Alheit Family Wines 2017 New Vintage Release Tasting in London…

The 2017 vintage releases sees Chris Alheit expand his single site range of white wines and stake his marker firmly in the sand, pointing to the future direction that the Alheit Family Winery will be pursuing in future.

His overall vision has evolved since starting out with his first Cartology release in 2011, a wine Chris feels helped give birth to the newest range of single site wines from the winery. These new wines further help define the history, origin and outright pedigree of old vine Chenin Blanc in South Africa. Or as Chris says… “the journey of diversity continues.”

Cartology Tasting Flight 1:

Cartology 2011, 14 Abv.

A wonderfully expressive, detailed wine that really pays testament to Chris’ vision for creating a blended old vine white from multiple sites. The famous 96 pointer from Neal Martin, this wine is the antithesis of global score inflation. Wonderful pedigree, the aromatics are packed with sweet honeysuckle, pear purée, white peaches and yellow orchard fruits with a expressive vein of granitic minerality, dried herbs, dusty gravel and lemon peel zest. The palate shows textured weight, flesh and depth with layers of honied yellow peaches, orange peel, tangerine, honeydew melon and buttered brown toast with honey. All this fruit and concentration is tightly hemmed in by bracing acids that are in fine balance and integrated, helping the wine build to a tumultuous, intense and incredibly long profound finish. Surely not much of this icon left in consumers cellars setting it up to be a true unicorn wine one day. Drink now or cellar confidently for another 10-15+ years. (3.8 g/l RS)

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

Cartology 2012, 14 Abv.

A wine that was slightly misunderstood on release, being dryer, tighter and decidedly more minerally focused than the 2011. With valuable time in bottle, this wine still shows a certain strictness but is already developing super complex notes of dusty gravel, pine needles, resinous sappy spice, yellow peach, waxy yellow apples and intriguing fynbos herbal, earthy nuances. The palate is crisp and bright with a clear honied, yellow fruited depth, a slight spicy oxidative complexity and a pithy, salty, briney finish. A wine that still retains a certain amount of intrigue. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8 years.

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

Cartology 2013, 14 Abv.

Cooler and tighter nose, the aromatics show complex notes of soap stone, talc, dried herbs, rosemary, tarragon, hints of yellow orchard fruits and a dusty, sappy fresh fig top note. The palate is rich and expressive, brimming with lemon butter, lemon biscuits, fresh pastries, white peach, tangerine and toffee apple exoticism. Super pure and crystalline, this wine shows admirable youthfulness, clarity and focus and a real sense of core tension. A very fine expression of Cartology, this is a youthful example with superb freshness, harmonious balance and lovely lingering length. Keep this in your cellar.

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

Cartology 2014, 13.7 Abv.

This is a big bruiser, with immediate, opulent aromatics that show exoticism, power and definite botrytis influences. The nose is full of bruised yellow orchard fruits, ripe quince, honied peaches, buttered white toast drizzle with honey and hints of dried peaches, guava roll and dried mango. As expected, the palate is full and fleshy, dense and full, round, with a delicious sweet and sour yellow plum acidity, bright fresh acids and a tangy, honied, textural earthy dried mango peel finish. Slightly atypical but oh so delicious and hedonistic. Drink now and over the next 10 years.

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

Cartology Tasting Flight 2:

Cartology 2015

A serious vintage, this wine shows complex aromatics and palate depth in a way that really ticks all the boxes. The nose is pure and bright, focused but expressive, with multiple layers of yellow peach, yellow apples, dusty sappy spice and a lovely granitic, crushed gravel minerality underpinned by subtle notes of fynbos and green herbs. The palate shows impressive power and shape, flesh and coiled textural tension with incredible polish and harmony twinned with intensity. The fruit purity is very noticeable, embroidered by bright, mouth watering acidity, mouth coating intensity and impressive white peach and green apple length. Youthful for sure, this wine has plenty of legs. Drink now for a hedonistic experience or cellar for 15+ years.

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

Cartology 2016

The 2016 shows a real immediate generosity both on the nose and palate. The aromatics are intricate and nuanced showing crunchy white peach, hairy yellow peaches, green apple, wet river pebble minerality and subtle fynbos lift. The palate is super fresh, bright and energetic with real purity, polish and textural finesse. A clear favourite of Chris’s, this wine definitely shows more core tension, leaner, slightly sour green acids and a very intense, focused, tight finish. This wine is impossible not to like, but perhaps takes a little time to get to know. Leave it in your cellar, it will reward 10 to 15 years of bottle ageing.

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

Cartology 2017

Big, broad expansive yellow orchard fruit aromatics, subtle yellow blossom and then an overriding dusty gravel quarry minerality. The palate shows amazing depth, typical Alheit pineapple fruit pastille concentration, lemon grass and an incredible saline, grassy, herbal pithy length. Another epic effort from Butch.

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

Tasting Flight 3:

Radio Lazarus 2017, 13 Abv.

The effort that goes into making this cuvée shows immediately on this wine with the most expressive aromatics that seduce you and draw you in. There are lovely notes of white peach, crunchy yellow fruits, yellow plum, white citrus, pear and green apple brightness. The palate is dusty and sappy with hints of stalk spice, crushed fynbos, green herbs, apple skins and crushed gravel minerality. The acids are bright and intense, not sharp at all, but coat the palate and make your mouth water with its sheer purity and clarity. This is a wine of a gnarled, struggling old vine vineyard that is more about dusty minerality, austerity and terroir than any kind of fruit opulence. A heartbreak venture, this is a true heritage wine of the Cape. Drink this fairly open expression on release or age for 20+ years.

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

Nautical Dawn Chenin Blanc 2017, 13 Abv.

Another classic Chenin Blanc parcel from the False Bay that again shows wonderful defined site specific characters. Very different to Swartland expressions, this Rustenhof vineyard wine from bush vines planted in 1978 yields expressive aromatics of white citrus, white peach pastille, tart sour plum, crushed gravel, limestone and a dusty lemon rind note. On the palate, this wine shows incredible tension, acid frame, brightness and purity, so beautifully balanced but still slightly raw and saline at the moment. A wine of intensity and vibrancy, this wine packs a punch of note. This looks a good bet for ageing.

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

Tasting Flight 4:

Fire By Night 2017, 13 Abv.

Bright, crystalline and intense, wonderfully taut and intense, loaded with liquid minerals, limestone and greengage, green apple and white pears. Pithy phenolic notes, a spicy pear purée expression and such clarity and focus. Mouth watering acidity, this wine tells an amazing story and delivers on so many levels with great subtlety.

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

Huilkrans 2017, 14 Abv.

Wonderful melange of pure mineral, granite, grated apple, white peach and crunchy green pear with hints of orange blossom, tangerine and dried herb spice. Incredible harmony and balance, precise textural focus, sleek concentration and liquid mineral depth. A thought provoking wine, confounding the senses, stimulating the palate. Grand Cru texture, focus and precision.

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

Magnetic North Mountain Makstok 2017, 14 Abv.

A stern, lean, focused, striking wine with tension, tightly meshed acids and phenolics and a wonderfully lean and mesmerising nose of liquid minerality. Like the Lazarus, this is dusty and restrained, gravelly and austere but delivers an impressive focus and intensity on the palate. Crystalline, saline, bright and tart, backed with incredible white peach and white citrus, pithy granitic limestone minerality, this wine has greatness in its DNA, a wine that is initially less generous, more austere, packed with briney tart acidity but with the most incredible intensity, energy, and electric length. Another ageworthy gem for the cellar. Drink from 2020 to 2040+

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

“Not really thirst quenching, more thirst provoking.” ~ Julia Harding MW

Tasting Flight 5:

La Colline Semillon 2017, 13..5 Abv.

Planted in 1936, this is a selection massale block from original genetic material brought to the Cape in the 1600s. Plenty of pedigree here showing white citrus, yellow grapefruit, lime cordial, fresh asparagus and pithy tangerine peel complexity. The palate is loaded with yellow grapefruit, white peach, waxy green apple and tart, lanolin tinged gravelley complexity often seen on Bruce Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon from Hunter Valley. There is great intensity, breadth and power that tantalises the palate with apricot and earthy spice on a long, profound finish. Bench mark in every way.

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

Hemelrand Vine Garden 2017, 13.5. Abv.

One of Chris Alheit’s young vine wines from the farm they live on in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. A blend of Roussanne, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Verdelho and Muscat, this 2017, the third edition shows an enticing nose of lime peel, fragrant cantaloup melon, lychee, fresh rose petals and ripe pineapple pastille. Steely, bright, intense with searing freshness, this wine has an electric core, plugged straight into the mains. A wine that becomes more accomplished with every subsequent release.

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

(Wines available to the trade in the UK from importer Dreyfus Ashby)

The Old Vine Project Hits London Again to Seduce Us with Some Profound Old Vine Whites and Reds from South Africa…

I’m very excited to be attending the Alheit Family Wines new release 2017 tasting tomorrow in London at the offices of the Institute of Masters of Wine with Chris Alheit. Indeed it was Rosa Kruger and Andre Morgenthal’s recent Old Vines Project Masterclass Tasting a few weeks ago that reignited the excitement surrounding old vines, old vine culture and the changes in philosophy with regards to viticulture and vine growing taking place in South Africa.

A pair of Chris Alheit’s superb 2017 wines featured prominently on the July tasting and certainly helped set the scene for yet another SA tasting of old vine wines that promises to display some of the most exciting dry Chenin Blanc’s produced anywhere in the world. Just reading through the below Old Vine Masterclass tasting notes has already got me salivating.

Below are my raw notes taken from the Masterclass with Andre and Rosa.

Old Vine Project team Andre Morgenthal and Rosa Kruger in front of London’s Millennium Bridge.

Huis van Chevallerie Filia Brut Kap Klassiek 2014, Swartland – Vines Planted 1974

Savoury apple purée, honey and sun dried peaches, vermouth botanicals and sweet fynbos herby spice. Beautiful richness, peachy, leesy autolysis and a gravelly, mineral length.

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

Huis van Chevallerie Nuwedam Chenin Blanc 2017, Swartland – Vines Planted 1974

Rich, deep, earthy, mealy character, hairy yellow peaches, honey, lanolin, peach purée and a solid vein of gravelly, granitic minerality. Creamy and texturally very fine showing piercing white citrus and crunchy yellow fruit intensity, white peach pastille and a kiss of pineapple. Very impressive.

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

Waterford Estate Library Collection Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch – Vines Planted 1982

Beautifully nuanced nose with pronounced minerality, dusty granite and limestone, where the fruit component of the wine takes a back seat to the terroir minerality. Hints of struck match and tart fresh acids give way to lemon and lime pith, flinty white peaches and savoury pineapple. A really excellent expression.

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

Gabrielskloof Elodie Chenin Blanc 2016, Swartland – Vines Planted 1977

Rich perfumed nose showing soap stone, white citrus, green apple zest, creamy white peach and liquid minerality. Beautifully textured palate, complex and very harmonious. Very classy indeed.

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

Alheit family Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017, Swartland – Vines Planted 1976 and 1986

Wonderful melange of pure mineral, granite, grated apple, white peach and crunchy green pear with hints of orange blossom, tangerine and dried herb spice. Incredible harmony and balance, precise textural focus, sleek concentration and liquid mineral depth. A thought provoking wine, confounding the senses, stimulating the palate. Grand Cru texture, focus and precision.

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

Cartology Chenin Blanc / Semillon Blend, WO Western Cape 2017 – Vines aged between 32 and 82 years old from multiple plots, mostly 40 years old

Big, broad expansive yellow orchard fruit aromatics, subtle yellow blossom and then an overriding dusty gravel quarry minerality. The palate shows amazing depth, typical Alheit pineapple fruit pastille concentration, lemon grass and an incredible saline, grassy, herbal pithy length. Another epic effort from Butch.

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

Alheit Fire By Night 2017, Swartland, 13 Abv. – Vines planted in 1938, 1940 and 1944

Bright, crystalline and intense, wonderfully taut and intense, loaded with liquid minerals, limestone and green gauge, green apple and white pears. Pithy phenolic notes, spicy, pear purée expression and such clarity and focus. Mouth watering acidity, this wine tells an amazing story and delivers on so many levels with subtlety.

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

David & Nadia Perdekamp Semillon 2014, Swartland – Vines Planted 1972

Dusty granitic mineral aromatics, powdered sandstone, white citrus, white pepper and hints of orange blossom. So textural, intense and expertly finessed into a really profound version of Semillon.

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

Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2005, Franschhoek – Vines Planted in 1902, 1936 and 1942

Complex aromatics reveal notes of capsicum, white citrus and chalky granitic herbal green spice aromatics. Plenty of honied lemon, herbal fynbos notes and subtle oxidative, honied, lanolin length. Very expressive and complex.

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

Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2015, Franschhoek – Vines Planted in 1902, 1936 and 1942

Crunchy white peaches, citrus, crushed gravel and white pepper dominate the nose. Palate is packed full of lime peel complexity, vibrant bright acids, textural linearity and a long, wonderfully focused finish. Exceptional.

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

Mullineux & Leeu Dry Red 2015, WO Western Cape – Vines planted in 1932 and 1900

Lovely peppery, spicy leafy nose of plum, peppercorns, sweet bramble berries, hedgerow, bergamot and sappy cherry spice. There’s a real opulent confit fruit character, impressive ripeness, fragrant but simultaneously mineral and restrained. There is also a real dusty granitic vein, a chalky, spicy texture and sweet red currant and raspberry sappy fruit. Punchy, intense, really focused but with real mouthwatering drinkability. Beautifully fine harmonious texture, and tight polished tannins. A very classy wine indeed.

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

Naude Cinsault 2015, Darling – Vines Planted 1980

Wonderfully open, fragrant and exotic nose showing salted cherries, rose petals, lychees and Turkish delight. Palate is incredibly sleek and creamy but impressively intense and focused. Delicious palate complexity of waxy orange peel, naartjie juice and earthy sappy cranberry sauce. Such a very pretty expression.

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

Jamie Goode tasting with Rosa Kruger at the Old Vine Project Masterclass held at High Timber Restaurant in July 2018.

Another Eye-Catching Paardeberg Chenin Blanc From the Swartland – Tasting the Fire By Night 2017 from Chris Alheit…

Another new addition to the Alheit Family portfolio as Chris Alheit increasingly starts to focus on his premium range of single site and single terroir Chenin Blancs. This new cuvee is made from grapes sourced from three parcels on grape grower Christa von La Chevallerie’s Paardeberg farm planted between 1974 and 1980 and was tasted in London with Rosa Kruger and Andre Morgenthal at their fantastic Old Vine Project Masterclass.

Fire by Night Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland, 13 Abv.

Old vine Chenin Blanc vines aged 38, 40, and 44 years old are conjured into an intense, complex white offering a bright crystalline purity, wonderful textural tension and intensity, loaded with liquid granite minerality, limestone, crunchy green gauge, apple, white peach and white pears. Pithy with slight phenolic nuances, the palate shows a spicy pear purée expression and such clarity and focus. Mouth watering acidity and subtle maritime salinity, this wine tells an amazing story of top old vine Chenin Blanc from decomposed granite soils made with incredible attention to detail. Another impressive addition to the Alheit range, this wine will drink well on release but also age beautifully for 10-15+ years.

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

A Towering South Africa Chenin Blanc Good Enough to Bring Tears to Your Eyes – Tasting the Huilkrans 2017 from Alheit Family Wines…

This is the first vintage that Chris Alheit has bottled something from the Oudam farm as a stand-alone wine.  Chris has been working with the Visser family since 2011 and has been planning this wine since 2015.  They chose the name Huilkrans, the name of a cliff on the farm that weeps when it rains.  Since the untimely passing of the owner’s son Kallie last year in 2017, the name now has an unintended double meaning. Even so, they’ve elected to keep it unchanged.

Chris Believes this wine is absolutely thrilling. Despite the excellent form of Magnetic North, Huilkrans might well be his best wine of the 2017 vintage? This is benchmark Skurfberg Chenin Blanc loaded with pithy minerality, charged with electric energy and is drenched with citrus and vibrant acidity. You can expect this to be impossibly rare and collectable from the moment it is released. So act quick!

Alheit Family Wines Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017, Citrusdal, 14.2 Abv.

Made from a vineyard on the Skurfberg from 42 and 32 year old Chenin Blanc plantings owned by the Visser family. This young nervy Chenin shows a wonderful melange of pure minerality, a granitic heart, wet hay, grated apple, yellow citrus, white peach and crunchy green pear with subtle hints of orange blossom, tangerine and dried herb spice adding extra backing complexity. Incredible harmony and balance, this wine has a very precise, polished textural focus but piercing concentration, crystalline acids and a profound liquid mineral depth. A thought provoking wine in so many ways, expertly delivered by Chris Alheit. This is Grand Cru in all but name and certainly ranks among the top Chenin Blancs ever produced in South Africa. Drink now until 2035+

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

The Savvy Swartlanders Putting Stellenbosch Chardonnay on the World Map – Tasting a Pre-Release Bottle of Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016…

As I near the end of my March trip to South Africa, one of my favourite visits and tastings lay ahead at the Roundstone farm of Chris and Andrea Mullineux in the Swartland. With the new Leeu Passant wines due for imminent release, it was great to get a sneak peak of one of my favourite new white wines on the South African wine scene, the Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay.

As it becomes apparent that the Elandskloof Chardonnay Cuvee will no longer be made, the Mullineux’s have instead decided to focus on their Stellenbosch Chardonnay Cuvee from the Helderberg, which they believe offers the best future potential for premium quality and cellar ageability.

In the past few years, the debate has certainly hotted up in Europe and the USA around the collectability and quality of premium new world Chardonnay versus expensive top white Burgundy. New challengers to the holy Burgundy grail will certainly emerge, and I’m putting my money on this wine being in the mix for top honours.

Mullineux Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016, 14 Abv.

Another incredibly serious, focused, grown up release from the Mullineuxs. Regal, refined and linear, the fruit comes from the same 26 year old Helderberg vineyard as the 2015 release. Beautiful lime and white citrus pastille fruit notes are very pure and pithy with an alluring wet limestone and waxy lemon rind edge. Very tight grained, tightly wound and taut, far more so than even the very serious 2015 release. The intense lemon and lime cordial freshness is supremely balanced and harmonious performing a sophisticated, choreographed Burgundy styled routine with an expertly judged amount of struck match reduction complexity. The finish has a dusty, gravelly dry mineral length that will impress the most educated fine wine collector. Cellar this beauty for 2 to 3 years before opening, and drink over 20+ years.

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

The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Most Memorable South African Red Wines of 2017…

South Africa must possess some of the most distinguished and diverse high quality white wines in the world. But some how it seems that consumers, connoisseurs and collectors judge a country or region’s prestige almost exclusively based on the quality of the red wines produced. In 2017 South Africa fortuitously released many of its truly greatest 2015 red wines making it a bumper year for red wine ratings and reviews internationally.

My top 10 selection of reds and whites is based on wines that I tasted and drank through the year and that I considered supremely memorable as well as very high in quality. They were not selected purely based on scores.

So again, in no specific order…here is my Top 10 Most Memorable South African Red Wines of 2017.

MR de Compostella Bordeaux Blend 2015, Stellenboch – 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Bruwer Raats may be known as the Chenin King but it has to be his incredible red wines that have truly cemented his global reputation as an iconic fine wine producer. There can be no doubting the quality of his amazing Cabernet Franc reds which he is so proud of. Indeed, who can forget the high powered tasting in Europe where his 2001 Cabernet Franc trumped Cheval Blanc 2001 and was lauded by Jancis Robinson OBE MW as one of the greatest varietal Cabernet Francs in the world. But for me, it is another wine that has always captured my heart.

As a consummate Bordeaux lover, the MR de Compostella has been an absolute eye opener since the maiden 2004 was released. Tasted again recently, the 2004 is still youthfully dense, taught, concentrated and utterly majestic with another 20+ years of life left ahead of it. Having tasted every vintage pre-release since 2004, I like to think I have an intimate knowledge of this wine. So when Bruwer did a pre-release vertical tasting in London earlier this year, we got to see the 2015 in all its noble splendour. I received a few raised eye brows for scoring this wine 98 points, but my argument was simple… When tasted along side critically acclaimed MR vintages that scored 95 or 96 points internationally, the 2015 was considered 15% to 20% better. So I had no hesitation in scoring this wine 98 points and declaring it my 🍷🍷 South African Red Wine of the Year 2017.  

Congratulations Bruwer Raats and team.

Raats Family Wines Eden Single Vineyard High Density Cabernet Franc 2015, Stellenbosch – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

As if making one of the highest rated reds in South Africa wasn’t enough, Bruwer has continued to pursue his passion for all things Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc related, launching the first Raats Eden High Density red and white releases last year to great acclaim. The Eden Cabernet Franc has seduced journalists from far and wide, astounding drinkers with the quality achieved from 6 year old vines. ‘Quality by Design’ is the buzz phrase attributed to these fascinating wines that have been recognised locally in South Africa and internationally as outstanding examples of Cabernet Franc varietal purity and precision. Made in tiny quantities, this is a red wine designed to impress the most accomplished and educated palates. I sense there will be very little disagreement on the inclusion of this wine.

Beeslaar Pinotage 2015, Stellenbosch – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

I recently attended the International Wines & Spirits Competition awards ceremony in London a few weeks ago and sat at the neighbouring table to Abrie Beeslaar and Johan Krige, to witness them being awarded the “International Winery of the Year” for the third year in a row and “Winemaker of the Year” for their outstanding wines at Kanonkop. What an honour. But Abrie also has a small project on the side producing limited amounts of this eponymously named wine from some exceptional Pinotage grapes. Only in its fourth vintage, this impressive Pinotage comes from a 22 year old single block close to Simonsig planted on shale soils. Seeing less new oak than the super premium Kanonkop Black Label, this expression is an opulent, sleek, textured glassful of brilliance with the most incredible harmony, purity and balance. This is exceptional Pinotage that really puts this unique variety on the world wine map. An outstanding effort from Abrie Beeslaar.

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Roundstone Schist Syrah 2015, Swartland – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW  

In March I paid a long awaited visit to Chris and Andrea at their Roundstone farm in the Swartland to taste the new releases of their Mullineux and the Leeu Passant wines. The Schist Syrah, sourced from grapes grown on the Roundstone farm,  has become one of their most sought after wines internationally due to its opulence, fragrance and balanced blueberry fruit intensity that harks back to the great icon wines of the northern Rhone in every way. I do have an inkling that their Granite or Iron Syrah Cuvées may age better over the very long term, but over the medium term, the Schist Syrah represents one of the most outstanding expressions of Syrah coming out of South Africa at the moment.

Duncan Savage Follow the Line 2016 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

Of all the new red wine creations that have come out of the Cape in the past five years, few can rival Follow the Line for its mantel of most delicious cult wine! This wonderful Cinsault / Grenache / Syrah blend from Duncan Savage is a wine that effectively captured the mood of a new generation of wine drinkers looking for characterful, vibrant, energetic, crunchy fresh reds that could be drunk on release or cellared for 10+ years. Since the maiden 2014 release, this wine has got better and better and now that Duncan is settling into his own new urban winery in Salt River in Cape Town, you can expect all his whites and reds to become even more focused and distinguished. One of my favourite red wines from one of my favourite South African winemakers. If you have not tried this wine yet, get your skates on!

Sadie Family Wines Columella Red Blend 2015, Swartland – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

What a year it has been for Eben Sadie! Winemaker awards, sell out wines, continued growing cult status internationally, and high quality wines that seem to get better and better every year despite vintage conditions. With already two whites making my top 10, this has got to be the wine that Eben takes the most pride in producing. He has always been aware of the hype that surrounds the micro vinifications in the Old Vine Series, but the Palladius and Columella are his “day job” and his bread and butter and most certainly his pride and joy. So to have released two of the greatest ever expressions of both of these wines is a true testament to the upward trajectory that Eben continues to travel on. One of the truly great winemakers of the world and one of the greatest wineries. What an accolade to make South African’s proud.

Brian Smith & Niels Verburg The Cabernet Franc 2014, Bot River – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

While neither Brian Smith or Niels Verburg are newcomers to the South African wine scene, their new joint venture red certainly ruffled a few feathers in the local South African wine scene with the release of the THE Cabernet Franc sourced from a small vineyard in the Bot River region. Classy, polished, opulent, and distinguished, this wine has all the attributes of a Napa Valley cult wine including the matching price tag. The greatest thing about this wine has been the discussion and open debate that has resulted after its release… which was one of its primary aims to be fair. The contents is certainly very sexy and luxurious and drinking my first bottle was undoubtedly a very memorable moment.

Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2015, Stellenbsoch – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

I remember seeing my Swartland based Rhone junkie friends Ryan Mostert and Samantha Suddons drinking bottles of Boschkloof Syrah and occasionally Epilogue Syrah years ago and thinking that I need to get to grips with these wines (I grew up drinking father Jacques Bormans’ wines!) When Jamet junkies are raving about them, they must be serious. Last Christmas I reviewed the Epilogue 2014 Syrah and rated it as one of my top reds of the year. Surely the epic 2015 vintage would have to be better!? Well, I would say it is equally as good but not better. It is the perennial trap we fall into thinking that block buster vintages always make better wines. For most producers they do, but for the likes of Reenen Borman, his real talents are revealed in the less than perfect vintages (2014 or 2016). But splitting hairs aside, this is one of the most profound northern Rhone, Cote Rotie’esque  expressions of Syrah available in the New World. Well done Reenen!

Naude Family Wines Grenache 2014 – 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

What a year of change it has been for Ian Naude. After years of serving other masters, he has finally gone solo and become his own boss. Under the Naude Family wines label he will now seduce us with his very best talents in the form of Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Cinsault and Semillon. But just like last year when I included his “older” Chenin Blanc 2013, this year I have found myself simply unable to exclude his most profound, complex and impressive Grenache 2014. Such is the intrigue surrounding this wine that we felt compelled to repeat the “Wine Cellar / Roland Peens” Rayas blind show down again in London at one of the top Michelin star restaurants. Yet again, this fabulous wine beat off the competition and trounced some of the world’s greatest Grenache reds with ease. Sadly, this vineyard grape contract was subsequently lost and has not been made again since. So it is now not only one of the great red wines of South Africa, but it is firmly moving into the Unicorn ranks of collectability. We stand in hope that Ian will venture back into the Grenache minefield and attempt to craft another gem from this temperamental Rhone grape. Meantime, if you find any of the 2014, snap it up immediately!

Vilafonte Series C 2015, Paarl – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW 

This is another winery project that I have been following closely since its maiden vintage release in 2003. This joint venture between Warwick Estate’s Mike Ratcliffe and Californian wine guru power couple Phil Freese and Zelma long, unashamedly set out to produce the most precise, polished, high quality expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot possible from their manicured vineyards in Paarl. There is a subtle gloss to the wines, there is incredible polish, and the wines are quite international in style in many ways, but above all, there is a sense that the end goal is extreme quality without compromise. Ok, this approach may not work quite as well with wilder Syrah, Grenache or Cinsault, but for international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec… it is surely the path to greatness. Add to the ingredients a 5 star block buster vintage and hey presto, the Series C 2015 miraculously resembles some of the iconic high scoring Chateaux of Pauillac and St Julien from a riper left bank vintage in Bordeaux but with the precision and polish of Napa Valley.

Craig Hawkins Pushing the Boundries at His New Testalonga El Bandito Winery…

“Craig Hawkins has long been experimenting, pushing the boundaries and finding new ways to bring us wine in its most unadulterated form.” A wonderful sound bite pinched from Roland Peens at Wine Cellar, one of Craig’s biggest retail sellers in South Africa. So it’s not surprising that his wines have an insatiable cult following among consumers, connoisseurs and sommeliers around the world primarily because the wines excel at representing site, terroir and authenticity.

‘Natural wine is simple: organically farmed at the very least in the vineyard, no added yeast or acid or tannin, in fact, nothing added except small amounts of SO2 if need be… and no fining/filtration.’ – Craig Hawkins

Testalonga El Bandito Monkey Gone to Heaven 2016, WO Swartland, 13 Abv.

This 15 year old vineyard has yielded some delicious Mourvèdre fruit from this dry 2016 vintage. But of course this variety is normally very at home with hot dry conditions and prospers successfully in the hot South of France where it needs warmth to ripen fully. This expression from the Swartland has an appealing nose of dried potpourri, black chocolate and peppermint crisp combining with aromatics of garrigue, dried herbs, thyme, sweet green peppercorns and dry fynbos. But there is also plenty of complex black berry fruit on the palate mixing with black olive tapenade, chalky mineral spice, hints of graphite and a tantalising fresh black currant herbal tea infusion on the finish. Another classic over achieving wine from Craig Hawkins. Drink now to 2028+.

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