For this year’s Cabernet Sauvignon Report sponsored by multinational financial services company Prescient, there were 66 entries from 50 producers with 35 (53%) rating 90-plus on the 100-point quality scale.
The 2021 vintage, cooler and later than usual, is turning out to be one of the best in recent times – these are just starting to reach the market and yet there were five in the Top 10 (alongside three from 2019 and two from 2020) while there were a further seven to score 90-plus.
Stellenbosch is closely associated with high-quality single-variety Cabernet Sauvignon and this was emphatically underscored by this year’s results with nine of the Top 10 from this district, the only exception being Maastricht 2021, grapes from Durbanville.
The most successful wines show fruit power – South Africa’s best proponents of Cabernet Sauvignon are now achieving greater ripeness and precision than ever before. The Top 10 all combine concentration with balance and character.
In chasing ripeness, there is however always the danger that growers wait too long to pick and there were a few wines that were jammy, sweet and soft.
On the other hand, there are quite a few wines that seemed intended to offer no more than easy drinking. These typically show more red than black fruit character and are lighter in body – nothing essentially wrong with them other than lacking gravitas.
The average price of the 35 wines to rate 90-plus is R322 a bottle and of the Top 10 is R326. Offering the best quality relative to price is Arbeidsgenot 2022 with a rating of 90 and selling for R120 a bottle.
TOP 10 TASTING NOTES
95 points - Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2019
Total production: 7 816 bottles Abv: 14.97%
Matured for 18 months in 300-litre barrels, 80% new. Attractive aromatics of red and black berries, violets, some leafiness and earth. The palate is pure and focused with plenty of flavour intensity, bright acidity and firm but not coarse tannins. Excellent clarity and poise.
94 points - Glenelly Glass Collection 2021
Total production: 132 000 bottles Abv: 14.26%
Matured for 12 months in 300-litre barrels, 10% new. The nose shows red and black berries, floral perfume and dried herbs while the palate shows dense fruit, fresh acidity and velvety tannins, the finish long and savoury.
94 points - Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection 2021
Total production: 109 046 bottles Abv: 15%
Matured for 20 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. Cassis, violets, incense, chocolate, vanilla and spice on the nose. The palate is full-bodied and smooth textured with dense fruit, bright acidity and a dry finish. Powerful, big and bold.
94 points - Kruger Family Reserve 2020 (Stellenview)
Total production: 8 500 bottles Abv: 14.47%
Matured for 16 months in 250-litre barrels, 25% new. Red and black berries, violets, an attractive herbal note and vanilla on the nose while the palate has great poise – a dense core of fruit, plenty of verve and fine-grained tannins.
93 points - Alto 2019
Total production: 56 400 bottles Abv: 14.6%
Matured for 18 months in French oak barrels, partially new. Brooding aromatics of dark berries, violets, liquorice, earth and pencil shavings. Excellent fruit expression, bright acidity and powdery tannins. Plush in the best – solid on the mid-palate, the finish super-dry.
93 points - Ernie Els Major Series 2021
Total production: 13 100 bottles Abv: 13.95%
Matured for 18 months in 300-litre barrels, 30% new. A 10% portion spent 11 months in clay amphorae before being included in the blend. A top note of violets before cassis, olive, sea breeze and pencil shavings. Good fruit concentration, plenty of verve and firm but not coarse tannins.
93 points - Maastricht 2021
Total production: 7 800 bottles Abv: 14.92%
Matured for 18 months in barrel, 30% new. Cassis, violets, some herbal character, oystershell and pencil shavings on the nose. The palate is seamless – good fruit concentration, bright acidity and fine-grained tannins, the finish possessing a saline quality.
93 points - Peter Falke PF 2021
Total production: 6 656 bottles Abv: 14.5%
Matured for 18 months in French oak barrels, 100% new. Red and black berries, a hint of leafiness, pencil shavings and earth on the nose. The palate shows dense fruit, bright acidity and tightly packed tannins. Full bodied with a good line of acidity and a creamy texture, the finish properly dry.
93 points - Peter Falke Kailani 2019
Total production: 1 410 bottles Abv: 14%
Matured for 22 months in French oak barrels, 20% new. Complex aromatics of red and black berries, flowers, herbs, incense and earth while the palate shows succulent fruit, bright acidity and fine-grained tannins, the finish long and dry.
93 points - Stellenbosch 1679 2020 (Koelenhof)
Total production: 3 900 bottles Abv: 14.53%
Matured for 24 months in 225-litre barrels, 100% new. Charming aromatics of red and black berries, flowers, tea leaf and herbs, earth, vanilla and oak spice. Good fruit concentration, lively acidity and firm but not coarse tannins.