New Release Review – Tasting The Super Premium Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage 2018…

The Kanonkop estate in Stellenbosch is synonymous with not only one of the most premium Cabernet Sauvignon based Bordeaux blends in South Africa, the Paul Sauer, but also the most serious expression of Old Vine Pinotage produced in the country.

This super premium Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage is made from one of the oldest Pinotage vineyards in South Africa planted in 1953 on a site that has over the years continued to produce fruit of specific excellence, deemed special enough to be bottled under its own label.

This new Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage 2018 was matured for 18 months in French oak, of which 100% was new.

Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

Fantastically dense, brûléed and opulent, this plush textural expression shows complex notes of black plum compote, mulberry, powdered mocha, cinnamon powder and a sweet sappy cedar spice. With the senses reeling, the palate gets assaulted by a plush, fleshy, round weight of black and red berry fruits, spicy brûléed vanilla notes, charred barrel spice and a grippy, youthful tannin on the finish adding a perfect frame and structure for the fruit concentration. Beautifully open and upfront, round and expressive, this wine shows a real accessibility, a soft cool acidity and a perfect amount of grip. Not quite the precision and fresh perfumed purity of the 2017 but certainly not far off. Another very well endowed beauty. Drink from 2022 to 2040+.

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

The De Toren Z Cape Bordeaux Blend Becoming a Real Force to be Reckoned With – Tasting and Assessing the Iconic New Z 2017 Release…

The focus of the De Toren estate has always been centred around the iconic Fusion V Cape Bordeaux blend made in a Left Bank leaning expression with a dominance of Cabernet Sauvignon. But the De Toren Z has slowly but surely started to catch the attention of wine critics and connoisseurs around the world with on-trade buyers and sommeliers taking a particular fancy to this blend.

While the debate continues as to whether this Merlot based Right Bank blend was born out of the quality Fusion V off-cuts or whether it was individually designed around specific varieties and terroirs on the Polkadraai estate, one thing is certain – the De Toren Z Cape Bordeaux blend is a premium wine to be reckoned with and taken seriously as it enters a small select group of top red blends coming out of South Africa.

With the 2016 Z currently selling great guns in South Africa and around the world, I thought I’d take a sneak peek at the highly anticipated 2017 that looks set to take the world by storm.

De Toren Estate Z 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

This wine personifies the De Toren journey of initially making one premium wine that ultimately heralded two iconic wines due to the estate’s attention to detail, terroir and focus on quality. This Merlot based blend is another absolute blinder revealing a rich, intense, brûléed aromatic array of saline cassis, nori seaweed, pithy black cherry, savoury black plum, roasted coffee beans and hints of open fire grilled winter chestnuts. The palate is super sleek and beautifully silky and suave bolstered by the most opulent, plump, hedonistic black fruit concentration, brûléed wood spice nuances and a long, mouth coating, vibrant finish. This wine speaks of the vintage with its weightless concentration and seamless balance and will appeal to Right Bank Bordeaux lovers who especially enjoy the iconic vintages. This wine is certainly right up there with the sensational 2015 De Toren Z and must surely rate as one of the best vintages of Z produced from the estate to date. Drink from 2022 to 2036+

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

Watch out for the launch of this 2017 beauty in SA around the end of 1st Quarter 2021.

Tasting the Special Limited Release Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2020 from Duncan Savage…

Duncan’s previous life at Cape Point Vineyards is certainly well documented, for it was during his tenure there as head winemaker that he pretty much perfected the art of producing iconic Sauvignon Blanc. In 2019 Duncan happened to stumble upon a 32 year old block of bush vine Sauvignon Blanc in Stellenbosch. The elevation, wind and vine age all pointed in the right direction and after a bit of experimentation, the Salt River Sauvignon Blanc label was born.

It seems Duncan fell in love with the wine and vineyard and along with his UK importer Swig Wines, decided to create a new brand and style separate from the rest of the Savage Wines range. Salt River is in the heart of the city of Cape Town, and is of course where Duncan’s trendy urban winery can be found. As Duncan’s UK importer Swig Wines points out, “Salt River is very reminiscent of an edgy Shoreditch in London a few years back.”

Duncan in his Salt River winery in Cape Town’s city centre.

This Sauvignon Blanc was fermented in a combination of stainless steel tanks, concrete eggs and old barrels. The wine spent four months in these vessels before being bottled, followed by a further two months in bottle prior to release. Only 500 cases of this wine were produced.

Savage Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2020, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

RS 2 g/l | pH 3.3 | TA 6.4 g/l

This has all the hallmarks of an expert Sauvignon Blanc master negotiating the ripeness and pungency of this variety with extreme precision. Beautifully complex and intense, the aromatics show notes of freshly cut fennel, green asparagus, yellow baking apples, waxy lemon peel and hints of fresh wet thatch. On the palate, it’s just as impressive with nervy, pithy yellow grapefruit peel zest, white citrus spice, tangerine and glycerol peach liquor nuances on the saline finish. This is next level Sauvignon Blanc that will appeal to novices and connoisseurs alike. Pop and pour!

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

The Fine Wine Safari’s KWV ‘The Mentors’ New Release Range Review…

KWV was founded in 1918, the same year South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, was born. In the space of just over a century, the country and its wine industry have seen many changes, and KWV, as the company who united wine farmers during the industry’s fledgling years, is now one of South Africa’s leading international wine brands.

When I was growing up all around the world as the son of a diplomat, the letters K-W-V were enough to lend a massive amount of reassurance and a total stamp of quality. Needless to say, post-1994, the KWV brand was inevitably promoted to great heights in the home market with varying amounts of success. Today, the company produces a very broad array of wines and brands under multiple wine makers with their Mentors range leading the quality charge.

KWV The Mentors Orchestra 2017, WO Western Cape, 14.5% Abv.

This 2017 shows full opulent aromatics with rich notes of blueberry and black berry fruits, creme de cassis and cherry kirsch liquor spice. The palate shows multiple layers of plush black creamy fruits with subtle nuances of liquorice, graphite and a salty bite on the finish. Textural, generously fruity but also displays a classical minerality, muscular tannins and a long expressive finish.

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

KWV The Mentors Pinotage 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

This wine seems to exhibit a more narrow, tightly focused array of aromatics and flavours. The more overt, exotic Pinotage characters seem to have been reigned in somewhat to show much purer black berry fruits, black currant, blueberry with a stony wet river pebble minerality. Sumptuous, plush and textured, given a good decant, this wine becomes very generous, creamy, seamless and approachable. If only they made Pinotage like this in the 1980s and early 1990s, it may have become far more of a signature variety for South Africa.

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

KWV The Mentors Petit Verdot 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.

Rich and savoury on the nose, this expression shows layers of black and blue berry fruits, black olive, black plum and freshly tilled earth. Dense and sleek, the tannins are muscular yet supremely polished lending a full glycerol mouthfeel with all the tell tale glassy, tart crunchy acids of Petit Verdot balanced by ample fruit concentration. Not surprisingly, this wine is profound and intense in its youth but should potentially blossom into something really special with 5-8 years of extra bottle age!

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

KWV The Mentors Canvas 2018, WO Coastal, 14.5% Abv.

This KWV ‘blank canvas’ is decorated with 38% Shiraz, 19% Grenache Noir, 12.5% Petite Syrah, 12.5% Tempranillo, 12% Carignan, 3% Mourvedre and 3% Tannat sourced from Wellington, Paarl, Swartland and Stellenbosch. The aromatics are pure, clean and delicately black fruited with hints of blueberry, sour black plum, cassis and savoury mulberry without any standout aromatic pungency. But on the palate, the wine and its blending really come into their own with an intense concentration, piercing crunchy acids and a cool, seamless, slightly saline tart black berry finish. A complex blend executed with precision. Might be a bit of a fruit salad blend but it is certainly a lot more drinkable than many Cape blends on the market.

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

KWV The Mentors Orchestra 2018, WO Western Cape, 14.5% Abv.

A blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 6% Carmenere aged for 18 months in 70% new French oak barrels. The youthful nose displays opulent notes of cocoa and mocha, vanilla spice, black plum, tannery leather, sweet tobacco and floral hints of violets. On the palate, the wine exhibits its more flamboyant style with soft creamy tannins, dense textural black fruits with bright acids, a buttered brown toast complexity and a sleek, harmonious, vibrant black and blue berry fruited finish. This is ready to go now but will improve with 3 to 5+ more years ageing.

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

KWV The Mentors Petite Syrah 2018 Limited Release, WO Paarl, 14.5% Abv.

Another well made wine from KWV and the Mentors range. But this limited release, 1000 bottle Cuvee of Petite Syrah is a little more wild and exotic than some of the more traditional blends in the range. This wine is full of multiple layers of black berry, blueberries and tart sappy plums with a wonderful supportive aromatic floral note of lavender and rose petals and a tease of black pepper spice. The palate is assuredly dense and textured with plenty of zesty acidity, pithy sandy tannins and a spicy but tart leafy finish. Plenty of polished density and opulent fruit intensity make this a very enjoyable glass of red. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years.

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

KWV Abraham Perold Tributum 2015, WO Coastal, 14.5% Abv.

This Perold Cuvee is an exotic Cape blend consisting of Pinotage, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. As you’d expect from a premium cuvee, it is dense, ripe and punchy with notes of sweet stewed plums, molasses, Christmas cake, tilled earth and earthy red currant notes. This bold density is carried to the palate where the rich, slightly baked plum notes announce their presence and flirt with stewed black currants, winter fruit compote notes and an oak spice finish. Super plush, opulent and generous, this is a very impressive “Cape Blend” in the context of the current market’s offerings.

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

Exploring KWV’s Impressive Maiden Release Roodeberg 1949 Anniversary Red Blend 2017…

The Roodeberg brand plays a mythical part in the South African wine industry’s history. Often used as a spearhead for brand South Africa in international markets during the height of the apartheid years meant that it was not readily available in the home market and accordingly, became a bit of a unicorn red wine.

Indeed, for the first 55 years, Roodeberg was exclusively made for export after Canada paved the way in the 1950s. Although not readily available locally in South Africa until 2004 without an acquaintance with a KWV quota, Roodeberg always enjoyed iconic status in the hearts and minds of South Africans.

So with the brand primarily focused on export markets, it did seem to lose some of its mystique and allure when KWV finally chose to launch it as a brand in the local South African market. With resulting changes to its style and inevitably, its quality level, it faded slightly to become yet another historical brand of times gone by.

The new 1949 Roodeberg Red Blend is a return to the original premium Roodeberg tradition and philosophy attempting a universal fine wine appeal. The excellent maiden 2017 vintage was produced from premium Stellenbosch grapes grown on the Grondves Farm, one of the primary sites for the development of mother plant material for the South African wine industry.

“Roodeberg 1949 is a dedicated collaborative effort harnessing some of the finest plant material along with our combined viticultural and winemaking expertise,” says winemaker Louwritz Louw, who worked closely with viticulturist Marco Ventrella and former KWV Cellarmaster and renowned wine educator Prof. Charl Theron in seeing this exclusive commemorative blend come to life.

Roodeberg 1949 embraces the revival of exciting French and Spanish varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon (38%) forms the foundation of the blend supported by Tempranillo (29%), Carignan (20%) and Carménère (13%). After fermentation, the different components were left to mature for 18 months in new French oak barrels with only the best barrels selected for blending and bottling for this maiden commemorative wine.

Dr Charles Niehaus

The original Roodeberg red blend was the brainchild of Dr Charles Niehaus, a legendary pioneer of the South African wine industry, who crafted the first vintage from the 1946 harvest. Dr Niehaus was the successor of Dr Abraham Izak Perold, the KWV’s chief wine scientist and revered father of Pinotage. Inspired by a glorious sunset over the Paarl mountains, the name Roodeberg, harks back to the vineyards of Rothenberg near Geisenheim in Germany where Dr Niehaus studied winemaking. He retired in 1971 leaving a rich legacy of winemaking prowess in his wake.

KWV 1949 Roodeberg Red Blend 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

This wine shows a very attractive aromatic profile of ripe red and black berries, caramelised notes of pecan pie, black liquorice, kirsch liquor and brûléed coffee beans. It’s certainly very inviting and seductive and doesn’t disappoint on the palate. Sleek and very suave, this has a wonderfully elegant texture as you’d expect from a well made 2017 red, with a fresh crunchy bright acidity that dances on the front of your tongue before being coated by a luxurious wave of silky soft red strawberry and black berry fruits, creamy soft chocolatey tannins and a tangy, sweet sour plummy finish. Weightless concentration with a cool defined line of acidity is accompanied by oaking that is superbly integrated and really adds to the wine like a chef’s deft sprinkle of salt and pepper without leaving a marked imprint. An impressive wine that grew in stature as it was allowed to open up in the glass over two plus hours. So elegant, silky and mouth-wateringly fresh, it will take plenty of will power not to drink this wine on release… as I suspect it will be at its best after 5 to 8 years and drink well for 15+ years. An impressive maiden release.

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

Ken Forrester’s Stunning Chenin Blanc Threesome Setting a Fine Benchmark For Stellenbosch Producers…

This famous winery is situated on the premium slopes of the Helderberg Mountains in the heart of South Africa’s most famous wine region Stellenbosch. Over the years the range of top quality wines from Ken Forrester has acquired a massive national following along with a bountiful amount of international acclaim with literally hundreds of awards and accolades amassed over time.

Ken Forrester’s philosophy has always been to create a range of handcrafted, individually made wines that suitably complement a wide variety of lifestyles and food styles especially with the restaurant trade being another industry very close to Ken’s own heart.

Ken Forrester with his lovely wife Teresa

The Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2019 from Ken Forrester Wines is an impressive allrounder that exhibits concentration, intensity and depth. The grapes come from 39-year-old vines which are fermented in both tank and barrels of which approximately 20% were new, followed by a further maturation of circa nine months before bottling.

Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

This pretty Chenin Blanc shows fabulous tension and minerality from the start with complex aromatics of crunchy white peach, quince, yellow grapefruit and sweet green herbs. The palate is full and dense, tight knit but fresh and admirably chiseled with intense notes of green apple pastille, peach and white citrus. Glycerol and round, this wine shows very impressive purity, balance and focus. A really delicious mouth watering offering. Drink now to 2028+.

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

Ken Forrester’s iconic FMC is widely considered one of the country’s leading examples of old vine Chenin Blanc and is fermented and aged for 12 months in 400 litre French oak barrels creating a profound expression that is wonderfully rich and layered with ripe stone and tropical fruit flavours and just a subtle hint of botrytis on the finish.

Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13% Abv.

The 2019 FMC Chenin Blanc is yet another monumental effort from Ken Forrester and co. Superbly rich, layered and wonderfully textured, this new release with an exotic RS of 8.9g/l boasts a complex aromatic profile with notes of honeysuckle, white peaches, warm buttered white toast with honey and an exotic hint of wet straw, dried herbs and mint leaf. Considered by many as one of the finest examples of old vine Chenin Blanc in South Africa, year in and year out, the 2019 expression boasts an opulent rich palate layered with hints of botrytis, fleshy textural yellow orchard fruits, intense apricot, nectarine, passion fruit and white peach purée together with a pronounced granitic minerality on the rich, long unctuous finish. Very impressive benchmark quality as you’d expect! Drink now to 2030+

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

The Dirty Little Secret first release made its mark in the premium Chenin Blanc category with its punchy price tag raising a few eyebrows but with its quality ultimately silencing the critics. The second edition changes to a 2016-2017 dual vintage blend made from grapes sourced from a very old dryland vineyard in the Piekenierskloof region planted in 1959. The wine making was handled as gently as possible using 7 x 400 litre barrels with the resulting wine bottled unfiltered and unfined.

Dirty Little Secret Chenin Blanc Two NV, WO Piekenierskloof, 14% Abv.

Not to be confused with the vastly different style of the FMC Chenin with its hints of RS and botrytis exoticism, the Dirty Little Secret is a serious, rich, dry and textural wine with aromatics of toffee apples, apple crumble, baked pears and subtle yeasty, bready nuances. The palate adds further notes of pithy tangerine, yellow peaches, old honey and bruised apples with a well rounded glycerol balance. But impressively, the finish remains taut, tight and mineral with a bright tangy acidity and a peachy, stony finish.

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

Thelema Estate Impresses with the New Release of Their Famed Merlot Reserve 2018…

The message seems to be getting out – the 2018 vintage in the Western Cape produced some seriously good wines. Or should the emphasis be on some of South Africa’s top producers who produced some very impressive new releases? Either way, the final results in bottle are impressing the critics and when the new edition of the South African wine bible, the Platter South African Wine Guide is released, I predict that the 2018 vintage will boast a broad new array of vinous treasures.

I recently started reviewing the various 2018 releases from one of my favourite Stellenbosch estates, Thelema Mountain Vineyards, and once again, the final results are head turning, none more so than the new Merlot Reserve.

Thelema Estate Merlot Reserve 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

After the super impressive 2017 Reserve Merlot, who could possibly have thought that the 2018 vintage would serve up such a classic Merlot expression. The aromatics are rich and intense with complex notes of violets and sweet lavender, freshly collected sea shells, sweet red and black berries, blue berry compote, wet tobacco, graphite and subtle sweet sappy notes. The palate is medium to full-bodied and also boasts a pronounced maritime salinity supported by leafy black cherry notes, roasted coffee beans, black tea, tangy rose hips and spicy black plum nuances. This Reserve Merlot shows the power and density of a cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon with the suave, plump mineral tannins of a serious Right Bank Bordeaux Merlot icon wine. Concentrated, muscular but fleshy and finely balanced, this is yet another stand out red wine from one of South Africa’s true first growth estates and should evolve beautifully in the coming years. Drink from 2022-2038+

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

The Ultimate Waterford Estate Complete Jem Vertical Tasting in London with Mark Le Roux…

The Waterford Estate is situated in the picturesque Blaauwklippen Valley, in the world-renowned Stellenbosch region and consists of around 60 hectares of vines on a 120 hectare farm that was originally based around two smaller properties joined together on the Helderberg, one of the closest mountain ranges to the sea.

Owned by the Ord Family and developed under the watchful eye of Kevin Arnold, Cellar Master and Managing Partner, since 1998, the iconic Waterford The Jem cuvee stands as the winery’s flagship wine showcasing a multi-varietal blend concept which Kevin believed to be the very best wine that Waterford’s terroir could create.

Possessing a complex flavour profile encompassing the 8 varietals of its blend, this wine is a truly complex creation retaining an elegance and focus with seamless integration between its many component parts.

The 2004 was the first Jem vintage produced and until this special trade tasting in London in June 2019, the Waterford Estate had never shown a complete Jem vertical anywhere before. It was also the wine that drew winemaker Mark Le Roux to Waterford originally and has subsequently allowed him to develop and hone his winemaking skills and experiences.

There is a thought process that is followed when putting the wine blend together. When Kevin Arnold planted the various varieties on the different soil types it was to showcase the diversity of terroir at Waterford.

Built around Cabernet Sauvignon, it has always been the backbone of the wine at around 40%, followed by Shiraz at 20%, with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot in the teens and Mourvèdre and Barbera in single digit percentages. With eleven varieties on the farm, the Jem normally used eight of these varieties to build up the layers of the wine.

Waterford Estate Jem Vertical:

Waterford Estate The Jem 2014, 14.6% Abv.

Aromatics of creamy, plush black berry fruits, black cherry, black plum and bramble berry spices with undertones of liquorice, cassis, sweet tobacco and vanilla prod spice. Palate possesses multiple layers of opulent fruit, black and blue berry complexity, sour cherry, graphite within a fine, polished tannin frame. The entry is hedonistic and opulent but the finish is long, dry spicy and mineral driven. Wonderfully textured and harmonious, this is one of the smartest and most distinguished blends from Waterford to date.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2012

Lifted, perfumed nose full of red cherry spice, dried cranberries, dried herbs and savoury plum notes underpinned by a stony, crushed grey slate minerality. The texture is beautifully polished, focused and sleek with the same creamy signature balance and harmony. Tannins are very fine and mineral and the finish spicy and classical with volume, weight and depth on the palate. Very old world in feel combined with a new world fruit purity.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2011

Dark broody aromatic profile with a savoury, earthy plummy depth, sweet cherry confit, pithy spice and dried herbs. Plum and fleshy with a pronounced sweet spot on the front of the palate supported by sweet cassis, cedar spice and a bright red cherry brightness. Lovely purity and beautiful textural harmony with a fine, dry, velvety tannin finish. Classical and classy.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2010

35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Possesses a complex nose of savoury, brambley black fruits, sweet tobacco, cigar box and grilled herbs. Wonderfully complex and savoury but also quite vibrant and piquant. Cool, sleek and impressively balanced, this wine is sleek, sweet fruited and fabulously balanced with seamless transitions between the multiple varietals. The finish is laden with pithy red cherry and chalky powery tannins but very distinguish and classically polished.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2009

35% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. Big, bold broody nose with plenty of sweet tobacco, savoury black berry fruits, earthy plum and spice and a pronounced, herbal, pencil shavings and cedar spice complexity. On the palate there is a fine savoury depth with stewed black fruit compote, Christmas pudding, coffee beans and a classically dry, slightly austere mineral tannin finish. Showing more evolution in fruit profile than the 2010. Texturally polished and pin point, this shows all the signature harmony and balance of the Jem with more tertiary layers.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2007

60% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend making it the highest percentage ever used. The nose show the classical herbal notes of the vintage with aromatics of wood spice, cedar, green herbs and pencil shavings underpinned by black currant fruit pastille ripeness.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2006

Sweet earthy savoury nose with layers of coffee bean, green herbs, blackberry compote, tannery leather and cured meats. Sleek and plush, this 2006 shows evolution and tertiary development, creamy lactic savoury fruits and a round, plump finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 88/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Waterford Estate The Jem 2005

Darker, tighter, broody nose with smokey graphite, black berry pastille, black cherry and sweet tobacco spice. Creamy, texturally plush of polished with lovely purity, fruit clarity and seamless balance. Holding together beautifully and still showing wonderful integrity, freshness and character.

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

Waterford Estate The Jem 2004

Earthy and savoury, full of forest fruits, Christmas pudding, tannery leather, green bean and sweet leaf and grilled herbs. Sweet and textural, plush and creamy with the tannins possibly borrowing extra grip and spice from the oak ageing.

(Wine Safari Score: 87/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the Impressive Wines Selected for the 2020 Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction…

The 2020 Nedbank CWG Auction hosted by Bonhams London will be held online on Saturday 3rd October from 12h00 (BST). Due to Coronavirus, there were no public tastings prior to sale making the limited tastings by a select group of wine journalists even more important this year. The line-up comprises 28 wines with total cases on offer amounting to 564 cases (6 x 750ml) compared to 45 wines and 1,932 cases in 2019.

One of the eye catching wines in 2020…

In support of one of the Guild members, buyers will have the opportunity to bid on smaller lots – the funds raised by the first case of six bottles of every wine will be given as financial assistance to Samantha O’Keefe, whose Lismore property in Greyton was devastated by fire in December last year. The CWG will also be hosting a 50 – item Vinotheque Auction made up of select older wines donated by members with express objective being to raise funds to assist employees within their businesses whose livelihoods have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 CWG Selection:

CWG host and Jordan Winery owner Gary Jordan taking us through the 2020 CWG wines.

Graham Beck Cuvée 129 Extra Brut 2009, WO Western Cape

Winemaker: Pieter Ferreira. 51% Pinot Noir, 49% Chardonnay. Cuvée 129 refers to the number of months on the lees aging – 10 years and 9 months.

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

Silverthorn Big Dog VI Méthode Cap Classique 2015, WO Robertson

Winemaker: John Loubser. 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. Chardonnay fermented and aged in old French oak, Pinot Noir in steel. 50 months on lees.

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

De Grendel Wooded Sauvignon Blanc 2019, WO Darling.

Winemaker: Charles Hopkins. Crushed, 18 hours skin contact, then settled and fermented in old oak.

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

Bartho Eksteen Vloekskoot Sauvignon Blanc 2019, WO Cape Coast

Winemaker: Bartho Eksteen. Whole bunch pressed, no settling. Naturally fermented in older, big wood.

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

Simonsig Mediterraneo 2015, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Johan Malan. 66% Roussanne, 28% Grenache Blanc, 6% Verdelho. Whole bunch pressed, mix of wild and cultured yeast.

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

Miles Mossop Wines Saskia-Jo 2018, WO Swartland

Winemaker: Miles Mossop. 65% Chenin Blanc, 25% Clairette Blanche, 10% Grenache Blanc. Decomposed granite soils.

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

Rijk’s CWG Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Tulbagh

Winemaker: Pierre Wahl. 14-year-old bush vines, fermented in new and used French oak.

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

Raats Family Wines The Fountain Terroir Specific Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Bruwer Raats. Rich, creamy but super bright with leesy, peachy fruit complexity and incredible precision and vibrant intensity.

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

Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2018, WO Elgin

Winemaker: Andries Burger. From the oldest Chardonnay vineyard on the Estate, planted in 1987 (the oldest vines in Elgin).

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

Leeu Passant Radicales Libres Chardonnay 2015, WO Klein Karoo

Winemaker: Andrea Mullineux. 100% Chardonnay, long elevage inspired by Jura and Rioja. From the incredibly cool Barrydale Valley in the Klein Karoo, after fermentation this Chardonnay was aged in barrel for five years.

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

Ataraxia Under The Gavel Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Winemaker: Kevin Grant.  Cool and Crystalline with a stony minerality, pithy peachy yellow citrus concentration and a long, pure brilliance.

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

Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Windansea Pinot Noir 2017, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Winemaker: Gordon Newton Johnson. Stoniest, most clay-rich parts of the vineyard used for this. No sulfites in the winemaking. 11 months in barrel then six months in large oak.

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

Neil Ellis Wines Amper Bo Tempranillo 2015, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Warren Ellis. Whole berry fermentation then 18 months in 60% new French oak barrels and 40% in second fill.

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

Rust en Vrede CWG Auction Estate 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Coenie Snyman. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah.

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

Ernie Els CWG 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Louis Strydom. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Shiraz, 10% Cinsault. Fermentation in small 300 litre open top oak barrels with three weeks extended maturation.

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

Luddite The Lone Stranger Mark II 2018, WO Bot River

Winemaker: Niels Verburg. 50% Mourvèdre, 40% Shiraz, 10% Grenache Noir. Small open fermenters then pressed to barrel for two years.

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

Delaire Graff Estate Banghoek Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Morné Very. 55% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec. Whole berry fermentation with limited punch downs. Four weeks post-ferment maturation on skins before being basket pressed. Matured in 40% new French 225 litre barrels for 16 months.

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

Spier Frans K Smit Auction Selection 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Frans K Smit. 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Organic.

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

Strydom Family Wines The Game Changer 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Rianie Strydom. 80% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot. North facing slopes on the Helderberg.

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

Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Abrie Beeslaar. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot. From Simonsberg. Fermented in open top ‘kuipe’ for six days, then malolactic fermentation in tank, and matured in new French oak for two years.

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

Groot Constantia CWG Gouverneurs Reserve 2018, WO Constantia

Winemaker: Boela Gerber. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Cabernet Franc. 75% new oak.

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

Villiera Drip Barrel Cabernet Franc 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Jeff Grier. 18 months in new and used French oak.

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

Edgebaston Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: David Finlayson. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. From the clay-heavy section of their GS vineyard, picked five days earlier than the rest of the vineyard. New French oak for two years.

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

Hartenberg CWG Auction Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Carl Schultz. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bottelary Hills. 20 days on skins, 20 months in 50% new 225 litre French oak barrels.

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

Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Jacques Borman. Harvested in three tranches, 30% whole bunch. Some matured in concrete, some in barrel (30% new).

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

Cederberg Teen Die Hoog Shiraz 2018, WO Cederberg

Winemaker: David Nieuwoudt. Red slate soils. 85% new oak.

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

Saronsberg Die Erf Shiraz 2017, WO Tulbagh

Winemaker: Dewaldt Heyns. The best barrel of Block 27. Aged for 20 months in a new French Allier oak barrel.

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

Boplaas Cape Vintage CWG Reserve 2015, WO Western Cape

Winemaker: Carel Nel. 80% Touriga Nacional, 10% Touriga Franca, 6% Souzão, 4% Tinta Barocca. Fermented and fortified in small lagares and barrel matured in large seasoned oak barrels.

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

The CWG dinner at the River Cafe London.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going – Tasting the Phenomenal New Release Savage Wines 2019 Vintages…

Thankfully I managed to visit South Africa just before lockdown in February 2020. While I had limited access to Duncan Savage who was deeply ensconced in his Salt River urban cellar busy pressing his 2020 grapes coming in, I did get sufficient opportunity to drill down on the phenomenal new 2019 vintage releases and the conditions that shaped Duncan’s newest and possibly greatest wines.

With allocations imminent, and after a lengthy 3 month lockdown in the UK, these wines are undoubtedly one of the most exciting releases of the calendar year along with Eben Sadie and Chris Alheit’s sought after old vine single vineyard wines. If you are lucky enough to get offered an allocation, the signal is BUY BUY BUY!

Savage White Blend 2019, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.

In 2019 the Savage White Blend is made up of 64% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon and 16% Chenin Blanc with the Sauvignon portion increasing +10% on the 2018 due to the yields from the individual component blocks. Fruit was sourced from Kaaimansgat, Villiersdorp, Piekenierskloof and Stellenbosch. After being whole bunch pressed, the fermentations for various batches lasted from between 1 and 6 months with all components finishing secondary malolactic fermentation. The wine was aged for 10 months in old 500 litre French oak barrels along with a portion in concrete eggs. But certainly the 2019 whites are turning out to be as distinctive and expressive as Duncan’s 2018 wines were in their own characterful way but perhaps having more in common stylistically with the 2017 vintage. The 2019’s taut, smoky bouquet shows a slightly reductive liquid minerality that is utterly captivating, slowly unfurling layer upon layer in the glass. The initial petrichor notes of wet slate give way to crushed granite and dusty gravel nuances underpinned by aromatics of waxy green apples, dried fynbos, peach stone fruits and pithy white citrus. Initially dominated by the Sauvignon Blanc and creamy grapefruit notes of the Semillon, a little time in the glass eventually sees the Chenin Blanc component assert itself with hints of bruised yellow orchard fruits and a soft, pineapple pastille kiss. On the palate, the unmistakable Duncan Savage hallmark brilliance again shines with an outstanding balance and harmony, highlighting his masterful blending of these three white varieties. At once fresh, bright and supremely pure fruited, the 2019 Savage white is all about textural finesse, seamless equilibrium and pinpoint precision. The finish is long, persistent and intensely concentrated throwing out yet more teasing notes of passion fruit, white peach and candied pineapple. A very, very smart white blend in anyone’s language. Drink from release and over 10-12+ years. (9,900 bottles produced.)

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

Savage Follow the Line 2019, 13% Abv.

I always joke that this wine from Duncan has one of the biggest cult followings globally only because no one can ever buy any Girl Next Door Syrah! But seriously, this wine has joined a very elite group of Cinsault dominant wines produced in the Cape that speak authoritatively year after year. In 2019, the blend is made up of 89% Cinsault from 39 year old dry farmed Darling bush vines together with 11% Syrah, a percentage that would easily allow Duncan to bottle this wine as a mono-varietal. It spent 3 to 5 weeks on its skins with 50% whole bunches employed. Ageing took place over 10 months in an oval foudre of 1,500-2000 litre capacity. True to form, this wine is ultra perfumed and incredibly pretty with soft seductive aromatics of crushed rose petals, spring cherry blossoms, dried lavender, a melange of red summer berry fruits and an exotic Turkish delight twist. The palate shows a fabulously self assured, compact core of bright red fruits, intense zippy red cherry Kool Aid, candied red berry notes and a super dense yet supple core of purity rarely seen on modest Cinsault. The tannins are fleshy, silky soft and almost imperceptible with the harmonious finesse of the sublime palate texture grabbing all the drinker’s attention. Superbly balanced, subtly piquant and saline, this wine has such a dreamy, creamy finish, breath taking purity of fruit and the most well honed, elegant Grand Cru poise to suggest that this could be one of Duncan’s finest expressions of Cinsault to date. A truly profound wine. Wow! Drink this from release and over the next 10 to 15+ years. (8,000 bottles produced.)

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

Thief in the Night 2019, 13% Abv.

Only three years into this grandiose “Grenache project” and the quantity of the old, dry land Grenache in this blend has already grown to 61%, supported by 26% Cinsault and 13% Syrah. The wine spent 2 weeks on its skins employing only 20% of whole bunches this year to maximise the fruit’s true terroir expression. All components were picked on the same day and co-fermented from the same property in Piekenierskloof before spending 11 months in 3,400 litre conical foudre. Every vintage I have tasted of this wine has been a step up on the previous year’s effort and of course I wondered whether this would be possible again in 2019. Having a fabulously crystalline, translucent ruby red colour, this wine is sassy and confident from the get go, showing a rich, deep, savoury spicy aromatic depth of autumnal leaves, freshly cut hedge row, sappy earthy black cherry fruits and a subtle peppery broody depth. Yet again, the compact, signature 2019 palate texture density and harmony is unambiguous, with a seamless fruit – acid balance and a savoury earthy red currant and bramble berry spice complexity asserting itself on the long, plush, polished finish. I don’t know if Duncan is just simply mastering his Grenache fine tuning evermore or if 2019 was just an incredible vintage for this style of blend? But needless to say, this is his most confident and accomplished expression of the Thief in the Night cuvee produced to date. Drink from release and over 8 to 10+ years. (4,400 bottles produced.)

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

Are We There Yet 2019, WO Malgas, 13% Abv.

Last year I noted early on that the 2018 Are We There Yet cuvee had really found another quality gear on previous vintages. Looking back, this was genuinely born out in the real world as this slightly quirky Malgas red blend ended up selling out in the UK market even faster than many of the other more prestigious Savage red cuvees with only the exception of the Girl Next Door Syrah. But results like this are to be expected as Duncan strives to fine tune the winemaking of this wine year on year to match the style of this wine to its unique river pebble on shale terroir and its unique blend of varieties. The 2019 is again a blend of 14 year old bush vines from 50% Touriga Nacional and 50% Syrah, which spent 2 weeks on their skins before being aged 11 months in neutral oak foudre. A lot of the work done to fine tune this cuvee, like the 100% destemming, has resulted in one of the most plush, opulent and seamlessly harmonious reds in Duncan’s entire range. The aromatics retain their underlying dark, plumy, black fruit complexity with intriguing nuances of blueberry pie, black currant confit and sweet melted black liquorice candy. The palate incredibly shows a level of refinement that is more reminiscent of a Grand Vin from Cote Rotie, with tangy acids, sweet savoury velvet tannins, a fleshy luxurious core of black currant and blue berry fruits and a finish with the most suave, fine grained mineral texture possible. All in all, the 2019 shows a little more refinement, a pinch more plushness and a polished finesse that marks this wine as a very smart effort once again. Drink from release as you won’t be able to resist its overt charms, and then over the next 10+ years. (2,100 bottles produced.)

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

Girl Next Door Syrah 2019, WO Cape Town, 13.5% Abv.

Unless you are completely new to Duncan Savage’s range of wines, this incredible cuvee will need no introduction at all. Made in miniscule quantities from the most salty, wind swept and battered 0.38 hectare Syrah vineyard plot near Fishhoek, these gnarled 14 year old trellised vines planted on sandy gravel soils for ornamental value originally, have latterly provided some of the finest Syrah grapes in the entire Western Cape. This labour of love for Duncan sees 50% whole bunches employed in fermentation followed by two weeks maceration on skins, malolactic fermentation in 600 litre neutral French oak barrels and finally a further 11 months maturation in barrels. The aromatics are suggestive but initially offer up a shy, retiring bouquet of dark damson plums, Kalamata olives, sweet savoury cured meats, Tuscan wild bore sausage nuances, sweet green peppercorns, dried coriander and a lovely subtle waft of lavender blossom perfume. The front and sides of the palate bristle with mouth watering crystalline pure fresh acids, a seamlessly plump fleshy opulence and the most suave, sophisticated, lithe concentration and fruit density. While many high quality premium wines become sought after purely based on scarcity, I would suggest that the overriding factor for the Girl Next Door’s cult following is the undeniable knowledge that if Duncan is going to bother making this wine in such small quantities, he has to believe heart and soul that this vineyard has something very, very special to offer in the context of world class Syrah. Mouth coating and utterly entrancing, this is next level Syrah indeed. Drink from release and over the next 12+ years. (1,500 bottles produced.)

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

Savage Red 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv. 

Duncan Savage is unquestionably proudest of both his eponymous signature white blend and of course his Savage red, and rightly so. These wines represent the true essence of the Savage brand however many new labels may be added to the range now or in years to come. Since 2017, this flagship wine has been made exclusively from 100% pure Syrah, and from 2018, 100% pure Stellenbosch Syrah! Produced from fruit grown on the famous Polkadraai Hills decomposed granite soils of Southern Stellenbosch, these organically farmed grapes spent three weeks on their skins with 50% whole bunches employed in fermentation. After secondary malolactic fermentation, the wine spent 13 months in 500 litre French oak barrels and then a further 9 months in 3,200 litre conical foudres. The aromatics chime a different tune to those of the meaty Swartland Syrahs. More base than treble, this wine’s aromatics show an impressively deep, compact red berry fruit concentration, a savoury, brambly, damson plum palate breadth that’s delicately massaged by a soft, pure granitic acidity. There is a real translucent, weightless, purity of flavour to the fruits, a true crystalline 2018 elegance and a supple, fleshy, seamless talcum powder fine tannin texture on the finish. True to the vintage, this wine will give immense drinking pleasure from release and probably hit its quality zenith at 8 to 10+ years of age. (11,400 bottles produced.)

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