The start was shaky as we South Africans entered the year from behind the gloomy grey curtain of another alcohol ban. Yet 2021 went ahead, perhaps not as planned, but things ticked over, and the beat grew as the wine industry stepped into gear after that terrible start, showing that we shall overcome and stride onward and forward, resilient our hearts and our bodies be, we shall never surrender…… This was my take on the year that was.
Best New-Comer to South African Wine
Taaibosch Winery looked down from the heady heights of the Helderberg and announced itself the hottest thing in wine to originate from Stellenbosch since Mike Ratcliffe donned leathers and began racing around the place on a throaty Triumph motor-bike. A French venture courtesy of the Oddo family, Taaibosch released its maiden Crescendo 2018 blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to humungous acclaim on both the critical and commercial fronts. The wine itself is complete with Stellenbosch classic gorgeousness, the sky-hugging elevated winery is awe-inspiring and the image Taaibosch emits is of the “I-must-have-it” kind. Hence the wine selling quicker than Covid PCR tests ahead of a New Year’s Ever rap concert and being a desired object from day one. What’s not to like?
The Prize Winner
There are a lot of wine competitions around, and whatever one’s views on their merits might be, consistently winning awards does tend to indicate that a winery and its wine maker knows what they are doing. Thys Louw and his team from Diemersdal in Durbanville had an extremely fine year on the competition front, and the farm’s Brasso bill looks set to skyrocket as there are many gongs to shine. Being named Best Winery at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show was one helluva way to get into the competition season. This was followed by another Top 10 Pinotage Trophy for its The Journal Pinotage 2019 – the 10th time Diemersdal has won one of these specific species of wine trophy. Then, of course, came a FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc prize for Diemersdal – the fifth in a row, this time for the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2021. And the year ended with two five-star nods from the Platter’s Wine Guide, one each for The Journal Sauvignon Blanc 2020 and The Journal Pinotage 2019.
A golden year, that was, also underscoring the fact that Durbanville is one of the Cape’s top wine regions.
Best International Accolade
Outside of these South African shores, there are a gazillion wine awards on the international scene which makes singling-out a showing by a Cape wine a bit tricky. However, making it onto the Top 100 Wines of the Year as judged by Wine Spectator has got to stand out as a major achievement. I mean, we are talking Wine Spectator with its bevy of international editors testing thousands of wines each a year from all corners of the globe. To, thus, be chosen as one of only 100 bottles – just over eight cases of vino, that is – from all the world’s wines warrants a bit of frenetic applause. And this year only one South African wine made it onto that list, namely De Wetshof’s Bon Vallon Chardonnay 2020. Quite an achievement as Chardonnay is surely the most hotly contested international white wine category. And what’s more, De Wetshof made it onto the list with an unwooded wine.
This is not only great for the De Wets of Robertson whose focus on Chardonnay is awarded at this level, but also for the South African category of this cultivar which remains the world’s most popular and highly regarded noble white.
My Top Wine of 2021
The one I still have damp dreams about is the Schist Syrah 2010 from Mullineux, tasted on a cold, wet and windy day out at Chris and Andrea Mullineux’s farm in the Swartland. The wine was harmonious in balance and everything just so wonderfully integrated, with polished tannin reflecting bright piercing shards of sunny dark fruit and exotic tads of spice. But there was a breathless and hidden drama about the wine, a lurking of danger and hint of seduction that blew me away, but not my memory of something truly special.
Meal of the Year
Another stormy Cape day, this time at the premises of Amorim Cork at Lynedoch in Stellenbosch where a party of like-minded offal-lovers gathered to feast on a steaming cauldron of lamb tripe. The food was comforting and soul-enriching. Company was of the sterling kind: Joaquim Sá of Amorim, journalist Fiona McDonald, Johann Krige from Kanonkop, Pieter Cronjé from Rawsonville, winemaker De Wet Viljoen from Neethlingshof and the late great Duimpie Bayly. Joaquim poured Madeira and Port and Colares wines from his homeland. Johann brought enough Kanonkop to drop the price at the Strauss Auction, and it was just one of those awesome wineland days that continued until darkness fell over our warmed hearts.
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