Eben Sadie Delivers a Columella and Palladius Masterclass in London in His First Visit for Several Years…

Earlier this year, Eben Sadie made his first trip to London in several years and with so any new projects and developments taking place in the world of Sadie Family Wines, a visit to explain all the exciting new developments was considered long overdue. With Eben producing the most sought-after selection of red and white wines in South Africa, every change he makes in the winery or in the vineyards is closely watched and examined.

Starting in the early 2000s, Eben started to strive to improve the freshness on all his whites and reds with the effects of climate change becoming more and more apparent vintage after vintage. Over the past years, Eben has planted a range of esoteric white and red grapes, many with their origin around the Mediterranean – Agiorgitiko, Mencia, Cinsault Blanc, Grillo, Assyrtiko, Picpoul de Pinet, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouchet, Cunoise, Mavrotragano, etc. all on specially chosen sites with suitable soil types that allow the grapes to express freshness, brightness and elegance.

Following a policy of only making large scale changes once every 10 years, Eben firmly believes that what needs to be learnt takes time even if the actions you took and the changes you made end up ultimately being unsuccessful. The wines tasted in this masterclass reflect the learning and changes that have occurred at Sadie Family Wines over the past 20 years. To complement this fascinating masterclass, I followed it up with a visit to the winery in October to see some of the new developments first hand.

Eben Sadie surveying the new wine cellar building works.

Walking through the newly acquired old vine Rotsbank Chenin Blanc vineyard.

Top of the “to do list” was visiting the Rotsbank Old Vine Chenin Blanc vineyard that Sadie Family Wines recently acquired. This vineyard previously supplied some Chenin Blanc for blending into the Palladius, but following the purchase, Eben will release his first new Old Vine Series wine in 13 years and also his first single varietal Swartland Old Vine Chenin Blanc with the 2022 vintage. Also on display, were the extensive building works which mark the building of a new winemaking facility and archive cellar on the farm. So plenty to look forward to!

Columella Vertical: 2004 to 2018

Sadie Family Wines Columella 2004, WO Swartland

A beautifully cool, precise year that is an exceptional vintage for the wine but with Eben giving most of the credit to vintage conditions – “they merely didn’t mess it up in the winery, preserving the greatness of the vintage”. Wonderfully pure and perfumed with potpourri, garrigue, bramble berry spice and cured meats. The tannins are polished and silky, precise and pin point with fabulous mineral layering supported by bright tangy, crunchy acids with just the most subtle, reductive, saline cassis nuance on the finish. A supremely classy, classical expression.

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

Sadie Family Wines Columella 2007, WO Swartland

A warm, dry vintage that led to many vines shutting down and thus offering long hang times on paper but with out the corresponding ripening. So a difficult vintage known for its pyrazines, especially on the whites. The nose shows rich, plumy, earthy characters with cured meats, black olive, plum compote and hints of tannery leather. The tannins are sweet and plush, creamy and opulent with a fine line of acidity wrapped in voluptuous layers of sweet red and black berry fruits. An impressive offering for the vintage and drinking beautifully at the moment.

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

Sadie Family Wines Columella 2010, WO Swartland

Semi-warm vintage, less warm and dry than 2007. The aromatics are earthy and savoury with plenty of tannery leather, tilled earthy, stewed plums and spicy grilled herb notes. The palate shows a stony minerality together with a more restrained fruit depth, spicy graphite, bramble berry and pithy black currant. Tannins are soft and quite polished, finishing with a subtlety and elegance. A fascinating, mineral driven expression.

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

Pre-Masterclass interview with Jancis Robinson OBE MW.

Sadie Family Wines Columella 2018, WO Swartland

The end of the drought vintages, this shows an incredibly old world, Rhone style aromatics with savoury black fruits, garrigue, grilled herbs, black currant, black cherry, raspberry compote, and a meaty, chargrilled component. The palate shows a delicious crunchy, raspberry fruited vibrancy with hints of red bramble berries, wild strawberry and red cherries combined with a beautifully precise fresh acidity, impressive fine grained tannins and a wonderfully elegant, harmonious, poised finish. Very classy indeed.

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

Palladius Vertical: 2007 to 2019

Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2007, WO Swartland

Dry and hot vintage, the aromatics show a defined, honied yellow fruited oxidative complexity with layers of grapefruit jam, melted honey on buttered white toast. Massive glycerol texture with oxy fig and caramelised peach nuances, tangy acids and a deliciously exotic, saline, tropical finish. Offers a lot of wine and leaves it out there for all to see, leaving little to the imagination.

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

Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2010, WO Swartland

Warm vintage again, the 2010 shows almost like a white Tondonia from Rioja with oxy yellow peach and condensed milk notes, tart tatin, and caramelised apples. The texture is creamy and dense, plush and opulent wth peach stone fruit, bruised yellow orchard fruits and a lactic, oaky, vanilla pod finish. But it’s ever so funky, luscious and delicious.

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

Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2016, WO Swartland

The second very hot and dry vintage for the Cape, yet miraculously, many of the Chenin Blanc based blends defied the conditions to produced superb wines. A lot earthier and honied showing savoury characteristics with a much more aromatic, phenolic expression. But fabulously glycerol and balanced, seamless and focused with finely intertwined acids. Really delicious now. A triumphant wine.

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

Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2019, WO Swartland

The vineyards and blend reach a nice equilibrium in this vintage. The aromatics are pure and pinpoint with a pronounced pithy, mineral, crushed granite dust on the nose, intertwined with pithy yellow orchard fruits. The texture boasts great intensity along with harmonious balance and an ever present power. Hints of peach pastille and green apple cordial carry the full, textural palate weight effortlessly to a long and incredibly harmonious finish. Really impressive vinous architecture on display here.

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

Damascene’s Current 2020 Red and White Releases Reviewed and Rated…

Damascene is the super exciting South African winery partnership between top talent Jean Smit, previously the winemaker at Boekenhoutskloof, and David Curl, the former owner of Bordeaux’s Chateau Gaby. The maiden Damascene bottlings were only in 2017 but already the winery has, since then, established itself as one of the most exciting new producers on the Cape fine wine landscape.

While the new 2021 vintages have just been released to great acclaim in South Africa, the 2020 vintages are the current releases on the UK market and in May 2020, I caught up with Jean Smit in London to taste through his exciting range of whites and reds.

Tasting with Jean earlier this year in London.

As Jean explained, the idea of Damascene’s wines was to represent the different regional identities of the South African winelands with grapes being sourced from across the Cape. The wines are made in a well-equipped cellar on David Curl’s Elgin apple farm, which also supplies the Pinot Noir for the Moya Meaker label.

Damascene Semillon 2020, WO Franschhoek, 13.5% Abv.

Sourced from two old vine vineyards plss as noted in 1962 and 1942, this wine was fermented and aged on lees in 1000 litre Austrian foudre and offers up beautifully bright, fragrant, piercing aromatics of white citrus, white blossom, lemon and lime peel, a hint of sea breeze salinity (from the 1962 vineyard) and kelp nuances. Taught and concentrated with a fine glycerol texture, lemon grass, lemon butter, white citrus, tangy green apple and a hint of lanolin on the finish. Delicious and crystalline. A very impressive expression of Old Vine Semillon.

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

Damascene Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

Sourced from three blocks on the crest of the Bottlary Hills. Granite (5% on skins), Greywacke and Shale soils which give acidity & lemon lime notes. Rich, savoury and yellow fruited, with lots of honey suckle, ginger, white blossom and dusty mineral spice. Aged 11 months in old oak barrels. The wine shows bruised yellow peach and yellow plum that follows to a palate loaded with tangerine, Seville oranges and honey on warm toast. Lovely complexity, flinty minerality, tart acids and impressive depth of flavour. Wow!

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

Moya Meaker Pinot Noir 2020, WO Elgin, 13.5% Abv.

10 barrels (300 litre light toast) using 777 & 667 Pinot Noir clones. No stems and 11 months ageing. Reveals a lovely rose petal, black cherry and bramble berry perfume with hints of pink musk. Texture is pure and sleek, beautifully polished and focused with pomegranate, blood orange, hints of cured meats and complexing wood smoke notes. Pinpoint focus and precision with really bright acids and textural elegance.

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

Damascene Cabernet Franc 2020, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

Aged 11 months in 1000 litre Austrian foudre. The terroir is based on poor granite soils in the Bottlary Hills. The nose shows sweet red and black berry fruit, bouquet garnier, potpourri, fennel, dusty granite, sweet cedar and grilled herbs. The palate is pure and elegant with a salivating fresh acidity supported by a fine line of tannin grip but all exceptionally well balanced. A really delicious expression of Franc!

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

Damascene Syrah 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5% Abv.

75% of whole bunches used with no submerged cap. 2/3 Karibib fruit (lending pepper & perfume), 1/3 Bottlary (north facing for extra tannins). Boasts sweet dark red and black berry fruits, potpourri, musk perfume and a savoury cured meats complexity. Beautifully pure and elegant with red berry concentration, great textural finesse and soft integrated acids. Wonderful harmony and pedigree. This is something very special indeed.

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

Damascene Syrah 2020, WO Swartland, 13% Abv.

75% whole bunches used then aged in 2000 litre foudre from vines grown on brown schist soils. Aromatics are dark and broody with incense, waxy crayon, earthy black berry, black plum, lavender and wild bramble berry notes. The palate shows plenty of power, depth and concentration with focused mineral tannins, plenty of broody savoury black and blue berry fruits with a hint of black olive tapenade. Very Northern Rhone like in character and also quite individual. Another cracking wine.

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

Damascene Syrah 2020, WO Cederberg, 13.5% Abv.

Made using 45% whole bunches (on average), from one block at 940m above sea level. Shows classic Cederberg Shiraz aromatics of blue and black berry fruits, blue berry crumble, grey slate minerality and sweet vanilla pod dust. Palate is full and round with dense, sweet creamy tannins, cinamon spice, tart underlying acids and a taut linear structure. Lovely depth, fruit intensity and balance showing the true purity offered by Syrah from high elevation vineyards.

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

Damascene Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5% Abv.

Grapes mainly from Vlottenburg vineyards grown on koffee klip and granite soils (graphite notes) and Helderberg and Bottlary Hills (cranberry notes). Aged 12 months in 80% new 225 litre oak barriques, second year in 1000 litre Austrian foudre. Lovely sweet cedar, wet tobacco, tannery leather and a mix of red and black berry fruits and grilled herbs. Rich, plush and creamy with cassis, blueberry, musk, red cherry and creamy tannins with bright mouth-watering acids. Very impressive expression of Stellenbosch Cabernet!

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

Klein Constantia’s Stellenbosch Winery Anwilka Releases Its 2018 Red Blend…

The Anwilka Winery owned by Klein Contantia Estate, is based at the southern end of Stellenbosch with close proximity to the False Bay and is planted with 40 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot. Its proximity to the sea provides a specific maritime microclimate that, together with the old ferricrete soils, are perfectly suited for producing rich, opulent wines with freshness, salinity and balance.

Under the guidance of internationally renowned Bordeaux wine personalities Hubert de Boüard (co-owner of Château Angélus in Saint-Emilion) and Bruno Prats (former owner of Château Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estèphe), Anwilka has established a worldwide reputation for its flagship red blend which has in years gone by been famously described by international wine critic Robert Parker Jr. as “…the finest red wine I have ever had from South Africa”.

With Klein Constantia group winemaker Matt Day recently taking over full winemaking responsibilities at Anwilka, you can certainly expect to see the true latent potential of this well positioned estate realised in the coming years.

Anwilka 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 14.36% Abv.

3.4 g/l RS | 5.0 g/l TA | 3.70 pH

A blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Syrah and 5% Petit Verdot which was aged for 19 months in French oak, 50% new 400 litre barrels and 50% second fill. The colour is a deep, dark, opaque black plum with a black cherry rim. The aromatics are fresh and perfumed with notes of mocha, black cherry, bramble berries, melted tar and kelp emerging on the nose. The palate too shows archetypal 2018 vintage character with nuances of poached black plums, sun dried black cherries, melted black liquorice, saline cassis and hints of cedar spice. The textural frame is slightly more foursquare with glassy crisp acids and grippy mineral tannins padded out by an ample, inky black fruit concentration. While not quite as silky, seamless and effortless as the distinguished 2017, this is nevertheless an impressive red blend that should reward 8 to 10+ years of cellaring, being kept fresh and vital by its crunchy, mouth-watering acidity.

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

Stars in the Dark Syrah 2020 From Minimalist Wines Shines Brightly…

I was recently asked why no one had reviewed the 2020 Stars in the Dark Syrah from the dynamic young talent Sam Lambson. I replied that the wine had arrived in the UK basically all pre-sold and there was none “to be had” for general drinking. And then, as if by magic, a friend joined me for lunch and brought along a bottle of the 2020, the third vintage release from Minimalist Wines.

This fabulous red comes from Cape Agulhas, one of the coldest and most inhospitable wine regions in the Western Cape … so certainly not an easy spot to grow vines. There is very little rain, the winds howl incessantly and the shallow, layered shales and koffieklip-littered soils of Elim provide little nourishment for the vines. The ripening season is cool and lengthy yet, with their roots driven deep, the tenacious Syrah vines on this 21-year old parcel yields minute, concentrated berries with electric natural acidity. As Sam Lambson often points out, “some of the best things in life emerge from tough times and dark places.”

The 2020 growing season began with a balmy spring which ensured both a successful budburst and flowering. A moderate summer then settled in bringing fine winds through the vineyards, which helped keep the vines fresh and disease-free while the steady heat helped concentrate the grapes. Although temperatures were definitely warm, they seldom spiked, which helped keep drought conditions in check. Towards the harvest, some welcome rain fell providing a respite from what had been a period of intense drought, although the humid conditions did then see a surge of rot and disease, which producers had to work hard to mitigate.

Minimalist Wines Stars in the Dark Syrah 2020, WO Cape Agulhas, 13.5% Abv.

A 100% pure Syrah red, the 2020 once again reveals a piercing black berry fruit aromatic profile that shares so much with the greatest Syrah examples from the Northern Rhone and Cote Rotie in particular. With the complex melange of black berry fruits come nuances of dried violets, potpourri and lavender together with dried herbs, garrigue, peppercorns and pithy cherry spice. The palate shows wonderful poise and precision, real intensity of fruit together with purity, minerality and telltale coastal salinity expressed with a kelpy, oyster shell reductive hint. Still tightly coiled and full of tension, this will be a fine Syrah to bury in the cellar for 5+ years but can be coaxed to display some of its finery with an hour or so in a decanter. A truly splendid wine that builds on the successes of the previous two drought affected vintages.

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

Assessing the New Releases from Mullineux Wines – Part 2: Tasting the Single Terroir 2020 Syrah Reds…

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.

Assessing the Current Releases from the De Grendel Winery in Durbanville…

Charles Hopkins has been at De Grendel since the very beginning of winemaking on this famous Durbanville farm in 2005, when Sir David Graaff lured him away from Graham Beck’s red wine production. Charles is a lifelong student of wine and even after 30 years’ experience in the industry and multiple local and international accolades, he remains studious and curious to learn yet more on his winemaking journey.

In November 2019, he achieved a major milestone on this journey, with the award of his first five-star rating in the Platter’s South African Wine Guide, for the 2017 Elim Shiraz from De Grendel – a wine that is especially close to his heart as Charles was born in Somerset West and grew up in Bredasdorp and Strand.

With the accolades growing ever more frequent of late, I thought it was time to assess the current releases on the Fine Wine Safari.

De Grendel Rose 2021, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.

An attractive pale salmon pink colour, this new release dry Rose boasts seductive aromatics of wild strawberries, cranberry and subtle hints of dried herbs and wet slate minerality. There is lovely clarity and purity on the palate with crystalline hints of boiled raspberry candy, red cherry pastilles and a crunchy strawberry fruit complexity. Dry and mineral, light bodied but intense, this is a sophisticated Rose that ticks all the boxes. Drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

De Grendel Merlot 2017, WO, 14.5% Abv.

2.1 g/l RS | 5.8 g/l TA | 3.47 pH

This is a classic Merlot that shows a deep garnet-purple colour and displays a highly evocative nose of black cherry kirsch liquor, tart black plums, black currant nuances and a pronounced maritime saline complexity. Notes of black berry fruit melt into layers of violets, graphite and sweet, sappy sandalwood spice making this a very impressive Merlot expression that draws extra gravitas from the exceptional vintage conditions in 2017. Pinpoint and precise, the palate reveals a delightful freshness and a medium bodied fleshy weight of fruit that boasts energetic concentration but also a weightless, mineral laced length. This wine must surely rank among the top Merlot expressions in the Cape. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years.

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

De Grendel Shiraz 2017, WO Coastal Region, 14.5% Abv.

2.2 g/l RS | 6.1 g/l TA | 3.44 pH

This 2017 reveals a very impressive aromatic lift that leaves no doubt about its true pedigree. The poise and intricately perfumed aromatics are thoroughly seductive with scents of violets, saline black currant, crushed blueberries, subtle black liquorice, brûléed coffee beans and vanilla pod spice. The palate shows an intense yet effortless complexity of salty black berry, tart pithy black cherry, hints of crunchy strawberry and a weightlessly elegant finish infused with sweet black peppercorns and a delicately savoury, smoky finish. This is a classy wine that is carving out a tangible reputation vintage after vintage.

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

De Grendel Rubaiyat 2017, WO Coastal Origin, 14.5% Abv.

2.3 g/l RS | 6 g/l TA | 3.49 pH

Always an impressive blend, the Rubaiyat 2017 performs yet again with a complex blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The aromatics are rich, alluring and seductive with sweet savoury notes of stewed black plums, black currant, wet cherry tobacco, sweet sandalwood and resinous leafy oak spice top notes. The palate is archetypal 2017 vintage in character with sublime elegance but also all the hallmark weightless concentration of black and blue fruits with soft silky tannins underpinned by bright acids on a wonderfully light touch, focused, finely honed harmonious palate. This has all the building blocks to age comfortably for 10+ years and reward patience.

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

De Grendel Proposal Hill Pinot Noir Brut Rose Cap Classique 2016, WO Cape Town, 12.5% Abv.

6.3 g/l RS | 5.7 g/l TA | 3.25 pH

An impressive highly accomplished 100% Pinot Noir Cap Classique, this wine shows exotic notes of ginger, rose water, sun dried strawberries, botanical herbs, blood orange and subtle vermouth spices. The palate is rich, fleshy and opulent with a concentrated crystallised orange peel fruit intensity and an incredibly fine creamy mousse that points the way to a long, persistent dry finish. This wine oozes class. Simply delicious.

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

De Grendel Sir David Graaff Red 2014, WO Coastal Region, 14% Abv.

2.2 g/l RS | 6.1 g/l TA | 3.5 pH

This premium red is a blend of 58% Shiraz, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot that is aged for up to 16 months in 100% new French oak barrels before the components are blended and returned back to barrel for a further 6 months to integrate. Despite being already 8 years old, this wine is bold and confident portraying an incredibly youthful character of saline cassis, blueberry and mulberry aromas, red cherry kirsch liquor and subtle notes of salty liquorice, kelp and iodine. On the palate the expensive oak is splendidly integrated offering a kiss of sweet cedar spice, notes of vanilla pod, liquorice, tart black cherry and yet more layers of salty cassis and sweet tobacco. While the texture is wonderfully harmonious and balanced, there is massive intensity and a toned muscular depth that conveys the wines pedigree. It must be said that if I tasted this wine blind, I’d almost certainly place it as a super premium Chilean or Australian red blend. The signature magic created by the synergy of the Shiraz and Cabernet makes this a very attractive wine indeed. But of course, this type of premium quality comes with a matching price tag. Drink now or over the next 15-20+ years.

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

De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2017, WO Ceres Plateau, 13.97% Abv.

2.4 g/l RS | 5.7 g/l TA | 3.4 pH

This Pinot Noir shows impressive clarity and purity undoubtedly from the cool climate high altitude Ceres terroir. The aromatics reveal dark black berry fruits with hints of raisined black cherry, black plum, black berry compote and an earthy, foresty sappy, resinous complexity. The oak influence seems fleeting with little to no influence allowing the pronounced black berry fruit concentration to shine, embellished by hints of black salty liquorice, kelp, stewed strawberries and a long, finely balanced creamy finish. Drink on release or age 3 to 8 years in your cellar.

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

Boekenhoutskloof’s New Release 2019 Reds and Whites Impress at their London Launch…

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.

Good to catch up with Marc Kent.

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.

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

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines – Tasting Their New Red Single Terroir 2019 Releases…

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.

Chris and Andrea Mullineux in the vineyards at 2022 harvest time in the Swartland.

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.)

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

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines – Tasting Their New White Single Terroir 2020 Releases…

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)

Grapes from the 2022 Iron Chenin Blanc harvest.

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.)

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

Franschhoek’s La Motte Winery Continues to Strive for Vinous Excellence…

I first met CEO of La Motte, Hein Koegelenberg, in London of all places in mid-March 2018. Tasting through their impressive range of wines with their newly appointed importer, The Wine Treasury, was most enjoyable and enlightening. These were after all some of the wines I had cut my teeth on in the early 1990s when I was working as a commodity trader in Johannesburg spending my hard-earned cash filling up my newly established wine cellar in Pretoria with some of South Africa’s finest red wines. Scratch on the shelves today and you might find some of my treasured bottles of La Motte Shiraz from 1993, 1994 and 1995 or maybe even one of my last bottles of La Motte Millennium 1990 red blend. These are historic wines that hold a special place in my wine development landscape as well as for many South Africans.

With lockdown looming hard and large, we have certainly missed all our regular South African winemaking tourists passing through London to taste the new vintage releases. But as they say, if Mohammed can’t go to the mountain, well then, the mountain must come to Mohammed… and I recently had a wonderful opportunity to taste through the current releases from the stunning La Motte Franschhoek Estate and was impressed with the all-round quality as ever.

La Motte Sauvignon Blanc 2021, WO Western Cape, 12.5% Abv.

3.0 g/l RS | 7.3 g/l TA | 3.39 pH

This 2021 Sauvignon Blanc was made from a blend of grapes sourced in Franschhoek (25%), Stellenbosch (50%) and the Cape South Coast (25%). With multiple vineyards grown in different microclimates and on different terroirs, the final wine in bottle has been expertly blended to ensure ample ripeness with juicy freshness, no overt leafy pyrazine characters but certainly plenty of attractive cool climate purity. A reductive fermentation process in stainless steel was carried out with the wine being left on its fine lees to enhance the tropical flavours. To further add to the complexity, 8% of Semillon was blended into the wine before bottling on the 10th April 2021.

A deliciously vibrant, expressive style of Cape Sauvignon Blanc, this wine displays an impressive purity and crystalline cool vintage clarity of green citrus fruits, green apple, lemon and lime zest and a subtle suggestion of Cape gooseberry. There is just enough fleshy tropical complexity to make this wine very appealing to lovers of fine New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc with a cool 12.5% alcohol supporting an electric acidity and energetic depth of fruit. There is plenty of mouth coating richness, a fleshy glycerol opulence and a long, cool, spicy green herb-tinged finish with tangy acids that keep you coming back again and again for another sip. I’m not sure what more you could want from a young, fresh, unoaked Sauvignon Blanc? Delicious! Drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

La Motte The Pierneef Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2020, WO Cape South Coast, 12.62% Abv.

1.8 g/l RS | 6.8 TA | 3.25 pH

The Pierneef Collection is a range of wines from La Motte forming a part of their more premium range as a tribute to the famous South African artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (1886-1957), one of South Africa’s most collectable artists, with each new bottling labelled with a different piece of his art. The 2020 Pierneef Collection Sauvignon Blanc is a blend of 94% Sauvignon Blanc from Elim, Napier and Elgin and 6% Semillon from Elim, all vineyards that now fall under the Cape South Coast region. After four drought vintages from 2015 to 2018, the 2019 season was much more moderate and saw the Cape’s vineyards build up their water reserves which boded well for the follow up 2020 crop. The grapes were afforded 16 hours of skin contact before fermentation and then another 5 months post-fermentation ageing on fine lees before blending. The wine was bottled in August 2020 and 30,000 bottles were produced.

On the nose, this wine is unmistakably cool climate Sauvignon Blanc with all the herby, pithy, spicy, saline notes you’d expect to find on cooler, Coastal Cape Sauvignon. Together with classic Thiol notes of white citrus, Cape Gooseberry and bell pepper, there is an attractive underlying dusty crushed limestone minerality, hints of green apple pastille, lime peel and lemon grass spices. Medium bodied with bright glassy acids but also a wonderfully harmonious textural balance, this is a serious offering for more serious Sauvignon Blanc connoisseurs that celebrates the diversity of premium cool climate coastal maritime styles. Drink on release or cellar for 6 to 8+ years.

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

La Motte Franschhoek Chardonnay 2019, WO Franschhoek, 13.4% Abv.

2.2 g/l RS | 6.0 g/l TA | 3.37 pH

While many of Franschhoek’s top wines are produced from grapes sourced from all over the Cape, this Chardonnay is made from fruit grown on the La Motte farm in Franschhoek from vineyards located at 200 metres above sea-level on south and southwestern facing slopes. The vineyard soils are mostly sandstone and granite in origin with the oldest blocks planted in 1997. For the 2019 Chardonnay, 100% the grapes were whole bunch pressed with 66% fermented in 300 litre French oak barrels with malo and 33% in stainless steel without malolactic fermentation. Post ferment, the wines saw regular lees stirring while ageing 12 months in 25% new French oak. After ageing, the wines were blended and bottled in May 2020.

The aromatics on this 2019 Chardonnay boast luxurious zesty notes of tangerine peel, pressed oranges and fragrant citrus blossom together with notes of vanilla pod spice, dried pistachio nuts and lemon butterscotch. The palate is round, creamy and harmonious with a fine textural balance of tangy orange and yellow citrus fruits, succulent white peach and green apple pastille. There is a lovely finesse and fine-tuned elegance to the wine that shows impressive persistence of flavour and a complex leesy, savoury lemon bon bon finish. Enjoy this ‘ready-to-go’ Chardonnay now and over the next 2 to 3+ years.

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

La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.

3.2 g/l RS | 6 g/l TA | 3.39 pH

The grapes for this 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon are sourced from two regions including 67% from Stellenbosch and 33% from Franschhoek. 2018 was of course the fourth in a series of drought vintages and resulted in a small, concentrated crop of grapes -15% down on 2017 or the lowest crop in a decade and a half. The Stellenbosch portion of fruit was machine harvested before being transported to the La Motte cellar in Franschhoek while the Franschhoek grapes were hand harvested. All grape batches were fermented separately in stainless steel before being aged for 16 months in 300 litre French oak barrels, 33% new, 33% second fill and 34% older barrels. After blending, the wine was bottled in November 2019. 84,000 bottles were produced.

This Cabernet Sauvignon displays classical aromatics of saline cassis, sweet cedar spice, dried mint leaf, iodine, seashore kelp and subtle hints of graphite, iron and blood. Youthfully piquant but also lush on the palate, like a true 2018 Cabernet, this wine takes a little bit of time to open its shoulders before revealing its full potential. The palate shows an attractive opulence and a fleshy, creamy black cocoa powder complexity with notes of tart black currant, black cherry, crunchy sour plum and a long, mouth-watering finish marked by wonderfully subtle integrated oak spice characters and a delicate kiss of salty liquorice. Ample minerality and more than sufficient structure suggest you can drink this now with a short decant or else cellar for at least 5 to 8+ years.

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

La Motte Syrah 2017, WO Franschhoek, 13.69% abv.

2.3 g/l RS | 5.6 g/l TA | 3.44 pH

The Syrah grapes for this wine are all sourced from the La Motte Wine Estate in Franschhoek from vines that are between 10 and 30 years old, situated on varying sandstone and granitic soils at between 200 and 300 metres altitude. While 2017 was the third of the drought vintages in the Cape, it also managed to somehow deliver the raw materials to make some of the greatest red wines ever seen in the Cape. Following a lower than average rainfall in the preceding winter, flowering and fruit set conditions were favourable and followed by a long, dry ripening season with cool nights and a distinct lack of heat waves resulting in very healthy grapes with excellent concentration. For this Syrah, the grapes were 100% destemmed and the whole berries fermented in stainless steel tanks. The finished wine was matured in 300 litre French oak barrels for 14 months, 30% of which were new. Unusually, to add some extra colour to the wine, a 15% portion of Durif (Petit Syrah) was added to the blend. It seems the phenomenally successful 2017 vintage was equally as generous to the quality of premium Syrah wines as it was to top Cabernet Sauvignon and Cape Bordeaux Blends that have lit up critical wine ratings globally.

This is an attractive wine that reveals a wonderfully seductive, generous and elegant expression of Franschhoek Syrah. Dense, dark and opaque, though some of this might be due to a little extra Petit Syrah turbo charging, the aromatics show perfumed notes of earthy lily flowers, black plum, salty black liquorice, black olive tapenade and bruleed Christmas pudding nuances. Complex and layered, there is a sleek meaty, savoury stratum with sweet peppercorn nuances and hints of molasses spice. For all the ripeness, the palate lacks no freshness and is brimming with blue berry and black currant fruits buffered by a subtle chalky mineral tannin and a cool, long oregano and thyme-tinged dried herb finish. A serious effort for the money.

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

La Motte The Pierneef Collection Syrah 2017, WO Western Cape, 13.8% Abv.

2.8 g/l RS | 6.0 g/l TA | 3.46 pH

Though not part of the ultra-premium range from La Motte, this wine still has got to be one of the estate’s most impressive quality red offerings. The fruit for this blend originates from 90% Syrah from Elim, 5% Syrah from Walker Bay and 5% Viognier from Franschhoek. Small berries with thick skins and intense fruit flavours in 2017 made for a very serious vintage offering. Some of the Syrah batches were harvested at the same time as the Viognier, sourced in Franschhoek, in order for the grapes to be co-fermented together. After fermentation, the wine was matured for 14 months in 55% new French oak barrels after which time the components were all blended together and then returned to barrel for a further 4 months of ‘marriage’. The wine was bottled in November 2018.

Based on the classical Cote Rotie blend of red and white grapes, this really is a spectacularly well-made wine delivered with intensity, complexity and balance. The aromatics are instantaneously recognizable as being different with the extra tell-tale perfumed lift and peachy bon bon rock candy aromatics from the Viognier that melt into the dark, saline, salty liquorice and black currant fruit nuances of the intense, maritime Elim Syrah. Dark, seductive and decidedly cool and coastal in its profile, this wine sucks up the new oak portion to leave an almost imperceptible purity of tart black berry fruits with just the most subtle lick of creamy warm buttered brown toast smothered in black currant and watermelon preserve on the long finish. Cool, dense, weightlessly concentrated and texturally compact with a high degree of finesse and polish make for a real ‘wow’ wine. Drink this wine now after a good 2 hour decant or else cellar for a further 10 to 12+ years.

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

(Wines are distributed to trade in the UK by The Wine Treasury.)