By Matt Pym, Majestic Wine Buyer

South Africa HarvestWith a history of wine making that dates back to the 1650’s, many South African estates predate those from Europe, so perhaps calling South Africa a new world region is a misnomer.  However, both within and alongside these historical estates are ‘new wave’ winemakers and producers who ensure that the wines South Africa makes today are in the vanguard of global innovation.

The Old

South Africa ViewAny visitor to the Cape cannot help but be impressed by the spectacular scenery and the wonderful, historic estates that seem to litter the landscape around Stellenbosch.  Many of these properties were founded as farms by the earliest settlers around the turn of the 17th century and, given the climate and nature of the hilly landscapes, one of the first things they planted were vines.  Many of these estates are still making wine today, and have built up rich, varied histories over the centuries.


Vergelegen is a great place to visit (it has a top restaurant too), and means ‘situated far away’.  In 1700 when it was founded, a 3 day horse and coach drive from Cape Town was a long way!  Nowadays, the wines from here are established as some of the best in the country, and are firm fixtures in our range.  Their Cabernet is a benchmark wine, and never disappoints.  The 2005 is lovely, with blackcurrants, cedarwood and leather characters, it has a tiny proportion of Merlot and Cabernet Franc added to give further complexity.  Whilst this is showing some secondary aromas now, it will develop further with up to 5 years careful ageing.

Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Stellenbosch
£15.99 £14.99 or £11.99* when you buy any 2 bottles of South African wine


Rustenberg, founded in 1682, has had many owners over time including a certain John Xavier Merriman, who went on to be the last Prime Minister of the Cape Colony before it became the Union of South Africa.  Rustenberg’s lush, polished, plum and cigar box charged John X Merriman 2008, a Bordeaux inspired blend of mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, pays tribute to the past steward of this property.  I like to think he would be pleased.

John X Merriman 2007, Rustenberg, Stellenbosch
£12.99 £12.49 or £9.99* when you buy any 2 bottles of South African wine


South African CaracalAnother Bordeaux inspired blend is The Caracal, from Neethlingshof estate.  In 1705 when this farm was established, the Caracal (a native wildcat) would have been a fairly common sight, but over time it has become extremely rare.  Like many wineries worldwide, Neethlingshof have spent a lot of time and effort restoring much of their estate back to it’s original state, and happily this rare animal has moved back and is thriving.  Now this is a lovely story, but this stylish wine, packed with flavours of blackcurrants, dark cherries and plums, with a well structured palate framed by ripe tannins, forced its way into our range on quality alone!

The Caracal 2006, Neethlingshof, Stellenbosch
£14.99 or £11.99* when you buy any 2 bottles of South African wine


Whilst Neethlingshof has its Caracal, at Spier (est. 1712) they’ve gone one step further and have a Cheetah sanctuary on site, so after you’ve tasted the wines, if you’re feeling brave you can have a one-to-one Cheetah encounter!  Award winning winemaker Frans Smit has been making these two wines for us for some years now, and the quality has never been better.  The Sauvignon is fresh, citrussy and zingy, but with a certain richness and weight to the palate, whilst the Shiraz is warm and plummy, with white pepper notes and subtle oak.

South African CheetahSpier Sauvignon Blanc 2009/10, Western Cape
£7.99 £7.49 or £5.99* when you buy any 2 bottles of South African wine

Spier Shiraz 2009, Western Cape
£7.99 £7.49 or £5.99* when you buy any 2 bottles of South African wine

The New

Bellingham was actually founded way back in 1693, but I’m including it here for it’s new wave, ‘Bernard Series’ of wines.  Winemaker Niel Groenewald crafts these wines in memory of previous owner Bernard Podlashuck, a maverick winemaker who did much to modernise Bellingham and the South African wine scene.  They are meant to be the best expression Niel can make of each varietal, in a modern, fruit forward style.  The Chenin Blanc is made from low yielding vines with an average age of 40 years.  Green and gold in the glass, packed with aromas of honeysuckle, tropical fruits and vanilla on the nose, this rich, bold wine really shows what South Africa can do with this variety – this is a stunning glass of wine.  The Viognier too is a cracker, with aromas of rose petals and apricots on the nose leading to another ‘full on’ palate of pears, honey and spice, balanced with racy acidity.

Bellingham ‘The Bernard Series’ Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2008, Western Cape
£10.99 or £8.79* when you buy any 2 bottles of South African wine

Bellingham ‘The Bernard Series’ Viognier 2009, Western Cape
£10.99 or £8.79* when you buy any 2 bottles of South African wine

Graham Beck

In 1983, Graham Beck realised his ambition to establish a ‘World Class’ winery when he bought an estate in Robertson.  Over the years, the Beck name has become synonymous with quality and innovation in the South Africa wine trade, to the extent that Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama both celebrated their elevation to power with his wine!  The Antony’s Yard wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, is made exclusively for Majestic, and receives 12 months ageing in French oak.  Sadly Graham passed away in July 2010 – The world of wine is poorer for his passing.

Antony’s Yard 2008, Graham Beck, Western Cape
£7.99 £7.49 or £5.99* when you buy any 2 bottles of South African wine


Andrew Gunn, owner of Iona, can trace his family history back to the Vikings who raped and pillaged their way around Scotland over 1200 years ago, hence the winery name and the Longship on the labels!  However, in South African wine terms Iona is just a baby, with the first release coming in 2001.  Situated in the cool, coastal region of Elgin, the land that was formerly apple orchards is perfect for growing Sauvignon Blanc.  Iona has quickly established a reputation as one of the top Sauvignons in the country, and when you taste this minerally, racy, aromatic wine you’ll see why.

Iona Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Elgin
£12.49 or £9.99* when you buy any 2 bottles of South African wine

Wines of South AfricaWith such a great history and tradition of winemaking, combined new regions, new thinking and risk taking, the future for South African wine looks very bright.

*Prices are valid from 1 February 2011 to 2 May 2011

No Comment Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.