“The 2020 vintage has been pretty damn sharp”, Duncan Savage told us recently when tasting through his new releases. While one has come to expect this sort of cheeky attitude from Duncan, the confidence and sense of ease in his words as he spoke became easier to identify and place with each wine poured into the glass.
This year we welcome back Duncan Savage’s full complement of wines. The “Never Been Asked to Dance” and “Not Tonight Josephine” were not bottled from the 2019 vintage, but these are back and the 2020s join the rest of the single-site wines: “Follow the Line”, “Thief in the Night”, “Girl Next Door”, “Are We There Yet” and the flagship Savage Red. The Savage White remains the only wine with grapes coming from more than one vineyard site.
Savage Wines line-up
Of the Savage White 2020, Duncan says it’s “evolved the most of all the wines over the years.” With the grapes coming from two vineyard sites, this classic marriage of Sauvignon blanc and Sémillon comes together in impressive style. Don’t be surprised if this wine becomes a benchmark for the white Bordeaux blend category in South Africa.
From a 65-year-old vineyard, the 2020 vintage of “Never Been Asked to Dance” is a beautiful wine now, but keep some bottles aside as this will age very nicely. The richness of this Chenin blanc is poised by natural fruit acidity and a saline edge. “This vineyard…it feels like you’re standing in a grand cru vineyard. This is a wine to watch over the next 10-20 years”, says Duncan.
With regards to the reds, “Follow the Line” from the 2020 vintage is a showy, perfumed wine with the small percentage of Syrah adding a soft, spicy character to this otherwise Cinsault from Darling. This is always a very popular wine, so fans of it will be very pleased with what the 2020 brings.
The riper, more blackcurrant punch of the Grenache noir in the 2020 “Thief in the Night” brings density to the wine so this will also require some time in bottle. There is very good structure in this wine and the coolness of the Piekenierskloof provides elegance and wonderful perfume.
“Birds nail us”, comments Duncan as he introduces the 2020 “Girl Next Door” to us. This organically farmed Syrah from a 0.38-hectare vineyard near Fish Hoek in Cape Town has become highly sought-after. The 2020 is very expressive and that salty, tannic finish makes it a very unique example of South African Syrah.
Duncan’s “Are We There Yet” has never attracted as much attention as the other wines, but the 2020 is perhaps the finest and most elegant bottling yet so be sure not to overlook it this year. The dark fruit and meaty spice in this wine beg for it to be enjoyed with food.
Always a vintage behind the rest of the range, the Savage Red 2019 is a top class Syrah. It’s very elegant and tightly knit together. It’s young so again, keep some tucked away as it will undoubtedly improve with some age.
This is just the second vintage of “Not Tonight Josephine” to be bottled by Duncan and already, it’s rarer than hen’s teeth. Production is tiny, granted, but lovers of sweet wine scramble for this and understandably so. The 2020 is knockout.
Savage Wines | White 2020 | R 295 per bottle [on allocation]
Savage Wines | Red 2019 | R 310 per bottle
Savage Wines | Never Been Asked to Dance 2020 | R 295 per bottle [on allocation]
Savage Wines | Follow the Line 2020 | R 295 per bottle [on allocation]
Savage Wines | Thief in the Night 2020 | R 295 per bottle [on allocation]
Savage Wines | Girl Next Door 2020 | R 405 per bottle [on allocation]
Savage Wines | Are We There Yet 2020 | R 295 per bottle [on allocation]
Savage Wines | Not Tonight Josephine | R 405 per (375ml) bottle [on allocation]
Notes by Greg Sherwood, MW
W.O. Western Cape | 76% Sauvignon blanc and 24% Sémillon
“Sourced from trellised and bush vines, the grapes were whole bunch pressed before undergoing spontaneous fermentation. Sauvignon Blanc takes the lead, the aromatics show a pronounced spicy, herby, savoury tinged array of waxy green apples, white citrus, clementine, honeyed chamomile and root fennel with subtle hints of dried fynbos and lanolin. The palate is masterfully rich and broad, coating all corners of the palate with intense, crystalline notes of spicy yellow grapefruit, freshly squeezed tangerines and white peach cordial. The acids are intense but wonderfully tangy adding to a real sense of textural harmony and mineral complexity. A very complete wine that races out the blocks and will undoubtedly give plenty of drinking pleasure immediately on release.”
94 pts. | Greg Sherwood, MW
W.O. Stellenbosch | 100% Syrah
“Syrah exclusively sourced in Stellenbosch from vineyards organically grown on decomposed granite soils…this 2019 is a dense, dark, potent red from a powerful, concentrated, minerally focused vintage. On the nose the aromatics are marked by intense notes of earthy red and blackberry fruits, inky saline notes of black cherries, pink musk, savoury cured meat nuances, black olives and a sappy cedar wood spice complexity. With 70% of whole clusters used in the fermentation, the palate shows pronounced chalky mineral tannins with vibrantly fresh crunchy acids from the granitic soils. Raspberries and blueberries surge to the fore on this dense, powerfully structured wine, gaining in richness and intensity as the wine slowly unfurls in the glass. The wine shows a focused prowess and concentration together with an opulent richness framed by an underlying stony minerality. A wine with undeniable focus and structure but also a surfeit of seductive charm.”
95+ pts. | Greg Sherwood, MW
Never Been Asked to Dance 2020
W.O. Paarl | 100% Chenin blanc
“…old vine Chenin Blanc sourced from 67 year old dry farmed bush vines grown on decomposed granite soils. Whole bunch pressed and spontaneously fermented in neutral Stockinger 600 litre barrels, this third release screams its granitic terroir with complex aromatics dominated by notes of crushed gravel, wet grey slate and struck flint. An understated petrichor character that combines with subtle notes of peach stone, toasted almonds and lemon grass herbal nuances. Like most old vine Chenin Blanc grown on granitic soils, this terroir lends quite a severe, austere and minerally taut styling to the palate in the wine’s youth with plenty of wet river pebble stony undertones, crunchy yellow orchard fruits and refined pineapple pastille notes. The finish is dry and slightly rasping, but shows great persistence and intensity, finishing with last ripples of dried herbs, yellow apple skins and a mouth-watering saline bite.”
95 pts. | Greg Sherwood, MW
Follow the Line 2020
W.O. Darling | 100% Cinsault
“…continues to be one of South Africa’s most respected old vine Cinsaults. As always, the fruit comes from 40-year-old dry farmed bush vines in Darling grown on decomposed granite soils. The 2020 is spontaneously fermented with 50% of the fruit as whole clusters. Every vintage that passes boasts an incredibly perfumed floral bouquet of violets, pressed rose petals and hints of cherry blossom that melt into pronounced notes of earthy lavender, coriander and Turkish delight. The palate is incredibly cool and suave with bright tingling cherry acids. A silky weightless concentration, crystalline wild strawberry and red cherry fruits and the most delicate lacey tannins on the finish. This is a very polished, ethereal, classy effort with so many of the Cinsault characteristics drawing an undeniable resemblance to young, premium Côtes de Beaune Pinot Noir. Approachable on release, but cellar-worthy for at least 10+ years, don’t miss this new release.”
95 pts. | Greg Sherwood, MW
Thief in the Night 2020
W.O. Piekenierskloof | 63% Grenache, 26% Cinsault, 11% Syrah
“…from dry farmed bush vines grown on sandstone soils. The fruit was spontaneously co-fermented using wild yeasts employing 20% whole clusters. The wine shows a delightful autumnal aromatic profile of forest undergrowth, savoury fraise de bois, tilled earth, grilled Provençal herbs and subtle shades of summer garrigue. On the palate, the wine shows plenty of textural detail, fine silky caressing tannins and harmonious fresh acids. The red and black berry fruits are earthy but impressively pure and precise, finishing with notes of bramble berries, pomegranates and sappy spice. ‘Thief In The Night’ is more Burgundy than Rhône in style.”
94 pts. | Greg Sherwood, MW
Girl Next Door 2020
W.O. Cape Town | 100% Syrah
Grapes from one of the saltiest, windswept 0.38 hectares of organic Syrah vines near Fish Hoek in Cape Town. These 15-year-old trellised vines on sandy gravel soils were originally planted for ornamental purposes. The 2020 vintage once again sees a 50% whole cluster portion included in the
natural fermentation. Initially delicately savoury and perfumed, the aromatics are fairly restrained showing notes of lavender, cured bresaola, hints of iron, graphite and piquant plummy blackberry spice. The palate texture is incredibly elegant and fine boned, showing light touch winemaking, silky soft dry powdery tannins and a smooth, cool, classical finish revealing blackberry fruits, black peppercorns and a gentle maritime salinity. A very fine, supple, complete expression of Syrah.”
94+ pts. | Greg Sherwood, MW
Are We There Yet 2020
W.O. Malgas | 50% Touriga Nacional, 50% Syrah
“…grown as bush vines on a unique river pebble on shale terroir in Malgas. While the 2019 saw 100% of the grapes destemmed, the 2020 has a 10% whole bunch portion added. The aromatics are seductively dark and alluring with exotic notes of salty blackcurrant, blueberry, black cherry and black liquorice. Wonderfully opulent and expressive, the 2020 reveals a deliciously fleshy, creamy palate with a truly seamless texture, sweet plump velvety tannins and a long saline, maritime tinged crème de cassis finish. The 2019 was more influenced by the Syrah in the blend, lending a certain savoury Côte Rotie feel to the wine. The 2020 however is decidedly more Douro’esque in stature with deliciously opulent Touriga Nacional black- and blueberry fruit characteristics dominating.”
95 pts. | Greg Sherwood, MW
Not Tonight Josephine 2020
W.O. Piekenierskloof | 100% Chenin blanc
“First produced in 2018 and only released when the quality is deemed exceptional. With no 2019 bottled, the ‘Not Tonight Josephine’ returns again in 2020. 100% Chenin Blanc fruit grown on rocky sandstone soils on the Piekenierskloof farm of Tierhoek. The grapes were dried for three weeks and then left for five days on skins as whole bunches with regular foot treading. Only bottled in July 2021, the wine already shows a wonderfully pure fresh precision, a vibrant tangy acidity and fabulous drinkability. The aromatics are pure and bright with delicious layers of dried apricots drizzled in honey, mango chutney, milk tart and custard filled pastries. The palate is creamy and plush, superbly balanced and elegant, neither overly sweet nor clawing with a fine creamy dried peach finesse. A mouth coating glycerol breadth and a long, pure finish with a kiss of granadilla liqueur.”
96+ pts. | Greg Sherwood, MW