95 points Tim Atkins
"Since its first, headline-grabbing release in 2011, Cartology has become a key wine in the history of the new South Africa. Blended across the Western Cape, it’s an assemblage of Chenin Blanc with 10% Semillon that’s herbal, textured and sappy with notes of oatmeal, citrus and pear, pithy acidity, subtle oak and a spicy twist. Arguably the best release since 2011."
94 points Vinous
"The 2019 Cartology was whole-bunch-pressed and matured in cement eggs, amphorae, foudres and used barrels, fermented for between three weeks and 11 months, and kept on the lees for 12 months. It has a sublime and utterly captivating bouquet of honeysuckle, white peach and flecks of white chocolate and orange peel, all beautifully defined. The palate is medium-bodied with a crisp entry, offering vivid scents of citrus peel, lime, orange zest and stem ginger toward a finish that fans out with brio. Another outstanding Cartology from Chris Alheit."
"Such a special wine from Chris and Suzaan Alheit, a 2012 wine of the week chosen by Julia. 90% Chenin Blanc, 10% Sémillon, old-vine, bush vines chosen with extreme care from multiple sources. Ambient yeast. Certified Heritage Vineyards.
Such intensity! Salty beeswax on the nose and some green notes (Sémillon?) streak the liquid honey (though it's a bone-dry wine) and real grip on the inside of the palate. Very tense but with masses of fruit. Still very youthful but it's rather difficult to resist. Really throbs for ages on the finish. My only complaint? That the Diam stopper they use expanded so rapidly after being extracted that I couldn't get it back in a few minutes after pulling it. I should imagine that this wine will last for weeks in an opened bottle. 18/20 points."
Vinous Reverie Notes
Jancis Robinson - Previous Vintage Wine of the Week
"The French have a unit of sensory measurement known as a caudalie, 'equal to one second's length of a wine's impact on the palate after swallowing or spitting' (Oxford Companion to Wine). I don't think I have ever heard anyone use this term but I lost count of my caudalies with this wonderful South African Chenin Blanc in its maiden vintage. I tasted the wine at my desk one evening, wrote my tasting note, then wandered off to do something else. When I came back to my desk many caudalies later (minutes rather than seconds), I still had that lovely flavour in my mouth.
My tasting note reads: Very pale, soft gold colour. Even when quite chilled and first opened, an inviting aroma: sharpness of quince plus the richness of just-ripe apricots, plus a mealy, leesy depth. The palate is a wonderful combination of tension and freshness with a creamy, nutty spread across the breadth and length of the palate. At this youthful stage, a little smoky and mineral and a very slight chew on the finish. Great concentration and length yet still so lively and a hint of saltiness on the finish.
Cartology (meaning 'the study of maps') is made by Chris (right) and Suzaan (below) Alheit from very old, unirrigated bushvines in different parts of the Cape (see the map below, taken from their website): 30% Perdeberg, 30% Skurfberg (Citrusdal Mountain), 20% Kasteelberg, 12% Bottelary Hills, 8% Franschhoek. It is all Chenin Blanc apart from the 8% from Franschhoek, which is old-vine Sémillon.
The Alheits, who have worked not only in the Cape but also in the Napa Valley, Western Australia, Clare Valley, St-Émilion, the Mosel, intend their wine 'to be a picture of the Cape, seen through the lens of her mature vineyards, in a given vintage'.
In order to do this, and to make their wine a 'gymnast rather than a sumo wrestler', the grapes are cooled, hand sorted and whole-bunch pressed. The juice is lightly settled and then goes into old oak barrels. Once fermentation has started, without the addition of yeasts, the barrels are monitored daily. They make no acid adjustment, add no enzymes and add SO2 only post fermentation. Total production of this wine is just 5,000 bottles.
The Alheits are based at a mountain farm high on the Hemel & Aarde Ridge in Walker Bay. There's more information about them and their philosophy on their very attractive website."