Tim Atkin MW's South Africa 2021 Special Report


In his ninth annual South Africa Special Report, Tim Atkin MW remarks that "no other wine industry has made such strides, no other industry possesses such energy or excitement." Tim names Peter-Allan Finlayson of Crystallum and Gabriëlskloof (pictured above) as his Winemaker of the Year, while Charles Back of Fairview and Spice Route is honoured as Winemaking Legend. 

In addition, 12 wines from Crystallum, Gabriëlskloof, Momento Wines (a new addition to our portfolio) and Thorne & Daughters feature in Tim's Wines of the Year. Please see Tim's scores and tasting notes, as well as availability details, for these wines below.


Tim also classifies the Cape’s best producers into six categories (loosely based on the 1855 Bordeaux Classification), this year awarding First Growth status to Crystallum and Thorne & Daughters, with Gabriëlskloof rated Second Growth, Momento Wines as Fourth Growth, and Fairview as Cru Bourgeois. 

The full South Africa 2021 Special Report can be purchased from TimAtkin.com.

Chenin Blancs of the Year

Gabriëlskloof, `Elodie` Chenin Blanc 2020, South Africa
96 points
This wonderfully ageworthy Chenin Blanc comes from the same five sites in the Swartland as it has since its maiden vintage in 2015. Barrel-fermented with full malolactic, it has amazing grip and minerality, with thatch, nutmeg and aniseed aromas, honey, baking spice and tarte tatin flavours and palate-cleansing acidity.

Chardonnays of the Year

Crystallum, `Clay Shales` Hemel-en-Aarde Chardonnay 2020, South Africa
97 points
On current form, this is the best Chardonnay in South Africa, a wine that tastes good young but ages brilliantly too. Made with grapes from an old Cabernet Franc vineyard on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, grafted over in 2014, it's a wonderfully classy white that out-Burgundies Burgundy: intense, leesy, yet acid-focused with subtle older wood and impressive weight.
(On allocation only. Please speak with your sales representative.)

Crystallum, `Ferrum` Chardonnay 2020, South Africa
95 points
Ferrum is a brilliant new wine from Crystallum, made with fruit from a vineyard in the Shaw's Mountain area that was grafted on to Sauvignon Blanc in 2017. The site is warmer than some part of the Overberg and the wine goes through full malolactic, but it certainly doesn’t lack freshness or precision. Chiselled and focused, with extract, phenolics, ferrous minerality and notes of tangerine and lemon tart.
(On allocation only. Please speak with your sales representative.)

Sauvignon Blancs of the Year

Thorne & Daughters, `Snakes & Ladders` Sauvignon Blanc 2020, South Africa

95 points
Basie van Lill's low-yielding one-hectare block on Citrusdal Mountain has done it again, producing a wonderful follow up to the maiden release. "I wanted to get away from the variety" says John Seccombe and he's succeeded thanks to talent, natural fermentation and incredible grapes. Concentrated yet focused, this is like a cross between a Xarel-lo and a Furmint.

Semillons of the Year

Thorne & Daughters, `Paper Kite` Swartland Semillon Blanc 2020, South Africa
95 points 
Now made with Swartland fruit - it was from Franschhoek initially - this wonderful old-vine Semillon continues to deliver in spades. Subtly reductive and stony with some tannic grip from thicker skins in a drought year, apple, straw and citrus fruit characters and a mouth-watering, low-alcohol finish.

White Blends of the Year

Momento Wines, Chenin Blanc/Verdelho 2020, South Africa
95 points 
Predominantly old-vine sources in the Swartland, Bot River and Voor Paardeberg supply the grapes for this best-ever cuvée of Chenin Blanc with 30% Verdelho and 15% Grenache Blanc. Complex, structured and refined with appealing skin tannins, neutral oak, lime, beeswax, stone fruit and oatmeal flavours and the concentration to age further in bottle.
Current vintage: 2019

Thorne & Daughters, `Rocking Horse` Cape White Blend 2020, South Africa
95 points 
Including grapes from the Ceres Plateau for the first time, Rocking Horse is a pan-regional blend of Semillon, Roussanne, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Clairette Blanche, with the harvest spread over a period of six weeks. Pear, citrus and stone fruit flavours combine to perfection here, with top notes of jasmine and wild herbs and a mineral, structured, slightly tannic core.

Pinot Noirs of the Year

Crystallum, `Bona Fide` Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir 2020, South Africa

96 points
Bona Fide comes from the Vrede vineyard, which also supplies fruit for Hannes Storm's top Pinot Noir. There was no 2019 release, but this is a roaring return to form: a medium-weight red with a haunting combination of perfume and structure. Complete, layered and nuanced with 50% whole bunch spices and layers of plum and summer berry fruit.
(On allocation only. Please speak with your sales representative.)

Crystallum, `Cuvée Cinéma` Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir 2020, South Africa
95 points 
Part of a brilliant line up of Pinot Noirs from Crystallum in 2020, this is a wine with evident tannin and extraction - more Nuits-St-Georges than Chambolle-Musigny perhaps - with plenty of grip, dark cherry and raspberry fruit, subtle 20% new wood and added complexity from 40% whole bunches.
(On allocation only. Please speak with your sales representative.)

Crystallum, `Mabalel` Elandskloof Pinot Noir 2020, South Africa
95 points 
Mabalel is a single vineyard wine from the legendary Kaaimansgat site and is a wonderfully silky, perfumed Pinot Noir. Destemmed because "it would be too green otherwise", according to Peter-Allan Finlayson, it has rose petal and orange zest aromas, filigree tannins, wild strawberry fruit and a racy finish.
(On allocation only. Please speak with your sales representative.)

Cabernet Francs of the Year

Gabriëlskloof, Walker Bay Cabernet Franc 2019, South Africa
95 points
Picked later than the 2018, which Peter-Allan Finlayson found "too green", this remarkable 2019 comes from an equal combination of shale and sandstone soils. Rich, yet focused, fleshy yet refined, it has cassis and black cherry fruit, supple tannins, fine oak and a graphite top note.
Current vintage: 2018

Syrahs of the Year
 
Gabriëlskloof, `Syrah on Sandstone` Bot River 2019, South Africa
95 points
This used to be a single vineyard wine but now hails from four blocks on the same slope, all on sandstone. Picked a week before the shale Syrah because of the heat of the soils, it's a grippy, intense, savoury wine with blackberry and raspberry fruit, some lavender, white pepper and pine, lovely minerality and subtle, nuanced oak.
Current vintage: 2018