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Neal Martin’s SA scores

Twenty seven of our wines have been awarded over 90 points in Neal Martin’s South African report for The Wine Advocate, published this week, of which nine scored over 92. Please see below for a full listing with tasting notes of these high-scoring wines.

94 points:

2015 Seven Flags Chardonnay, Paul Cluver: The 2015 Seven Flags Chardonnay was picked between February 16 and March 4 at 6.6-tons per hectare, and matured in 25% new French oak. It has a sophisticated bouquet with quite intense aromas of citrus fruit, nutmeg and walnut, perhaps a little nod to Meursault there. The palate is vibrant and fresh on the entry with a saline entry, a keen thread of acidity, the complexity really surfacing towards the second half with subtle lemongrass veins lending tanginess that beckons you back for another sip. I have often claimed this to be one of South Africa’s finest Chardonnays and this 2015 adds to their canon of world-class wines.

2016 Reserve Chardonnay, DeMorgenzon: The 2016 Reserve Chardonnay has an even better nose than the 2015: lemon sherbet, yellow flowers and freshly sliced white peach bursting from the glass, augmented by a hint of tinned apricot. This is irresistible. The palate is well balanced, very expressive with a superb line of acidity. This is an exuberant Chardonnay that barely knows what to do with all that nascent energy. Carl van der Merwe suggested that the 2015 Reserve Chardonnay might have greater longevity. You know, I suspect this might have a longer arc.

93 points:

2016 Reserve Chenin Blanc, DeMorgenzon: The 2016 Reserve Chenin Blanc, which will be released summer 2017, was slightly deeper in color compared to other vintages. It has a composed bouquet with nectarine, melted wax and dried pineapple scents, a touch of dandelion in the background. The palate is fresh on the entry with crisp acidity. I find more nuance and harmony here compared to the 2015, a delicacy married with intensity in the finish, a tang of clear honey on the aftertaste (although there was no botrytis in the vineyard).

2015 Maestro White Blend, DeMorgenzon: The 2015 Maestro White is fermented in stainless steel, large foudres and concrete eggs. Winemaker Carl van der Merwe commented that it was the first vintage to show real linearity. A blend of 29% Roussanne, 23% Chardonnay, 22% Chenin Blanc, 18% Grenache Blanc and 8% Viognier, it offers impressive aromatics with heady scents of white peach, fresh pear, a hint of almond and melted candle wax. You could stick your nose in this all day! The palate is very well balanced with good weight, quite spicy with hints of lemongrass filtering through the light tropical fruit, almost more a wine of texture than flavor, which is not an easy feat to pull off.

92 points:

2015 Seven Flags Pinot Noir, Paul Cluver: The 2015 Seven Flags Pinot Noir is completely de-stemmed with no crushing, matured in barrel on the fine lees for 11 months. It has an elegant and what you might call “transparent” bouquet with perfumed red cherries, crushed strawberry and rose petal scents. The oak here is neatly integrated (20% new). The palate offers crunchy red berry fruit on the entry: cranberry and pomegranate laced with spice, nicely structured on the second half with a saline finish that lingers long in the mouth. This is excellent.

2015 Reserve Syrah, DeMorgenzon: The 2014 Reserve Syrah is fermented in a 6,000 Nomblot concrete egg and contains a small percentage of whole bunch. It has a very composed bouquet with black fruit, briary, a touch of bay leaf and clove, full of character and with more varietal expression than its Dmz counterpart. The palate is sweet and supple on the entry with white pepper tinged black fruit, a keen line of acidity and quite a structured, dense finish that offloads plenty of spicy, white pepper character, almost garrigue-like in style.

2013 Peter Barlow, Rustenberg: The 2013 Peter Barlow, matured exactly the same as the 2012, comes from a much cooler season. It has a less intense bouquet, perhaps with fine delineation with blackberry, blueberry and melted tar aromas, developing quite complex dried violet petal aromas. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, quite saline in the mouth with black fruit mixed with a subtle marine influence. It perhaps just needs a little more persistence on the finish, but otherwise I am intrigued to see how this will age. It might just have the edge over the 2012 Peter Barlow.

2015 Estate Reserve Chardonnay, Glenelly: The 2015 Estate Reserve Chardonnay has a lovely, quite powerful bouquet with discretely integrated oak, hints of smoked walnut and orange rind developing closely behind, keeping very Burgundy-like. The palate is well balanced with plenty of roundness on the entry. This lacquers the mouth with citrus fruit laced with orange zest and a touch of almond, fanning out gently on the finish to complete what is just a delicious Chardonnay that you will finish all too quickly.

2015 Five Soldiers Chardonnay, Rustenberg: The 2015 Chardonnay Five Soldiers is produced from a single block each year, apart from 2016, which was affected by smoke taint from bush fires. It is clearly less tropical on the nose, quite conservative in style but nicely defined, the 70% new oak very discrete. The palate is fresh and vibrant on the entry, a subtle Chardonnay with grapefruit and mango notes, a pinch of lemon sherbet, leading to a composed finish that fans out nicely but never gets carried away. This is an excellent, sophisticated Chardonnay to enjoy over the next decade.

91 points:

2015 Hannibal, Bouchard Finlayson: The 2014 Hannibal is a blend of 33% Sangiovese, 22% Pinot Noir, 18% Shiraz, 17% Nebbiolo, 6% Mourvedre and 4% Barbera (a drop more Shiraz to give it more structure after the rainy growing season). It has an attractive bouquet: red plum, cranberry and pressed flowers, the grape varieties working in harmony with each other. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannin, neatly integrated oak, fennel and wild mint infusing the red berry fruit with a brisk and bright finish. This might be the best Hannibal that I have tasted.

2015 Maestro Red Blend, DeMorgenzon: The 2014 Maestro Red is a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Malbec, 16% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, all the berries sorted, whole berry fermented with 18 months in barrel. It offers a smoky, cured meat-tinged bouquet that permeates through the mixture of red and black fruit, tobacco emerging with time. The palate is crisp with grainy tannin, a little austere at first but demonstrating good depth and backbone towards the finish that has a Medoc-like (Saint Julien) character.

2015 Proprietor’s Syrah, Ernie Els: The 2014 Proprietor’s Syrah, which is blended with 5% Viognier, has a sensual bouquet with blueberry, boysenberry jam and clove aromas, just a touch of garrigue emerging with time. The palate is well balanced with some lovely glycerine-rich black fruit, quite harmonious in the mouth with a soothing, svelte finish with a honeyed aftertaste. This is very seductive and is another Els wine to show more finesse than expected, perhaps a sign of their new direction?

2015 Proprietor’s Blend, Ernie Els: The 2014 Proprietor’s Blend equates to 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah, 5% each of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Merlot. It has a composed bouquet with red cherries and crushed strawberry, quite an attractive floral scent emerging with time. The palate is medium-bodied with grainy tannin: plenty of cedar-infused black fruit laced with black pepper and cloves, leading to an engaging and assured finish. This is a well-crafted red blend that shows more composure and refinement than previous vintages.

2013 Glass Collection Syrah, Glenelly: The 2013 The Glass Collection Shiraz has a crisp and lucid bouquet with black cherries, boysenberry jam and cassis aromas that are detailed and delineated. The aromatics felt compact and in fact, a two-hour decanting revealed the locked-in floral aromas. The palate is well balanced with quite firm tannin that lend this Shiraz an attractive linearity and strictness, yet there is plenty of black fruit tied up in this wine and the finish is focused and tensile. This is a well-crafted Shiraz from Glenelly that will age gracefully over the next decade.

2015 Buzzard Kloof Syrah, Rustenberg: The 2013 The Glass Collection Shiraz has a crisp and lucid bouquet with black cherries, boysenberry jam and cassis aromas that are detailed and delineated. The aromatics felt compact and in fact, a two-hour decanting revealed the locked-in floral aromas. The palate is well balanced with quite firm tannin that lend this Shiraz an attractive linearity and strictness, yet there is plenty of black fruit tied up in this wine and the finish is focused and tensile. This is a well-crafted Shiraz from Glenelly that will age gracefully over the next decade.

2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Paul Cluver: The 2016 Sauvignon Blanc is blended with 10% Semillon and is matured in used oak. It has a clean and fresh bouquet with Apple blossom and kiwi fruit aromas, subtle at first but unfolding nicely with time. The palate is well balanced with crisp acidity, a nice phenolic note on the entry with white peach and green apple towards the vivacious finish. This is a worthy follow up to the 2015.

2016 Close Encounter Riesling, Paul Cluver: The 2016 Close Encounter Riesling was initially reticent on the nose, but a couple of swirls and it releases scents of pressed yellow flowers and petrol, all nicely defined. The palate is very attractive with a harmonious lychee, grapefruit and white peach opening, plenty of concentration offset by a fine bead of acidity and real refinement on the finish. Just a delicious, refreshing Riesling.

90 points:

2015 Crocodile’s Lair Chardonnay, Bouchard Finlayson: The 2015 Crocadiles Lair Chardonnay offers tropical notes on the nose: dried pineapple, guava and melon that will have commercial appeal. The palate has a slight butteriness on the opening, the acidity nicely judged and there is just the right amount of spice on the finish to keep you coming back. Yes, I can see the mass appeal here, but that is no bad thing and the coconut tincture on the aftertaste is a nice way to end.

2015 Missionvale Chardonnay, Bouchard Finlayson: The 2015 Missionvale Chardonnay probably offers the most complex aromatics from Bouchard Finlayson this vintage: dried honey, hints of orange rind and honeysuckle, more Mirabelle aromas with time in the glass. The palate is smooth and rounded on the entry, the 30% new oak imparting almond and brioche notes, leading to a smooth and seductive finish that probably needs a little more bite. Still, this is an easygoing but delicious Chardonnay.

2015 Chardonnay, Paul Cluver: The 2015 Chardonnay, which is 100% barrel fermented with 25% new for 11 months, was perhaps not quite as immediate as the 2014, although it eventually unfurls with dried pineapple, beeswax and honeysuckle aromas that are neatly integrated with the wood. The palate is well balanced with a slightly honeyed opening, rich and powerful ,and perhaps needing to muster a little more tension and mineralité on the finish, brioche lingering on the aftertaste. Drink over the next 4-6 years.

2015 1947 Chenin Blanc, Kaapzicht: The 2015 “1947” Chenin Blanc has a light dried pineapple and citrus nose with scents of apricot and quince developing in the glass. The palate is fresh on the entry with a slightly waxy texture, the acidity nicely judged and armed with an appealing lightly honeyed, quince-tinged finish. Enjoy this over the next 3-4 years.

2015 Chardonnay, Rustenberg: From purchased fruit, the 2015 Chardonnay is matured in 300-liter barrels with three liters of lees added to each (25% new oak). It has a classic, powerful, generous bouquet with tropical fruit (guava and dried pineapple) that manages to regain satisfactory freshness. The palate is fresh on the entry with crisp acidity, just a hint of lychee rounded off with a pleasant saline note right on the finish. This is a well-made Chardonnay to drink now and over the next 4-5 years.

2014 DMZ Grenache, DeMorgenzon: The maiden 2014 DMZ Grenache Noir comes from the estate from more gravelly, shallower soils compared to others. It has attractive red plum and strawberry scents that are clean and straightforward. The palate is fresh on the entry with crisp acidity, a little grainy in texture with more black fruit towards the structured finish, a tang of spice lingering on the aftertaste. This is a commendable debut: a “cool” Grenache that will drink well for 4-6 years. Alas, not available in the US at the moment.

2014 Summit, Guardian Peak: The 2014 Summit is a mainly Syrah/Mourvèdre blend with a splash of Grenache matured in French and American oak. It has a perfumed bouquet with kirsch, red cherries and boysenberry fruit that are neatly integrated with the oak. The palate is medium-bodied with smooth and sumptuous red berry fruit, well-judged acidity and a caressing, sweet finish. This should be delicious over the next 4-5 years.

2014 John X Merriman, Rustenberg: The 2014 John X Merriman is the spiciest vintage to date according to Murray Barlow, due to the cooler growing season that did not go past 30 degrees Celsius during the season. Matured in 35% new oak for 20 months, that spice-box element does percolate through the red berry fruit on the nose, touches of bay leaf and melted tar emerging with time. The palate is medium-bodied with slightly chewy tannin on the entry, a fine seam of acidity, grippy and quite assertive at first, but calmer towards the finish with that long spicy/pepper tail on the aftertaste. Give this 2-3 years in bottle. This is discretely classy even if it is just missing that “X” factor.

2015 Red Muscadel, Rustenberg: The 2015 Red Muscadelle comes from the Calitzdorp region and is fortified with 96% SVR spirit. Matured in French oak for three months, it has a lucid Amber color. The nose is actually quite simple with orange sorbet, rose petal, marmalade and Muscat-like scents (bizarrely, quite like a Gewurztraminer). The palate is nicely balanced with a viscous opening, the acidity nicely judged with marmalade, tangy orange peel and lychee, leading to a lovely honeyed finish. This is delicious.