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Latest 2020 releases from Lismore Estate, SA

Sam O'Keefe and her new assistant winemaker Adele Botha at their rebuilt winery

"As someone privileged with more than his fair share of rare and expensive Grand Cru Burgundy and First Growths, I can unhesitatingly state that the best of South Africa punches at the same weight...." Neal Martin, Vinous, Nov 2019

The release of Lismore Estate's 2020 vintage marks another amazing turn in winemaker Samantha O'Keefe's story, but this time a much happier and more inspiring one.  Just when her wines had found international acclaim, a dramatic fire destroyed the winery, and Sam and her two sons narrowly escaped with their lives.  That was in December 2019, but just 20 months on, the winery has been rebuilt and a new vintage has arrived.

Lismore Estate, Greyton, SA

Producer Profile

Lismore Estate, Greyton, SA

Owner and Winemaker Samantha O'Keefe was a TV executive in LA and a single mother of two, with no winemaking experience.  She bought a remote mountain in South Africa in the early 2000s and planted a vineyard.  In 2019, Neal Martin tasted the wines and ranked them with the greatest in the world.  The story already read like a script for a TV drama, but then, just before Christmas 2019, we learnt that her home and winery had been destroyed in a devastating wildfire, which she and her staff narrowly escaped with their lives.   

'TV drama' comparisons do not do justice to what is likely to have been a traumatic experience for Sam.  A crowdfunding site was set up and other SA wineries lent barrels to make her 2020 vintage.  Happily, most of the vines have escaped damage and Sam's 2018 vintage was already in bottle, stored in cellars away from the winery.   

Self-taught as a winemaker, in a short space of time, Samantha created wines to vie with the very best in the world.  Neal Martin compares the Reserve Chardonnay to Corton-Charlemagne, whilst on Julia Harding MW describes the Hermitage-like Syrah as 'mouth-wateringly good'.   

For Martin these are among a new breed of wines "born in climactic knife-edge, dry-farmed vineyards, often from ancient vines, and with minimal intervention by talented and frequently young winemakers in the opening chapters of long careers."  

WHITE 2020 2 cases Lismore Estate - Age of Grace' Viognier 75cl £105 per case of 6 Lismore Estate
Age of Grace' Viognier
2020 / 2 cases / 75cl
£105 per case of 6
Tasting NotesThe grapes were picked and whole bunch pressed, slowly extracting the juice at a rate of 550ltrs per ton. The juice was settled for 48 hours and was racked into older, neutral 225 litre Burgundian barrels, and a 600 litre egg shaped tank for fermentation and maturation lasting 10 months. The “egg” component is 10% of the production. Viognier is an aromatic and generous varietal; it benefits from barrel maturation and lees contact with a fuller mouth feel and increased texture. This combined with the firm acid backbone and intense fruit will allow this wine to integrate beautifully and gain further complexity over the next 3-5 years.
WHITE 2020 3 cases Lismore Estate - Chardonnay 75cl £120 per case of 6 Lismore Estate
2020 / 3 cases / 75cl
£120 per case of 6
Tasting NotesThe grapes were picked at optimal ripeness and whole bunch pressed, slowly extracting the juice at a rate of 600ltrs per ton. The juice was cold settled for 48 hours and was racked into 225, 300 and 500 litre older Burgundian barrels for fermentation and 11 months of maturation. 5% new French oak was used in this vintage. Balance is the key to this wine. The oaking represents a viewpoint that the fruit/acid/pH must drive a wine's flavour and not the over-emphasis on highly extracted buttery notes derived from new barrels and 100% Malolactic conversion. Barrel aging gives this wine its luxurious texture. Having only undergone partial Malo (20%), the wine retains its original fruitiness and fresh acidity. These elements combined allow for years of storage and maturation.
RED 2020 2 cases Lismore Estate - Pinot Noir 75cl £160 per case of 6 Lismore Estate
Pinot Noir
2020 / 2 cases / 75cl
£160 per case of 6
Tasting Notes70% of the grapes came from Stanford in Walker Bay and 30% from Kaaimansgat in Elandskloof, both in the cool climate region Cape South Coast. The vines are all Burgundian, clone 115. The Stanford vineyard is close to the southernmost tip of Africa and is in one of South Africa’s coolest wine producing regions. The maritime vineyard enjoys a long ripening season, because of the strong cooling winds that are prevalent in the summer. This microclimate is ideal for creating a long hang time, concentrating the flavours in the berries, while retaining natural acidity levels. Kaaimansgat is situated 700m above sea level and its continental climate allows for perfect winter dormancy, and ripens even later than the coastal vineyards. The vines here are planted on decomposed granite soil high in clay content. The grapes were picked at optimal ripeness. 30% whole bunch fermented in large 5000 litre vats with gentle pump-overs twice a day. The process allowed for a long extraction period which lends to the fruit expression and structure of this wine. The free run wine was drained off and the fermented grapes were then pressed in a traditional wooden basket press. The wine was racked into 225, 300 and 500 litre barrels where malolactic fermentation took place and the wine was aged for 10 months with 25% new French oak.
RED 2020 5 cases Lismore Estate - Syrah 75cl £160 per case of 6 Lismore Estate
2020 / 5 cases / 75cl
£160 per case of 6
Tasting NotesA very restrained nose of cassis and hedgerow fruits with classic white pepper, violet and herbs, this is remarkably reminiscent of Cornas or top St-Josephs, cool and classical in style. It should be drinking well on landing and for the medium term, over the next decade. RKL

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