Top 3 South African Reds Tasted

Riding the wine wave


2003 Morgenster Stellenbosch 13.5%

A bit reticent on the nose but with super finely delineated black currant fruit topped with nuanced tomato leaf, black olive and Necco wafer notes. Really lovely nose that recalls fine Bordeaux and gains depth and complexity with air. Rich and slightly chewy up front with plenty of acidity that gives the flavors a nice tart edge. This has great sour plum and sour cherry flavors tinged with a touch of mulberry. There’s a nice background mocha/toasty oak accent that serves as a fine base for the fruit and extends through the finish, which adds hints of tobacco, licorice and a suggestion of black pepper. Really nice in the mouth, with a dry, slight austere texture balanced by ripe, complex, deep flavors. Fabulous wine in need of another few years in the cellar. Great length already though. 93pts

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2001 Morgenster Stellenbosch 14.5%

At first super spicy on the nose, with hints of mesquite barbecue sauce and dried tarragon accenting the gentle black fruits that are backed up with a nice hint of oak, some olive brine tones, and hints of licorice and mineral earth. Nice and fresh in the mouth, with bright acidity and some nice round tannins. This remains youthfully structured and while there are nice evolved overtones, the fruit is still bright and clear. Lots of tobacco emerges on the palate, with an earthy and sweet licorice layer on the long, elegant finish. The tannins turn a bit more angular with air, and drying on the increasingly spicy finish. A very nicely styled old world-inspired wine. 92pts

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2008 Raats Stellenbosch Cabernet Franc 14%

There’s some vanilla that distracts for a moment from the overall herbal/vegetal quality to the nose. Beautifully pure red currant fruit is sharply accented with vivid green tomato and bouquet garni-accented nose. There’s a subtle, and unusual, celery underlay here that lends the nose crisp green freshness without it becoming overly herbal. Fairly big and nicely broad in the mouth with powerful dark, coffee and leather-accented berry flavors. This is fairly muscular Cabernet Franc with tobacco and cocoa nuances that accent the black currant fruit. There’s a nice layer of spice on the finish, gentle shadings of allspice and nutmeg that adds fine complexity. The ripeness here is tactile, lending this richness and roundness that is well supported by the imposing but balanced structure. Real energy on the finish. This needs another year or two to mellow just a bit, but is fabulous if you don’t mind the important tannins. 91pts

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South African Red Wines

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  • Snooth User: Iboboy
    111231 44

    I'm fortunate enough to travel to South Africa 6-8 times a year (work). I would also recommend anything by Boekenhoutskloof, especially their Cabernet and the Bordeaux blend "Chocolate Block". Klein Constancia make lovely wine, especially the Sauvignon Blanc and the Cabernet. Meerlust Rubicon isn't what it was 5 years ago, but worth a look. And Rustenberg's "Peter Barlow" is delicious.

    Feb 17, 2011 at 4:36 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 237,094

    Great recommendations!

    Thanks for the tips.

    Feb 17, 2011 at 4:53 PM

  • Snooth User: Lenagel
    384904 4

    Thanks Greg for the beautiful metaphor of the wave, so poetic and so true (here in France even the world Cup hasn't managed to bring South African wines to the consumers'lips, what a shame!). Anyway fortunate enough to have visited the Cape area a few times I must give my absolute favorites:
    - Chardonnay from Glen Carlou, toasted almond a little oaky but not too much
    - Sauvignon Blanc from Ataraxia (comes from Eastern Coast close to Hermanus), deliciously fresh and mineral
    -I also like everything produced by La Petite Ferme in Franschoeck but this will be only for the happy few who visit this little corner of South Africa as the production is tiny and not hugely sold to export.
    Running out of space so for the red my best recommandation is Vriesenhof Farm located in Stellenbosch, the range is called ParadiseKloof and everything they make from Cabernet Sauvignon to Pinot Noir is elegant and pure. The estate is owned and managed by Jan Boland, ex Springbok player, who started his career in winemaking at Kannonkop so he knows what top quality is. Try it!

    Feb 18, 2011 at 4:56 AM

  • Lenagel - Seeing you are in France - I have sent SA wines over to Monaco for a SA wine tasting taking place on the 28th of Feb 2011. Organiser James Vanrenen (Phone: +442077317503) of Le Canon ( in London is hosting the event at Virage Restaurant, 1 Quai Albert 1er, Monaco, 9800 Telephone +377 9350 7721. All family owned wine labels + SA's only Absinthe (an organic Vodka and Limoncello), the experience is not to be missed. Success here will see us repeat the event next year. Best! Cobus Joubert (

    Feb 18, 2011 at 6:56 AM

  • Snooth User: Lenagel
    384904 4

    Well that's great news, I only leave 10 minutes away from Monaco so I will definitely try to be there! Thanks-

    Feb 18, 2011 at 8:34 AM

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