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South African Shiraz  
14 of the top wines rated 

Vineyard in Paarl

I was surprised to see that South Africa’s Shiraz wines were recently given a slating in the March 2005 edition of the UK’s Decanter magazine. Very surprised. Why? Because Shiraz is emerging as the Cape’s leading red variety, knocking the various Bordeaux grapes from their perch with increasing regularity. Shiraz seems well suited to South Africa, as it likes warm climates. As viticulture has improved, this sunny climate has led to increasing phenolic ripeness at harvest time, and consequently heightened alcohol levels. Rhône varieties don’t mind a bit of sunshine and they tend to cope with the heat a bit better than Cabernet- or Merlot-based wines. So can South Africa do the business with Shiraz? The evidence from this tasting seems to be that they are getting the hang of it. Rather than write off South African Shiraz, I’d say the future looks promising, although it’s true that some producers have yet to get to grips with this grape. The tasting was not blind, so my opinions may have been influenced by the reputations of some of these wines, but I try not to let this happen.

Score Wine
95 The Observatory Syrah 2001 Swartland
The complex nose is dark, intense, spicy and savoury. The palate is quite concentrated and full with a lovely minerally savoury streak to the dense fruit. Fantastic stuff. Excellent 95/100 (£23 Berry Bros & Rudd, Harrogate Fine Wine)
94 Sadie Family Columella 2002 Malmesbury
Beautifully complex spicy, meaty nose showing pure, fine berry fruits. The palate is open, smooth and complex with nice spicy, meaty complexity. Lovely structure. A fine expression of Syrah in a rather old-world mould. Very good/excellent 94/100 (£38.50 Handford, Laytons, Swig, Noel Young)
93 The Foundry Syrah 2002 Stellenbosch
A serious South African Syrah. Very classy, full-on nose: full, spicy and savoury. The palate is expressive, firm and well defined, bolstered with good acidity. Savoury and full with a nice minerality. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£17.50 Raeburn, Swig, Noel Young)
92 Fairview Solitude Shiraz 2002 Paarl
Lovely intense meaty, spicy, smoky nose. Concentrated palate with nice weight of minerally, tarry fruit. Meaty, spicy and beguiling. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£15.95 Andrew Chapman, Bennetts, Butlers Wine Cellar)
91 Boekenhoutskloof  Shiraz 2002 Franschoek
Smooth and spicy with a minerally complexity to the savoury red and black fruits on the nose. Nice concentration and weight on the palate with some spicy complexity plus a bit of sweet oak character. Overall it’s quite savoury, and midway between the new and old worlds in style. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£25 Oddbins, Waitrose, Jeroboams, Great Western Wine, Wine Society, Sainsbury)
  Rust en Vrede Shiraz 2001 Stellenbosch
Savoury, smoky, spicy nose is quite interesting and perhaps a little old fashioned. The palate is savoury, spicy and meaty. Rustic but lovely. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£14.25 Lea & Sandeman, RS Wines, Harrogate Fine Wine)

Stellenzicht Syrah 20000 Stellenbosch
This set the standard for Cape Syrah a few years back. Deep, dark firm and spicy with good fruit character. Full new world-ish style. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£21.49 sawinesonline.co.uk)


Ridgeback Shiraz 2002 Paarl
Ripe, sweet lush fruit on the nose. Liqueur-like. Soft, open and ripe on the palate; a little meaty. New world style. Very good+ 89/100 (£12.99 Peter Graham Wines)


Kevin Arnold Waterford Shiraz 2002 Stellenbosch
Very roasted, spicy nose, allied with lovely fruit character. There’s a roasted edge to the ripe fruit on the palate. Too roasted? Very good+ 89/100 (£15.25 Berry Bros & Rudd)


BWC Shiraz 2002 Paarl
Smooth, sweet ripe nose leads to a rich, sweet, ripe, spicy palate. Soft and lush. New world style. Very good+ 88/100 (£13.95 Wimbledon Wine Cellars, Cellar Door, D Byrne)

  Homtini, Anthony de Jager 2002 Paarl
Ripe, sweet chocolatey berry fruit nose leads to a concentrated, supple palate with ripe fruit and a sweet spicy edge. New world in style. Very good+ 88/100 (£12.95 Great Western Wines)
87 Saxenberg Private Collection Shiraz 2001 Stellenbosch
There’s a distinctive green herbal, meaty streak to this wine, allied with bright raspberry fruit. The herbal character rather dominates. Very good+ 87/100 (£12 Moreno, Eldridge Pope, Auriol Wines)
  Vergelegen Shiraz 2001 Helderberg
Green meaty edge to the ripe fruit on the nose. The open palate has a strong herbal streak. Very good+ 87/100 (£11.99)

see also: wineanorak's guide to South African wines  

wines tasted: January 2005

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