The highlights from South Africa ‘New Wave’
The South African ‘New Wave’ tasting has been and gone, leaving the UK wine trade in a state of frazzled and bedazzled delirium. It was a raucous jamboree filled with the Cape’s finest winemakers, pouring their latest vintages in an atmosphere of collaborative goodwill and with such infectious enthusiasm that I’m sure I caught a sommelier smiling, but I’m probably imagining it. ‘New Wave’ only takes place every 2 years, probably because the ripples from its wake take so long to subside, so we thought we’d put together a little snapshot of highlights from this year’s event for you to peruse. In order to reduce the wordcount, we’ve only posted critics’ reviews below, but more information on each wine is available on our website. Quantities are extremely limited. For more information about the individual wines, please click on the bottle shot.
The Liberator 'Perfectly Flawed' Chenin Blanc, Tulbagh 2015 (£14.95)
The STAR of the show! Amazing value for a one-off wine with a great story too. Tastes like a cross between a Swartland Chenin and an Arbois Chardonnay. Not to be missed.
Alheit Vineyards 'Cartology', Western Cape 2018 (£34.95) Max. 3 bottles per order
“Stunning new vintage.” – Jancis Robinson, 18 points
Jancis Robinson: “Some citrus fruit, green fruits and a light stone-dust minerality. There’s a note of oak spice but it’s subtle. So seductively creamy on the palate but with a piercing freshness to balance. Intense and alive. Stunning new vintage. Drink 2020-2030.” 18 points
Tim Atkin MW: “Is this the best vintage of Cartology since the maiden 2011 release? I reckon so. It's weighty yet ethereal, with lots of leesy intensity, subtle oak and pear and citrus fruit. Drink 2020-2028.” 95 points
Alheit Vineyards 'Fire by Night' Chenin Blanc, Swartland 2018 (£46.00) Max. 6 bottles per order
Single vineyard Chenin Blanc from the Paardeberg, a rocky outcrop of decomposed granite made famous by Swartland heroes Eben Sadie and Adi Badenhorst.
Jancis Robinson: “A little less open than the Cartology. Some lime fruit and crunchy green apple, tangerine as it opens. A gentle oak mealiness on the palate and fabulous fruit purity with a dry finesse that seems to be the granite effect. Utterly mouth-watering without being tart. Very persistent. Drink 2021-2030.” 17.5 points
Tim Atkin MW: “With fruit from a cooler, morning sun-facing parcel, it shows the taut, almost austere minerality that's a feature of the Nuwedam farm, layers of spice, lees and subtle oak and lovely precision. Drink 2021-2030.” 94 points
'V5' Chenin Blanc, Swartland, South Africa NV (£19.50)
A hugely complex, thought-provoking Swartland Chenin Blanc, a blend of four vintages (2015 through 2018) containing a barrel-fermented portion, a maderised portion, a flor component and a skin contact component. That all adds up to one seriously profound and contemplative white wine, bursting with ripe citrus and stone fruits, but underscored by a fascinating saline element, a nutty, smoky quality and a vivid mineral streak courtesy of the granite soil on which the vines grow.
Tim Atkin MW: “The Smiley white contains components going back to 2015, but is built around a core of the 2018 vintage. All from the granite soils of the Paardeberg, it's a complex and highly unusual Chenin Blanc, with salty, yeasty notes from the development of flor, some skin-contact tannins and a bready, balanced finish. Drink now-2023.” 92 points
Lismore Reserve Chardonnay, Greyton 2017 (£38.50)
If this isn’t the finest Chardonnay ever to leave the port of Cape Town then we don’t know what is, but we’d sure like to meet it. Everything is taken to its apex, but not beyond, like an athlete all aquiver with tension and energy. The interplay between the fruit ripeness, the minerality, the oak and the acidity is a wonder to behold. Absolutely world class!
Jancis Robinson: “More oaky on the nose and palate than the 2016 Cape South Coast but the fruit is more concentrated too. I have to stop in my tracks here. It is impossible to move on, with flavour that seems to go on for ever. A fabulous infant with great potential. The oak so subtle, the texture so flattering. Drink 2020-2030.” 18 points
Vinous (Neal Martin): “The 2017 Estate Reserve Chardonnay was matured in 500-litre barrels using 40% new oak. It has quite a powerful bouquet of crushed stone, yellow stone fruit, jasmine and light walnut aromas that are very well defined, although it clearly needs a couple of years to absorb the oak. The palate is very precise on the entry, displaying notes of orange zest (veering toward blood orange), quince and nectarine. This has wonderful acidity and great build in the mouth toward a very impressive, almost Corton-Charlemagne-like finish. This will be outstanding once it reaches the peak of maturity. Drink 2020-2032.” 95 points
J.H. Meyer 'Palmiet' Chardonnay, Elgin, South Africa 2017 (£19.95)
Although this would qualify as a ‘natural wine’, as it’s made without chemical additions (zero sulphur) and is unfined and unfiltered, it tastes utterly ‘normal’ and could easily be mistaken for a refined, young white Burgundy. Great quality and price from the exuberant Johan ‘Stompie’ Meyer.
Jancis Robinson: “Just a touch of smoky reduction and sour-fresh grapefruit and lemon. As it opens, it becomes richer and the fruit shines, pure and lively, intense and fresh on the palate, that touch of reduction adding complexity. Delicious and changing all the time in the glass. Good Value. 13.5%. Drink 2020-2025.” 17 points
Lukas Van Loggerenberg ‘Graft' Syrah, Polkadraai Hills 2018 (£34.00) Max. 6 bottles per order
“Lifted and perfumed like the best northern Rhône Syrah” - Jancis Robinson, 17.5 points
Jancis Robinson: “One of the highest vineyards in the area at 300 metres. 100% whole bunch and some new oak. Lifted and perfumed like the best northern Rhône Syrah but it’s no imitation. Peony, black fruit, pepper. On the palate, wonderfully dry texture, the oak in the background. The texture is infused with the perfume from the beginning to the long finish. Dark, chalky finesse at the very end. (JH) 13.5%. Drink 2021-2028.” 17.5 points
Tim Atkin MW: “Graft is produced from the same block as Reenen Borman's Sons of Sugarland Syrah - he and Lukas van Loggerenberg are great friends - and provides further proof that it's a great site. Peppery, sappy and very lightly wooded, it has fynbos and garrigue scents and thrilling poise and finesse. 2021-S028.” 94 points
Lismore Estate Syrah Reserve, Greyton 2017 (£39.95)
“An absolute stunner.” - Jancis Robinson, 18 points
Tim Atkin MW: “Grown on shale soils in Greyton, this superb Syrah is consistently one of the best South African expressions of the grape, showing classic garrigue and pepper spice aromas, fresh acidity, deftly handled oak and succulent red berry fruit. Drink 2020-2028.” 95 points
Jancis Robinson: "Meat and smoke with violet perfume, pure blackberry fruit and cracked pepper. An absolute stunner. So perfectly flavoursome without any sense of being forced, showing a gentle hand at work. Tremendous. Drink 2020-2030.” 18 points
Mother Rock 'Force Majeure' Cinsault, Swartland 2018 (£17.95)
This is what South Africa ‘New Wave’ is all about! Modern, bright, appetisingly fresh wine that is as cutting-edge as it is delicious.
Jancis Robinson: “Surprisingly dark for Cinsault. So pretty on the nose, scented ripe sour cherry, and chalky-textured and deep but fresh-fruited on the palate. This is Cinsault Max, aromatic, super-fresh and with perfectly judged dry tannins. I think it will age well but it’s hard to resist now. Good Value. 12% alc. Drink 2020-2028.” 17 points
Terracura Syrah, Swartland 2016 (£42.00) Max. 6 bottles per order
A wine with even more personality than its winemaker and we didn’t think that was possible!
Jancis Robinson: “Gorgeous perfume, with black pepper, dark chocolate, malt, liquorice and tar. Beautiful and robust and long. Drink now-2024.” 17.5+ points
Tim Atkin MW: “Deeper in colour than the outstanding 2016 release, this is a blend of mostly schist-grown grapes with 25% from granite. Violets, blueberries and black olive flavours are complemented by subtle wood, some savoury grip, fine-grained tannins and the potential to age in bottle. 2021-2027.” 94 points