An alternative top ten?

When I argued with “Harry Casual” and his boredom with my Top Ten wine lists, he not too grudgingly accepted, I think, the validity of my approach, but cut me quite deep with his disappointment “that there is not one surprise”. I do know exactly what he means – although I think there were in fact a few slightly unusual choices in my lists. But I’ve now come up with a mixed bag of wines that I think are a bit less mainstream, but which would not raise too many of my eyebrows (?!) if they were in a Top Ten list – even if the list were my own. Even if they’re not only mildly “unusual”:

  • Bein Merlot
  • Circumstance Shiraz
  • Constantia Uitsig White
  • Crystallum Cuvée Cinema Pinot Noir
  • High Constantia Sebastiaan
  • Lammershoek Syrah
  • La Motte Shiraz
  • Raats Chenin Blanc
  • Reyneke Reserve White
  • Solms-Delta Amalie

A few of those admittedly have no track record, but still. Once they do have a track record, they will no longer be unusual, I suppose….

I have, since compiling my original lists, actually sent around the questionnaire I mentioned, asking a few dozen “experts” for their list of the country’s top 20 wineries (as well as strong new contenders). I’ve also asked for their lists of the top ten reds and top ten whites. I’ve had only eight responses in so far, but, in fact there already are a few definitely unusual wines listed amongst the Usual Suspects – Herold Pinot Noir, for example, which also comes from a pleasantly unusual origin: Herold (which also makes a pretty good Sauvignon Blanc) is the sole, brave occupant of the Outeniqua ward, at the top of the pass between the hot dry Karoo and cold coastal George.

Beaumont’s excellent chenin, the Hope Marguerite has already been mentioned a few times (and had hovered on the edge of my own list, in fact) – but seeing that the last vintage rated a Platter five star, perhaps that’s not unusual enough to satisfy Harry Casual. Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc, De Grendedel Koetshuis Sauvignon and the excellent Luddite Shiraz are a few others. I’m sure there will be some more interesting and unusual wines listed by some of these writers, sommeliers and retailers, and I will pass them on, along with the no-doubt fairly boring consensus list of the country’s best.

I must say that the voting for the country’s top twenty wineries (including a separate vote for the top five) is looking interesting. If the trajectory continues along its present path, there are going to be some radical changes to the most-fancied wineries that emerged in Grape’s first poll – including some wineries that were scarcely in existence ten years ago…. That’s the exciting thing: just how much has been happening that’s exciting in the last decade, and how many good wines there are.

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