South Africa New Releases: Don’t Deny Yourself


I will keep this introduction short and sweet, and let the reviews do the talking. This year, my trip to the Cape was nixed by a spot of heart trouble, and consequently I resigned myself to omitting South Africa altogether. There was simply no time, since my calendar was chock-full of long-planned trips. So I am indebted to Greg Sherwood MW for nipping that defeatist attitude in the bud over lunch at Chez Bruce. If I could find just three or four days, then he could provide a tasting room and assist with logistics. Sure enough, I found three days in early October prior to the autumn Burgundy marathon that just might make it possible. It was this or nothing, and nothing simply wouldn’t do. I made a list of South Africa wineries to taste – a nigh impossible task, as there is a limit to how much one can professionally taste in a day.

Samantha O’Keefe’s wines from Lismore Estate in Greyton were singing

Readers might infer that the wineries included in this report are my crème de la crème, so I must emphasize that this is not a definitive list. Off the top of my head I can think of at least 20 names I regret not being able to taste, and doubtless they know who they are. Instead of singling out individual names or specific wines, the headline is that just like their World Cup winning rugby team, South Africa is firing on all cylinders. You just need to be selective and know where to look. Even as a fairly seasoned taster, at some point I sat back and marveled at the astonishing quality. The whites in particular are achieving such high levels of excellence that I imagined them as runners sprinting ahead, looking back at the reds and exhorting them to catch up. 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. This report burgeons with 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. Those winemakers are creating a scene that is exciting and dynamic, benefiting the industry as a whole as it erodes the stigma and prejudice that too many people hold against this country’s wines. Thankfully, a cluster of top producers are steadily building track records and gaining loyal audiences, ensuring that their limited cuvées are selling out quicker and quicker each year. Trust me when I say that in a decade’s time, you might well rue not grabbing some of these exceptional wines.

I tasted David & Nadia Sadie’s wines in the offices of their UK importer

That’s all I want to say. Read the reviews. Treat yourself. Order a few bottles. Don’t deny yourself. Yes, those prices are a fraction compared to other wine regions, as the Cape continues to offer unbeatable quality combined with affordability. Next year I have no plans for open-heart surgery and – fingers crossed – will expand my purview to compose a more comprehensive report. For now, you will find plenty here to pique your interest and satisfy your senses.

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