And now, Mullineux Chenin Blanc Schist

Any new wine from Chris and Andrea Mullineux – the Pride of Riebeek-Kasteel! – is to be welcomed. Particularly such a fine one as the white that is set to join the Syrahs from specific soil types (Schist and Granite) that were released to such acclaim last year, and are shortly to be joined by a third with the 2011 vintage: Iron.

mullineux-schistThe new wine, also called Schist (from a pair of vineyards on the slopes of the Riebeekberg), is a pure Chenin Blanc from 2012.

Chris brought an open bottle round to me this afternoon while waiting to get back to Andrea, who’s in hospital just round the corner from me, following an operation on a benign but troubling growth on her oesophagus. We had it at room temperature – which, given the coolness of the room this winter’s day was just about right; this isn’t the sort of wine I like drinking too cold.

Unsurprisingly (this is a Mullineux wine after all) there’s a fine delicacy to the Schist Chenin Blanc – aromas of orange blossom perhaps (well, at least something floral with a hint of citrus to it). There is, of course, also schist-origin chenin in the Mullineux white blend, supplying some of the nervy finesse of that wine, and that is characteristic of this wine too, along  with a supple light richness and amplitude. If I might be allowed a flight of fancy, I’d say it finishes lingeringly with a little nut of ripe citrus (tangerine, perhaps – something more orange than lemon or lime, anyway); a flavour that is somehow wrapped into a shape, a round, perfect shape rolling and settling smoothly in the mouth.

The terroir-chenins are also going to be augmented in vintages to come – there’s a Quartz Chenin 2013 still resting in its barrels. Meanwhile, the Schist Chenin will be released in August, along with its red counterparts. As you can see from the pic, the label (this one a proof) is similar to those, but with silver foil rather than the copper-gold used for the reds. The price, I believe, is going to be about two thirds of that of the Syrahs, making it something of a bargain, in line with so many brilliant Cape whites of the highest order of ambition.

Incidentally, another major Swartland release coming up around then (22 July to be precise) is from Sadie Family Wines (making yet more demands on an emptying bank account and a filling cellar). Sadie release 2011 Columella and Palladius, and the 2012 wines in the Old Vineyard Series. Out of the Swartland always come wonders.

Not even dinner time now, and I’ve polished off the remnants of the Schist Chenin that Chris brought; with a mental toast (and thanks!) to poor Andrea languishing there – though on her way to recovery, I’m assured, following a wholly successful operation.

Four shirazes, in all their variousness

If shiraz is your thing you’ll do fine; ditto with cured/smoked meat; if you like both you’re in for a real treat at Hartenberg estate in Stellenbosch next Saturday afternoon (1 June).

The organisers of the annual Feast of Shiraz and Charcuterie sent me four bottles as samples of the wines that will be there, and they happily illustrate the wide range of styles – not to mention prices – in which Cape shiraz is manifesting itself.

mullineuxredLet’s start at the top with Mullineux Syrah 2010, the justly celebrated Swartland wine from Andrea and Chris Mullineux. It is the current Platter Guide’s Red Wine of the Year and has opened up a little since I last tasted it some months back, though I think it has a long way to go, as the flavours uncoil and fill all the available space provided by the forceful but subtle framework. That said (and my own case of the wine stays resultely unbroken for a good few years yet), it is a fresh and lovely drink with already some complexity of flavour emerging above the silky Swartland tannins. Elegant and unimposing – but all the more impressive for that, and pretty good value at about R230. wine. I suspect the queues to taste it on Saturday will be long and eager. And then well satisfied.

Altogether more approachable now was my second-favourite of this quartet, the Reynecke Organic Shiraz 2011. If you think organic wines are necessarily a bit homespun and funky, you haven’t yet met the combination of viticultural passion of Johan Reynecke and the brilliance in the cellar of winemaker Rudiger Gretschel. In fact not all the grapes in the Organic range come from the home farm (which is not only organic but biodynamic too).  It’s delicious, firmly structured and subtly-fruited wine, with quiet oaking giving a bit of smokiness but mostly adding breadth and supporting the ripe fruit; unchallenging – welcoming, rather – but far from a dumbed-down pushover. Less of a crime to drink this wine now than is the case with the Mullineux, though it is likely to develop well in bottle for some years.

cirrusMore significantly youthful and in need of time – mostly because it has quite a bit of oak still in evidence is Cirrus Syrah (closer to R300 than R200). This label is a decade-old joint venture between the owner of Silver Oaks in California and Rust-en-Vrede’s Jean Engelbrecht. Especially given the rather Californian styling of R&V wines, it’s hardly surprising that Cirrus is notably-sweet-fruit, plush and opulent – and very stylish and sophisticated. Plenty of structure, but nothing to frighten those who like big, bold, ripe wines. Room to develop, certainly, but impressive enough now.

Perhaps ironically, the wine in my foursome least in need of any bottle-development is the oldest, Hartenberg Shiraz 2009. Hartenberg makes, in its famour Gravel Hill Shiraz, one of Stellenbosch’s best wines from the variety, in a fairly elegant style – though lush when put alongside something like the Mullineux. Another top-priced example from the estate is the Stork – altogether more extrovert, oaky and showy. The standard shiraz doesn’t come across as serious, except in its heavy price tag – something  over R130 retail. It’s sweetly ripe – very ripe, fruity and softly ingratiating, though dry; very pleasant if this is the sort of thing you’re after and are willing to pay heavily for it. There’s also another easy-going Hartenberg shiraz, Doorkeeper, in much the same soft, fruit style, though less intense. I daresay all four will be on show at the event that Hartenberg is hosting.

The upcoming Feast, says the press release, takes place on Saturday 1 June from noon until 5pm. Tickets are R180, available from For more info call 084 207 3820 or email info@dnaevents