Apart from the momentous releases from Alheit, Mullineux and Porseleinberg, we haven’t been this impressed with a new release in a decade. Previously the winemaker at Boekenhoutskloof, Jean Smit is now in partnership with David Curl, ex Château Gaby in Bordeaux, and they have created an exciting, pitch-perfect set of wines under the label Damascene. The Syrah, Sémillon and Cabernet Franc are immediately placed amongst the finest in SA.
The maiden release headlines with the must-have Damascene Syrah 2018 which is produced using mainly fruit from the famed Karibib vineyard (the source of Sons of Sugarland Syrah and Lukas van Loggerenberg Graft) as well as two granitic Bottelary vineyards. Considering his stints in the Rhône with Stéphane Ogier and almost a decade spent at Boekenhoutskloof, it’s no surprise that Jean’s Syrah is one of the very finest expressions we have tasted. It is perfumed with meat spices, florals and poised fruit that leads to an impressive and elegant, yet sumptuous palate with a long, classy finish.
Jean’s passion for Sémillon and his dedication to terroir have led him to secure this amazing but small vineyard planted in 1942. The parcel is a little gem that produces quintessential old-vine Franschhoek Sémillon. The Damascene Sémillon 2018 is a super-small release of only 700 bottles. This is a serious, complex white of great pedigree and perfect for cellaring over the next decade.
The Damascene Cabernet Franc 2018, from Bottelary vineyards, is a refined and detailed expression that walks a fine line between Loire-like sensibility and Stellenbosch fruit weight. With great purity of fruit and exquisitely silky tannins that leave a lasting impression, it’s something very special.