One of the most anticipated South African releases of recent years: the Leeu Passant wines from Chris and Andrea Mullineux. After a sneaky preview with Chris at ProWein last week, we got to taste them at the Franschhoek tasting room on the Leeu Estates.
There are three wines in the range: two single site Chardonnays, and a red blend, which is perhaps the most interesting story. ‘We’d wanted to do something uniquely South African,’ says Chris. ‘We tasted the old wines from the 1950s and 1960s that were blends of Cabernet and Cinsualt,’ he says. ‘We researched how they were made and kept the best elements.’
Andrea adds, ‘The initial plan was to focus on heritage. There’s a new wave of winemakers trying to make authentically south African wines, and people were starting to drink old Libertas wines again. We wanted to pay homage to the old South African wines.’
And the Chardonnays? ‘We are trying to honour the pioneers of Chardonnay, such as Peter Finlayson and Danie de Wet, who had to smuggle Chardonnay into the country.’
One of the inspirations behind this project was Rosa Kruger, the renowned viticulturist. She’d identified several vineyards that she thought were perfect for Chris and Andrea, but they couldn’t use them because Mullineux was a Swartland-only project. They then began experimenting with lots of vineyards, until they identified the ones that fitted together best. These wines are really exceptional, and the red especially is a really great concept. It’s made with ageing in mind, and is also made quite conventionally, in the sense that there’s some oak in the mix, and it’s very pure and linear. ‘We’re not trying to make a hipster wine,’ says Chris. ‘The temptation is to make something big,’ he adds, but they have avoided this.
The packaging of the wine also pays homage to the older South African wines, with fonts from wines such as Rustenberg and Libertas. Retail on these wines will be in the 800 Rand range.
Leeu Passant Elandskloof Chardonnay 2015 WO Elandskloof, South Africa
14% alcohol. Very linear and stony with nice acidity under pure, mineral-laced citrus fruit with some peach and mealy richness. There’s nice freshness but also good concentration and richness here. Lovely freshness and weight here with a delicious, focused personality. 95/100
Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2015 South Africa
14% alcohol. Helderberg. Lovely freshness here: very keen with good lemony acidity. There’s a hint of matchstick reduction that adds interest, with a really mineral core to the tight, fresh lemony fruit. Finished with a TA of 8, through malolactic. Such a powerful, tight wine. 96/100
Leeu Passant Dry Red Wine 2015 Western Cape, South Africa
36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 31% Cinsault. Cinsault comes from the two oldest registered red wine vineyards: Wellington (117 years old) and Franschooek (91 years old), while the Cabernet Franc comes from high up in the Helderberg and the Cabernet Sauvignon from bush vines lower down the Helderberg. The new oak portion was fermented in upturned 500 litre barrels to achieve better integration. Floral, perfumed and beautifully aromatic. Very fine, a bit peppery and juicy, slightly grippy red cherry and raspberry fruit with some nice spiciness. Juicy, pure and fine with lovely precision. 95/100
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