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Tim Atkin MW’s South African Report 2020

Sadly not able to carry out his usual tasting trips to South Africa this year, Tim Atkin MW has nonetheless tasted his way through hundreds of wines in order to publish his 2020 South Africa Special Report. We were again delighted to see eight of our producers’ wines listed as ‘Wines of the Year’ – scoring over 95 points – with a further 60 wines receiving over 90 points. A special mention must go to Kanonkop, whose Paul Sauer 2017 was awarded 98 points, and Peter Finlayson, of Bouchard Finlayson, who was deservedly named ‘Winemaking Legend’.

2017 Kanonkop Paul Sauer – 98 pts
Would I or wouldn’t I give this 100 points? I tasted it over a period of five days against a number of its competitors, and it nearly got there. Time may prove me wrong, but I don’t think this is quite at the level of the 2015. But it’s still a stunning wine, combining Cabernet Sauvignon with 17% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot. Youthful, concentrated and less immediate than the 2015, with a little more oak spice, it’s a taut, ageworthy style with layers of bramble, cigar box and blackcurrant fruit and sinewy tannins. 2025-35

2018 Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage – 96 pts
Serious, smoky, dark and brooding, this old-vine cuvée is always one of the best Pinotages in the Cape, with a price tag to match. Intense, concentrated and with a beguiling combination of red and black fruits, scented new wood, a slight volatile lift and plenty of underlying structure. 2022-30

2017 Rustenberg Peter Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon – 96 pts
What a wine! I can’t remember tasting a better young Peter Barlow than this, which fully expresses the brilliance of the 2017 vintage. Serious, focused, compact and built to last, it has very fine 65% new wood, classic blackcurrant and cedarwood notes, graceful tannins and a long, nuanced, refreshing finish. 2023-32

2015 Waterford Estate The Jem  – 96 pts
Ambitiously priced, and rightly so given the wine’s track record, The Jem is based on Cabernet Sauvignon, with the other 52% made up of Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and Barbera. Herbal, earthy, spicy and dense, with considerable concentration and power, notes of green herbs, red berries, damson, fresh tobacco and Mediterranean spices. 2023-30

2019 DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc – 95 pts
It’s always a toss-up between the Reserve Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc at DeMorgenzon, as both are excellent, but in 2019 I slightly prefer the latter. Sourced from the four best blocks on the farm, this is rich and exotic, with toasty 10% new French wood, taut underlying acidity and the concentration to develop in bottle. 2021-26

2019 Kaapzicht The 1947 Chenin Blanc – 95 pts
Who says old vines don’t make a difference? This stunning 1947 single vineyard sees what Danie Steytler calls “minimalistic” winemaking, such is the quality of the fruit. Floral, dense, rich and very deftly wooded, with stone fruit, lemon and pineapple flavours, some tarte tatin and incredible length and minerality. 2022-27

2019 Catherine Marshall Wines Finite Elements Pinot Noir – 95 pts
Ambitiously priced and worth every Rand when you taste the wine, this is a small volume Pinot from one of the best exponents of the grape in South Africa. Wonderfully complex, detailed and nuanced, it’s meaty, savoury, yet sweet, with fine-boned tannins, subtle wood toast, some spices from 40% whole bunches and fresh, balancing acidity. 2021-26

2017 Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – 95 pts
Often among my favourite Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignons, this textbook Helderberg red was blended with 3% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc in 2017. Scented, refined and effortlessly dense and complex, with aromatic 30% new wood, mocha, cedarwood and cassis flavours and a long, balanced, herbal finish. 2022-29

Please note vintages may not be currently available in the UK.