Neil Martin op over Mullineux

Neil Martin op
Mullineux (Swartland/Franschhoek)
I have followed Chris and Andrea Mullineux right from the beginning. They used to send me samples of their wine when they worked at Fable Mountain Vineyards up in Tulbagh, after the couple met doing a harvest in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Their small “empire” continues to grow. Since they gained the backing of Indian entrepreneur Analjit Singh, it has been full steam ahead in terms of expanding into Franschhoek and constructing a new winery, that they call home, at the Roundstone. That came with a name change, now “Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines” to reflect their two areas of interest. “The 2017 growing season was not as intense in terms of temperature fluctuation as 2016, so, although yields were down, there was less stress in the vineyard,” Andrea tells me. “There was not so much wilting. The vines stayed green and upright, they were more naturally in balance and where you see [the effect of] stress is where there are differences in sugar level, higher in 2017. This means that we had longer fermentations in 2017 and the wines are the driest than we have ever seen.” The effects of stress put pay to one of their label. There is no Schist Syrah due to drought, for Andrea found the wine too heavy. This is a very consistent set of recent releases from the Mullineux’s and it is always fascinating to compare the variety of soil types and their influence on Syrah or Chenin Blanc. Their entry-level “Kloof Street” range is always a perfect entry-point to those who would like to dabble in Swartland for the first time at a very affordable price. At the other end of the scale, the recently introduced Leeu Passant range, from their new holdings in Franschhoek, is beautifully packaged in their retro styling, again, very consistent. I am only waiting for a bottle to really blow me away. It is just a question of when, not if.
Sweet wines of note, the Mullineux’s outstanding straw wine from Swartland.
The Mullineuxs launched their Leeu Passant wines around the “magical” hundred dollars mark and as far as I can see it has been successful thanks to label design, marketing, and the efforts of its winemakers but most importantly, the quality of the wine inside the bottle.
The 2015 Granite Syrah was matured for 18 months in 25% new oak. It has a perfumed bouquet of bilberry and mulberry fruit; white pepper and touches of clove develop with aeration. The medium-bodied palate offers supple tannin, slight earthiness on the entry and truffle and black pepper toward the lightly spiced finish. This is very classy, perhaps just leaning to the powerful side of Swartland Syrah.’ – Neal Martin Report 2018, 91/100
The 2015 Schist Syrah Roundstone has a raspberry and mulberry bouquet, touches of rose petal and sous-boisemerging with time. The palate is medium-bodied with sappy black fruit, quite saline, and almost briny in the mouth. The grippy finish suggests it will require another couple of years in bottle.’ – Neal Martin Report 2018, 92/100
‘Matured for 11 months in 10% new oak, the 2015 Syrah has a perfumed, slightly menthol bouquet that is nicely defined and offers ample red berry fruit. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin and plenty of cranberry and pomegranate notes laced with white pepper and a touch of undergrowth, although I feel that the 2016 has a little more precision on the finish.’ – Neal Martin Report 2018, 90/100
‘The 2017 Old Vines White is a blend of 65% Chenin Blanc, 10% Viognier, 10% Clairette Blanche, 13% Grenache Blanc and 2% Sémillon Gris. This has a lighter bouquet than the previous vintage, featuring touches of honeysuckle and peach skin with white flowers tucked just behind. The palate is medium-bodied with crisp acidity and quite tensile, showing a subtle white pepper and marmalade note toward the precise finish. Very fine, although I have a soft spot for the hedonism shown by the 2016.’ – Neal Martin Report 2018, 91/100
‘The 2017 Straw Wine comes from two vineyards picked at 22 to 23 Balling and laid out beneath trees at the Roundstone winery, where it dried for three weeks. It was matured for 11 months in neutral oak with around 310gm/L residual sugar and 11 gm/L total acidity. It has a very pure nose of honey, mango, quince and tangerine – very perfumed as usual. The palate is well balanced and strangely, the first facet you perceive is actually the acidity rather than the sweetness. This is very tangy, perhaps fresher than recent vintages, with a persistent, effervescent finish. (375 ml.)’ – Neal Martin Report 2018, 94/100
37.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37.5% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cinsault
‘The 2016 Leeu Passant Dry Red is Chris and Andrea Mullineaux’s take on 1950s and 1960s Cape red wine and utilizes fruit from vines planted as far back as 1900, with 25% whole clusters including around one-third Cabernet Franc, Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was matured for 18 months in 225-liter French oak barrels, 30% new. This works very successfully on the nose of perfumed dark berry fruit laced with cedar and tobacco, not a million miles away from an old-school Claret. The palate is medium-bodied with grainy tannin, a fine bead of acidity, plenty of tar- and tobacco-infused black fruit and a slightly austere but very well balanced finish. Excellent.’ – Neal Martin Report 2018, 92/100
‘The 2016 Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay comes from a single vineyard whereas the debut 2015 came from two. Drought affected the yield, which was 20% down. The wine was matured for 12 months in 225-liter French oak, 30% new. It has a forward and quite intense bouquet of dried honey, light tropical fruit (mango and a hint of pineapple) and a touch of white peach. The palate is well balanced with a spicy opening, very good weight, subtle tropical notes and just the right amount of salinity on the finish. Excellent.’ – Neal Martin Report 2018, 92/100