The Exuberance of Fresh Youthful Chenin Blanc – The Perfect Everday White?

I recently got back from another short trip to South Africa and while I was there, I looked to try and taste as many 2017 new release young whites as possible. Coming to market only a few months after harvest, I’m always intrigued by how quickly producers can release a new wine in bottle. 
Young Sauvignon Blancs are going to be fresh, unoaked, and normally quite primary, perhaps even a tad boring and predictable. But young, fresh Chenin Blanc holds a lot more potential interest for consumers.

The Steytler family has been producing wine on the Kaapzicht Estate in Stellenbosch since 1946 and have always been acknowledged for producing outstanding Chenin Blanc, including their famous 1947 Chenin Blanc Old Vine white which I also tried again recently at the Old Vine Project tasting in London.

Kaapzicht Estate Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch WO, South Africa, 13 Abv.

The 2017 vintage was another of the drought years in the Cape, but this little Kaapzicht white shows impressive freshness, zip and zest. The palate is multi-dimensional with crunchy green apple, pithy aromatic phenolic spice, white peach, cream soda and dusty cut grass complexity. On the palate the wine really comes alive, showing taught zippy acids, crunchy green gauge fruits, Granny Smith apples, lime zest and a subtle honey dew melon fleshy sweetness on the finish. Fine acid cut and frame, this wine typifies well made Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc at an affordable, everyday price point. With the strength of the Euro, you won’t easily find a quality Loire domaine produced Chenin Blanc this pure and precise for the same money, highlighting yet another top trump in South Africa’s hand. Drink and enjoy this wine’s delicious vibrancy now and over the next 2 to 3 years. 

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

There’s gold in them there hills…

A few weeks ago I travelled to Germany with my buddie Jamie Goode from to taste the 2015 new releases. Of course we knew the Rieslings would be epic if the vintage was half as good as producers were saying it was.

After almost a week of tasting whites and reds, from pretty much every major region of Germany, the wines that stood out for me were surprisingly the non-Riesling wines.

Don’t get me wrong, the 2015 Rieslings at all quality levels were amazing with many producers calling them the best vintage since 1976.

But I was blown away by the quality of Muller Thurgau, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner and Pinot Noir of course. Importantly, they represent such great value!

The Wittmann 100 Hills Pinot Blanc dry 2014 from the Rheinhessen typifies this fresh, 12.5 abv vibrant, smashable style of white that Germany is really excelling in at the moment. A tight, sleek, taught structure packed full of yellow citrus, crunchy pineapples, orange zest and chalky green apple minerality. While so easy to drink, there is nothing frivolous or confected about this wine. The perfect aperitif. (Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW) Only £11.99 per bottle at Oddbins – Sept 2016. Noted as a Biowein.

Sadie Family Old Vine Series Soldaat 2012… I’m Sold on it!

Drinking an amazing Saturday night bottle, and there is a reason this wine is nicknamed “sold-out”… the fantastic Sadie Family Old Vine Series Soldaat Grenache 2012 from Piekenierskloof just rocks.

The un-grafted and unirrigated old bush vines are planted at 708m altitude on decomposed granite soils that Grenache shows such a great affinity for, and it really shows on this wine.

This 2012 wine is so taught and youthful, packed full of dusty, spicy, stalky mineral black fruits. I just love the smokey sappy edge, with crunchy bright raspberry and taught black peppercorn savoury complexity. The cool 13.5 abv is perfectly managed with beautifully fresh acids and an alluring vibrant energy that keeps you coming back for another sip. This will be an intriguing wine to watch as it ages 8, 10, 15 years. You best bury a few bottles away if you have any left! (Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Note: This could potentially be a 95, 96, 97 point classic one day when it nears maturity. Yes, it’s that good!

Inglenook, Napa Valley – Selling a Renaissance

1882 was the first vintage produced by Gustave Niebaum on the estate that would become one of the most renowned wineries in the New World – Inglenook.

In the same year, Niebaum dug a small cave in the foothills of the Mayacamas to experiment and better understand temperature ideals for barrel ageing.

Today, Inglenook lies in the heart of the famous Rutherford Bench in Napa Valley, offering a wealth of top quality fruit, richness and minerality from this genuinely special terroir.

The 1882 Cabernet Sauvignon is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from estate fruit, aged for 18 months in French and US oak with 15% new. It is a well proportioned wine with structured mineral tannins, graphite, and a taught linear texture. Supple core of black berry fruits, cassis, damson plums, black cherry, vanilla pod and choc mocha spice. Despite the 14.5 alcohol, it is a self assured, classical, elegantly restrained expression of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon with real age ability. (Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting Note: City On A Hill Chenin Blanc 2015, Swartland, South Africa

Well, I’ve heard a lot about this wine and finally tasted it today. Tim Atkin MW raved about it and others have mentioned it to me.

David and Nadia Sadie’s assistant winemaker Andre Bruyns makes his own mark with this 85% Chenin Blanc blend from mostly 40 year old Swartland Chenin Blanc vines at 13.5 Abv.

Rich intense nose, a vibrant wine with massive intensity and power. Palate is rich and textural with nuances of yellow peaches, quince confit, and yellow pastille fruits. Pithy and mineral with a stony finish and long length. Very characterful, pleasure packed wine with punch and complexity. (Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Unicorn Spotting… Comte Georges de Vogue Bourgogne Blanc 2011

Last produced as a Musigny Grand Cru Blanc in 1993, Comtes Georges de Vogue replanted the last portion of their 0.6 Ha of Musigny Chardonnay in 1997.

Determined not to bottle another Musigny Blanc again until the vines were at least 20-25 years old, the domaine has produced this ultra rare, uber priced Bourgogne Blanc in the meantime.

Indications are that the 2017 might be considered for the Musigny Blanc Grand Cru label. But the decision will be based strictly on wine quality. No more than 2,500 bottles will be produced. A true rarity.

Tasting Note: A big beast of a wine – Vogue Musigny Blanc 2011. Honied, exotic leesy apricots, caramel biscuits, lemon curd and spicy, pithy, baked green apples. Intense fruits, fathomless depth, beautiful intense framing acids. An almost overwhelming wine. (Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Rock n Roll Chardonnay from Elgin…

Last night, John Lodge of the Moody Blues hosted a lovely intimate gathering of ‘super fans’ at Hampton Court Palace for an exciting unplugged-style music session.

In the midst of a national UK tour, John and his band played new tracks and several Moody Blues classics while fans sat back and enjoyed his Krisemma range of wines  including the 2nd edition red from Bordeaux and his beautiful 3rd edition Chardonnay 2014 from Elgin, South Africa. (

I was invited along by John and his daughter Emily to introduce the sensational Krisemma Chardonnay produced by fellow Master of Wine and good friend, Richard Kershaw. What a fun night with great wines and a true legend of rock n roll! 

Richard Kershaw’s Krisemma Elgin Chardonnay 2014 expertly marries the elegant restrained classicism of Burgundy with the vibrancy and energy of the cool climate Western Cape. Superb balance, wonderful white blossom and lemon zest purity and the most detailed, mineral-laden Meursault like finish. A very classy wine indeed. (Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

International Wine Challenge Gold Medal Winner 2015

International Wine Challenge Gold Trophy Winner 2016