Some wines that inspired me last year - by Jamie Goode

By Jamie Goode | 6 January 2017

I’m in the lucky position of trying a lot of wines each year, both on my travels and also in London, at organized tastings and at home. I recently looked back on all my notes from the year and pulled out the very top wines. This is quite a tricky exercise, because there are a lot of very good wines out there. As a result, the list I compiled was a very strict selection of just the very best. I use a 100 point scoring system for wine: not because I think it’s necessarily the best, but because it’s the industry standard. The major wine critics from the USA established it, and it’s the default system that’s understood by the wine industry. Its weakness? It’s very congested from 90 points onwards. So a very good wine might get 90 points, and an exceptional wine 93 od 94 points, and then something great will get 95 points or above. The cut-off I used was 95 points for this list. There’s no real science here. I just use points as a way of saying how much I like a wine, and my scores probably tell you as much about me as they do about the wine. So these are some of my very top-rated South African wines.


Kershaw Deconstructed Chardonnay CY95 Lake District Bokkeveld Shale 2015 Elgin

Richard Kershaw is a Master of Wine who has been living in South Africa for quite a while now. He’s based in the cool climate region of Elgin, and here he’s making very sophisticated Chardonnays, of which this is my favourite. All are good, though.


Mother Rock Grenache 2015 Swartland

Johann Meyer is a talented winemaker who is working with UK importer Indigo Wines to produce the Mother Rock wines. This wine, from decomposed granite soils with some Malmesbury shale, is a superbly complex and elegant Grenache that is just thrilling.


Savage ‘The Girl Next Door’ Syrah 2014 Cape Peninsular, South Africa

Duncan Savage is one of my favourite South African winemakers, and he’s recently started out on his own, having done a great job with Cape Point. This Syrah, from sandy gravel soils, is really elegant and direct with lovely fruit density and amazing potential for development.


Badenhorst Dassiekop Steen 2015 Swartland, South Africa

This translates as ‘hill of the dassie’ (a small, cute mammal), and it’s an exciting single-vineyard Chenin Blanc from Adi Badenhorst. It’s one of the best I’ve tried, and it’s floral, exotic and spicy with fresh apple and citrus on the nose with hints of tangerine. The powerful palate shows herbs, cheese and straw complexity as well as some anise notes.


Bosman Optenhorst Chenin Blanc 2014 Wellington, South Africa

This is a single vineyard, planted in 1952, with bush vines. This year it has been repackaged, and also a portion is fermented in concrete tanks (previously, it had all been oak aged). ‘We’ve always wanted to say more about the vineyard than about the oak,’ says Corlea Fourie. This has lovely textured pear and lemon fruit with real elegance and a subtle creamy hint. So textural.


Ken Forrester Dirty Little Secret Chenin Blanc ‘One’ 2015 Piekeneerskloof, South Africa

This new high-end Chenin from the master, Ken, has caused quite a stir. Lovely ripe, supple, intriguing white flower notes. There are flavours of white peaches and ripe apples, and this wine, with just 12.5% alcohol, shows lovely detail and finesse. There is concentration here, but also detail.


Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2015 Swartland, South Africa

Mullineux go from strength to strength, making some thrilling wines, including this beauty. Generous but fresh with minerals, spices, citrus and ripe apple. Fresh and detailed with lovely concentration and intensity, yet it retains its freshness and purity.


Sadie Family Soldaat 2014 Swartland, South Africa

Eben Sadie is the boss, and his old vine series wines are highly sought after. I love this pale red wine with its lovely fresh cherries and plums with nice sappy notes. Fine and expressive with cherry and raspberry fruit. 


Raats Eden High Density Cabernet Franc 2014 Stellenbosch, South Africa

Destined to become a unicorn wine, just 300 bottles of this amazing Cabernet Franc are produced, from 300 vines at the back of one of the Raats’ Chenin vineyards. Very elegant and supple with ripe, sweet black fruits and lovely savoury detail: graphite, soft chalk and slate. Amazing finesse and tannic structure, this is pure and detailed, and it’s quite remarkable.


Crystallum Malabel Pinot Noir 2015 Overberg, South Africa

Pinot Noir will never be a big story in South Africa, but when it’s good, from suitable terroirs, it’s very good, and this supple, juicy example is really fine with lovely cherry fruit. Fine grained with freshness and detail.


David & Nadia Grenache 2015 Swartland, South Africa

This thrilling Grenache comes from three vineyards, one organic and two sustainably farmed. Lovely freshness and purity here: very fine, expressive and focused, showing lovely purity. Perfumed red cherries with hints of ginger and spice. Nice weight: elegant, fresh and sappy.


Thorne & Daughters Paper Kite Old Vine Semillon 2015 Franschhoek, South Africa

From Basil Landau’s famous old vineyard planted in 1915, this is a complex, textured, fine expression of Semillon with pear and citrus fruits, plus complex wax and nut characters. Lovely textural complexity here, and great acidity. 


Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2015 Hemel en Aarde, South Africa

Hemel en Aarde is such a lovely wine region, and here it has produced a serious Chardonnay. Pear, white peach, nut and anise notes here. Lovely, fresh and focused palate with lemons and herbs. Complex and linear, with real finesse.


Paul Cluver Seven Flags Pinot Noir 2014 Elgin, South Africa

Since 2012 Martin Prieur of Domaine Jacques Prieur has consulted with the Cluvers. The focus has been on purity of fruit and acidity, and in 2014 I think they’ve cracked it. So fine and fresh with lovely silky tannins. Fine, textural cherry fruit with plums and nice spiciness. Linear and expressive.



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