The best white wine in South Africa?

By , 5 February 2015



Get your freak on.

Get your freak on.

Billed as a “social experiment”, Wine Cellar yesterday hosted the “SA Luxury White Taste-Off” featuring 12 wines priced over R300 a bottle, the selection blind-tasted simultaneously by an audience of 37 in Cape Town and 34 in Johannesburg, a ticket to participate costing R450 per person.

Here’s how I ranked them:

1. Alheit Vineyards Magnetic North Mountain Makstok 2013 – 96/100
2. Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2014 – 95/100
3. = Ken Forrester The FMC 2012 – 94/100
3.= Uva Mira Chardonnay 2013 – 94/100
5.= Jordan Nine Yards Chardonnay 2013 – 93/100
5.= Mullineux Quartz Chenin Blanc 2013 – 93/100
5.= Sadie Family Vineyards Palladius 2012 – 93/100
8.= Longridge Ou Steen 2013 – 92/100
8.= Vergelegen GVB 2012 – 92/100
10.= Steenberg Magna Carta 2012 – 91/100
10.= Crystallum Clay Shales Chardonnay 2013 – 91/100
12. Capensis Chardonnay 2013 – 89/100

The overall top three were as follows:
1. Ken Forrester The FMC 2012
2. Crystallum Clay Shales Chardonnay 2013
3. Jordan Nine Yards Chardonnay 2013

Overall bottom was Alheit Vineyards Magnetic North Mountain Makstok 2013

Cape Town top three were:
1. Ken Forrester The FMC 2012
2. Sadie Family Vineyards Palladius 2012
3. Jordan Nine Yards Chardonnay 2013

Cape Town bottom was Steenberg Magna Carta 2012

Johannesburg top three were:
1. Crystallum Clay Shales Chardonnay 2013
2. Ken Forrester The FMC 2012
3. Uva Mira Chardonnay 2013

Johannesburg bottom was Alheit Vineyards Magnetic North Mountain Makstok 2013

Some observations: There was widespread disbelief among the Cape Town audience that The FMC performed so well but if ever a wine suffered from “tall poppy syndrome”, then this is it. When still a taster for Platter’s, I nominated the 2011 for 5 Stars and I note that Joanne Gibson again nominated the 2012 in the current edition of the guide.

My tasting note from last night: “Citrus through peach, some leesy complexity, a touch of spice. Rich and round with soft but sufficient acidity. Layers of flavour.”

I’m not really surprised at the overall top three – the two audiences were largely well-heeled consumers (only 12 members of the wine trade out of a total of 71) and the wines in question are opulently styled (yes, even Crystallum). Nor am I that surprised at Makstok’s ranking as it’s not for the uninitiated. My tasting note from last night: “A haunting nose of sea breeze and blossom, lime and white peach. Pure fruit and lovely gentle acidity. Refined, restrained, poised.”

Mention must be made of Capensis which I ranked bottom and came eighth overall. This is a wine I scored 95/100 when tasted blind next to Olivier Leflaive Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2012 and Leeuwin Art Series Margaret River 2011 on launch some two weeks ago but yesterday it did not look good  at all showing a very peculiar bacon-like smokiness. I can’t offer an explanation but I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this wine just yet…

The Ken Forrester The FMC 2012 is available from Wine Cellar at R395 a bottle.

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7 comment(s)

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    Justin | 7 February 2015

    So what was the point of this tasting really? I am sure it must have caused a lot of controversy and serious debate, because something like the Alheit that scores well with some people (Christian for one and many other wine critics) but comes overall bottom in a panel where most are consumers. Clearly the palates of wine critics and consumers are not aligned… And most often even between wine critics you have the same differences. My point is we all have preference, even if you make a conscious effort not to prefer a certain style or variety over another, we all have different tastes and I am sure all 12 wines got at least one first position spot among a panel of 71 tasters.

    Jason | 6 February 2015

    I think that there is a fundamental problem with tasting wines with a high RS against wines with a low RS. Given that we are all genetically hard wired to like sweet things it takes a lot of self-discipline to avoid favouring something like the FMC over austere Sauv/Sem blends like the GVB and Magna Carta or oxidative wines like the Makstok.

    Elias | 5 February 2015

    I like these kind of blind tastings where in comparison honest opinions are given to the wine. Easy to score a few points higher than what the wine is worthy when the winemaker is sitting across the table telling a passionate story about soil, grapes and the position of the moon. We are just human though and no fault in that.

    Kwispedoor | 5 February 2015

    Eish, these rich people…

    The CWG has also become a caricature of sorts. Making big and bold wines for their rich customers where bigger is better and having the most, the best or the most expensive is so important. There has been a slight shift in the last year or two to more balanced and soulful wines, but it’ll stay only partial, slow shift.

    Generally speaking, who are drinking the most expensive wines in the world: passionate wine lovers or merely rich wine drinkers?

    Of course my tongue is partially in my cheek, here. Just sayin’. And perhaps there were some poor souls there who are eating Saltycracks for the rest of the month. Okay, maybe not so much.

    Angela lloyd | 5 February 2015

    Then you’re being overly hasty, Joe. Like the Alheit Makstok, the Capensis is not a wine that shouts its wares & will need time to show off the many that are there. It doesn’t surprise me that the more opulent, open even wines did well, nor that those yet to get into their stride didn’t. One would have needed longer than 2 hours, which I guess the tasting lasted, for that to happen.
    So, let’s hear your more informed comments when you’ve tasted Capensis.

      Joe | 5 February 2015

      Thanks Angela, I hear you. As I’ve said before & on several other sites, I plan to do exactly that. If it’s your recommendation I will even decant the Capensis to level the playing field – though I would expect if that was necessary Roland would have done that last night.

    Joe | 5 February 2015

    Capensis. hehehe….. I’m heading to the land of “Told-you-so”

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