Sam Wylie-Harris looks at the best South African wine

With a reputation for offering exceptional value and quality propelling it onto the international stage, it’s fair to say South Africa is now truly making its mark as a hot-spot for fine wines.

Thursday, 1st October 2020, 12:30 pm

South Africa’s wine history dates back more than 300 years, but it’s really only recently that this exciting New World wine region began realising its potential.

With a reputation for offering exceptional value and quality propelling it onto the international stage, it’s fair to say South Africa is now truly making its mark as a hot-spot for fine wines.

Ahead of International Pinotage Day (October 10) and to help support and celebrate this go-to destination for great wines, we’ve picked some stand-out styles from South African producers leading the way.

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South African wine

1. The Society’s Chenin Blanc 2020, Stellenbosch, South Africa, £7.50, The Wine Society

With mouthwatering acidity, this chenin blanc is overflowing with apple, bright citrus and ripe stone fruits and tastes beautifully fresh.

As Joanna Locke, MW, South African buyer for The Wine Society, puts it: “With the home market shut down for many weeks, and export orders delayed or, worse still, cancelled, South African producers have been hit harder than most this year.

“Villiera [family run winery] bent over backwards to get our chenin out to us, with only a slight delay, and the reward is a delicious first taste of the 2020 vintage.”

2. M&S Classics Workhorse Chenin 2020, Stellenbosch, South Africa, £8, Marks & Spencer stores

Marks & Spencer’s Classics wine range is rapidly gaining recognition – coaxing all that’s best from the world’s greatest wine regions, at the most accessible prices – and here, South Africa’s hero white grape is just as stimulating, with apricot, pear and vanilla flavours.

“It’s important to show support for the South African wine industry at this worrying time, and the second phase of our Classics wine range boasts two brand-new South African wines,” says Sue Daniels, M&S Winemaker. This one, she says, is “an elegant, zesty chenin blanc made by the renowned winemaker Ken Forrester – not to be missed!”

3. Classics Pinotage 2020, Swartland, South Africa, £8, Marks & Spencer stores

The second one to bag from M&S is an intense, fruity pinotage, to open our eyes to the potential of South Africa’s signature red grape. A cross between pinot noir and cinsault, it’s the type of red that locks you in with flavours of rich blackcurrants, cherries and summer fruits.

4. Houdamond Pinotage 2016, Stellenbosch, South Africa, £13.50, Marks & Spencer stores

Daniels also highly recommends their Houdamond, which she notes is “intense and full-bodied – from Bellevue Estate, our partners of 15 years and growers of the first commercial pinotage”.

5. Fairview Barrel Aged Pinotage 2019, Western Cape, South Africa, £9.99, Waitrose

Elsewhere, Victoria Mason, South African wine buyer for Waitrose, says: “The quality of South African wine has never been higher, and the diversity of wine styles on offer is truly vast, so now’s the perfect time to celebrate – and support – South Africa’s wine industry.”

With depth of flavour, this wine’s gorgeous aromas of ripe plums, cloves and spice, with a generous core of fruit kissed by the South African sun, will have you reaching for the next glass.

6. Definition Chenin Blanc 2020, Stellenbosch, South Africa, £12.99 each or £9.99 Mix Six, Majestic

Majestic’s answer to showcasing the world’s headline grapes, the Definition range turns out a medal-winning chenin that’s fresh and flavoursome. With attractive aromas of yellow orchard fruits and white peach, with similar ripe tropical fruit on the palate, expect hints of apple pie and vanilla and no shortage of fresh acidity.

7. Kanonkop Kadette Pinotage 2018, Stellenbosch, South Africa, £14.99 each or £12.99 Mix Six, Majestic

Another key reason to explore South Africa’s star grape, Kanonkop scooped the Outstanding Wine Producer award at the International Wine and Spirit Competition 2019 – the estate’s fifth major IWSC trophy. Impressive and enticing from word go, their entry-level pinotage is a complex fruit bomb, with ripe red berries, plump plum, sweet spice and hints of mocha riding on the long, silky finish.

8. Ginny Povall Aboretum Red 2017, Botanica Wines, South Africa, £18.88, Lay & Wheeler

A notch up the scale, Robbie Toothill, buyer for Lay & Wheeler, says this is one of the finest Bordeaux blends (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot) they’ve come across in the Cape. Think lovely juicy dark fruit, just a hint of spice plus herbal notes.

Toothill says: “Increasingly, customers are seeing South Africa not as wines that belong in their cellars, not just as value picks, but as wines that will stand the test of time.”