Like Father Like Son… Warren Ellis Continuing the Neil Ellis Legacy…

When you have to think of one or two words to sum up a winery and it’s wines, it can sometimes be quite difficult… but sometimes not. After tasting through a large swathe of the current Neil Ellis range with Warren Ellis, I felt the wines could all be quite succinctly described as wines with composure and finesse.


Composure and finesse are perhaps traits Warren has inherited from his legendary winemaker father, Neil Ellis. These labels also apply to Neil’s wines from the late 80s and early 90s. Who can forget the early vintages of Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc from Darling, that set the world on fire, or indeed some of Neil’s Cape Independent Winemakers Guild Cabernet Sauvignons, as the CWG was called back then. Epic, age worthy wines. 


Thankfully, Warren’s wines are equally impressive with a quiet, soft spoken elegance and finesse. Don’t miss his impressive Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 available at a bargain price of £25-£26 per bottle in the UK, or indeed his 2014 that only this week was awarded 92 points and top honours in a recent SA Cabernet tasting.


Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection Jonkershoek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, W.O. Stellenbosch, 14 Abv. 

Dense aromatic perfumed nose of small black berry fruits, saline cassis, black currant leaf and dusty graphite. This classical Cabernet is cool, elegant, and fine grained, impressively pure fruited with suave, sleek, polished mineral tannins. There is beautiful balance and finely composed complexity leading to a seamless, exotic, finish packed full of red cherry fruits, parma violets and pink musk. A beautifully individual style of Cabernet aged for 18 months in 300 litre mostly blond and medium toast French oak barrels. Pop this in the cellar for another 5 to 8 years to develop a little more tertiary complexity and drink for 10 to 15+. 

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

Summer’s Almost Here … Tasting the Kleinood Tamboerskloof Katharien Syrah Rose 2015, Stellenbosch, 13 Abv…

Cracking out the Rose trumpets the arrival of summer. For such an affordable category of wine style, these boutique dry wines deliver a disproportionate amount of joie de vivre and drinking pleasure.


Grapes for the 2015 Rose were handpicked between 22 and 25 degrees balling to obtain the full red fruit spectrum of the grape. The grapes were hand sorted across our sorting table before being de-stemmed into a stainless steel basket press. The juice settled overnight at 14 °C, where after the clear juice was racked off the lees and fermented in stainless steel tanks. 

WINE ANALYSIS

Alcohol 13.0 % volume, Total Acid 5.5 g/l, pH 3.35, Residual Sugar 1.2 g/l.


Tasting Note: This pure Syrah beauty is pale salmon pink and has a most seductive perfumed nose of wild forest strawberries, cranberries, rose petals, potpourri, dusty garrigue, dried herbs and fynbos complexity. The palate is sleek, lithe and silky with a light, fine boned feminine texture, gravelly mineral spice and a long elegant finish boasting rose water, tangerine peel, liquid minerals and spicy red bramble berries. Perfectly delicious on its own, but would certainly be killer with some tapas nibbles! 

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

Tasting Carl van der Merwe’s Impressive New White and Red Blends from Stellenbosch…

Carl joined award winning DeMorgenzon winery owned by Hilton and Wendy Applebaum in July 2010 after an 8 year stint at Quoin Rock Winery in Stellenbosch where he made a range of highly regarded wines which duly collected many trade accolades.


Whilst Carl’s extraordinary talent in the winery and genius in the cellar add immeasurably to DeMorgenzon, it is reassuring to see that the Applebaums have allowed Carl to experiment with his new venture… The Great White and The Great Red, two interesting blends.

The Great White Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon / Chenin Blanc 2015, 13.5 Abv.

This wine features Sauvignon and Semillon as well as 10% Chenin Blanc that was barrel fermented. There is plenty of lifted aromatics and grassy lime peel, lemon grass, and dusty white peach stone fruit. The palate is full and textural, one of Carl’s winemaking signatures, with lovely round harmonious, fleshy, creamy mouthfeel. This wine has impressive gravitas for its price point (£17-£18pb) and a complex, spicy granitic mineral finish with great lucidity.

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

The Great Red Cabernet Sauvignon / Cinsaut / Cabernet Franc / Petit Verdot 2015, 14 Abv.

A very attractive nose greets you on this well constructed, well proportioned red. There is plenty of sweet spicy red fruit, soft fleshy red currants, sweet leaf, earl grey tea, cedar and tobacco spice. There is an opulence and generosity to the wine brimming with sweet black berry and foresty bramble fruits. Full core of fruit, dense but precise and elegant with a very fine seamless texture and a soft, pithy red cherry skin finish. A fine effort.

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

Carl is currently working towards his British Master of Wine, for which we wish him the best of luck. South Africa is long overdue another MW in its ranks! 

Leeu Passant ~ The Most Exciting New Releases From South Africa in Years…

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines have always been all about bottling the great vineyard expressions of site and soils of the Swartland. This week saw the first new vinous additions to the growing Mullineux legacy in the form of Leeu Passant. 


The new range consists of two terroir specific Chardonnays and a dry red blend, which is a deconstruction and reconstruction of the venerable Cape wines of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s with almost equal portions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and a “modern” twist of Cabernet Franc.With the European Launch of Leeu Passant set to take place in London on the 5th April, when I’ll be in Bordeaux tasting En-primeur 2016 wines, it was fortuitous that I was staying with Chris and Andrea in the Swartland at just the right moment to experience these wines pre-release.


Below are my initial impressions and ratings of this profound new threesome of whites and reds…


Leeu Passant Elandskloof Chardonnay 2015, 14 Abv.

Very rich intense opulent nose, layers of pineapple pastille fruits, green apple and green citrus crunch. All natural ferment with indigenous yeasts, and all natural malolactics. Complex sweet green fruits, subtle creamy oak from 12 months ageing and another 10 months in bottle. The palate is taught, fresh and crunchy, some waxy white peach notes, flinty minerality and a noticeably cool, restrained dry finish. Plenty of power with animated subtlety. 

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


Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2015, 14 Abv.

This is a blockbuster wine. Sweet green quince, crunchy pears and pineapple pastille fruits, Bon Bon green apple crunch and subtle hints of struck match reductive complexity and gravelly, saline pithy fruit. Incredible acidity showing real power and drive, and incredible precision. High acid, bottled at 8 TA. Also such subtle, considerate oak use, fine integration of fruit and acids and again, like the Elandskloof version, finishes bone dry and elegantly restrained. A very impressive, complex Meursault’esque Stellenbosch Chardonnay illustrating the grandeur and terroir of this premium SA region. Superb… A must buy for Chardonnay obsessives! 

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


Leeu Passant Dry Red Blend 2015, 13.5 Abv.

36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 31% Cinsaut. 

The Wellington Cinsault at 117 years old is the oldest recorded Cinsault vineyard in SA, blended with a more youthful 91 year old vineyard from Franschhoek. The Helderberg Cabernet Sauvignon is 36 years old and the Cabernet Franc 18 to 20 years old. Lovely peppery, spicy leafy nose of plum, peppercorns, sweet bramble berries, hedgerow, bergamot and sappy cherry spice. There’s a real opulent confit fruit character, impressive ripeness, fragrant but simultaneously mineral and restrained. There is also a real dusty granitic vein, a chalky, spicy texture and sweet red currant and raspberry sappy fruit. Punchy, intense, really focused but with real mouthwatering drinkability. Beautifully fine harmonious texture, and tight polished tannins. A true testament to South Africa’s red winemaking heritage. A very classy wine.

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

Volumes PER wine: Elandskloof  Chardonnay ~ 2000 bottles, Stellenbosch Chardonnay ~ 3000 bottles, and 4,000 bottles of Leeu Passant Dry Red. 

 (UK RRP IS £72 – £75 pb Inc.)

Tasting the new South African Wines from Lukas van Loggerenberg…

I just can’t get the ringing out my ears! The LLLLLL of Lukas. Who!? Well, I have not met Lukas van Loggerenberg in person…yet, but his wines certainly precede himself. The owner of no vines, Lukas is the producer of several whites and reds that are stirring a lot of commotion. So, with my acknowledged limited knowledge of these wines… here are my reviews.


Kameraderie Chenin Blanc 2016, 13.5 Abv

Unlike many other Chenin Blanc, this wine is unashamedly opulent and exotic. Rich, textured and jam packed with pineapple pastille, dusty chalk and green apple cream soda notes. The fruit is pure, crystalline and crisp showing plenty of green apple, honeydew melon and an elegant, dusty, sherbety finish. A thoroughly intriguing, characterful Old Vine white.

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


Geronimo Cinsaut 2016, Stellenbosch, 13 Abv. 

The label cries Geronimo… and this lush, opulent red is certainly a frontal assault on your senses. The nose is rich, fleshy and ripe with sweet strawberry compote, raspberry ripple and exotic paprika spice. The subtle hint of dried mango and quince confit add plenty of extra intrigue. The palate does what most cinsaut say on the tin… Crisp, fresh fruited, crunchy bright vibrancy, with the most pure, focused, linear finish. Classy, mineral and very juicy. What not to love about this gem!??? 

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


Breton Cabernet Franc 2016, Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

Just a fleeting look at the back label shows an Abv of 12.5. So? Yes, I want to smash this wine. The nose is intriguing and seductive with macerated strawberries, red berry coulis, red apple skins and a vibrant stalky, sappy, spice. The palate is bright, vibrant and sophisticated. I love the blueberry crispness and cherry pithe spice! A very impressive Cab Franc effort! Lovely.

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

The Epic Raats Family Wines Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2014 Reviewed…

When it comes to the Loire varieties of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, no one in South Africa delivers quite like Bruwer Raats of Raats Family Wines in Stellenbosch. A passionate obsessive, Bruwer has dedicated most of his winemaking career to mastering these two varieties. 


In the Eden High Density Cabernet Franc, Bruwer has conjured up such vinous brilliance, producing probably the finest pure varietal version South Africa has ever seen. 300 vines in a single vineyard produced just 260 bottles, making this probably one of the rarest “new release” wines out of the Cape. But trust me, making the effort to hunt a bottle down will definitely be worthwhile!


Tasting Note: A mysterious dark opaque black plum colour that’s every bit as deep and alluring as the wines bouquet. At first, when poured, there are broody Cabernet Franc notes of cassis leaf, capsicum, graphite and cedar spice. But given five minutes of air, this wine blossoms like a Namaqualand wild flower field after August rains. Lush black peppercorns, cassis, saline briney black berry complexity. There are so many layers of orange blossom, orange peel and black  forest berries. The palate is tight and pin point on the entry, layered, with dusty silky tannins, tart linear acids and a cool 13.5 Abv. The fruit concentration seems at once dense but also weightless, as the dark earthy fruits dance across the palate with such elegance. The peacocks tail of fruit complexity fans out on the mid-palate and then constricts again, leading to a focused, taught, fresh, long vibrant finish. The pieces of this vinous puzzle fit together seamlessly. One can only imagine how profound this wine will be in 10-15 years time. Bravo Bruwer! 

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


Sons of Sugarland Syrah 2015 Reviewed ~ Sometimes, Less is Definitely More…

In 2016, so many new micro brands and single vineyard / single site wines were launched in South Africa. I consider myself relatively up to date with all the new offerings visiting South Africa several times a year. But last year, after four visits, even I was running just to keep up at times. Some of these eye catching wines including Andre Bruyn’s City on a Hill Chenin Blanc, Bruwer Raats’ Eden range, and Chris Alheit’s Hemelrand Vine Garden white blend were launched with great acclaim. 


Another one of these wines was the Sons of Sugarland Syrah 2015 produced from “superior” pure SH99 clone 100% Whole-bunch fermented Syrah grapes sourced from a vineyard in Stellenbosch. I reviewed many wines from Stellenbosch young gun Reenen Borman, and this red is another one of his collaborative works falling under the Patatsfontein joint project. 


Tasting Note: Sons of Sugarland Syrah 2015, 14 Abv. ~ Beautiful vibrant purple red cherry colour. The nose is delicately perfumed with bruised black plums, macerated red cherries, sandalwood, wood spice, dried black and green pepper corns, sweet savoury cured meats and a honeysuckle twist. The palate is medium bodied and elegantly classical, very much in the mould of the Northern Rhone masters like Rene Rostaing, where Syrah takes on the weight, focus and texture of Pinot Noir rather than full blown ripe Rhoney Syrah. There are beautifully fine glassy acids elevating the majestic fine, soft silky tannins. This wine is all about subtlety, finesse and femininity and never tries to shout, but rather talks softly with a voice of confident winemaking. The finish is deceptively long, concentrated and suave. Testament to the philosophy that sometimes less is more. (Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Post Script: I opened this bottled, allowed it to breath (in bottle) for 20-30 mins, tasted and wrote my notes. Initially I was around the 93-93+ score mark, but after enjoying this wine subsequently with beautiful organic Welsh lamb chops, I upped my score to 94. Wines cannot just be enjoyed in some kind of clinical isolation. They are part of our daily lives, and primarily made to be enjoyed with food. So I’m going stick with my latter rating of this elegant, classical, food friendly wine.

Armstrong’s of Richmond’s finest lamb chops…