Revisiting a Unicorn Red – Tasting the Maiden Savage Wines Girl Next Door Syrah 2014…

Duncan Savage has just released his very impressive 2019 vintages to the market. Yet again he has created an impressive line up of whites and reds that continue to earn him new fine wine followers the world over.

To mark his new releases, I thought I’d pull something special out the cellar and revisit one of his rarest wines… the maiden vintage of the Girl Next Door Syrah 2014. Chatting to Duncan recently during lockdown, I tried to discover a little bit more about this fabled vineyard that produces one of the most profound expressions of Syrah in South Africa.

Tasting the Savage Girl Next Door 2014 along side a Jean-Luc Jamet Syrah 2017.

Running through recent vintages… “2015 was super light and I had to pick early! The birds totally fucked us…” Duncan explains in his own gregarious style. “2017 probably delivered as good as this block gets and 2018 revealed a more black olive, savoury character with a much more overt saline note perhaps due to the smaller water stressed canopy. But in 2019 the vines looked great after a massive mulching exercise, and the finished wine is incredible. Looking ahead, 2020 is probably the best yet and will be released in June/July 2021. In my mind, quality definitely tracks the vineyard health, the vintage and ones overall understanding of the two” says Duncan.

From a vineyard yielding a notoriously tiny production volume of around 2 x 500L barrels, Duncan produced two barrels in 2014, similarly small amounts in 2015, nothing at all in 2016, only 700 bottles in 2017, just over 1000 bottles in 2018, 1400 odd bottles in 2019 and around 1600 bottles in 2020. “It’s slowly getting better with the use of nets to protect the fruit against the birds and as we get to know the block better and better. We also weened the vineyard off water from 2017 and it is completely dry-land grown now” explains Duncan.

Savage Girl Next Door Syrah 2014, WO Cape Peninsula, 12.5 % Abv.

A mythical wine in so many ways that creates extra expectations. When freshly opened, it shows a tight concertinaed aromatic profile. Slowly and gently, the wine unfurls to reveal notes of roasted Autumn chestnuts, savoury cured meats, liquorice and stewed winter berries. There’s a creamy, lactic, brûléed black berry compote note with spicy hints of sweet black pepper, olive tapenade, grilled herbs and pureed black berry fruits. The palate is tight knit, taut and supremely composed showing a classical, earthy, restrained fruit concentration and an elegance that only the great Syrah wines of Cote Rotie, Hermitage and the Northern Rhône can offer. With 6 years of age there is very little evolution to speak of and only the most subtle, complex suggestion of secondary tertiary evolution. In my cellar, I’d happily leave extra bottles to slumber for a further 5-8 years with full confidence this wine will continue to age elegantly for 10 to 15+ years or more. A true unicorn wine produced in such small quantities that I can only suppose that very few of the original 1,300 bottles produced are still hiding in collectors’ dark cellars.

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

The Unicorn Slayer Came to Town Today ~ The Tenerife Odyssey Resurrected Tasting Vidueno 2016…

I make no secret that I enjoy drinking (slaying) unicorn wines! Some people get annoyed by even the mention of the term but I just love how evocative the word is. Of all Roberto Envinate and his team’s wines, this has got to be the rarest. Only 3 barrels of 228l were produced, all of which went to the USA and Mexico. The fruit all came from one unique terroir and is a blend of all the varieties (vidueno) that are planted in that vineyard, which is how wine was traditionally made.

This is a superb blend of 50% Listan Blanco, 45% Listan Prieto, and 5% Tintilla from vines of over 100 years old. This was bottled in July 2017 with no Sulphur additions.

Vidueno de Santiago del Teide 2016, A Chingao Vineyards & Envinate, DO Ycoden Daute Isora, Tenerife, 12 Abv.

When you know you are drinking a rarity, a wine does perhaps taste even better, or does the anticipation just awaken your taste buds a little? This beautiful blend is an alluring crushed cherry red with a smokey ruby depth. The nose is fairly reserved and restrained at first, even reductive, as you’d expect on an old vine 2016 wine from Tenerife. You do catch glimpses of the volcanic terroir with a dusty sweet cherry nose, crushed basalt and subtle peppery bramble berry spice. The palate is tantalisingly fresh and energetic, like a young tea total yoga instructor ready to put you through your paces at 6.30am in the morning. The texture is sleek, taught, vibrant and slightly lean, but all the better for it. Lovely layers of basalt and crushed gravel minerality melt into a complex pithy cranberry fruit medley with yet more red cherry and sour red plum fruit notes. This wine tastes like summer, even in the depths of winter. It’s so delicious, mouth watering and cool fruited, finishing with a lovely dry powdery chalky tannin grip. Long last since I tasted a wine that excited me this much, not because of its grandeur and flamboyance, but perhaps because of the lack there of. This wine challenges you, asks you questions… and the answers are all positive. Really, really lovely Roberto!

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

Even Little Unicorns Grow Up One Day ~ Tasting the New Release Ornellaia Bianco 2015 Release…

I have always been a big lover of the exceptional wines of Ornellaia. Their reds offer such delicious opulence, intensity and complexity in youth and with age, while their resurrected whites have titillated the fine wine market and earned this beautiful Bolgheri estate a host of new converts.


I guess for me, it all started in 2010 when I bought the new recreation of a Bolgheri white classic under the Poggio alle Gazze label. Usually a Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Petit Manseng and Vermentino blend, the Poggio label acted as a laboratory for the estate to find and vinify the finest white wine parcels that demonstrate their capacity to express the unique character of Ornellaia’s terroir.


In 2013, winemaker Axel Heinz felt confident enough to select parcels of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier to create the estate’s first Ornellaia bianco. A 70/30 blend led by Sauvignon Blanc, this wine birthed a new unicorn wine in Italy and the demand has grown ever since. In the summer of 2017, retailers, including myself, were inundated with allocation requests from wine suppliers to super yachts on the Med for Ornellaia Bianco, the oligarchs chosen summer wine of choice.


Of course this phenomena was a simple reflection of absolute scarcity and sublime quality, not marketing prowess. But needless to say, the birth of the 2015 vintage was highly anticipated. 2015 was a text book vintage after a standard winter. July proved to be very hot and dry with temperatures over 30 degrees C every day of the month. With fears of an early, problematic vintage rising, rain arrived on the 10th August to unblock ripening and healthy white grapes were eventually harvested in the last week of August.


Ornellaia Bianco 2015, IGT Toscana, Bolgheri, 13.5 Abv.

The produce of north facing vineyards planted on sandy clay-rich soils, the 2015 harvest represents an almost perfect vintage. The wine shows a defined mineral laden expression, with crushed granite and wet river pebbles, and plenty of black currant leaf, tart gooseberry, green apple and tart pineapple pastille fruit precision. There are also ample herbal notes punctuated by saffron, dried mint leaf and baking herb spices. The palate is taught and crisp with intense concentration of waxy green apples, cassis, greengage, and boiled green apple bon bons with just an ever so slight lick of honey. The finish is bold, bright and beautifully saline, leaving the wine to impose a thoroughly mineral, “Pouilly Fume’esque” minerality footprint. At 100% Sauvignon Blanc in this vintage, there are ample reminders of the finest Bordeaux whites, which suggests this vintage will age comfortably for 12 to 15+ years. 

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