WorldWine Tasting Report

2013-03-04

South Africa between dream and reality

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It took us a long time before we were able to publish this tasting report for which we had already started tasting wines at the 2012 Cape Wine, last september. The reason behind this was in some bizarre transport logistics and a very slow customs office which blocked 130 wines for more than a month, here in Hamburg, after the same wines having already spent quite a while in the port of Cape Town before starting their journey to Europe.


Small but beautiful: Willi and Tania de Waal's Scali winery in the area of the Vor Paardeberg. (Foto: E. Supp)

All's well that ends well ... and here it is: the perhaps most comprehensive tasting report on South Africa, so far published outside the country. Overall, this report shows the enormous quality progress achieved by South Africa's wine industry during the past 15, 20 years. If we compare the tasting notes of this report with those of our first rather eclectic tastings in the 1990ies (see our wine archives), the contrast couldn't be sharper. Of course, there are a few blind spots remaining such as the fact that South Africans seem believe they absolutely need Pinot noir and Sauvignon blanc in their vineyards while there are plenty of other varieties with a much greater potential. But the average wine quality has reached an amazing level.

The fact that only very few wineries sent us Chenin blanc, the best white variety in all of our tastings, or Pinotage, THE red variety of the country, makes us ask if South Africa's producers really have understood the necessity to perform with expressive, caracteristic and, above all, unmistakeably South African wines, wines that constitute a real unique selling proposition in the premium and super premium segments of the world's wine markets.

More profile, please

It proves, as SA's old vine specialist Rosa Kruger explained in an interview with ENO WorldWine (in German), that the country is still in search of its true (wine) identity. If WOSA-CEO Su Birch answered a relative remarque of ours on Twitter stating "We are confident..of our shiraz, cabs, chardonnays, sav blancs and much more. No one trick pony, South Africa" and "Diversity is a fact of our soils, climates etc. So even though it is a challenge to communicate, it is what and who we are" this seems to confirm our doubts. No, dear South Africans, diversity is no a USP and not a marketing draft either.

Another problem which has shown up in the news scares us. It's the social unrest which started in the mines around Johannesburg but, in the meantime, has reached other parts of the country and the farmworkers. Even if you disregard the fact that there seem to be numerous political die-hards who try to use the unrest for their own ends, the fact remains that South Africa is torn up by its social extremes.

If, after 1994, the blacks hoped for a better future and the whites, at least many of them, hoped that things wouldn't get as bad as they could have feared after loosing their beloved Apartheid system, it looks as if, for some time, both sides were long time blinded by their own illusions and are now confronted with the harsh reality in a very uncomfortable way.

When looking at some of the most spectacular and mosts expensive new cellars which have engulfed millions and millions during the last years, the independent observer is tried to ask if not at least a minor part of these sums had better been invested in human wages and the education of the mostly black farm workers and their children.


Pomp and Circumstance in the organically farming winery Waterkloof. One or another of the millions invested here had perhaps better been spent in people rather than in concrete, steel and glass. (photo: E. Supp)

A little bit less Pomp and Circumstance here and there would certainly not have damaged neither the quality of the wines nor their success on the world wine markets but would most certainly have perfectly suited a country which - at least if you listen to its marketing slogans - puts so much emphasis on sustainability. In the end, sustainability is much more than just a "green" marketing idea.

Best of the best

But let's get back to more gratifying things. From our roughly 3,000 tasting notes of the last 15 or 20 years we have calculated a list of South Africa's best wines, provided we were able to taste at least three different vintages. Here they are:
Lady May (Glenelly)
Anwilka (Klein Constantia)
Le Sommet (Mont du Toit)
Ronnie Melck family selection (Muratie)
Cornerstone (Reyneke)
Elevation 393 (De Toren)
Shiraz - Mourvèdre (Beaumont)
Steytler Vision (Kaapzicht)
Synergy blend (Beyerskloof)
Syrah (Scali)
Engelbrecht Els Proprietor's Blend (E. Els)
Syrah (Boekenhoutskloof)
Syncronicity (Meinert)
Blanc (Scali)
Syrah (Cirrus)
Cobblers Hill (Jordan)
FMC (Forrester)
Chenin blanc (Reyneke)
Fusion V (De Toren)
Pinotage Steytler (Kaapzicht)
Shiraz SSS Limited Edition (Saxenburg)

Here are some more outstanding wines of which we tasted less than 3 vintages:
Book 17 (De Toren)
Outsider Shiraz (Jack & Knox)
Signature (E. Els)
Reyneke Reserve (Reyneke)
Cabernet Sauvignon (Meinert)
Pinotage (Mont Destin)
Viognier Tamboerskloof (Kleinood)
Cabernet Sauvignon (Land of Hope)
Syrah Reserve (Kleinood)

Among the best wine estates, those who, during the last 10 years have excelled with their entire portfolio, quite obviously you will find more or less the same names. Here are those which, at this moment, receive our thre "@":
De Toren (Stellenbosch)
De Trafford (Stellenbosch)
Ernie Els (Stellenbosch)
Reyneke Wines (Stellenbosch)
Scali - W. de Waal (Vor Paardeberg)
The Sadie family (Swartland)
Kleinood Winery (Stellenbosch)
Crystallum Wines (Walker Bay)
Glenelly Estate (Stellenbosch
Mullineux Family Wines (Swartland)
Rickety Bridge (Franschhoek)

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Our complete tastings (comments in German)
4G - Ken Forrester
Ken Forrester - Klein Constantia
KWV - Reyneke
Reyneke - Stark-Condé
Stark-Condé - Waterford

Our complete wine database (50,000 wines)

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*****De Toren Private Cellar (Vlottenburg) - Stellenbosch Book 17 2010
 
*****De Trafford (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Elevation 393 2007
 
*****Scali - W. & T. De Waal (N-Paarl) - Vor Paardeberg Syrah 2006
 
*****Klein Constantia (Pty) Ltd. (Constantia) - Stellenbosch Anwilka 2008
 
***** ?Reyneke Wines (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Reyneke Reserve red 2009
 
*****Glenelly Estate (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Lady May 2010
 
*****Scali - W. & T. De Waal (N-Paarl) - Vor Paardeberg Syrah 2003
 
*****Reyneke Wines (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Reyneke Reserve red 2008
 
***** +Beaumont Wines (Bot River) - Walker Bay Shiraz - Mourvèdre 2010
 
***** +Glenelly Estate (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Lady May 2008
 
***** +Glenelly Estate (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Lady May 2009
 
***** +Scali - W. & T. De Waal (N-Paarl) - Vor Paardeberg Syrah 2007
 
***** +Reyneke Wines (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Cornerstone 2011
 
***** +Klein Constantia (Pty) Ltd. (Constantia) - Stellenbosch Anwilka 2011
 
***** +De Toren Private Cellar (Vlottenburg) - Coastal Region Fusion V 2010
 
***** +De Trafford (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Syrah 393 2010
 
*****Beaumont Wines (Bot River) - Walker Bay Shiraz - Mourvèdre 2009
 
*****The Winery of Good Hope (Pty) Ltd - Radford Dale (Somerset West) - Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Land of Hope 2011
 
*****Scali - W. & T. De Waal (N-Paarl) - Vor Paardeberg Blanc 2008
 
*****Stark-Condé (Stellenbosch) - Jonkershoek Valley Oude Nektar 2008
 
*****Kleinood Winery (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Syrah Reserve 2009
 
*****Kleinood Winery (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Syrah Reserve 2010
 
*****De Trafford (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
 
*****Vera Cruz Estate - Delheim (Koelenhof) - Simonsberg - Stellenbosch Estate Shiraz 2009
 
*****Anthonij Rupert Wines (Franschhoek) - Western Cape Anthonij Rupert 2007
 
*****Warwick Wine Estate (Muldersvlei) - Simonsberg Stellenbosch Trilogy 2009
 
*****Scali - W. & T. De Waal (N-Paarl) - Vor Paardeberg Blanc 2009
 
*****Scali - W. & T. De Waal (N-Paarl) - Vor Paardeberg Pinotage 2000
 
*****Scali - W. & T. De Waal (N-Paarl) - Vor Paardeberg Syrah 2008
 
*****Stark-Condé (Stellenbosch) - Jonkershoek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Three Pines 2009
 
*****Rickety Bridge Estate Wines (Franschhoek) - Paarl Cabernet Sauvignon Paulina’s Reserve 2009
 
*****Rickety Bridge Estate Wines (Franschhoek) - Franschhoek The Bridge 2008
 
*****Crystallum Wines (Hermanus) - Walker Bay Chardonnay Clay Shales 2011
 
*****Vuurberg Wine (Stellenbosch) - Western Cape Vuurberg white 2011
 
*****Crystallum Wines (Hermanus) - Swartland Paradisum 2010
 
*****Vuurberg Wine (Stellenbosch) - Western Cape Vuurberg Reserve red 2009
 
*****Meerlust Estate (Faure) - Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
 
*****Springfield Estate (Robertson) - Robertson Chardonnay Méthode ancienne 2002
 
*****Saronsberg (Tulbagh) - Coastal Region Seismic 2007
 
*****Mont du Toit (Wellington) - Coastal Region Mont du Toit 2007
 
*****Mont du Toit (Wellington) - Coastal Region Le Sommet 2003
 
*****Muratie Wine Farm (Pty) Ltd. (Koelenhof) - Simonsberg-Stellenbosch Ronnie Melck family selection 2008
 
*****Beyerskloof (Koelenhof) - Stellenbosch Faith 2008
 
*****Beyerskloof (Koelenhof) - Stellenbosch Field Blend 2007
 
*****Mullineux Family Wines (Riebeek Kasteel) - Swartland Chenin blanc Kloof Street 2012
 
*****Vriesenhof (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Kallista 2005
 
*****Meerlust Estate (Faure) - Stellenbosch Rubicon 2008
 
*****Kaapzicht Estate Pty. Ltd (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Steytler Vision 2008
 
*****Shannon Vineyards & Wines (Elgin) - Elgin Mount Bullet 2010
 
*****Raats family wines (Stellenbosch) - Stellenbosch Cabernet franc 2010

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