Duncan Savage was until recently the winemaker at Cape Point. He made a great reputation there, coaxing profound, mineral, saline white wines with proper ageing potential from these interesting, exposed terroirs. A few years back he began his own project, Savage Wines, in tandem with his day job. Earlier this year, he decided to strike out alone, leaving Cape Point to focus solely on Savage Wines. Current production is 20 000 bottles of four wines, but Duncan is looking to grow this to 40 000 bottles of six wines within a year or two.
‘We need to scale up,’ he says. ‘We have kept it quite small initially. We’re focusing entirely on the parcels we’ve had from day 1: we are just trying to grow these up a bit. The idea is not to grow too much, though. The most important thing is that we maintain the style.’
He doesn’t want to compromise the wines he’s making, and vineyard sources for the right sort of grapes will be the limiting factor. One of the vineyards he sources from in Villiersdorp (Clairette Blanche, for the Savage White) has been ripped out by the owner, because they can get more money growing apples than these grapes. This is a big threat for many old vineyards in the Cape: the economics of low yielding vines don’t stack up for the growers. The latest releases are really lovely, especially the thrilling Follow The Line. I’ve also included notes here from the previous time I tasted the wines.
Savage White 2015 Western Cape, South Africa
Mostly Sauvignon with a bit of Clairette Blanche and some Chenin Blanc. Very focused, textural and fresh, but with some richness. Subtle toast, quince and ripe apple in the background. This is a wine that has some generosity and richness, but which stays fresh and focused with a nice bright finish. Give it a few years and it will be amazing, I reckon. 94/100
Savage Red 2014 Western Cape, South Africa
This is two thirds Syrah with the balance Grenache, Cinsault and Touriga Nacional. Sappy, lively, aromatic nose with black cherries and raspberries. There’s also a savoury stony spiciness. The palate is juicy and complex with sweet cherries and plums. Fruity and fresh with nice tannins and a slightly more savoury edge in this vintage. Needs time? 93/100
Savage Follow The Line 2015 Western Cape, South Africa
This is two-thirds Cinsualt with the balance Grenache and Syrah. Wonderful nose: fresh, sappy and mineral with red cherries, plums and wet rocks. The palate is so pure and fine with raspberry and cherry fruit details. Sanguine, sappy and textural, this is really Pinot-like. Brilliant stuff. 95/100
Savage White 2014 Western Cape, South Africa
27% Semillon and 73% Sauvignon. Wonderful aromas of fennel, pear and spice. Lovely concentration here with real spiciness and some detail. Real finesse with power and concentration, and mandarin and grapefruit notes. 95/100
Savage ‘The Girl Next Door’ Syrah 2014 Cape Peninsular, South Africa
This is from 0.4 hectares of Syrah in dandy gravel, from 8 year old vines. There’s a taut, reductive edge to the nose. Fresh, supple and juicy this has bright raspberry and cherry fruit, with lovely savoury, grippy structure. Wild, with a bit of reduction, but really serious with amazing potential for development. 96/100
Here’s a short video interview with Duncan, where I ask him about quitting the day job to go it alone, what happens next, and the stylistic choices he makes with his wines:
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