Mullineux’s Rapidly Rising Star: A Review of Current Releases

Mullineux LogoMullineux (now Mullineux and Leeu) Family Wines has evolved into one of South Africa’s top quality wineries.  At the same time their portfolio has continued to expand, most recently with the addition of their ultra-premium single terroir range of Chenin Blanc and Syrah. Their recent business partnership with Analijit Singh will soon result in the announcement of an exciting new winemaking venture. We recently sat down with UC Davis-trained winemaker Andrea Mullineux at the winery’s Roundstone wine farm near Riebeek Kasteel to taste the current releases.

Chris & Andrea Mullineux

Chris & Andrea Mullineux

Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines must feel inundated with all the accolades coming its way. South Africa’s preeminent wine publication, Platter’s Wine Guide, named Mullineux its winery of the year in its 2016 edition, an honor it also received in 2014. It also named their Mullineux Iron Syrah the red wine of the year and the Mullineux Olerasay Straw Wine its dessert wine of the year. We review both wines below.

The stellar quality of Mullineux and Leeu wines is not news to us. We’ve tasted the Mullineux multiple times over the years thanks to their US importer, Fran Kysela, and we gave the wines high marks in our report on The Wines of South Africa. In December, Andrea poured her wines for us and discussed her winemaking and viticulturist husband Chris’ work in eliciting the best from the Swartland’s old vines.

The Swartland

Mullineux’s vineyards are located in the Swartland, located about a two hours drive from Cape Town. As one proceeds northeast of Cape Town one encounters vast fields of yellow grain that give way to vineyards on the slopes of the foothills. Here vineyards run right up to the border of the charming village of Riebeek Kasteel, home to the annual Swartland Revolution wine celebration. Soils tend to shale and sandstone. The Swartland is also home to old bush vines, especially of Chenin Blanc, Syrah and Grenache and has become famous for wines made from Rhone varietals.

The Wines

Mullineux 2015 Kloof Street Old Vine Chenin Blanc Swartland 89 The Kloof Street Chenin is an easy drinking wine that’s floral and soft. It’s cleanly made with good acidity and freshness showing notes of guava and melon. Whole bunch pressed with full malo.

Mullineux 2013 Old Vines White Blend Swartland 92  Medium yellow straw. This old vines Chenin Blanc blend is a superbly balanced wine revealing light honeyed and spice scents. It’s focused, fresh and velvet smooth on the palate with pure, integrated flavors and a restrained sweetness. A blend of fruit from vineyards planted on schist, granite, and quartz soils. 80% Chenin Blanc, 7% Viognier, and 13% Clairette, barrel fermented. Aged 11 months in French oak, 20% new.

Mullineux 2014 Schist Chenin Blanc Swartland 93  Chenin grown in schist has more shallow roots than that grown in granitic soils, resulting in greater drought stress, less juice and thicker skins. It’s naturally viscous with an underpinning of dense fruit and hints of tropical fruit, herbs, and a whiff of butterscotch. With a satin-like texture, it offers especially delicious drinking. A single vineyard wine made from 35+ year old vines grown on the schist soils of the Kasteelberg; fermented and aged in 8 year old barrels.

Mullineux 2013 Chenin Blanc Old Vines Skin Contact 92 Technically an orange wine but dark gold in color, this Chenin is naturally fermented on the skins for six weeks in a cement egg. It’s an exotic, savory wine with a silky mouth feel that can hold up to assertively flavored dishes like the curried Malay food of the Western Cape. Aromas and flavors include cloves, cinammon and even a hint of dill. The most exotic wine in the Mullineux portfolio.

Mullineux 2014 Kloof Street Rouge Swartland 89 This fresh and easy drinking red blend includes Syrah, Grenache and even a bit of Tinta Barroca. It offers clean, red fruit that’s evocative of a medium weight Cotes du Rhone.

Mullineux 2013 Syrah Swartland 93 Revealing an explosively perfumed nose of violets and dark red berries, the wine is fresh and flavorful with a chewy texture and firm structure.A blend of fruit from seven different Swartland vineyards of granite, schist, and iron soils. Mostly (about 90% in 2013) whole bunch fermented.

Mullineux 2013 Schist Syrah 95 Made similarly to the Syrah blend but only from fruit grown on schist soils, this wine offers more power and animalistic Syrah appeal. The nose is meaty and savory, while the palate is big, dense and chewy, showing a lingering elegant note on the finish.

Mullineux 2013 Iron Syrah 95 Similar to the Schist Syrah in its weight and meatiness, the Iron Syrah offers a more elegant, immediate appeal. Dark red plum, smoked meat, and savory herbs are seamlessly integrated on a lush, juicy and firmly structured palate, finishing very very long.

Mullineux-Olerasay2Mullineux Olerasay NV 1o Chenin Blanc 96 Incredibly rich and viscous, this is South Africa’s best and most unique sweet wine. Dark gold in color, it is amazingly complex with exotic aromas of spice, apricot, and caramelized pear that are mirrored on the palate with the addition of tropical fruit and salt caramel notes. It finishes unbelievably long with a tangy acidity. With high residual sugar, this is a wine to be sipped and savored, preferably with a creamy white cheese. Made of Chenin Blanc air dried for 3 weeks and then naturally fermented for 10 months, the wine is a solera of the 2008-14 vintages of the Mullineux’s excellent Straw Wine. For those interested in the origin of the name of this wine, we suggest using a Pig Latin interpreter.

January 2016


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