Restless River new releases

By , 12 November 2019



Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley property Restless River is increasingly known for producing a benchmark Chardonnay but perhaps it’s worth pondering the impact of the cool-climate Cabernet Sauvignon that they also make in establishing their reputation. Getting the product mix right is an important part of brand management and owner/winemaker Craig Wessels relates that when he and his wife Anne first acquired the property, they were advised to pull up the Cab! Wessels was having none of that, however. Tasting notes and ratings for the new releases as follows:

Wanderlust Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Approximate retail price: R335
The wine under this label made on experimental basis and different from year to year. From Dieux Donne grapes, winemaking involved carbonic maceration for five weeks before 15 months of maturation in barrique and amphorae. The nose is shy but beguiling with notes of lime, peach and elderflower while the palate is lean, fresh and savoury on the finish – angular in the best way, a striking example of the variety.

CE’s rating: 94/100.

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Le Luc Pinot Noir 2017
Approximate retail price: R395
Grapes from a 1.2ha vineyard planted in 2013. Matured for 12 months in French oak, 20% new. Some reduction before red and black fruit, a vague herbal note and little earth-like character. Relatively lean with fresh acidity and fine tannins (alcohol: 13%). Entirely devoid of sweetness, the oak sits a little apart.

CE’s rating: 90/100.

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Ava Marie Chardonnay 2017
Approximate retail price: R395
Matured in 500-litre barrels and amphorae for 12 months. Pear, lemon and a hint of oatmeal on the nose and palate but much more about structure than aromatics or primary flavour. It possesses intensity without being heavy or bulky and great length on the finish. Delicate and yet super-detailed, just beautifully poised, this vintage is the finest to date and firmly among the best examples in the country.

CE’s rating: 96/100.

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Main Road & Dignity Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Approximate retail price: R545
Named for two blocks on the farm. Matured for some 22 months in barrel. Red fruit, fresh herbs, some leafiness and violets on the nose. The palate is light and fresh to the point of tart with very fine, powdery tannins. Old-school “claret” style.

CE’s rating: 91/100.

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8 comment(s)

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    Top Wine SA | 15 November 2019

    Restless River wines are regularly assessed in blind-tasting conducted by Platter’s panels of critics where they have been well received – the 2016 Cab was Highly Recommended in the 2020 publication.

      Carlos | 16 November 2019

      Restless River is great 👍 – punches way above its weight or price point. . But using Platter as the benchmark is bizarre. The average age of anyone tasting or involved with the book is just shy of 900 BC. Pretty sure some of the current tasters witnessed the reason why dinosaurs became extinct. They’ve not refreshed their tasting pool and when your tasters remember when Bordeaux first growths cost 47c a bottle, then you are hardly up with the times.

        Mike | 16 November 2019

        So, Carlos, how old is too old to be a good judge of wine? Is Neal Martin still up to it at 48? Tim Atkin at 58? Jancis Robinson at 68? Steven Spurrier at 78?

          Carlos | 17 November 2019

          Google “the decline of taste buds with age”.

            Kwispedoor | 17 November 2019

            Hi, Carlos. A quickfire smoke and mirrors answer is not going to cut it here. Experience matters in wine evaluation. We can all Google, but you were asked a straight question. Please answer Mike’s question – where is the cut-off?

        David Clarke | 20 November 2019

        Hi Carlos. I suppose being involved for the last 5/6 years, I am a “new” taster for Platters. Admittedly only for the 5* tasting. I was privileged to be one of the roving chairs at this year’s tasting and was principally responsible for the Chenin Blanc and Syrah categories. I have 20 years experience as a wine professional in three countries in various roles and was born in 1978. I have never been able to afford to regularly drink too Bordeaux wines. Pleased to meet you.

    Pieter Kruger | 13 November 2019

    Hi Christian,

    Just wanted to touch on the Restless River Cabernet Sauvignon, that is seen by many locally and abroad as one of the country’s most beautiful expressions of the variety. A wine that optimizes what is means for demand to outstrip supply. Yet it seems when it comes to local accolades, the wine underachieves massively. Is it because there is a certain template to what all SA Cab’s get compared to and judged against, or is this wine just so different that it stands out in blind tastings and therefore can’t be fairly judged and compared to the likes of Stellenbosch Cab’s?

    An honest question, not critiquing your scores, I have always just been confused and bemused by the low scores this wines receives. I sell what ever I can get my hands on in London and can probably sell double my allocation without much effort.


      Christian Eedes | 15 November 2019

      Hi Pieter, Restless River eschews blind tastings so it’s difficult to know how it would fare against the likes of Delaire Graff and Le Riche, for instance. For me, it always speaks of its cool-climate origins and can appear a tiny bit underdone. Clearly, it has acquired a cult following and good luck to the Wessels, accordingly.

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