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Wine Advocate’s South African review

The Wine Advocate has recently published Anthony Mueller’s report on South Africa: Resilience in the face of drought, water shortages, wildfires and a pandemic. When the backdrop to their recent vintages are described in this way, these scores are even more remarkable!

Bouchard Finlayson

2018 Missionvale Chardonnay, Bouchard Finlayson – 92 pts

Starting with a deeper nose than the Crocodile’s Lair Chardonnay, the 2018 Missionvale Chardonnay begins with baked apples and pears and lemon tart with nutty, vanilla tones from oak usage. Medium to full-bodied, the palate is broad and rich with an oaky essence and sweet citrus tones before a soft nuance of mushroom comes into focus. The wine concludes with a spiced finish that persists with flavors of baklava and creamed corn.

2018 Crocodile’s Lair Chardonnay, Bouchard Finlayson – 91+ pts

Bursting at the seams with elegance and finesse, the 2018 Crocodiles Lair Chardonnay opens with seductive aromas of creamy peach and pineapple yogurt, sautéed apples with lemon pastry cream, toasted nuts and vanilla. Medium-bodied, the wine is an instant success with energetic acidity and a soft creamy mouthfeel with a subtle mineral tension that shines a light on the immaculate fruit and oak profile. Concluding with a crunchy and juicy-fruited finish, the wine continues to offer pleasure with lingering sweet citrus tones and popcorn kernel essence. At this price, buy the entire case. Bravo!

2019 Tête de Cuvée Pinot Noir, Bouchard Finlayson – 90 pts

Made from the top six best barrels in the cellar, the 2019 Tête de Cuvée Pinot Noir opens with a brilliant and seductive nose with aromas of wild strawberry, red apple, potpourri, dusty cherry skin with turned earth, truffle and forest floor. Medium-bodied, the wine offers up flavors of dried cranberry and orange rind with elements of bitter black tea as the mid-palate shows energetic acidity and delightfully persistent tannins. Concluding with a juicy flavor of dusty red plum skin and cherries, the wine is delicious and will remain food friendly well past its tenth birthday.

Glenelly

2014 Lady May, Glenelly – 92+ pts

A blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc, the 2014 Lady May begins with a dark, dusty, brooding nose with aromas of oak spices, dusty blackberry, black plum, sage and a rocky minerality. Medium to full-bodied, the wine is balanced with dusty dark red fruit essence that gives way to gripping tannins. Concluding with a long, dusty and drawn-out finish, persistent flavors of bitter dark chocolates, mature cedar and dusty black cherries continue to evolve after the wine has left the mouth. Give it some time in the cellar for the tannins to settle, and I recommend decanting up to an hour before pouring. This will age well until its twentieth birthday. 48,000 bottles were produced.

2015 Lady May, Glenelly – 91 pts

The 2015 Lady May is a blend of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 11% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot and offers up aromas of roasted coffee bean, mocha, fried sage, blackberry reduction and elements of rosemary blossom. Medium to full-bodied, the palate is mineral driven with flavors of dusty cherry, black plum and blackberry skin that sway with elements of bitter dark chocolates and rosemary before giving way to youthful tannins. These youthful tannins mean that this needs additional time in bottle to come around. The wine concludes with a long-lingering and food-friendly finish.

2018 Estate Reserve Chardonnay, Glenelly – 90 pts

Beginning slightly subdued in the glass, the 2018 Estate Reserve Chardonnay wine offers balanced aromas of oak, sweet citrus and yellow apple skin. Medium-bodied, the wine shows a delightful balance and texture across the mid-palate with a pleasing mouthfeel that gives way to elements of sweet corn and spiced yellow apple. A fine, mineral essence hits the palate before ending with a lingering finish. This a delightful wine that performs great for the price. 18,000 bottles produced.           

Kaapzicht

2019 The 1947 Chenin Blanc, Kaapzicht – 92 pts

Beginning medium gold in the glass, the 2019 The 1947 Chenin Blanc opens with an impressive and aromatic explosion of dusty citrus, waxy melon, raw honey, corncob and elements of citrus blossom, spiced white tea and cereal grain. Full-bodied, the wine is textured with a delightful complexity that unpacks layers of sweet citrus, yellow apple, vanilla and corn flakes. The wine expresses a balanced, yet generous frame with lifting acidity and a touch of phenolic bitterness that blossoms over the long, lingering finish. An absolutely wonderful wine, this Chenin Blanc will make a convert of any nonbeliever of the grape. Only 1,793 bottles were produced.         

2017 Steytler Pentagon, Kaapzicht – 90 pts

Made from 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec, the 2017 Steytler Pentagon opens with lots of glossy red and black fruit tones that verge on the edge of chocolaty, a juicy core of fruit and subtle herbaceous tones. Full-bodied, the wine offers a richly structured mid-palate with energetic acidity and buttressing tannins that lift the frame to showcase blackberry reduction, cherry jus and raspberry cinnamon compote with subtle vanilla tones. The wine concludes with a firm, gripping finish that should beautifully blossom in the bottle and drink well until 2027. Only 6,000 bottles were produced after spending 28 months in small French oak barrels.

Waterford Estate

2015 The Jem, Waterford Estate – 91 pts

Made from a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Shiraz, 9% Mourvèdre, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot, 4% Cabernet France, 3% Sangiovese and 3% Barbera, the 2015 The Jem has an almost opaque core and deep ruby edge. Like a jumbo jet powering up for takeoff, each moment of swirling the glass uncovers hidden expressions that show additional layers and power. Aromas of dusty plum, black raspberry, spiced cherry compote, dusty cinnamon madeleines and chocolate-covered blueberries show the nose is a success. Medium to full-bodied, the wine displays a broad and generous mouthfeel. Flavors of pencil shavings, graphite and bitter black tea sway with elements of a dark-fruited frame. There is a growing tannic edge across the mid-palate before the wine heads for a long and winding food-friendly finish. This is drinkable now but can age for more than a decade in the cellar if you are patient. 16,500 bottles were filled after spending 22 months in one-third new French oak barrels.