The latest in wine news and events

The South African wine industry is known for its dynamic and innovative approach as well as its top notch wines and young, creative winemakers.

The industry is progressing and changing at speed, as South Africa is increasingly recognised for premium wines and world-class wine tourism. Read all the latest news from Wines of South Africa...

Read Jamie's latest feature on South African wine

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Top 20 South African wines

By Jamie Goode | 4 April 2016

It’s that time again. The time when South African wine journalist Tim James sends out a questionnaire to key wine journalists, sommeliers and retailers in South Africa and abroad who have a special interest in the country’s wines. 27 people in all were polled. We were asked to give him a list of our top 20 producers, identifying our top five out of this list. And from the responses, he compiles an overall list of the 20 best producers, according to opinion formers. Because this is South Africa and the journalists there don’t trust each other all that much, the whole process is of course audited, to take away any grounds for accusations of fiddling. And, when the results are released, we all go back to our notes to see how well our own personal lists tallies with the final group list.

 

I’ve done this exercise a few times now (it was first done in 2001, and has been repeated several times since), and I always find it very interesting. Some of us (me included) are very enthusiastic about new producers and the latest developments. Others take a more measured approach where they like to select producers with a longer track record, and pay homage to some of the industry greats. Overall, there’s a natural balance to the final ranking, and each time the list is compiled, it gives a snapshot of how the wine scene here is evolving.

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Cinsault

By Jamie Goode | 29 February 2016

If there's ever a grape variety that has experienced a change in fortunes, it's Cinsualt. Also known as Cinsaut, it has been in decline in South Africa for almost 30 years. But it is one of the country's most important red varieties from a historical perspective. Back in the 1920s, it was claimed by Itzak Perold (the first professor of viticulture at Stellenbosch University) that Cinsault made three-quarters of the country's red wines. In the 1970s it began to make way for more famous varieties such as Cabernet and Merlot, but it was still the most widely planted red grape variety. It was only overtaken by Cabernet for this title in the early 1990s.

Until fairly recently, things were looking pretty bleak for Cinsault. There are still 1900 hectares of it planted, though, and this is a good thing, because in a very short space of time it has become super-trendy. With its large berries and resistance to heat, Cinsault can make very attractive lighter-coloured red wines at moderate alcohol levels, and also works very well in blends. Because it yields generously, these wines need not be expensive. There is a reason it was so popular in the Cape: because it is well suited to the climate and soils, and it makes economic sense. While the fashion was for bigger, darker red wines, it was out of favour, but now lighter-style red wines are back in fashion, and it is time for Cinsault to shine.

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Exciting producers emerging in the post-Swartland era

By Jamie Goode | 3 December 2015

So, the last Swartland Revolution has been held. Since 2010 there have been six of these amazing events, held in November in Riebeek Kasteel, celebrating the remarkable revolution in winemaking that has taken place in the Swartland. It was only just over a decade ago that the Swartland wasn’t very highly regarded as a wine region. But along came Eben Sadie, and then Mullineux, and then Badenhorst Family Wines, and a whole group of dynamic, risk-taking, exciting new wineries emerged. The quality of the wines made everyone sit up and notice, and the Revolution, as a sort of focal point for all this attention, has really helped shake up the South African wine scene. Wisely, though, the organizers have decided that this event – brilliant as it has been – has now run its course, and it’s time to stop at the top, rather than see it decline or grow stale.

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From Jamie Goode

Jamie Goode

One of the compelling things about wine is that fine wines have the ability to age, which means that you can, if you are lucky, taste a bottle that even pre-dates you, or which was produced from the harvest of a significant year. Some of these wines are remarkable merely because they have survived and are still drinkable; for others, this age has imparted extra dimensions and complexity. This is why we cellar wine: in the hope that it will be transformed during its gently slumber into something special. But there are three South African bottles that I've been lucky enough to drink, which really have involved tasting a bit of history.  

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In Susan's glass

I fell in love with South Africa and the wines a few years ago. The recent MasterChef UK final took me right back to a holiday I had there. They went to the same Game Reserve that we stayed at and we also went to Reuben Riffel's restaurant in Franschhoek the night before my friends wedding - it was great to see Reuben as a guest judge too! Watching that episode seemed like the perfect excuse to open this beautiful bottle of Semillon from Boekenhoutskloof. What a delicious wine! 

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