintage has produced a really beautiful expression of pure Cabernet Sauvignon. What is most striking about this wine is its incredible purity and perfume that rises out of the glass imperiously in multiple waves of fragrant cherry blossom, violets, potpourri and rose petals. It possesses copious amounts of mocha, sweet tobacco leaf, lead pencil, cedar spice, black currant leaf and a delicious earthy, brambly, forest floor complexity. The palate shows such sophistication and textural seduction, with classical Cabernet flavours filling every corner of the mouth. Beautifully charming, open-knit and plump, this wine reveals the class of a truly great vintage, with a full bodied fleshy weight, a finely delineated purity and the most charming harmonious balance. Drink this wine on release or over the next 25+ years. It’s a true thing of beauty.

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

The End of the Beginning – Tasting the Maiden Release Tokara Telos 2015 in London with Owner G.T.Ferreira…

The Tokara farm was bought by GT Ferreira in 1995 without a single vine on the property, initially with view to being a “gentleman’s residence.” But with such illustrious neighbours as Thelema and Rustenberg, it was always written in the stars that this prime property would be planted and established as a great wine producing estate in its own right. The Tokara winery has also had the exceptionally good fortune to have the same steady hand of Miles Mossop overseeing the wine production for the past 18 years, a factor that has almost certainly helped hasten the dawning of this new super premium wine Tokara Telos. Miles has since announced that 2018 will be his last vintage at Tokara as he leaves to pursue new winemaking projects. We all wish him the best.

I like to think that I have been a close long term observer of the ongoing progress at the Tokara winery, watching over almost two decades as the wines became finer and more accomplished with every subsequent vintage release. However, the Director’s Reserve white blend was undoubtedly the first wine to make international and local critics sit up and genuinely take serious notice of the potential of this winery. But for many years the reds somehow seemed to lag behind the fame of the whites until more recently, when some very smart red wines started to be bottled under the Director’s Reserve red blend label.

Owner of Tokara, GT Ferreira, the successful South African financier who calls Tokara home

The Tokara Telos red blend maiden release can therefore be regarded as the coming of age moment for winery, its vines, and in many ways, the conclusion of a long held vision. Indeed Telos, for those not schooled in classical Greek, is a noun used to describe “the end term of a goal-directed process; especially, the Aristotelian final cause.” So is this the end? No, not at all… it is merely the end of the beginning!

The 2015 vintage saw the driest growing conditions and subsequently the earliest harvest at Tokara in many years. The main Cabernet Sauvignon portion of the wine was harvested on the 5th of March 2015 at 26 degrees balling, the Merlot on the 3rd of February at 24.6 degrees balling and the Malbec on the 24th of February at 24.4 degrees balling. It was one of the smallest crops on record and on average had harvest dates that were two weeks earlier than previous years. At harvest, grapes were placed in a cold room overnight and sorted twice on a Pellene Mechanical sorter and subsequent individual berry sorting on a vibrating table. After a four day cold maceration in tank, with 30% whole berry and 70% crushed berries, natural fermentation was allowed to proceed with wild yeasts.

As has become all the rage with new premium releases in South Africa, the Tokara Telos 2015 was presented ‘sighted’ within an impressive flight of what can only be called ultra-premium Bordeaux reds all rated 100 points by Robert Parker on release. Hell, if you are going to go down the whole comparative benchmarking route, why not do it properly and present your wine alongside the best there is!? Needless to say, this approach needs more than a little confidence and self-belief to be effective. According to the owners, the Telos launch was held in London before South Africa as a nod of acknowledgment to a market that has been one of Tokara’s most supportive and receptive over the past years. A subsequent launch is planned for Johannesburg and then again at the winery in Cape Town.

Tokara Telos 2015, Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

A 17 year old single vineyard block making up a 1,000 bottle blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec and 3% Merlot, aged for 22 months in 63% new oak with medium toast and ‘house toast’. 2.1 g/l RS, 6.2 TA, 3.52pH. This young 2015 red blend displays an impressively perfumed nose with subtle potpourri and dried pink flower fragrance, violets and hints of lavender. Dusty graphite and gravelly minerality is tightly interwoven with attractive black berry, dusty bramble berry nuances and subtle fleshly cut hedgerow spice. The palate is sleek, lithe and particularly suave and fine boned with a very polished, sultry, light touch elegance and textural focus. There is already impressive complexity but also a modicum of classical restraint that seems to overtly shy away from elevated ripeness, oakiness or glossy sweet fruit characters. This is a rare South African expression that boasts a vibrant natural acidity and very ripe, fine grained powdery mineral tannins that cushion a beautifully natural sense of balance, harmony and finesse, all elements coming together seamlessly and effortlessly at such an early stage in the wines evolution. A really polished, faultless, old world leaning expression that is undoubtedly a new and impressive tour de force on the South African fine wine scene. Drink this wine from 2020+  onwards and cellar comfortably for over 20+ years.

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

Other Bordeaux Wines Tasted Alongside the Telos 2015:

Chateau Montrose 2010, Saint Estephe, 14 Abv.

An expectedly dense, dark, broody expression, that is quite reserved and closed. But it slowly offers up dark earthy black berry, bramble berry, and sweet graphite and cedar spice notes. An attractive sweet tobacco depth and spicy cassis opulence meanders to a finish with steely precision, incredible focus, monolithic structure and pristine depth. Very young but a profound wine nonetheless. One for the cellar!

(Wine Safari Score: 98-99/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou 2009, Saint Estephe 13.5 Abv.

Sweet leafy cedary red currant fruit notes elucidating a delicious ripe cassis opulence with boxwood hints and a soft, sappy, black fruited core. This wine screams Cabernet Sauvignon and fans it’s aromatic tail with lead pencil, graphite and violet complexity. Still showing a relatively chunky palate with plenty of textural flesh, fine vibrant freshness and an impressively sweet bramble berry and tannery leather length.

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

Chateau Leoville-Poyferre 2009, Saint Julien, 14 Abv.

Dark, deep, spicy, black currant and earthy cassis depth with an incredibly complex nose of graphite, dusty gravel and liquid minerality. A plump, opulent sweet pocket of overt fruit and piquant tannins coat the palate that shows a sweet, glycerol, cinnamon tinged earthy red currant depth. A very smart effort with an incredibly seamless balance. Classy.

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

Chateau Pavie 2009, St Emilion Grand Cru Classe,14.5 Abv.

A more opulent, generous nose with overt, ripe notes of molasses tinged black plum, earthy black berry confit and caramelised plums. The only wine in the flight with obvious sur maturite palate sweetness but almost pleasantly so, showing a more bold and riper side of right Bank Bordeaux. A wine with many merits and a delicious drinkability. Perhaps a little overblown for your classical connoisseur Claret drinker?

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

Chateau Cheval Blanc 2005, St Emilion Grand Cru Classe (A), 14 Abv.

Already 13 years old, the 2005 is starting to show subtle tertiary aromatic hints of sous bois, earthy red currants, bruised red plums, black tea and sweet tannery leather. There is no lack of classism, graphite and gravelly liquid minerality either. A super Bordeaux example with depth, elegance and fine length.

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

Chateau Latour 1996, Pauillac, 12.5 Abv.

A 22 years old expressive, classical Pauillac Claret that reveals sweet roasted herbs, briary, red currant and piquant sweet pipe tobacco spice. Lovely maturity, dusty grainy tannins and fine tertiary complexity. The 1996 is a classic power packed Latour ageing gracefully and showing plenty of pedigree.

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

Steven Spurrier in attendance at 67 Pall Mall

Neil Ellis – A True Legend of the South African Wine Industry Unveils His 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon in London…

A well known English importer who recently returned to the UK after tasting the new releases in South Africa, commented that one of his best visits was with wine trade great Neil Ellis, a legend in his own time. But he also mentioned that Neil was also perhaps one of the most under appreciated assets of the South African wine scene.

I suppose as a new era dawns and son Warren takes over the reins from his famous father, the attention of the wine drinking public will shift and the achievements of the industry greats will begin to fade from the consumer’s collective memory. Needless to say, legends like Neil, who was instrumental in inspiring a new generation of winemakers to strive for even higher quality standards for reds and whites, will always be held on a high pedestal amongst members of the international wine trade.

Fortunately for us in the UK, Neil recently travelled to London to release his stunning new 2014 Jonkershoek Cabernet Sauvignon to the trade and of course I was there to pick his brains and have a good wine trade chat.

Neil Ellis Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Jonkershoek Valley, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Beautifully expressive nose of crunchy red cherries, violets, cherry sherbet, tart cassis and leafy, sappy black currant fruits. Classical Cabernet Sauvignon at its best. The palate is beautifully suave, sleek textured, ultra polished and plush, boasting incredible grandeur, restraint and a long black berry and tobacco spice laden finish. This is prime Stellenbosch terroir at its very best. With such intensity and balance, this wine will have a long future ahead of it but is already drinking exceptionally well. Cellar your 2013s further and crack open this deliciously forward, attractive 2014 now.

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

The Savvy Swartlanders Putting Stellenbosch Chardonnay on the World Map – Tasting a Pre-Release Bottle of Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016…

As I near the end of my March trip to South Africa, one of my favourite visits and tastings lay ahead at the Roundstone farm of Chris and Andrea Mullineux in the Swartland. With the new Leeu Passant wines due for imminent release, it was great to get a sneak peak of one of my favourite new white wines on the South African wine scene, the Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay.

As it becomes apparent that the Elandskloof Chardonnay Cuvee will no longer be made, the Mullineux’s have instead decided to focus on their Stellenbosch Chardonnay Cuvee from the Helderberg, which they believe offers the best future potential for premium quality and cellar ageability.

In the past few years, the debate has certainly hotted up in Europe and the USA around the collectability and quality of premium new world Chardonnay versus expensive top white Burgundy. New challengers to the holy Burgundy grail will certainly emerge, and I’m putting my money on this wine being in the mix for top honours.

Mullineux Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016, 14 Abv.

Another incredibly serious, focused, grown up release from the Mullineuxs. Regal, refined and linear, the fruit comes from the same 26 year old Helderberg vineyard as the 2015 release. Beautiful lime and white citrus pastille fruit notes are very pure and pithy with an alluring wet limestone and waxy lemon rind edge. Very tight grained, tightly wound and taut, far more so than even the very serious 2015 release. The intense lemon and lime cordial freshness is supremely balanced and harmonious performing a sophisticated, choreographed Burgundy styled routine with an expertly judged amount of struck match reduction complexity. The finish has a dusty, gravelly dry mineral length that will impress the most educated fine wine collector. Cellar this beauty for 2 to 3 years before opening, and drink over 20+ years.

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