When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going – Tasting the Phenomenal New Release Savage Wines 2019 Vintages…

Thankfully I managed to visit South Africa just before lockdown in February 2020. While I had limited access to Duncan Savage who was deeply ensconced in his Salt River urban cellar busy pressing his 2020 grapes coming in, I did get sufficient opportunity to drill down on the phenomenal new 2019 vintage releases and the conditions that shaped Duncan’s newest and possibly greatest wines.

With allocations imminent, and after a lengthy 3 month lockdown in the UK, these wines are undoubtedly one of the most exciting releases of the calendar year along with Eben Sadie and Chris Alheit’s sought after old vine single vineyard wines. If you are lucky enough to get offered an allocation, the signal is BUY BUY BUY!

Savage White Blend 2019, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.

In 2019 the Savage White Blend is made up of 64% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon and 16% Chenin Blanc with the Sauvignon portion increasing +10% on the 2018 due to the yields from the individual component blocks. Fruit was sourced from Kaaimansgat, Villiersdorp, Piekenierskloof and Stellenbosch. After being whole bunch pressed, the fermentations for various batches lasted from between 1 and 6 months with all components finishing secondary malolactic fermentation. The wine was aged for 10 months in old 500 litre French oak barrels along with a portion in concrete eggs. But certainly the 2019 whites are turning out to be as distinctive and expressive as Duncan’s 2018 wines were in their own characterful way but perhaps having more in common stylistically with the 2017 vintage. The 2019’s taut, smoky bouquet shows a slightly reductive liquid minerality that is utterly captivating, slowly unfurling layer upon layer in the glass. The initial petrichor notes of wet slate give way to crushed granite and dusty gravel nuances underpinned by aromatics of waxy green apples, dried fynbos, peach stone fruits and pithy white citrus. Initially dominated by the Sauvignon Blanc and creamy grapefruit notes of the Semillon, a little time in the glass eventually sees the Chenin Blanc component assert itself with hints of bruised yellow orchard fruits and a soft, pineapple pastille kiss. On the palate, the unmistakable Duncan Savage hallmark brilliance again shines with an outstanding balance and harmony, highlighting his masterful blending of these three white varieties. At once fresh, bright and supremely pure fruited, the 2019 Savage white is all about textural finesse, seamless equilibrium and pinpoint precision. The finish is long, persistent and intensely concentrated throwing out yet more teasing notes of passion fruit, white peach and candied pineapple. A very, very smart white blend in anyone’s language. Drink from release and over 10-12+ years. (9,900 bottles produced.)

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

Savage Follow the Line 2019, 13% Abv.

I always joke that this wine from Duncan has one of the biggest cult followings globally only because no one can ever buy any Girl Next Door Syrah! But seriously, this wine has joined a very elite group of Cinsault dominant wines produced in the Cape that speak authoritatively year after year. In 2019, the blend is made up of 89% Cinsault from 39 year old dry farmed Darling bush vines together with 11% Syrah, a percentage that would easily allow Duncan to bottle this wine as a mono-varietal. It spent 3 to 5 weeks on its skins with 50% whole bunches employed. Ageing took place over 10 months in an oval foudre of 1,500-2000 litre capacity. True to form, this wine is ultra perfumed and incredibly pretty with soft seductive aromatics of crushed rose petals, spring cherry blossoms, dried lavender, a melange of red summer berry fruits and an exotic Turkish delight twist. The palate shows a fabulously self assured, compact core of bright red fruits, intense zippy red cherry Kool Aid, candied red berry notes and a super dense yet supple core of purity rarely seen on modest Cinsault. The tannins are fleshy, silky soft and almost imperceptible with the harmonious finesse of the sublime palate texture grabbing all the drinker’s attention. Superbly balanced, subtly piquant and saline, this wine has such a dreamy, creamy finish, breath taking purity of fruit and the most well honed, elegant Grand Cru poise to suggest that this could be one of Duncan’s finest expressions of Cinsault to date. A truly profound wine. Wow! Drink this from release and over the next 10 to 15+ years. (8,000 bottles produced.)

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

Thief in the Night 2019, 13% Abv.

Only three years into this grandiose “Grenache project” and the quantity of the old, dry land Grenache in this blend has already grown to 61%, supported by 26% Cinsault and 13% Syrah. The wine spent 2 weeks on its skins employing only 20% of whole bunches this year to maximise the fruit’s true terroir expression. All components were picked on the same day and co-fermented from the same property in Piekenierskloof before spending 11 months in 3,400 litre conical foudre. Every vintage I have tasted of this wine has been a step up on the previous year’s effort and of course I wondered whether this would be possible again in 2019. Having a fabulously crystalline, translucent ruby red colour, this wine is sassy and confident from the get go, showing a rich, deep, savoury spicy aromatic depth of autumnal leaves, freshly cut hedge row, sappy earthy black cherry fruits and a subtle peppery broody depth. Yet again, the compact, signature 2019 palate texture density and harmony is unambiguous, with a seamless fruit – acid balance and a savoury earthy red currant and bramble berry spice complexity asserting itself on the long, plush, polished finish. I don’t know if Duncan is just simply mastering his Grenache fine tuning evermore or if 2019 was just an incredible vintage for this style of blend? But needless to say, this is his most confident and accomplished expression of the Thief in the Night cuvee produced to date. Drink from release and over 8 to 10+ years. (4,400 bottles produced.)

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

Are We There Yet 2019, WO Malgas, 13% Abv.

Last year I noted early on that the 2018 Are We There Yet cuvee had really found another quality gear on previous vintages. Looking back, this was genuinely born out in the real world as this slightly quirky Malgas red blend ended up selling out in the UK market even faster than many of the other more prestigious Savage red cuvees with only the exception of the Girl Next Door Syrah. But results like this are to be expected as Duncan strives to fine tune the winemaking of this wine year on year to match the style of this wine to its unique river pebble on shale terroir and its unique blend of varieties. The 2019 is again a blend of 14 year old bush vines from 50% Touriga Nacional and 50% Syrah, which spent 2 weeks on their skins before being aged 11 months in neutral oak foudre. A lot of the work done to fine tune this cuvee, like the 100% destemming, has resulted in one of the most plush, opulent and seamlessly harmonious reds in Duncan’s entire range. The aromatics retain their underlying dark, plumy, black fruit complexity with intriguing nuances of blueberry pie, black currant confit and sweet melted black liquorice candy. The palate incredibly shows a level of refinement that is more reminiscent of a Grand Vin from Cote Rotie, with tangy acids, sweet savoury velvet tannins, a fleshy luxurious core of black currant and blue berry fruits and a finish with the most suave, fine grained mineral texture possible. All in all, the 2019 shows a little more refinement, a pinch more plushness and a polished finesse that marks this wine as a very smart effort once again. Drink from release as you won’t be able to resist its overt charms, and then over the next 10+ years. (2,100 bottles produced.)

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

Girl Next Door Syrah 2019, WO Cape Town, 13.5% Abv.

Unless you are completely new to Duncan Savage’s range of wines, this incredible cuvee will need no introduction at all. Made in miniscule quantities from the most salty, wind swept and battered 0.38 hectare Syrah vineyard plot near Fishhoek, these gnarled 14 year old trellised vines planted on sandy gravel soils for ornamental value originally, have latterly provided some of the finest Syrah grapes in the entire Western Cape. This labour of love for Duncan sees 50% whole bunches employed in fermentation followed by two weeks maceration on skins, malolactic fermentation in 600 litre neutral French oak barrels and finally a further 11 months maturation in barrels. The aromatics are suggestive but initially offer up a shy, retiring bouquet of dark damson plums, Kalamata olives, sweet savoury cured meats, Tuscan wild bore sausage nuances, sweet green peppercorns, dried coriander and a lovely subtle waft of lavender blossom perfume. The front and sides of the palate bristle with mouth watering crystalline pure fresh acids, a seamlessly plump fleshy opulence and the most suave, sophisticated, lithe concentration and fruit density. While many high quality premium wines become sought after purely based on scarcity, I would suggest that the overriding factor for the Girl Next Door’s cult following is the undeniable knowledge that if Duncan is going to bother making this wine in such small quantities, he has to believe heart and soul that this vineyard has something very, very special to offer in the context of world class Syrah. Mouth coating and utterly entrancing, this is next level Syrah indeed. Drink from release and over the next 12+ years. (1,500 bottles produced.)

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

Savage Red 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv. 

Duncan Savage is unquestionably proudest of both his eponymous signature white blend and of course his Savage red, and rightly so. These wines represent the true essence of the Savage brand however many new labels may be added to the range now or in years to come. Since 2017, this flagship wine has been made exclusively from 100% pure Syrah, and from 2018, 100% pure Stellenbosch Syrah! Produced from fruit grown on the famous Polkadraai Hills decomposed granite soils of Southern Stellenbosch, these organically farmed grapes spent three weeks on their skins with 50% whole bunches employed in fermentation. After secondary malolactic fermentation, the wine spent 13 months in 500 litre French oak barrels and then a further 9 months in 3,200 litre conical foudres. The aromatics chime a different tune to those of the meaty Swartland Syrahs. More base than treble, this wine’s aromatics show an impressively deep, compact red berry fruit concentration, a savoury, brambly, damson plum palate breadth that’s delicately massaged by a soft, pure granitic acidity. There is a real translucent, weightless, purity of flavour to the fruits, a true crystalline 2018 elegance and a supple, fleshy, seamless talcum powder fine tannin texture on the finish. True to the vintage, this wine will give immense drinking pleasure from release and probably hit its quality zenith at 8 to 10+ years of age. (11,400 bottles produced.)

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

One From the Cellar – Tasting the Iconic Porseleinberg Syrah 2016 From the Swartland…

When one talks about fine wine in a South African context, several key names instantly spring to mind, none more so than Porseleinberg especially when contemplating world class Syrah expressions. The ever so slightly reclusive, enigmatic brand that hides away in the sleepy Swartland has slowly, quietly but resolutely risen to the top over the past decade.

Porseleinberg is of course the famous Swartland property owned by iconic South African winery Boekenhoutskloof which has always been managed separately allowing it to express its very own individual brilliance, authenticity as well as eccentricities. With the extreme, dry schistous terroir where the Syrah vines of Porseleinberg are planted, comes an exceptional quality that is often only found globally in the most extreme, marginal fine wine vineyards.

This revolutionary long-term project inspired by Rhoneaphile Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof, brought Callie Louw in as the vineyard farmer as well as the the winemaker to produce a dense, classical, powerfully tannic, age worthy Northern Rhône inspired red Syrah wine.

Winemaker Callie Louw on his last trip to London.

Now appreciated and revered the world over by collectors and connoisseurs alike who admire Callie Louw’s unwavering old-school commitment to producing powerfully structured terroir driven Syrahs that at the very least demand 5 to 8+ years ageing from release before drinking. After having tasted all their vintage releases since their maiden 2010, all the wines appear to still be on a steady upward maturity curve with years of potential development lying ahead. Having said that, the 2014 and 2016 do seem to be slightly more approachable examples for the impatient.

Porseleinberg Syrah 2016, WO Swartland, 14% Abv.

An impressive offering generously loaded with aromatics of black plum, baked earth, molasses, charcoal and savoury black fruits with a piquant black peppercorn hint. The palate is slightly grainy but soft, sumptuous and creamy textured, showing what an opulent, forward, extroverted offering this 2016 is. Far more accessible, overtly hedonistic and plush in the mouth with a broad, expansive mouthfeel, vibrant focused extract and intensity, a subtle but elegantly fresh acidity and a dense, compact mineral-laden olive tapenade tinged finish. Drink this vintage now and over the next 8 to 15+ years. (12,000 bottles produced.)

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

Tasting the Boutique Chenin Blanc 2018 from Wildehurst Wines in the Swartland…

Wildehurst Wines is a small boutique wine cellar in the small Swartland town of Koringberg. Together, owner Joanne Hurst and winemaker Sheree Nothnagel, produce wines that attempt to capture the essence of their unique terroir in the Swartland wine region in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Joanne planted her “garden vineyard” in 2006 consisting of 90% Shiraz and 10% Viognier producing her first wines in 2009. At the end of 2013 the business grew to the point where it was necessary to appoint a full time winemaker and with a degree in Oenology and Viticulture, Sheree Nothnagel, joined the winemaking team. All grapes are hand harvested and wines are produced as naturally as possible with minimal intervention. Wildehurst Wines currently produce 16,000 bottles annually.

This 2018 Chenin Blanc was produced from 30 year old vines in the Swartland. After being whole bunch pressed, the must was barrel fermented with minimal intervention using natural yeasts and no acidification. The finished wine was racked and transferred back to old French oak barrels where it was aged for a further six months before bottling. Only 865 bottles were produced. Alcohol: 12.5% Residual Sugar: 1.8g/L, TA: 5.1g/L, pH: 3.43

Wildehurst Wines Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Swartland, 12.5 Abv.

A bright medium straw yellow colour, this wine has a very expressive nose of classic Swartland Chenin Blanc. There are complex notes of spicy orange peel, pineapple pastille, crushed granite, wet thatch and white peach stone fruits on the nose. The palate shows an initial piquant bite with a light to medium bodied mouthfeel, pithy peach skins and a subtle phenolics grip. There is plenty of elegance and subtlety together with nuanced flavours, a sleek accessibility and distinct lemon and peach iced tea characters on the finish. Perhaps not quite the palate weight or concentration of some of the more illustrious Swartland examples, but this delicious, well balanced little boutique white certainly captures many of the most attractive characteristics of Swartland Chenin Blanc.

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

www.Wildehurst.com

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)