Marc Kent and Gottfried Mocke Extending Their Winemaking Portfolio in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley – Tasting the New Cap Maritime 2017 Releases…

The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley seems to be a popular region for brand extensions. Producers like Wellington based Bosman Family Wines has recently branched out there and now so too has Franschhoek / Swartland based producer Boekenhoutskloof under the Cap Maritime label.

With no vineyards currently in the ground, viticulturist Rosa Kruger has been tasked with designing and planting the new Cap Maritime vineyards for Marc Kent and winemaker Gottfried Mocke, who will lease vineyards nearby until their own plantings come on stream. In the meantime, the 2017 and 2018 vintages have already been vinified at their Franschhoek winery, although there will be no brand association of Cap Maritime with the parent company, in a similar way to which Porseleinberg operates and is marketed separately.

Cap Maritime Chardonnay 2017, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.5 Abv.

Making great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir come naturally to Gottfried Mocke and however successful he is at Boekenhoutskloof with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, it is Chardonnay specifically that shows off his true talents. The new release Cap Maritime Chardonnay is overtly mineral and stony with layers of limestone, crushed rocks and wet river pebble nuances melting into a melange of yellow citrus, white blossom, grape jelly, green melon preserve and the most sublte kiss of French oak spice. The palate displays a full plump mouthful with hints of ginger bread, grapefruit peel, wet chalk, green honeydew melon, pithy apple skins and a complex vanilla pod spice finish. Seamless and fresh with a harmonious texture from start to finish, this wine shows great refinement and would not look out of place standing amongst some of the finest young Pouilly Fuisses of Burgundy. Drink on release of cellar for 2 to 3+ years before opening.

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

Cap Maritime Pinot Noir 2017, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 14 Abv.

This 2017 release is a wonderfully classically proportioned Pinot Noir true to its terroir of the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Sensual and fleshy, sleek and beautifully perfumed, the aromatics are lifted and opulent, brimming with crushed maraschino cherries, pink musk, parma violets, dusty limestone and a sappy resinous complexity. There is none of the structural tannic frame as seen on many 2016 Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir wines but rather more elegant mineral laden red and black berry fruits that show delicious purity together with mouth watering acidity. I don’t think you would confuse this expression for Old World Burgundy, like you could for the Chardonnay, but there is nevertheless all the tell tail hallmarks of a very fine terroir combined with intelligent winemaking. Drink this on release and over the next 6 to 8 years.

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

Affordable and Accessible Pinot Noir from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley – Tasting the La Vierge The Affair 2016…

Everyone knows Pinot Noir is not an easy grape to cultivate to high quality standards and certainly it does not make for good cheap wine very easily… if at all! The grapes for the La Vierge The Affair Pinot Noir were harvested in six batches by hand for this delicious cuvee, enjoying cool early morning temperatures with vines yielding 2 to 4 tons/ha (13 – 26 hl/ha)… which is relatively meagre.

In the cellar, after overnight cold storage the grapes were sorted, destemmed and gently crushed into fermentation tanks. Cold maceration occurred for an average of 3 days until spontaneous fermentation begun. The wine was then fermented under controlled temperatures until dry. The skins were then lightly pressed and the wine racked into a selection of French oak barrels for 9 months ageing and maturation. The final blending occurred one month prior to bottling and the wine was allowed to develop further in bottle prior to release. The results are impressive for this heartbreak variety!

La Vierge lying just north of Hermanus in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

La Vierge The Affair Pinot Noir 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

The Affair Pinot Noir 2016 is a refined, stylish Pinot Noir showcasing the love affair between the soft feminine side of Pinot Noir, being the lifted floral perfume, hints of potpourri and spice, the textural silkiness; and the masculine linear strength of the mineral tannins, hints of oak and brooding dark forest floor aromas. The palate is both silky and textured, displaying a lovely fleshy rondeur as well as soft, integrated tannins, crisp bright acids and impressive length. High quality cool climate Pinot Noir for an excellent price… the vinous holy grail! Drink now and over 5 to 8 years. 

(90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Recommended Retail Price in the UK £18.99pb

Another Bright Young Winemaker to Watch in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley – Tasting Natasha Williams Signature Wines Chardonnay…

After many years of industry employers frowning upon winemakers and assistant winemakers doing their own creative side projects, it has thankfully now almost become the norm with employees free to experiment and let their creative juices flow while the employer not only retains the winemaker but undoubtedly benefits from the extra knowledge and creative inspiration spawned by these side projects.

The latest one on my radar is the highly talented Natasha Williams who by day works at the Bosman Winery’s Hemel-en-Aarde property but “after hours” makes some delicious Chardonnay under Natasha Williams Signature Wines. I recently acquired a sample of her new 2017 Chardonnay and what a cracker it is!

Produced from grapes originating in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, a specially selected high density (6667 vines per HA) block from the DeBos Farm was vinified to produce 1,060 bottles. Picked early in the morning, the grapes were trucked to the Lelienfontein Cellar in Wellington where they were basket pressed and the juice allowed to start a spontaneous natural yeast fermentation lasting 2 months with 50% in concrete tanks and 50% in older 300 litre French oak barrels. The wine spent 10 months on fine lees in 3rd and 4th fill barrels before being racked and aged a total of 16 months in French oak. (13 Abv., 3.31 pH, 5.84 TA, 2.2 RS).

Natasha Williams Chardonnay 2017, Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley, 13 Abv.

An attractive cooler climate expression of Chardonnay is always a vinous treat from South Africa. In the glass you can indulge in a wonderful bouquet of pithy lemon and lime peel, limestone minerality, dusty crushed gravel, white pepper and yellow grapefruit preserve with just the most subtle salted toffee vanilla oak kiss. On the palate, the wine is classically steely and linear as you’d expect but with an incredibly fine accompanying textural balance, waxy soap stone minerality, grated lemon rind, more limestone, caramelised green fig and succulent ripe honeydew melon notes on the finish. I love the purity, crystallinity and elegance that is ever present with the wine never straying too far into the reductive spectrum while retaining a wonderful sense of restraint. A very impressive solo debut from winemaker Natasha Williams.

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

Another Benchmark South African Sauvignon Blanc from Hannes Storm…

I remember reviewing the delicious 2016 maiden vintage of Wild Air in September 2017, with its wonderful minerality, crystalline purity and old world restraint. (See review here…)

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2016/10/28/yet-another-epic-wine-from-hannes-storm/

The 2017 vintage somehow manages to up the intensity and precision yet another notch to deliver a very special expression of Hemel-En-Aarde Sauvignon Blanc. Track this down from Indigo Wines for summer drinking!

Wild Air Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, 13 Abv.

Wonderfully dusty mineral aromatics that immediately suggest an accomplished terroir driven wine. There are multiple layers of talcum powder, crushed granite , limestone and green apple pith beautifully interwoven with greengage, Granny Smith pastille fruits and crunchy white pear nuances. The palate is equally grown up and complex, deliciously fresh and concentrated with a long, glycerol finish … but most importantly, very impressive harmony and balance. A really beautiful wine from a fantastic vintage for aromatic whites.

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

Tasting with Wineanorak’s Jamie Goode and Hannes Storm at last year’s New Wave Tasting in London.

Creating A Vinous Stir – Tasting the Impressive New Vintage Releases at Creation Winery…

I recently visited JC Martin and his new right hand man, Gerhard Smith (ex-La Vierge) at their beautiful Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge winery Creation. This was my first, long overdue visit to the winery to taste their current release wines as well as some exciting upcoming new vintages from 2017.

Originally from Switzerland, JC together with his South African wife Carolyn (nee Finlayson), bought their original 22 hectares of virgin land in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and completed their cellar in time for their 2007 harvest. Their Walker Bay estate now encompasses 50 hectares planted with over 11 varieties, but focusing mainly on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Creation is now one of the most successful wineries in the Hemel-en-Aarde / Walker Bay region welcoming over 80,000 visitors per year. A very slick operation with a wonderful restaurant and fabulous wines to match, this winery is now regarded as an absolute “must visit” destination if you are visiting the Cape.

Creation Cool-Climate Chenin Blanc 2017, 14 Abv.

Beautiful floral fragrance, real eloquent lift packed with peaches, white orchard fruits, and pear fruit with real purity and clarity, only using old oak for maturation. Sleek palate, cool fruited, plenty of pithy minerality, honey suckle and a very long, concentrated but subtle length. Very individual style.

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

Creation Viognier 2017, 14 Abv.

Beautiful fragrance, blossom and perfume lift. Musk, dusty talc, peach stone fruits and just a touch of pineapple pastille and honeysuckle. Intense, pithy, peppery yellow orchard fruits, and a crushed gravel minerality. Really expressive cooler climate Condrieu old world style.

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

Chardonnay Flight

Creation Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.

20% new oak used. Rich opulent expressive nose with lemon bon bons, rich lemon pastille fruits and a youthful kiss of butterscotch. Plenty of core concentration, lemon and white citrus power, green apple and a long expressive length. Really classy effort for 25,000 bottle production.

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

Creation Chardonnay Reserve 2017, 13.5 Abv.

40 % new used. Wonderfully tight, closed and restrained nose with a pronounced stony mineral grey slate depth, lemon rind, limestone, lemon grass and a very precise oak spice lift. The palate shows incredible elegance, finesse and a taut mineral mouthfeel. Very classy and old world in essence.

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

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2016, 13.5 Abv.

50-55% new oak used. Richer, more expressive opulent nose than the younger 2017. Lemon confit, honeysuckle, white peach and pithy yellow stone fruits radiate from the glass. Very plush and complex, this wine exudes class with a very fine use of oak supporting intense concentration and a delicious, mouthwatering acidity that is finely integrated and harmonious. Big but supremely classy.

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

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Using around 40% new oak, the integration is impressively fine and understated. The aromatics scream of white citrus, green apple pastille fruits, lemon-lime marmalade, pithy wood spice and a delicious exotic Madagascar vanilla pod kiss. Big intense concentration, massive density and structure, the mouth coating breath and depth of the fruit is really something to behold.

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

Pinot Noir Flight

Creation Pinot Noir 2017, 14 Abv.

Wow, beautifully elegant lifted fragrance with such expressive purity and precision. This wine captures the upward quality movement that underpins the entire Creation range, white and red. This wine has Cotes de Beaune written all over it. Lush red berry fruits, bramble berry, sour cherry skins, red plum and a hint of pomegranate. Lovely tart, pithy acids underpin spicy, red and black cherry fruits, cranberry and crunchy almost-ripe strawberries. Mineral grippy tannins, superb overall purity and afine intense finish.

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

Creation Pinot Noir Reserve 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Opulent, rich cherry kirsch liquor nose, massive intensity with a deft touch of subtle wood spice. Definite notes of sappy, whole bunch character are quite pronounced adding real nuance and complexity. The palate is cool, dense and lush with fleshy, blood orange, pithy red cherry, graphite spice and a long earthy forest berry fruit tartness and pithy spice. Tannins are mineral and expansive suggesting you bury this wine in the cellar for 3 to 5 years before drinking.

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

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2016, 14 Abv.

An impressively complex wine showing great opulence, concentration and depth. The aromatics speak of sun raisined cranberry, red plum, ripe strawberry and sappy red bramble berry fruits. Texturally deep and very expressive, plush and powerful packing a delicious, intense acid – fruit punch. An attractive level of earthy red fruit, blood orange nuances combining with a concentrated frais des boisses finish.

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

Creation E17 2017 (Emma’s Pinot Noir)

Two barrels selected. Spicy, peppery, dark and broody with massive black cherry, dark savoury depth layered with minerality and graphite nuances. Cool, taut, structured and focused, with intensity and forest fruit focus. Finish reveals subtlety, elegance and understated power.

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

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2017 (Barrel Sample)

30% Whole bunch with a 5 to 6 day cold soak in tank pre-fermentation. Another dark broody exotic nose that’s tight and intense. But the flavour profile differs from the norm with enticing layers of saline cassis, sea breeze, root veg earthiness, black cherry and a complexing hint of reduction. Texturally, the palate is dense, elegant and wonderfully salty with beguiling maritime flavours, black currant, powdery tannins and fresh, framing acids. Very impressive effort. Definitely a super luxury wine release to watch out for.

(Wine Safari Score: 94-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gerhard Smith Die Kat Se Snor Pinot Noir 2015, 14 Abv. (The Cat’s Whiskers)

Technically Overberg fruit, this is Gerhard Smith’s own new(ish) project, the 2015 being the second release. Two weeks fermentation on skins, soft press to old barrels, 20% whole bunch used. Lovely spicy intensity and red bramble berry fruits, subtle sweet leafy intensity and an earthy, foresty depth. Fleshy, deep and spicy with fine graphite tannin depth. Drink now.

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

JC Martin’s new right hand man… accomplished winemaker Gerhard Smith (ex-La Vierge)

Gerhard Smith Die Kat Se Snor Pinot Noir 2017, +-13.5 Abv.

3 weeks on skins post ferment, 100% whole bunch fruit. Expressive aromatics of crunchy red berry, peppermint crisp, sweet leaf and sappy, resinous black berry. Cool, creamy, earthy fleshy depth, polished tannins, and really accessible already. A very characterful wine with a minimal intervention leaning.

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

Some Additional Wines Opened:

(But reviewed with more brief notes)

Creation Sumac Grenache 2016, 14.5 Abv.

Vibrant, rich, elegant and fresh, with a delicious cherry cranberry twist!

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

Creation Syrah-Grenache 2016, 14.5 Abv.

80/20 blend. Luscious cinnamon and spice melange, fleshy cool black fruits, sweet tannins and a fine plummy, black cherry depth.

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

Creation Syrah 2017 (Barrel Sample)

Wild yeast, 40% whole bunch ferment. Peppery black liquorice spice with saline cassis, black cherry and piquant, grippy oak spice. Delicious purity, fine maritime salinity, and lovely depth. This is quite serious and could be very impressive on release.

(Wine Safari Score: 92-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Fine Cape Vintage Syrah 2016, 17.5 Abv.

Made in a Port style and fortified with KWV 10 Year Old Brandy spirit. Sweet kirsch liquor and vibrant depth, fresh, sun dried raspberries, black cherry and superb savoury sweet length. Super pure, supremely mouthwatering and impressive depth. One of the best of this style I’ve tasted for some time. The perfect digestive?

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

The Young Gun Still Blazing – Tasting the Alheit Family Cartology 2017…

As most producers are getting ready to press their 2018 grapes post fermentation, I’ve been tasting the incredible offerings from Chris Alheit. Still a leading light in South Africa, look no further than Dreyfus Ashby for an allocation of Chris’s incredible Cartology white blend. A Cape legend!

Alheit Family Vineyards Cartology 2017

Big expectations as ever and this blend does not disappoint. Big, broad expansive yellow orchard fruit aromatics, subtle yellow blossom and then an overriding dusty gravel quarry minerality. The palate shows amazing depth, typical Alheit pineapple fruit pastille concentration, lemon grass and an incredible saline, grassy, herbal pithy length. Another epic effort from Butch. Drink 2019-2038+

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

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, A Benchmark Wine In the South African Wine Industry – The 2017 Vintage Reviewed…

I recently caught up with Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell to taste their new releases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. So much has been written about 2017 as the third consecutive “drought savaged” vintage in South Africa. But in reality, Walker Bay and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley got off relatively unscathed, producing wines with great concentration, vigour and freshness. No doubt this will Be yet another fast selling vintage for this dynamic estate.

90% of the 2017 Chardonnay was barrel fermented and aged in 228 litre barriques for 9 months, 31% first fill, 33% second fill, 33% third fill and 3% fourth fill… 47% blonde, 40% medium, 10% medium long toast, with 4% aged in foudre, 5% stainless steel, and 1% in ceramic eggs. 1.4 g/l RS.

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.16 Abv.

This wine was tasted from barrel in March 2017 and showed great potential with bright acidity accentuating the wine’s natural limestone minerality. After 9 months ageing in French oak barrels, the wine is still very primary on the nose, revealing notes of sweet lemon cordial, green honeydew melon, green pear, white blossom and waxy green apple skins. There is lovely nervy tension to the palate which is much tauter and leaner than the nose suggests. Framed by vibrant, steely acids, the white citrus and lemon butter flavours are concertina’d into a complex press of green apple pastilles, pithy green gauge fruits and a stony liquid minerality. Not revealing all its grandeur just yet, but undoubtedly serves as a grand road map to the full pleasures that await the drinker in 6 to 12 months time. A real triumph for the vintage and another benchmark Chardonnay from this winery. Drink now to 2030+

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