The sixth annual Cape Bordeaux Red Blend Report convened by Winemag.co.za and sponsored by multinational financial services company Prescient is now out. There were 61 entries from 51 producers and 33 rated 90-plus on the 100-point quality scale.

 

The 10 best wines overall are as follows:

De Grendel Rubaiyat 2016
R375

Total production: 24 228 bottles Abv: 14.5%

51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Petit Verdot, 9% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc. Matured for 18 months in French oak, 100% new.The nose shows black fruit, dried herbs, earth and tar while the palate is full bodied – dense with punchy acidity and grippy, mouth-coating tannins.

Dornier Donatus 2017

R350
Total production: 6 493 bottles Abv: 14.5%

67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11.5% Malbec, 11.5% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 4% Merlot. Matured for 18 months in French oak, one-third new. Red and black fruit, dried herbs, some earthiness, incense and vanilla on the nose.The palate possesses huge intensity – concentrated and smooth textured yet not without freshness, the finish gently savoury.

Both luscious and powerful.

Ernie Els Signature 2015

R740
Total production: 12 500 750ml bottles and 300 magnums Abv: 14.72%

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. Matured for 20 months in 300-litre French oak barrels, 70% new.The nose shows red and black fruit, fresh herbs and attractive oak while the palate is marked by concentrated fruit, fresh acidity and nicely grippy tannins. Plenty of flavour and built to last.

Kaapzicht Steytler Pentagon 2017

R550
Total production: 6 000 bottles Abv: 14.57%

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 5% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. Matured in French oak for 18 months, 80% new. Red and black berries, some rose-like perfume, dried herbs and earth on the nose.The palate is big but balancedwith impressive fruit density, fresh acidity and fine tannins, the finish long and dry.

MR de Compostella 2017

R1 500
Total production: 10 600 bottles Abv: 14.5%

43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 11% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot. Matured for 24 months in French oak, 30% new. Red and black fruit, fresh herbs and pencil shavings on the nose.The palate, meanwhile, shows pure fruit, fresh acidity and fine tannins. Relatively medium bodied and austere, this is as classy as ever.

Org De Rac Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot Reserve 2017

R250
Total production: 1 200 750ml bottles, 1 000 magnums and 200 3L bottles Abv: 14.56%

Matured for 12 months in 100% new oak followed by another 12 months again in 100% new oak. 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot. A complex nose with red and black fruit, fresh herbs and attractive oak. Intense but not weighty with lovely fruit expression and freshness, the finish long and savoury.

Quest Bordeaux Style 2017 (Du Toitskloof)

R310
Total production: 6 000 bottles Abv: 14.5%

88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. Matured for 15 months in French oak, 100% new. A complex nose with notes of red and black fruit, fresh herbs, tea leaf, earth and boot polish while the palate is plush and full with plenty of flavour and fine tannins.

 

Tokara Director’s Reserve Red 2017

R400
Total production: 27 300 bottles Abv: 14.8%

73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. Matured for 22 months in French oak, 54% new. A wonderfully enticing nose with top notes of flowers and herbs before red and black fruit plus pencil shavings.The palate has great purity and freshness to go with fine tannins – poised and precise.

Warwick Trilogy 2017

R550
Total production: 17 600 bottles Abv: 14.27%

53% Cabernet Franc, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot. Matured for 24 months in French oak, 60% new. Aromatics of cassis, violets, fresh herbs and pencil shavings and a little earthiness. Full but well balanced and possessing great structure – pure fruit, fresh acidity and firm but fine tannins. Excellent maturation potential.

Zorgvliet Richelle 2017

R315
Total production: 5 892 750ml bottles and 100 magnums Abv: 14.66%

43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Cabernet Franc, 14% Merlot and 14% Petit Verdot. Matured for 22 months in French oak, 60% new. Aromatics of red and black berries, some leafiness, tilled earth and pencil shavings. Extraordinary fruit purity, bright acidity and fine tannins make for a wonderfully focused, well-structured wine.

“The panel was impressed by the fruit power on display”, says Christian Eedes, chairman of the tasting panel and Winemag.co.za editor. “Gone are the days of under-ripe wines with aggressive tannins. We’re seeing a better understanding of when to pick and there also seems to be greater precision in the cellar.”

How magnificent 2017 is proving to be for South African fine wine with eight out of the Top 10
in this year’s Cape Bordeaux Red Blend Report from this vintage.This is the sixth time that this report sponsored by multinational financial services company Prescient has been compiled and it attracted 61 entries from 51 producers, with 33 or 54% rating 90-plus on the 100-point quality scale.

Of the Top 10, Stellenbosch was once again to the fore with seven wines, the other three being Org de Rac Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Reserve 2017 from Swartland, De Grendel Rubaiyat 2016 designated as W.O. Coastal Region (Durbanville and Stellenbosch) and Quest Bordeaux Style 2017 designated as W.O. Western Cape (Breedekloof, Darling and Paarl).The average cellar-door price of the Top 10, meanwhile, is R534 a bottle with Org de Rac the most affordable at R250 a bottle.

Many producers position their Cape Bordeaux Red Blends at the pinnacle of their range and these wines tend to be luxuriously styled with plenty of fruit concentration to go with a general plushness.There are a few wines still showing overt methoxy-pyrazine character
(the chemical compound that gives wine herbaceous aromas and flavours) but these were very much in the minority.  The market has decided that there is no place for thin, hard wines from under-ripe grapes and it is difficult to argue to the contrary.  That said, the panel did sometimes wonder if a fixation with opulence was getting in the way of achieving real finesse and, similarly, if making wines instantly and easily accessible comes at the expense of age- worthiness. Oak, too, in quite a few instances is used as a signifier of costliness and the danger here is that the taste of timber obliterates the fruit.

In more technical terms, the panel noted some wines that seemed to have unfortunate acid additions, wines made from very ripe grapes and then freshened up in the cellar taking on a sweet ‘n sour character. Even more concerning were a few wines that looked less than biologically stable – spoilage yeast Brett may not be quite as rampant as it once was but it surely hasn’t gone away entirely, either.

The best wines, however, are more than just technically sound.  They display both the weight and power to please the modernists but also the complexity and balance to gratify the classicists. All things to all people?

The Top 10 in this report come very close.