A one-hundred-point white? From South Africa? I can almost hear the tutting and clucking from here. But I defy anyone to taste this monumental wine, preferably among a line-up of other, world-class wines and resist its charms. The crop was down 60%, resulting in an old-vine Chenin of mind-blowing focus, depth and concentration. Quince, lemon and subtle Asian spices segue into a palate of nuances, corners, light and shade and dark. Well done, Eben Sadie. Well done, the van Lill family, who grow the grapes. Well done, South Africa. 100 points, Tim Atkin MW, South Africa Special Report 2020
This extraordinary 100% Chenin Blanc hails from South Africa’s northernmost wine region, the arid Citrusdal Mountain WO, on the west bank of the Olifants River. Specifically, the fruit is drawn from three parcels of 90-year-old, ungrafted bush vines on the decomposed sandstone slopes of the Skurfberg. These are three immaculately farmed vineyards, which have never been treated with herbicide or chemical fertilisers. Each vineyard is vinified separately, basket-pressed, then transferred to old casks for natural fermentation. Following 12 months on lees, the wine is blended, then returned to the same casks for a further six months before bottling directly from foudre. The result is an unbelievable tension-fuelled wine that can stand up to the great Chenins of the Loire—a wine of jaw-dropping texture, mineral energy and complexity. Although 70% down in yields, the wine is unbelievably harmonious and poised; it does not show any evidence of the drought. “Drinking this wine is the closest we’ll probably get to walking on crystal,” says Eben, and that about captures it.
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