Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – just how good is it?

By , 16 August 2019



Earlier this week, Twitter user @sawinereviews commented “So many tastings, so many competitions, so many scores… the whole thing is becoming so diluted & mundane, there is no reliable single point of reference for consumers anymore. Platter used to be that but even they have lost some of their independent/objective credibility.”

To which I would say, “Thank goodness there is no central control and no ultimate arbiter. Part of the joy of wine is the endless discussion concerning style and quality, this leading to quite disparate bottlings being rewarded over time by those who set out to pass judgement.”


What, for instance, will the critics make of the Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 from leading Stellenbosch property Kanonkop that is soon to be released? The same vintage of its stablemate, the Cape Bordeaux Red Blend that is Paul Sauer was, of course, much lauded – rating 95 points in Platter’s 2019 (placing behind Plaisir de Merle Signature 2012 on 96), a perfect 100 points in last year’s South Africa Special Report by Tim Atkin MW and 94 points (sighted) and 96 points (blind) by yours truly.

Roland Peens, managing director of Wine Cellar and winemag.co.za panel member, has already gone on record via Twitter that the “Cab 15 is better than PS 15” and if he’s right, then we all might be struggling to find a few extra points. Similarly, if Paul Sauer 2016 is a lesser wine than the 2015 on account of vintage variation, as most seem to agree, then how many points to detract?  I settled on 92 when tasting it sighted (see here)…

Back to the Cab 2015 and having recently tasted it sighted, I tend to agree with Peens. Matured for 24 months in 225-litre French oak barrels, 50% new, it has an alcohol of 14.5% and I have to say I was expecting a bit of a bruiser. It’s not, however. The nose is just gorgeous with red currant and cassis to go with hints of fynbos and flowers, tea leaf and cigar box. The palate is a revelation – surprisingly medium bodied and possessing lovely energy. With pure fruit, fresh acidity and fine tannins, it really is a most seamless, elegant offering and recalls all the great Kanonkops over the decades. My rating: 96/100.

So what will Platter’s or anybody else rate it? We shall have to wait and see but, in any event, wine ratings should be appreciated for what they are – a guide to purchase, not an absolute injunction, not an inescapable decree.

Common sense on the part of the consumer would dictate that you 1) align yourself with commentators or competitions which produce tasting results that more or less correspond to your preferences and 2) collect and combine ratings data with a view to making the most informed purchase decision. winemag.co.za, with a track record going back to 1993, is surely worth following and in this regard, we recently re-designed our ratings stickers in line with our new brand identity – look out for them when you next go wine shopping.


2 comment(s)

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    izak | 16 August 2019

    For what its worth:
    SAWi Multi-Year Scores
    Kanonkop Cabernet 95.9
    Kanonkop Pinotage 97.1
    Kanonkop Black Label 97.3

    Donald Ackerman | 16 August 2019

    Chritian, Greg Sherwood rated the Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 on 24 May this year and gave it a rating of 97/100.

    As regards the twitter comment the following remarks by Richard Hemming MW, on 17 June 2014, are enlightening:

    “The sanctity of scoring is a perennial bugbear for wine. However, when it becomes so apparent that scoring wine is such a fallible exercise, its absolutism can be categorically refuted. Disciples of scores – be they retailers, collectors, investors or indeed producers – are demonstrably pursuing fool’s gold.

    This reduction of wine to a numerical value, and the gross abuse of price that inevitably accompanies it, is the foremost reason given by anyone opposed to the scoring of wine. Yet despite all this, I remain in favour of it.

    Scores are an invaluable comparative tool. I try never to take them out of context, but use them as shorthand for identifying the most noteworthy wines in a given set, and then investigating them further – which includes, most importantly, reading the tasting note.

    Besides, scoring can’t be un-invented. Reducing wine to sheer numbers and claiming objectivity is demonstrably nonsensical – but wherever data exists it will be misconstrued and exploited. So yes, scoring is flawed, and subject to what Robert Parker called ‘ the emotion of the moment’. And yes, that means that bias is congenital, especially where maximum scores are involved.

    But permit me, if you will, an emotional moment of my own. Because isn’t this the very essence of our being? Isn’t it better to embrace partiality and preference, to acknowledge the very personal and subjective nature of every judgment we make? Wouldn’t we rather celebrate all the absurdities and deficiencies that make up humankind?

    Of course we would! For what is the alternative? Something comprehensively objective, utterly neutral, and robotically soulless. Wine is a liquid manifestation of the diversity of its creators, encompassing all their weird and wonderful ways. Scoring wine is an irresistibly emotional reaction to this. Wanting to apply a rationalised, anodyne judgment to such creative wonder is not just short-sighted, it is truly blind.”

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