Geoffrey Dean’s Top 10 South African wineries to watch

A good deal of the recent media headlines about South African winemaking have been reserved for the New Wave producers as well as the established names that keep delivering the goods year after year.

Geoffrey Dean has been visiting the country for the past 25 years and, on a recent trip, decided to visit a large number of wineries that are still under the radar – new wineries that we haven’t yet heard about or ones that are making giant strides forwards.

The 10 South African wineries that Geoffrey Dean thinks we should keep an eye on are either new, undiscovered, have made a major leap forwards or in one case, raising the bar to exceptional levels.

As a regular visitor to the western Cape winelands over the past quarter of a century, I would argue that the quality of wines produced has risen faster in that time than in any other country. The best-known wineries initially led the way, but in the last decade, inspired perhaps by the free-spirited Swartland and ‘New Wave’ winemakers, scores of producers have raised their game immeasurably. Here are a mixed bag of ten from seven different districts and no same ward (or appellation) that caught the eye on a trip last month.

Babylonstoren (District: Paarl) – NEW

One of the oldest farms in the western Cape, tucked into the Simonsberg slopes, finally saw vines planted between 2005-7, with the first vintage being 2011. Already, the highly capable pair of Charl Coetzee, cellar master, and Klaas Stoffberg, winemaker, have come up with an excellent range of six still wines and an impressive sparkling wine – Sprankel 2013 (Afrikaans for ‘Sparkle’) – a blanc de blancs (Chardonnay) that spends 54 months on the lees. The medium-bodied Shiraz 2016 showed especially well while the Nebukadnesar 2015 is a powerful Bordeaux blend with great intensity and structure with many years ahead of it. (UK distributor: Babylonstoren UK Ltd)

Beaumont Family Wines (Walker Bay) – RAISING ITS GAME 

Sebastian Beaumont crafts an eclectic range of superb wines on the family farm in the tiny Bot River ward, west of Hermanus. Old vineyards on shale soils provide good texture and structure. The Buyer was the first to taste the just-bottled 2017 Hope Marguerite, one of South Africa’s best Chenin Blancs. It has it all – fabulous fruit intensity, concentration and length, with 5g/l of residual sugar balancing some lees pithiness and vibrant acidity. A white blend, named the ‘New Baby’, of Chenin, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Colombard and Chardonnay, also stood out.

Beaumont was the first in South Africa to bottle a single varietal Mourvedre, and the current 2013 release has glorious fruit expression. His Starboard Dessert Wine, a sumptuous blend of five port vintages from 2005-11, won the current Platter award for SA’s Fortified Wine of the Year, and is being shipped to the UK. So too is the 2015 Pinotage, made from 44-year old vines. (UK distributor: Dreyfus Ashby UK)

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