One of the most exciting and yet consistent releases in the South African wine industry. This is primarily due to the wines of course, but part of me wonders how much the role of the winemaker plays in creating so much excitement and joy surrounding his or her wines. Duncan Savage is, cliche I know, but such a nice guy. And everyone says it! He is extremely approachable, down to earth and so laid back that he is practically horizontal.
This introduction to the prestigious Cape Winemakers Guild member on their site says it all;
“Duncan matriculated at Rondebosch Boys High in 1995.
After a few years of wasting his father’s money by surfing more and studying less, Duncan finally found his niche. Once the wine bug bit there was no turning back and Duncan headed off to Elsenburg. There great friendships were forged along with a love for Afrikaans, somehow he also managed to finish top student despite of the influence of Klippies and Coke.
Elsenburg was followed by 14 incredible years at Cape Point Vineyards before Duncan embarked on his own venture in 2016. Savage Wines set up in the heart of Cape Town in Salt River.
Vineyards are leased and grapes sourced from around the Western Cape, maritime in nature where possible. Granitic soil is the focus, allowing for wines of purity and finesse, the hallmark of Savage Wines.”
Year on year, wine critics get very excited and exclaim that ‘this is Duncan’s best vintage yet’. And year on year, he trumps himself and continues to exceed everyone’s expectations in the most humble and gracious manner, of course.
Like dog owners, some look like their furry-best friends, some don’t. Some winemakers make wines that mirror their character and personality and some don’t. If you have met Duncan, or even from reading the introduction above, the adjectives; elegance, refined, precise wouldn’t come to mind when describing him. This is the man whose idea of dressing up for the most prestigious wine award ceremony of the year, is by wearing a surf branded t-shirt. But Duncan makes some of the most compelling and graceful wines in South Africa, and true to Duncan’s character they are distinctive and memorable.
SAVAGE WHITE 2019
64% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon, 16% Chenin.
This is Duncan’s only wine that isn’t site-specific and the only white in this vintage. A beautiful dusty, smokey mineral nose entices you and promises a wine mirroring old world texture. The Sauvignon Blanc is prominent at first on the nose, with herbaceous green notes and blackcurrant leaf, pithy citrus skin, dried floral notes follow through. Sunflower seeds interwoven with orchid fruit on the palate. Extremely elegant and yet whimsical textured wine. Unique and quite wonderful.
SAVAGE RED 2018
Organic fruit from Stellenbosch. Raspberry coulis, olive tapenade, white pepper, grainy tannins with, what’s becoming known as a textbook Savage texture to the wine. Generous perfume and palate weight yet a precise and clean finish.
FOLLOW THE LINE 2019
Possibly my stand out wine – but it still needs some more time to show its true potential and align itself. Such a pretty wine that makes you think of your Grandmother’s blooming flower garden; roses, violets, cherry blossoms. Once you unpack the layers of floral components, you get to the fruit garden, densely packed with various fresh and vibrant red berries. It’s a wine that makes you smile, but also a wine that makes you stand up and take Cinsault seriously. There is more to this varietal than just being the poor man’s alternative to Pinot Noir. I would swap many a Pinot Noirs for this delightful Cinsault.
THIEF IN THE NIGHT 2019
61% Grenache, 26% Cinsault, 13% Syrah
Seems to be more complete than previous vintages. Good tannin structure indicates it will age beautifully. Once again an elegant wine with a wonderful purity of fruit; raspberry tea, fresh blackcurrants, brambleberries with a savory and spicy depth to the wine. More intensity than many ‘on-trend smashable’ Grenaches.
GIRL NEXT DOOR 2019
An extraordinary wine, from an extraordinary gnarly site in Fish Hoek of all places! It refelcts the site beautifully, and even retains some salinity from the proximity to the ocean. Very low yielding so extremely low production. This wine is darker than the previous wines tasted above, in colour, and in-depth of flavour, yet it still retains the elegance we have come to expect from Duncan. Tight, grainy and grippy tannins are prominent but extremely digestible, still young with a huge againing potential. Dark cherry, tree sap, dried herbs and musky notes.
ARE WE THERE YET 2019
50% Touriga Nacional / 50% Syrah
“An absolute beast,” says Duncan, but don’t let that scare you off. This is charismatic beast; like the Disney character. An iron fist in a velvet glove. It’s a powerful wine but also gracious. Dark fruit, blackcurrant, warming spices, licorice, and subtle wafts of violets. Big, Bold, and Beautiful. In an ideal world, you would let this lie for a few more years at least.
Duncan, you’ve done it again. Your wines are confident, often daring but always precise and certainly mesmerizing. Thank you! These wines will be gone before you can say How much whine, would a wine drinker whine if a wine drinker couldn’t drink Savage wine?! So hunt them out and enjoy!