USA Trophy Show Judge Wooed by Cape Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay

This article appeared in Die Burger newspaper on 17th May and has been translated from Afrikaans.

One of the hallmarks of the Cape wine industry is its enthusiasm for wine competitions, especially for a relatively small producer like South Africa. The organisers, of course, benefit the most, as their coffers swell with the entry fees that cellars must pay to submit their wines for these shows. Over the years, however, one learns to distinguish between competitions that genuinely seek to enhance the recognition of wine quality and those that are mere money-making ventures.

The Trophy Wine Show has emerged over the past two decades as arguably the most authoritative and stringent wine competition for local wines. This prestigious event is the brainchild of Michael Fridjhon, South Africa’s most renowned wine personality, whose reputation as a wine expert, meticulous organiser, and authoritative voice on wine and wine quality is indisputable. A distinctive feature of the Trophy Wine Show is that Michael annually invites two or three top international wine experts to South Africa to join respected local judges in evaluating approximately 600 entries of diverse wine types and styles.

After the judging process, invited guests have the opportunity to hear the insights of these international experts on the wines they have assessed, with the identities of the wines kept anonymous. The judges taste the wines blind, without labels, and the results are announced in mid-June.

This year, the name Lisa Perrotti-Brown caught my eye on the list of judges. As a holder of the British Master of Wine qualification—the pinnacle of wine credentials—Lisa is undoubtedly a wine expert. It is said to be easier to obtain a license to fly a combat helicopter than to earn this Master of Wine certificate.

Moreover, as an American wine writer and critic based in Napa, California, her impressions of South African wines are vitally important. The local wine industry has long struggled to elevate its international image to achieve better prices abroad. America, being the world’s most significant wine import market, is crucial for South Africa to establish a commercially viable presence, a goal it has pursued for thirty years with little notable success.

Perrotti-Brown, who monitors South African wines alongside those from many other countries, acknowledges that the country’s wine profile is quite low in America. “But don’t be too hard on yourselves,” she advises. She explains that many people who view America as the golden market for wine do not realise how competitive it is over there.

“Firstly, America produces a vast amount of wine across all price classes,” says Perrotti-Brown. “Many South African producers believe that their wines can be price-competitive due to the weak rand and strong dollar. But it doesn’t work that way. America produces even cheaper wines, and there are also low-priced wines from South America and Europe. So, forget positioning yourself as a cheap wine country offering value for money.

Lisa Perrotti-Brown in the zone.

“Look at what happened to Australia when they tried to conquer America with that cheap Yellowtail stuff. They clashed with other cheap wines and left Australia with the image of a country that only offers low-price, low-quality wines.”

Following her week-long tasting for the Trophy Wine Show, Perrotti-Brown is more convinced than ever that South Africa should not be associated with low-quality wines. “The wines are truly outstanding, almost overwhelming,” she says—this coming just days after she was invited to assess the en primeurs from top cellars in Bordeaux, France, with her palate still resonating with the flavours of Petrus, Margaux, Angelus, and Lafite.

“At the Trophy Show, I found myself on the panel judging Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, which is perfect for me since these are some of my favourite wine types and also a specialty of California,” says Perrotti-Brown. Ten years since her last visit to the Cape, she notes a significant improvement in the presentation of the country’s Cabernet Sauvignons.

“It’s a bit frustrating to talk now because, as judges, we obviously don’t know which regions or vintages we tasted,” she says. “But unlike ten years ago at the same competition, the Cabernet Sauvignon at this year’s Trophy Show generally shows more finesse and freshness. It’s clear that winemakers are more cautious about how much new oak they use and for how long the wines are in wood—I can’t recall any wines that tasted like they were made by a lumberjack. These were elegant, lovely wines that can stand alongside the great Cabernet Sauvignons of the world.”

She was also on the panel reviewing red Bordeaux blends, a category that South Africans regard as formidable due to the legendary Cape wines known for this style. “Blended wines, especially from a relatively unknown wine country, are very difficult to sell in America,” observes Perrotti-Brown. “What does the average person know about a red blend? Nothing, unless the producer is an icon like Haut-Brion or Château Margaux. But if the bottle simply says Cabernet Sauvignon, you have a better chance of catching the consumer’s attention, as they at least recognise the grape.

Are there many Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the world? Certainly. But is there something distinctive about the South African offerings? “You know, there is such a lovely herbal character in some wines, like a wildflower note,” she says. “This vegetal-aspect is not overwhelming, not the green herb and leafy effect of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that aren’t properly ripe, but instead the most beautiful hint of veld and fynbos. It’s truly special, and I gave the wines with this character my top scores.”

Perrotti-Brown is now heading to the airport for her long flight to San Francisco, near Napa. I ask her if she will reflect on any “wow” factors during her whirlwind wine visit. “South African Chardonnay,” she says. “For me, this category was even stronger than the Cabernet Sauvignons. Sublime wines, fruit and sun, but with long, cool streams of refinement and complexity, among the best in the world. I still have plenty of time to find the right words and will let you know.”

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Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon: Drowning in Honey

The week past presented a tasting that left me as astounded as the palpable resonance of appreciation and fortune. But more than that, genuine amazement and wonder at the greatness South Africa is achieving in terms of red wines, and specifically from Stellenbosch.

It was the tale of Cabernet Sauvignon, a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon and an experience that left me with that line from Evelyn Waugh’s classic Brideshead Revisited: “I was drowning in honey, stingless.”

Le Riche laid on an extensive Cabernet Sauvignon immersion, with the star of the show being the Reserve 2021 – vintage number 25 since pater familias Etienne le Riche made his maiden 1997 after going solo, post his years at Rustenberg. Son Christo is pretty much in charge of the wines these days and has become a veritable prophet for Cabernet Sauvignon and, specifically, Stellenbosch’s interpretation of this cultivar.

Excluding the three niche single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons on show during the presentation, Le Riche sources from growers in various pockets of Stellenbosch. The producer is not hellbent on the site-specific narrative; the Reserve 2021, for example, is made from vineyards in Jonkershoek, Simonsberg, and Helderberg, carefully cobbled together to reflect Christo’s idea of what a Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon should portray under the Le Riche label.

Christo le Riche

Other Reserves thrown-in at the tasting were from 2001 and 2013, with a Bosstok, Steynsrust and Simonsberg – all 2021 – being singular terroir in origin. Then there were the standard Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignons from 2004 and 2022.

The success of such a vast showing of various wines – even if they are from one cultivar – is the occasion’s ability to leave one with a singular, overriding impression. For me this was simply one of having been privy to great South African red wine. As diverse as these Cabernet Sauvignons are, they sing from the same hymn-sheet in offering depth of fruit, a tapestry of indestructible – yet refined – tannins and a soul-stirring powerful beauty.

But the parts that stood-out in the whole greatness, for me, were three wines.

At 23 years of age the Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 showed the pure joy of ageable red wine, and specifically Cabernet Sauvignon. To have such an exuberant aroma on a wine of over two decades underscores both the reliability of the fruit source and precision winemaking, for there was not an iota of dullness, an atom of the oxidative or a splinter of a porty note. On the palate, a gorgeous feral hint of polished saddle-leather which added depth and meaning to the flavours of blackcurrant compote, Turkish prune and pine kernel. The balance between luxurious, evocative plushness and pulse-racing viridity was precise and the finish as clean as a nun’s joke on laundry-day.

Of the single-site wines, the Le Riche Steynsrust 2021 had my number. The vineyards grow in Stellenbosch’s windswept Firgrove region, and the wine had 24 months’ maturation in a combination of new and old barriques. This, such a great example that only a fool will predict the nature of a wine by the physical appearance of the site. Firgrove is hardy country, cold and influenced by the maritime air-flows. Yet, this Steynsrust Cabernet Sauvignon shows a reverberating bright fruitiness with ripe cherry and a warm mulberry sunniness. Absolutely delicious and very amicable, but with Cabernet Sauvignon pedigree kept intact courtesy of corded sinewy tannins and an intangible profundity.

Then, of course, there is the Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2021, to be released in early June and now confidently and justifiably priced north of R1 000. A blend of three geographical parcels, Helderberg leads with 67%, followed by Simonsberg (22%) and Jonkershoek (11%). Fruit from the different wards is vinified and aged separately in French oak, 70% new. After a year in wood, the three components are blended, then back in barrel for another 12 months.

Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon has always struck me as a result of craftmanship, no matter the indisputably vital role of geography and vineyards, and the Reserve 2021 just confirms this impression. It is all so seamless, and it all seems so easy and so very good, and so damn right.

A delicious, heady juiciness. The tannins coaxing the mouth like the fronds of a silk-bush. Dense, dark fruit with a slight touch of fennel and whisper of garrique and sun. The resounding symphony of power as the flavours expand in the mouth, shivering, thrusting with excitable tannin. It is not a taste, it is an experience.

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Nico Myburgh: Meneer of Meerlust

The first wines under the Meerlust label, Cabernet Sauvignon 1975, resulted from the vision of the late Nico Myburgh, 7th generation Myburgh on this Stellenbosch estate. Fritz Joubert, a retired journalist, remembers a remarkable pioneer who helped lay the foundations for the modern success of the Cape wine industry.

For wine-lovers of my generation the name Nico Myburgh will immediately herald an association with Meerlust Estate and its legendary Rubicon wine. Those who were fortunate to know him will, however, remember the nature of the man who, as its seventh generation Myburgh-owner, created the Meerlust brand that has become a global icon. The pride of South African wine.

One could describe Nico as a true man in full, an enigmatic personality and a farmer with a broad range of interests, as well as someone who could come to the fore with the irreverent and unexpected. Myself and my family got to know him intimately when in 1979 we found ourselves living on Meerlust for a few months. On the move from Cape Town to Paarl, our new Boland home was not yet ready and here Nico graciously stepped-in and offered to “put us up” for the required period.

Actually, this was probably due to my wife Maureen, who was at that time editor of the Wynboer magazine, today known as Wineland. Nico attracted women like honey does bees, and Maureen was one of his favourites.

Nico Myburgh

In any event, we had the privilege of staying in the Jonkershuis on Meerlust. And upon arriving on the farm after a day’s work in my Cape Town office the inevitable was to enjoy a few glasses of wine with Nico and his wife Eileen. This was always red wine – Nico did not have much time for white.

The bottles Nico opened usually came from the Meerlust cellar itself, unlabelled. One of these unlabelled wines that stood out for me was a Carignan, a deep-red, robust wine that Nico truly enjoyed in social circumstances. It never saw the market, however – Nico probably handed it out too generously and loved too much of it himself.

Only later would I discover the origins of Carignan on Meerlust. Eileen had smuggled some vine-cuttings from Argentina, inspired by Nico who was not the kind to subscribe to the conservative wine industry conventions of the time. Cinsault was at the time one of the most planted varieties at the Cape, but a cultivar for which Nico showed no interest.

For he was a man for Cabernet Sauvignon and had a vision to create blended wine of the type he had gotten to know in Bordeaux. Merlot, however, was non-existent at the Cape, so Nico had some Merlot shoots clipped in Bordeaux with the help of the legendary Danish viticulturist Vinding Diers and the contraband was ferreted to Meerlust with the help of a pilot friend.

Thus, more smuggled vines passing the KWV control board – Chardonnay was not the only illicit variety commuting through dark channels between France and South Africa.

On Meerlust the French Merlot vines were, under instruction of the legendary viticulturist Desiderius Pongrácz, placed in frozen storage until the nodes were ready for propagating.

Pongrácz, who at the time was involved at the Bergkelder, was the true inspiration behind a Meerlust Bordeaux blend. The making of the wine by Meerlust’s winemaker Giorgio Dalla Cia was one thing – finding a suitable name for it was another. Here Nico turned to the great Afrikaans poet and academic Dirk Opperman. In a sort of “Eureka” moment, Opperman said “Rubicon”, and so the mythical river had been crossed, so to speak.

One thing I remember about Nico was his directness and ability to sum-up a person immediately. Either he liked you, or he did not. As illustration he liked to tell a story of the self-deprecating kind.

On a tour with Wynboer to Argentina Nico found himself on the pampas where the gaucho cowboys were working the cattle with horses. There was also an opportunity for the many tourists to themselves get onto horseback. While Nico and another Wynboer guest were standing around a man came trotting by on his horse. Nico nudged his companion, pointing to the rider.

“Het jy al ‘n drol op ‘n perd gesien (Have you ever seen a shit on a horse before?)” Nico asked his pal in Afrikaans. The rider stopped and looked down at Nico, replying in perfect Afrikaans: “Het jy al ’n kont op die grond gesien? (And you, have you ever seen a cunt on the ground?).”

Unbeknown to the Wynboer-group, another South African party was also touring the farm……

I remember Nico’s fascination with baboons. And they unleashed all levels of havoc on the seaside farm he had at Potberg on the south Cape coast – Nico was an extraordinary, committed and accomplished angler. But the chaos caused by the baboons disrupted his joy of angling and being at the sea, and he unsuccessfully deployed scarecrows, rubber-snakes and any sort of primate-repelling gadget to keep the apes out of his house.

One day Nico opened the door to the Potberg house and saw that the baboons had, once again, been inside and made their usual mess. But there was something different about this troop’s particular visit: the apes had, genuinely, gotten hold of a pack of playing cards and had set-up a game before being disturbed by the master of the house. “There, on the dining-room table four hands of poker had been dealt by the baboons,” Nico told me. “But you know, one of the bastards must have been cheating because there was a hand that held five bloody aces.”

I am not going to doubt Nico’s eye for detail in the telling of the above story as he was meticulous and a true perfectionist, which could border on the cantankerous. One day myself, Nico and my youngest son Fritz were having lunch on Meerlust before heading off for a week-end’s fishing at Potberg. Fritz was seated next to Nico as the mutton and vegetables were being enjoyed, and Nico saw the kid was struggling to get his peas onto his fork.

“No son,” Nico reprimanded Fritz, “not like that. Here on Meerlust we eat our peas this way,” he said, illustrating how the peas were to be eaten from the back of the fork and not scooped with the bottom-end.

The experts will have one believe good wine is made in the vineyard. But looking at where Meerlust is today, a brand glowing with provenance and legacy in tandem with the quality of its fine wines, I believe the souls of the people behind such wines play as vital a role as any in their success. Of this, Nico Myburgh is a fine example.

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Some Wine is Mossop’s Sam

Twenty years back everyone was wondering what the Kid was going to do up in Helshoogte, Stellenbosch at the country’s most-eagerly anticipated new winery. The place was Tokara where the Kid, a.k.a. Miles Mossop, had been tasked by Tokara founder GT Ferreira to launch the wines from this spectacular spread of vineyards and cellar and all-round fabulous wine destination.

Then in 2005 the first Tokara wines hit the world like a Cheslin Kolbe line-break, with quality and a distinctive sense-of-place showing that, wine-wise, the product could assuredly match the gravitas Tokara had reached, image-wise, even before the first stuff was bottled.

Despite having left the joint five years back to do his own thing, the Kid will go down as the guy that put-down the foundations for the magnificence Tokara has claimed at the top end of the Cape wine spectrum, a spot it is not likely to lose anytime soon.

Sam and Miles and Sam the Wine.

My interest in the doings of the Kid originated from the reputation of his late father, Tony. He was a leading wine commentator and critic and all-round wine gentleman who also happened to be infatuated with Port. This stuff he made in Calitzdorp on his Axe Hill farm. Those interested in wine read what Tony Mossop wrote, listened when he spoke and agreed with the many winemakers and other people who revered the man’s opinions and appreciated his understated and self-deprecating sense of humour.

And as far as son Miles is concerned, and if Tony is looking down, one can paraphrase the Who song and state that, yes, the Kid is alright.

Now making his own Miles Mossop Wines, as well as assisting with a couple of other ventures, Miles has a track-record ticking all the right boxes: Name made at Tokara. Former Cape Winemakers Guild chairman. A hero in the eyes of the younger generation of winemakers. International reputation. And not to mention that the Kid still has great hair.

He lives his wine career in the fast-lane, does Miles. Busy. Happening the hustle. The opportunity, thus, of attending a tasting of a new release at the Mossops’ Banghoek home, verdant forest-garden looking up to the colossal blue-grey Simonsberg, was eagerly taken.

The occasion was the latest vintage of Miles’s wine named Sam, a Cabernet Sauvignon-led beauty in the Mossop Family range, this one named after Mrs Miles. It is pitched top-end at just under a grand a bottle and represents the culmination of Miles’s vinous vision through a meticulously crafted wine.

Before hitting the latest Sam release from vintage 2020, glasses were filled with various renditions of the same wine from the maiden 2017.

While Sam’s geographical origin has moved to the Polkadraai Hills appellation, the 2017 started out in Bottelary, with the 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot both sourced from those rugged slopes and once again confirming Bottelary’s terrain to be a truly great setting for classic Cape wines. This 2017 Sam has a true bloodline of old-school Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon about it with that meaty dark fruit and cedar approach levelled out by a silky charm still allowing the required degree of force and presence to reverberate throughout the palate.

Good winemakers wield a deft hand at taming tannins to still the roar but allow the excitement to thrill, and this feature is noticeable in that 2017. Also helped, of course, by 2017 being a comet vintage.

Sam 2018 saw some Cabernet Franc from Polkadraai coming into the Bottelary Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot mix, and of all four vintages tasted this was rather showy in terms of a sweet-fruited rim, a firm graphite grip and some lush, glow and warmth. Fig-paste, plums and bramble-berries with wafts of fynbos and just a tad of cigar box make for a delectable wine that is both very drinkable as well as admirably commanding of respect. Pretty much like Taylor Swift wearing a Royal Navy admiral uniform.

The 2019 still spoke of some assertive and adventurous tannins of the grainy kind, the sappiness shown by 2018 being in the background. It is powerful and alert, and immensely cool and confident with the accent on petrichor, broken shale and potpourri rather than fruit succulence, the latter which will be coming to the fore in a year or three’s time.

Concerning the latest release, Sam 2020 underscores the fact that this is a great Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon vintage offering wines of immense varietal expression and a fruity eagerness, yet with polish and poise that will age to talkative secondary complexity. The 92% Cabernet Sauvignon element is now all Polkadraai, and as Bruwer Raats has displayed with his stuff, this region is known for its ability to bring accuracy and precision from them heavy granite soils, while offering just the correct degree of plushness to give depth and meaning.

A juicy tenderness lies at the core of this wine, fresh acids providing a taut harness on which to peg a tapestry of joy-giving flavours. Ripe pomegranate flesh with raspberry confit. Some sour cherries with a lick of blackcurrant and a few slivers of sun-dried prune. Brief glimpses of washed-up whelk-shell add a cooling maritime touch, while a few cedar cuttings give a civilised feral edge to a wine of immense presence and with an individual voice.

There’s a lot to like, and more to come as the Kid is at the top of his game. And the hair, man, the hair is still just great.

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50yr Old Kanonkop: The Eternal Taste of Greatness

As Cape icon estate Kanonkop celebrates the 50th anniversary of its maiden wine release, there has been a run-on the demand for those remaining treasured initial bottles of 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage wines that were made by Jan Boland Coetzee. The Kanonkop team is hosting a number of tastings to international groups to accentuate the brand’s provenance, and to have a 1973 to pour for the assembled tribe to experience is deemed a must.

The search party has, however, turned-up a few of these rarities, namely the maiden Cabernet Sauvignon. Obviously, just because you have the bottle doesn’t mean it is worthy of exposure to an enlightened audience. Which made the opening and recorking of these discovered wines non-negotiable.

This was done by Amorim Cork, with MD Joaquim Sá – the Cristiano Ronaldo of the recorking technique – doing the work himself last week.

To be present at this occasion was like accompanying an archaeologist into the just-discovered lost tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh, without the embalmed cats and funny headgear. The Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 1973 lay in bottles of agreeable ullage, green and bright with a firm layer of old compacted dust around the closure. This was scraped away with surgical precision, the five decade old cork – soaked and frail – carefully removed before argon gas was placed in the opened bottle to prevent oxygen getting to the waking old wine.

This gave Abrie Beeslaar and Deidre Taylor, Kanonkop’s winemaker and marketing director respectively, the chance to scrutinise the wines so as to judge their condition and to ascertain whether these aged elixirs tasted like the monuments of South African wine they are purported to be.

Of their making by Jan Boland, the interesting aspect is that this first Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon was made from grapes harvested from vines Jan had planted on the farm in 1969 – four years old, thus. One of his first tasks was, with the permission of Kanonkop-owner Paul Sauer, to remove the farm’s Shiraz as this was not a variety he was interested in and, after all, he felt then as he did today that Cabernet Sauvignon and Stellenbosch go hand in glove.

The other feature was that the 1973 Kanonkop wines were some of the first in the Cape to be exposed to new French oak. This on account of Jan having met the Demptos family from the eponymous cooperage when he went over to France in 1970 on rugby-playing duty.

Along with the new wood, traditional Kanonkop winemaking was done, with open concrete fermenters and manual punch-downs setting the fermenting juice on its path where, in 2023 with an open bottle of Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 1973 before me, one was able experience living vinous history.

Jan says 1973 was a good vintage, a mildly temperate growing season with grapes reaching pin-point accurate levels of ripeness. “Not like 1975, when the easterly wind blew on 26 January and knocked the good grapes out of the bunches.”

It is hard to approach a 1973 Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon without clouded objectivity. It’s like reviewing a play starring Marlon Brando after it was found that the great man is, actually, still alive. You want to like it, you want it to be great. You will be sure it is.

But truth and honesty prevail in greatness. Just like argon gas blows the oxygen off an old wine, a great wine does not allow for wondering, pondering or doubting. It overpowers one with its presence, washing away romantic thoughts and dreamy reflections. When it is good, it is just that – good. Fantastic.

So, before the Cabernet Sauvignon 1973 was recorked, tasting had to be done to ensure the wine’s suitability for showing to a fortunate audience later in the year.  And this was just marvellous, showing the sort of marvel encountered by those fortunate to have experienced wine capable of reaching ripe old ages in states of assured and confident grace.

Joaquim Sá and Kanonkop winemaker Abrie Beeslaar.

The nose was meaty, charcuterie and roasted coriander soaked in liquid scented by dry rose petals, dried figs and that aroma of preserved age one experiences when opening the drawer of a yellow-wood Jonkmanskas three centuries old. It was a heady, intoxicating aroma strong enough to evoke emotion, quickening the heart-beat and replenishing the soul with the wonder of discovery that something good and old is still here. For you.

Warm tar featured on the taste, a sun-baked endless highway, straight and true, with a faint edge of fennel and liquorice coaxing the gravelly heat. And then a murmur, a stirring and there it is: a prickle of fruit, sappy and bright, sweet and berry. Damson and mulberry; cherry, black-currant and a moist little crab apple. Here, after 50 years, the nectar of the vine lived still.

Most extraordinary was the perkiness of it all, the energetic and the shivering freshness. Acids sparkled bright and vivid, while a freshness whistled haunting tunes of lost love, memory and hope for things to come.

It was a small taste, as the bottled must be closed with a tight new cork, locking-up the beauty of it all for future imbibers of this miracle whose lives will, too, be made better with such an incredible experience, one few things can offer, but great old wine can.

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Bonnievale’s New Wines Show Big can be Best

In the co-operative wine cellar we trust. Or should trust. Co-operatives are the heartbeat of the South Africa wine industry, some would say the unsung heroes. They produce large volumes of wine, most are situated in locations deemed untrendy by commentators on matters vinous and do not have the sex appeal of single estates or irreverent fashionable brand of hot, hip and happening kind.

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Ramaphosa Dream City to get Own Vineyard

South Africa looks set to become home to the largest urban wine vineyard in the world. This is if President Cyril Ramaphosa’s vision of a brand-new city built in the country is realised. During his recent State of the Nation Address, Pres. Ramaphosa suggested it was time to build such a new modern city in South Africa. But besides featuring shiny skyscrapers and sleek bullet-trains, the new city is also to host a vineyard from which various wines are to be made.

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Stellenbosch Cabernet and the Night King

Just in time for the revived focus on Stellenbosch’s deserved reputation as one of the world’s great addresses for Cabernet Sauvignon, that formidable piece of wineland real estate Vergelegen comes-up with two wines underscoring the region’s status as Cabernet Kingdom in the industry’s Game of Thrones. And vying for the ultimate throne, along with Abrie “Jon Snow” Beeslaar from Kanonkop and Neil “Jaime Lannister” Ellis, must surely be the Night King, also known as André van Rensburg of Vergelegen. He’s just released a new range of single vineyard wines, led by two Cabernet Sauvignons, and they are truly worth taming dragons, tossing dwarfs and beheading neighbours for.

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Homeward Bound to the Slopes of Alto Estate

With all the steely Sauvignon Blanc wine I drank in New Zealand it amazed me that no airport metal-detectors were activated on the long way home. Although there was a tense moment at Dubai International when a surly, garlic-breathed member of the security staff had to twice pass the hand-held scanner over my left kidney to ensure I was not carrying a harmful object aimed at unleashing some glamourous Middle-East terror.

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Cabernet Genius makes for Le Riche Pickings

It is a feature of the wine world that some human DNA has become embedded in certain grape varieties. In South Africa, for example, it’s impossible to think of Chardonnay without seeing the formidable presence of Danie de Wet from De Wetshof before you. And who can pronounce “Pinotage” without mentioning Beyers Truter in the same breath?

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