LIQUID MEMORY; Leeu Passant New Releases.

The newlywed Mullineuxs hit the South African wine market to high acclaim with their maiden vintage in 2009.

“Certainly Mullineux is a name to look out for in the future”

Neal Martin for Robet Parker in 2009.

“Very special wine… Exceptional… New South African producer to watch”

Jancis Robinson On Mullineux 2008 White Blend. She also included Mullineux White and Straw on her top wines of 2009.

Nothing much has changed in this regard; they are still impressing critics and wine lovers all over the world. Chris and Andrea have a remarkable track record, infact over the years they have produced thirty five wines which have been awarded five stars by The John Platter Guide. They have maintained their focus and philosophy. A golden thread dedicated to quality runs through their wines as they continuously producing supurb, South African modern classics from gnarly old vines. They are the OG’s of The Swartland and were at the forefront of the revolution. But then what? A partnership with Analjit Singh came at the perfect time and offered the Swartland spcialists an exciting oppourtunity to flee their nest and spread their wings, explore further a field, and sprinkle The Mullineux magic across the rest of The South African winelands. The Leeu Passant label was born. The maiden vintage was 2015, a monumental vinatge to kick start their new venture.

“The most exciting new releases from South Africa in years!”

Greg Sherwood on the maiden Leeu Passant vintages

The Leeu Passant wines, like the Mullineux wines that came before it, are not revolutionary. Like many chefs deconstruct a classic dish, the Mullineuxs have been inspired by the past South Africa iconic wines and their creators. They studied and researched the classics of yesteryear and by using modern winemaking knowledge and techniques, they magnificently recreated them. The wines are authentic and speak of South African heriatge.

Led by the legendary Rosa Kruger, they hunted the South African winelands in search of superior parcels of old vines that demanded some tlc and respect. This also gave the dream team freedom to work with other ‘non Swartland’ cultivers. They set out to make two wines; a white and red, wines that were indubitably South African.

2019 Stellenbosch Chardonnay.

Chardonnay had always intrigued the Mullineuxs. However, they never planned to make a Chardonnay from Stellenbosch. They experimented with quite a few vineyards from many different regions, but fell in love with one vineyard in particular, which stood head and shoulders above the others. It captured their interest and imagination and resonated with their style of winemaking, enabling them to work as naturally as possible. They also knew ultimately it would result in the style of wine they enjoyed drinking.

The 22 year old single vineyard Chardonnay is planted on the higher gravelly slopes of the Helderberg Mountain at 410 metres above sea level. This special site has a maritime influence that allows them to harvest the fruit with an insane acidity, incredible intensity of flavour and a zesty freshness, even in warmer vinatges.

This astonishing acidity allowed them to work as oxidatively as possible. Oxidising out any volatile compounds that could potentially oxidise later in the wine’s life, making it age prematurely. The theory is the opposite of helicopter parenting, allowing the kids to be get dirty, play rough and toughen up, the wine is now somewhat bullet proof.

The 2019 was a vinatge which allowed them to be authentically South African, with an abundance of sunshine and warmth. They have made an quintessential South African Chardonnay rather than imitating international benchmarks.

This wine was aged for 12 months in 225L tight grain French oak barrels, of which 30% was new, followed by a further 8 months’ maturation after blending.

It has everything I want in a Chardonnay; the oak is there but dancing subtlety; playing a supporting role, it has power and texture, endless complexities, weight and a fresh intensity. Flavours of peach melba; stone fruit, creme fraiche cut with zesty lime acidity, underlying a wet stone minerality and finishing off with an attractive soupçon of salinity. A line of restraint runs through the wine retaining incredible focus and purity. Absolutely exquisite.

2018 Dry Red Wine

This was the wine that inspired the Leeu Passant project to start with. And boy have they succeeded in making a distinguished contemporary masterpiece. In my humble opinion this could be their finest release of Leeu Passant Dry Red yet. It plays homage to classics of the past, Rustenberg Dry Red, Chateau Libertas alike, but with a breath of fresh air and a masterful modern purity and finesse. After extensive research with the pioneering winemakers of South Africa, (and by research I mean drinking ;), a few common denominators stood out; a marriage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault and using large format oak vessels was imperative.

The 2018 is composed of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cinsault, 21% Cabernet Franc hailing from some of the oldest vineyards in South Africa. The wine was aged for 12 months in 500l French Oak barrels; 30% new, then blended into seasoned 2000L Foudre for a further 8 months, before spending several months in bottle before release.

Beguiling red and black fruits bewitch on the nose, before enticing savoury nuances. The palate is concentrated; bold and beautiful yet graceful. Captivating with cassis, bramble and dried cranberries. Umami nuances follow, interplaying with freshly churned soil speckled with spice.

N.B The Chardonnay and The Dry Red were the Mullineux’s focus with Leeu Passant range. In nurturing the old vines used to make these wines, they have increased their crops and production, which has enabled them to make single bottlings of three of the Dry Red components as follows.

Wellington Cinsault 2018

Planted on a variety of South Africa’s first experimental root stocks in 1900, this historic parcel of dry farmed bush vine Cinsault is growing on the deep sandy alluvial soils in Wellington. This is South Africa’s oldest registered red wine vineyard.

“Like the Grandpa sitting at the lunch table,  He is going to remain quiet, but when he does speak it will be something very profound” Andrea muses while talking about this wine.

Restrained but not without charm. Light but not without substance. It is soft but shows strength and complexity. Lavender fields, fresh cherries and red currants punctuated with a warm spice. Enchanting to taste a mature grown up Cinsault, full of finesse, in a sea of South African mediocre adolescents.

Franschhoek Cinsault 2018

From a magical parcel of dry-land bush vine Cinsault vineyard planted in 1932 in the clay rich soils of the eastern slopes of Franschhoek mountains. This is South Africa’s second oldest registered red wine vineyard.

More charming upfront than its Wellington counterpart. It is a richer wine with more breadth to it, and an opulence of tannin. Sun kissed with riper fruit and a floral, spicy fragrance. Velvety entry, lusciously smooth dark fruit embrace, red fruit tea, and savoury spice lift the palate. An absolute delight!

Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2019.

Never in Chris’ winemaking career did he imagine he would make Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon, yet here he is, and what a mighty fine one it is.

This wine is grown on some of Stellenbosch’s coolest sites. One parcel of 40-year-old dry farmed bush vine Cabernet Sauvignon is planted in deep alluvial soils of Firgrove, 2 parcels are planted on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain and another one in the deep decomposed Granite soils of the Polkadraai Hills.

On aroma and palate, it has all the hallmarks of a great Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon, yet it is served with an extra side of grace and sophistication. The fruit is there but doesn’t over ride, a beautiful savoury element compliments. Fine tannins bring poise. It is a wonderfully fresh and vibrant adaption of the mainstream. Akin to a old world ‘Syrah’ versus a new world ‘Shiraz’. Mulberries and other dark berries mingle with pencil shavings and freshly turned soil.

What an incredible portfolio of wines the Leeu Passant range has evolved into. Congrats Chris and Andrea!

Photos from the launch held at The Wine Library followed by lunch at Allium.

Bubbles Hyland

Bubbles Hyland

Bubbles Hyland, Well Red Wine Magazine Editor and Founder. Wine is her passion and it's also her job; it engrain every aspect of her life. She aims to make wine accessible, and spread the love and knowledge she has in a fun and approachable manner.

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