Discover these must-try South African vintages: My top 5 wine recommendations

Wine vintage recommendations Suitcase & Chardonnay

By Renate Engelbrecht

Saturday, Jul 01

When it comes to wine, I can effortlessly describe myself as a wine lover instead of a wine connoisseur. While I do appreciate the importance of terroir and the immaculate patience and passion that goes into producing a quality wine, the part I love most about drinking wine, is the pure enjoyment of it.

Wine has a way to create a bubble in time. A bubble that simulates the expertly rounded shape of a Riedel glass. In that bubble, you get to indulge, engage and enjoy. You get to elegantly swirl the glass and track the tears as they trace see-through strokes across the inside of a crystal goblet. You engage your senses in a way you don’t get to every day and allow yourself to be mesmerised by the multitude of notes as the wine dances on your taste buds and gently descends down your throat. Somehow, I’ve succumbed to a love affair with wine and there is no turning back.

Here are some of the current wine vintages that I can highly recommend:

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Survivor Cellar Master Series Chardonnay 2022

Led by wine authority, Michael Fridjon, the Trophy Wine Show took place at the Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch early in June. The show boasted renowned local and international judges who evaluated the submitted wines, including the maiden Chardonnay vintage from the Survivor Cellar Master Series. Survivor Cellar Master Series Chardonnay 2022 was a standout performer at the show, winning two trophies.

Cellar Master, Pierre Wahl – who is also a member of the esteemed Cape Winemakers Guild – sourced Chardonnay grapes from Wine of Origin Tradauw for the wine. His expertise goes a long way and this achievement serves as testament of his unwavering dedication to the world of wine and the direction of Survivor Wines.

Wahl highlighted the significance of the achievement with it being the inaugural Chardonnay release in the Cellar Master Series. In fact, together with his team he has unveiled the incredible potential of the terroir of the Wine of Origin Tradauw – a gateway to the more arid Karoo.

Survivor Wines Cellar Master Series Chardonnay 2022

The Survivor Cellar Master Series Chardonnay 2022 derives its excellence from meticulously cultivated vineyards, with a strong focus on terroir typicity. Ultimately, this is expressed through a quintessential fruit purity and mineral core, which adds luminosity to the wine. With some years in the bottle, the wine might just become an even more profound version of itself.

Jancis Robinson MW OBE, one of the most influential wine critics in the English-speaking world, was on the judging panel and said: “There is no doubt South African Chardonnay is a real attribute for the country. I get the sense South African winemakers are very confident making Chardonnay.”

Tokara Director’s Reserve White 2020

Tokara Director's Reserve White 2020

The Tokara Director’s Reserve White, which is also the wine estate’s flagship white wine, recently struck London Gold at the 20th Decanter World Wine Awards. The DWWA is the world’s largest and most influential wine competition and saw a record number of 18 250 wines from 57 countries this year. Tokara’s Director’s Reserve White 2020 was awarded a Gold medal with a score of 95/100. It also did very well in the USA with a 93-point rating at the International Wine Review, while winemag.co.za awarded it 94 points.

The wine is a classic Bordeaux-style blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from vines on the highest slopes of the Simonsberg. It comes with incredible clarity and depth, with intermingling notes of passion fruit and pink grapefruit. There are also subtle hints of cassis and freshly toasted brioche. It’s a full, rich wine with a zesty persistence.

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

Another 2020 vintage which made its mark at this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards, is the Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2020. In fact, it has been awarded a prestigious ‘Best in Show’ award, with 97 points. This is the ultimate accolade attributed to the 50 best wines at the London-based awards, which reaffirms Le Riche’s reputation as a world-class Cabernet Sauvignon producer.

Christo Le Riche says: “This exceptional recognition for our Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (set to be released on the 3rd of July) in this distinguished global benchmarking competition, highlights our unwavering commitment to producing the finest expression of Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon.”

The Le Riche family’s winemaking philosophy has always been to focus on one thing and do it to the best of your ability. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is testament to that. Vintage after vintage, the Le Riche family – first Etienne on his own and later together with his children, Christo and Yvonne who have no taken over the reins – have made it their business to produce the definitive expression of a Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon. And they’ve clearly done it well.

Le Riche family

The Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon – the flagship of the range – showcases the grandeur of Le Riche’s craftsmanship, representing the epitome of their winemaking prowess. It is an opulent, generous wine. It’s bold, yet elegant, complex and layered with powerful, yet refined tannins and it comes with a core of classic cassis fruit, subtle oak integration, a great freshness and excellent ageing ability.

Bonnievale River Collection Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon 2021

Do see if you can get your hands on one of the Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignons from Bonnievale. The Bonnievale River Collection Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 recently won Double Platinum at the national Wine Challenge, ultimately including it under this year’s Top 100 wines. This specific vintage was also awarded Gold at the inaugural Cabernet Sauvignon Challenge, making Bonnievale the only winery from its region among the Challenge’s 33 award-winners.

These new accolades certainly proves the suitability of the Robertson’s region’s vineyards for Cabernet Sauvignon. This limited release wine is fermented in small batches, undergoes a rigorous oak regimen during fermentation and maturation and spends at least 18 months in the barrel.

Bonnievale Limted Release Cabernet Sauvignon wine

If you’re looking for a good quality red wine that won’t break the bank, this is a no-brainer.

Pongrácz Brut and Desiderius Pongrácz

Pongrácz Brut

Only eleven Grand Golds were awarded at the recent 2023 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles in Belgium. Among these was Pongrácz’s  Brut – the only South African sparkling wine to be awarded this incredible accolade. In addition, the vintage Desiderius Pongrácz 2015 was awarded Gold.

The Concours Mondial de Bruxelles is a global benchmark for wine competitions, singling out wines of excellence from across the world. MP Botes, Pongrácz’s winemaker says these two awards confirm the quality of locally produced Cap Classiques made in the French tradition, expressing their South African terroir.

The Pongrácz Brut is the ideal bubbly for anywhere, anytime. It is bottle-fermented and matured on lees for at least 15 months, crafted from the classic Champagne varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These grapes are hand-picked from vineyards cooled by maritime breezes, resulting in crisp, green apple notes and the nuances of freshly baked bread on the nose.

The ultra-premium Desiderius Pongrácz 2015 spends a minimum of 69 months in the bottle for slow, secondary fermentation. It’s gracious, elegant and timeless with aromas that resemble brioche, followed by a rich, complex palate of nuanced fruit, almond and yeasty notes.

Pongrácz is named after the nobleman and Hungarian refugee, Desiderius Pongrácz, who had a profound impact on the Western Cape’s viticulture.

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