Memorable Wines of 2019

Friday, 10 January, 2020
Luke Meiklejohn
In 2018 I wrote about my top 10 wines of 2018, ranked with scores from notes I had dutifully written throughout the year. In 2019 I mostly refrained from scoring wines with points, which makes the task of creating a list of my best wines of the year more nuanced - comparing two wines I tasted months apart doesn’t seem fair. So, for 2019 instead I’ve written about my 9 most memorable wines.

Tokara Méthode Cap Classique Blanc de Blancs 2011/2012

In a list of memorable wines, this 2011 MCC has to be first. Drunk at my graduation lunch, for me it is the ultimate symbol of celebration - from the shape of its unique imported Italian bottle, to the elegance that results from more than five years on the lees. From Elgin Chardonnay, a barrel fermented portion is used for the dosage, adding power and nutty notes that make it incredibly suited to being paired with food. 

Pieter Ferreira Cap Classique Blanc de Blancs 2012

Pieter and Ann Ferreira launched their own brand during the year, their inaugural release an Extra Brut MCC from Darling and Robertson Chardonnay, made on contract by Pieter at Graham Beck’s cellars. Also with a portion barrel fermented and five years on the lees, this is a completely different style to the Tokara - slightly drier, and perhaps more serious as opposed to decadent. Pieter and Ann claimed Platter’s Newcomer Winery of the Year award for 2020, and we eagerly await the release of a 100% Pinot Noir Rosé MCC in early 2020 - grapes from Robertson and Paarl, the wine will have spent 6 years on the lees and will be released with the 2013 Blanc de Blancs. One to definitely look out for!

Alheit Family Vineyards Hemelrand Vine Garden 2016

I tasted my first wines from Chris Alheit in 2018, and the crystalline focus of his Chenin Blancs instantly turned me into a fanboy. But this predominantly Roussanne, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay blend two years post-release was pretty ethereal. The wine was fleshy, and evolved over the bottle to the point that it defied even taking tasting notes - I just sat and enjoyed it. I almost wish I’d started buying wines as a teenager so that 24 year old me would have some more mature Alheit to indulge on now! 

ArtiSons The Mothership 2018

ArtiSons is a collaboration between Tertius Boshoff and Kobie van Der Westhuizen, cellarmaster and viticulturist at Stellenrust, respectively. Their inaugural release of The Mothership Chenin Blanc received five stars from Platter’s, and has an attractive line of acidity on the front of the palate that I find to be signature of a few of Tertius’ white wines. Also part of the SeriesRare range from ArtiSons is a White Cinsault named The Apprentice - this wine won Stellenrust Winemaker Herman du Preez the title of Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the Year in 2019. 


Sadie Family Wines Skurfberg Chenin Blanc 2018

To drink this wine so young seemed hedonistic, but I enjoyed it so much that I think it was worth it - luckily I do have a bottle stored away to be enjoyed in a few years time. The Skurfberg seems like a magical area, and I need to visit - the old vine richness of this Chenin is alluring, and with the drought reducing the vineyard’s yield to a third of its normal quantity, “drinking this wine is the closest we’ll probably get to walking on crystal”, says Eben. 

Shannon Mount Bullet 2011-2016

The Elgin Cool Wine and Country Festival takes place every year in April/May, and this year Shannon offered a vertical experience of their flagship Merlot, the Mount Bullet. Tasting the evolution of any wine is always a telling exercise, and by the time we reached the 2011, I was sold on the wine. Says James Downes, viticulturist at Shannon, Merlot needs to be made like a Pinot Noir to reach its full potential - with attention to clone and picking days, and minimal intervention winemaking. All vintages were encapsulating, in slightly different ways - like the 2015, dark and brooding, and the 2011, mineral and meaty. 

Erika Obermeyer Erika O Cabernet Sauvignon 2015/2017

Erika Obermeyer received much deserved attention this past year after being named Platter’s Newcomer Winery of the Year for 2019. Formerly winemaker at Graham Beck, she has been quietly fermenting some grapes of her own for the last few years, and her inaugural releases wowed me - this Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon sees 85% new French oak, and is powerful and concentrated. What I would give to taste this in 2025! Erika’s second release of this wine, the 2017 vintage, is due to be released around May/June this year, and has already garnered another five star rating from Platter’s. Two iconic vintages, both wines are worthy of any serious wine collector’s cellar. 

Thelema Gargantua Muscadel 2000

19 years ago, Thelema fortified some single vineyard muscat, and left it to rest in barrel. And there it rested for 19 years - each year, the Webb family drawing on some to “sample” and enjoy with friends. Finally in 2019, they decided that 1065 others should be able to enjoy this unique and special wine, and they bottled and released it, in that limited quantity. It has honey and apricot with spices on the nose, a dark rich colour that follows to a rich Christmas cake palate. It is packed with flavour, and although 360 g/L sugar, the notes that linger are savoury and decadent rather than sweet and sickly. 

Louis Roederer Cristal 2008

Whilst I almost exclusively drink South African wines, in a year that I shared a bottle of Cristal with friends at a February Kirstenbosch picnic, it surely has to appear in this list of memories. Fresh (after a decade) and clean, yet rich and powerful, I found it yeasty with passionate bursts of citrus, sweet fruits, and vanilla pod. Here’s to a 2020 filled with wine as good as this.


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