The South African consumer has never had such a plethora of exciting wines from across the Cape to choose from. Both Young Guns and seasoned winemakers are sourcing the very best grapes, pushing the industry forward and thrilling palates. We are, however, noticing a push-back for the first time as some producers have overshot the runway with ambitious prices.
Raised by Wolves has flown somewhat under the radar and offers comparatively excellent value. It’s a project by winemaking legend Adam Mason of Mulderbosch Vineyards. The name, says Adam, is a parody of the constant one-upmanship between winemakers:
‘My wine is a single vineyard!’
‘Yeah, well my wine is naturally fermented…’
‘Oh yeah, well my wine is hand sorted by berry.’
‘Well my wines are all of the above, and I was raised by wolves.’ – Adam Mason
The most exciting of the quartet is the La Colline Sémillon Groendruif from the famous Franschhoek vineyard, La Colline. It’s no secret that these same grapes produce another wine, sold at three times the price, from another high-flying winemaker. It is textured, pure and exotic and offers beguiling complexity and vinous ecstasy.
The pure-fruited Limestone Pinot Noir is exciting too. Sourced from the small Overberg hamlet of Vermaaklikheid; an arid region about 20km from the sea. As the name states, the vineyards are strewn with limestone, rare in the Cape, which gives it a fine balance of unique ripeness and, dare we say, minerality.
The Old School Cinsaut Cabernet Sauvignon, boosted by the thrilling 2015 vintage, is one of the best takes on this blend we have tasted. Finally, my favourite in the line-up, is the old vine Driehoek Chenin Blanc. There are many great examples on the market but this one hits the mark with superb ripeness, true precision and pure yumminess.
Yardstick, Raised by Wolves Driehoek Chenin Blanc 2016 – R 250
The Montpellier, or ‘lost’ clone holds special reverence amongst South African producers of Chenin Blanc. Up until the 1990s it was widely planted until newer, heavier yielding clones became available and it was mostly replaced. Although commercially extinct, it is perhaps one of the finest quality selections of Chenin Blanc producing naturally lower yields and wines of richness and depth of flavour, often with a pithy texture and a refreshing citrus twist. Happy was I to secure a tiny triangular (driehoek) parcel of these coveted vines from friend and grower, Deon Joubert. – Adam Mason
Using the same Montpellier clone as the Mulderbosch Block A Chenin (it’s the same grower too), this comes from a warmer, north-facing parcel that was picked early in 2016 to retain acidity. Rich and dense, with honeyed spice and bright acidity. Drink 2017-20. – Tim Atkin MW, 90/100
Yardstick, Raised by Wolves La Colline Sémillon Groendruif 2016 – R 250
The first time I walked into the La Colline Sémillon vineyard, our host suddenly turned to face me and with great reverence declared, ‘this is an antique vineyard, planted by my Grandfather in 1935’. The sense that I had been privileged to view family treasure has never left, and each time I visit La Colline I am reminded how important old vines are if for nothing else their connection to the past. La Colline Sémillon is simply whole-bunch pressed and after settling overnight is transferred to neutral oak barrels for fermentation and maturation. – Adam Mason
Adam Mason refers to the La Colline vineyard as a ‘cultural relic’ and I think he’s right. It’s a stunning site, planted in 1936. Zesty, dense and concentrated, it’s a wine that’s rich yet very light on its feet. Fresh pastry, citrus and honeysuckle notes are framed by lightly toasty oak. Drink 2017-24. – Tim Atkin MW, 93/100
Yardstick, Raised by Wolves Limestone Pinot Noir 2015 – R 250
Like the other wines in this line-up, this pure-fruited Pinot Noir is exciting. It is sourced from the small Overberg hamlet of Vermaaklikheid which is an arid region about 20km from the sea. As the name states, the vineyards are strewn with limestone which is rare in the Cape and gives it a fine balance of unique ripeness and, dare we say, minerality. – Roland Peens (March 2018)
Yardstick, Raised by Wolves Old School Cinsaut Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – R 250
Having enjoyed many SA ‘Cabernet Sauvignons’ from the 1960s and 1970s I was enthralled to discover that many of these old gems included a far greater percentage of Cinsaut than Cabernet such was the shortage of Cabernet Sauvignon vines in production at the time. The laws legislating label declarations conveniently allowing these wines to be labelled and Sauvignon. Given my respect for Cinsaut and its heritage status in the South African wine story, I have always wanted to explore these ‘Old School’ blends. It is both incredulous and thought provoking to consider that big berried, low acid Cinsaut has the ability to not only preserve, but vastly improve the King of red grapes. – Adam Mason
Old School refers to the blend – once popular in the Cape – rather than the style of the wine, which has no leaf roll virus characters. Cinsaut is the leading lady here, with Cabernet supplying 25% of the assemblage. Elegant, savoury and brambly, with tannin adding some grip to the finish. Drink 2018-23. – Tim Atkin MW, 91/100