Atkin’s SA Wine Report says SA producing ‘the greatest wines in its history’
The annual report describes South Africa’s white wines as ‘some of the best on the planet’.
South Africa is producing the “greatest wines in its history”, despite the country’s setbacks, says the latest South Africa Report by British wine writer Tim Atkin. And that’s owing to better viticulture and site selection, superior virus-free plant material, and more diverse grape varieties that are better suited to local conditions.
In his 11th annual report, Atkin – for years a cheerleader for the local wine industry – describes South Africa’s white wines as “some of the best on the planet” and that “the Cape has eclipsed the Loire Valley as the source of the world’s best dry Chenin Blancs”.
SA’s red wines, the Master of Wine says, are now also a match for our world-class whites.
Atkin’s Winemaker of the Year is Bruwer Raats, the founder of Raats Family Wines. Raats is a specialist Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc producer, with three labels: the premium red blend MR de Compostella (a partnership with his lifelong friend and fellow winemaker, Mzokhona Mvemve); Raats Family Wines and Bruwer Vintners.
Raats was nominated by Boela Gerber from Groot Constantia to join the Cape Winemakers Guild in 2017, for his contribution in creating benchmark Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Raats’ inaugural auction wine that year was the Inboetstorie Cinsault 2016, selected from a 67-year-old Cinsault block planted in a Pinotage vineyard.
The following year, Raats’ The Fountain Terroir Specific Chenin Blanc 2017 received 5-Star Platter awards from inception.
In 2021, he debuted the Stella Nova Cabernet Franc 2017, which was also awarded a 5-Star Platter.
Atkins’ Winemaking Legend is Etienne Le Riche of Le Riche Wines. Le Riche, who now works alongside his children, Yvonne, Christo and Francois, is regarded as one of Stellenbosch’s leading ultra-premium producers of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Le Riche, who established Le Riche Winery in 1996 in Jonkershoek, is one of the co-founders of the Guild. He has retired but acts in an advisory role to assist Christo (cellarmaster), Cape Wine Master Yvonne, commercial manager Francois and assistant winemaker Mark Daniels.
In July, Le Riche Wines’ 2020 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was selected as one of the “Best 50 Wines in the World” at the Decanter World Wine Awards in London, with a “Best in Class” (97 points) accolade.
The 2019 Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve was named Best in Class in this year’s Platter’s South African Wine Guide.
The family was instrumental in establishing what eventually became the Kgalagadi National Park.
The Young Winemaker of the Year is Marelise Niemann of Momento Wine. Niemann, who started Momento in 2013 while working as a winemaker at Beaumont Family Wines in Bot River, is known for wines of purity, elegance and honesty. She works with old vines in both Bot River and the Swartland and has a “love affair” with Grenache Noir.
Now based at Anysbos next door to Gabrielskloof, Niemann specialises in old vines, with a focus on Grenaches Noir and Gris, Verdelho and Tinta Barocca, which she makes in a Pinot Noir style.
Willem Mostert of Weltevrede farm in Voor-Paardeberg outside Paarl is the Viticulturist of the Year. Mostert is lauded for encouraging producers for the past 20 years to preserve old vines and, where possible, to cultivate Mediterranean varietals more suited to the region.
The highest score of 99 points for a white wine was awarded to Alheit Vineyards’ Huilkrans 2022, a single-origin Chenin Blanc.
MCCs, Atkin said, with their distinctively South African profile, are “increasingly impressive”.
The Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2021 scored 100 points – the only red wine to crack the nod – while the Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2020 and the Porseleinberg Syrah 2021 scored 99 points.
Atkin says “acidity rather than sugar levels is the current focus, backbone and spinal cord” of what he describes as South Africa’s “New Wave reds”.
With a sharp decline in the national vineyard, which has shrunk from more than 102,000 hectares in 2006 to about 89,400 hectares, Atkin says producers are increasingly diversifying, with around 110 wine grape varieties currently under cultivation – including more climate-appropriate, drought-friendly Mediterranean varieties Assyrtiko, Carignan, Roussanne and Vermentino – and “planting smarter”.
The Podium 2023
Winemaker of the Year: Bruwer Raats of Raats Family Wines.
Young Winemaker of the Year: Marelise Niemann of Momento.
Viticulturist of the Year: Willie Mostert.
Co-operative of the Year: Daschbosch.
Winemaking Legend: Etienne Le Riche.
Best Cellar Door Experience: Blaauwklippen Vineyards.
Overall White Wine of the Year: 2022 Alheit Vineyards Huilkrans Chenin Blanc, Citrusdal Mountain.
Overall Red Wine of the Year: 2021 Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah, Stellenbosch.
Overall Rosé of the Year: 2022 Lievland Liefkoos Rosé, Stellenbosch.
Overall Sparkling Wine of the Year: 2018 Graham Beck Cuvée Clive, Western Cape.
Overall Sweet Wine of the Year: 2022 Mullineux Straw Wine, Swartland.
Overall Fortified Wine of the Year: 2007 Boplaas CWG Auction Reserve Tawny Single Harvest Colheita, Calitzdorp.
Red Wine Discovery of the Year: 2021 Rall CWG Noa Syrah, Swartland.
White Wine Discovery of the Year: 2022 Sadie Family Rotsbank, Swartland.
Sparkling Wine Discovery of the Year: 2009 Graham Beck Artisan Collection Extra Brut 157, Western Cape.
Best Value White of the Year: 2021 Windmeul Cellar OVP Reserve Chenin Blanc, Paarl.
Best Value Red of the Year: 2020 Alto Rouge, Stellenbosch.
Best Value Rosé of the Year: 2022 Noble Hill Mourvèdre Rosé, Simonsberg-Paarl.
Best Value Sparkling Wine of the Year: NV KWV Laborie Brut, Western Cape.
Best Value Sweet Wine of the Year: 2023 Van Loveren VRL Special Late Harvest Gewürztraminer, Robertson.
Best Value Fortified Wine of the Year: NV KWV Cape Classic Tawny, Western Cape.
Atkin’s 319-page 2023 South Africa Report is available online for £20 (R482). DM
This story has been updated to correct the statement that Willem Mostert is involved with Weltevrede Wines. Mr Mostert is, in fact, the viticulturist and owner of Weltevrede farm in Voor-Paardeberg outside Paarl. We apologise for the error.