Top 3 South African Reds Tasted

Riding the wine wave

2003 Morgenster Stellenbosch 13.5%

A bit reticent on the nose but with super finely delineated black currant fruit topped with nuanced tomato leaf, black olive and Necco wafer notes. Really lovely nose that recalls fine Bordeaux and gains depth and complexity with air. Rich and slightly chewy up front with plenty of acidity that gives the flavors a nice tart edge. This has great sour plum and sour cherry flavors tinged with a touch of mulberry. There’s a nice background mocha/toasty oak accent that serves as a fine base for the fruit and extends through the finish, which adds hints of tobacco, licorice and a suggestion of black pepper. Really nice in the mouth, with a dry, slight austere texture balanced by ripe, complex, deep flavors. Fabulous wine in need of another few years in the cellar. Great length already though. 93pts. Find out more.


2001 Morgenster Stellenbosch 14.5%
At first super spicy on the nose, with hints of mesquite barbecue sauce and dried tarragon accenting the gentle black fruits that are backed up with a nice hint of oak, some olive brine tones, and hints of licorice and mineral earth. Nice and fresh in the mouth, with bright acidity and some nice round tannins. This remains youthfully structured and while there are nice evolved overtones, the fruit is still bright and clear. Lots of tobacco emerges on the palate, with an earthy and sweet licorice layer on the long, elegant finish. The tannins turn a bit more angular with air, and drying on the increasingly spicy finish. A very nicely styled old world-inspired wine. 92pts. Find out more.


2008 Raats Stellenbosch Cabernet Franc 14%

There’s some vanilla that distracts for a moment from the overall herbal/vegetal quality to the nose. Beautifully pure red currant fruit is sharply accented with vivid green tomato and bouquet garni-accented nose. There’s a subtle, and unusual, celery underlay here that lends the nose crisp green freshness without it becoming overly herbal. Fairly big and nicely broad in the mouth with powerful dark, coffee and leather-accented berry flavors. This is fairly muscular Cabernet Franc with tobacco and cocoa nuances that accent the black currant fruit. There’s a nice layer of spice on the finish, gentle shadings of allspice and nutmeg that adds fine complexity. The ripeness here is tactile, lending this richness and roundness that is well supported by the imposing but balanced structure. Real energy on the finish. This needs another year or two to mellow just a bit, but is fabulous if you don’t mind the important tannins. 91pts. Find out more.

—Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth

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