Every year since 2008 the Mullineuxs have made a vintage Straw Wine. The two vineyards they chose to make this very sweet but incredibly special Straw Wine are naturally very high in acid, flavour and structure. This way, when they pick the grapes at normal ripeness and then dry them outside during the desiccation process, they are not just concentrating sugar and flavour but also increasing the intense, zesty acidity that is so critically important when making a balanced Straw Wine.
After drying the grapes for several weeks, the grapes are crushed and pressed into barrel where a long, slow natural fermentation takes place. Along with the concentration of acids in the wine, there is a concentration of specifically the malic acid. This high level of malic acid prevents the onset of Malolactic fermentation, which of course seems counter intuitive. The wine always stops its slow fermentation naturally after 8-10 months, so no additional intervention takes place and (here’s where the difference is), while the vintage Straw Wine is bottled, a few barrels are selected that go into a special Solera system of barrel aging that was started with their first Mullineux vintage back in 2008. They decided to bottle the first iteration of OLERASAY (1º) that was a fractional blend of 2008 to 2014, when it was different enough from the regular vintage straw wine. The 2º bottling then took place five years later when the 2008-2019 OLERASAY was considered different enough from the first release.
Now they are releasing the OLERASAY 3º which has not only completed the original drying process off the vine but has continued to concentrate and stabilise in barrel over all of those years, concentrating again in sugar, flavour and natural acidity but also in extract, layers of mouthfeel and additional complexity. As Andrea confidently says… “this wine is bulletproof.” The maiden release was a real revelation and took the market by storm. In a world where apparently fine wine drinkers don’t buy sweet wine anymore, the wine received a rapturous welcome from consumers and collectors alike. The 5,000+ plus bottle production did not last very long in the market making the five year long wait until the second release a very thirsty and gruelling period of time for sweet wine lovers. The second release was rated 99/100 by A FINE WINE SAFARI and an astonishing 100/100 by Neal Martin at VINOUS Media. All eyes are now on the third, smaller bottling, and if initial mutterings from critics are anything to go by, this wine should continue the incredible success the OLERASAY brand has enjoyed since its inception.
Mullineux OLERASAY 3º, WO Swartland, 8.42% Abv.
375 g/l RS | 11.2 g/l TA | 3.3 pH
Picked with yields around 4 tons per hectare with a balling of 22 at harvest, the concentration and intensity of this wine is clear to see from the word go. The aromatics on opening initially were slightly more boldly fruity with youthful nuances of peaches and dried apricot, marmalade, passion fruit and honey. But with a little time and exposure to air, the nose becomes a lot more perfumed and intricate as it starts to unfurl to show more of its solera complexity. The aromatics display notes of dried rose petals, peach tea, chamomile and honey and an underlying note of dried straw, freshly baked apple strudel pastries and crème brulee. On the palate the texture is dreamy and plush, superbly balanced with a silky soft glycerol texture that glides off the tongue like a drop of oil on a block of ice. The intensity is focused and fabulously potent with incredible depth and breadth without ever becoming too unctuous, overwhelming, or too sweet thanks to a deliciously intense, invigorating tangy acidity. The finish is splendidly long and persistent leaving an attractive aftertaste of caramelized almonds, marzipan and dried guava roll. Simply pitch perfect. What else can one say other than this truly is an extraordinary and unique vinous creation. Drink now and over the next 40+ years. (1,800 x 375cl bottles released.)
The Mullineuxs have put an immense amount of blood, sweat and tears into creating their Mullineux Old Vine White Blend and their Mullineux Syrah. With the latest releases in 2022, we see both wines rising to unseen level of quality and the 2021 Old Vine White is definitely their most distinguished creation to date. But these wines only tell half the story. Much of the rise in quality of these larger production “estate” wines from a blend of vineyard sites can be attributed to the knowledge and expertise acquired over the past decade of producing the more niche Mullineux Single Terroir wines.
With the 2020 red Syrah releases, the Mullineuxs have been granted permission from all farmers and vineyard owners involved to use the actual farm names on all the labels for the first time across the range. Previously, only the Mullineux Schist wines carried the Roundstone designation on the front labels. With all the experience and expertise has also come an extra confidence for the Mullineuxs to trumpet the site-specific origin of these wines, all of which now show noticeably specific vineyard traits and similarities from their terroirs year after year. I caught up with the Swartland power couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux recently and tasted through their new range of wines together.
The Single Terroir Reds:
Granite Syrah Jakkalsfontein (100% of a set block from the Jakkalsfontein farm recently bought by Eben Sadie and Adi Badenhorst)
Schist Syrah Roundstone (the Mullineuxs own farm vineyard)
Iron Syrah Kasteelsig (Using same 18 rows that have been contracted since 2008)
The 2020 vintage had more warm spells with a roughly one week later picking start date than usual with more warmth than 2021, but which still saw very even ripening across all vineyards with absolutely no pressure to pick according to Andrea Mullineux.
Mullineux Granite Jakkalsfontein Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 13.86% Abv.
1.8 g/l RS | 5.5 g/l TA | 3.67 pH
The deep GRANITE soils on this Jakkalsfontein farm allow for deep root growth and a larger natural canopy. This is incredible for allowing the grapes to retain acidity and purity which ultimately leads to tight, yet fresh tannins and a more lifted perfume. Like all 3 Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks the wine was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled. This allows the tannins to develop, which are very long when Syrah is grown on Granite, one of the prime distinguishing characteristics of the soil type, and then lets the natural fresh and fragrant perfumes develop, and amazing blossoming of soil type-derived personality.
Same block has been bought for over 10 years from 21+ year old vines growing on deep sandy decomposed granite soils with a hint of clay. The aromatics reveal a lovely spicy, floral array with an expressive lavender lift intertwined with sweet black peppercorns, red currants, black cherries and a dusty dry straw and fynbos herbal complexity. On the palate, the incredibly powerful but very fine-grained, drying mineral tannins lend a real classicism to the wine’s mouthfeel and finish. The red and black berry fruits are subtle and restrained showing real precision, purity and focused finesse. While it is probably more of an illusion created by the tannins and the fresh acids, the lasting impression of the wine is its incredible minerality and old world restraint. The sour cherry picante finish just puts the final finishing touches to a very classical and classy expression of Syrah. This is one for collectors and connoisseurs, drinkers who want to age their wines and then sip them slowly in lengthy contemplation. World class Syrah in every sense of the word. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.
(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Mullineux Schist Roundstone Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 13.34% Abv.
1.8 g/l RS | 5.1 g/l TA | 3.81 pH
These very special and characterful grapes grown on the brown schisty Kasteelberg showcase the Mullineux’s own estate, Roundstone, and its ability to define Syrah grown on SCHIST Soils. These rocky soils limit vine size and so the clusters and individual grapes, in turn remain smaller with a higher skin to juice ratio, offering denser, more brooding tannins. Like all three Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for completely gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks it was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled.
While a higher skin to juice ratio offers a denser, broodier tannic complexity, this wine is always very suave and plush, generous and alluring with complex layers of delicious black berry fruits. The aromatics show hints of lavender and violets, blueberry and black cherries, sweet grilled herbs and fynbos spice and a subtle black olive tapenade nuance. On the palate there is plenty of fleshy weight and texture with a balancing acid freshness and natural fruit concentration boasting vermouth spices, salty nori seaweed, blood oranges and an opulent, rich, meaty finish. A lot of premium wines have sex appeal and allure, it’s just that the Schist Syrah really knows how to flaunt it. A wine that is appealing to drink on release but will age gracefully for 15 to 20+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Mullineux Iron Kasteelsig Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 12.66% Abv.
2.0 g/l RS | 5.2 g/l TA | 3.77 pH
Grown on the IRON soils on the rolling red hills that surround Malmesbury, this organic vineyard grows on the clay and gravel rich Koffieklip that is very good at holding water and very generous during primary growth in the sprint, but then around verasion, the clay in the soil stops releasing moisture and the vine compensates during this quick ripening phase by making the smallest grapes out of all the three single terroirs, but because of the canopy, the skins are not too thick. This gives us wines that are rich and round, with gravely but plush tannins, and yet for some reason, always the lowest alcohol conversions for similar sugars across the Single Terroir range (they are all picked at the same ripeness). Like all 3 Single Terroir Syrahs, this wine is 100% foot-crushed, whole cluster, barrel fermented. Only natural yeasts take the wine through its fermentations and only hand plunging / gentle punch downs are performed for completely gentle extraction, just to keep the cap wet. After 4 weeks it was pressed back to the same barrels (the barrel sits on its bottom head for fermentation with the top head out, then it is replaced for maturation. The wine spends 11 months in 500L barrels and 1 year in 2000L foudres before it is bottled.
The Mullineuxs have been working with this specific vineyard for 18 vintages making it one of their most well know sites (this includes several years prior for Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards). On the nose there are pronounced notes of scorched earth, tapenade, broody black berry and black cherry fruits together with some red fruit brightness. The slightly reductive palate boasts a great depth of fruit with rich round tannins leading the way structurally. A wine that always has the highest natural extract but like this 2020 release, shows itself with the most generosity, harmony and balance. In common with both the Granite and the Schist Syrah expressions, this wine definitely has its own very unique personality derived from its terroir and typified by its very Northern Rhone physique, its savoury cured meat and irony complexity, the bright fresh acids and the suave powdery tannins. Tasted over three days, this is the wine that unfurled and fanned its peacock tail the most. Another very age worthy expression that is a true testament to the Mullineux’s winemaking prowess. Drink from 2024 to 2040+.
(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Wines available to the wine trade in the UK from the Mullineux Wines importer Liberty Wines and in the USA from Skurnik Wines. RRP in the UK circa £49pb for whites and £78pb for the reds. In South Africa, R1,175pb for the reds and R630pb for the whites cellar door.
The Mullineuxs have put an immense amount of blood, sweat and tears into creating their Mullineux Old Vine White Blend and their Mullineux Syrah. With the latest releases in 2022, we see both wines rising to unseen levels of quality and the 2021 Old Vine White is definitely their most distinguished creation to date. A wine not to be missed. But these wines only tell half the story. Much of the rise in quality of these larger production wines from a blend of vineyard sites can be attributed to the knowledge and expertise acquired over the past decade of producing the more niche Mullineux Single Terroir wines.
With the 2021 whites and 2020 red releases, the Mullineuxs have been granted permission from all farmers and vineyard owners involved to use the actual farm names on all the labels for the first time across the range. Previously, only the Mullineux Schist wines carried the Roundstone designation on the front labels. With all the experience and expertise has also come an extra confidence for the Mullineuxs to trumpet the site-specific origin of these wines, all of which now show noticeably specific vineyard traits and similarities from their terroirs year after year. I caught up with the power couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux recently and tasted through their new range of wines with them.
The Single Terroir Whites:
Wines were tasted from Zalto Bordeaux glasses and reviewed over the course of three days.
Mullineux Granite Eikelaan Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 13.98% Abv.
1.9 g/l RS | 6.5 g/l TA | 3.27 pH
These grapes grown on the Paardeberg showcase everything the Mullineuxs are looking for in wines that hail from Granite Soils. The roots grow deep, so the canopy remains very full, protecting it from sun and temperature fluctuations. The grapes then retain more freshness and perfume. At the winery, the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its life. All of the juice is racked to barrel (0% new because they want all of the elements of this wine’s terroir to show through so consumers are tasting the soil and not the barrel, but older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred (the texture is coming from the South African Sun and Old Vines) until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months. Andrea leave’s the barrels full as long as possible because a full barrel is a happy barrel. The wine is bottled unfiltered to further showcase the Swartland Granite terroir.
The 2021 vintage in the Swartland was late because it was such a slow, cool and balanced vintage which shows in the wines, especially with the Granite Chenin Blanc due to longer hang times adding extra texture and mouthfeel to compliment the Granite’s racy acidity and linear tension. Across the range, the ripening of the Iron vineyard came first, followed by the Schist vineyard, ending with the Granite vineyard, picked over a 10-day period of time differentiation with no heatwaves. With the two weeks of extra hangtime, the wine displays more alluring yellow orchard fruit notes together with aromatic layers of tangerine, greengage plums and yellow citrus nuances. While there may be ample exotic fruit notes on the nose, all the intense granitic liquid minerality that is so typical for this wine are clear to be seen on the palate, supported by a zippy but tangy fresh acidity, an impressively sleek, sumptuous palate texture and the most delicious mouth-watering intensity on the finish. A super fine expression of how a taut, linear Chenin Blanc can also be so incredibly multi-dimensional in a top vintage. Simply a majestic drop of wine to drink now and over the next 20+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Mullineux Schist Roundstone Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 13.95% Abv.
1.7 g/l RS | 5.8 g/l TA | 3.40 pH
These very special and characterful grapes grown on Kasteelberg showcase the essence of the Mullineux estate, Roundstone, and its ability to define Chenin Blanc grown on Schist soils. These rocky soils limit vine size and so the clusters and individual grapes, in turn remain smaller with a higher skin to juice ratio, offering positive white-wine tannins and texture. At the winery the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its life. All of the juice is racked to barrel (0% new because Andrea wants all of the elements of this wine’s terroir to show through so drinkers are tasting the soil and not the barrel, but older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months.
Coming from fruit from a young vineyard of seven years old which was picked almost two to three weeks later than normal. The shallower, rockier soils of the Roundstone vineyard traditionally yield more stone fruit aromatic nuances with the 2021 expression also boasting multiple layers of white and green citrus, pear puree, golden delicious apples and complex white peach notes intertwined with savoury dried herbs and subtle struck flint reductive hints. On the palate the wine is full and expansive but wonderfully precise and seamless, gliding over the palate with hints of honey of white toast, quince, white peach puree and an incredible concentration before melting away slowly to leave a dry, picante, phenolic tinged impression on the finish. A wine with striking depth, concentration and generosity. Drink now and over the next 15+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Mullineux Iron Rondomskrik Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, 12.65% Abv.
1.5 g/l RS | 5.7 g/l TA | 3.49 pH
Grown on the Iron soils on the rolling red hills that surround Malmesbury, these vineyards grow on the clay and gravel rich Koffieklip that is very good at holding water and very generous during primary growth in the sprint, but then around verasion, the clay in the soil stops releasing moisture and the vine compensates during this quick ripening phase by making the smallest of grapes, but because of the canopy, the skins are not too thick. This gives us wines that are rich and round, yet for some reason, always the lowest alcohol conversions for similar sugars across the Single Terroir Range (they are all picked at the same ripeness). At the winery the grapes are whole bunch pressed and the juice is handled oxidatively to protect it later in its evolution. All of the juice is then racked into used oak barrels (older wood is still desired because of the positive micro-oxygenation effect it naturally has on the wine) where it undergoes natural primary and secondary fermentation and lives on the lees, un-stirred until racking out of barrel to prepare for bottling after 11 months.
Only the second white single terroir expression produced from this white vineyard, the aromatics boast and incredibly reductive character with notes of struck flint, wet river stones and wet hay. Always a wine that tends toward reduction making it a real characteristic of the vineyard, even with oxidative handling. The palate is smoky and chalky, thoroughly mineral driven at the moment but with big mid-palate weight and concentration from a high dry extract. There is plenty of inherent detail and precision, an incredibly fine line of acidity supporting distinct notes of quince, chamomile, green herbs, savoury bruised yellow orchard fruits and a dried mint leaf nuance on the long intense finish. This is a wine that will need some extra time in bottle to show at its best but should be a stunner when it approaches its peak maturity. Drink from 2024 to 2035+.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Wines available to the wine trade in the UK from their importer Liberty Wines and in the USA from Skurnik Wines. RRP in the UK circa £49pb for whites and £78pb for the reds. In South Africa, R1175pb for the reds and R630pb for the whites cellar door.
New wines from top South African producers like Naude Family Wines are a bit like London buses, nothing for ages and then all of a sudden two or three new wines introduced onto the market. The Langpad Old Vine Colombard, the Groendruif La Colline Old Vine Semillon and the Oupa Willem Old Vine Cape Heritage Red Blend have all been released to great acclaim, further cementing Ian Naude’s status as one of the most admired producers in South Africa.
Deeply involved with the Old Vine Project from the very beginning, the Oupa Willem red blend is perhaps the most nostalgic of his new releases paying tribute to the historic old Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon blends of the 1950s and 1960s that came to define the South African wine industry for many decades.
I remember tasting the maiden 2018 vintage many months before commercial release and thinking that Ian Naude had created something very special indeed. The combination of the ethereal elegance and perfume of the Cinsault seamlessly married with the power and authority of Cabernet Sauvignon made for an incredible wine and my high ratings mirrored this excitement in every way. It was only a matter of time before the word “got out” and sure enough the 2018 was subsequently awarded a massive 5 Stars in the John Platter South African Wine Guide. Few pure Cinsaults or Cinsault blends ever achieve this regal accolade making the award even more significant.
With the Oupa Willem 2020 already in bottle, my review for the follow up 2019 vintage was long overdue.
Naude Family Wines Oupa Willem Cape Heritage Blend 2019, WO Western Cape, 11.5% Abv.
1.2 g/l RS | 5.65 g/l TA | 3.5 pH
This premium red blend draws on the unique South African expressions of 77% Darling old bush vine Cinsault planted in 1978 blended with prime Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon and fermented naturally using 40% whole bunches. Reduced yields in 2019 reminded everyone of the hangover the vines were still experiencing after four years of severe drought despite most regions receiving good rainfall during the season. Grape quantities may have been compromised but the quality was exceptional, and this 2019 red blend shows fabulously lifted notes of pink musk, red cherry, rose petals, violets and Turkish delight with some darker black berry fruit hints together with subtle nuances of raspberry herbal tea, graphite and cherry tobacco. The palate displays a wonderfully linear acid driven structure with a real mouth-watering verve and vigour, a magically textural plushness and weightless elegance. Trying to comprehend the intensity, fruit concentration and glycerol mouthfeel all delivered at an astonishing 11.5% abv. is simply mind blowing. This is another incredible vinous creation that will take its place in the history books of South African winemaking. Sure to be very long lived, the irony is that this wine is also unbelievably drinkable right now and many will find it impossibly hard to resist pulling the cork. Drink now to 2045+.
The Axle Chenin Blanc is made by Alex Milner of Natte Valleij winery from grapes sourced from a dryland old bush vine certified Darling heritage block planted in 1985 on decomposed granite soils. Made in a very minimalist, low intervention manner without losing any of its fine wine integrity, this wine is a classy textural style of Chenin Blanc undoubtedly best enjoying with food.
The grapes were basket pressed and allowed to settle for 24 hours, then racked into old 225 litre oak barrels with careful addition of fine lees sediment to each barrel. After natural fermentation the wine received regular batonnage until late May. Aged in barrel over winter, the wine was bottled in the Spring after 9 months.
Natte Valleij Axle Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Darling, 12.5% Abv.
2.8 g/l RS | 5.5 g/l TA | 3.75 pH
This delicious expression comes across as quite a rustic, natural leaning artisanal Chenin Blanc with aromatics of pear, pineapple pastille, sea breeze, sweet yellow orchard fruits, dried herbs and stony granitic minerality. The palate shows tension and frame with pithy phenolic grip, tangy layers of quince, root ginger, white pear, yellow apple and a subtle sweet – sour acidity that lends the wine such a delicious vibrant energy and intensity. Wonderfully characterful old vine Chenin Blanc from certified heritage vineyards. Drink now and over the next 3 to 5 years.
While some of Boekenhoutskloof’s headlines might have been stolen by its successful Swartland Porseleinberg Syrah project in recent years, its new releases remain a highlight on the wine calendar especially in the South African home market. With much of the fruit for the range now coming from several top properties in the Swartland as well as Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, quality can always be assured to hit an impressively high nouveau.
The 2019 vintage involved one of the earliest pickings to date with their Swartland Syrah vineyards exposed to extremely dry conditions during flowering resulting in earlier than normal bud break. The dry 2019 conditions also resulted in smaller berry clusters and reduced overall yields without compromising quality.
Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2019, WO Franschhoek, 13.2% Abv.
Pristinely pure nose displays all the complexity and exoticism that collectors have grown to know and love on this benchmark white. There are beautiful layers of wax and incense, subtle notes of muscat and multi-dimensional layers of lanolin, white peach and buttered white toast. The palate offers excellent balance and a vibrantly fresh, taut texture with yellow pithy citrus, lemon oil, almond skins and orange peel on the long, bright, concentrated finish. A very classy rendition of this classical grape. Drink now and over the next 15 to 20+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Boekenhoutskloof Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 14.86% Abv.
Always a wine with depth and power but this 2019 also displays wonderful precision with pure perfumed aromatics of violets and sappy cassis leaf, sweet tobacco and hints of blackberry, fynbos and cedar spice. Deliciously cool and fresh, this wine shows a lovely acid frame on which there are opulent fruit layers of black currant, black cherry and black chocolate generously draped. An extremely elegant, classy fine wine. Drink from 2024 to 2040+
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Boekenhoutskloof Franschhoek Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Franschhoek, 14.86% Abv.
Distinctly different to the Stellenbosch cuvee, the aromatics are fleshy and plush, overtly generous on the nose with purple flowers, mulberry, black currant and subtle hints of milk chocolate, salted toffee and creme brûlée. The palate is elegant and polished with fine gravelly tannins, soft black berry compote and a long, chalky finish with espresso and graphite nuances. Deliciously regal as always. Drink now to 2035+.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2019, WO Swartland, 13.95% Abv.
The aromatics are initially shy, slowly releasing notes of brûléed coffee beans, grilled herbs, cured meats and underlying hints of garrigue and sweet red and black berries. The palate is cool and broody with notes of liquorice and tar, barbecued meats and sun raisined cherries and a touch of smoky bacon fat and coffee beans on the finish. A slightly more restrained expression than other previous drought vintages. Drink now and over 10 to 15+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Boekenhoutskloof Noble Late Harvest 2018, WO Franschhoek, 10.85% Abv.
Made from grapes grown along the Franschhoek river on alluvial soils, this 100% Semillon achieves excellent levels of botrytis every year from its own unique meso-climate. Using several traditional tries or passes through the vineyard to pick the fruit, the results are impressive revealing a nose of lime and grapefruit marmalade, honeycomb, buttered warm brioche and cool creamy pineapple pastille with creme brûlée notes on the finish. Certainly shows a punchy sweetness that is more than adequately tempered by fresh tangy acids and harmonious vanilla pod oak spice. Drink now and over 10+ years.
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.)