Tim Atkin: South Africa is making the greatest wine in its history

The Cape is firmly established as “one of the most exciting wine-producing countries on the planet”, thanks to a combination of old vines, young winemaking talent, established names, varied terroirs and a can-do spirit, according to award-winning British journalist and Master of Wine Tim Atkin, who has just released his seventh annual guide to South Africa.

Winemaking Legend Gyles Webb, Thelema Mountain Vineyards.

In his eagerly anticipated 2019 report, Atkin has awarded 99 points to two wines – 2017 Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah and 2018 Sadie Family ’T Voetpad – and 95 points or more to a further 159 wines. “There was no 100-pointer this year,” he says, “but all of my top-rated wines are exceptional, reflecting the diversity and exceptional quality of the best of the Cape.”

Overall Red Wine of the Year – Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2017 (Reenen Borman).

Atkin highlights a number of challenges facing the wine industry, especially climate change and the continued unprofitability of many wine businesses. “The dams may be fuller than they were a year ago after the winter rains, but producers still need to think about what and where they plant in future,” he says. “We are finally seeing the overdue emergence of a fine wine category, but too much wine is sold too cheaply for the long-term health of the industry. Winemakers need to pay more for their grapes and consumers need to recognise that South Africa cannot continue to be the world’s bargain basement.”

Red Wine Discovery of the Year – AA Badenhorst Ringmuur 2018 (Adi Badenhorst).

This year, Atkin singles out Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cinsault and Syrah for special praise, all of which are established varieties in the Cape, but also highlights the “enormous potential” of Albariño, Agiorgitiko, Assyrtiko, Furmint, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Noir, Malbec, Mourvèdre, Petit Verdot, Roussanne and Verdelho. “Not before time, South Africa is expanding its palette of grapes,” he says.

Winemakers of the year – Paul Jordaan (The Sadie Family Wines).

Atkin’s 2019 South Africa Special Report runs to over 281 pages and is the product of three trips to the Cape over the last year, as well as further tastings in the UK, and includes:

  • Top wines of the year (white, red, rosé, sweet, fortified and sparkling);
  • Scores for 2,118 wines, with retail prices in South African Rand, ranging from R33 to R4,000;
  • 1,447 tasting notes;
  • Evocative photos of the winelands and winemakers;
  • His controversial 2019 classification of the 250 best South African wineries.
Overall Sweet Wine of the Year – Klein Constantia Vin de Constace 2016 (Matt Day).

Atkin has also named his Overall Wines and Winemakers of the Year:

  • Winemakers of the Year: Eben Sadie and Paul Jordaan of The Sadie Family Wines
  • Young Winemaker of the Year: Bernhard Bredell of Scions of Sinai
  • Grower of the Year: James Downes of Shannon Vineyards
  • Co-operative of the Year: Windmeul Kelder
  • Winemaking Legend: Gyles Webb of Thelema Mountain Vineyards
  • Best Cellar Door Experience: Creation
  • Overall White Wine of the Year: 2018 Sadie Family ’Te Voetpad, Swartland
  • Overall Red Wine of the Year: 2017 Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah, Stellenbosch
  • Overall Rosé of the Year: 2019 Holder Dorper Elmie Rosé, Stellenbosch
  • Overall Sparkling Wine of the Year: 2014 Graham Beck Cuvée Clive, Western Cape
  • Overall Sweet Wine of the Year: 2016 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance, Constantia
  • Overall Fortified Wine of the Year: 2017 De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve, Calitzdorp
  • Red Wine Discovery of the Year: 2018 AA Badenhorst Ringmuur Cinsault, Swartland
  • White Wine Discovery of the Year: 2018 Wolf and Woman Chenin Blanc, Swartland
  • Best Value White of the Year: 2019 Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape
  • Best Value Red of the Year: 2018 Fairview Grenache Noir, Western Cape
  • Best Value Rosé of the Year: 2019 Bon Courage Lady of the House Pinotage Rosé, Robertson
  • Best Value Sparkling Wine of the Year: NV KWV Laborie Blanc de Blancs, Western Cape
  • Best value Sweet Wine of the Year: 2017 Highlands Road Noble Late Harvest, Elgin
  • Best value Fortified Wine of the Year: 2012 Allesverloren Fine Old Vintage, Swartland
Overall Sparkling Wine of the Year – Graham Beck CuvÇe Clive 2014 (P Ferreira & P de Klerk).

Tim Atkin MW’s 2019 South Africa Special Report is available to download from www.timatkin.com for £20.

About Tim Atkin

Tim Atkin MW is a multiple-award winning wine taster, photographer and writer with 34 years’ experience. He became a Master of Wine at the first attempt in 2001. His website, timatkin.com won the Louis Roederer Wine Website of the Year Award in 2011 and 2013. In 2014 Atkin won the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Online Drink Writer of the Year Award and in 2015 the Louis Roederer International Feature Writer of the Year Award. In 2018 he was named Louis Roederer Online Communicator of the Year.

Contact Tim via e-mail at tim@timatkin.com. He will be available for interviews in South Africa on 11 and 12 September.

There will be a public tasting of his 95+ point scoring wines in the presence of the men and women who made them, in Cape Town on 13 September. To book tickets at a cost of R500, go to: http://www.winecellar.co.za/tim-atkin-tasting-13-sept-cpt-nv.html.