The Fine Wine Safari Top 10 South African Red Wines of the Year 2018…

What a fascinating and historical year 2018 was for red wines in South Africa. With the exception of only a few wineries, most premium producers released their incredible 2015 wines made from what is generally being regarded as probably the best quality vintage in South Africa’s modern post-apartheid era of winemaking.

Having already released the Fine Wine Safari Top 10 Whites of the Year, I have been overwhelmed with the comments of agreement and support for my selections. But then again, many will argue that the list included a multitude of excellent 2017 vintage wines and that the “white category” still remains South Africa’s strongest talent. While all of this may be true, 2018 saw the release of multiple red wines that pushed quality boundaries like never before. We’ll hand some of that to the vintage conditions of 2015 and 2017 but I’d also like to credit the growing confidence, expertise, knowhow and ambition of winemakers across the South African landscape.

If you are a seasoned veteran of premium South African wines, you will nod knowingly and expectantly at many of my red selections. If you are new to the South African category, perhaps living in the USA, Europe or Asia, make an effort to track these wines down now as many might still be available and all are definitely worth buying, even at their sometimes lofty price points! In my mind, they all represent relative value for money for what they are. Enjoy!

Kanonkop Paul Sauer Red Blend 2015, Stellenbosch – 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Meerlust Rubicon Red Blend 2015, Stellenbosch – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Vilafonte Series C 2016 Red Blend, Paarl – 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Boekenhoutskloof Journeyman Red Blend 2015, WO Western Cape – 97+/100 GregSherwood MW

Donovan Rall Ava Syrah 2017, Swartland – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Tokara Telos Red Blend 2015, Stellenbosch – 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

MR de Compostella Red Blend 2016, Stellenbosch – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Iron Syrah 2016, Swartland – 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Stellenbosch – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Duncan Savage Red Blend 2015, WO Western Cape – 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone who helped make 2018 such a memorable year! 🍷🎄 🦄

Don’t miss my “Year in Photographs” coming up before New Years Eve 2018.

A Wine That Announces Jean-Luc Jamet’s Resurgence Among the Great Producers of the Northern Rhone – Tasting His Epic 2015 Côte-Rôtie Les Terrasses…

I have been following the resurgence of Jean-Luc Jamet with great interest over the past 2 or 3 vintages. Afterall, the Côte-Rôties of the greater Jamet family have long been regarded as the benchmark wines of the region within the Northern Rhone. In 2013, brothers Jean-Luc and Jean-Paul announced that they would be splitting up the family’s domaine. For many years, Jean-Paul was the face of the domaine and Jean-Luc was the steady hand in the vineyards. 

Thankfully, Jean-Luc has now stepped out of the proverbial shadows and returned to the fine wine arena with a resounding bang, using his prestigious holdings of some of the greatest sites of La Landonne, Chavaroche and Lancement to create his impressive new Côte-Rôtie called Les Terrasses. This is surely the type of Grand Vin that is going to propel Jean-Luc’s wines to become some of the most sought after Syrahs in the whole of the Northern Rhone and unfortunately with prices to match.

Made from 100% Syrah from 5 hectares notably 0.7 ha on Lancement (1980-1995), 0.6 ha Bonnivières, Chavaroche (0.5 ha early 1980s & 0.3 ha early 2010s), 0.7 ha on Mornachon (1985), also Côte Baudin, La Landonne, Moutonnes (0.11 ha 1945, 0.4 ha early 1980s), Les Rochains, Fongeant, 65% destemmed, with a 21 day vinification using wild yeasts, employing twice daily pump overs and 1 cap punching. Wines were aged in 20-30% new, 70-80% 1-6 year 60% 300-litre, 20% 228-litre, 20% 500-litre oak casks for 10 months, before being fined and bottled unfiltered to produce 26,650 bottles.

Jean-Luc Jamet Côte-Rôtie 2015 Les Terrasses, 12.5 Abv.

The 2015 vintage across the Rhone delivered some of the most intense and profound wines seen in many years. What separates this great vintage from the merely good ones is the way Jean-Luc has crafted a classically styled Côte-Rôtie Syrah that is both bold and powerful yet sleek and incredibly intense and seamlessly elegant at the same time. From the first drawing of the cork, aromatic waves of sumptuous dark berry fruits, exotic Asian spices, violets, crushed black pepper corns, dried herbs, garrigue and savoury new season game meat notes rise imperiously out of the glass. The palate at this youthful juncture remains taut and linear, utterly focused but texturally supremely polished and elegant with serious precision and depth in abundance. The concentration and clarity of fresh saline cassis, tart blue berries and broody black bramble berry fruits is something to behold reaffirming that this will be a vintage to cellar and enjoy over 20+ years. This is a wine that feels self-assured, confident and aware of its own talents within the serious pecking order of the Côte-Rôtie appellation. 

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

Jean-Luc & Evelyne Jamet, 4624 Route du Recru Le Vallin 69420 Ampuis, France

Tel: +33(0)474 56 13 82

jamet.jeanluc@yahoo.fr

Exploring the Iconic Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie La Landonne 1991 Over Dinner at The Noble Rot Restaurant and Wine Bar…

Cote Rote remains one of the hottest collectable and age worthy wines in the Northern Rhone along with select Hermitage and Cornas and no one crafts more precise fine wines in Cote Rotie than Rene Rostaing. Rene owns some of the most prestigious parcels of Cote Rotie namely in the Cote Blonde and in La Landonne. But it was his exceptionally good fortune to inherit 4 prime hectares from his father-in-law Albert Dervieux and then subsequently another 1.4 hectares of old vine Cote Rotie from is uncle Marius Gentaz bringing his total holdings up to 7.4 hectares that has made for a thoroughly captivating vignerons tale.

Of all the wines Rene Rostaing has produced in the past few decades, there are few more famous and sought after than his 1991 La Landonne Cote Rotie. This wine holds legendary status and is regarded with the highest esteem by Northern Rhone collectors. I recently got to drink a well cellared bottle at the Noble Rot Wine Bar with winemaker Romaric Chavy of Domaine Chavey-Choue in Burgundy and writer / restauranteur Dan Keeling. A rare treat indeed!

“In 1991 he produced four cuvees. Perhaps the best of these 1991s is the 1991 Cote Rotie La Landonne. As you might anticipate, there is considerable rivalry between Rene Rostaing and his neighbour, Guigal. Rostaing is quick to assert that his La Landonne vines are considerably older than those of Guigal” … wrote Robert Parker Jr. in December 1992.

Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie La Landonne 1991

Brilliantly bright ruby red, a superb bottle drunk at Noble Rot wine bar, liberated from a private client’s cellar after being bought on release. Tantalisingly complex and exotic, there are wonderful aromatic layers of black berry, black cherry, pepper corns, savoury cured meats and smokey graphite. So seamless, integrated, it’s hard to deconstruct the wine. Just a really profound melange of savoury, spicy, black fruited perfection. Beautifully dense, full bodied, suave and concentrated, the flavours and fruits are so vital and mineral laced yet also so amazingly youthful with tannins that are sweet, powdery but nicely resolved from bottle age. A really sensational, profound bottle of Northern Rhone. They don’t come much better than this. Drink now and over the next 10+ years.

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

Jean-Luc Jamet Re-Establishing His Own Brand of Greatness in the Northern Rhône Valley…

Many Cotes du Rhône reds are produced from the blended cast off components of bigger appellation cuvees. For Jean Luc Jamet, now working exclusively under his own name since 2013, his L’Enclave 2016 is produced from 1 hectare of pure young Cote Rotie Syrah vines grown on clay and schist soils in the Le Champon and Bonnivières terroirs and delivers an impressive level of quality as you’d expect.

Jean-Luc Jamet Cotes du Rhône L’Enclave 2016, 13 Abv.

The aromatics of this sexy red are exotic and seductive, loaded with sweet caramelised black cherries, a kirsch liquor lift, sun dried cranberries, loganberries and subtle complexing notes of blood and graphite. The wonderful fragrant aromatics are complemented by vibrant, tart sour plum notes, hints of savoury cured meats, iron fillings and a smokey, crushed rock mineral finish. There is a suggestion of sappy resinous spice on the sleek finish which admittedly lacks the extra power and depth associated with some older vine cuvees. But this wine does show admirable terroir pedigree, intelligent winemaking and delicious varietal typicity from this more elegant, soft spoken vintage of 2016. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8+ years.

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

Tasting a Range of Rhône Specialist Delas Frères’ Wines in London…

In 1835, Charles Audibert and Philippe Delas purchased the Maison Junique wine merchant in Tournon-sur-Rhône, which they renamed “Audibert et Delas”. In 1924, Henri and Florentin Delas took over the company which they renamed “Delas Frères”. They continued to develop the trading business and the family estate by purchasing a vineyard in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and expanding the Hermitage vineyards in order to ensure consistent quality for their production.

In 2015, to celebrate Delas Frères’ 180th anniversary, the Deutz-Delas Group purchased a new property in the middle of Tain-l’Hermitage. Its showcase technical facilities will be used to vinify the highest quality appellations produced by Delas Frères.

I recently caught up with Export Manager Etienne Defosse to taste through a small selection of their classic Delas cuvees.

Delas Viognier Vin de Pays 2016, 13 Abv.

Vibrant cool and fresh, fine mineral balance, pithy white citrus and lovely elegance. Plenty of interest here.

(Wine Safari 87+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Delas Cotes du Rhône Saint Esprit Blanc 2016, 14 Abv.

Grenache Blanc and Viognier blend, sweet blossom, peach and marmalade opulence. Hints of Turkish delight and pineapple pastille depth. Really delicious offering.

(Wine Safari 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Delas Syrah Vin de Pays 2016, 12 Abv.

Sweet intense nose with piercing red plum, peppercorn spice, savoury meats and a supple, fleshy, overt finish with a kiss of wood smoke.

(Wine Safari 88/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Delas Cotes du Rhône Saint Esprit Rouge 2016, 14 Abv.

Northern producer view with Syrah base with a touch of Grenache. Nose packed with black cherry, gun smoke, liquorice and graphite nuances. Wonderful sweet black cherry pastille, supple elegant soft tannins and a long , polished pure savoury bramble berry mineral finish.

(Wine Safari 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Delas Domaine des Genets Vacqueyras 2015, 14 Abv.

Rich dark and broody, packs plenty of plummy, savoury, black peppery depth. Five spice, black cherry pithe and supple, dark brambly finish. Punchy but not rustic, plenty of focus and freshness with intensity.

(Wine Safari 90/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Delas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Haut Pierre 2015, 15 Abv.

Sweet tannery leather, grilled herbs and spices. Touch of dusty garrigue. Full, plush and elegant, wonderfully fleshy, never heavy, impressively polished tannins and a long, sweet brambly finish.

(Wine Safari 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Delas Crozes Hermitages Les Launes 2016, 13 Abv.

Deep, dark, peppery dusty crushed gravel and wood spice nose with hints of barbecue smoke. Broody, savoury black berry and garrigue spice with subtle cured meats and German deli savoury complexity on the finish. Classy.

(Wine Safari 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Delas Domaines des Grands Chemins Crozes-Hermitage 2015, 14 Abv.

Intense, pithy, piquant nose with dark exotic peppercorn spice, black cherry, grey slate and barbecued meats. Dusty, very mineral with a saline edge, this has depth, length and graphite complexity with focused power.

(Wine Safari 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Delas Saint Joseph Les Challeys 2016, 13 Abv.

Beautiful melange of soft black pastille fruits, perfume, violets and cherry blossom. But delicious red berry fruit opulence is never far away. Wonderful notes of cassis, and graphite follow to a deliciously pure palate with supple tannins, mineral spice and a fresh, vibrant elegance. Iron fist in the proverbial velvet glove. Wonderful Syrah class.

(Wine Safari 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Delas Domaine des Tourettes Hermitage 2015, 14 Abv.

Broody dark nose with massive complex array of perfumed aromatics. Layers of sweet cassis, salty liquorice, violets, black olive, and black cherry with wonderfully fresh, piercing concentration. A very noble wine, profound depth, delicious Syrah power and impressive intensity.

(Wine Safari 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Sensational Run of Boutique Wines from Carsten Migliarina – Tasting His Impressive New Releases…

I recently caught up with winemaker Carsten Migliarina to taste through his new releases. Always working on a variety of different wines that usually includes a Grenache and a Syrah, Carsten also normally has at least one new one-off boutique experimental bottling on the go at any time. One year it may be a dry Riesling, this year it’s a fabulous Pinot Gris. Most impressively, the quality across the board is of such a high standard that when Carsten talks about tweaking a wine to improve it, it means no more than freshening up the label!

But sommelier turned winemaker Carsten also manages to consistently capture and bottle such impressive varietal purity and typicity that I can only put this down to his hidden Germanic subconscious that unrelentingly demands absolute precision without loosing any excitement, character or drinkability. Cartsten’s newest releases once again follow this characterisation and are definitely worth tracking down on release as almost 70% of his wines are exported globally.

Pinot Gris 2017 Grey Matters, WO Stellenbosch, 13.9 Abv.

50% Barrel fermented – wild, 50% Tank – wild and inoculated. Just 2,500 bottles. Cool, vibrant, super fresh style. Loaded with crystalline white peach, green apple and cream soda but with extra complex spicy pithy aromatics from 30 mins skin contact in the rolling press. There is very little tooty fruity frivolity but more mineral lemon and lime intensity and incredibly fine purity. Great balance and impressive intensity, this is a fabulous expression of this rare variety in SA!

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

Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13.1 Abv.

Just 2,500 bottles produced. Roughly 35 year old vines from a single vineyard, 100% barrel fermented with older shaven oak. Wild yeast ferment. An intense nose with lemon biscuit, vanilla pod spice and dusty yellow apples, aniseed and pineapple confit. Beautifully textured, massive concentration of apple pastille, pink musk, white peach, dusty talc minerality and exotic quince and yellow citrus depth. A classic cool style signature Migliarina wine that when you open it, it’s hard to stop until the bottle is finished. This is very special and very impressive.

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

Chardonnay Single Vineyard 2016, 13.5 Abv. WO Elgin

2,500 bottles produced. Barrel fermented, 35% new oak from France, Romania, Hungary and USA. A beautifully sleek fine Chardonnay with great breadth and depth and superb complexity. Nose is multi-dimensional with creamy vanilla pod, lemon biscuits, creme brûlée and toffee able with 14 months in oak with no malo. Expert oak interaction, beautiful acidity and chalky minerality that doesn’t seek to be bludgeoned to death with oak. This Elgin fruit screams cooler climate, minerality, subtlety with no fining and no filtration. Lovely lime cordial tension, linearity and a long, harmonious, classical finish. A supremely distinguished effort.

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

Grenache 2017, WO Wellington, 13.5 Abv.

100% Varietal Grenache, single vineyard aged 7 months in shaven oak, untoasted. Inoculated, whole berry, destemmed, cold fermented (max 13 to 20 deg) taking 3 weeks to finish fermentation. Incredibly pretty wine with fragrant raspberry, strawberry, red cherry perfume notes with an almost Cinsault-like Turkish delight, marzipan, parma violets and blood orange lift. Carsten’s mantra is not to “spoil” the wine with too much savoury sappy spice and oak, hence no whole bunch and the obsessive focus on purity, precision and perfume. The saline, cassis, oyster shell notes are incredible. A profound expression.

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

Parquet 2016 Syrah – Carignan – Grenache, 13.5 Abv.

84% Syrah, 7% Carignan, 9% Grenache. Syrah 8 to 10 weeks on skins, 2017 Grenache blended in. One barrel of Swartland Carignan 2016. Beautiful dark, alluring wine with sweet black pepper corns, savoury cured meats, black berry spice, black olive and black plum style that eventually meanders back to brightness and purity with the use of the 2017 Grenache addition. Another crystalline style, total focus and purity, with component parts beautifully pieced together. So cool, pure and fresh, with great precision that is a manifestation of Carstens own personality. Lovely wine.

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

Syrah 2015 WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

10 weeks on the skins. 14 months in old oak, inoculated, unfined, unfiltered, destalked, destemmed, with initially whole berry cold fermentation in tank allowing malo on skins in tank. Pure Helderberg expression with delicious blackberry, iodine, coriander and lavender and subtle hints of fraise des bois. A medium bodied, classical old world European style wine with subtle restrained fruit, black berry salinity, some accessibility in young but embroidered with complex mineral pithy tannins and a fresh linear finish. Still taut, broody and tight, the finish will become naturally embellished with extra time in bottle. A great vintage and a very serious, “adults only” top shelf effort.

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

Franschhoek’s La Motte Private Cellar Breaking New Ground In the UK Market…

Can an estate be too popular for its own good? Well, some producers like La Motte are so revered in the local South African home market that there has never really been an impetus to push exports on international markets. So today was probably the first time I have tasted these iconic wines outside of South Africa.

As I embarrassingly always tell young Reenen Borman, usually over a glass of Patatsfontein Chenin… when I hear the name Borman, I normally think of his father, the legend, Jacques Borman, who created some wonderful wines at the La Motte winery. But times do change and after a surprise visit from owner Hein Koegelenberg to announce the appointment of The Wine Treasury as their new UK importer, we tasted through some of their delicious range of wines.

Owner and La Motte CEO Hein Koegelenberg (centre)

Look out for these superbly well priced, high quality whites and reds that are about to seduce the UK market. I have no doubt their high quality range is going to be a big hit (just as it has been in the local South African market).

La Motte Pierneef Collection Syrah – Viognier 2015, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

The Pierneef Collection is a premium range of wines crafted in tribute to the great South African artist Jacob Hendrick Pierneef. An impressive red from the block buster 2015 vintage is a blend of 94% Syrah sourced from Walker Bay and Elim together with 6% Viognier from Franschhoek, this wine wears its ripeness and opulence boldly on its sleeve, the nose unashamedly intense, rich and complex. Matured for 18 months in 300 litre oak barrels, 75% new, there are layers of sweet black berry confit, kirsch liquor, black olive, black plum and vanilla pod savoury depth. The palate too is ultra plush, sleek textured and fleshy, showing notable harmony, fine fruit with acid balance and a salty, liquorice kissed piquant finish. Plenty of power, intensity and concentration but delivered in a sensitive and sophisticated style. Drink now to 2028+

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