Last week I was lucky enough to partake in the first ever Mullineux Old Vines White 10 year vertical. A tasting experience from the maiden vintage to the latest release.
As the wine evolved, so did the rock star duo; husband and wife, winemaking / viticulturist power couple; Chris and Andrea Mullineux. We went through an oenophile safari with them recounting their journey from when they tasted the first vintage of Eben Sadie’s Palladius in 2013 and Chris had a WTF moment – “is that even legal to blend Chenin with Mediterranean varietals.” This was the lightbulb and inspiration that lead them to experiment with what became, the Mullineux White. Through their escapades in various shared cellars, expanding their family with harvest babies, welcoming an investor, building their own cellar and planting their roots at what is now called home; Roundstone.
The story is told, the journey evolves but the winemaking, the approach and philosophy and ultimately the wines remain consistent. 10 years on and they sure as hell have proved to have ageing potential and balance. They undoubtedly have a sense of place; there is no mistake they are Swartland wines. And on top of all this they have the Mullineux Stamp; because terroir isn’t just about where, it’s why and it’s who. Chris and Andrea’s personality, passion and dedication is evident in each wine.
Mullineux Old Vine White 2008 (86% Chenin Blanc, 7% Clairette Blanche, 7% Viognier)
13.5% Abv, 2.4 RS, 5.9 TA, 3.41 pH
10 years young! Their debut vintage came from a spectacular ‘goldilocks’ vinatge; not too hot or too cold. It is still youthful and shows great consistency. What a vibrant and exciting start to this vertical tasting. Peach iced tea, bruised yellow apples. Rich and textural mouthfeel. Still showing great tight knit complexity. Goldilocks is comfortable and happy to sleep a little more.
Mullineux Old Vine White 2009 (61% Chenin Blanc, 23% Clairette Blanche, 16% Viognier)
134% Abv, 3.4 RS, 5.7 TA, 3.25 pH
This was an incrdibly hot vintage; & one Andrea will never forget as they welcomed their first born; and he wasn’t a good sleeper! It was an intense vintage and gave the ripest fruit. Evidently more developed and less fresh than that of the previous vinatge. Dusty, dried fynbos aromatics. The fruit notes are unsurpsingly more dehydrated; guava and peach. A vivid finish with wonderful focus.
Mullineux Old Vine White 2010 (80% Chenin Blanc, 10% Clairette Blanche, 10% Viognier)
13.5% Abv, 2.8 RS, 5.9 TA, 3.21 pH
On release it bared similarity to a Burgundian wine but now it is very much a Swartland Wine. This shows the evolutuion of Swartland and its identity world wide. This was an exciting year for the Mullineuxs – the Swartland Revolution was conceptualised and they were starting to showcase their wines to an international market.
There is no rush to drink this wine , it still has so much potential. It’s got a great zesty energy and crunchy purity. Stunning dusty road minerality, lime marmelade, toasted breadcrumbs, fynbos honey.
Mullineux Old Vine White 2011 (65% Chenin Blanc, 26% Clairette Blanche, 9% Viognier)
13% Abv, 2.3 RS, 5.7 TA, 3.38 pH
This year marked the start of the drought in South Africa. It also was the year their daugher was born. It was incredibly dry but a cool vintage. Toasted spiced nuts, buttered braaied meelies on the nose. A soft and gentle palate; oak showing with notes of vanilla and toast. Remarkably fresh and youthful. This wine hasn’t changed a bit since release, The Benjamin Button of the tasting – getting younger with age.
Mullineux Old Vine White 2012 (76% Chenin Blanc, 16% Clairette Blanche, 8% Viognier)
13.5% Abv, 3.2 RS, 5.1 TA, 3.45pH
This was the first year Andrea and Chris were able to employ others onto their team. They hired Tremeyne Smith as an assistant winemaker (aka The Blacksmith and current Fable Mountain Vineyard winemaker). Rosa Kruger also came onboard to help source outstanding old vineyards.
Slightly reductive on the nose; nutty nuances. Great purity of fruit on the palate; peach coblar with a lemony fresh finish. This vintage gave smaller grapes due to dryness in ’11. This gave the wine broader shoulders, with wonderful structure and natuarlly occuring grape tannin.
Mullineux Old Vine White 2013 (80% Chenin Blanc, 13% Clairette Blanche, 7% Viognier)
13.5% Abv, 1.5 RS, 5.8 TA, 3.29 pH
A cooler, wetter vinatge made this wine leaner than others. It has a mouthwatering nervous tension and focused saline line running through the wine. Fynbos floral notes, dried mint, crunchy apples, camp fire roasted peaches and crushed almonds. This is the awkward teenager who shows huge potential; just needs to grow up a little before she’s ready for the real world.
Mullineux Old Vine White 2014 (73% Chenin Blanc, 13% Clairette Blanche, 10% Viognier, 4% Semillon Gris)
13.5% Abv, 2.7 RS, 5.6 TA, 3.5 pH
This is one of Andrea’s favourite vintages. It was also the year they purchased the now home of the Mullineux’s; Roundstone Farm. They also decided to add extra complexiity to the wine by adding Semillon Gris which took the wine to another level; adding texture and lifting the aromatics. Its fuller as a result with a richer texture. Freshly toasted white farm bread dripping with butter and honey. Its powerful and has esquiste depth yet shows restraint and elegance; reminiscnt of an enthusastic young male ballerina.
Mullineux Old Vine White 2015 (74% Chenin Blanc, 12% Clairette Blanche, 6% Viognier, 4% Semillon Gris, 4% Grenache Blanc)
14% Abv, 2.2 RS, 5.2 TA, 3.30pH
Grenache Blanc was added this year; it adds a linear acidity to the blend and pulls all the components together. The yields were low this vinatge; another dry year. Lemon shortbread, fragrent stone fruit blossom, tinned pineapple with a flinty zesty finish. Stunning concentration and energy. It’s still young and courageous and can be put down to age for another five years or so.
Mullineux Old Vine White 2016 (62% Chenin Blanc, 15% Grenache Blanc, 11% Viognier, 8% Clairette Blanche, 4% Semillon Gris)
13% Abv, 2.5 RS, 5.1 TA, 3.31 pH
Yields were 50% down, resuting in the quickest and earliest harvest yet. It was so intense that Andrea found herself sleeping under her desk many a nights! You can really taste the sunshine in this wine. During the drought, natural acidity is a blessing, this vinatge they increased the pecentage of Grenache Blanc. Resulting in an added saline freshness evident in this wine. Honeysuckle, citrus peel, bruised apples. Intensity of drought so palpaple in the intense and concentrated length.
Mullineux Old Vine White 2017 (65% Chenin Blanc, 13% Grenache Blanc, 10% Clairette, 10% Viognier, 2% Semillon Gris)
13.5 Abv. 2.1 RS, 5.6 TA, 3.46 pH
Yes this vertical has proven these wines can age, but they are also so drinkable young. This vintage sings and dances on your palate with such precison, agility and grace. Its youthful acidity is mouthwatering. It was a cooler vinatge than 2016 but still dry. They started constructing the cellar at Roundstone; they had roots and felt like grown up winemakers now! It’s a complex wine with layers and layers of flavour, fruit intensity, acid freshness; all harmonious in the glass. Spiced citrus fruit, pear, fynbos honey, earthy herbs. A truly beautiful wine which will undoubtedly age well; if you can keep your hands off it for long enough!
My final thoughts…
Mullineux Old Vines White eptomises a modern South African white wine. Distinctive and unique to South Africa; not copy-catting any other wines from other wine regions. They are challenging and intellectual, pushing boundaries and totally delicious. A true expression of the Swartland, made honestly and as natuarlly as possible; this wine is no stranger to appraisal and high accolades. I hope that if you have never tried this wine before reading this article you will hunt it out and treat yourself to a bottle next payday. Enjoy and let me know your thoughts 🙂