It comes as little surprise that five of Geoffrey Dean’s Top wines of 2021 are from South African estates. Dean is a massive fan of South African wine and, in a window of opportunity, he managed to get to SA in 2021 for a blissful five weeks of catching up with old friends and discovering new wines. These are the wines that stood out and which he would recommend, plus five more from across the globe.
“Mineral freshness, well-integrated quality tannins and a very lengthy finish make this a wine to cherish. Take a bow Gerhard Swart, head winemaker,” Dean writes about Flagstone Winery’s Time Manner Place.
Anwilka, Stellenbosch 2017, Western Cape 14% abv
An exceptional blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (47%), Syrah (46%) and Petit Verdot (7%). Seductive herbal and boysenberry aromas greet you before top-notch Helderberg fruit dances on the palate with its blackberry and cassis notes. While it has power and weight, with added structure from 19 months in 400-litre barrels, 50% of which were new, the tannin structure, while quite overt, is supple. Concentrated, complex and long, this ‘lekker’ wine has a long life ahead of it.
Château Pesquié, Cuvée Juliette, AOC Ventoux 2020, 13.5% abv
This blend of Clairette (70%) and Grenache Blanc (30%) from an estate at the foot of Mont Ventoux is blessed with wonderful purity of citrus fruit and freshness. From biodynamically-farmed vines grown at 300m on limestone and clay soils, the wine is vinified in concrete eggs with malolactic fermentation blocked. Salinity and minerality are hallmarks of this delightful production of 2000 bottles named after the dame of the Chaudière family that owns the estate, Juliette.
Chêne Bleu, Pont des Arts Rouge Vieilles Vignes Réserve Spéciale 2015, IGP Vaucluse, 14% abv
Just 1200 bottles of this blend of old vine Grenache (55%) and Syrah (35%), with a touch of Mourvèdre, were made from fruit grown at 500m on the steep, rocky slopes of the Chêne Bleu winery in the southern Rhône Valley. Thibault Pontallier, son of the late Paul of Château Margaux fame, collaborated in its production, and the result is a masterly cuvée, notable for its elegance, refined tannins and fresh acidity. Blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, along with notes of rosemary and black pepper, make this an absolute delight to drink now, even if it has clear cellaring potential. Art lovers will enjoy the label, one of Dutchman Piet Mondrain’s iconic works from 1921.
Domaine de Mourchon, Family Syrah, AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages 2018, 14.5% abv
The winery was founded by a Briton, Walter McKinlay, in 1998 when he bought a parcel of land at 350m above the picturesque village of Séguret, just north of Gigondas. His daughter Kate now runs the estate with her husband Hugo Levingston, while Sebastien Magnouac makes the wine. From 60-year old vines yielding only 15hl/ha, this Family Syrah has glorious red and black fruit with suave high quality tannins. Matured in old oak 600l demi-muids for two years.
Duca di Salaparuta, Duca Enrico 2017, Terre Siciliane IGP, 14% abv
A superb single varietal example of Sicily’s indigenous Nero d’Avola grape. Produced from fruit on the Duca di Salaparuta’s prime estate, Tenuta Suor Marchesa, this flagship label is already very approachable for a varietal renowned for its high levels of tannins. Maturation for 18 months in old oak, followed by 18 months in bottle before release, have proved beneficial. The tannins are soft, while the red plum and balsamic notes, with hints of rhubarb and medicinal herbs, are very beguiling as are the wine’s freshness and length.
Flagstone Winery, Time Manner Place, Pinotage 2017, Breedekloof, Western Cape 14.5% abv
One of South Africa’s great Pinotages. From a tiny, low-yielding high altitude parcel in the Breedekloof district in the Breede River Valley, this has complex blueberry and red cherry fruit, smoky dark chocolate and roast nut notes with mocha, cigar box and mint aromas. It effortlessly absorbs 100% new oak (a mix of French, American and Hungarian) which adds richness and structure. Mineral freshness, well-integrated quality tannins and a very lengthy finish make this a wine to cherish. Take a bow Gerhard Swart, head winemaker.
Klein Constantia, Block 382, Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Constantia, Western Cape 13.5% abv
No South African winery can boast a grander range of Sauvignon than Klein Constantia. It has 43 different blocks of the varietal, and has identified the six top terroir-driven single vineyard sites. Block 382 is perhaps the most special, located on a higher-lying E/SE facing slope. Winemaker Matt Day has crafted a beautifully pure expression of the varietal that is captivatingly aromatic with wild scrub and nettle notes with granadilla and passion fruit on the palate. Eight months on the lees in old 500-litre oak barrels adds some richness, which is counter-balanced by flinty minerality and vibrant acidity. The finish lingers on and on.
Muratie Wine Estate, Ansela van de Caab 2017, Stellenbosch, Western Cape, 14% abv
One of the oldest and most beautiful farms in the western Cape, dating back to 1685, Muratie is situated on the higher ranges of the Simonsberg to the north of Stellenbosch. Longtime owners Rijk Melck and his family have nurtured the most enticing of destinations, with its home cooking and regular live bands, and their winemaker Hattingh de Villiers has lifted their Bordeaux blend (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the rest being Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) to new levels. Given structure by 60% new oak, in which it spent 24 months, it is a complex, multi-layered wine with tremendous concentration. Cassis, blackcurrant, plum and violet notes with fine-grained tannins and a very persistent finish.
Pikes, Traditionale Riesling 2021, Clare Valley, South Australia, 11.5% abv
A brilliant example of Clare Valley riesling from the Pikes winery, which goes from strength to strength after being founded in 1984. Andrew Pike, managing director as well as viticulturist, produces top-quality fruit from immaculately-tended Polish Hill vineyards. Winemaker Steve Baraglia profits from a very low pH of 2.93 to fashion a delicate wine with a mouthwatering backbone of acidity and glorious fresh lime intensity. Throw in citrus blossom and mineral notes, as well a dash of residual sugar (4.6g/l) to counter TA of 8.22g/l, and you have a well-balanced, extremely concentrated but refined wine with a seamless and lengthy finish.
Schalk Burger & Sons, Doddie’5 Red Blend 2019, Groenberg, Western Cape, 14% abv
Rugby fans should look no further than this outstanding blend of five cultivars – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Mourvèdre and Petit Verdot. Made by former Springbok lock Schalk Burger senior and his younger son Tiaan, it is named Doddie’5 in honour of Doddie Weir, who wore the no. 5 shirt for Scotland and the British Lions in his heyday but who has been stricken with Motor Neurone Disease. Distributed in the UK by former England back Simon Halliday’s Sporting Wine Club, £5 from the £20 RRP goes towards Weir’s ‘My Name’5 Doddie Foundation’, which seeks a cure for MND. All the fruit came from the Burgers’ Welbedacht Estate near Wellington in the Groenberg ward. You can read more about this remarkable wine by clicking here.