South Africa is part of the “New World” of wine producers, but in fact has been making wine for a very long time, beginning in 1659 thanks to Jan Van Riebeeck, founder and governor of Cape Town. The country has long been typified by some highly unique wines that are essentially found only in South Africa, such as those made with the Pinotage variety, a crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault that took place in a South African lab in 1925. But that is b no means the only wine that says “South Africa” like few others: for example, South Africa is where you can find some of the world’s best Chenin Blanc wines, in fact the world’s best such wines along with those of the Loire valley in France. Semillon has also long had a welcome home in the country: South Africa is one of the very few where you will find outstanding monovariety Semillon wines outside of Australia’s Hunter Valley (but thanks to noteworthy differences in terroir the two are very different wines). It is not unreasonable to call South Africa the world home to the red Cinsault variety: though it made its name in the Southern Rhône as one of the thirteen members of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend and in south-eastern France as a source of outstanding Rosé wines, it is in fact in South Africa where you will find the majority of the world’s interesting and outstanding monovariety Cinsault wines, declined in both pink and red versions. Clearly, if your tastes run more along the lines of the well-known Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc wines that you can find anywhere else in the world, then the good news is that you will have no trouble finding those in South Africa too, as farmers and winemakers there were quick to plant these “safe bet” varieties there like has been done everywhere else in the world. Thanks to the huge diversity of South African wine terroirs (not surprising, given it is one large country), some of these wines are actually remarkably good but make no mistake about it, they are not what is going to make South Africa relevant on the world wine stage. There are simply too many good wines being made with Cabernets and Chardonnay all over the world, so competition in those realms is stiff and meaningful, market-changing accolades hard to come by. By contrast, what will help South Africa’s wine industry grow and gain further world recognition is establishing itself as a source of unique premium wines made with grapes that nobody else has been cultivating much: this is more or less the story behind the boom in Italian wines (thanks to the country’s numerous native grapes that nobody else has), but other countries too; just consider Argentina’s huge Malbec-related popularity, Chile’s with Carmenère, Canada’s with Vidal, and China’s with Gernischt (or Cabernet Gernischt: despite what you will read, it is not the same thing as Carmenère. See TerroirSense Wine Review, September 24, 2021: Cabernet Gernischt, a Chinese Grape Variety and Wine), and to a lesser but rapidly rising extent, Petit Manseng. South Africa makes wines nobody else does, and there is real value in that: it may mean a little more marketing and promotional work at first, but in the long run, its is that will rpove the winning hand, not the monkeying of wines that look, smell, and taste like those made elsewhere by far more famous producers and wine countries.
That much recognized (if people involved are really able to recognize as such, and it is admittedly a very big if, given that going the rote of the tried and true is so much easier) one of South Africa’s wine scene biggest draws is that the country does really seem remarkably adept at churning out wines from a bevy of grape varieties and in myriad styles that are, or can be, uniformly excellent. Take for example the country’s truly noteworthy Cape Classique sparkling wines made in the manner of Champagne: these are some of the world’s best if least-known bubblies. And when it comes to sweet wines, few can hold a candle next to those of South Africa, where late harvest and air-dried grape wines have along and noble history (the Vin de Constance for example has 300 years of history and counting and was mentioned more than once by the likes of Jane Austen: she did so, for example, in her Sense and Sensibility). For further information on South Africa and its wines, I refer you to my very in-depth article here at the TerroirSense Wine Review: September 30, 2022: Wines of South Africa, part 1: New and Recent Releases).
The wines in this tasting
AA Badenhorst Family Wines.
AA Badenhorst Family Wines 2020 Steen Kelder Swartland 94
Bright straw yellow. Pineapple and peach plus a leesy, smoky nuance and minerals that are very well delineated and extremely pure. Rich and oily in texture, with a lively mouthfeel thanks to harmonious acidity, this is nicely persistent on the long, complex back end. Strikes me as being a little deeper than some of the other wines tasted from this winery this year. Drinking window: 2024-2029.
AA Badenhorst Family Wines 2019 Steen Dassiekop Swartland 95
Luminous straw-yellow. Clean and fresh nuances of iodine complicate bright orchard fruit aromas and flavours. The aftertaste is long, mineral and vibrant. The Badenhorst family believes this to be the best Chenin Blanc (called Steen in South Africa) vineyard in the Swartland, and based on the wines I have tasted from it over the years, I’d be inclined to agree. Dassiekop is a unique site in that it is located in the Uitkyk farm, high up in the Paardeberg mountain, and the vineyard was planted a long time ago (in the 1970’s) by the father of Badenhorst’s neighbour, Pierre Rossouw. Drinking window: 2026-2034.
AA Badenhorst Family Wines 2020 Steen Klip Klop Swartland 96
Bright medium-pale yellow. Clean, fresh and very elegant, but with real palate weight and outstanding fruit density complicated by a piercing mineral edge. Very long lovely finish. The grapes are picked from a vineyard planted in 1966 on granite soil and the wine is fermented in a very old large 1200 liters foudre. Drinking window: 2024-2029.
AA Badenhorst Family Wines 2020 Grenache Raaigras Swartland 90
Luminous red-ruby. Aromas of red and dark berries, herbs and underbrush. A bigger tannic Grenache wine than is usual, with lingering juicy red fruit and mint nuances, but the finish showcases building bitterness and a slightly fruit-challenged personality. Maybe all this needs is time in a good cellar, but I wonder. Drinking window: 2026-2033.
AA Badenhorst Family Wines 2019 Cinsault Ramnasgras Swartland 94
Luminous pale red. Mint and minerals complement the pretty, forward aromas and flavours of red berries and earth tones. Very light on its feet, but admirably precise, this closes long, clean and fresh with a captivating transparency of fruit and a welcome stoniness. A very pretty, nicely delineated that boasts exceptional balance. It’s a single vineyard wine and pretty darn good one too. Well done: this wine is not always released on its own, but in better vintages it is and this was the case in 2020. I repeat myself, very well done as this is an absolute knockout and showcases admirably the heights that the Cinsault variety can attain in South Africa. This 1.6 hectares, southeast-facing single vineyard was planted in 1954 on decomposed granite soils. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
AA Badenhorst Family Wines 2017 Red Swartland 89
Good full ruby. Aromas and flavours of red cherry, plum, licorice, and tar are further complicated by hints of beetroot and rhubarb. Juicy and focused, but quite tannic. Finishes with a metallic edge and with a steadily building tannic personality that may not be for everyone. A serious wine born from a blend of Syrah (almost 60%), Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and even a dollop of Tinta Barroca, but needs time to smoothen fully. Aged in large 40 years old foudres. Drinking window: 2026-2031.
Alvi’s Drift 2017 Chenin Blanc Albertus Viljoen Worcester 93
Pale straw yellow. Aromas and flavours speak of orchard fruit, roasted pineapple, cashews, fresh citrus and saline notes. Clean fresh and long, with a nicely vibrant balanced peach and apricot presence complicated by almond notes on the long back end. Whole bunch pressed and 100% barrel fermented in French oak, this is lovely stuff, one in which the oak presence is well dosed. The wine is named after the family patriarch, Albertus Viljoen van der Merwe (“Alvi”) who set the farm up in 1928 just south of Worcester (though it was his son Bertie who started wine production on the farm; today the wine’s are made by his grandson Alvi, named after his grandfather). Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Babylonstoren 2022 Chenin Blanc Western Cape 91
Deep medium yellow. Clean and fresh on the nose, with a buttery nuance to the crisp, juicy peach, pear and beeswaxy aromas. Then similar flavours on the palate, with a little a little alcohol-derived heat on the long close, but this rich, ripe long white is really very enjoyable and quite impressive. Only 10% of the total Chenin Blanc blend was aged in 4000-litre French oak foudres (as well as in in Nomblot cement eggs and terracotta clay amphorae) but the creaminess of this wine, while staying juicy, crisp and energetic, that is very likeable. I’d drink this up over the next few years for maximum enjoyment. The grapes are planted on oakleaf soils of Cape granite on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain between the wine growing areas of Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl, in the Western Cape. Drinking window: 2023-2025.
Balance 2021 Chenin Blanc Winemakers Selection Western Cape 90
Lively straw yellow colour. Banana and guava dominate the easygoing aroma and flavour profile. Approachable and uncomplicated, but nicely balanced, with steel-fermented clean tropical fruit nuances extended by nicely harmonious acidity on the close. Not the most complex wine you’ll ever taste, but user-friendly and fun. Most importantly, you and your friends are guaranteed to like it. Drinking window: 2023-2025.
Balance 2020 Limited Edition Pinotage Swartland 91
Vivid red. Cool minty red and blue fruit flavours are counterpointed by earth and underbrush notes. Smoothly tannic and long on the hearty finish with repeating blackcurrant notes on the close. Nicely done and a steal at the price. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Beeslaar 2018 Pinotage Stellenbosch 92
Moderately saturated ruby. Clean and focused, this pretty red offers yummy plum and strawberry red fruit by the boatloads along with hints of mulberry. Clean, rich and dense with a real crowd-pleasing note of chocolate at the back. This is a major achievement in a tough drought-plagued vintage. Drinking window: 2024-2028.
Bellingham’s 2021 Old Vines Chenin Blanc 90
Medium deep yellow. Very clean on the nose, with pretty peach, rose petal and mineral nuances that repeat on the palate and linger long, nicely energetic and focused. Extremely well-delineated and sporting impeccable balance, this is really an outstanding white wine. Made with grapes from selected old bush vines in Paarl, Stellenbosch, Cape Town and Darling. The Bellingham farm was born thanks to Gerrit Janz van Vuuren from Holland whom in 1693, along with his French wife (and in fact the estate name was more French-sounding one, as in Bellinchamp), planted the first 1000 vines. The estate enjoyed a fine history before falling on harder times and was brought back to its former glory by Bernard and Fredagh Podlashuk who purchased it in 1943. Drinking window: 2023-2032.
Bellingham 2018 Old Vine Pinotage 94
Good full opaque ruby. Big, deep and rich, boasting real density of red and black fruit flavours (strawberry, mulberry) complicated by coffee and herbal nuances that are subtle and refined. A very elegant and balanced red, I like this. Drinking window: 2024-2032.
Beyerskloof 2017 Pinotage Diesel Stellenbosch 93
Lively medium-dark ruby. Floral on entry and very lifted, then tighter and expressing a rubbery note typical of older-styled Pinotage wines that were once very common. Just a little evolved presently, but still a very good Pinotage wine that harkens to another time. Try it with a rich stew and enjoy. A selection of the twenty-five best barrels out of three hundred this has become a collectible, much sought after wine all over the world. The wine is named after the owner’s dog, Diesel. Drinking window: 2023-2025.
Benguela Cove 2017 Semillon Catalina Walker Bay 88
Bright yellow with an orange tinge. Aromas of pine cone, greengage, almond kernel and green apricot overwhelm notes of orange blossom, quince and lemongrass. This is very green: perhaps as a result of being harvested too early? It strikes me as a real pity, because you can tell there is potentially good underlying Semillon fruit that isn’t being, perhaps, allowed to shine. I know I’d like to try more vintages of this wine because there is an intriguing component to it. Old vines here planted on clay and shale soils. Only 1400 bottles made. Drinking window: 2023-2024.
Craven 2020 Syrah The Firs Stellenbosch 93
Deep purple-ruby. Minty dark berries, licorice and tar all vie for attention on the nose and in the mouth. Fresh and easygoing, with hints of smoke, rubber and mint on the long slightly austere, saline finish. The estate owns no vineyards but works closely with farmers from whom they source the fruit. The grapes for this wine come from the warmer slopes of the Devon Valley but are harvested early to help preserve freshness. Whole bunches were used and gently pressed and kept ten-twelve months in oak depending on the vintage (for example, the 2019 was kept about twelve months in oak). Drinking window: 2025-2030.
Cronier 2016 Pinotage Private Bin Coastal Ridge 92
Vibrant red with purple tinges. Aromas and flavours of gorgeously plump red and blue fruit are complemented by herbs, cocoa, coffee and smoke. Long and vibrant on the close. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Damascene 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch 91
Purple-ruby with some inky tinges. Violet and blueberry at first, then a hint of bell pepper and cedar. Enters spicy and sweet, then turns increasingly herbal and almost green and -long close. Those who love Cabernet wines will love this, but at the same time, this may not for everyone. Only 3000 bottles made with grapes from three different grantic sites on the in the Wards of Bottelary, Helderberg and Nuweland facing west, northeast, and southeast. Bunches were destemmed, whole berries cold soaked for three days; malolactic took place in new French oak barriques and the wine was aged twenty-two months in oak. Drinking window: 2025-2028.
David and Nadia Howe.
David and Nadia Howe 2020 Chenin Blanc Hoe-Steen Swartland 94
Deep bright yellow. Aromas of pear, peach and apricot are complemented by vanilla and beeswax and noteworthy flinty reduction. Nicely juicy and dense, and made in a riper style. Then picks up more verve at the back, finishing very clean, long and vibrant, with an enticingly mineral, steely personality that will linger in your mind too, not just your taste buds. The south-facing vineyard was planted in 1968 west of Malmesbury towards Darling, in deep iron and clay rich soils, and is a very late ripening site, something that tasting the wine conveys immediately. Drinking window: 2023-2032.
David and Nadia 2020 Chenin Blanc Swartland 92
Good full yellow. Rich aromas of lemon ice, gooseberry, guava and dandelion, with a gentle hint of sweet spices. Focused and fresh but at the same time rich, round and mellow, this South African Chenin wine is deceptively easy to drink leaving you with the impression it’s not the most complex white you’ll ever taste but it is very well made and enjoyable. The caramelized custard cream nuances on the lingering finish are very inviting, and drew me back to the glass over and over again. Made from old vines planted from 1968 to 1985 (seven different vineyards on a range of different sites, including Paardeberg Mountain’s granite soil but also shale and schist, and iron-rich clay. The wine carroes a Certified Heritage Vineyards (CHV) designation. Drinking window: 2025-2030.
David and Nadia 2020 Grenache Noir Paardberg Swartland 92
Vibrant deep purple ruby. Very pure peppery red fruit with hints of licorice, anise and fresh violet. Clean, fresh and long, this fruity easygoing red is very food-friendly. I liked this! David and Nadia is a family-owned project that focuses on making wines from organically grown old and dry land bush vine vineyards from different areas with different soil types, and exclusively from the Swartland. Drinking window: 2025-2028.
David and Nadia 2020 Elpidios Red Blend Swartland 91
Dark ruby-red. Juicy and grapey, with an enticingly round mouthfeel and slightly sweet flavours to its red and blue fruit flavours. A hint of alcohol-derived heat on the finish does not detract from this wine’s highly enjoyable, easy drinking qualities. The 38% Grenache in the blend is very evident here; the rest of the blend is made up of 36% Syrah, 10% Pinotage, 9% Carignan and 7% Cinsault. Drinking window: 2025-2030.
Diemersdaal 2019 Pinotage Reserve Durbanville 92
Vibrant red-ruby. Smoky, flinty and inky on the clean vibrant nose. Nicely juicy and fresh, with a lively but harmonious acidity to keep this very light on its feet and the pretty dark fruit flavours crunchy and focused. Made with Pinotage grapes from a 44 years old vineyard, the wine spent sixteen months in 40% new oak. The Diemersdal Winery was founded around 1698, making it one of the oldest wineries in Africa, though wine production for a larger, international market only began in the 1970s. The estate is located in the Durbanville wine region north of Cape Town at the foot of the Dorstberg, where vine growing conditions are excellent. Drinking window: 2024-2030.
Donkiesbaai Steen 2020 Old Vine Chenin Blanc Piekenierskloof 95
Now this is beautiful. Luminous medium yellow. Enticing aromas and flavours of ripe yellow fruit, vanilla, sweet spices, guava, green papaya and crystallized citrus fruits, lifted by a white flower note. With further aeration more aromas emerge such as peach cobbler. Gorgeous sugar/acid balance here, with plenty of refined tropical and orchard fruit flavours that are luscious yet refined. Very long and precise on the close, which features fresh lemony custard nuances that are inviting and will draw you back to the glass time and again. Donkiesbaai on the West Coast of South Africa has been the vacation home to the Engelbrecht family for four generations. Drinking window: 2024-2032.
Donkiesbaai 2022 Grenache Blanc Piekenierskloof 93
Bright medium red colour. Yellow melon, crystallized orange peel, roast banana and star fruit on the nose, complemented by herbal notes. Then at once fresh and juicy but also rich and ripe in the mouth, with similar flavours to the aromas, this is an in your face, easy to like white Grenache wine that will match well with grilled foods, such as oily fish and even white meats. Not especially long and a little high in alcohol at the back but you don’t notice as much when eating alongside it. Lovely stuff. Drinking window: 2023-2026.
Donkiesbaai Steen 2020 Grenache Noir Piekenierskloof Olifants River Valley 93
Deep ruby-red. Perfumed aromas of raspberry, cranberry, red plum, herbs and smoke. Enters with crisp, fresh red fruit, turns more austere in the middle, then picks up in juiciness again on the back. This is really quite good: I especially liked its juicy, fruity and vibrant personality. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Donkiesbaai 2020 Cinsault Grenache Syrah blend Piekenierskloof 89
Dark red-ruby. Not very expressive currently on the nose, only hinting at strawberry and violet aromas. Then a little simple and diffuse on the palate, with a metallic edge on the medium-long, suave finish. Better with food. A 49% Cinsault, 42% Grenache and 9% Syrah blend. Drinking window: 2025-2028.
The Foundry 2021 Grenache Blanc Cape of Good Hope Stellenbosch 90
Bright yellow colour. Ripe peach and lemon vie for attention on the nose and the palate. Nicely rich but at the same time lively and fresh, this persist impressively on the back end. Drinking window: 2023-2025.
The Foundry 2020 Viognier Cape of Good Hope Stellenbosch 90
Bright straw yellow. Clean aromas and flavours of butter, apple and pear, complicated by hints of sweet spices. Nicely approachable and simple, but enjoyable: you’ll find yourself finishing the bottle in no time, always a good sign. Made with grapes grown in a single vineyard from False Bay, a cooler spot that greatly helps Viognier maintain balance and acidity. Drinking window: 2023-206.
The Foundry 2020 Roussanne Cape of Good Hope Stellenbosch
Deep bright yellow. Lemon curd, orange peel, minerals, cinnamon and herbs on the nose and in the mouth, plus peach. Then lemony, steely and long on the finish which also features hints of dried herbs and bread dough. Very nice. Fermented in 75% 300-litre barrels (roughly 10% new) and 25% fermented in clay pots. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
The Foundry 2020 Syrah Cape of Good Hope Stellenbosch 88
Purple-ruby. Aromas and flavours of black pepper, plums, and violet resonate on the medium-long finish. Nicely textured and smooth. This is the first release of a Syrah since the 2016 vintage, and the grapes were sourced from Voor Paardeberg. The winemaking featured 40% whole-bunch fermentation and 30% of the wine aged in clay. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Keermont 2021 Chenin Blanc Riverside Stellenbosch 89
Bright straw yellow. Minerals, lemon ice, white flowers and rye on the vibrant nose. Then similar flavours on the juicy palate with a nuttier quality emerging with aeration. The clean finish is nicely vibrant but a little simple, and only medium-long. In 2003, the Wraith family moved to the Western Cape from Gauteng and bought two adjacent farms that are now farmed as one estate known as Keermont Vineyards. The Riverside Block was planted in 1971. Drinking window: 2023-2025.
Keermont 2017 Cabernet Franc Pondokrug Stellenbosch 90
Bright red. The perfumed, elegant nose hints at violet, raspberry, cloves, cocoa, coffee, and underbrush. Nicely fresh red fruit and sweet spices in the mouth have a bright floral topnote and noteworthy refinement. Very juicy and clean on the long finish, this is a really lovely wine. Much lighter on its feet than many a Cabernet Sauvignon wine would be, but also more elegant and focused. Well done. The wine’s name, Pondokrug, derives from the combination of a ridge (or rug) and a sheperd’s hut (a pondok); the grapes come from a 1.8 hectares plot planted in 2006 on red granitic soil and clay, and as exposed to the elements that it is, yields are extremely low. The wine was aged for twenty-six months in French oak barriques. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Klein Constantia 2017 Vin de Constantia 97
Medium golden-yellow colour. Lemongrass and quince on the nose and in the mouth are complemented by stem ginger, quince, honey and orange peel. Very clean and fresh, this does not seem overly sweet thanks to very harmonious balancing acidity (172g/L residual sugar and 6.2g/L total acidity) such that it tastes refined and penetrating despite its sweetness (more sweet than most Sauternes, for example). The long fresh aftertaste picks up slightly herbal nuances at the back. From an excellent vintage, the grapes were picked over sixty days the second-longest picking time since the original 1986 vintage. Aged on the lees in 60% new oak and acacia barrels, the wine is said to be made with 100% Muscat de Frontignan, which is in fact the name not of a grape variety but of a wine and French wine appellation created in 1936. The grape’s real name is actually Moscato Bianco, or White Muscat, or what the French refer to as Muscat à Petit Grains; this variety has called South Africa home for many years and so the local Moscato Bianco vines can be considered to be a South African biotype of it, much as the Muscat d’Alsace variety is an Alsatian biotype of the same grape. Drinking window: 2023-2036.
Klein Constantia 2016 Vin de Constantia 95
Medium-pale yellow: very pretty, and also strikes me as lighter in colour than some other past vintages. Then also politely styled on the nsoe and in the mouth, with hints of sweet spices, honey, ripe guava, grapefruit, banana and caramel nuances that are intense and pure. Very energetic and focused on the long vibrant and sweet but lively finish (165 g/L residual sugar and a pH of 3.7). Beautiful wine, in a more politely styled rendition than the 2017, but this will hold greater appeal to those who like their sweet wines lighter in style. Whatever you do, please do not call this as a “Muscat wine” which even famous wine writers and “experts” will do: that’s nonsense, as there are dozenss of different Moscato varieties (one of the world’s oldest grape families, so it only makes sense the thing ahs evolved in myriad directions over time) and even more biotypes planted all over the world. This famous wine is said to be made with 100% Muscat de Frontignan, which is in fact the name not of a grape variety but of a wine and French wine appellation created in 1936. The grape’s real name is actually Moscato Bianco, or White Muscat, or what the French refer to as Muscat à Petit Grains; this variety has called South Africa home for many years and so the local Moscato Bianco vines can be considered to be a South African biotype of it, much as the Muscat d’Alsace variety is an Alsatian biotype of the same grape. Drinking window: 2023-2040.
KWV 2018 Grenache Blanc The Mentors Coastal 92
Straw yellow. Butter, lemon and zingy spices dominate on the nose and in the mouth, along with an obvious, strongly leesy and lanolin component. Starts seemingly almost too oaky, but then turns fresh long and well-delineated. Well balanced and long. The grapes were sourced from Wellington and Paarl. Drinking window: 2023-2038.
KWV 2018 Perold Blend -Herutage Abraham Perold Tributum The Mentors Coastal 91
Deep yellow. Clean, fresh and juicy on the long mineral- and smoke-accented finish that also offers shy hints of black currant and pepper. Not the fruitiest wine you’ll drink this year, but its stony personality will have many admirers. A blend of Shiraz/Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tannat. Drinking window: 2025-2030.
KWV 2018 Roodeberg 1949 Western Cape 90+
Medium-dark ruby-red. Aromas and flavours of plum, tobacco and smoke. Big smoky red with a complex brooding personality that will benefit from spending time in a good cellar. Try opening in about three years time. A blend of 42.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21.2% Tempranillo, plus Carignan and Carmenère. Drinking window: 2025-2032.
KWV 2018 Cathedral Cellars Pinotage Western Cape 91
Lively red colour. Very clean aromas and flavours of herbs and minerals, with the orchard fruit in the background and tobacco and smoky vanilla in the foreground. Long, lively and mineral, with a nicely textured mouthfeel rising nicely on the back end. Drinking window: 2025-2030.
KWV 2018 Pinotage The Mentors Stellenbosch 92
Bright red. Very ripe and coconutty, this very long, seemingly sweet red is very balanced, offering pleasantly smooth red cherry, sweet spice, coffee and mineral nuances. A very traditional Pinotage that finishes long and clean, with real personality. Gorgeous wine. Drinking window: 2025-2030.
Lemberg 2017 Pinotage Spencer Tulbagh 91+
Deep ruby. Smoke, tobacco, coffee and medicinal herbs dominate the nose and the mouth, with red plum notes somewhat reticent presently. The long ripe, fresh fruity finish does hold a nuance of rubber along with ink and charcoal. A typically old-style, savoury Pinotage that is a joy to drink. Drinking window: 2025-2030.
Leopard’s Leap 2021 Chenin Blanc Reserve Culinaria Western Cape 89
Bright yellow. Clean, fresh notes of mint and smoke dominate on entry, then becomes much more elegant, at once round and mellow too, with clean herb and spicy nuances building on the red fruit flavours present. Aged ten months in oak, a hint of burnt rubber and alcohol-derived heat on the back end don’t lessen much the impression of this being a well-made. Very enjoyable wine to drink, especially in the company of grilled and roast meats. Drinking window: 2025-2030.
Leopard’s Leap 2020 Special Edition Pinotage Swartland 92
Bright full red. Perfumed aromas and flavours of violet, blueberry and mint. Very elegant, this finishes long, clean and fresh with a delicately smoky note. This has a delicate refined quality to it, and is almost Pinot Noir-like in fact, but with greater spice and size. Mostly Pinotage with 5-6% Cinsault that helps add freshness and lift, they have a winner here. Drinking window: 2024-2030.
Moya Meaker 2020 Pinot Noir Elgin 90
Deep red-ruby. Delicately smoky red cherry aromas and flavours: so fruity and spicy, this is almost aromatic. Actually lovely, it closes long juicy and viscous with the red fruit flavours ripe and sweet, turning more austere and with a bittersweet twinge on the back. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Marras 2021 Chenin Blanc Los Tros Swartland 90
Medium bright yellow. Clean and well-balanced with a lovely peachy and pear skin note building up on the round mellow clean finish. Maybe not the deepest wine you’ll drink this year, but easygoing and really fun to drink. From vines planted on decomposed granite and schist soils. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Marras 2020 Grenache Swartland Piekenierskloof 91
Bright red. Enticing aromas of ripe red cherry, flowers and earth tones. Really pretty good, nicely ripe Grenache, with a sultry quality to its oily, viscous but fresh flavours of red berries, tamarind and chamomile complicated by hints of smoke and even rubber, leaving an almost pinotagey impression on the long finish. cold soak for three days to aid extraction and is then partially fermented in old oak barrels for 10 months. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Marras 2019 Cinsault The Trickster Swartland 91
Bright pale red. Spicy and savoury red cherry and berries are lifted by herbs and forest floor notes. This doesn’t taste like it’s heavily whole bunch-dependent and yet about 30% whole bunches were used. A lovely wine. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Mount Rozier 2021 Chenin Blanc The Beekeeper Western Cape 90
Vivid yellow. Lemon and lime mix it up with ripe orchard fruit and beeswax notes on the nose and in the mouth. The aftertaste is long and vibrant. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Mount Rozier 2020 Myrtle Manor Pinotage Western Cape 90
Very deep red colour. Aromas of ink, smoke and dark plum. Very long on the smoky, savoury finish, with a nicely texture. Try with grilled meats. Drinking window: 2024-2032.
Mullineux 2021 Chenin Blanc Kloof Street Swartland 91
Lively straw yellow. Piercing mineral notes complement clean vibrant lemon, peach and beeswax aromas and flavours. Very deep and multifaceted this is a very serious, age-worthy white made from old vines. Drinking window: 2024-2031.
Mullineux 2020 Chenin Blanc Old Vines White Swartland 92
Vivid straw yellow. Aromas of peach, pear and beeswax, lifted by a hint of fresh lime. Delicately mineral and herbal on the finish. Though mostly Chenin Blanc, in fact this is made with small percentages of varieties such as Clairette, Viognier and Semillon. Drinking window: 2024-2032.
Mullineux 2020 Rouge Kloof Street Swartland 90
Medium bright red. Hints at a bit of residual sugar on entry, then more austere in the middle and shows building tannins and bitterness to its savoury red cherry, plum, herb and tamarind flavours similar to the aromas. Mostly Syrah (69%), and small percentages of Cinsault, Tinta Barroca, Grenache. Drinking window: 2025-2033.
Napier 2018 Chenin Blanc Saint Helen Wellington 89
Deep yellow. Big and juicy, with ripe golden yellow apple aromas and flavours. Soft but savoury with a slightly chunky personality. It’s easy to like and easygoing, but I would have liked a little more delineation. Drinking window: 2025-2030.
Neil Ellis 2017 Pinotage Bottelary Hills Stellenbosch 91
Deep ruby-red. Shy on the nose at first, with red and black fruit lifted by a mineral juiciness and complicated by a noteworthy hint of cigar ash. Then fresh and clean in the mouth, with more obvious fruitiness and with a repeating lingering ash note on the long finish. Drinking window: 2023-2029.
Neil Ellis 2016 Noble Late Harvest Semillon Elgin 93
Pale golden yellow colour. Very elegant, lifted and easygoing white wine redolent of spicy botrytis complicating passionfruit and tropical fruit aromas and flavours. Not especially sweet, this light-bodied, precise, luscious white wine will serve as a wonderful aperitif or even to close off a meal on cheeses or fruit salads. Made with grapes grown on Bokkeveld slate soils, the wine was fermented in 500 liter puncheons and 300 liters barrels. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Piekenierskloof Wine Company.
Piekenierskloof Wine Company 2020 Grenache Swartland 89
Deep red-ruby. Savory, earthy and tarry, with the herbal notes covering up the reticent fruit on the nose and the palate, this tastes rather old-fashioned. Try it with a stew that will help provide some sweetness and lusciousness. Drinking window: 2023-2036.
Piekenierskloof Wine Company 2020 Pinotage Swartland Piekenierskloof 87
Bright ruby. Clean and fresh, this lively vibrant red starts off juicy and fruity, but the medium-long finish features mounting tannins just shy of turning gritty and a lightly overbearing coffee presence. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Reynecke 2020 Chenin Blanc Biodynamic Stellenbosch 91
Good full straw yellow. Starts off round and soft but very elegant, with precise lemony, mineral, lanolin and custard cream nuances that linger nicely on the long back end which is fresh and lively. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Rijks 2018 Chenin Blanc Tulbagh 91
Medium deep straw yellow. Aromas and flavours of peach, vanilla and custard cream have an enticing slightly smoky edge to them. Nicely persistent and fresh on at the back. About 40% fermented in new 300 liters French and Hungarian oak barrels with the rest in one year old barrels. Drinking window: 2025-2030.
Rijks 2016 Pinotage Tulbagh 91
Bright red-ruby. Flinty, rich and ripe, with lively mineral and even herbal notes on the long, very smoky finish that is very Pinotage-like. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
2016 Sadie Family Cinsault Poffader Kasteelberg Swartland 92
Bright red with a pale rim. Aromas of red and dark plum, smoke, and herbs. Very high alcohol sensation and tightly grained on entry, then more luscious and rich in the middle, finishing juicy, silky and ripe if not especially fruity. Still lively and young, so the fruit may yet emerge from the doldrums; it’s an excellent wine, but if I’m allowed to quibble, I would have liked a little more fruit present right off the bat here and in that case my score would have been even higher. A single-vineyard Cinsault, fruit sourced from a plot planted in 1973 on the hills of Kasteelberg Mountain. Vinified as whole bunches. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Scions of Sinai.
2020 Scions of Sinai Single Vineyard Pinotage Wellington 94
Lively red-ruby. Smoke, red cherry and minerals on the nose and in the mouth with nice violet lift. Finishes fresh and very floral, boasting a nice light on its feet, pleasant personality. Made with grapes at the foot of the Sinai Mountain in Stellenbosch, these are dry-farmed bush vines planted in 1976. Only 1200 bottles made.
Spier 2019 Chenin Blanc 21 Gables Stellenbosch 92
Bright straw yellow with a green tinge. Aromas and flavours of peach, pear, custard cream, lemon ice and lime pie. Very clean and long, this beautifully delineated and very well-balanced white finishes long and vibrant with repeating hints of sweet spices, smoke and flint. Drinking window: 2025-2032.
Spier 2016 21 Gables Pinotage Stellenbosch 92
Deep red-ruby. Very serious, rich, deep and balanced, this lovely wine is long and plummy, with macerated boysenberry notes and a smoky, deep, rich and balanced personality. Traditional but in a modern way, if I’m making any sense. Lovely stuff, I really liked this. Drinking window: 2025-2030.
The Stellenbosch Reserve.
Stellenbosch Reserve 2019 Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch 90
Deep bright yellow. Deep aromas of orchard fruit and herbs, complicated by lemon verbena, guava and peach pie. Simple, clean, fresh and approachable, a mellow white wine that drinks easily and fast. Drinking window: 2023-2025.
Stellenbosch Reserve 2019 Cinsault Stellenbosch 93
Medium red garnet rim. Fruit challenged and a little medicinal on the nose. Then better on the palate with juicy red and blue fruit flavours, and building tannins. A lovely red that is long and really grows on you, finishing with building but noble tannins and with a smoky note. Perhaps slightly commercial in style, but this is both well-made and inexpensive, so what’s wring with that? In fact, I think it’s a really pretty wine that will have many fans. Well done. Drinking window: 2023-2026.
Stellenrust 2019 Chenin Blanc 54 Barrel Fermented Stellenbosh 92
Bright yellow. Clean lemony and a little oaky presently, with a vibrant clean mineral nuance on the long, tactile back end. Made from a single vineyard planted on the slopes of the Bottellary Hills, the number in the wine’s name refers to the age of the vineyard in the year the wine was made. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Tokara 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Noble Late Harvest 94
Deep yellow. Profoundly rich aromas and flavours of passionfruit and guava at first, then greengage. Boasts a nice rich texture but also plenty of refreshing acidity (155 g/L r.s. and 8.2 g/L total acidity) to keep it dancing on your palate right to the last drop. 100% botrytized Sauvignon Blanc grapes from the Highlands property in Elgin, planted on quarzitic soils derived from Table Mountain sandstone. Drinking window: 2024-2030.