South Africa’s best bottles

Having this evening finished an excellent bottle of Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, I’m not at all surprised that Le Riche Reserve finished high in the list of Top Ten South African Reds. It’s always a superb wine. This category, together with the Top Ten Whites, was the last that the team of panellists voted for recently (the voters are named with the Top 20 Wineries list – here).

Le Riche didn’t win; it came joint third along with two Boekenhoutskloof wines: the Cabernet and the Syrah. The wine voted Top South African Red by the panel was Sadie Family Columella – a comparatively new wine (first vintage 2000) which just pipped one of the most enduring Cape reds, Kanonkop Paul Sauer. The next five followed in the Bordeaux-style blend line, with just one variety other than the Bordeaux lot getting a look-in. Each voter named ten wines in alphabetical order, and the results were arrived at simply by adding up the votes cast (same procedure for the white wines).

So the full Top Ten Reds lists was:

  • Sadie Family Columella
  • Kanonkop Paul Sauer
  • Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet
    Boekenhoutskloof Syrah
    Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (these three tied)
  • Morgenster
  • Vergelegen Red
  • Meerlust Rubicon
  • Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir
    Jordan Cobblers Hill (these two tied)

The Top Ten Whites (voting was closer than for the reds, with fewer strays) was also dominated by blends, with two very different styles and varietal packages coming joint top: Sadie Family Palladius and Cape Point Vineyards Isliedh. Three chardonnays (the Ataraxia a fraction behind the winners), just one chenin and – perhaps surprisingly – just one Sauvignon. The rest were blends. The surprise inclusion, perhaps (though I shouldn’t be surprised as I voted for it myself), was Eben Sadie’s “other” white Swartland blend, Sequillo – which sells for about a third of what Palladius does. The latest release of that, the 2009, is due out on May 1st. I tried it just the other day at a tasting organized by its distributor, Tracy van Maaren, and I have little doubt that it is the finest yet of this label – lean, lovely and lingering, beautifully textured and finely focused; should be a great food wine as well as a sipper.

The Top Ten South African Whites, in order of votes cast:

  • Cape Point Vineyards Isliedh
    Sadie Family Palladius (these two tied)
  • Ataraxia Chardonnay
    Vergelegen White (these two tied)
  • Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay
  • Tokara White
  • Ken Forrester The FMC
  • Chamonix Chardonnay
    Sequillo White
    Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc Reserve (these three tied)

Well, I hope Eben Sadie feels chuffed at having both the top red and the joint top white.

Incidentally, there were complaints of boringness when I previously put forward my own list of candidates, so here are some of the some slightly less usual suspects, which received at least two votes:

Reds:

  • Herold Pinot Noir
  • Raats Cabernet Franc
  • Mvemve Raats De Compostella
  • Lammershoek Roulette
  • Simonsig Red Hill Pinotage

Whites:

  • Boekenhoutskloof Semillon
  • Nederburg Ingenuity
  • Raats Chenin Blanc
  • Sterhuis Astra
  • Uva Mira Chardonnay

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