Most of the Chenin blanc entries were from the 2021 vintage. These wines showed great diversity and zestiness. Many of them were outstanding fruit-driven styles. According to Jacqui Henderson CWM, South Africa has Chenin blanc with real class and finesse that can rank with the best of the Loire.
In the Sauvignon blanc category, the 2021 vintage stood out as vibrant, fruity, and flinty. Dr. Andy Rudiger CWM said the Sauvignon blanc wines varied from the grassy-green style to some with minerality and elegant green fruit. He also thought that skin contact could have contributed to the complexity of some of the wines.
The unwooded Chardonnays showed excellent fruit and freshness, with some balanced examples. MW Richard Kershaw, a Chardonnay specialist himself, reckons that Chardonnay produces should pay more attention to differences in terroir, rather than trying to induce differences with oak and other cellar practices.
MW Richard Kershaw tasting Chardonnay
The rosé wines showed well with finesse. “They were very balanced, with fewer tutti-fruity styles than usual” – Meryl Weaver CWM. The wines were refreshing, across the spectrum, and well-integrated.
Among the smaller categories of single cultivars, the Clairette blanche and Grenache Blanc wines stood out.
Most of the Bordeaux-styled blends and the Cape blends displayed great structure and depth. The Cape blends as a class generally exhibited a lot of concentration and judicious use of Pinotage.
Pinotage was generally well made with some classy executions. Wanda Cronje CWM noted that the Pinotage wines varied somewhat in style, with over-use of American oak in some. Generally, the wines were well-made, with great finesse.
Tasters concentrating on the job ahead
The Merlot category had bold and well-balanced examples. Few of the entries had a green character. Some of the panellists thought this category was the most exciting. Cape Wine Master Lisha de Villiers noted that the quality of Merlot has improved in South Africa, with more judicious use of oak and more elegant styles that emerged, producing more linear wines with less over-extraction.
Among the Cabernet Sauvignon wines, the 2018 and 2019 wines showed the best. Some were serious wines and had decent structure and balance. The 2020 vintage wines were young, and the panel thought that these wines need time.
The Shiraz wines varied wildly. There were some excellent 2018 wines, while the 2019 wines were soft, smooth, and velvety. Dr. Andy Roediger CWM noted that South African Shiraz stands its own on the world stage and is better when compared to France and California, as opposed to Australia. South Africa is also way ahead as far as price-point goes.
The few examples of Pinot noir varied in quality, with some showing good balance and typicity.
Comments on the spirits
In the tasting of the spirits, the quality and diversity of gin were good, with something for everyone. Most of the gin were exceptionally good, especially in the new style gin category. Dr. Mare-Loe Prinsloo said that the gins were very diverse in style, but some were over-flavoured and lacked balance.
Some distillers do so much better than the others across different classes. Dr. Caroline Snyman CWM said the reason for this is that these producers pay particular attention to the distilling process and then focus relentlessly on the integration and balance of high-quality flavours. Dr. Carla Weightman also stressed that these producers never let a single botanical overpower the spirit but find a good balance.
The vodka category varied a lot in style and quality. The brandies were also very diverse.