Tasting the Profound Sadie Family Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2013 Tinta Barroca… 

Eben Sadie is a super intelligent, obsessive winemaker who has always focused on mastering the terroir in his individual vineyards, believing that ultimately, great wine will be easier to make if you pay detailed attention to the farming of your vines. 

The Sadie Family Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2013, named after the railway line that runs alongside the vineyard, is 100% Tinta Barocca from 40+ year old vines. Eben noted that “In 2013 the Treinspoor, with cooler weather, a bit of rain and later ripening just seemed to be a perfect fit to this parcel.” As a result, he succeeded in making one of the best Treinspoor vintages to date.

Tasting Note: With already 4 years age, the colour remains a vibrant bright cherry red with a black plum core. The nose is also still very youthful showing a pronounced cherry sherbet bon bon zesty lift, freshly crushed red currants, fragrant rose petals, strawberry shortbread, and pretty parma violets. There is such wonderful, profound aromatic complexity that has developed in bottle since I first tasted this wine on release in 2014. The palate reveals an incredibly sleek fleshy balance, showing textured layers of mulberry and raspberry fruits, powdery slatey mineral tannins in perfect harmony and fine acids with great definition. After a little more time in the glass, darker, spicy sappy hedgerow notes develop adding to this beautiful wine’s complexity. Incredibly pure in character, this 13 Abv wine is a very special expression of the Swartland.

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

Testalonga El Bandito Queen of Spades 2016 Tinta Amarela – Perfect Saturday Quaffing…

Tonight I’m enjoying an easy drinking red from Craig Hawkins of Testalonga. This new Cuvee made from Tinta Amarela (or Trincadeira) is just perfect to accompany the opening matches of the 6 Nations Rugby Championship. 

A red wine grape that is commonly used in Port wine production. This grape is often noted for its dark colouring and its use in the Douro region has certainly been increasing in recent years as still wine production increases at the expense of Port.

Not sure what inspired Craig to make this wine as I’ve not had a chance to ask him but I’d hazard a guess it’s got something to do with his time spent making wine in the Douro and also because of his love of the fresh, vibrant red varieties found in the Iberian Peninsula. 

Indeed, this wine does have a dark purple black plum colour and a nose jam packed with red and black fruits, cranberries, brambley perfume, black forest berries and savoury hedgerow spice notes. There is also a lovely wild, earthy complexity. This is a super quaffable, characterful style revealing a lighter, medium bodied texture, sleek soft sweet sappy tannins and modest complexity. The finish is fresh and earthy with an attractive crushed gravel mineral note. I’m certain a little extra time in bottle for this 2016 red has benefited the wines elegance and tannin balance greatly. At the moment, it delivers lovely drinking pleasure but I suspect another 12 months in bottle will benefit this very oldy-worldly style further.

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

Chenin Blanc ~ South Africa’s New International Calling Card…

Yesterday I attended a fascinating tasting and lunch featuring an incredible array of iconic red and white wines. But tucked into the selection was a threesome of premium South African Chenin Blancs, made by some of South Africa’s hottest, most talented, rising star winemakers.

The flight consisted of the Patatsfontein 2015 Montagu Old Vine Chenin Blanc, the David & Nadia Skaliekop 2014 Swartland Chenin Blanc and the Johan “Stompie” Meyer Mother Rock Liquid Skin 2015 Chenin Blanc. Three vastly differing expressions of Chenin Blanc from three very individual, innovative winemakers.

More importantly, the three wines illustrated both the terroir versatility of the Chenin Blanc grape as well as the stylistic winemaking versatility present in South Africa. It is now impossible to pigeon hole Chenin Blanc within a generic context. The styles, expressions, and interpretations are so varied.

Chenin Blanc is now doing for South Africa, what Chardonnay has done so clearly for Burgundy in France. There is a style to suit all palates and a price point to suit all pockets. This diversity needs to be celebrated as it’s the fuel that continues to power the whole category forward internationally.
Patatsfontein Chenin Blanc 2015, Montagu

This Chenin Blanc ferment features a 40% portion with malolactic conversion and is then aged 11 months in old oak barrels. The nose bursts with lifted sweet white blossom, rich honeycomb, white peach, yellow citrus and vanilla pod spice. The palate is beautifully layered and elegantly textured with impressive concentration that grows as the wine sits in the glass. Light on its feet, there is a fabulous vein of acidity that melts into the fruit, harmonising beautifully with dusty mineral notes on the long, focused finish. Incredible class and precision, but oh so characterful all at once. A wine that is growing in stature and quality with each subsequent release. (Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

David & Nadie Skaliekop Chenin Blanc 2014, Swartland

Another standout wine from David Sadie. We all know the heights that have been reached with his 2015 single vineyard wines, but this 2014, from a vineyard planted in 1985 on shale soils yields a beautifully opulent, exotic nose of lemon oil, yellow peaches, honeysuckle, orange blossom, pithy lemon marmalade and dusty, chalky notes. This wine is full bodied, unctuous, richly textured and full flavoured with oxidative honey notes, sweet lemongrass, stem ginger and a long, leesy oak spice finish. A wine with plenty of gravitas. (Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Mother Rock Liquid Skin Chenin Blanc 2015, Swartland

This Chenin Blanc was sourced from an organic single vineyard on the outskirts of Malmesbury, planted with dry farmed bush vines grown on koffieklip, decomposed granite and clay soils. Grapes underwent 9 weeks of skin contact and the result is a truly impressive wine style. A deep golden orange colour, the wine has complex aromas of orange blossom, exotic fruits, apricot, old honey, barley sugar and grey slate liquid minerality. Such a vibrant, pithy acidity with plenty of freshness and depth on the palate. This wine is seriously complex and structured, but also incredibly drinkable. Not perhaps for novices, but to say this wine is some sort of acquired taste would not be doing the wine justice. Majestically executed within its style. (Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Revisiting the Profound Mullineux Old Vines White Blend 2013…

The Swartland is fortunate to have a wealth of old vine Chenin Blanc, so it’s no surprise that Mullineux & Leeuw Family Wines, one of the region’s and country’s finest producers, bases their estate white blend on normally at least 60% old vine Chenin Blanc. 

The grapes come from vineyard parcels in different parts of the Swartland, including stony shale soils, schist soils of the Kasteelberg, decomposed granite soils of the Paardeberg, and iron-rich soils in the hills west of Malmesbury. Winemaking is firmly based on the classical old masters of France, with fermentation in barrel using only indigenous yeasts, then aging the wine in French oak barrels (20% new), for 11 months approximately before being bottled unfiltered and unfined with minimal sulphur additions.

Mullineux & Leeuw Family Old Vines White Blend 2013, 13.5 Abv.

Tasting Note: Mesmerising green gold colour in the glass, this wine is as seductive and expressive on the nose as the day it was bottled. It just bursts forth with complex layers of floral white peach, white honeysuckle blossom, peach skins, lemon peel and a hint of buttered white toast. There is more green apple, pear and yellow pastille fruit concentration now than when I last tasted this wine, so it is evolving, however slowly, unfurling a few extra layers to tempt the drinker. The palate too is superbly balanced and incredibly intense with such vibrant tart acidity and piercing length. The wine has lost none of its youthful wound-spring tension, suggesting this vintage will be a fine example of Swartland Chenin Blanc Blends to lie down in ones cellar for a few more years. A little extra complexity of lemon grass, stem ginger and exotic spice starts to develop on the nose once the wine sits in the glass for a few moments longer. The finish is long, precise, and texturally seamless. A benchmark of quality for the Swartland and indeed the whole of the South African wine industry. (Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW) – Tasted 29/12/2016

Accolades from the world’s wine critics:

2010 – 5 Stars Platter, 91/100 Wine Advocate, 17.5/20 Jancis Robinson

2011 – 4.5 Stars Platter, 94/100 Tim Atkin, 92/100 Steve Tanzer

2012 – 4.5 Stars Platter, 91/100 Wine Advocate, 18/20 Jancis Robinson

2013 – 4.5 Stars Platter, 92/100 Wine Advocate, 17/20 Jancis Robinson

2014 – 5 Stars Platter, 93/100 Wine Advocate

2015 – 4.5 Stars Platter

A Fine Pair of South African Syrahs…

Saturday night was spent with good friends in Midhurst, deep in the West Sussex countryside. While Storm Angus was rattling the roof tiles outside, we were safely indoors enjoying a pair of beautiful Autumnal reds alongside a fabulous slow cooked dinner of beef bourguignon. 

Hearty food demands hearty reds and we had Jurgen Gouws’ youthful Intellego 2015 Syrah from the Swartland, and a mature Boekenhoutskloof 2006 Syrah, made from Wellington fruit, to enjoy. 

Jurgen Gouws’ Intellego Wines focus on sourcing grapes from different parcels in the Swartland and also farming some of them. Working in close collaboration with several growers, Jurgen secures high quality fruit which is very expressive of the Swartland region including Cinsaut, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Chenin Blanc. All the wines are made in a small winery that Jurgen rents in the Paardeberg. Keeping the Intellego Syrah in its purist form is the best way to express these granitic soil sites. 

We drank the fresh, vibrant Intellego while the 10 year old Boekenhoutskloof Syrah breathed in a decanter. Made from grapes bought from Schalk Burger & Sons’ Welbedacht Estate in Wellington, the quality of these Syrah grapes have long been revered and indeed, the source of this fruit was for many years one of the best kept secrets in the SA wine industry.

Four hour slow cooked Beef Bourguignon

Tasting Note: Intellego Syrah 2015, Swartland ~ Rich opulent nose of smoked meats, blackberries, red peppercorns and savoury spice. Woodsmoke, charcoal and cassis. Sweet fruit, concentrated damson plums, spicy steak tartar, and burnt oranges. Suave, fine boned and very elegant. Positively light on its feet with plenty of classical restraint (93+/100).

Tasting Note: Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2006, WO Coastal ~ Dusty, earthy saw dust wood spice nose initially. Plenty of black berry, black chocolate, beetroot, and lovely seductive earthy complexity. Melange of Autumnal notes, bramble berries and forest floor complexity. Lush, plush and still very youthful. Class act (94+/100).

Many thanks to our friends Ben and Sarah for the lovely weekend. 

Testalonga El Bandito Cortez 2014 Chenin Blanc ~ The pursuit of purity…

Drinking a fantastic bottle of Chenin Blanc today while watching a tense England versus South Africa rugby match at Twickenham. I just love the wines from Testalonga and indeed, when Craig Hawkins left Lammershoek winery in 2013/14, after its sale to the German consortium led by Franz Beckenbauer, I was totally unfazed as it had always been the selling of the more experimental, fresh, nervy wines of Testalonga that had been my passion.

Craig and wife Carla Hawkins currently rent 11ha of vineyards from the granite soils of the Paardeberg Swartland, most of which they farm themselves, while the remaining fruit is purchased from farmers they work very closely with.

Their first wine was a skin contact Chenin blanc way back in 2008, and from there they have introduced new independent vineyards including Grenache, Muscat, Carignan, Harslevelu, and Syrah, that they feel give them the quality they need to make wines with as little manipulation as possible. In good years it is as simple as picking, pressing, waiting, watching, bottling with nothing added at any stage. 

“We want the wines to express who we are both on the label and in the bottle, which is why humour plays an important role in communicating our story,” says Craig.

Craig and Carla recently purchased a farm on the northern mountain regions of the Swartland on Schist soils where from 2016 they started making their wines and eventually started planting vineyards including Maccabeu and Vermentino.

The Queen of Spades
Monkey Gone to Heaven

2016 will also see the exciting release of two new wines… firstly one barrel of The Queen of Spades Tinta Amarela 2016 red and secondly a Mourvèdre called Monkey Gone to Heaven 2016, both made from Malmesbury fruit. So very exciting things await! 

Tasting Note: Testalonga El Bandito Cortez Chenin Blanc 2014, 11.5 Abv. The 2014 Cortez is vibrant and bright, with a lifted nose of Alka Zeltzer, sea breeze, brine, crunchy white pears and green apples. The 2014s are known for their freshness, purity and high acidity and this one shows complex notes of lemon grass, tangerine and dusty yellow peaches. There is such wound spring tension in this electric wine that leads Craig to describe this vintage as monolithic, with almost no evolution since bottling. Its essence is all about stoney minerality, acidity, and lean salinity. As the wine opens in the glass, you get a hint of things to come with more tangerine peel, oyster shell, orange blossom and apple spice in an almost Chablis-like mould. Buy this beauty and cellar it for 8 to 10 years comfortably. (Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)