Wines of the year (5) South African stars

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I’m continuing the theme of wines of the year. This year I tasted a lot of very good South African wines, both on my three visits, and also in London. These are the ones I liked the most, out of a very strong selection. These are seriously good wines.

Kershaw Deconstructed Chardonnay CY95 Lake District Bokkeveld Shale 2015 Elgin, South Africa
Generous pear and citrus fruit. Rounded and textured with a fine mineral edge, and some mandarin notes. Very fine and delicate but also has power, walking a tightrope between richness and finesse. Green tea and herbs, too. 96/100

Mother Rock Grenache 2015 Swartland, South Africa
11.8% alcohol. Decomposed granite with some Malmesbury shale. 100% whole bunch, 8 weeks on skins. Very fine, perfumed and expressive with a slightly herby nose or red cherries with tea leaf detail. Vibrant, juicy, pure red cherry fruit palate is so expressive. Complex, pure and beautiful. Haunting. 96/100

Badenhorst

Savage ‘The Girl Next Door’ Syrah 2014 Cape Peninsular, South Africa
This is from 0.4 hectares of Syrah in dandy gravel, from 8 year old vines. There’s a taut, reductive edge to the nose. Fresh, supple and juicy this has bright raspberry and cherry fruit, with lovely savoury, grippy structure. Wild, with a bit of reduction, but really serious with amazing potential for development. 96/100

Badenhorst Dassiekop Steen 2015 Swartland, South Africa
A single-vineyard Chenin Blanc. Old vines. Floral, exotic and spicy with fresh apple and citrus on the nose with hints of tangerine. Powerful and textured on the palate with herbs, cheese and straw complexity as well as some anise notes. Powerful and complex, this should age beautifully. 96/100

bosman optenhorst chenin

Bosman Optenhorst Chenin Blanc 2014 Wellington, South Africa
This is a single vineyard, planted in 1952, with bush vines. This year it has been repackaged, and also a portion is fermented in concrete tanks (previously, it had all been oak aged). ‘We’ve always wanted to say more about the vineyard than about the oak,’ says Corlea Fourie. This has lovely textured pear and lemon fruit with real elegance and a subtle creamy hint. It’s mineral with freshness and purity. So textural. 94/100

Ken Forrester Dirty Little Secret Chenin Blanc ‘One’ 2015 Piekeneerskloof, South Africa
Lovely ripe, supple, aromatic Chenin showing tangerines, herbs, lemons and fine spices, as well as some intriguing white flower notes. There are flavours of white peaches and ripe apples, and this wine, with just 12.5% alcohol, shows lovely detail and finesse. There is concentration here, but also detail. There are also floral aromatics that you wouldn’t normally associate with Chenin, which may come from the brief skin and stem contact before pressing. It’s a really lovely wine. 94/100 

Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2015 Swartland, South Africa
Generous but fresh with minerals, spices, citrus and ripe apple. Fresh and detailed with lovely concentration and intensity, yet it retains its freshness and purity. Very fine. 96/100 

Sadie Family Soldaat 2014 Swartland, South Africa
Pale red. Lovely fresh cherries and plums with nice sappy notes. Fine and expressive with cherry and raspberry fruit. This is a brilliant lighter-styled red. 95/100 

Raats Eden High Density Cabernet Franc 2014 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Destined to become a unicorn wine, just 300 bottles of this amazing Cabernet Franc are produced, from 300 vines at the back of one of their Chenin vineyards. Very elegant and supple with ripe, sweet black fruits and lovely savoury detail: graphite, soft chalk and slate. Amazing finesse and tannic structure, this is pure and detailed, and it’s quite remarkable. 95/100

Crystallum Malabel Pinot Noir 2015 Overberg, South Africa
Supple, juicy and fine with lovely cherry fruit. Fine grained with freshness and detail to the elegant cherry fruit. 95/100

david grenache

David & Nadia Grenache 2015 Swartland, South Africa
From three vineyards, one organic and two sustainably farmed. Lovely freshness and purity here: very fine, expressive and focused, showing lovely purity. Perfumed red cherries with hints of ginger and spice. Nice weight: elegant, fresh and sappy. 95/100 

Thorne & Daughters Paper Kite Old Vine Semillon 2015 Franschhoek, South Africa
From Basil Landau’s famous old vineyard planted in 1915, this is a complex, textured, fine expression of Semillon with pear and citrus fruits, plus complex wax and nut characters. Lovely textural complexity here, and great acidity. 95/100 

Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2015 Hemel en Aarde, South Africa
Pear, white peach, nut and anise notes here. Lovely, fresh and focused palate with lemons and herbs. Complex and linear, with real finesse. Beautiful. 95/100

Paul Cluver Seven Flags Pinot Noir 2014 Elgin, South Africa
Since 2012 Martin Prieur of Domaine Jacques Prieur has consulted here. The focus has been on purity of fruit and acidity, and in 2014 I think they’ve cracked it. So fine and fresh with lovely silky tannins. Fine, textural cherry fruit with plums and nice spiciness. Linear and expressive. 95/100

testalonga cortez

Testalonga Cortez El Bandito 2009 Swartland, South Africa
This Chenin Blanc was made with no added sulphites, so how does it look at age 7? Tight, reductive and pure with pristine lemony fruit and some matchtick minerality. Intense lemony fruit here belies the age of this wine, which is linear and pure. It’s picked up some complexity on the way, too. Stunning. 96/100

olerasay

Mullineux Olerasay No 1 NV Swartland, South Africa
Golden colour. Juicy and raisiny with marmalade and citrus notes. Very lively and spicy with great complexity, and a grainy sort of texture with real precision. Very pure and intense with crystalline fruit character. 96/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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