Mullineux Syrah – a blockbuster wine of the week
01 January 1970
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Jenny Crwys–Williams: Well, Head Sommelier and Wine Director of the Saxon Collection, Lloyd Jusa chooses our third weekend wine for August, what is it going to be?
Lloyd Jusa: I’ve actually chosen something South African, something from the Swartland, one of my favourite producers. This is Mullineux, they’ve got a beautiful Syrah that they make, it’s a 2013 vintage which I’d like to share with the country. It’s got a true expression of Schist and shell and Granite terroir. Half the grapes are whole bunch fermented, unfiltered and un-find, notes of citrus and black fruit, violets and lilies are abound.
Such a beautiful wine that you can work with, with so many different textures in a dish. You can bring in something that’s spicy, something that’s a little bit peppery, these are some of the signature flavours that you get out of the wine, so that is my choice and preference.
JCW: Listen, when you say the word ‘Mullineux’ in South Africa and when you say it in London, people are prepared to pay almost anything. I saw one recently, one wine recently that I think was R2 100 a bottle and people are not flinching at paying for that.
LJ: Absolutely. Remember, this is not a big, commercial producer, very boutique in terms of operations and in terms of production. There is no surprise that they actually became South Africa’s Platter Winery of the Year for 2016 and that is for a reason. The quality is absolutely top drawer.
The diversification of vineyards
JCW: I really like what they’re doing and I think other people are doing it as well, where you’ve got a vineyard which previously, let’s say, was planted only with Cabernet Sauvignon. Now they’re saying: Hang on a second, this part of the vineyard has got a lot of granite, so we’re going to plant some Syrah there. In other words, they’re dividing up the vineyards themselves, so you get these very small runs of wine. Does that add to the mystique do you think?
LJ: I think so, when you’re that small and you focus on what you’re really good at. You take your time to make sure that you get the best of what the terroir has to offer. For them it’s not really about what’s selling out there, I think it’s all about what the terroir can give them. I think they’ve done their homework brilliantly. I think that’s why they’re as successful as they’ve really been in the past couple of years.
JCW: Do you have it on the Saxon Collection wine list?
LJ: Absolutely, I’ve had the good fortune of knowing the Mullineux family on a personal level, so whenever a vintage is out there, then I’ve always been quick to suggest that may I try some. They always send me a few bottles. Yes, we do have quite a range, not only the Syrah that I’m recommending for week three. But I also have some single terroir wines, including the Schist to the Granite and indeed the Iron.
JCW: These wines have become drinkable, do your international guests drink it or is it local guests who are kind of in the know?
LJ: I think, from what I’ve noticed on the floor as I go about my service duties, it’s usually the local people that ask for Mullineux. Whereas for international clients, it’s something that you have to sell to them. They always say, okay, we’d like to try something authentically South African.
You know they’re not really looking for Pinotage, they’re looking for something that will relate to their taste buds. If they say look, we enjoy a lot of wines or maybe surprise us, it’s always one of those wines that you can always pull up from under the rug.
JCW: I think that that’s a wonderful thing to do, for the guest to be surprised, but also for you to be stretched a little bit.
LJ: I think so.
JCW: That’s part of the journey, isn’t it?
LJ: It is, there is nothing more rewarding than creating a memorable experience, with any particular guest. Whenever you show a wine like this, you know that you’re bound to impress.
What makes the Syrah so special
JCW: Let’s just go back to the Syrah, normally they are leathery, but that’s the old-style Syrah. This is the new, it is lighter and it is easier to drink, but it’s very full of flavour.
LJ: Indeed, it’s very rich and indeed you’re right. These wines are not the blockbuster wines that we used to taste 10-20 years ago. I think more and more people, I always say this, are starting to appreciate wines that are made ready to drink. They’re not over-extracted, the tannins are definitely tamed, they’re very soft and it’s a sort of wine that you can actually bring in for different and varying food textures.
JCW: You talk about the taste in the mouth, the violets and just that lovely flinty taste that you get. What’s it like on the nose, when you nose it?
LJ: When you sniff it, in terms of intensity, I wouldn’t really say it’s high, I think it’s more subtle, it’s more subtle, but you do get a lot of fruit. You’re looking mainly at plummy flavours, those red plums. You’re also getting a hint of mocha and yes, there are definitely hints of slight chocolate, but mostly dark chocolate flavours.
Basically in terms of fruit, if you’re really motivated by fruit in a wine, you could look more at black fruit characters. I would love the black cherries, that also comes through delicately on the nose. I think it’s a really fragrant wine.
JCW: Is it your favourite Syrah? I’m just asking you because Mullineux is just so now isn’t it?
LJ: It is, in South Africa it is definitely my preference, yes, in terms of South Africa and I would not hesitate sharing it with my friends or some of my sommelier friends that are all over the world. Of course there are other favourites of mine that are from other areas in the world, but in South Africa, Mullineux is definitely my go-to, the Syrah.
JCW: Well, if somebody were to listen to you and go out and buy it, it’s going to set them back?
LJ: Look, we’re looking at a tiny production, there’s only so many bottles available. They have appropriately priced it as well, at around R280 a bottle.
JCW: R280, as opposed to R2 100 that I’ve been reading about for other wines. That’s almost like a bargain basement price.
LJ: It is a bargain basement wine, look, you have to have this sort of wine in your cellar, it’s the sort of wine that you can easily drink with friends. It’s good value for money whereas of course there are the high end products that Mullineux makes such as the Schist, such as the Iron that I did mention earlier. But this one is a really good price point.
LJ: In terms of flavours or you could have a puff of a cigar?
JCW: There are some wines that lend themselves, I think, to cigars.
LJ: Indeed. This is one of them, I would say, look, after a lovely dinner, you want to sit by the patio, you want to mingle with colleagues afterwards, yes, you could definitely grab a bottle while you’re at it.
JCW: My idea is to sit in front of a fire, of course. Lloyd, thank you very much, what a wonderful weekend wine, thank you.
LJ: Thank you very much for having me on the show.