Wine Cellar has built an impressive library of vintage South African wines in fine condition. These older bottles are becoming increasingly rare; not only were our wines produced for early drinking but there were few temperature-controlled cellars in our sunny climate to keep them pristine. Wine Cellar has taken every care in only offering wines of known good provenance, having tasted through many bottles for quality assurance.
Combining our brokerage list and other recent additions, we offer a snapshot into the past as well as younger gems, including 9 vintages of Columella, 8 vintages of Rubicon, as well as older vintages of Paul Sauer, Vin de Constance and Lanzerac, all in top condition. Other extremely rare wines that have now become icons are also available, including De Wetshof Chardonnay 1993, Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 1997 and GS 1966.
- There are bottles of Chateau Libertas dating back to 1937 hidden in the Distell cellars, along with a handful of Zonnebloem, Lanzerac and Alto from the 50s. Some of these wines are in terrific condition, especially the 1940 and 1959 Libertas. We have also seen the odd bottle of 1940s Hazendal, but little else from this era. Fortified wines are, of course, less rare. Monis 1948 Collectors port is hauntingly good, followed by very much alive bottles of KWV ports and Muscadels back to the 1920s.
- It is increasingly rare to find South African wines from the 60s, even more so bottles that are in good condition. Lanzerac Cabernet dominates the reference point in the late 50s through to the late 60s and most are still charming and composed. It is difficult to call the vintages in the early 60s ‘vintages’ but the 1964 Nederberg Select Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the finest of the era. Alto and Zonnebloem are consistently good, especially those labelled as Cabernet Sauvignon. Many wines were in fact blends of cultivars and even vintages however, even though vintages and varieties were stated on the label. See here for interesting information on the 1965 Zonnebloem Cabernet, which is one of the finest of the decade. Cinsaut was a big blending partner for example, its big berries added lubrication to pea-sized Cabernet Sauvignon during crush.
- There were only a handful of serious wine producers at the time and it’s doubtful that they were intended for long aging. It is therefore quite remarkable, especially given the lack of winemaking knowledge and absence of cooling or oak barrels that some of these are in fine condition. Perhaps it was just that, the lack of interference in the winemaking process that produced such balanced wines with amazing longevity.
- 1965 and 1966 were the best of the decade with the GS taking the prize as perhaps the greatest South African wine ever. See a full write-up on GS here.
- The early 70s was a very successful era, with 1970, ‘72 and ‘74 all being excellent vintages, while ‘76 and ‘78 were also good. Alto 1970 and Uitkyk Carlonet 1973 are stand-out wines, showing incredible depth, character and poise. Pinotage became more popular in the 70s, usually very rich and dense, verging on gooey, especially the super ripe 1974 vintage. There are a handful of good Cinsauts from Oude Libertas and Swartland, otherwise Cabernet Sauvignon dominates.
- The 1970s saw the rise of the wine estate, including the likes of Welgemeed, Meerlust, Kanonkop, Delheim, Overgaauw, Meerendal, Rustenberg, Uitkyk, Vergenoegd, which all produced solid wines. Bordeaux blends appeared along with Shiraz at the end of the decade. In 1973 the Wine of Origin system was instituted adding consistency and ‘minimum adequacy’. It was not until 1984, however, that the minimum requirement of 75% was fully instituted, confirming that what was on the label was actually in the bottle!
- Much like the 70s, the even vintages are the standouts with 1982 being probably the finest of them all. Winemaking technique, as well as judicious acid additions and new oak, changed the style of the wines from the 60s and 70s. Many have aged poorly, with hard acidity and oak overriding the fruit and purity.
- Premium white wines start appearing in the 80s, with great Chardonnays from Backsberg and Sauvignon Blancs from Klein Constantia. Some Rieslings are remarkably good and fresh. Look out for Tinta Barocca and Zinfandel which have aged very well.
- The 1990s continues with lower-alcohol, largely acidified, extracted reds that have not aged too well. Do not write off the whites from the early 1990s; De Wetshof , Mulderbosch and Klein Constantia, in particular, are impressive.
- The late 90s starts a new era of non-wine estate stars with Boekenhoutskloof and later the Sadie Family.
The below chart is based on tasting various vintage South African wines over the last two decades. It is by no means definitive.
|1959||Hazendal Cabernet Sauvignon|
|1962||Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon|
|1965||4 Stars||Alto Cabernet, Zonnebloem Cabernet, Château Libertas|
|1966||5 Stars||GS Cabernet, Lanzerac Cabernet, Lanzerac Pinotage|
|1967||3 Stars||Lanzerac Cabernet|
|1968||4 Stars||GS Cabernet, Nederberg Select, Lanzerac Cabernet, Lanzerac Pinotage|
|1969||3 Stars||Lanzerac Pinotage, Nederberg Select|
|1970||5 Stars||Alto Cabernet Sauvignon, Château Libertas, Alto Rouge|
|1971||4 Stars||Alto Cabernet Sauvignon, Montagne Cabernet Sauvignon, Swartland Pinotage|
|1972||5 Stars||Oude Libertas Cinsaut, Simonsig Pinotage, Swartland Pinotage, Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon|
|1973||3 Stars||Uitkyk Carlonet, Groot Constantia Shiraz|
|1974||5 Stars||Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon, Zonnebloem Pinotage, Nederburg Edelkeur, Swartland Cinsaut, Simonsig Pinotage|
|1976||3 Stars||Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon|
|1978||3 Stars||Zonnebloem Shiraz|
|1980||4 Stars||Vergenoegd Shiraz, Vergenoegd Cinsaut|
|1982||5 Stars||Rustenberg Dry Red, Rustenberg Cabernet Sauvignon, Meerlust Rubicon, Delheim Grand Reserve, Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon|
|1983||3 Stars||Rosendal Cabernet Sauvignon, Château Libertas|
|1984||5 Stars||Delheim Grand Reserve, Meerlust Rubicon, Kanonkop Paul Sauer|
|1986||5 Stars||Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc, Klein Constantia Vin de Constance, Kanonkop Paul Sauer, Rustenberg Cabernet Sauvignon|
|1987||2 Stars||Klein Constantia Blanc de Blanc|
|1991||4 Stars||Meerlust Rubicon|