Lokaia, an exciting new project from Franschhoek, South Africa

Lokaia is a joint project from Franschhoek vignerons Clayton Reabow (winemaker at Moreson) and Craig McNaught (winemaker at Stony Brook). These are seriously good wines, made in a picked-early style, but with plenty of flavour and complexity, in part because of the quality of the vineyard sites, and also because of the intelligent (and brave) elevage, with two of them fermented and aged in amphora. These aren’t crazy expensive, they are made in small quantities, and they further enhance the reputation of Franschhoek as a wine growing region, not just a tourist/gastronomy stop.

Lokaia Pound of Flesh No-Hoek Semillon 2020 Franschhoek, South Africa
11% alcohol. From a low-yielding dry-farmed vineyard planted in 1995. Fermented in stainless steel after a bit of skin contact with high turbidity to create more flavour, and no malolactic. Beautiful clear, pure aromatics with lemon, lemongrass, dried herbs and some subtle straw notes. The palate is fresh, pure and linear, showing delicate, refined notes of lime, green tea and some pear skin. This is very pure, bright and refined, with a crystalline structure and a lovely acid line. Very fine, delicate and understated. 93/100

Lokaia The Sandman Valley Floor Amphora Chardonnay 2020 Franschhoek, South Africa
12.4% alcohol. Chardonnay from the sandy soils of the Franschhoek valley floor. Fermented and matured in contact with its crushed and destemmed skins and punched down twice a day until the end of fermentation, which takes place in a 500 litre terracotta amphora. The bottom is lined by mature, dried out stems, while the top is covered with a layer of olive oil. Two months skin contact, then it is bottled unfined. For an orange wine, this is crisp, refined and very fine, with lemon, mandarin and green apple fruit as well as a chalky, slightly saline mineral core, which pulsates with energy. Lovely purity here, with a touch of salinity, and just a little fine spicy grip from the skin contact. There’s a brightness to the fruit that I often find from sandy soils, and the skin fermentation in amphora has added flavours that might otherwise be absent from an early pick like this. Lots of excitement here. 94/100

Lokaia Call of the Void Dutoitskop Peak Amphora Cabernet Franc 2020 Franschhoek, South Africa
11.5% alcohol. Early pocked from a rocky east-facing slope of Dutoitskop Peak. Fermented and matured on the skins in a small amphora for four months. Bottled unfined. This is quite lovely: why don’t more winegrowers pick early? It’s vibrant and juicy with pure cherry and berry fruits, sitting on top of a chalky, stony structure with a bit of tannin and some nice acidity. This is bright, floral and expressive with astonishing freshness and drinkability, and no hint of under-ripeness: everything here is in harmony. It’s the sort of red you’d serve a little chilled, and although there is some complexity here, this is a bottle that will empty fast. What I like about it is that it’s an early picked red that doesn’t feel like any quality has been compromised by picking earlier. 93/100

UK agent: Museum Wines

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