Tim Atkin MW, still a huge champion of South African Chenin Blanc as a source of thrilling and original wines, is now turning his gaze on Syrah. Calling it the Cape’s “best red grape”, it also provides the foundation for the country’s only 100-score wine in his 2021 South Africa Report, the Rhône-style 2019 Sadie Family Columella.
Atkin’s annual report, available on www.timatkin.com from tomorrow (September 10) and now in its ninth edition, has become an important bellwether for local producers, who benchmark themselves against his ratings. Atkin is also widely acknowledged for his unerring capacity to scout out the country’s top talent, making him an authoritative guide on the South African category for trade and consumers around the world.
This is the fourth time since the inception of the South African guide that a wine has earned full marks, and the second time for Sadie Family. In 2020 its 2019 Skurfberg Chenin Blanc achieved a perfect score. This year, Sadie Family’s 2020 Skurfberg Chenin Blanc took 99. Two other wines also achieved scores of 99 this year. They are Alheit Vineyards Magnetic North Chenin Blanc 2020, and Porseleinberg Syrah 2019. (Last year, the 2018 Porseleinberg Syrah rated 100 points).nBoth 99-point Chenins, he says, are sourced from the same old vine farm in the Citrusdal Mountains.
There were 23 wines in total that scored at least 97 points, with Syrah in the lead, taking five of the top spots.
“I take my hat off to the winemakers and viticulturists whose wines have achieved such high scores, especially in these protracted times of turbulence for the SA wine industry!”
This year, the title of Winemaker of the Year goes to Peter-Allan Finlayson of Crystallum and Gabriëlskloof. “Last year, his dad, Peter Finlayson was crowned Winemaking Legend. There is something particularly moving about a tradition of family excellence.”
Atkin calls the 2021 Winemaking Legend, Charles Back “one of the country’s most visionary, courageous and pioneering wine personalities. It was he who lead the revolutionary move into the Swartland, becoming the catalyst for significant change in winegrowing and winemaking. He helped introduce new cultivars to the Cape, set new standards in wine tourism and he is also one of the most progressive employers. Plus, he gave Eben Sadie a job when he was relatively unknown.”
Elizma Visser, who has been making wines at Olifantsberg in the Breedekloof since 2015, is the Young Winemaker of the Year.
“Compiling my ninth SA report was a continuation of the same remote judging process I followed last year with the generous help of Wines of South Africa (WOSA) and other industry players, not to mention around 70 Zoom calls with local producers.”
He tasted 1,783 wines from 311 producers, substantially more than last year’s 1,381.
The first-ever 100 score for a South African wine went to the 2015 Kanonkop Paul Sauer, in 2018.
TIM ATKIN MW SOUTH AFRICA REPORT: THE PODIUM 2021
Winemaker of the Year: Peter-Allan Finlayson of Crystallum and Gabriëlskloof
Young Winemaker of the Year: Elizma Visser of Olifantsberg
Viticulturist of the Year: Marco Ventrella of the KWV
Co-operative of the Year: Koelenhof Winery
Winemaking Legend: Charles Back of Fairview and Spice Route
Best Cellar Door Experience: Waterford Estate
Overall White Wine of the Year: 2020 Alheit Vineyards Magnetic North, Citrusdal Mountain
Overall Red Wine of the Year: 2019 Sadie Family Columella, Swartland
Overall Rosé of the Year: 2020 Bellingham Founders’ Series Quintessential Couple, Stellenbosch
Overall Sparkling Wine of the Year: Colmant Brut Absolu Zero Dosage Non-Vintage, Western Cape
Overall Sweet Wine of the Year: 2018 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance, Constantia
Overall Fortified Wine of the Year: 2004 Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve, Calitzdorp
Red Wine Discovery of the Year: 2018 Taaibosch Crescendo, Stellenbosch
White Wine Discovery of the Year: 2020 Mullineux Iron Chenin Blanc, Swartland
Best Value White of the Year: 2020 Cape Dreams Chardonnay, Robertson
Best Value Red of the Year: 2019 Mountain Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Breedekloof
Best Value Rosé of the Year: 2021 AA Badenhorst Secateurs Rosé, Piekenierskloof
Best Value Sparkling Wine of the Year: Saltare Brut Rosé Non-Vintage, Stellenbosch
Best value Sweet Wine of the Year: 2020 Joostenberg Noble Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, Paarl
Best value Fortified Wine of the Year: 2019 Du Toitskloof Red Muscadel, Breedekloof