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Tim Atkin MW’s South African report

Tim Atkin MW’s 2019 South African report was released last week and proved to be another successful edition for our South African producers, with more 90+ point and 95+ point wines than last year (though sadly no 100 point wines this time around!). Kanonkop, DeMorgenzon and Paul Cluver were all named ‘first growths’ under his winery classification system, while 11 wines, below, were billed ‘wines of the year’.

These wines achieved 95+ points:

2018 Seven Flags Chardonnay, Paul Cluver – 96 pts
The latest in an impressive run of outstanding Chardonnays from this top Elgin estate – no mean feat in a vintage where some producers struggled with fructose levels – this is bigger and bolder than the 2017 release. More Meursault than Puligny-Montrachet perhaps, with some cream and cashew notes on the palate underpinned by racy acidity.

2017 Noble Late Harvest Riesling, Paul Cluver – 96 pts
Around half of the bunches of this superb sweet wine were affected with botrytis in 2017. Not released since 2014, this is consistently one of the Cape’s greatest sweet wines, with wonderful sweet and sour notes, some pepper spice and restrained exotic fruit flavours.

2018 Reserve Chardonnay, DeMorgenzon – 96 pts
2018 was a very good vintage for Chardonnay in Stellenbosch, as long as you got your picking dates right. Taut, mineral and refined, with subtle, vanilla-scented oak, racy acidity and layers of citrus and stone fruit, this is one of the best Reserve bottlings I’ve had yet from DeMorgenzon.

2014 Lady May, Glenelly – 96 pts
The 2014 release has less Cabernet Sauvignon and more Cabernet Franc than the 2013 and is better for it in my opinion. it’s another wine that lives up to the Bordeaux pedigree of its owner, May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, with violets and graphite on the nose, notes of chocolate and mint, fine tannins and a long, refreshing finish.

2017 Black Label Pinotage, Kanonkop – 96 pts
Abrie Beeslaar is not alone in putting 2017 on a par with 2015 as a red wine vintage, so it’s no surprise that the Cape’s best Pinotage has delivered the goods. Sourced from a low yielding 3.9-hectare block, this is serious, layered and very fine, effortlessly handling its 100% new oak and showing liquorice, blackberry and black cherry fruit.

2016 Paul Sauer, Kanonkop – 96 pts
How do you follow a 100-point red? It’s not easy when the vintage was 2016, which didn’t have the class of 2015. But by any standards, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with 15% each of Merlot and Cabernet Franc is still one hell of a wine, even in a difficult year. Grippy, focused and slightly leaner than the 2015, but with savoury tannins and plenty of youthful fruit concentration.

2018 Seven Flags Pinot Noir, Paul Cluver – 95 pts
It will be another year before this is released, so I’m slightly ahead of the game here. But there’s no harm in knowing that this is another knock-out Pinot Noir from Andries Burger and consultant Jacques Prieur, with plenty of colour and concentration, savoury, layered tannins and the intensity to develop very well in bottle.

2018 Reserve Chenin Blanc, DeMorgenzon – 95 pts
Part of the DeMorgenzon range since 2005, this superb Chenin comes from five very different sites on the farm. Rich and complete, it combines citrus, stone and tropical fruit notes with subtle reduction, a hint of orange zest, stony acidity and perfectly judged 22% new wood.

2017 Reserve Syrah, DeMorgenzon – 95 pts
DeMorgenzon’s reds have never quite lived up to the brilliance of its reds, but that appears to be changing. This is the fourth release of a Syrah Reserve and it’s the best yet, showing fruit density, some black pepper spice, fine-grained tannins and a bright, perfumed Côte Rôtie-like finish.

2018 The 1947 Chenin Blanc, Kaapzicht – 95 pts
Soon to join the ranks of the Old Vine Project, this is consistently one of the world’s great Chenin Blancs. Sourced from a very low-yielding block planted in 1947, it’s pale and scented, with thatch and white flower aromas, stylish wood some honey and leesy complexity and thrilling minerality.

2018 Finite Elements Pinot Noir, Catherine Marshall – 95 pts
This is the third vintage of Cathy Marshall’s top Pinot Noir, made “to be as Burgundian as possible”. Combining Dijon clones 667 and 777, this is her tribute to the Les Amoureuses Premier Cru in Chambolle-Musigny, with floral, silky, refined fruit flavours and tannins, subtle oak and lovely precision.

Please note that not all vintages are currently available in the UK.