Whether you have tasted this wine with Chris and Andrea Mullineux at their Swartland estate Roundstone or somewhere else around the world, you always get the impression that the Old Vine white holds a very special place close to their hearts perhaps because it’s a wine that encapsulates their 15 year Mullineux fine wine journey to date.
Tasted with Chris and Andrea pre-release, this is a wine that quite obviously fills them both with incredible confidence and pride, as they reflect on the long journey to reach this special point in time. While Chris still waxes lyrical about the exceptional 2010 Old Vine White, which coincidentally “won” the tasters’ top vote at the 10 year white blend vertical a few years back in London, both agree the 2021 possesses characteristics and quality traits not seen before on this specific cuvée, making it a ‘must buy’ later in 2022 on release!
Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines Old Vine White Blend 2021, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.
Bottled after 12 months, this is a very, very pretty vintage with lower yields but also beautiful fruit purity, precision and a wonderful fruit – acid balance. The aromatics are ripe, succulent and opulent showing honeysuckle, white blossom, lemon cordial, dried herbs and lovely white peach and pineapple pastille notes. Nevertheless, the stand out feature on the palate is undoubtedly the textural sophistication, harmony and chalky minerality combined with super tangy acids bursting with lemon rock candy, white peach and crystalline citrus flavours. Simply an incredible intensity with a harmoniously weightless balance combined with a long, piercing finish. This is definitely a noticeable step up on previous vintages and an incredible achievement for the Mullineuxs! Drink now to 2034+.
The Swartland is very well-known for producing high quality Chenin Blanc grapes and Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards are positively spoiled by the abundance of family-owned vineyards from which to source fruit from. Leeuwenkuil, or “Lion’s Lair”, was originally part of a farm founded in 1693 in the Voor-Paardeberg but in 1800, following its subdivision, the farm’s name was changed to Leeuwenkuil and in 1851, the Dreyer family became the new owners. Today, Willie and Emma Dreyer are the proud owners of Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards and over the past 30 years, Willie and his team have together built Leeuwenkuil into what it is today – 1,250 hectares – the biggest vineyard owner in the Cape Coastal area.
Their entry level “value” Chenin Blanc is a wine I have tasted many times but as I discovered recently, the style of the 2021 Chenin Blanc is far more serious than previous vintages because a bigger portion of older bush vine vineyards were used. The Leeuwenkuil range of wines are always excellent value for money, made using natural fermentations, low sulphur levels and a general all round attention to detail.
Leeuwenkuil Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 12.5 Abv.
Classically honied and peachy, this wine displays real depth and breadth with aromatics of honey on warm white toast, lemon pastille, wet straw and toasted apple strudel. Creamy and plush, the palate boasts luxurious notes of tangerine, pineapple and white peach together with a real textural depth and a wonderfully polished, balanced glycerol length on the finish. For the money, this is really very impressive indeed and displays everything that’s exciting about affordable ‘value’ Chenin Blanc from the Swartland. Drink now to 2028+
Now recognised as one of the Swartland’s leading quality producers, tasting the new releases of the Mullineux single terroir wines is always a special occasion. With an incredibly strong and loyal following in the USA, Andrea’s mother country, as well as in the UK, the Mullineux’s have seen their hard work both in the winery and out on the marketing road start to pay off in reputation as well as collectability over the past few years.
I caught up with Chris Mullineux recently in London and tasted the delicious new red single terroir releases face to face while quizzing him on vintage and vineyard conditions. I’m sure this is exactly the grilling he would have wanted after a long five week family holiday in the USA! As usual, the wines are exceptional, even benchmark for the vintage and will command a lot of attention when they hit the market fully.
Mullineux Granite Syrah 2019, WO Swartland, 13.6% Abv.
RS 2.0 g/l | TA 5.2 g/l | pH 3.8
Now sourced from a single parcel of 25-year-old dry land grown Syrah planted on decomposed granite on the Jakalsfontein farm now owned by Adi Badenhorst in the Paardeberg, the grapes picked at 24 Hl/Ha, were foot trodden in 500 litre French oak barrels to break the berries. After 4 days of macerating, the fermentation began naturally with indigenous yeasts and lasted for around 10 to 14 days. After fermentation, the wine saw a further 4 weeks of skin maceration before being pressed into barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. Pigeage was performed once a day before, during and after fermentation. In the Spring, the wine was racked after 21 months in barrel and was bottled unfiltered and unfined. The wine saw 12 months in French oak 500 litre barrels, 50% new, followed by 10 months in 2,000 litre foudre. A final 9 months of ageing in bottle was carried out before release.
True to form, the Mullineux Granite Syrah is once again exquisitely perfumed and fragrant with a wonderfully lifted aromatic complexity of violets, lilac, peach blossom and subtle hints of white pepper, crushed red cherries and a delicately dusty, herby, fynbos garrigue character. The palate is texturally pinpoint and fabulously composed and precise with incredible harmony and balance but also the true taut granitic acid frame that makes this wine so distinct from its Schist and Iron siblings. Wonderfully cool, concentrated and savoury, there are delicious notes of cured meats, pink musk, red berries, mulberries and classic Swartland chalky talcum powder tannins. While this wine may not always be the most fruity and obvious style of Syrah, its aromatics and perfume are intoxicating and the acid frame steely and forceful. Hard not to love this wine! (4,560 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2019, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.
RS 1.9g/l | TA 4.9 g/l | pH 3.72
The grapes for the 2019 Schist Syrah were sourced from 22-year-old vines planted on stony shale and schist soils on the Roundstone farm where the Mullineux winery is based next door to the Kasteelberg. As with the Granite and Iron cuvees, the grapes were foot trodden in 500 litre French oak barrels to break the berries and release the juices. After 4 days of macerating, the fermentation begun naturally with indigenous yeasts and lasted around 10 days. After fermentation, the wine saw a further 4 weeks of skin maceration before being pressed into barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. The wine saw 12 months in French oak 500 litre barrels, 50% new, followed by 10 months in 2000 litre foudre. A final 9 months of ageing in bottle was carried out before release.
The vines for the 2019 Schist Syrah were planted in 1999 on the Roundstone farm and originally used for the Mullineux estate Syrah, with the top 10 rows of the same block historically going into Eben Sadie’s famed Columella red blend. While there is irrigation available, the vineyard is now fully dry farmed. I always talk about this wine as being the consumers’ ‘darling wine’ in the single terroir range with seductive, alluring aromatics of pomegranate, blood orange, red currant, Earl Grey tea and crushed slate minerality nuances. Always supremely elegant and approachable, the 2019 shows a truly magical balance of concentrated, textural red and black fruit intensity together with sleek fresh acids and incredibly tight knit, polished, fine-grained tannins. This is an unbelievably complete wine that slowly but surely seduces you sip by sip. Tasted over two days, my impressions of this wine simply grew ever larger the longer the bottle was open. The novice fine wine drinker will love the Schist 2019 (as usual) while the discerning collector will perhaps acquire a new appreciation for this icon Swartland Syrah. (2,700 bottles produced. The only wine bottled every year since 2010.)
(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Mullineux Iron Syrah 2019, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.
RS 1.9 g/l | TA 5.2 g/l | pH 3.9
Grapes for the 2019 Iron Syrah were sourced from a single parcel of 20-year-old organically farmed dry land bush vines on the rolling iron-rich soils west of Malmesbury. This parcel of Syrah gives one of the best expressions of the “koffieklip” terroir – notably broadness and mid-palate concentration. As with the Granite and Schist cuvees, the grapes were foot trodden in 500 litre French oak barrels to break the berries and release the juices. After 4 days of macerating, the fermentation begun naturally with indigenous yeasts and lasted around 10 days. After fermentation, the wine saw a further 4 weeks of skin maceration before being pressed into barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. The wine saw 12 months in French oak 500 litre barrels, 50% new, followed by 10 months in 2,000 litre foudre. A final 9 months of ageing in bottle was carried out before release.
With always incredibly strict fruit selection, there was no 2016 Iron Syrah produced but it has been one of the most classically old world Syrah’s in the Mullineux’s single terroir range with the 2017 and 2018 ‘drought vintages’ being altogether more muscular, dense and powerful. In 2019, Chris Mullineux claims the wine returns to its roots with more elegance, polished harmony and a textured savoury Cotie Rotie northern Rhone finesse. The aromatics are packed with savoury black and blueberry fruits, crushed tomato leaf and herby hints of dried oregano and sage. On the palate, the wine is altogether more regal, light footed and elegant in a notable departure from the muscular recent vintages. The palate is deliciously classical and Rhone-like showing a broad savoury spectrum of red berry fruits, hints of Cornas style blood and iron, impressively sleek polished mineral stony tannins and a calmer, more velvety, sumptuous textured density on the finish. A wine that sometimes splits opinions stylistically, but never when it comes to agreeing on its exceptional quality. (3,300 bottles produced.)
There cannot be many more meticulous producers in the Cape than Chris and Andrea Mullineux who, over the past decade, have established one of the most authoritative fine wine brands in South Africa. With unrelenting attention to detail, painstaking precision and ruthless selection, the Mullineux’s have stuck unerringly to their grand vision to create a Swartland first growth estate producing wines that can confidently rub shoulders with the greatest fine wine names globally.
While the Mullineux’s have triumphed year after year with their superb red wines, it has undoubtedly been the high quality of their single terroir Chenin Blancs that has helped them ride the Swartland wave over the past decade. Now established as one of South Africa’s most sought-after brands, fine wine buyers the world over are realising that these are indeed wines that they not only want to have but need to have in their extensive collections.
I recently caught up with Chris Mullineux in London to taste through their impressive Single Terroir new releases.
Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.
RS 1.9 g/l | TA 6.0 g/l | pH 3.40
The grapes for the 2020 Granite Chenin Blanc were harvested from a 44-year-old parcel of dry farmed bush vines planted in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg. These very deep decomposed Granite soils from higher altitude vineyards tend to produce wines with great acidity and a flinty, stony aromatic profile with notes of blossom, sea salt and brine. The grapes for the 2020 were picked at 4 tons/Ha (24 Hl/Ha) and were whole bunch pressed before settling and then racked into barrel for fermentation with indigenous yeasts which lasts around 4 weeks. The wine was then left in barrels, on its lees, until spring, during which time malolactic fermentation was completed. The barrels were racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. Total maturation was 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels.
It just seems that granitic soils and Chenin Blanc are a match made in heaven! After several years of distinctly hot, dry growing seasons, 2020 experienced cooler evenings and more moderate temperatures together with adequate water supplies for the vines. The result is a deliciously cool, tight, nervy expression of racy Chenin Blanc boasting aromatics of green fruits, citrus blossom and yellow grapefruit peel intertwined with stony, flinty mineral notes and dusty, herby fynbos and dried hay nuances. The palate is crystalline and steely and decidedly more linear and nervy than either the Schist or Iron cuvees yet lacks nothing when it comes to intensity and concentration. Sleek and fabulously textured, this classy wine bristles with green apple, green citrus and hints of tangerine and liquid minerality on the long, focused finish. Undoubtedly a wine that you’d be well advised to bury in your cellar for 5 to 8 years before drinking. (990 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Mullineux Schist Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 13.5% Abv.
RS 1.7 g/l | TA 6.0 g/l | pH 3.43
Grown in the brown Schist soils on Roundstone Farm, the home of Mullineux wines, these sustainably farmed Chenin Blanc bush vines produce small clusters, tiny grapes, and thicker skins, which lend to the structure of this wine. The maiden 2013 Schist single terroir Chenin Blanc was sourced from the neighbouring Goldmine farm while the Mullineux’s planted their own vineyards. Planted on a contour to conserve soil integrity and ensure erosion control, this wine exudes the exact sunshine, freshness and phenolic balance that have come to define the Schist Chenin Blanc stylistically. The young vine harvests originally went into the Kloof Street Chenin Blanc before the grapes started to show real potential in 2019 when a component was bottled individually. 2020 is the first proper commercial release of the Schist since the 2013 vintage. The grapes were hand-harvested in the early morning fresh air and were oxidatively whole-bunch pressed into barrel where natural fermentation started. The wine was naturally fermented with indigenous yeasts and then left in barrel on its lees until spring, when it was racked and blended just before the following vintage and bottled unfiltered. The 2020 was matured for 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill 500L French oak barrels.
The brown schist soils of the Kasteelberg are renowned for yielding rich, creamy, fruit forward Syrahs and similarly with Chenin Blanc, these soils impart their unique character on the wine style. Full, rich and glycerol, this expression displays impressive textural breadth and depth that is accentuated by slightly softer acids and more noticeable phenolic pithiness from the grape’s thicker skins. The aromatics are packed with yellow pear, white peach, quince and candied lemon pastille fruits with more subtle mineral undertones. The palate shows wonderful purity and ripeness with rich, glycerol layers of unctuous green and yellow orchard fruits that are enlivened by a delicious sweet and sour tangy acidity, finishing with mouth watering notes of fresh fennel and naartjie. This wine performs from the minute the cork is pulled but grows in complexity and stature the longer it is open. A simply delicious, amiable style of Chenin Blanc. (2,220 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Mullineux Iron Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 12.99% Abv.
RS 1.9 g/l | TA 6.3 g/l | pH 3.40
Hailing from the red rich, gravelly-clay Koffieklip soils on the rolling hills outside of Malmesbury, this dry land bush vine vineyard is always the first to ripen. In 2018 the Mullineux’s took over the whole parcel, allowing them to allocate rows that would truly show the natural texture, alluring extract and balanced acidity that these small and concentrated Chenin Blanc grapes grown on Iron soils contribute to the variety and final wine. The grapes were harvested on the 20th January 2020 with a yield of just below 3.7 tons/Ha (20 Hl/Ha). The Iron Chenin Blanc vineyard always has a low juice-to-berry ratio due to its adaptability to the soil in conjunction with its meso-climate, which is why the Mullineux’s are incredibly careful when hand-harvesting these minuscule quantities. After oxidative pressing to barrel, indigenous yeast took the must through primary fermentation and natural malolactic fermentation was not inhibited. Sulphur was only added after natural settling occurred, and the 2020 vintage was bottled after 11 months ageing in 3rd and 4th fill 500L French oak barrels.
A portion of these Chenin Blanc grapes from circa 30-year-old vines used to be blended into the Kloof Street Chenin Blanc with their lower alcohols and higher dry extract levels that are comparable to a red wine. This maiden release 2020 shows great power, freshness and vibrancy with aromatics bursting with yellow and orange citrus fruits, orange peel, tangerine and white peach with a notable struck flint, gun smoke character. The palate is equally complex and shows richness, density and power, the result of picking riper golden bunches together with some green bunches that lend notes of green citrus and a tantalisingly tangy freshness. What the Iron cuvee lacks in delicacy, racy acids and mineral bite, it more than makes up for with its concentration, foursquare savoury palate density and classic smoky Burgundian reduction. A fabulous new addition to the single terroir range that represents uncompromising fruit selection and quality. (1,560 bottles produced.)
Writing about and reviewing Cape White Blends has got to be one of my favourite pastimes. Why you may ask? Well, it’s all about the unique ability of the Cape producers to mix and match some truly expressive varieties to produce incredible wines that despite being a fruit salad of varieties, continue to display their own unique sense of terroir and place while producing wines of incredible quality with impressive age worthy credentials. Oh, and of course they are impossible to imitate and copy. Some countries like Chile and New Zealand have tried their hand at producing similar esoteric white blends but I think it’s safe to say none have gained an international following and quality reputation equal to any of the great brands from the Cape.
John Seccombe has been producing his unique Rocking Horse Cape White Blend since the 2013 vintage and every subsequent vintage seems to get more sophisticated and refined. As well as being one of the most exciting white blends in the Cape, it also represents incredible value for money, something that is becoming less and less common in the world of fine wine these days. This is most definitely a wine you would want in your cellar.
Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2020 Cape White Blend, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.
A complex blend of 35% Semillon from Franschhoek, 28% Roussanne from both Stellenbosch and the Paardeberg, 16% Chardonnay from the Ceres Plateau, 15% Chenin Blanc from the Paardeberg and 6% Clairette Blanche from the Swartland. The aromatics display a seductive melange of white peach, green pear, freshly squeezed lime, tangerine peel and delicate hints of roasted pistachio nuts. Still embryonic in its youth, the palate reveals impressive linearity and tension, a fresh acid frame and delicious lingering notes of green apple, savoury yellow orchard fruits and bees wax complexity. There is more an educated sense of intensity and concentration on the palate rather than an overt unctuousness. But everything points to a very impressive wine with a fabulous stony minerality and a classically harmonious finish. Drink now over a couple of days or bury in the cellar for 3 to 5 years minimum.
If Chenin Blanc has become Ian Naude’s white wine calling card, then there is no doubt whatsoever that Old Vine Cinsault is his red equivalent despite the cult following for his incredible Grenache wines. Ian Naudé was recently over in London to launch a comprehensive selection of his new vintage releases including his Platter 5 Star Langpad Colombard 2021, his Platter 5 Star Oupa Willem 2019 Cape Heritage Blend, his Grenache 2019, and of course his long awaited Old Vine Cinsault 2016.
This benchmark expression of Darling / Swartland Old Vine Cinsault has now been labelled the Werfdans, an Afrikaans name for the small dust whirlwinds that spin and dance around the dusty coastal vineyards of the Swartland. If you are not familiar with Ian Naude’s Old Vine Cinsault wines, be sure not to miss this new creation that rivals the greatest expressions produced in South Africa from the likes of Eben Sadie, Duncan Savage, Donovan Rall and Mullineux Family Wines’ Leeu Passant venture.
Naude Family Wines Werfdans Old Vine Cinsault 2016, WO Darling, 12.5% Abv.
The fruit for this 100% Darling 43+ year old vine Cinsault was sourced from the late Boetie van Reenen’s farm in the Swartland. While the 2014 vintage was a slow burner that sizzled invitingly until it finally exploded with exuberance after a few years in bottle, the 2015 release was and is a long-standing icon wine that came close to redefining premium Cinsault in South Africa. In the 2016, Ian Naudé has shifted into sixth gear, coaxing some of the most seductive textures and flavours out of his old vine fruit. The aromatics are positively brimming with marzipan, Turkish delight, dried coriander seeds, violets and rose petal perfume with a subtle kiss of lychee exoticism. On the palate the quality shift is witnessed in full focus with a beguiling combination of sweet seductive red berry fruits, harmoniously textured concentration and a long, full, persistent finish that simply crashes the senses mainframe and announces something very very special indeed. This certainly is next level seductive Cinsault quality from the old vine master himself. Drink the 2016 now and over the next 10+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Available in the UK from Museum Wines, Handford Wines and Vino SA.
Rose remains one of the most popular and fastest growing wine categories globally and several things all the very best examples have in common is subtlety, balance, freshness and supreme drinkability. The Jean Roi Cap Provincial 2020 joins the growing global ranks of premium dry Roses and impresses from the word go.
The Riebeeksrivier farm is situated on the slopes of the Kasteelberg, over-looking the Swartland towards the iconic Table Mountain. Its unique terroir, especially with the brown friable shale soils, expresses itself strongly in the wine with unique varietal characteristics. The vines for this blend are all planted on south facing slopes at elevations of 350 – 400m above sea level. The Cinsaut and Grenache bushvines were planted in 1990 and 2017 respectively, and the higher density échalas trellised (vines trained on its own wooden stake) Shiraz vineyard was planted in 2011.
Grapes were hand-picked and packed into lug boxes before being transported to the cellar in refrigerated trucks. Great care was taken to minimise the amount of colour extraction from the grapes through gentle pressing, before settling and fermentation in stainless steel tanks. The wine was blended and kept on its fine lees for 9 months before being bottled.
Jean Roi Cap Provincial Rose 2020, WO Riebeeksrivier, 13.5% Abv.
5.4g/l TA | 2.6g/l RS | 3.22pH
Based on a classic Southern French Provençal blend of Cinsaut (48%), Grenache (43%) and Shiraz (9%), the aromatics are delicate and restrained showing fine nuances of savoury red berry compote, dried guava roll, rose petals, dried strawberries, complex pink rock candy and a dusty stony minerality. On the palate, the wine is crystalline and fresh but also harmonious and cool with purity and finesse. The finish is focused and long displaying mouth-watering acidity and delicate red cherry, cut apple and white peach fruits. But the true measure of a great Rose is of course drinkability and a wine’s ability to deliver hedonistic pleasure – this wine excels on both counts. Perfect for a summer of indulgence!
It has to be said that when Chris and Andrea Mullineux embarked on their new Leeu Passant adventure with silent partner Analjit Singh, there were many in the industry that thought that this duo would be better off focusing on their successful eponymous Swartland project at Roundstone instead of spreading themselves a bit thin across multiple wine regions. But when you are as driven and as wine curious as Chris and Andrea, holding back on their new winemaking endeavour was never an option. Since the first vintages released from the 2015 vintage, there has certainly been a high degree of evolution and even a bit of revolution as Chris and Andrea have shaken up the establishment in both Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.
But in 2021, the Leeu Passant project can finally be considered to have come of age with some of their most compelling releases yet. With a conscious effort to try and realign the vintage releases a little more after choosing to hold back the 2018 Leeu Passant Dry Red and the Basson Vineyard Old Vine Cinsault 2018, they have finally reached a point where the extra year in bottle for these extraordinary wines has allowed them to be appreciated and admired for what they truly are – exceptional winemaking creations.
I normally visit Chris and Andrea at least once a year in the Swartland and then finally fill in the remaining gaps on one of their many trips to London. I certainly miss the Swartland and walking the vineyards with Chris as he explains all the new ideas they’re perpetually putting into practice in the vineyards. But these are strange times and unfortunately I had to make do with a Zoom tasting to acquaint myself with their fabulous new wine releases.
Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 14% Abv.
Made from a single vineyard in the Helderberg where the climate probably has a bigger fingerprint than even the soils and terroir but at 400 meters plus, the maritime climate really shapes the wine with very consistent temperatures, that yield high acidities and often 9 TA – 9.5 TAs before settling at around 7 TA when all is said and done. Whole bunch pressed with oxidative must handling then to barrel for 18 months in oak without SO2. Barrels were 225L size of which around 30% were new with the rest 2/3/4/5th fill.
The 2019 Chardonnay is a very serious contender for one of the top Chardonnays produced in South Africa along with a very small handful of obsessive producers. This Stellenbosch 2019 is full of power and focus with all the hallmark purity that Andrea Mullineux prides herself in. The aromatics are reminiscent of granitic river pebbles immersed in lemon cordial with a dusting of honey, toffee apples, lemon grass and dried baking herbs. Always brilliantly pure, crystalline and electric, the palate shows tremendous tension and linearity supported by astonishing fruit concentration and intensity. The balance and harmony are spellbinding, revealing sip after sip, the true pedigree of this wonderful Helderberg vineyard site in the hands of a masterful winemaker. Undoubtedly comparable to the very best Chardonnay expressions produced by Leeu Passant to date, this 2019 seems to pack an extra level of lemon and lime intensity making it already an incredibly appealing fine wine. Give this vintage at least three years from release in your cellar and then drink over 10+.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Leeu Passant Wellington Old Vine Basson Cinsault 2018, WO Wellington, 13% Abv.
This treasured dry-farmed Cinsault vineyard is the oldest certified red wine vineyard in South Africa, planted in circa 1900 and farmed by the Mullineuxs since 2014. One of the original Old Vine Project “Certified Heritage Vineyards” that has been held up as a shining beacon of education and preservation, these gnarled deep rooted old Cinsault bush vines are planted on deep, weathered sandy Table Mountain sandstone alluvial soils which yield wines deceptively light in colour but also impressively structured, taut and rich. Producing as little as 600 kilograms of fruit in 2015, the plot has now been nursed back to rude health enough to yield two tons of fruit in 2019.
This vineyard always shows plenty of structure, power and focus and the 2018 vintage is considered one of the most structured yet. In its current youthful state, the aromatics are distinctively stony and mineral but also fabulously perfumed showing notes of potpourri, lavender, bramble berries, fynbos and Turkish delight. The palate is incredibly precise and foursquare with a polished structure and frame you just don’t expect from such a delicately fragrant wine. The texture is dense and tightly packed, the wine concentrated and intense but also deceptively light on its feet revealing notes of cranberry, red cherry and wild strawberries on the finish all supported by the most powdery, silky tannins imaginable. A difficult wine even for me to put accurately into words because it is so evocative on both an emotional level as well as on a sensorial level. Drink this wine from release and over the next 30+ years. (Circa 1,800 bottles produced)
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv
Chris and Andrea experimented with over 20 different vineyards around Stellenbosch before they started to focus on five specific vineyards including two in the Helderberg, two in the Polkadraai Hills and one 40-year-old parcel in Firgrove close to False Bay. Three of these five vineyards already contribute fruit that goes into their flagship Leeu Passant Dry Red Blend together with components of the Lotter Cinsault, the Wellington Basson Cinsault and a splash of Cabernet Franc. The wine sees only 30% new oak with some extended maceration that changes from site to site with the older Firgrove vineyard seeing the longest maceration. With vines grown on a mix of alluvial soils and decomposed granite soils, the grapes produce a sleek, crystalline, elegant style of Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon that many say harks back to the golden age of Bordeaux’s finest old Clarets. The wines are aged for 12 months before being moved to larger 2000 and 5000 litre upright oak vats for another year of aging before spending several months in bottle before release.
The aromatics are wonderfully lifted and perfumed showing all the intricacies of cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon fruit. There is an intriguing piquant leafy spice that melts into notes of liquid minerality, granitic dust and graphite while underneath the mineral veil is a powerful depth of fruit held on a very short rein lest it bursts out the glass. There are seductive notes of violets, sweet cedary spice, saline black currant, hints of iodine and fresh kelp brought in on the morning’s tide. On the palate there is plenty of textural precision on display for all to see, confidently boasting layer upon layer of stony minerality, sweet cherry tobacco, cassis leaf, black tea, tilled earth and creamy dense powdery tannins. Fabulously old school on so many levels, this wine will undoubtedly age well and develop into something that harks back to the great old Clarets of times gone by. Drink from 2024 until 2040+
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Leeu Passant Dry Red 2018, WO Western Cape, 14% Abv.
The impressive wine is formed of two old vine Cinsault blocks (Basson and Lotter), three Cabernet Sauvignon parcels and Cabernet Franc from the Helderberg. The 2018 is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 16% Cinsault (in 2018 mostly Basson and lesser amounts of the opulent Lotter), with the Basson Cinsault being whole bunch fermented. Some of the Cinsault is co-fermented with the 40+ year old Cabernet Sauvignon while the Cabernet Franc, planted in the early 1990s, if vinified separately. The Dry Red traditionally sees the components aged 12 months in 500 litre oak barrels separately before being blended and aged for another 12 months in large 2000-litre old oak foudre. The wine now also spends an extra year in bottle “because when it was released earlier, the Cinsault component seemed to dominate the style. Now with the extra 12 months in bottle it is a far more harmonious wine”, according to Chris Mullineux. Almost 10,000 bottles were produced in 2018 compared to circa 4,000 bottles in 2015, the maiden vintage.
My experience of tasting this wine has sometimes been somewhat of a challenge because in its early years, the individual components often seemed to intermittently compete with one another for aromatic and flavour dominance. The extra years ageing in bottle has been a game-changer. The wine is now so incredibly lifted and perfumed with a real melange of red currant, wild strawberry, pressed violets and vanilla pod spice bursting out the glass. There is such magnificent purity, precision and a real synergy that shines through the wine. The palate is incredibly dense, textured and luxuriously opulent, packed full of fleshy red cherry and cranberry pastille fruits, Turkish delight and red currant jelly. Perhaps it’s the vintage or perhaps it’s just the extra bottle age but this wine seems so much more complete with less obvious sapidity and spice and much more harmonious fleshy layers of red fruit and creamy, savoury tannins. This is an absolute triumph of a wine and a flagship vintage Dry Red that single-handedly announces the true ‘arrival’ of the entire Leeu Passant project. Drink this phenomenal wine on release and over the next 30+ years.
Three of my favourite Chenin Blancs have come from the same producer, Ian Naude. The monolithic Coche-Dury’esque 2013 is still one of the most monumental whites that has ever been produced in South Africa while the 2015 is a slightly more classical rendition of this variety. The 2016 however was another blockbuster vintage effort and has sold incredibly quickly as Ian’s stature in the world of fine wine has continued grow incrementally over the past few years as collectors have started to pay serious attention to all his wines.
The follow-on vintage is the 2020 Chenin Blanc produced from an old vine vineyard in the Swartland planted in 1971 making it the first Chenin Blanc from Ian Naude produced from a single vineyard. The grapes were 100% whole bunch pressed and fermented naturally in stainless steel tanks for roughly 14 days with some temperature control being employed to slow the fermentation and retain more of the volatile aromas. After fermentation, the wine was transferred to old oak barrels for 6 months ageing on its lees with bâtonnage employed for the first three months.
Naudé Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Swartland, 12% Abv.
1.1 g/l RS | 6.1 TA | 3.3 pH | 0.4 VA
I approached this new wine with a little trepidation as I know all too well from previous experience that Ian Naude’s wines always need a few years in bottle to settle in and really start to fan their peacock tail. Happily, this 2020 is already very impressive with wonderfully complex aromatics of crystallised pineapple chunks, bruised yellow orchard fruit, tangerine peal, white peach, wet thatch and sweet & sour notes of passion fruit liquor. The palate shows lovely vibrancy and energy all wrapped up tightly in a fine, harmonious glycerol depth of fruit concentration that seems slightly more exotic than previous vintages with seductive notes of lemon cordial, pineapples in syrup, tart white peaches and pithy green apple candy. Like all Ian’s delightful creations, this wine retains an incredible crystalline purity, tangy fresh acids, nervy textural linearity and a granitic liquid minerality that washes over the palate to counter-balance the fruit intensity. This is signature Naudé Chenin Blanc but with a wonderful hint of Swartland wild child vintage character thrown into the mix. Drink from 2022 to 2040+.
I first reviewed this wine back in December 2020. But with its release in the UK market imminent, I thought I would have another look at what must surely rank as one of the top Grenache reds produced in South Africa. Despite over 30+ producers producing in excess of 100 Grenache-based wines – mostly blended – from the 350 hectares of Grenache planted in South Africa, it still ranks as somewhat of a curiosity variety compared to industry stalwarts like Syrah or Cinsault.
But there is no doubt about the quality heights this grape is capable of in regions like the Swartland. If Grenache is a variety that gets you excited, look no further than the new Naude 2019.
Naude Family Wines Grenache 2019, WO Swartland, 12% Abv.
RS 1.2 g/L | TA 6.1 g/L | pH 3.2 g/L
While this may only be Ian Naude’s second Grenache attempt from this special Swartland vineyard, he certainly seems to have done the fruit justice creating a wonderfully expressive red. A light translucent cherry red colour, the aromatics are jam packed with crunchy red berry fruits, rose petals, musk, lavender, dried baking herbs and enticing savoury Chinese five spice nuances. The clarity and purity of fruit on the nose translates into an incredibly precise, focused invigorating palate with mouth-watering juicy fresh acids, crystalised red cherries, tart red cranberry and a long, linear finish that reveals a fine stony minerality. Lovely wound spring tension lends a serious note to the wine ensuring that this fabulous 2019 will be as equally long lived as its maiden predecessor, the 2014. However, this wine definitely has more Naude signature elegance, freshness, linearity and precision than the 2014 had at the same youthful stage. The five-year wait has certainly been worthwhile! This is a triumph of skilful winemaking utilising outstanding fruit. Bravo Ian! Drink now and over the next 10 to 15+ years.