Ground Breaking South African Bordeaux Blend ~ Rating the Epic 2015 MR de Compostella…

Mvemve Raats is a critically acclaimed collaboration between friends and winemakers Mzokhona Mvemve and Bruwer Raats. Bruwer is of course the owner and winemaker of Raats Family Wines, where he has earned a reputation for top notch Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Mzokhona Mvemve, the first Indaba Scholarship recipient, is a graduate of Stellenbosch University and one of South Africa’s first qualified black oenologists.


On Friday the 8th September, Bruwer Raats joined us to launch the 2015 vintage of the MR de Compostella. The grapes for this extremely limited production of MR are sourced from Stellenbosch, widely recognized as the Cape’s premier red wine-producing region, especially when it comes to Bordeaux style varieties. With the 2015 vintage currently being lauded in South Africa as possibly the best all-round vintage in South African viticultural history ever, the stage was perfectly set for Bruwer to perform his magic.


MR de Compostella 2015 Blend, WO Stellenbosch,14.5 Abv.

I have been one of Bruwer Raats’ biggest MR de Compostella followers in the UK market since the maiden 2004 vintage release, and we have tasted the MR pre-release every year together since then, discussing the wine’s blend and vintage complexities over a few bottles of MR and fine left bank claret. So after a great amount of anticipation, we got to taste the MR 2015 together last Friday. This is an absolutely gorgeous, coming of age wine. A blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec, the 2015 is genuinely a compelling wine with a classic nose more reminiscent of a fine, opulent Cru Classe Pauillac than a Stellenbosch Bordeaux blend. There are beautiful perfumed notes of assorted purple flowers and fresh violets that melt away to reveal ripe, intense notes of crème de cassis, blueberry crumble, cherry kirsch liquor and damson plum. The wine has gravitas, intensity and a room-silencing presence that is neither heavy nor overpowering. Like all MR vintages, it has impressive laser-like precision, a fine grained focus and an amazing fruit purity and concentration that is a hedonistic pleasure to experience. What extract, what fine piercing acids, what power, but all delivered in a sublimely harmonious chorus of black cassis fruits, blueberry confit and graphite spice. It is impossible to tire of this wine, with its palate freshness reigniting your senses continuously. More structured and intense than its riper, plumper predecessor 2014, the 2015 delivers more intensity, with tannic restraint and brooding classical Pauillac’esque depth. Drink this young if you will, but this MR is the closest Bruwer and Mvemve have come to perfection since they started this project in 2004. I expect the 2015 to be going strong in 30 to 40 years time and continuing to seduce connoisseurs  and collectors globally. 

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

Another Blockbuster Vintage Release of Bordeaux Blend Icon Meerlust Rubicon…

Whenever I visit South Africa, my eye is always drawn to the latest vintages of Bordeaux blend Icon Meerlust Rubicon on the Duty Free shelves. They always amazingly seem to be two vintages ahead of us here in the UK. So today I cracked into the 2014 to see what this current release holds in store for drinkers and collectors alike.


Meerlust Rubicon 2014, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv. 

An invitingly youthful, opulent nose bursting with blueberry pie, vanilla pod spice, violets, cedar wood and polished mahogany. Very impressive with lifted black currant and raisined cranberry notes, the complexity of this wine is mesmerising. The palate is wonderfully suave, fleshy and elegant, showing superb harmony and balance combined with Cabernet Sauvignon backbone, power and breadth. There are lashings of delicious sweet cassis, black currant pastille, blueberries, and seductive creamy oak vanillins. Such a polished example, finely tuned, and positively oozes with class and pedigree. This impressive 2014 should drink well now and for another 25+ years if well cellared. Bravo Hannes Myburgh and winemaker Chris Williams. 

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

Verdict: Buy and fill your cellar! 

A Winery On Top of Their Game ~ Tasting De Morgenzon DMZ Sauvignon Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

To be clear, 2016 was not an easy vintage, with drought conditions gripping the Western Cape. But any winemaker worth their salt would have watched their grape’s veraison even more carefully than normal in order to preserve that all important acidity. With Carl van der Merwe on top of his game, there is not a lot this fella can do wrong and this wonderful Stellenboschkloof white bears testament to Carl’s skill and precision.


The DMZ range is a more affordable, accessible range from the winery and this Sauvignon Blanc 2016 is very well executed and thoroughly attractive. Such perfumed, multi-dimensional aromatics rise imperiously out of the glass. There are wonderful notes of green Granny Smith apples, freshly cut grass, thatch, green boiled Bon Bon sweets, dusty granite, and cream soda notes. On the palate, there is just enough of the sweet confectionary shop and stick candy notes mingling with dusty chalky minerality to make this a finely poised offering with delicious, vibrant acids and succulent, green melon and green apple zip on the finish. It’s all so tightly packaged, so well put together that I just can’t imagine anyone not finding this bottle an absolute pleasure to quaff. Drink now and over the next 3+ years.

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

The Stellenbosch Hills are Alive… Tasting Reenen Borman’s Kottabos Grenache – Syrah 2016 Blend…

Hot on the heals of the super sexy single clone Syrah, Sons of Sugarland, comes another delicious red from young Reenan Borman of Boschkloof fame. This small project wine called Kottabos is a stunning blend of 87% Grenache and 13% Syrah, both sourced in Stellenbosch from the Polkadraai area. 


The grapes both had 50% whole bunch fermentation and were then aged in used oak for approximately 11 months. Only 1,760 bottles were produced. Reenen describes the Kottabos as “a project of exploration in the Stellenbosch hills, the sole purpose being to showcase what this unique terroir has to offer.”


Reenen Borman’s Kottabos Grenache – Syrah 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5 Abv.

Another micro-vinification offering from the beautiful hills of Stellenbosch. In the glass, this wine has the alluring colour of young red Burgundy and shows a crystalline, translucent ruby glow. The nose offers up incredible perfume lift of cherry bon bons, blood oranges, rose petals, parma violets, pomegranate and subtle cedary, boxwood, marzipan spice. Notes of black pepper and earthy bramble berry sappy spice develop with time in the glass. The palate is very fine boned, precise, and light on its feet with an almost Pinot Noir elegance and finesse, framed beautifully by crunchy, sappy, tart cranberry acids and subtle, fine powdery tannins. The wine is so effortless, brimming full of energy, and really shows off Reenen Borman’s extensive winemaking expertise. Drink this wine now or over 3 to 8 years as it develops more forest floor and savoury bramble berry spice nuances.

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


The Exuberance of Fresh Youthful Chenin Blanc – The Perfect Everday White?

I recently got back from another short trip to South Africa and while I was there, I looked to try and taste as many 2017 new release young whites as possible. Coming to market only a few months after harvest, I’m always intrigued by how quickly producers can release a new wine in bottle. 
Young Sauvignon Blancs are going to be fresh, unoaked, and normally quite primary, perhaps even a tad boring and predictable. But young, fresh Chenin Blanc holds a lot more potential interest for consumers.


The Steytler family has been producing wine on the Kaapzicht Estate in Stellenbosch since 1946 and have always been acknowledged for producing outstanding Chenin Blanc, including their famous 1947 Chenin Blanc Old Vine white which I also tried again recently at the Old Vine Project tasting in London.


Kaapzicht Estate Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch WO, South Africa, 13 Abv.

The 2017 vintage was another of the drought years in the Cape, but this little Kaapzicht white shows impressive freshness, zip and zest. The palate is multi-dimensional with crunchy green apple, pithy aromatic phenolic spice, white peach, cream soda and dusty cut grass complexity. On the palate the wine really comes alive, showing taught zippy acids, crunchy green gauge fruits, Granny Smith apples, lime zest and a subtle honey dew melon fleshy sweetness on the finish. Fine acid cut and frame, this wine typifies well made Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc at an affordable, everyday price point. With the strength of the Euro, you won’t easily find a quality Loire domaine produced Chenin Blanc this pure and precise for the same money, highlighting yet another top trump in South Africa’s hand. Drink and enjoy this wine’s delicious vibrancy now and over the next 2 to 3 years. 

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

Tasting a 2013 Vintage Horizontal with Thomas Webb of Iconic Thelema Mountain Vineyards…

Thelema Mountain Vineyards is an absolute Cape classic, located high on the slopes of the picturesque Simonsberg Mountain in the heart of Stellenbosch, the true Kingdom of Cabernet. With vineyards grown at elevations of between 370m and 530m above sea level, Thelema is one of the highest and coolest estates in the area with 100 percent of the fruit used coming from their own vineyards.


For the last few years, Thomas Webb has taken over the reigns from his father Gyles Webb, who established Thelema in 1983 by purchasing a run down fruit farm. The first wines were released in 1988 and they soon became some of the most sought after wines in the Cape winelands and pretty soon came to typify the new quality and modern style parameters that were being pursued in the post 1990 South Africa, ahead of the first democratic elections in 1994.

Chatting to Thomas at our recent 2013 red vintage horizontal tasting, I recalled how in the mid 1990’s I used to battle to secure even just a few bottles of their Chardonnay, Merlot Reserve and their famous Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines, despite their fame, we’re not produced in huge quantities and were actually quite a defined, limited boutique offering. Today, Thelema still sells a healthy 70 percent of their wines in the local home market, a revealing sign of their continued fame and fashion among local South African fine wine consumers.


Thelema Merlot 2013, Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

Cool dark spicy nose showing black fruits, dried herbs, baking spices and macerated black plums. Also a noticeable dried bush veld and cherry skin pithiness. The palate is sleek, tight knit and cool, packed with fleshy black berry fruits, black plum, and black current. There is tension here and classical fine grained mineral tannins lurking underneath the elegant creamy texture. A Merlot definitely on the more serious end of the spectrum. 

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


Thelema Merlot Reserve 2013, Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

This wine shows evidence of a step up in quality and intensity with 100% new French oak being used for maturation. The nose is sweet and savoury revealing an alluring earthy vein along with blueberries, tannery leather, dried herbs, and a Cabernet-like cedary oak spice lift. The palate is rich and intense, showing very polished, textured and suave luxurious sweet tannins. There is extra power here and harmonious fleshy depth with cassis leaf, subtle herbal notes and sweet tobacco on the long vibrant finish. Impressive wine with only approximately 3000 bottles produced from vines planted in the mid-1980’s.

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


Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon The Mint 2013, Stellenbosch, 14 Abv. 

A really individual style with a dusty lift of pronounced peppermint and sweet cassis spice together with cedary, mineral spice and boiled black currant sweets, pastille, and herbal mint tea notes. The palate is full and fleshy, rich and round, with fine purity and creamy, caressed tannins. The finish is modern and opulent, with black currant leaf, reductive saline cassis notes and that characteristic eucalyptus lick. Very enjoyable to drink. A real crowd pleaser.

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

Thomas Webb pouring a glass of the CWG 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, the predecessor of the Rabelais

Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Stellenbosch, 14 Abv. 

There is officially no reserve Cabernet Sauvignon in the Thelema range, but this classic black label Cabernet Sauvignon is a serious piece of kit. Aged 20 months in 40% new French oak, there is lovely varietal typicity here (despite the sneaky splash of Petit Verdot in the blend), with a dusty mineral nose of dried basil and thyme, hints of fynbos, graphite, and perfumed potpourri dried herb spice. Beautifully textured, the palate shows great purity and precision and intelligent winemaking. Like all the Thelema wines, there are fine polished tannins, real elegance, focus and finesse. Classy and classical, this is an impressive expression of Stellenbosch Cabernet with complexity, age-ability, and confidence of style. Benchmark in everyday.

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


Thelema Rabelais Blend 2013, Stellenbosch, 14 Abv. 

Alternatively called the Thelema Cape Winemakers Guild blend, this wine changed to the Rabelais label with the 2007 vintage, being produced originally from only Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. From 2009, Petit Verdot started to replace the Merlot portion and now the blend appears fairly settled on a 90% Cab / 10% PV mix. Dark, cool, broody black fruits reveal hints of cassis leaf, saline oyster shell, graphite, iodine and blueberry crumble. Palate is taught and fresh, with real precision and incredibly fine, pin point velvety tannins. A very elegant package, the acids give this wine extra tension and real steely cut. Classy and restrained, the Rabelais will improve immeasurably with at least another 10 years in the cellar.

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

The stunning mountains at the Helshoogte Pass
A sneaky glass of the newly released Chardonnay 2015 to refresh the palate after a lovely horizontal tasting.

De Toren Z Blend 2016 ~ and the winner is…

In case you read my below write up of the De Toren Z blending session at 67 Pall Mall recently thinking it was a fun but slightly pointless affair… think again. 

The results are in, announced today and the vote of the people is final. Viva De Toren democracy….


Here is the official announcement released today:

Dear Greg

After months of meticulous crafting, duteous tweaking to the potential blends and the valued input from the tastings, the concluding results of the De Toren Z 2016 Blend Tastings are in…

As an honorary guest of De Toren at the recent De Toren Z 2016 Blend Tasting, we want to use this opportunity to personally inform you of the final results. 

We are proud to announce the outcome of the 2016 vintage of De Toren Z, for the very first time. The winner, i.e. the blend for the De Toren Z 2016 vintage is, blend number 7!

This blend scored exceptionally well in all three rounds of the Blend Tastings and stood out from the overall blend line-up with a stellar 8 more points and the least controversial comments or feedback.

Please see below the varietal breakdown of the De Toren Z 2016:

· Merlot 54%

· Cabernet Sauvignon 12%

· Malbec 12%

· Cabernet Franc 16%

· Petit Verdot 6%

Once again, we would like to thank you for being part of this integral process, in helping us define our De Toren Z blend for the 2016 vintage.

Your input and time are valued a great deal. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the 2016 vintage, after some further ageing, when released in 2018. 

Kind Regards,
The De Toren Team

Read my write up of the blending tasting here:
https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2017/05/26/making-and-marketing-a-fine-wine-attending-the-inspirational-de-toren-z-blending-session-at-67-pall-mall/