Harrogate Medical Wine Society hosted a tasting of the top-end wines of the celebrated Swartland producer Mullineux & Leeu in July 2019 in association with Mullineux Wines and their UK agent – Field, Morris & Verdin. The tasting was tutored by Damian Carrington, assisted by Michelle Barrie of Field Morris & Verdin
Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines is one of the stand-out producers in South Africa’s budding Swartland region. Winemakers Chris and Andrea Mullineux’s ambition is to bottle wines that are a true expression of the Swartland, and all steps of their winemaking process are taken with this in mind. They work closely with a select group of growers who follow sustainable, reasoned farming practices, as well as owning vineyards at their Roundstone Farm in Riebeeksrivier.
In the cellar, apart from minimal amounts of sulphur, nothing is added to or removed from the wine. They do not make use of any yeasts, acids, tannins, enzymes, or fining and filtering agents. “Leeu” (Afrikaans for “lion”) was added to the name recently to recognise the contribution of a new investor to the project.
Apart from their wonderful Syrah, Chenin Blanc-based white blend and a super-rich Straw Wine made from air-dried Chenin Blanc, fermented and matured in old barriques, Mullineux now has a range of spectacular single-terroir Syrah and Chenin Blanc wines, each of which illustrates the amazing potential of the differing Swartland soils. Volumes of the single-vineyard wines are tiny, so availability is extremely limited.
Damian Carrington started his career in the wine trade carrying boxes into the new Oddbins store in Blackheath. After his “Oddbins apprenticeship” he continued in retail working for Harrods and Berry Bros & Rudd, before moving into the Berry’s marketing team. A period of fine wine broking followed with Cave Cru Classé in London and New York. On his return from the US he worked for 10 years at Enotria Winecellars, rising to the role of head of marketing before moving to his current role as sales & marketing director of Fields, Morris & Verdin, which now includes the amalgamated Mistral Wines and Richards Walford portfolios.
Sparklehorse MCC 2015 from Ken Forrester, South Africa was served to tasters as they mingled and chatted. The Cap Classique fizz is 100% Chenin Blanc from 36 year-old vines in Stellenbosch aged on lees for 14 months. It has 3.8 g/L of residual sugar and 7,5 titrable acidity. The alcohol level is 12.5. It has a creamy mousse fresh fruit aromas.
The following Mullineux & Leeu Passant wines were tasted:
- Mullineux Quartz Chenin Blanc 2016:
Grapes were from a single parcel – Leliefontein – of 35 years old vines planted in a quartz kloof on the Kasteelberg. They were chilled and pressed whole-bunch. The juice was barrel for fermented with indigenous yeasts for 4 weeks. The wine was left in barrels on lees for the malolactic fermentation, aged for 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels and bottled unfiltered. (16)
- Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016:
Chilled hand harvested fruit was pressed whole bunch and barrel fermented at 24°C for 42 days. After the malolactic fermentation, the wine was aged for 18 months in 225L French oak barrels, 30% of which were new. This is a polished and immensely pleasing chardonnay. (16.5)
- Mullineux Schist Syrah Swartland 2015:
100% Syrah from a single parcel of sustainably farmed 19 years old vines planted in the stony Shale and Schist soils of Roundstone, on the Kasteelberg. Whole bunches were foot stomped in 500L French oak barrels. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts lasted 10 days. A further four weeks of skin contact was given after which the wine was drained and pressed to barrel for malolactic fermentation and maturation in 500L French oak barrels (25% new) for 21 months followed by 9 months in 2nd fill foudre. The wine was bottled unfiltered and unfined. 10 months of aging in bottle was given before release. A lovely spicy syrah. (17)
- Mullineux Granite Syrah Swartland 2015:
100% Syrah from a single parcel of sustainably farmed 21 year old dry land, bush vines grown in the decomposed Granite of the Paardeberg. Whole bunches were foot stomped in open-top 500L French oak barrels. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts and lasted 10 days. A further four weeks of skin contact was given after which the wine was drained and pressed to barrel for malolactic fermentation. It was aged for 12 months in French oak 500L barrels, 25% new, followed by 12 months in 2nd fill foudre. (16.5)
- Mullineux Iron Syrah Swartland 2015:
100% from a single parcel of 17-year old organically farmed dry land bush vines on the rolling iron-rich soils west of Malmesbury. Whole bunches were foot stomped in open-top 500L French oak barrels. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts lasted about 10 days. A further four weeks of skin contact was given after which the wine was drained and pressed to barrel for malolactic fermentation. Wine was pigeaged once a day before, during and after fermentation. It was aged for 12 months in French oak 500L barrels, 25% new, followed by 9 months in 2nd fill foudre. (16.5)
- Leeu Passant Dry Red 2016:
37.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37.5% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cinsault, The hand harvested grapes came from: one parcel of 37 year old dry farmed bush vine Cabernet Sauvignon planted in deep alluvial soils of Stellenbosch; one 116 year old dry farmed bush vine Cinsault vineyard (South Africa’s oldest registered Red Wine Vineyard) planted in deep sandy alluvial soils in Wellington; one parcel of 94 year old (SA’s 2nd oldest registered Red Wine Vineyard) dry farmed bush vine Cinsault planted on the lower eastern slopes of Franschhoek mountains; and a parcel of high altitude Cabernet Franc planted on the mid slopes of the Helderberg mountain in Stellenbosch.Grapes were chilled and destemmed. The final blend was with 50% whole clusters. Minimal sulphur was added. Fermentation was with natural yeast. The wine was pigeaged twice a day. Fermentation lasted 10 days and the temperatures was not allowed to exceed 28°C. A couple of weeks skin contact was given and the wine was drained and pressed to barrel. It was aged for 16 months in 500L French oak barrels; 30% new. (17.5)
The following Mullineux wines were poured with dinner:
- Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc 2018:
100% Chenin Blanc. Grapes were chilled and pressed whole-bunch and the juice racked to tank (85%) and older French oak barrels (15%). Fermentation was with indigenous yeasts for 6 weeks. The barrels were racked and blended with the tank fermented portion and then bottled. (15.5)
- Mullineux Kloof Street Red 2017:
90% Syrah, 2% Cinsault, 4% Carignan, 2% Grenache, 1% Tinta Barocca, 1% Mourvèdre. Grapes were destemmed but 25% whole bunches were added. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts at 28°C lasted 6 weeks. The wine was aged for 11 months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak 225L barrels & 500L demi-muids. (15.5)
- Mullineux Straw Wine 2017:
100% Chenin Blanc. Grapes are hand-harvested at a ripeness level of 23° Brix and left to dry in the shade outdoors for 2-4 weeks. They were crushed and pressed whole bunch, and racked to old 225L barrels. Fermentation with natural yeasts took 6 months. Some barrels were not topped, but allowed to oxidize slowly. Some were topped every few months, but left without sulphur, and the remaining barrels are dosed with sulphur and topped every couple of months. After 12 months the barrels were racked, blended and bottled unfiltered and unfined. The wine was aged for 12 months in old (5th fill) 225L French oak barrels. (17.5)
(The tasting was held at the Harrogate Masonic Hall. The post-tasting dinner (Smoked Haddock & Salmon Fish Cakes, Braised Steak with Mushrooms and Shallots, Eaton Mess) was prepared by the Hall’s chef Chris Durrant. 28 members of the Harrogate Medical Wine Society attended the event which was chaired by Prof. Charles Joslin)
- “Thank you very much for organising the Mullineux tasting yesterday. I found the wines quite exceptional, particularly the Chardonnay and dry red, and the only thing prohibitive was the price!” – Simon Pratt, Leeds, 5 July 2019
- “Really enjoyed the tasting.” – Dr. David Scullion, Harrogate
“A belated thank you for an excellent tasting of Mullineux Wines another interesting and informative experience.Our favourites on the night were the Leeu passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016 and the Leeu Passant Dry Red 2016 both excellent wines.” – Pat & John Shore, Harrogate