Below are my dozen best wines for 2011. To appear on the list, they had to be from South Africa and in general circulation. Where I encountered them blind, I scored them well enough but they appear here in that they provided me with great drinking pleasure. Some are established benchmarks, others are relative newcomers that I think show the way forward.
Constantia Uitsig Semillon 2009
I first encountered this wine during reviews for the 2011 edition of Platter’s and while I thought it was very good, I declined to put it forward for 5 Stars on account of how tight it was. Every subsequent encounter has made me regret my tentativeness as it slowly unfurls to reveal more and more complexity.
De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2009
Ever since our daughter was born on 11 June 2009, I’ve wondered what wine from her birth year to serve at her 21st. I think this might be it. Great fruit delineation and freshness.
Delaire Coastal Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc 2011
New-wave South African Sauvignon Blanc. Pure but not lean or one-dimensional, fresh but not severe. The softly spoken Morné Vrey is a man to watch
Ernie Els CWG 2009
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Shiraz, 10% Merlot. Focused and precise – modern in the best sense. Sold for an average price of R439 a bottle at this year’s CWG auction, which oddly enough is less than what the Signature 2007 at R550 sells for off the farm.
Kanonkop Pinotage 2009
A great vintage of a great wine. So good, in fact, that proprietor Johann Krige declined to release the ultra-premium Black Label from this year on the basis that there was not enough of a quality differential. What more can anyone expect of Pinotage?
Keermont Terrasse 2010
Presented to me for the first time with a minimum of fanfare at a Camps Bay cocktail party, I thought this blend of 88% Chenin Blanc, 7% Chardonnay and 5% Viognier was pretty smart. A later visit to the Helderberg property just below De Trafford confirmed winemaker Alex Starey isn’t messing about. Half way between white Burgundy and the blends coming out of Roussillon such as those made by Gauby,” as he puts it.
KWV The Mentors Grenache Blanc 2010
There are those who remain sceptical that the former super co-op is capable of greatness. One sip of this should be all that’s necessary to convince them.
Meerlust Rubicon 2007
Return of a legend. A great effort from the always classically inclined Chris Williams.
Mullineux Family Syrah 2009
The Swartland easily delivers reds of power and weight but elegance? This is one of the more elegant around with red rather than black fruit and good freshness.
Oak Valley Chardonnay 2010
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Elgin’s strong suit is Chardonnay not Sauvignon Blanc when it comes to white varieties.
Quoin Rock The Nicobar 2009
The further adventures of Sauvignon Blanc. Grapes from the Simonsberg. Spontaneous ferment lasting two and a half months in barrel, 25% new. Maturation lasting 10 months. Rich and textured with balance provided by tangy acidity.
Testalonga El Bandito 2009
Another one for the geeks. From Chenin Blanc, vinification involved whole bunches (no destemming) and carbonic maceration lasted some three to four weeks, the wine subsequently spending nearly two years on its lees in old wood. Overtly oxidative but in an entirely compelling manner.