Tasting the Winemag and Prescient Best of Category South African Wines

Websites: https://winemag.co.za/ and https://www.prescient.co.za/

This was a really interesting lunch, hosted at High Timber, to showcase the Winemag and Prescient Best in Category Awards for 2022. Pictured above, Jax Lahoud (winemag), Jo Wehring (Wines of South Africa), me, Neleen Strauss (High Timber) and Michael White (vigneron in Elgin).

Prescient have sponsored the Winemag awards for the last eight years – initially it was just Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the awards have progressed and now cover multiple varieties and styles. The London lunch was designed to showcase some of the winners, alongside a special menu prepared by High Timber.

Altogether, this line up is the result of tasting 590 wines blind. In each category a top 10 is chosen, and from these top tens, the highest scoring wine is chosen. These are my notes on the wines.

Cape Point Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2020 Cape Point, South Africa
Highly aromatic, this is fresh but bold with rich pear and white peach flavours. There’s a crystalline citrus finish. An intense, ripe style of Sauvignon (these vines have to struggle), but still true to variety. Amazing fruit intensity. 94/100

Wildeberg Semillon 2021 Franschhoek, South Africa
Lively, pure and crystalline with keen acidity. Bright citrus fruit core with nice precision and focus. Very fine. 94/100

Kershaw GPS Semillon Sauvignon 2020 South Africa
Pretty much a half/half blend of Semillon from Hemel-en-Aarde and Sauvignon from Elgin. Lively and aromatic with a citrus drive and some mineral notes, as well as pear, and also some chalky notes and a touch of greenness. It works really well: harmonious and expressive with both Semillon and Sauvignon showing their cool-climate expressions well. 94/100

Beaumont New Baby 2019 Bot River, South Africa
This is a Cape white blend, with 30% Chenin Blanc complemented by Sauvignon, Semillon, Colombard and Chardonnay. Complex with a lively citrus drive and a hint of apricot richness. Lovely acid line here. Crystalline and bright with a nice purity. 93/100

Bellingham The Bernard Chenin Blanc 2021 South Africa
This is an old vine wine (plantings from 1971, 1982, 1983). Powerful and quite pungent with fresh citrus and quince fruit as well as some pithy, slightly reductive notes. Has freshness and vitality, with a tangy finish. 92/100

Eenzaamheid Shiraz 2020 Paarl, South Africa
What a discovery! Meat, olive and pepper on the nose, with broad sweet black cherry fruit and some plums. Lovely aromatics. Very fresh and detailed with lovely precision. So exotic and distinctive. 95/100

Meinert Synchronicity 2017 Stellenbosch, South Africa
This is from a vineyard in the Devon Valley, and it’s a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot and 7% Pinotage. Bold and fresh with nice blackcurrant fruit and some black cherry, with real refinement and some chalky detail. This has a lovely brightness, and it’s really harmonious. 94/100

Peter Falke Kanoa 2017 Stellenbosch, South Africa
86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Cabernet Franc. Powerful and vivid, this structured red combines ripe fruit with some firm tannins, but there’s some harmony between the two. Focused and deep, showing blackcurrant and blackberry with fine green hints and real potential for development. A really lovely wine for the cellar. 94/100