HomeAbout UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us

THE GRAPEVINE

Wine Columns

Wine Reviews

WineReviewOnline.com on Twitter

Critics Challenge

San Diego Challenge

Sommelier Challenge

Winemaker Challenge

South Africa: Past the Thinking, and On to Drinking
By Michael Franz
Oct 16, 2018
Printable Version
Email this Article

As I observed in my column here on Wine Review Online last month, “South Africa has now clearly joined the ranks of the world’s very best wine producing countries.”  I detailed some of the factors explaining the industry’s remarkable rise to indisputable excellence, and if you’re the sort of wine lover who wants to understand the “why” of great wine, I’d strongly encourage you to read the column.  However, if you’re the sort who wishes to get straight to the “what” and start tasting for yourself, you’ve come to the right place in this particular column, which identifies and describes some wicked good current releases.

My intention for this installment was to review all of the most outstanding wines I’ve tasted from South Africa during the past year.  Yet, that plan ran afoul of the happy fact that I’ve now got notes on far more wines than can be accommodated in this rundown.  Reality hit home when the word counter at the bottom of my computer monitor passed the 4,500 word mark, so the time has clearly come to just post this baby--with the promise to review many more wines in the weeks ahead.

I’d rather not include a link to last month’s column in this one, but rather explain how to get to it by the method that can also usher you into the archives to see hundreds and hundreds of columns written by me and my colleagues here at WRO.  All you need do is click on any of our names or thumbnail photos at the bottom left of the “Home” page.  You’ll land in the archive silo devoted to the individual columnist, with the most recent column on top…and many more below.

I’ve broken down the reviews below with reds first and whites following halfway down.  The wines are reviewed within varietal or type categories, with the highest scoring wines leading the way.  Prices are approximate but pretty reliable, and one last observation is very much worth making:  Prices are also astonishingly low in relation to the quality of the wines.  This has a lot to do with the relative strength of the Dollar against South Africa’s Rand, but is partially attributable to reasonable costs for land and labor within the country.  Whether you are especially keen on quality or value, South Africa deserves a spot smack in the center of your Fine Wine Radar!


RED:

Cabernet Franc:

Raats Family Wines ( Stellenbosch) Cabernet Franc 2015 ($40, Cape Classics):  I’ve never tasted a vintage of this wine that didn’t leave me impressed, but I’ve also never tasted one as impressive as this 2015 (a great vintage for Bordeaux varieties from Stellenbosch, though not necessarily for leaner-style wines from cooler appellations).  Bruwer Raats is one of the country’s most accomplished and insightful winemakers, and tasting with him was such a pleasure that I’ve actually nicked a point off my score for this wine just to adjust for any excessive enthusiasm that could result from my esteem for him.  With that said, I also elected to buy a bottle of this in Cape Town to lug back to Washington, D.C. with me, and if you reflect on the massive disincentive to do this as the cost of waiting in the baggage claim area of an airport after 34 hours in transit…you’ll know just how highly I regard the wine.  One of the world’s undeniably great renditions of Cabernet Franc, this shows serious concentration but not the slightest heaviness, with wonderful red fruit tones but black fruit nuances as well.  With excellent acidity (especially for the vintage) and lots of fine-grained tannin, this shows impeccable balance and great precision in every important dimension.  In retrospect, I wish I’d bought more of it, and intend to do exactly that.  Fantastic wine.  95


Cabernet Sauvignon:

Glenelly (Stellenbosch) Cabernet Sauvignon “Glass Collection” 2014 ($17, Cape Classics):  This is a Bordeaux-inspired wine founded in 2003 by a Bordeaux-based woman (May de Lencquesaing, then owner of the famous Ch. Pichon Lalande).  The first vintages were even more Bordeaux-like than this one, with an early austerity that stemmed from the fact that all lots of Cabernet were vinified with a view to including them in the long-lived flagship bottling, “Lady May.”  Experience showed that it was better to go with less new oak and less extraction for this more affordable wine, and yet it hardly seems “dumbed down.”  It is medium-plus in body, with restrained ripeness and a very subtle leafy aromatic streak, but a beam of fruity sweetness running through the mid-palate and finish make this easy to enjoy even without food.  This versatility is also enhanced by a wise decision to release this after it has some bottle age under its screw cap closure.  Look for this 2014 vintage, and look for me ahead of you in the checkout line.  92


Pinotage:

Beeslaar (Stellenbosch) Pinotage 2014 ($55, Broadbent):  This is great wine made from Pinotage, and though I know there will be wine snots out in the world who don’t believe that such a thing is possible, they are wrong.  And this wine proves it beyond any possible doubt--at least for anyone who is capable of tasting past their own prejudices.  It is dark in color and very deeply flavored, but shows no excess heaviness nor the slightest hint of raisining or over-ripeness (which is extremely important regarding Pinotage, which hits an optimal ripeness point only very briefly before acidity drops, with unpleasant results).  The flavors show both red and black fruit tones, with a hint of spice from wood and some excellent freshening acidity.  Impeccably pure and natural-seeming, this offers an extremely long finish that remains perfectly proportioned, as all of the flavor notes tail off evenly.  This may be the best Pinotage that I’ve ever tasted, though I’ve tasted plenty of very good ones.  Still, I worry that readers won’t take seriously the phrase “best Pinotage,” so let me just conclude with:  This is a great wine.  95

L’Avenir (Stellenbosch) Pinotage “Single Block” 2015 ($30, Cannon Wines):  Sourced from a single parcel of old vines, this shows excellent fruit concentration and very nicely balanced wood spice and acidity.  Importantly, it also shows an enticingly earthy streak that gives this a sense of European style.  Very well made and sure to improve for years to come, this is just the sort of wine needed to make Pinotage haters realize how good this variety can be.  92

Beaumont (Bot River-Walker Bay) Pinotage 2015 ($30, Broadbent):  This stylish Pinotage (not an oxymoron, as many believe) isn’t yet in the USA, but I found it marginally superior to the 2014, and am willing to wait…though I’ll probably buy a few bottles of older vintages that are currently on offer from American retailers to learn more about this wine from the highly talented by ultra-unpretentious Sebastian Beaumont.  Medium-plus in body, with very expressive and complex aromas and very satisfying fruit that easily counterbalances the (very well managed) tannins, this is delicious and destined for years of positive development.  92


Pinot Noir:

Crystallum (Elandskloof) Pinot Noir “Mabalel” 2016 ($45, Pascal Schildt):  I encountered this during the vinous equivalent of a speed dating session with four very nice people, some of whom were showing wines they had made, some showing wines as producer representive, and all of them trying to explain a few wines from other producers in the broader region around Bot River, a sub-appellation of Walker Bay.  This wine falls into the latter category, and I don’t believe any of my companions in this endeavor actually have a commercial relationship with Crystallum.  Consequently, this is a bit of an orphan, and I don’t know much about it.  I do know that Crystallum is a project of Peter-Allan Finlayson along with his brother Andrew, sons of Peter Finlayson, who is widely regarded as South Africa’s premier pioneer with fine Pinot Noir.  The fruit is all purchased (rather than sourced from vineyards owned by Crystallum), and I was told that 30% of this was aged in new oak.  I can’t even find mention of this wine on the Crystallum website, but I can find evidence of its existence on the importer’s site, so this is not a mere unicorn.  Why the long preamble for this review?  Because the wine is wonderfully delicate, almost ethereal and weightless, though it shows lovely red cherry and cranberry aromas and flavors, along with stylish scents of spices and tomato leaf.  The tannins are ultra tine-grained and perfectly tuned to the wine’s lean frame.  As an aside, this was shown alongside Crystallum’s Hemel en Aarde Ridge 2016 Pinot, which was significantly meatier, and preferred by most of my fellow tasters.  Fine people though they were, I sharply disagreed, as it is easy to find relatively meaty Pinots around the world, whereas finding gorgeous, gossamer wines like this outside of Burgundy is damned near impossible.  93


Red Blends:

MR de Compostella (Stellenbosch) Red Blend 2015 ($85):  This wine is the product of a team effort by winemakers and friends Mzokona Mvemve (the M) and Bruwer Raats (the R).  The first vintage was 2004, and every vintage is different due to a rather unique blending process.  The two of them score each potential component individually, pushing aside everything that doesn’t attain an average score of 90, and then work together to assemble what they believe will be the best wine attainable from the materials provided by the particular growing season.  Well, 2015 is a famously outstanding vintage for red wines in Stellenbosch, so it is hardly surprising that this is a smashing success.  It is a very expressive and flavorful wine, but really not heavy, and is either at the lighter end of “full-bodied” or the meatier end of “medium-bodied.”  The aromas are wonderfully complex and alluring, and the flavors show both red and black fruit tones, though the balance leans toward black.  The tannins are abundant but fine in grain, and the wood component is perfectly tuned to the weight and flavor impact of the wine.  One aspect that I particularly admire is that there’s nothing overblown about this…none of the extraneous weight or wood or ripeness that I often find in what I refer to as “statement wines.”  I remarked on this when tasting it with Bruwer Raats, who simply responded, “There are enough monsters in the world.”  Well said.  And by the way, I also tasted the 2016 edition with Mzokona Mvemve a few days later and it, too, is terrific.  96

Glenelly (Stellenbosch) Red Blend “Lady May” 2011 ($50, Cape Classics):  This flagship wine from Glenelly is entirely convincing and very Bordeaux-like, with lots of tannic grip but plenty of underlying fruit to permit this to develop in positive ways for at least a decade--probably longer…and possibly much longer.  Cabernet Sauvignon is predominant, with dollops of Petit Verdot and Merlot.  Nearly 100% of the wine is aged for 24 months in new French Oak, so it is apparent from the formula that this is a very serious wine.  With that said, though, it is definitely enjoyable now with sufficiently robust food incorporating some dietary fat, so don’t shy away from ordering it if you see the wine offered on a restaurant wine list.  Still, buying this in a retail shop and laying it down for at least 5 years is highly recommended.  95

L’Avenir (Stellenbosch) Red Blend “Stellenbosch Classic” 2015 ($27, Cannon Wines):  This is L’Avenir’s best red wine, just a nose in front of the “Single Block” Pinotage and tied with the wonderful “Single Block” Chenin Blanc.  Blended from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, it is admirably complex, with layered flavors and texture and an essentially perfect balance of fruit and oak.  It shows the slightest herbal aromatic edge, which if experienced while tasting “blind” would make one wonder whether it is an Old or New World wine.  Yet this scent is neither vegetal nor remotely distracting…it just makes the wine easier to enjoy and harder to pigeonhole.  Cultured and convincing, this is terrific.  93

Glenelly (Stellenbosch) Red Blend “Estate Reserve” 2011 ($27, Cape Classics):  This nicely-matured blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot is impressively complex, with each of the included varieties showing their various contributions.  The wine is released relatively late because, I am told, the Syrah element is dominant early on.  That seems plausible enough, as the fruit component is relatively restrained in relation to the spice notes and savory layer.  Fine-grained tannins, a notably dry profile, and nascent tertiary aromas give this an Old World style that really makes it a wine for food--and an outstanding one.  93


Shiraz / Syrah:

Glenelly (Stellenbosch) Syrah “Glass Collection” 2015 ($17, Cape Classics):  This is among the best Syrahs in South Africa, and almost certainly THE best value, though I admit that I approached it with some skepticism when I first tasted it in September of 2017.  It was presented relatively early in an extensive tasting, and when winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain introduced it, he said it was inspired by the wines of Alain Graillot, a very highly regarded winemaker in France’s Rhône Valley.  Whenever I hear this sort of cross-country comparison, I’m now habituated to thinking to myself, “Yeah, right” while engaging in internal eye-rolling that I hope isn’t externally visible.  And yet, from my first sniff and sip, I had to admit that I could easily mistake this wine for a Crozes-Hermitage from a top growing site in an excellent vintage…and not just when I was having an off-day as a taster.  (Sorry Luke…you were right and I was wrong.)  Beautiful red berry fruit holds center stage, but there’s also an earthy aromatic streak that is clean (meaning, no brettanomyces) and nice, bright acidity as well as just a faint touch of oak.  At $17, this is a mind-blowing value, worth twice that price by global standards.  The USA importer (Cape Classics) doesn’t take this wine based on belief that it is too hard to sell Syrah in the USA.  So, I’ll be looking for this overseas, and if I find it, I’ll do what my friend and WRO colleague Michael Apstein does:  Just buy another suitcase and throw it in the attic after getting the wine back home.  94

DeMorgenzon (Stellenbosch) Syrah Reserve 2015 ($32, Cape Classics):  This is indisputably excellent Syrah that really recalls the Northern Rhône more than renditions of this variety from anywhere in the New World.  It shows nice richness and depth of flavor, but really just medium body, and the oak is very wisely proportioned to the wine’s weight, lending spice and structure without distracting from the beautifully fresh fruit flavors.  Lovely perfume (recalling violets) shows through the woody aromas, and the overall impression is one of purity and stylishness along with good complexity.  93

DMZ by DeMorgenzon (Stellenbosch) Syrah 2016 ($15, Cape Classics):  This is very good wine to use for discovering how good and how versatile South African Syrah can be.  Almost no varietal Syrah from other New World countries can match this for quality, and though Aussie renditions are the exception, offering lots of flavor for the money, they are rarely as nuanced, fresh, or food-friendly.  This is made entirely from estate-grown fruit, and shows bright berry character that really lingers on the palate.  Its calling card is freshness more than ripeness or richness, but that’s precisely why you’ll enjoy having a second glass of it, and why it will perform well at your table.  89


WHITE:

Chardonnay:

Lismore Estate (Greyton) Chardonnay Reserve 2016 ($40, Kysela):  American ex-pat Samantha O’Keefe makes this delicious wine in Greyton, a tiny appellation marked by a harsh climate and 900 feet of altitude in which she is the only vintner…presumably on account of the aforementioned conditions.  The fruit for this wine was dry-farmed on steep slopes with shale “soils,” and the vines survive despite a lack of rain only thanks to a layer of clay subsoil that helps retain just enough moisture.  This shows more oak influence than O’Keefe’s non-Reserve Chardonnay (which is too good to be referred to as a “regular” Chard), but largely by accident.  In earlier vintages, this was made in all older, neutral oak, but she needed more cooperage for increased production in 2016, so two of the 5 casks (500 liters in size) were new.  Still, the oak influence on the wine is subtle and very classy, and the overall impression of the wine is spicy and energetic, with an arresting streak of lime and a very stylish, fresh finish.  If more producers of very expensive Chardonnay around the world took a taste of this wine, they’d get a lot less sleep at night.  94

Glenelly (Stellenbosch) Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2015 ($27, Cape Classics):  My raw note from when I tasted this in South Africa ends with a note-to-self reading, “Where can I buy it?”  That should give you a good idea of what I thought of the wine’s overall performance.  The aromas are wonderful, showing the roasted nut and spice notes of very classy oak, and yet the wine’s wood signature is actually very tasteful in relation to the fruit, acidity, and other facets.  The fruit is generous but never heavy, as a notable proportion never went through malolactic fermentation, so the wine is enlivened with some tart malic acid that keeps everything buzzing with energy through the long, symmetrical finish.  If I’m off with my score, I’m off on the low side.  93

Lismore Estate (Greyton) Chardonnay 2015 ($32, Kysela):  Entirely barrel fermented but with quite restrained oak influence, this shows wonderfully nuanced aromas, layered texture, and very impressive complexity in the finish, with all of the notes tailing off slowly and symmetrically.  Outstanding Chardonnay at an entirely reasonable price.  93

Glenelly (Stellenbosch) Chardonnay Unoaked “Glass Collection” 2016 ($17, Cape Classics):  This is one of the best values I’ve tasted out of more than 5,000 wines to this point in 2017, and even if cost were not taken into account, it would still be a smashing success in my book.  A lovely scent recalling the floral sweetness of honeysuckle gets this off to an interesting start, followed by flavors that aren’t remotely sweet, yet don’t clash at all with the wine’s aromas.  The fruit notes include little whiffs of crisp apples and stone fruits, yet it is a lemony citrus note that takes charge on the mid-palate and runs right through the long, fresh finish.  Loaded with linear energy, this is supercharged with refreshment value, and yet it is certainly not too tart to be enjoyed as a stand-alone sipper.  This 2016 will soon be succeeded by the 2017 in the USA, and I’ll be buying both of them for myself.  92


Chenin Blanc: 

Ken Forrester, Stellenbosch (South Africa) Chenin Blanc “The FMC” 2016 ($65):  Ken Forrester’s “Old Vine” bottling of Chenin is so good that you may find it difficult to pony up for this much more costly wine.  However, there’s also a cost to failing to try it, namely, the cost of missing a chance to taste how astonishingly complex and complete South Africa’s best renderings of Chenin can be.  Made from 46 year-old, dry-farmed bush vines, this shows very impressive concentration but also commensurately assertive acidity.  Forrester noted to me that his objective is to make, “The biggest possible wine with the most restraint,” and though this objective can seem internally inconsistent, the wine demonstrates convincingly that it is not.  The fruit component is so extravagantly rich and luxurious that my raw tasting note includes the descriptors, “peach marmalade” and “lemon curd,” yet the citrus component that focuses the mid-palate and drives the finish is to energetic that my note also reads, “almost stinging.”  This is a supremely exciting wine that is already spectacular, but is sure to improve for another decade.  Yikes!  95

Beaumont (Bot River, Walker Bay) Chenin Blanc “Hope Marguerite” 2016 ($35, Broadbent):  I wouldn’t blame you a bit for shying away from buying a bottle of South African Chenin for $35, and in fact I’d thank you for doing that, as more would be left for me.  But selfishness is unbecoming, so let me tell you that this is not to be missed if you can find a bottle, as it combines thrillingly sharp green apple acidity combined with broader, more succulent melon notes and very appealing oak spice.  It is rather taut and tense right now, and really built to develop over the course of another three or four years, so you’d be well advised to buy several bottles and taste them at multiple points along this excellent wine’s developmental path.  94

DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch (South Africa) Chenin Blanc Reserve 2017 ($35, Cape Classics):  This terrific wine was sourced from a single plot of vines planted more than 40 years ago, and the exceptional fruit was -- rightly -- treated to 100% French oak from the highly-regarded cooper Vicard, with more than 15% of the barrels being new.  The wood is very well integrated, showing spice notes much more than toast or smoke, which is exactly the result that Chenin lovers should hope for.  Notably rich but neither sweet nor heavy, this shows an uncanny combination of luxurious softness with firm edging…a hallmark of superb South African Chenin from a top producer and a great vintage.  As delicious as it is now, this is really made for the cellar, and another 5 years of aging will greatly improve its integration.  You’d be well advised to join me in buying this baby.  93

L’Avenir (Stellenbosch) Chenin Blanc “Single Block” 2016 ($25, Cannon Wines):  This old vine bottling (from a dry-farmed site that yields only 4 tons of fruit per hectare) is stunning for its combination of rich fruit, interesting wood accents, and zesty acidity.  Fully 50% of the juice sees time in 400 liter barrels for a year, and the rest goes into second-fill casks.  Very rich, it shows lots of wood spice but very little overt toast, which is exactly the recipe for successfully oaked Chenin.  The balance of fruit and acidity is already excellent, as is the integration of fruit and wood notes, yet the team at L’Avenir believes this is really a 10-year wine.  And having tasted it…I believe as well.  If I can find this for my cellar, I’ll start on it in another 2 or three years, but definitely save some to see how it looks in another 8 or 9.  Wicked good Chenin.  93

Raats Family Wines, Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc Old Vine 2017 ($24, Cape Classics):  Those who know this wine over the course of many vintages will be aware of the fact that it has risen notably in price, yet they and all newcomers will be obliged to agree that it remains a great bargain in relation to its price, on account of its superb quality.  Indeed, I can’t remember tasting a better rendition than this one, which shows quite compellingly the excellence of 2017 for white wines from South Africa.  It shows luxuriously substantial and complex flavors, with notes recalling both tropical and stone fruits along with savory undertones and very exciting citrus acidity that enlivens the flavors and freshens the finish.  The wines of proprietor and winemaker Bruwer Raats are among the very best in South Africa, and I came away from my first extended meeting with him immensely impressed by his knowledge, candor and commitment to excellence.  93

Beaumont (Bot River, Walker Bay) Chenin Blanc 2017 ($21, Broadbent):  This wine is an object lesson in the very high potential of un-oaked Chenin from South Africa.  It shows light floral aromas and notable breadth and substance on the palate, with fruit recalling ripe melons and even a faint tropical streak.  Yet those descriptors suggest a much less refreshing wine than one actually gets, as this is energized by terrifically zingy citrus acidity.  Only a few USA retailers have this 2017 in stock already, but it is indeed available.  But do not just look for this vintage, as older renditions may prove even more interesting, as South African Chenins can age marvelously, even without any oak aging.  92

Gabriëlskloof  (Swartland) Chenin Blanc “The Landscape Series--Elodie” 2016 ($25, Pascal Schildt):  This gorgeous wine is beautifully wooded for 12 months in 500 liter barrels, all of which are French and 30% of which are new.  That’s a pretty intense-looking regimen, but light toast cooperage is employed, and Chenin absorbs oak and still shows fruit better than almost any other variety, and that includes Chardonnay.  In the finished wine, the wood notes are actually quite subtle, showing spice in the aromas and a bit of tannic grip in the finish, but the mid-palate is all about delicious, rounded fruit.  Probably not easy to find at retail, but worth a search.  92

Ken Forrester, Stellenbosch (South Africa) Chenin Blanc Old Vine 2017 ($15):  Among the world’s most consistent, ultra-high-value wines, the 2017 rendition of this bottling is especially delicious (as are most South African whites from this vintage).  Partially barrel fermented and aged in 400-liter French oak casks (20%) new, the wine is treated to production techniques that seem impossibly lavish for a $15 retail product.  It also tastes impossibly good in relation to its price, with medium-plus body but excellent definition thanks to bright acidity.  Aromas and flavors of stone fruit with citrus edging are at once rich but fresh.  Extremely versatile at the table but also delicious on its own, this is a standout selection.  And by the way, when tasting with Ken Forrester, he showed the 2007 vintage of this same wine, which is still looking terrific, with even more richness but still excellent focus.  92

DMZ by DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch (South Africa) Chenin Blanc 2017 ($15, Cape Classics):  This entry-level Chenin from DeMorgenzon (an excellent producer) is fermented entirely in stainless steel, though it rests on its lees for a minimum of four months, and a portion of the wine goes through elevage in barrels.  It performs very well in the glass, showing fine freshness in both fruit and acidity, but also good substance and length.  Extremely versatile with food, and a strong candidate for by-the-glass restaurant use.  90

Raats Family Wines (Stellenbosch) Chenin Blanc “Original” 2018 ($15, Cape Classics):  This was just released in South Africa a month ago, so it won’t likely appear on store shelves in the USA for a few months, but keep an eye peeled, and grab it when you see it.  The wines shows superb expressiveness on both the nose and palate, with stone fruit and citrus notes driven by very energetic acidity.  The finish shows just a hint of citrus rind bitterness, which sets off the fruit very effectively and lends added complexity.  You might think that any reference to “bitterness” is bad news, but trust me…it isn’t.  90


White Blends and Odds and Ends:

B Vintners (Stellenbosch) Muscat “B de Alexandria” 2017
($20, Cape Classics):  Dry Muscat can be one of the world’s most exciting white wines, yet it is fast becoming a unicorn, as it is terribly difficult to make, and is dwindling to almost nothing even in the few places where it has traditionally been made successfully (namely, Alsace and South Styria in Austria).  The difficulty with this type of wine is that the floral aromas usually trick the mind into thinking that a sweet wine is on the way, but dry flavors then seem discordant on the palate, producing a sensory phenomenon that expert tasters refer to as “disagreement” between aromas and flavors.  That’s partly a subjective reaction, but partly an objective flaw, as certain wines routinely produce the reaction in an unacceptably large percentage of tasters.  And where I come from, an aspect of a wine that makes lots and lots of people not like it is…a flaw.  Well, this wine is one of few that manages to show really expressive floral aromas that lead into dry, mineral-tinged flavors and a long, totally agreeable finish.  Don’t read what follows with kids in the room, but my raw note from the tasting in which I encountered the wine reads, “Fucking awesome, and as good as any like this that I’ve ever tasted except from the best Grand Cru renditions from Alsace.”  I stand by that.  Just so you’ll know, B Vintners is actually fully named, “B Vintners Vine Exploration Co.”, and is a venture by the team of cousins Gavin Bruwer and Bruwer Raats (the latter being the leading force in Raats Family Wines).  I have exactly no idea why Bruwer is a first name for one and a family name for the other, but both are great guys and they make very, very good wine.  93

Momento (Western Cape) Chenin Blanc/ Verdehlo 2016 ($30, Broadbent):  Never having tasted a blend of these two varieties, I would probably not stopped to even look at this wine on a retail store shelf, and if I had, I’d have put it back after seeing a $30 price tag as well as a very broad “Western Cape” geographical indicator.  And if I’d done that, I’d have made a very bad mistake.  Verdehlo comprises 22 percent of this blend, and it lends remarkable energy and freshness to the wine, which shows a relatively rich profile based on melon fruit with a hint of pineapple, but also an eye-popping zinginess derived from citrus notes.  Only older barrels are used in making this from whole bunch-pressed clusters.  Very, very exciting stuff that I’d like to try with about 30 different food items.  92