The South African wine scene is in a fantastic place. Almost every week I find myself tasting a young, exciting wine with less extraction, less oak, less alcohol and less sweetness. Wines containing fewer additions of everything else other than grapes. Not only are these wines more balanced and far more drinkable, but there is strong belief that more naturally produced wines can age better than those built in the cellar rather than the vineyard.
Duncan Savage’s new ‘SAVAGE’ wines are something of a contradiction; savage in their essence of minimal intervention winemaking, but utterly sophisticated in their elegance, drinkability and poise. Duncan has impressed us all with some of the finest whites in SA from over a decade as winemaker at Cape Point Vineyards. The Savage wines are a slight departure, however, showcasing rather the wines he wants to drink, styled more on the savoury, honest and tempered wines of the Old World. What impresses most is the drinkability of the Savage wines, their low alcohols and teasing structures. Rather medium bodied and elegant, both wines are concentrated without being heavy.
Only a few thousand bottles of each were produced so expect one of the most exciting wine releases of the year to sell out fast. Open these beauties and sample them over an entire week; they slowly start to open up and show you what the future may bring. Asking Duncan just how long the Savage wines will go, ‘a decade possibly, maybe two!’ he quips.
Notes and ratings below by Christian Eedes and Greg Sherwood MW
Just one sniff of the Savage Red is all it takes to transport you to the dusty, chalky limestone peaks of the garrique coated Dentelle de Montmirail mountain range near the village of Gigondas in the Southern Rhone, where Shiraz and Grenache are kings among men. The colour is dark red black and opaque. The nose is super complex with spicy savoury red currant, red plum, forest berries and ripe raspberry vanilla confit notes. The subtle peppery, dry summer grass and dusty fynbos notes add to the complexity and allure of this classically styled wine. The palate too is very suave and grown up and balances perfectly the vibrant, fresh, nervy acid tension of the cool coastal Shiraz with the crunchy wild strawberry and red sour plum fruit of the Grenache and Cinsaut. Beautiful ruby grapefruit, exotic spice, and fennel notes linger on the palate. True to the finest Shiraz / Grenache blends of the Southern Rhone in France, this wine possesses super sleek ripe mineral tannins, ample structure and amazing depth, sophistication and precision. Expect to drink this from release and for 20+ years. Greg Sherwood MW – 94/100
72% Shiraz, 21% Grenache, 7% Cinsaut. Matured for 12 months in large-format oak, none new. Very primary on the nose but completely enticing – red berries, fynbos and spice. Remarkable flavour intensity given an abv of 12.8%. Medium bodied with great fruit purity, lemon-like acidity and fine tannins. The finish, meanwhile, has an almost salty quality to it. Entirely gluggable. Christian Eedes 93/100
The maiden (white) release is fermented and aged in 100% French oak (500 and 600 litre barrels) for 10 months, 25% new, with the remainder 2nd and 3rd fill. Brilliant pale straw yellow. The bouquet displays a wonderfully expressive perfumed, lifted nose of ripe yellow grapefruit, pineapple boiled bon bons, yellow pastille sweets, and the most beautiful white blossom and dusty crushed gravel mineral complexity. On the palate it’s electrically fresh and vibrant with a fully explosive entry, a full bodied, multi-layered and highly textural lanolin mid-palate of green apples, fleshy yellow grapefruit, crisp white peaches and pithy, grassy gooseberry. The finish is dense, concentrated, rapier fresh and very, very long, with the layers of pithy ginger, peppery minerality taking seconds to roll off the tongue. This wine has incredible mouthfeel, elegance and textural balance for a wine of 13.5 degrees ABV and exudes a class of pedigree more commonly associated with the great Grand Cru Classe white blends from the Graves in Bordeaux. Drink from 2014 to 2018+. Greg Sherwood MW – 94-95/100
70% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon. Fermented and matured in 100% French oak (500-litre and 600-litre barrels) for 10 months, 25% new. Pronounced gunpowder note on the nose. Green apple and grapefruit, driving acidity, super-dry finish. A sophisticated proposition, currently rather lean and austere and frankly quite hard work. However, it’s got a smart analysis (13.7% abv, RS 2g/l, TA 6.6g/l and pH 3.15) and probably should only be broached from 2015 onwards. Christian Eedes 91/100