Andre Bruyns Meets the Classic 2017 Vintage Head On – Tasting the City On A Hill 2017 Chenin Blanc…

David and Nadia Sadie’s assistant winemaker André Bruyns is really starting to make his own mark in the wider world of fine wine. Yes, I’m sure being referred to as ‘the assistant winemaker’ is a moniker that will eventually start to get annoying for André, but hey, there are certainly worse places to cut your winemaking teeth than working with the gentle giant David Sadie!

André wants his wines to be specific to their site and soil type with his white grapes coming from 35 year old dryland vineyards in the Paardeberg Mountain, planted mainly with Chenin Blanc. Farmed sustainably with some organic and biodynamic practices used, the granitic soils enhance the ‘liquid minerality ’ of the grapes leading to a more focused, taut, linear style of wines.

André kicked off the City on a Hill project with his fabulous 2015 white blend made from 85% Chenin Blanc, but he now also makes a 100% Chenin Blanc white using a selection of his best barrels that reflect the restraint and linearity of the unique Paardeberg style of Chenin Blanc. I recently got my hands on a bottle of the 2017 and true to form, André has produced another cracking wine! This is a great little project to watch closely!

André Bruyns in the cellar.

City On A Hill Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland, 12.5 Abv.

This is a fascinating expression of Chenin Blanc created by André Bruyns. It’s the liquid equivalent of an enigma wrapped in a mystery that’s wrapped in a conundrum. The aromatics show crystalline white peach and yellow citrus, early season crunchy yellow orchard fruits but also pronounced salty, briney oxidative saline sea breeze notes. Underneath it all is this profound sense of liquid granitic minerality that pervades the wine. On the palate the tug of war continues, being taut but rich, salty but peachy, stony and thoroughly citric. Delicious oxidative notes of brine and dry roasted nuts rub shoulders with crisp bright acids, yet more overt minerality and an ample fleshy Chenin palate that retains a tight, crisp tension-laden finish. Intellectually, this wine is exhausting; hedonistically, it possesses the palate excitement of an eight year old child’s birthday and Christmas rolled into one! Still super youthful so drink a few bottles now but be sure to cellar at least a few for revisiting over 8-15+ years. A deliciously intriguing white!

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

Naude Family Wines… The Journey Continues – Tasting Their 2018 Concrete Egg Chenin Blanc Limited Release…

One of my life long mantras has always been that nice people make nice wines. After 11 years hard graft at Adoro Wines, in 2018 Ian finally followed his dreams and branched out with his own venture, launching Naude Family Wines. Focusing primarily on his old vine parcels of Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Cinsault and Grenache, Ian has also been teaching old dogs new tricks experimenting with some younger vine parcels of Swartland Chenin Blanc, Koekenaap Colombard and Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon.

The world’s most respected wine critic, Neal Martin, recently featured the Naude Family Wines Old Vine Series Chenin Blanc 2013, describing Ian as one of South Africa’s great unsung heroes of the Cape wine industry. For those that have been following Ian’s exceptional wines, they will know all too well of his incredible talent for bottling a vineyard’s unique terroir signature like capturing a liquid photograph.

Naude Family Wines A Naude Egg Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Western Cape, 13 Abv.

Sourced from a prime vineyard in the Swartland, this more accessibly priced baby Chenin Blanc from younger vines was naturally fermented with wild yeasts in a concrete egg without any additions whatsoever. The resulting wine is wonderfully balanced and bristles with energy and vivacity by way of a fine line of acidity. True to its Swartland origins, this impressive Chenin Blanc is understated and classical with a fine linear textural focus that builds in the mouth to reveal layers of pineapple pastille fruits, yellow orchard fruits, morning dew on fresh bales of hay, crunchy green apples and a complex stony granitic minerality on the finish. A truly versatile wine for all cuisines and all occasions, you can drink this baby Chenin on release or cellar for another 3 to 5+ years for added complexity.

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

Carinus Family Vineyards Release Some of Their Most Exciting Wines Yet…

I first met Danie Carinus back in 2018 when I popped over to taste Lukas van Loggerenberg’s 2017 releases. It soon became evident that the fruit from cousins Danie and Hugo Carinus, the 5th generation growers with prime vineyards in the Swartland, Devon Valley and the Polkadraai Hills ward in Stellenbosch, were supplying some of the most sought after grapes to some of the top producers in the country.

Great wine is of course made in the vineyards and for many years, the Carinus family have been supplying a veritable who’s who of top producers including names like Alheit Vineyards, Crystallum, Raats Family Wines, Thorne & Daughters and Mulderbosch to name but a few.

Tasting with Danie Carinus in February.

Embodying the drive of the new generation Hugo and Danie decided not only to sell grapes and have other people make great wines from them but to make some wine too. So started Carinus Family Vineyards using a selection of grapes from their 100s of hectares to focus on what works in each area. The winemaking of the Carinus Family Vineyards has until now, been overseen by the rock star winemaking talent, Lukas van Loggerenberg, who has helped capture the very best quality from the wide array of fruit available.

I caught up with Lukas and Danie recently in South Africa to taste through their exceptional range of new wines.

Carinus Family Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 13 Abv.

From cousin Hugo Carinus’ vineyards in the Swartland from a 7 hectare block that is split between this wine and the Rooidraai Chenin Blanc. It spends 10 months in old French oak barrels with the more forward, accessible barrels going into this blend. Again, multiple pickings were employed to ensure a fine fresh acidity and lower pHs. The nose has all the hallmark dusty granitic notes with a parallel complexity of richer, earthy yellow orchard fruit notes from the richer Clovelly and Hutton soils at 300 metres altitude. Plush, fleshy and opulent with a creamy glycerol mouthfeel, this wine is finely textured and boasts attractive juicy yellow stone fruit concentration, pear purée nuances and a stony spicy fynbos finish. Lovely length and purity. Excellent value for money!

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

Carinus Family Vineyards Rooidraai Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Swartland, 13 Abv.

If the Carinus Chenin Blanc is from the “premier cru” rows, this wine is from the “grand cru” rows as Danie Carinus describes them. Generally a different portion of the vineyard as well as a partial barrel selection of wines showing more intensity, minerality and tension. Aromatics show lemon herbs, lime peel, wet granite and white citrus. The palate follows with lemon and lime cordial, earthy pithy yellow orchard fruits and grilled herbs. Fabulous rasping tension, pithy, grippy phenolics and an overall intensity and serious Chenin Blanc austerity with mouth watering freshness. Very classy.

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

Carinus Family Vineyards Polkadraai Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Polkadraai Hills, 13 Abv.

A naturally fermented Chenin Blanc that was matured in concrete egg… well, of course it was! What else would you expect from Chenin maestro and guest winemaker Chris Alheit?! The aromatics are unsurprisingly taut, mineral and relatively austere coming from Chenin grapes grown on decomposed granite soils. But a little coaxing starts to reveal complex notes of crunchy white peaches, tangerine peel, wet straw and sweet honeysuckle. A wine that was apparently quite reductive on release, it has now shed its struck match veil to show beautiful pithy yellow stone fruit nuances, stony liquid minerality, masses of textural linearity and a fabulously sleek, steely, tart white citrus finish. Pleasantly piquant with a slightly bitter bite, this wine is seductively austere yet refreshingly mouthwatering. Fabulous! A convergence of great fruit and a great winemaking! Drink now and over the next 15+ years.

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

Carinus Family Vineyards Polkadraai Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Polkadraai Hills, 13 Abv.

The second vintage of this wine made by Butch Alheit from one of the smallest wards in Stellenbosch. Quite different to the Swartland Rooidraai, this wine boasts a tart, bright, lifted freshness and a beautiful expressive mineral tension. Constructed again from one concrete egg and one old barrel to produce 1800 bottles, this wine is punchy and pure, steely and focused with notes of lime cordial, crunchy white peach, tart green apple and taut white citrus and sea breeze salinity. Fabulous energy, vivacity and focus. Really very impressive indeed.

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

Carinus Family Vineyards Syrah 2019, WO Polkadraai Hills, 12.5 Abv.

Pure Syrah grown on sandy decomposed granite soils from 26 year old vines. Originally planted for mechanical harvesting but is now carefully nurtured and cared for allowing grapes that yield incredible perfumed fragrance, cherry blossom, graphite and incense nuances, wet slate and granitic minerality. Beautifully old world in style boasting freshness and minerality, restraint and brightness of fruit. Lovely red berry intensity, purity and olive tapenade complexity, this really is a fabulous wine with plenty of energy and appeal. If you like your Syrahs fresher and purer but less savoury and meaty, you will absolutely love this expression.

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

Revisiting the Impressive Mullineux Old Vines White Blend 2018…

I first tasted the fabulous Mullineux Old Vine White 2018 way back in May 2019 while on a quick flying visit to the Mullineux homestead of Roundstone in the Swartland to taste their new Leeu Passant releases.

Always an impressively constructed wine for the money, the 2018 will surely be remembered by all wine makers as the vintage that exceeded expectations after four gruelling years of drought in the Cape wine lands.

Tasting with Andrea and Chris Mullineux at the 2020 Cape Wine Auction.

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Old Vines White 2018, WO Swartland, 14 Abv.

A blend of 69% Chenin Blanc, 12% Clarette Blanche, 9% Grenache Blanc, 7% Viognier and 3% Semillon matured for 10 months in third and fourth-fill French oak 500 litre barrels and one new 2000 litre foudre. Rich and opulent from the get go, the nose is broad and ultra aromatic with complex notes of lemongrass, wet thatch, lemon zest and tinned pineapples. Deliciously ripe and intense, the palate remains sleek but fleshy, crystalline and super pure… a feature emerging as a characteristic of the 2018 vintage. The last of the drought vintages, this wine really shows beautiful minerality and dry extract, concentration and intense yellow fruit focus. Allowed more air in the glass, seductive tangerine and white peach fruit notes begin to dominate this suave, focused white blend. Another Mullineux blinder! Drink this generous, approachable vintage over the next 5 to 8 years.

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

Peter-Allan Finlayson Unveils Some of His New Releases from Crystallum and Gabrielskloof in London…

Maybe it’s because Peter-Allan is the third generation of wine farmers in the Cape or maybe it’s just because he is just very intelligent, but few wine brands have been managed as professionally as Crystallum in global markets since the first Sauvignon Blanc was bottled in 2007.

Now focusing solely on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Peter-Allan was recently in London to unveil some of his new creations. But the secret of Crystallum’s massive success in London can be attributed to a combination of factors that aspiring brand owners should take note of. Firstly, he has a committed and highly professional distributor in the UK with Liberty Wines; the quality of the entire range has remained impressively high from day one; the pricing has been very constant and conservative, rising only very modestly over the past 12-13 years; this price stability and quality has built the brand a strong on-trade restaurant / sommelier following in the fine dining establishments of London.

Add this all up and you have a brand that sells out within a few months of arriving adding further to the all round collectability of the entire range.

 

Gabrielskloof Elodie 2018 Chenin Blanc, WO Swartland

Fermented and aged in old oak barrels, this is just classic intense old bush vine Chenin Blanc from two vineyards of 43 and 45 years old made in a minimalist hands off style. Oozes class and character with aromatics of fynbos, crunchy yellow orchard fruits and wet straw with an intense palate of white peach, granitic mineral spice, toasted almonds and pithy dried orange peel. Lovely definition and length. This is up there with some of the best old vine Chenin Blancs in South Africa.

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

 

Crystallum Clayshales Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

Another superb rendition of this single vineyard wine from Ridge fruit that perfectly captures the cool, crystalline lemon and lime pastille fruit characters of Chardonnay grown at higher altitude. There are lovely white blossom and honey suckle notes with the most subtle kiss of white toast, vanilla pod spice and white peach. Still very youthful, but already the 2019s have a very impressive fruit/acid balance and a wonderfully integrated, harmonious honeyed leesy finish.

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

 

Crystallum The Agnes Chardonnay 2019, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

A beautiful expressive blend of Hemel-en-Aarde and Overberg Chardonnay fruit. The nose displays a wonderful saline, briney, taut mineral expression with notes of lime peel, lemon rind, honeydew melon and white peach. Restrained and focused on the palate entry, this is a very grown up, classy, serious Agnes that shows incredible restraint, minerality and mouth watering green apple crunch on the finish. Wow! This is so, so delicious. Crystalline pure Crystallum at its best! Bravo Peter-Allan!

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

 

Crystallum Peter Max 2019, WO Western Cape, 14 Abv.

A blend of four vineyards, three from the Hemel-en-Aarde and one high altitude Elandskloof vineyard. The nose speaks of old world Pinot Noir with classical mineral restraint, black bramble berries and earthy black currant with sweet, freshly cut straw aromatics. The palate is wonderfully crystalline and pure underpinned by a mouth watering acidity, fabulous varietal intensity, crunchy red berry energy and the most harmonious silky sleek texture. Hard to imagine how you could make a better Pinot Noir at this price point.

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

Other wines tasted:

Crystallum Mabalel 2018 Pinot Noir – 94+/100 GSMW

Crystallum Whole Bunch 2018 Pinot Noir – 95/100 GSMW

Gabrielskloof Landscape Series Syrah On Sandstone 2017 – 96/100 GSMW

The wines were presented alongside an incredible tasting menu at newly opened Sam’s Riverside Restaurant, the new venue for the famous Sam’s Brasserie that used to be in Chiswick, West London. The food was truly outstanding and helped cap off a superb evening of fine dining and wine.

Peter-Allan with host and restaurant owner Sam Harrison.

Sam’s Riverside

1 Crisp Walk

Hammersmith

London

W6 9DN

Crystallum and Gabrielskloof are distributed in the UK by Liberty Wines.

The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable South African Red Wines of 2019…

What a great year of fine wine it has been yet again. I am in such a fortunate position to be able to no only taste the greatest wines of the world in a regular basis here in London and on my travels, but also taste the finest wines produced in South Africa on a regular basis while retaining a very measured, objective outlook in terms of where they really fit in the pecking order of international fine wine.

For my red top 10 selection, I have not merely selected my highest scoring wines of the year as that would be a little bit predictable, but I have selected wines that I found not only outstanding in quality terms but also memorable and thrilling to drink.

Also, I’d like to offer a special thanks to all the producers, many of them who are very good friends, that have offered me their time for my regular visits, tastings and importantly, lots of joyous eating and drinking together. Your hospitality is never taken for granted and greatly appreciated!

Happy New Year 2019. I believe 2020 is going to be an exceptional year of success.

Top 10 Reds (in no particular order):

Naude Family Wines Old Vine Series Oupa Willem 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

MR de Compostella Red Blend 2017- 98/100 GSMW

Vilafonte Series C Red Blend 2017 – 96+/100 GSMW

Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines Iron Syrah 2017 – 97/100 GSMW

Raats Family Eden Single Vineyard High Density Cabernet Franc 2017 – 98/100 GSMW

Thelema Rabelais Red Blend 2015 – 96+/100 GSMW

Savage Red Blend 2017 – 96/100 GSMW

Kanonkop Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 97/100 GSMW

Porseleinberg Syrah 2017 – 97/100 GSMW

Creation Emma Pinot Noir 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

Tasting the Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2018 Tinta Barocca…

Made from 44 year old Tinta Barocca sourced from a vineyard in the Swartland planted in 1974, the new 2018 Treinspoor release appears to have found yet another gear of superior quality not often seen with this variety in South Africa.

 

Reading my back notes on previous vintages for Treinspoor, I noted my own enthusiastic score for the 2016 while Eben Sadie regarded the 2015 as one of his finest expressions. This 2018 certainly has an elegance and sophistication I’ve not seen on any Tinta Barocca reds from South Africa before. Chatting to Eben about Tinta Barocca in the past, he always says he feels that this red grape Tinta Barocca “might well transport the Swartland terroir best into liquid form, purely because it captures the soils and the earthiness of the place.” 

Sadie Family Wines Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2018, Swartland, 13 Abv.

This 2018 aged in old foudres really is a delicious, supremely impressive rendition of one of the slightly less acclaimed reds in the Old Vine Series wine range. Possibly the most seductive vintage produced to date, this incredible Swartland Tinta Barocca boasts a wonderfully perfumed nose of fresh lavender, incense, fynbos and garrigue over a plush aromatic melange of blueberry reduction, black cherry and wood smoked dried herbs. The palate is cool, complex and compact with a fine soft fleshy black berry concentration that shows hints of Parma violet rock candy, grape jelly, pink musk, granitic minerality and finely textured chalky tannins. But it’s the overall harmonious balance paired with a regal intensity and freshness that just possibly elevates this 2018 expression to the finest Treinspoor Eben Sadie has produced so far. A very impressive wine indeed!

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