Tasting Carl van der Merwe’s Impressive New White and Red Blends from Stellenbosch…

Carl joined award winning DeMorgenzon winery owned by Hilton and Wendy Applebaum in July 2010 after an 8 year stint at Quoin Rock Winery in Stellenbosch where he made a range of highly regarded wines which duly collected many trade accolades.

Whilst Carl’s extraordinary talent in the winery and genius in the cellar add immeasurably to DeMorgenzon, it is reassuring to see that the Applebaums have allowed Carl to experiment with his new venture… The Great White and The Great Red, two interesting blends.

The Great White Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon / Chenin Blanc 2015, 13.5 Abv.

This wine features Sauvignon and Semillon as well as 10% Chenin Blanc that was barrel fermented. There is plenty of lifted aromatics and grassy lime peel, lemon grass, and dusty white peach stone fruit. The palate is full and textural, one of Carl’s winemaking signatures, with lovely round harmonious, fleshy, creamy mouthfeel. This wine has impressive gravitas for its price point (£17-£18pb) and a complex, spicy granitic mineral finish with great lucidity.

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

The Great Red Cabernet Sauvignon / Cinsaut / Cabernet Franc / Petit Verdot 2015, 14 Abv.

A very attractive nose greets you on this well constructed, well proportioned red. There is plenty of sweet spicy red fruit, soft fleshy red currants, sweet leaf, earl grey tea, cedar and tobacco spice. There is an opulence and generosity to the wine brimming with sweet black berry and foresty bramble fruits. Full core of fruit, dense but precise and elegant with a very fine seamless texture and a soft, pithy red cherry skin finish. A fine effort.

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

Carl is currently working towards his British Master of Wine, for which we wish him the best of luck. South Africa is long overdue another MW in its ranks! 

Hemelrand Vine Garden ~ A Premium Alheit Family Wine for the Local South African Market…

We are spoilt in the UK. We often get the lions share of allocations of rare, small production, icon or boutique wines to the annoyance of the home market. The European and other international markets have been far quicker to accept and pay the premium prices these wines often command.

We all know the local SA home market has an inbuilt aversion to paying more than R150 (£8.99) a bottle for a white wine, and perhaps R250-R300 (£16.99) max for a bottle of red. As long as this mentality prevails, most of SA’s greatest wines will be exported to international markets. 

No point being sour grapes about this fact. It’s a reality that only the local consumers themselves can change. Though, in 2016, I have seen a glimmer of hope that buying behaviour is starting to change in the local market. 
Producers and distributors are working harder than ever on more innovative ways to get locals to part with their hard earned cash. Premium producers like Vilafonte have had great success with their exclusive wine members club, while De Toren has successfully carved out a successful premium on-trade niche for their Book XVII and Black Lion wines. Mullineux & Leeuw Family Wines have also been successful with their exclusive wine club micro-vinifications that help to cast an even broader halo over their entire range of fine wines. 

So it was with great interest that I learnt about Chris Alheit’s new 2015 single vineyard release earlier this year… with a small(ish) production of 5000 bottles primarily destined for the local South African market. 

Chris “Butch” Alheit with his 2016 new releases including the maiden Hemelrand Vine Garden

Inspired by great Mediterranean white wines such as Mas de Dumass Gassac, Le Soula, and Domaine de La Grange des Peres, the Hemelrand Vine Garden white is produced from a new “fifth-leaf” vineyard planted directly behind the Hemelrand cellar on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, situated at 360 meters above sea level, on gravelly clay, with Sandstone intrusions. The blend is comprised of 48% Roussanne, 27% Chenin, 22% Chardonnay and 3% Verdelho.

Tasting Note: A pale pineapple yellow, this white blend is laced with dusty white citrus minerality, limestone, grapefruit zest and wet chalk. There’s a real old world restraint permeating this wine. The palate is intense and concentrated, bursting with yellow citrus, white peach, pineapple pastille, salty lemon and a honied, Bon Bon finish. I was expecting this young wine to be a lot tighter and leaner, but once again, the 2015 vintage intensity and opulence clearly shines through. Add to that the Alheit blending skill, and you’re gifted a magical blend, seamlessly woven together, with a complex, slightly oily finish. Lovely now but will be even better in 2 to 3 years time. (Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Seduction in a Glass ~ Revisiting Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2014 White Blend…

The sensational Rocking Horse Cape white blend from winemaker John Seccombe, is a eclectic blend of Roussanne, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Semillon from vineyards between 19 and 34 years old. 

All naturally fermented with wild yeasts, with whole bunch pressing, using no new oak, and bâtonnage employed once a month. The lovely name comes from a rocking horse made for John’’s oldest daughter out of old oak barrel staves.

John Seccombe in his leopard tank top explaining the production of Rocking Horse

Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2014, 13.5 Abv., WO Western Cape 

Tasting Note: The 2014 vintage of this Cape white blend is a blend of 35% Chenin Blanc (Bottelary and Swartland), 28% Roussanne (Voor Paardeberg), 22% Semillon (Franschhoek), 14% Chardonnay and 1% Viognier (both Overberg) that was matured in old oak for approximately 10 months. A medium straw colour, the nose is jam packed with complex lemon biscuit, lemon creme pie, pineapple pastille fruits, red liquorice, sweet fennel and vanilla pod spice. These flavours follow to a voluptuous, fleshy palate where the flavours meld into a seductive, seamlessly balanced yellow fruit melange framed by subtle creamy oak notes and a vibrant, mouth watering acidity. Such intensity, depth and flavourful length. This is another epic rendition of a Chenin led blend that’s drinking beautifully. Will be interesting to see how this wine ages. Drink now to 2022+ (Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)