* This article first appeared in the Business Day Prime, 26 Nov 2020
With a startling 3 – 4 million bottles of South African wine drunk every day – and from thousands of different labels – choosing the right one can be a little daunting. Here are four worthy contenders to consider from both established and emerging vineyards of distinction.
1. Vin De Constance 2017, Klein Constantia
Constantia is the proud birthplace of new world wine on the African content, and the first region in the Southern Hemisphere to produce wine. Klein Constantia’s Vin De Constance is one of South Africa’s most highly-awarded wines and pays homage to the Cape’s 360-year legacy of winemaking.
The estate is currently offering the 2017 vintage, lauded with 98 points and Best Sweet Wine of the Year from judge Tim Atkin. Winemaker Matt Day shared his thoughts on the 2017 vintage: “The success of the 2017 is that it is no longer just a sweet wine. We have finally accomplished our goal of creating perfect balance – it is almost a sweet wine that tastes dry although has all the flavour that we have come to expect from Vin de Constance.”
With honeyed apricots, candied citrus, and a hint of spice on the palate, this natural sweet wine has an exceptional balance between sugar, acidity, and alcohol. A spectacular wine that should adorn every connoisseur’s collection. kleinconstantia.com
2. Jean le Long Prestige Cuvée Brut Blanc de Blancs 2008, Boschendal
South Africa’s second oldest estate also gives a nod to its near four-century history, by naming their flagship MCC after its 1685 founder. The 2008 vintage of Jean le Long Prestige Cuvée Brut Blanc de Blancs has waited an exceptional 12 years, ready to accompany any significant celebration.
Early harvesting of the Chardonnay grapes from high altitude cooler climate vineyards contributes to lower sugar levels and also a refreshing acidity. The wine spends 60 months on the lees before being disgorged and corked, and then an equally impressive 72 months on cork before being released to the market.
The MCC presents a delicate floral nose, followed by ripe lemon, apple, and stone fruit on the palate. Thanks to the generous time of maturation, the MCC finishes off with toasted brioche. A showstopper still gleaming from last year’s accolade for best MCC by South Africa’s Amorim Cap Classique Challenge, with the 2009 vintage hotly following suit. boschendal.com
3. Elgin Highlands Pinot Noir 2018, Iona
When Iona says that it makes some cool wines, it has licence to say so. The Elgin-based estate has some of the coldest recorded vineyard temperatures in South Africa. The cool maritime breezes sweep up towards the farm from the Atlantic Ocean only three kilometres below and then collide with the warmer valley winds to create a perfect microclimate.
Despite its reputation as the heartbreak grape, production of the noble Pinot Noir cultivar is on the increase. Iona’s cool climate Pinot Noir offers is a classic expression of the varietal, with a bracing acidity to complement the perfumed nose and earthy, dark cherry notes.
Winemaker Werner Muller adds proudly: “The Iona Pinot Noir is a true reflection and expression of our unique growing conditions and the different soils on Iona.” iona.co.za
4. Die Waghuis White 2017, Org de Rac
Org De Rac is one of a collection of Swartland estates that have developed a near-cult following in the past decade. Their range or fully organic wines also include South African celebrity chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen’s namesake range. The estate’s 2019 Roussanne won the Trophy for Best Organic Wine at the 2019 Michelangelo Awards.
For this feature however, the spotlight goes on the Waghuis White Bend. This artful integration of 51% Verdelho (one of the estates unique stars), 28% Roussanne and 21% Chenin Blanc result in a complex but approachable white blend.
Hints of stone fruit and citrus eventually give way to a gentle creaminess and lingering mouthfeel. At R165 a bottle, the Waghuis is also a reminder that premium wines needn’t always come at a price. orgderac.com