Another Strong Performance from the Carinus Family Wines Polkadraai Heuwels Chenin Blanc 2020…

Cousins Danie and Hugo are 5th generation growers with prime vineyards in the Swartland, Devon Valley and the very exciting Polkadraai ward in Stellenbosch. Great wine is made in the vineyards and they supply a roll-call of exceptional producers – names like Alheit Vineyards, Crystallum, Raats Family Wines, Thorne & Daughters, Mulderbosch and LeRiche to name but a few. Embodying the drive of the new generation Hugo and Danie decided not only to sell grapes but to make some wine too. So started Carinus Family Wines using a selection of grapes from their extensive vineyard plantings to focus on producing some high quality reds and whites that offer excellent value for money.

The 2020 Polkadraai Hills Chenin Blanc is already their third release. After whole bunch pressing the juice was moved to concrete eggs for fermentation and ageing which took ten months. The granitic soils and total absence of oak has created a pure but punchy wine with an attractive “nakedness” on display with a perfect balance of pH (3.14) and acidity (6.6g/l) that should allow this wine to develop further beneficial complexity with additional ageing in bottle.

Carinus Family Wines Polkadraai Heuwels Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Polkadraai Hills

An attractive Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc that displays a wonderfully cool, sleek, mineral laden aromatics flushed with stony gravel notes, fynbos, crunchy green pear, white peach and subtle salty citrus zest nuances. On the palate, a lovely full texture marries restrained elegance with a glycerol liquid minerality, lime zest and quince nuances and a long, stony wet river pebble finish. Concrete egg Chenin Blanc has never been more sexy! Drink on release and over 6 to 8+ years.

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

KWV’s Roodeberg Brand is Riding High With An Impressive 2020 Red Blend Release…

High quality volume brands made with attention to detail are required by all wine industries around the world. Often we just expect that one or another large wine corporation will step into the breach with its branded offerings and simply supply the goods. Well, in South Africa that has not always been the case. Fortunately, times are changing and the fabric of the South African wine industry is changing, allowing new and old players to step up once again and present the world’s consumers with some quality wine brands that do the country proud.

The Roodeberg label is just one such iconic brand that rose to fame in the 1950’s and 1960’s and then icon status in the 1970s and early 1980s before mysteriously losing its way with the changing of the guard post 1994. But the Roodeberg brand is back and with each of the last few vintages, quality has been paramount. With a 90/100 point score awarded for the excellent 2019 red blend by Winemag.co.za, all eyes were always going to be on the new release 2020 to see if the consistency of quality could be maintained. I tasted the 2020 recently and was pleasantly impressed.

KWV Roodeberg Red Blend 2020, WO Western Cape

An unspecified blend of red varieties, this delicious wine looks to tick as many boxes as possible for the consumer and the expressive 2020 certainly does the trick. On the nose the fruits are rich, opulent and pure, loaded with red currant, blue berry and black currant nuances, a real triumphant berry melange that is dusted with subtle brûléed oak notes, roasted coffee beans and vanilla pod spice. The acids are sleek, integrated but fresh and vibrant in the mouth, the fruit concentration textured and expressive showing a real generosity, notable complexity but also plenty of mainstream commercial appeal. Hats off to the Roodeberg winemaking team with this effort. Drink now and over the next 6-8+ years. (Tasted from magnum)

(Wine Safari Score: 90/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

South African Icon Winery Vilafonte Releases Their New 2020 Seriously Old Dirt Super Second Wine onto the Market…

I have not visited South Africa since February 2020, though this is about to be remedied very soon. But on my last trip, I found most of the best wine shops festooned with bottles of the Vilafonte Seriously Old Dirt red blend, which admittedly, is one of my favourite premium second wines from South Africa along with the export-only version of Meerlust Red.

Well priced, always over-delivering and increasingly available in the correct off-trade and on-trade retail channels, I have long punted this wine to be one of South Africa’s best global ambassadors for premium red offerings making every new release highly anticipated.

The post 2019 harvest rains marked the onset of a more traditionally wet, cold winter in the Cape after 4 to 5 years of drought and abnormal seasonal rainfall. But with Spring, fair weather beckoned healthy, homogenous vine growth in the early season. Windy conditions during flowering might have threatened fruit set but generally yielded looser clusters and smaller berries. Temperatures during ripening were moderate without the usual heatwaves which led to a long, calm, measured picking season overall.

Vilafonte Serious Old Dirt 2020, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.

This is another serious effort from the Vilafonte team after last year’s award winning 2019 release. The 2020 blend consists of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 4% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc and was matured for 18 months in older French oak barriques. Moving more towards a distinctly Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blend compared to earlier editions which often featured more Merlot and Malbec, this rich ruby red coloured wine shows all the classic aromatics of black currant, strawberry shortbread, gingerbread cookie dough, cherry tobacco and hints of vanilla pod spice. Always a wine that unashamedly aspires to a higher, more hedonistic mantra, like the 2019, this 2020 exhibits a supremely well-honed, polished, elegant textural mouthfeel with effortlessly friendly tannins, an intense but weightless black and red berry fruit concentration and a plush, long, tightly focused finished. Knowing that this wine traditionally holds a lot of secrets, I reviewed it over two consecutive night’s tasting but came to the same conclusion in the end – that this is yet another very polished wine with age-worthy credentials that will appeal to seasoned collectors and the man in the street alike. A serious wine that is also seriously delicious! Drink from release and over the next 10 to 15 years.

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

Lismore’s Samantha O’Keefe Comes to London to Launch Her Phenomenal New Releases – Part 2: Reviewing her Lismore Age of Grace Viognier 2020…

In a second instalment to my new release tasting with Samantha O’Keefe, the owner of Lismore Winery in Greyton, who was recently in London for the first time in over two years, I tasted the highly acclaimed 2020 edition of her ‘Age of Grace’ Viognier.

The grapes for this release were sourced in the Bot River, Elgin and Stellenbosch. The wine was matured in a combination of concrete eggs and used oak barrels of which 10% were new for the 2020 cuvee. The Age of Grace is a wine that actually helped establish the Lismore brand globally in the mid to late 2000s. With so little top quality Viognier being grown and produced in the Western Cape, what Sam has achieved with both this wine and previous vintages of her Viognier Reserve is truly remarkable.

Viognier Age of Grace Viognier 2020, WO South Coast, 14.5% Abv.

Rich, soft and fleshy, this unique, aromatically expressive Viognier is packed full of struck flint, white peaches, tart yellow plums, yellow apple purée and delicate musky, lychee nuances with a hint of buttered white toast. Beautifully textured, fleshy and glycerol, this wine is so expressive, individual and complex with sufficient pithy phenolics, bright peach stone fruits and a luxuriously long, persistent finish in a most mouth watering way. Whether produced from the Northern Rhone or the Cape, it is not easy to make Viognier this attractive and refreshing. Bravo Sam! Drink now to 2028+.

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

Starting 2022 In Style – Reviewing the Sensational New Thelema Estate Rabelais 2019…

The Thelema Rabelais red blend originally started out as the prestigious Thelema Cape Winemakers Guild blend before evolving into 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 at approximately a 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot mix. The Rabelais represents the very best Bordeaux components from the Thelema range where the wines clearly show concentration, polished ripe tannins and undeniable refinement.

As with so many Cape Bordeaux Blends of this quality, the Rabelais cuvee has now earned itself an impressive following, both at home and globally, making the wine increasingly sought after and necessitating tighter and tighter allocations at the estate. If you missed the impressive 2015 or the eye wateringly great 2017, it’s time to track down some of the delicious 2019.

Thelema Mountain Vineyards Rabelais 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

The 2019 Thelema Rabelais is another incredibly refined creation being a blend of 90% Simonsberg Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot. Since the 2015 vintage, this flagship wine has shifted into a sixth gear and is now hitting some exceptionally high quality notes. Always classical and composed, the aromatics boast notes of perfumed violets, dried herbs, black cherry and seductive hints of crème de cassis with undertones of sweet cedar wood spice, brûléed coffee beans, brown toast and some dusty mineral strands of crushed slate and graphite. The palate is silky soft, predictably sleek and polished and displays impressive textural elegance with fine filigree tannins, fresh acids, subtle complex layers of black currant, cherry cola, capsicum and breakfast espresso. This is another head-turning, eye-opening wine that displays wonderful balance and harmony. Fabulously pure, precise and regal on so many levels. Simply outstanding. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.

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

Stark Conde Releases Another Dazzling Pair of Premium 2018 Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignons..

There is a lot of uncertainly in the world these days but one thing you can be sure of is that during the year, the top Stellenbosch boutique wine producers will create magic and release some of the most tantalising Cabernet Sauvignon wines imaginable.

The Three Pines single-vineyard iconic Cabernet Sauvignon is based on a high elevation vineyard site (350m). The finely textured decomposed granite soil, cooler temperatures, and ample winter rainfall creates perfect growing conditions for premium Cabernet. The wine is characterized by its silky tannin structure and unique floral notes. Since its maiden vintage in 2000, this has been one of South Africa’s most consistently awarded Cabernets.

Stark Conde Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Jonkershoek Valley, 14% abv.

A 4.5 hectare vineyard from Stark Conde named after where the grapes are grown, the 2018 Three Pines combines Cabernet Sauvignon with 10% Petit Verdot and Malbec to reveal plenty of dark saline black berry fruits, tart black plum, blueberry and complex maritime kelp hints with subtle liquorice notes. The palate is sleek, glassy and super polished with very precise tight knit tannins, a firm structured acid frame and embracing saline black cherry and black berry fruits that lend a lot of mouth-watering pleasure already but leave you in no doubt that this is certainly a wine that will age and improve gracefully for atleast 10 to 12+ years or more. Simply a delight to drink.

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

The Oude Nektar wine is based around the highest elevation vineyard on the Stark Conde estate, which at 550m is arguably one of Stellenbosch’s highest Cabernet vineyards. The site has very stoney decomposed granite soils, and a perfect aspect toward the afternoon sun. Although this vineyard gets a cooling breeze, it averages 45 minutes more sunlight each day which allows for a slower ripening period. This Bordeaux-style blend is matured for about 20 months in French oak barrel (70% new) before being bottled with no fining and no filtration.

Stark Conde Oude Nektar Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Jonkershoek Valley, 14% abv.

This is another really impressive expression of a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine from one of South Africa’s preeminent Stellenbosch proponents. The aromatics are spectacularly lifted and intense with perfumed notes of saline black liquorice, oyster shell, lilac, cassis leaf, black currant and hints of fresh mint, wet tobacco and buttered brown toast. The palate shows incredible precision framed by crisp linear acids that add to both a tightly knit steely texture and wound-spring tension. Lacking no amount of saline black fruit, the wine is also mineral and focused with hints of graphite, sweet cedar spice and a broody, stony veneer on the finish. This wine is all about sinewy tension, complex gravelly minerality and restrained, classical fruit intensity. Stellenbosch and the Jonkershoek Valley excel yet again! Drink from 2022 to 2035+.

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

Imported into the UK by Museum Wines.

Stellenbosch’s Icon Warwick Winery Releases an Eye Catching New Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2019…

Warwick Winery is a key player in the premium South African wine landscape so when the Ratcliffe family sold the winery a few years ago, there was a lot of concern among wine lovers that the new American owners would push the brand in a more commercial direction and eventually compromise on range quality. However, one of the earliest reassuring signs of confidence was the appointment of JD Pretorius as head winemaker after the departure of the talented Nic van Aarde to Oldenburg Winery. So at least the winemaking would be in safe hands!

Roll on several years and the wines are thankfully as good as they ever were with even more premium raw material available to JD from their Simonsberg neighbour, the Uitkyk winery, which was also purchased by Warwick’s new owners. Most impressively, the new releases of the ‘classic wines’ at Warwick including the Trilogy red Cape Bordeaux blend, the Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon and their excellent Cabernet Franc are all superb and firing on all cylinders. But exciting new labels have also been created like the impressive Professor Black Pitch Black red blend as well as a new release Chenin Blanc made from old vines situated on the Uitkyk estate.

Made from a single vineyard Chenin Blanc planted in 1978 on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg, these lovely old bush vines yielded a small harvest of exceptionally high-quality fruit coaxed to perfection by winemaker JD Pretorius. The Grapes were handpicked in the cool early morning and then whole bunch pressed with the juice being allowed to clarify naturally before fermentation took place in 400 litre French oak barrels. After fermentation, the barrels were rolled once a month for nine months before blending in January 2020 and bottling in February 2020.

Warwick Old Vine Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

1.65g/l RS | 5.73 TA | 3.38pH

This Chenin Blanc made from grapes planted in 1978 shows expressive and nuanced aromatics boasting layers of pear puree, wet straw, honied white peaches and a compelling stony minerality. On the palate, the wine reveals an explosive depth of fruit, rich glycerol layers of tangy tangerine glacé and candied yellow fruits, quince, and honied yellow plum. There is plenty of showy breadth and depth but it’s the intensity of the old vine fruit that
really impresses most. This is top drawer quality and a delightful addition to a very accomplished range of Warwick Wines. Drink on release or bury in the cellar for 10 to 12+ years.

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

Duncan Savage’s Follow-up Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2021 Release Hits the Thirsty UK Market…

Last year Duncan Savage agreed to produce a special release single varietal Sauvignon Blanc made from 32-year-old vines from a Stellenbosch vineyard that was originally destined primarily for on-trade by the glass wine sales. Of course, the pandemic and lockdown hit and much of the wine found alternative routes to market through select independent wine merchants as well as some restaurants in London, New York and across the US East Coast. The small production wine was an instant hit, appealing to all the most committed and fervent of Savage wine fans. So, it was inevitable that a follow up vintage would be forthcoming for this growing brand.

The 2021 vintage is another cracker of a wine with an increased production coming from roughly 50% Stellenbosch fruit and 50% Stanford fruit. 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. Approximately 30,000 bottles were produced for export to the UK and USA.

Speaking to Duncan Savage, he tells me that the project has simply taken on a life of its own and in 2022, he plans to incorporate addition fruit material into the blend sourced from Danie Carinus’s vineyards in the Polkadraai Hills and also some fruit from the Karibib vineyards where producers like Bernard Bredell and Mick & Jeanine Craven source much of their fruit.

Savage Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2021, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.

Due to the increased production, the bottling of the 2021 Salt River Sauvignon Blanc will necessitate multiple bottling runs. The sample I tasted was from the initial bottling while additional stock will be released from slightly later bottled wine which has spent additional beneficial time on its fine lees in tank. But already, the wine shows a wonderfully expressive textural balance with attractive aromatics of honey suckle, green pear, camomile iced tea, pineapple pastille and crunchy white peaches. The palate is soft, fresh and seamless with a caressing mouthfeel, tangy tangerine citrus acids, notes of white peaches, yellow grapefruit and pithy, stony mineral tannins. Another beautiful creation that benefits from being open and given plenty of air. Drink this delicious Sauvignon Blanc on release but don’t be shy to age a few sneaky bottles for 3 to 5 years.

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

The Resurrection of the Meerlust Red Blend – Tasting the 2019 Vintage Release…

I have made no secret over the years that I love the concept of premium second wines, whether from Bordeaux, Napa Valley or Cape Town. The Meerlust Estate Red Blend last made a local South African market appearance back in 2011, when the Meerlust Estate declassified their Rubicon flagship wine. To avoid confusion, a ‘Meerlust Red’ is made every vintage but only for the international export market where second wines are well entrenched as viable alternatives for mid-week drinking or for less serious occasions but do not cannibalise the sales of the premium cuvee. However, this wine is not normally sold in the home market unless a specific vintage of Rubicon is declassified into the Red Blend like in 2011, 2002, 1990 and 1985.

Inevitably, when the wider market realises that the premium Rubicon Red Blend has not been released, the Meerlust Red acquires a massive and immediate following, such is the pedigree and reputation of the Meerlust Estate. Sold in the local home market for half the price of the Rubicon, the Red Blend is always an exceptional value wine and drinkers would be well advised to fill their cellars to pad out their drinking of the more age worthy vintages of Meerlust Rubicon.

Meerlust Red 2019, WO Stellenbosch

The 2019 Meerlust Red is a blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. Initially a little reticent on opening, this wine quickly sheds its broody, sulky, spicy veil to reveal a wonderfully complex aromatic array of black plum, black berry compote, orange peel, Christmas pudding over hints of pressed violets, sweet cedar spice and graphite nuances. The palate is plush and fleshy from the word go, showing an open knit, expressive opulence of red currant, bramble berry, black currant, sweet oak spice, black tea and a sleek texture that simply embraces the palate and makes you go back again and again for another sip. Refreshingly vibrant and impressively generous, I suspect this wine will age surprisingly well for over 10+ years even though it’s simply a cracking drinker right now on release. Hats off to the entire Meerlust crew.

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

Iconic Kanonkop Wine Estate Prepares for the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Release…

A wine always released several months after the famed Paul Sauer Cape Bordeaux blend, the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is yet another highly anticipated wine based on the clear established pedigree of the vintage. I am fortunate enough to have drunk several bottles of the 2015 and 2016 Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon over the past few months in preparation for the 2017 release together with enjoying yet another blind 1994 Paul Sauer vs 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon taste-off recently.

With production levels for the Cabernet roughly double that of the now highly allocated Paul Sauer blend, at circa 12,000 cases of 6 compared to 6,000, the new release of the Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon does present a slighty wider opportunity for fine wine drinkers and collectors alike to secure some bottles for their cellar. Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon is riding high and demand across all international markets for the top producers’ wines has never been higher thanks to not only a strong run of quality vintages but also the renewed promotional work of a cohesive group of premium producers.

The preceding winter was the 3rd dry one in a row, with less rain than the previous one and warmer day and night temperatures. A warm spring resulted in early budding and regular rain showers during flowering and berry set saw a high presence of pests. The picking season was very dry with limited water for irrigation, but with cooler nigh-time temperatures during February. Fermentation took place in open top concrete fermenters at 29c. The cap was punched down by hand every 2 hours during fermentation. The juice was then drawn off the skins after 5 days. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was matured for 24 months in 50% new and 50% second fill 225L French Nevers oak barrels.

Kanonkop Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, 14.97% Abv.

2.7 g/l RS | 6.3 g/l TA | 3.47 pH | VA 0.51 g/l

This certainly is a deep, broody exotic expression of Cabernet Sauvignon that is more reminiscent of a cool vintage Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon than anything from Bordeaux or the Cape. Opened and tasted over 4 to 5 hours, the wine hits its stride surprisingly quickly with plenty of perfumed purple flowers, violets, bruleed black berries, baked blueberry crumble, crème de cassis and a pleasing note of mocha and vanilla pod spice. Initial notes of kelp and maritime seashore salinity quickly give way to a more weighty, sensual melange of black berry compote nuances and hints of cherry kirsch liquor. While this wine certainly shows all the deft elegance and finesse we associate with the 2017 vintage, it also displays a certain extra gravitas, power and weight of fruit concentration combined with great poise, density and a seamlessly textured mineral graphite finish. This is a dark horse that will drink well on release and age deceptively well for 20+ years.

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

Imported into the UK wine trade by Seckford Wine Agencies.

Ps. This review is dedicated to the mighty South African Springbok Rugby World Champions who scored a historic victory against New Zealand in Australia in their 101st test match contest. 🙏🏼