Wine Spector

South Africa with an even larger wine selection

Wine from South Africa has come a long way in the last 30 years. The production of quality wines from the Cape only became more widespread in the 1990s; as early as 1995, the top historic wineries received excellent ratings from Wine Spectator. Some even appeared in its annual Top 100 list.

The market for South African wine in the United States grew slowly from 270 000 cases in 2000 to 1.1 million cases in 2019, according to Impact Databank. But during the COVID 19 pandemic, these numbers have skyrocketed, with imports to the US tripling between 2019 and 2021, ending last year at an impressive 3.2 million cases.

What should you drink from South Africa? The answer is: almost anything from a winery known for its quality. Since my last report («Charting Their Own Course», 31 July 2021), I have blind-tasted nearly 175 wines, including bottlings from more than 60 producers. The country’s range is broad and includes fresh sparkling wines, whites and rosés, vibrant and full-bodied reds, and delicious dessert wines. There is something for almost every palate.

At the entry-level, some affordable bottlings offer good examples of the main grape varieties grown in South Africa, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah for reds and Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for whites. Several versions, available for $20 or less, are perfect for stocking up on for everyday enjoyment.

Even among the best wines from South Africa, value for money prevails. In this year’s report, the average price of wines rated 90 or above is $40 per bottle, and only seven of the wines surveyed are priced above $100. Unsurprisingly, the price is highest for the three highest-rated wines.

At $200, the 1694 Classification Stellenbosch 2017 from Rust en Vrede (95 Points) is the most expensive red wine in this review, a rich version that is nonetheless supple and graceful with good ageing potential. It is a blend of Syrah (59%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (41%), with grapes sourced from the estate’s oldest and best plots. Reyneke, known as South Africa’s first winery to receive biodynamic certification in 2008, has produced a vibrant, single-varietal bottling: the Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch 2017 (95 points, $136, about CHF 133.-). And priced at just under $100 (CHF 98.-), Porseleinberg shines with the winery’s only mountain-top bottling in 2019: the Swartland (95 points, $95- CHF 93.-). After fermentation in concrete tanks, this 100% Syrah was aged for 12 months in a blend of Foudre (90%) and Betonei (10%).

Despite the older vintage, the wines from Rust en Vrede and Reyneke both new to the market. They were aged for about two years before bottling and were given extra time in bottle before release. But these are outliers, as most of the reds I tasted are from the 2018 and 2019 vintages, as well as some from 2020, while the whites are mostly from the 2020 and 2021 vintages.

The final phase of harvesting for the 2020 crop in South Africa was completed when the countries were closed due to the pandemic, but for winemakers in the region, there were already early results. After the drought and drastically reduced yields in 2019, the 2020 harvest delivered a near normal-sized crop of clean, high-quality fruit in most major sub-regions of the country.

Looking ahead to the 2020 growing season, Callie Louw, winemaker at Porseleinberg, says it was the “fifth season of below-average rainfall”, citing 14 inches in the winter of 2019. «We had good rains in October and December and an inch in January just before harvest, which was very helpful», he says.

The year’s rainfall was sufficient to encourage vine development, resulting in good flowering and fruit set. Although there were still some heat spikes in parts of South Africa in 2020, overall, the weather was quite balanced. According to Louw, it was an excellent, clean season, with some mildew pressure after the December rains, but nothing negatively impacted the maturing crop.

Ultimately, 2020 yielded just over 8% more fruit than 2019, with growers of red and white varieties generally pleased with the results. «2020 is a nice vintage», Duncan sums up Savage, whose 2020 Follow The Line Cape Town (92 points, $50) is a Cinsault-based red blend. «The wines are not as structured as 2019, ’17 or ’15, but show beautiful fruit and fine tannins. They are wines that please immediately and will continue to please for many years to come».

«The good conditions led to a higher yield of both our Cabernet and Syrah», says Jean Engelbrecht, owner of Rust en Vrede. «I think the 2020 Cabernet was excellent. The tannin development was without the accumulation of sugar and showed very supple».

Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir have done well in my tastings of the 2020 wines, and more releases of the year’s red wines are still to come. However, among the wines currently on the market, it is the 2020 whites that shine as the stars of the vintage. Both the Chardonnay and the Chenin Blanc have excelled, producing many outstanding examples. Indeed, the 2020 harvest seems to be an almost universal success for the Cape’s various subzones and grape varieties, and based on my ratings, I give the vintage an overall score of 93 points.

South Africa comprises several distinct wine-growing regions with unique soils, climates and conditions. True lovers of this country’s wines will immerse themselves in this diversity. But those tasting these wines for the first time or only occasionally will also get their money’s worth because the Cape is rich in vibrant, balanced bottlings. Made mainly from well-known grape varieties but with South African expression, these wines are worthy of a permanent place on any wine lover’s wine list.

Special Offer
Boekenhoutskloof – 2020
CHF 75.00 instead of CHF 99.00

95 Points by Wine Spectator

Acidity and freshness characterise the nose. Round and quite rich in the middle. Racy. Biting and grippy on the finish..


Cabernet Sauv. – Reserve – Organic – 2017
CHF 99.0

95 Points by Wine Spectator

The nose presents aromas of blackberry and black cherry followed by spicy notes and finally opens with darker undertones of cedar and black pepper. The palate is complex and layered with dark fruits and a fresh acidity on the mid palate. A clear graphite line typical of the farm terroir runs through the wine. The wine is concentrated with juicy tannins and a seamless, everlasting finish.

1694 Classification – mit Holzkiste – CFWI – 2017
CHF 119.00 instead of CHF 149.00

95 Points by Wine Spectator

Pronounced aromas of red and black cherry on the nose paired with cassis, cedar, cumin and ground coriander. Fine, ripe tannins coat the palate with dominant notes of cherries and blackberries giving the wine backbone. Cedar spice, custard and liquorice creating a harmonious complexity on the palate, well structured and concentrated without being overbearing.


Nautical Dawn – Chenin Blanc – 2020
CHF 49.0

93 Points by Wine Spectator

The wine reflects the tension of the elements in which it grows: the gentle glow of the Stellenbosch sun drenching the hills is masked by a cold, salty blow from the south-east wind. Yellow fruits and sweet herbs sing their familiar tune. The wine is mouth-filling and quaffable, salty and nimble. Nice long finish.

Killer Deal – from 6 Bottles
Syrah – 2018
CHF 39.90 instead of CHF 55.00

93 Points by Wine Spectator

The nose is dominated by dark fruits with aromas of blackcurrants, black olives, tar and graphite. Lush, sweet, red and dark berries follow through to an exceptionally complex palate with rich flavours of ripe plums, black cardamom and hints of ground pepper and sweet tobacco. Nuances of cured meat and green olive tapenade contribute to the attractive spicy character of the textured mid palate, with notes of milk chocolate coating the mouth. The wine is supple, medium to full-bodied with lovely concentration, silky tannins and lively, balancing acidity. Red fruits and spices linger on the finish with classic nuances of white pepper and vibrant garrigue giving the wine a Provençal character.

Best Hit

Pinot Noir Tete de Cuvée – 2019
CHF 109.00 instead of CHF 135.00

93 Points by Wine Spectator – Jg. 2020

Brilliant and pure. Fresh cranberry and juicy plum aromas interweave with zesty exotic spices. Driven by supple and well-defined tannins, the wine glides elegantly over the length of the palate. A finely structured core of earthy saltiness leads to a lingering finish.

Killer Deal – from 6 Bottles
Red – 2019
CHF 25.90 instead of CHF 35.00

93 Points by Wine Spectator

The 2019 Savage Red is a dense, dark, powerful red wine from a powerful, concentrated, mineral-driven vintage. On the nose, this red has aromas of intense earthy red and black berries, black cherries, pink musk, savoury nuances of cured meats, black olives and a juicy complexity of cedar spice. Due to the 70% whole cluster fermentation, the palate shows pronounced chalky mineral tannins with lively fresh crisp acids from the granite soils. Raspberries and blueberries come to the fore in this dense, powerfully structured wine that gains richness and intensity as it slowly unfolds in the glass. The Savage Red shows focused power and concentration along with an opulent richness framed by a stony minerality. A wine with undeniable focus and structure, but also with an excess of seductive charm

Bin end Sale

Seriously Old Dirt – 2019
CHF 19.90 instead ofCHF 39.00

92 Points by Wine Spectator

The Seriously Old Dirt 2019 has a brilliant deep garnet colour. This wine offers aromas of fresh plum, black cherry and blackberry along with warm notes of baking spice and vanilla bean. Subtle liquorice and seductive tobacco and hazelnut flavours add a luxurious dimension. On the palate, the ripe black cherries evolve into a beautiful minerality and a lingering finish. Lush and supple, with a line of acidity that adds elegance and balance. Although more firmly structured than its predecessors, this vintage stays true to the essence of Seriously Old Dirt, with an approachable, youthful energy

Special Offer
Southern Right – Pinotage – 2020
CHF 29.00 instead of CHF 35.00

91 Points by Wine Spectator

Southern Right redefines Pinotage with this intense, classically styled wine from clay soil, packed with complex berry fruit, beautiful tannins and subtle wood spice. The full ripeness and longer hang time offered by the cooler sites, combined with the complex, classic fruit flavours and structure resulting from the clay soil, make this wine a highly individual expression of South Africa’s unique grape variety.

Hammer Deal – inkl. 3 CHF Charity

CHF 27.90 instead of CHF 34.90

92 Points by Wine Spectator

On the nose, the Chocolate Block is deep and dark, enticing with aromas of black fruits and hints of pepper and spice. The blueberry and blackberry aromas of the bouquet continue on the palate with flavours of dark plums, dust, graphite and cocoa nibs. The wine is concentrated and elegant, with fresh and well-integrated acidity followed by fine-grained tannins that give it exceptional structure. Blackcurrants and milk chocolate linger on a silky finish.

Killer Deal – from 6 Bottles
Syrah – 2019
CHF 19.90 instead of CHF 29.00

91 Points by Wine Spectator

The nose shows red and black berries, white pepper, herbs and lilies. On the palate, the wine is wonderfully balanced with clear fruit, bright acidity and fine tannins. Great depth of flavour without too much heaviness makes it downright irresistible.

Killer Deal – from 6 Bottles

Cabernet Sauvignon – 2019
CHF 27.90 instead of CHF 37.50

93 Points by Wine Spectator

Strong purple red with pronounced red and black cherry on the nose. Dark chocolate, cedar and pencil traces give this Helderberg Cabernet complexity and typicity. The palate is structured with fresh acidity and strong tannins that will balance well over time. The palate shows notes of cherries that increase in intensity and complexity, cassis, blackberries, liquorice and a pinch of black pepper round out this Cabernet Sauvignon.

Killer Deal – from 6 Bottles
Estate – 2018
CHF 36.90 instead of CHF 49.00

92 Points by Wine Spectator

Rich aromas of cassis and mulberries with cedar and tobacco is the backbone of the wine through the Cabernet Sauvignon. Then fresh red and black cherries with pepper spice show through the Syrah component. Intense fruit flavours are overlaid with mocha, Christmas cake, sandalwood and leather giving the wine complexity. Fresh, fruity acidity balances the firm, enveloping tannins, culminating in a clean, dry finish that indicates good ageing potential.

Killer Deal – from 6 Bottles

Shiraz – 2018
CHF 27.90 instead of CHF 37.50

92 Points by Wine Spectator

In a dark ruby red with a violet rim, the Rust en Vrede Estate Vineyard Syrah flows into the glass and exudes complex aromas of olive tapenade, red berries, fine vanilla and milk chocolate. The palate is full-bodied, a little on the wild side and with a subtle mineral core. Hints of roasted herbs and smoked meat combine with fine-grained tannin and end in a soft and fruit-driven finish.

Killer Deal – from 6 Bottles
Blue Lady – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2018
CHF 25.90 instead of CHF 39.00

92 Points by Wine Spectator

Here is the most attractive bouquet of the latest Warwick releases: pure blackberry and blueberry laced with graphite and light undergrowth scents. There is an impressive harmony here. The palate is medium-bodied with juicy, ripe tannin. It is based on a core of graphite-rich black fruit with notes of black olive and brine, and the structure on the finish is impressive with great freshness. The aftertaste offers crisp black pepper and complements a very fine estate Cabernet.

Edition of the «Wine Spectator», from 31.08.2022

All prices in CHF incl. VAT. Daily price from 07.09.2022.

Offers valid while stocks last. Errors and price changes subject to change.