10-Year-Old Wine Report 2020

By , 18 February 2020



winemag.co.za is pleased to present the 10-Year-Old Wine Report 2020 – featuring wines from the 2010 vintage.

74 entries from 33 producers were received and these were tasted blind (labels out of sight) by the three-person panel, scoring done according to the 100-point quality scale.

Wines to rate 90 or higher on the 100-point quality scale were as follows:

Neil Ellis Elgin 2010 – 91
Tokara Reserve Collection Stellenbosch 2010 – 91
Tokara Zondernaam 2010 – 91

Iona 2010 – 91
Delaire Graff Coastal Cuvée 2010 – 90

Highlands Road Sine Cera 2010 – 91
Tokara Director’s Reserve White 2010 – 91

Le Riche Reserve 2010 – 92
Nederburg Private Bin R163 2010 – 92
Nederburg Two Centuries 2010 – 91
Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection 2010 – 90
Plaisir De Merle 2010 – 90

Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection 2010 – 90

De Grendel 2010 – 90

Ernie Els Signature 2010 – 92
Nederburg The Brew Master 2010 – 92
Nederburg Ingenuity Red Italian Blend 2010 – 91
Durbanville Hills Caapmans Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2010 – 90
Grangehurst Daylea Red 2010 – 90
Pro Amico Merlot Shiraz 2010 – 90
Tokara Director’s Reserve Red 2010 – 90
Zonnebloem Lauréat 2010 – 90
Zonnebloem Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier 2010 – 90

Raka Biography 2010 – 90

Nederburg Private Bin Eminence 2010 – 92
Nederburg The Winemaster’s 2010 – 91
Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur 2010 – 90

Delaire Graff Cape Vintage 2010 – 93
Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2010 – 92

Delaire Graff Cape Vintage 2010.

Delaire Graff, as the producer of the highest-scoring wine overall, received a bottle of GS Cabernet 1966 worth approximately R30 000 from Amorim Cork.

2010 was a testing vintage due to the constant fluctuations in weather conditions throughout – a cool, wet spring caused uneven budding in many regions while summer months were exceptionally dry and windy, the heatwave at the beginning of March 2010 which lasted longer than a week going down in the annals.

Those “dry and windy” conditions in the lead-up to harvest seem to have taken their toll on the resulting wines. While the white wines generally showed well enough, they didn’t have quite the clarity and brightness that a collector might hope for. The reds, meanwhile, tended to present as very ripe and full bodied. The more successful wines have a sturdiness about them rather than finesse or charm while the less successful wines appeared unduly advanced and, in some cases, oxidised.

Of the top four reds, which together rated 92 points, alcohols range from 14.72% in the case of Nederburg The Brew Master 2010 to 15.06% in the case of Ernie Els Signature 2010 – whatever else you might say about them, these are not shy wines!

To read the report in full, including key findings, tasting notes for the top wines and scores on the 100-point quality scale for all wines entered, download the following: 10-Year-Old Wine Report 2020

To view a gallery of images from yesterday’s announcement function, click here.


32 comment(s)

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    Billabong | 9 March 2020

    We’ll have a lot of fun telling you about how good Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015 is, in 2025. Come and join us, as it’s already almost impossible to find at a decent price.

    Angela Lloyd | 21 February 2020

    If anyone is interested in reading an independent opinion (mine) on the top-rated wines in this 10-year-old report, then it is up on my website, http://www.outofthepress.wordpress.com. But don’t expect any scores!

    Dave Ingram | 20 February 2020

    Would be interesting to see previous ratings of these wines with year tasted eg 88(2015) 96(2013)

      Christian Eedes | 20 February 2020

      Hi David, Regarding some of the wines under discussion, the Le Riche Reserve 2010 rated 5 Stars (roughly equivalent to 93 points) in 2013 and now scores 92 – the issue then, as it is now, is this wine’s alcohol of 15%, clearly not a flaw but a characteristic that cannot be overlooked.

      Morgenster 2010 rated 91 in August 2015 and now rates 86; Meerlust Rubicon rated 89 in November 2014 and now rates 86.

        Mike Froud | 20 February 2020

        Christian, if you consider a score of 93 equivalent to 5 Stars, then presumably 92 = 4-and-a-half Stars. But last year you said that 92 = silver. Can this be? Some say 5 Stars = 95+. Just seeking clarity on your calibration…

          Christian Eedes | 20 February 2020

          Hi Mike, Trying to equate 100-point system to medals to Stars can only be very approximate – the supposed strength of the 100-point system is that it allows one to make more acute judgements of wine quality, notwithstanding other factors such as price, blind vs sighted and so on. It makes sense to me that 90 – 92 equate to silver and 93 up equates to gold, and the closer to 100, the more extraordinary, the more affecting the wine.

        Gareth | 20 February 2020

        Thanks Christian, I think these ‘then’ and ‘now’ scores could be a major value add in future reports.

        I also find your comment on relatively high alcohol level interesting when it comes to scoring. Not that I’m arguing the point, but curious to know when it comes to scoring if points are deducted or wines are penalised for having higher alcohol levels?

          Christian Eedes | 20 February 2020

          Hi Gareth, Perhaps the two major quality criteria when it comes to wine are complexity and balance – high alcohol wines very often have impressive depth of fruit but at the expense of structure, the added dimension that comes from acidity and tannin. It’s a matter of instinct rather than a hard and fast policy that such wines must be penalised.

    Kwispedoor | 20 February 2020

    My expectation when tasting older wines would be a wider scoring bracket. Lower scoring for those that are falling apart with age, oxidation issues, brett development, etc. But also higher scores for the wines that have resolved their tannins, harmonised their components, developed tertiary complexity, etc. I’ve often wondered about the dichotomy of everyone pushing the development of secondary wine markets and the lukewarm scoring of older wines. If investment in wine is desirable, it can only be so if mature wine is better.

    I don’t think there should be any pre-tasting discussion on stylistics either. It’s okay if one panel member is bothered by a bit of pyrazines or residual sugar or new wood or added acidity or whatever, but I don’t think it’s a good thing if all panel members seek the same attributes. What’s the point of having a panel, then? No discussion on desired aesthetics – just experienced tasters judging the wines.

      James | 20 February 2020

      There’s no denying the dichotomy that Kwispedoor is referring to.

      Even if we ignore the 2010 report and revisit 2009 – widely regarded as one of the best SA vintages ever – the scores/points/numbers/costs don’t add up when i decide how to spend my money.

      The 10-year old wine report as it stands gives people very little incentive to either buy wine to age, drink aged wine or consider it as an investment. This isn’t a criticism. It is what it is. You’re clearly evaluating what’s in the glass, and you can only evaluate what is entered. But it gives the mistaken impression that we don’t have anything to look forward to by putting wine away.

      The report is an interesting exercise and an important one. Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge we’re in a bit of a pickle with score inflation. Maybe some calibration is required?

    Roland | 20 February 2020

    Good points from the Winemag.com readers. Here are a few more points to consider:

    1) As a panel, we taste what is in the glass and blind-tasting can be rather harsh exercise. Sighted tastings, by their nature, deliver higher scores. Oxidised, unbalanced and green wines should not be applauded.

    2) I would go as far as to say that the 2010 vintage is probably the worst vintage since 2002. The 10-year review of the 2009 vintage achieved higher scores and 8% more 90+ wines in comparison.

    3) 2007 Mouton-Rothschild, from a similarly poor Bordeaux vintage, received 92 points from the Wine Advocate when tasted sighted. This is a top-flight Bordeaux produced by one of the best winemaking teams in the world, with the biggest budget and yet they can’t achieve more than low 90s. A wine such as Lynch-Bages received just 88 points and in a blind tasting, you could arguably knock-off a few points too!

    4) I believe the South African fine wine revolution hadn’t started by the 2010 harvest. There was no Swartland Revolution, Young Guns, New-Wave nor international media singing our praise. Our fine wine aesthetic was still developing (we were still focused on mimicking Bordeaux) and vineyards were in worse condition and younger than today. Many 2010s show poorly judged acidities, over-oaking, excessive ripeness and under-ripeness. This is a function of our winemaking at the time and the poor vintage.

    5) The secondary market is extremely small and the wine quality is diverse. While we gather more information, the consumer must certainly be careful when purchasing mature South African wines. The quality jump post 2010, and especially in 2015, is going to be palpable.

    6) Exorbitant cellaring rates at Wine Cellar? @Colin, very happy to engage with you on your model that you have used to determine this! Please send over the spreadsheet.

    Roland Peens – Wine Cellar Director and Winemag.com panel member

      Kwispedoor | 20 February 2020

      Valid points from you as well, Roland. But at last year’s Old Wine Report there was only one 95 (a port-style) and one 94. And this from one of the best vintages in recent memory. New vintage wines are being scored higher on a weekly basis on this site.

      Most of the top “new revolution” wines are not entered into these blind tastings, but they are not automatically better than some of the more classic producers either. The degree of calibration can only be tested if enough of the wines that scored 95+ sighted, are included in the blind tastings…

        Kwispedoor | 20 February 2020

        Come to think of it, if especially the new generation 96+ point scorers (sighted) are included in the blind tastings 10 years on from vintage, there should definitely be some 99 and 100 pointers. Nothing wrong with that, but it provides overall perspective on the current scoring – especially the blind scoring points of the older wines.

        As a footnote, of course you should take everything we all say here with a pinch of salt – for starters, we weren’t at the tasting. It’s all too easy to criticize any blind tasting from the outside, but it’s an incredibly difficult and imperfect exercise. Mostly nice and healthy debate so far, though.

          Colin Harris | 20 February 2020

          I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the scoring. I think there’s just no reason to get excited about giving South African wine 10 years to mature. It is perfectly okay to drink wines younger. If you want to drink mature wines, buy Bordeaux or Burgundy. If you want to drink SA wine – drink them younger.

            Kwispedoor | 20 February 2020

            I’ve had too many really good old SA wines, Colin. Too many to mention. Some get a bit softer and more complex, without losing verve, but others can turn into something quite spectacular. I think it’s an absolute myth that, as a blanket statement, SA wines don’t mature well. Many seventies wines still make for fantastic drinking, even wines that were quite modest to begin with.

            If you look at how the older wines are described in auction pamphlets and at their prices at auctions recently, there is a definite premium on them in terms of price, hype, etc. Just not the scoring, generally. I’m also starting to drink certain wines (especially reds) younger, but the lure of well-matured wine is strong. You are right, it’s a bit of a lottery and arguably not worth gambling on, but even in gambling events there must be some big winners…

              Christian Eedes | 20 February 2020

              Hi Kwispedoor, I think we should make a distinction between the “modern era” (post-1994) and what came before. There are marvelous wines to be had from the 1970s and earlier but they are also many duds. Isolation was not kind to the industry and the 1980s were a bit of a lost decade. After political transformation, we took our place among the other winemaking countries of the world and have been steadily working out our strengths and weaknesses ever since… The commercial pressure on producers to make their wines more accessible earlier is well documented and this may or may not counteract age-worthiness.

              Re your second point: Why should older wine be viewed as a gamble with the implications of winners and losers? Surely some satisfaction – both emotional and intellectual – in discerning the change over time of a favourite label?

                Kwispedoor | 20 February 2020

                Christian, you actually answer your question about why it’s a gamble to mature wine, and I quote: “There are marvelous wines to be had from the 1970s and earlier but they are also many duds.” I can add the adage that there are only great old bottles, not great old wines. The older the bigger the risk.

                A great many of the 70’s wines still around today has seen far from ideal maturation and transport conditions. That alone accounts for a large proportion of duds. But really, those wines are nearing a half century of age and there are still gems to be found. With today’s advances in viticulture and oenology, I struggle to accept that nowadays basically nobody can make wine that matures with any benefit for a mere decade. It is definitely not my experience either.

      Colin Harris | 20 February 2020

      @ROLAND – sorry forgot to respond to you re my comment about your cellar pricing.

      Let’s say I got everything I was promised and paying for, then your service certainly isn’t expensive. But all I am getting for my money is storage. I can store wine anywhere. Geez, in my garage in Newlands – I just add an air conditioner at a limited cost…

      I stored it with you because you promise software, warehousing, a system where you can sell your wine if you wanted to.

      What am I getting currently:

      A cellar that can’t be viewed live because it is always weeks or months behind and not updated, cases of wine that goes missing and only turns up once a fuss has been made, cases of wine that has been withdrawn and still gets charged to my account for months on end. A non-existent buy/sell platform. Shall I go on?

      So yes – EXORBITANT. But you keep playing at your secondary market and let your core business falter. All good.

        Roland | 27 February 2020

        Good day Mr x (clearly your name isn’t Colin!)

        We admit that our cellaring portal and system has had its issues and we are working to upgrade the speed and functionality. It has improved dramatically over the last few years however.

        But I disagree that our envisaged trading platform has anything to do with ‘exorbitant’ cellaring. Fees are charged to store wine in secure, cooled cellars. Our current brokerage platform, combined with Strauss & Co Fine Wine auctions sold R8m worth of secondary market wine in 2019. Why not tap into this?

        There are always 2 sides to the story and just this morning we received a glowing compliment on our cellaring service.

        Please contact me personally so that I can address your issues.

        Thank you

        Anon | 27 February 2020

        I couldn’t agree with this more. I’ve had the same poor experience from Wine Cellar cellaring. I think the price is fair but service is shocking. If there was another company offering professional cellaring I’d be the first to withdraw my wines. Without a doubt, one of my least favourite service providers. To me dealing with Wine Cellar is a a bit like dealing with a bank or Telkom, I tolerate it because I have no other option.

    Ashley Westaway | 19 February 2020

    These are very important points. The discussion points to the fundamentally important consideration of the ageability of our wines. IMHO, the Winemag site scoring is generally more generous with newly released wines than mature wines. There are exceptions… If I recall correctly, Christian rated a Springfield 1997 Cab Sauv 97 pts a couple of years ago. But in general the 10 year competition is rating our wines too low (in comparison with the very high ratings for newly released wines). Let me give few examples of the ageability of our wines. An average Hartenberg Riesling may be 90 pts on release, but more likely 95 pts 10 yrs later. De Trafford Cabs are amazing 15 – 20 yrs after release, whereas they can be unpenetrable on release. The Sadie Whites (and probably reds) certainly gain significantly with bottle age. I could go on. So there shouldn’t be any doubt about ageability (of certain of our wines). But I think that there may be a scoring problem. If we don’t rectify this, it will be difficult to build a secondary market of any scale.

    Mike Froud | 19 February 2020

    Christian, last time I checked, you equated scores of between 90 and 92 to a silver medal and 93+ to gold. If this still holds, and you aren’t alone in this regard, it’s interesting to see how perceptions have changed… Not many folks rave about winning silver but plenty shout out when their wines score 90+. Methinks many perceive 90 as the threshhold for gold, whereas there was effectively only one gold medallist in Winemag’s latest 10-Year-Old Wine Report!

    Colin Harris | 19 February 2020

    So what does these results – and previous 10 year award results – tell me? That it is hardly worth aging anything from South Africa beyond 5 years. Because with the odd exception, the wines don’t get better. They just get older and become tertiary. Hardly worth the time and investment.

      Gareth | 19 February 2020

      To see scores in the mid-80s for some decorated names such as the Tiara, Lady May, Rubicon, Morgenster, etc. suggests that the wines have actually deteriorated.

      Christian, would you be able to provide some notes on what went wrong with the above? And I’d assume if we have some lying around, you’d suggest drinking sooner rather than later?

        Christian Eedes | 19 February 2020

        Hi Gareth,

        Feedback as follows:
        Glenelly Lady May 2010: Appeared rather too “green”, noticeable acidity.
        Meerlust Rubicon 2010: Panel again noted a “green” character plus a sweet ‘ n sour character – ripe fruit, high acidity.
        Morgenster 2010: Concern about oxidation – both bottles opened.
        Simonsig Tiara 2010: Concern about oxidiation – both bottles opened.

      Christian Eedes | 19 February 2020

      Hi Colin, I don’t think your observation is entirely fair. The whole point of the annual 10-Year-Old Report is to examine which producers can legitimately lay claim to age-worthiness and it is interesting to see the likes of Nederburg, Tokara and Neil Ellis consistently come to the fore. 90 on the 100-point quality scale remains an important threshold and any wine scoring this or higher a decade on from vintage should please the collector. Then there is the issue of vintage variation, the 2009s generally scaling greater heights when tasted last year than the 2010s this year. Finally, improvements in both viticulture and winemaking continue to be steeply upwards and I think 2015 and 2017 will be particularly long-lived.

        Colin Harris | 19 February 2020

        Christian to be honest – I fail to see what benefit there is to spend all that money on cellaring at Wine Cellar’s exorbitant rates if the best one can expect from an investment is 90 points. 90 or 91 is hardly something to get excited about if full price is paid for the wine, and then paying cellaring for 7 or 8 years after release. 90/91 is a pass rate like 33% is a pass rate for maths. It might satisfy you, but to me it means go back and redo matric.

        Maturing and improving are different things – and developing tertiary flavours doesn’t mean a wine has gotten better.

        So again – my point about drinking at 5 years stands.

        Colin Harris | 19 February 2020

        And if we only have 2015 and 2017 to get excited about, perhaps put this report on ice till 2025 because I am certainly not rushing out to get my hands on aged SA wine. Too much of a lottery.

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