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Alheit Vineyards Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017

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Asked why SA top-end wines seem to get better almost year on year, Chris Alheit of Alheit Vineyards gives two reasons: 1) scrutiny – the world’s eyes are on us like never before; and 2) healthy competition – peers are driving each other to look for ways to improve continuously. Alheit’s 2017s include the best modern-era SA wine yet tasted in the form of Huilkrans 2017. Tasting notes and ratings as follows:

Hemelrand Vine Garden 2017
Approximate retail price: R280
26% Chenin Blanc, 26% Chardonnay, 23% Roussanne, 21% Verdelho and 4% Muscat. An enticing nose – floral perfume and dried herbs before citrus, stone fruit and quince. Impressive concentration , punchy acidity and just a touch of yeasty complexity before a pithy finish. Textured without being weighty – big fruit, big acidity. From young Hemel en Aarde Ridge vineyards, this is the most compelling and convincing bottling to date. Alcohol: 13.66%.

Editor’s rating: 95/100.

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Cartology 2017
Approximate retail price: R335
87% Chenin Blanc, 13% Semillon. A complex and subtle nose of pear, peach, apple, even some blackcurrant plus herbs and a little wet wool. Pure and fresh – hangs together really well – the finish long and dry. This is perhaps not as thrilling as Alheit’s single-vineyard bottlings but it does have a completeness about it. Drawn from vineyards across the Western Cape, this is, as always, a subtle and intellectually demanding wine. Alcohol: 13.5%

Editor’s rating: 94/100.

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Fire by Night Chenin Blanc 2017
Approximate retail price: R445
From three parcels on Christa von La Chevallerie’s Paardeberg farm planted between 1974 and 1980. Arresting aromatics of flowers, dried herbs, peach and apple. Beautifully pure fruit plus plenty of zip – bright but not aggressive acidity. The finish, meanwhile, is long and saline. A wine that’s all about about clarity.

Editor’s rating: 95/100.

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Nautical Dawn Chenin Blanc 2017
Approximate retail price: R365
Grapes from a 1978 Helderberg vineyard and a 1988 Polkadraai vineyard both relatively close to False Bay.  An exotic breakfast punch nose – guava, pear and peach in particular. Lots of sweet, bouncy fruit on the palate but there’s also snappy acidity before a suitably dry finish. Dead sexy. Alcohol: 13.47%.

Editor’s rating: 93/100.

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Radio Lazarus Chenin Blanc 2017
Approximate retail price: R620
Grapes from two Bottelary vineyards, one planted in 1971 and the other in 1978. Vinified in amphorae. A pronounced herbal note before lime, pear and peach. Dense, thick textured and very flavourful, the finish long and strikingly savoury – most particular. The final release of this wine as the relevant blocks have reached the end of their lives.

Editor’s rating: 94/100.

Alheit Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017
Will make you cry.

Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017
Approximate retail price: R620
Grapes from the Skurfberg farm called Oudam owned by the Visser family. A captivating nose of hay, pear, peach, citrus and apple plus earth and a little leesy complexity. Extraordinary fruit concentration making for a palate that’s rich but perfectly balanced and absolutely flavour packed. Lovely proportions, plenty of detail, the finish extremely long. Neat and tidy, which is to say so very well judged when it comes to the winemaking, but there’s also no denying that there’s a very special site involved making for something utterly distinctive. Alcohol: 14.24%.

Editor’s rating: 98/100.

Magnetic North 2017
Approximate retail price: R620
Grapes from Basie van Lill’s Skurfberg farm. A haunting nose:  First a hint of gun-smoke-like reduction before elusive notes of citrus, peach and fynbos. Rich and thick textured but not unctuous – there’s an acidity here that would be neck snapping if it weren’t for all the fruit concentration. This is a power-packed wine which also manages to be extraordinarily detailed. Think of Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira with ball under arm when drinking it. Alcohol: 14%.

Editor’s rating: 97/100.

La Colline Semillon 2017
Approximate retail price: R620
From a 1936 Franschhoek vineyard. Plenty going on aromatically – a thatchy note before pear, peach, yellow apple and Fanta grape while the merest hint of reduction plays off against an oxidative nuttiness. The palate has lovely weight and texture – it’s relatively broad with coated acidity and just a touch of phenolic grip on the finish. Alcohol: 13.8%.

Editor’s rating: 95/100.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Wow 98 points for the Huilkrans Chenin must be the highest score yet given on Winemag? What an incredible wine it must be. Congrats to Chris and Suzaan.

  2. How wonderful it is to see the benefits on our wine industry of being a global player with a competitive and vibrant industry. It should inspire those who haven’t quit made it.

    Christian, did you have a chance to review Alheit’s Vote for Pedro? If so you thoughts.

    • Hi Andrew, I did indeed taste it – great fun if idiosyncratic. Should be considered in the same light as Rall’s Cinsault Blanc.

  3. Hi Christian – please could you suggest potential aging times for the Radio Lazarus and Huilkrans. How long, would you think, they can go before turning mainly tertiary in nature. Thank you.

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