The Fine Wine Safari’s Top 10 Most Memorable South African White Wines of 2019…  

What a great year of fine wine it has been yet again. I am so fortunate to be in a position allowing me to taste not only the greatest wines of the world on a regular basis here in London as well as on my extensive travels, but also taste the finest wines produced in South Africa on a regular basis while always trying to retain a very measured, objective outlook in terms of where South Africa’s greatest wines really fit into the pecking order of international fine wine.

For my white top 10 selection, I have not merely selected my highest scoring wines of the year as that would be far too predictable, but I have instead chosen wines that I found not only outstanding in quality terms but also memorable, characterful and thrilling to drink.

I’d also like to offer a special thanks to all the producers, many of them close friends, that have offered me their time for my regular visits, tastings and importantly, lots of joyous eating and drinking together. Your hospitality and friendship is never taken for granted and greatly appreciated and treasured.

Happy New Year 2019. I truly believe 2020 is going to be another exceptional year of success for South African wine.


Top 10 Whites (in no particular order):

Restless River Ava Marie Chardonnay 2017 – 96+/100 GSMW

Sakkie Mouton Revenge of the Crayfish Chenin Blanc 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

Alheit Family Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2018 – 97/100 GSMW

Cape Winemakers Guild Leeu Passant Radicales Libres Chardonnay 2014 – 97+/100 GSMW

David & Nadia Plat’Bos Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2018 – 96/100 GSMW

Sadie Family OVS ‘T Voetpad White Blend 2018 – 97/100 GSMW

Sadie Family OVS Skurfberg Chenin Blanc 2018 – 97+/100 GSMW

Catherine Marshall Chenin Blanc Fermented in Clay 2017 – 95/100 GSMW

Kershaw Deconstructed Bokkeveld Shales Chardonnay 2017 CY548 – 96+/100 GSMW

(Picture courtesy of Keith Prothero)

Lismore Estate Reserve Viognier  2017 – 96+/100 GSMW

The Top 10 South African Reds of 2019 will follow soon!

The Fine Wine Safari – 2018 in Pictures : Part 2…

What a fabulous year 2018 was for wine. Some excellent vintages were put to bed, plenty of energy and enthusiasm was shared by global winemakers and overall, there seemed to be a growing appreciation for interesting wines from all regions of the world, not just from the classics.

What ever 2019 throws at us, I think it is safe to say that those who are prepared to join the journey and immerse themselves into the wonderful and intriguing world of fine wine, they will come out the other side socially, intellectually and experientially greatly enriched.

2018 also saw one of the longest and warmest summers on record in the UK. This photo which is becoming quite famous now, was taken at my “Deck Party” in July. A really great bunch of wine trade friends were invited and a lot of delicious bottles were consumed. In the pic from left to right… Jamie Goode, Gareth Birchley, Giles Cooper and Neal Martin.

With David Sadie appointing new UK importers, wine trade buyers and journalists were treated to a spectacular masterclass tasting of the entire David & Nadia range as well as mini verticals of Skaliekop and Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc. It took a lot to wipe the smile of contentment off Jancis Robinson’s face after the tasting.

With the legend Ken Forrester passing through London En route back to Cape Town from the USA, it was the perfect opportunity for a Chenin Blanc focused fine wine lunch at Michelin Stared La Trompette restaurant, seen here with Wines of South Africa’s London marketing head, Jo Wehring.

The summer was also all about Island wines. The previous year I profiled the top wines of Tenerife. This year it was the turn of Mallorca. One of my favourite visits and tastings was with Francesc Grimault from 4 Kilos Vinicola.

The famous Vice White Blend made by Paul Jordaan and Eben Sadie.

2018 also saw the return of the tri-annual Cape Wine Trade Fair. But before the week of Cape Wine could commence, the weekend of the Nederburg Auction and The Noble Vice Food & Wine Festival had to be navigated. Above, the special Vice White Cuvee made by Sadie Family Wines for organiser, Angela Jordaan. This was unquestionably the best organised food and wine event I have attended in years, possibly ever! Don’t miss it next time round.

With Eben Sadie’s winemaker, Paul Jordaan, who is taking over most of the winemaking responsibilities at Sadie Family Wines, allowing Eben more time to focus on the vineyards and precision viticulture. “Better fruit will make better wines.”

While I have been a Nederburg Auction pre-selection judge of over 5 years, this was the first Nederburg Auction I attended in person. A lot of fun was had with fellow trade colleagues, from left, Journalist Norman McFarlane, Andrew Johnson from Woodwinters, Eben Sadie and Hedonism Buyer Alistair Viner.

A quick pit stop at Mulderbosch allowed us to kill three birds with one stone. We got to taste Adam Mason’s Mulderbosch wines, his own Raised By Wolves wines and also assistant winemaker Mick Craven’s new Cabernet Sauvignon that he produces with his winemaker wife Janine Craven under the Craven Winery label.

Tasting with Adam Mason, his UK importer Andrew Johnson and winery owner Brian Smith from Elgin Ridge, who are also imported into the UK by Woodwinters together with Les Caves de Pyrennes.

With precious little time to taste anywhere else outside of the Cape Wine Trade Fair, I did manage to visit Brookdale Estate in Paarl where Duncan Savage is consultant winemaker for UK owner Tim Rudd. Always great to see and taste with talented Duncan Savage.

The second last event before Cape Wine 2018 started was the superb Chenin Blanc Association beach party in Cape Town where I bumped into the irrepressible Wendy Appelbaum, philanthropist extraordinaire and owner of star boutique Cape winery De Morgenzon. Always good to catch up over Chenin!

Finally, the last but also the best event before Cape Wine 2018…. I was honoured to co-chair the “Wines That Raised Us” Old Wine Seminar organised by the Whole Bunch group of producers, presenting rare wines from the 50’s and 60’s sourced from the Winshaw Cellar. Above with young guns Reenen Borman, Lukas van Loggerenberg and Franco Lourens.

Back in London after 10 days in South Africa, it was time to catch up with my favourite Piedmont producer, Gaia Gaja showing her epic Cru 2015 reds from both Barolo and Barbaresco.

Another real highlight of the year, tasting with one of the winemaking masterminds of the English sparkling wine industry, Dermot Sugrue. He has some how had a hand in making almost every great bubbly in the UK!

Great to catch up again with journalists Neal Martin and Will Lyons at the epic Kumeu River vertical tasting presented by Farr Vintners of all their Chardonnay Cuvees from 2006 to 2016. Full notes on the Fine Wine Safari of course! A once in a life time event for sure.

As if the world descending upon Cape Town at Cape Wine 2018 Trade Fair was not enough for these boys, Craig Wessels, Adi Badenhorst and Duncan Savage were soon back in London causing mischief again!

Chris Mullineux grinning like a Cheshire Cat after an incredibly successful Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Old Vine White vertical tasting at Berry Brothers & Rudd featuring every vintage produced to date. Seen here with guest Neal Martin from

October saw me jetting off to the island of Santorini to taste every vintage produced by the Vassaltis Winery. An incredible and enlightening exploration of the island and its old vines with owner Yiannis Valambous and winemaker Yiannis Papaeconomou.

More friendships forged through wine. Another Autumnal meeting of the TW Wine club in west London with Anne Burchett, her daughter, Jamie Goode and David Shaw. Fabulous, memorable evening. The smiles say it all!

Another day and another tasting. This time with Hannes Storm and his wife at his new UK importer FMV. Such mind bogglingly great Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

Winemaker extraordinaire, Ian Naude jetted in to the UK to present a series of phenomenal, gripping masterclasses profiling his range of old vine whites and reds from Naude Family Wines. These are true gems to fill your cellar with! If you have not tasted his wines yet, it’s got to be top of your list for 2019. Trust me!

Another superb tasting highlighted a bitter sweet moment … celebrating the retirement of Port maestro Paul Symington from the family business. What a wonderful chap. All the best for the future!

I was very honoured to be invited by Mike Ratcliffe to the UK launch of Vilafonte Series C 2016 and to write up the mini Vilafonte vertical. Incredibly well made wines that feature in my Top 10 Reds of 2018 from South Africa.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Nothing dull about spending a wonderful day out in the Herefordshire countryside doing a spot of shooting with BBR host CEO Dan Jago and above, Damien Barton Sartorius from Leoville Barton.

One of the last wine lunches of the year, this time at the Michelin Stared Glasshouse restaurant in Kew. Another sister restaurant of the Ledbury, La Trompette and Chez Bruce… the most consistently excellent group of Michelin Stared establishments in the UK. All “must-visit” spots for international food and wine lovers.

The wintery Solent sun setting on 2018.

Hope you enjoyed the Journey with the Fine Wine Safari. Follow my blog at:

Happy New Year!

The Fine Wine Safari – 2018 in Pictures : Part 1…

What a fabulous year 2018 was for wine. Some excellent vintages were put to bed, plenty of energy and enthusiasm was shared by global winemakers and overall, there seemed to be a growing appreciation for interesting wines from all regions of the world, not just from the classics.

What ever 2019 throws at us, I think it is safe to say that those who are prepared to join the journey and immerse themselves into the wonderful and intriguing world of fine wine, they will come out the other side socially, intellectually and experientially greatly enriched.


Beginning the year with the annual Romanee Conti new vintage release with Aubert de Villane and his amazing, possibly best ever, 2015 vintages.

A new recruit to the Handford Oyster Club… the multi-talented Peter Allan Finlayson.

Tasting a sample of Meerlust Rubicon 2015 with owner Hannes Myburgh in London. The greatest release yet!?

Samantha O’Keefe from Lismore Winery in Greyton, Western Cape, making some exceptionally exciting wines in an off the beaten track area of outstanding beauty.

One of the high lights of the year for me was a fabulous wine dinner at my rugby club London Welsh where I help coach, with the great Sir Gareth Edwards who scored THAT TRY for the Barbarians in 1973!

A real behind the scenes operator and all round great wine maker, Luis Seabra, making his own Xisto Cru wines and also consulting to great names like Suertes del Marques in Tenerife.

Rajat Parr over in London again showing off his fabulous Evening Land wines from Oregon. But his Sandhi whites from Santa Barbara County are also to die for!

Meeting up with Vassaltis Winery owner Yiannis Valambous for a Greek wine extravaganza lunch. His wines from Santorini are among the very best on the island.

Recently described as the “Clarke Gabel and Vivian Leigh” of the South African wine scene, also two of my favourite people anywhere… Olive and Anthony Hamilton-Russell from the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley winery.

An epic catch up at one of my favourite London Michelin Star restaurants, La Trompette, with Anthony, Olive and Neal Martin from

The legend, the maestro, Steven Spurrier … if anyone deserves a knighthood on the honours list, this is the chap! Tasting Burgundy En-primeur 2016.

One of my favourite rising talents in the world of wine communications, education and media… Amelia Singer. Catch her at

It’s not just the South African wine makers setting the South African social scene on fire. Bertus and Marelise Basson making incredible food to accompany the fine wine. A lovely catch up at Spek & Bone in Stellenbosch.

One of the greats of the South African wine industry, Ian Naude now solo as of 2018 and making some of the most stimulating and profound old vine whites and reds in South Africa.

Friendships forged through wine… Donovan Rall, Ian Naude and Bruwer Raats. Some of South Africa’s greatest talents.

No one is making greater wines in the Swartland or South Africa than this dynamic duo… Andrea and Chris Mullineux. Perennial Winery of the Year winners.

The hottest talent to hit the headlines internationally in 2018… the incredibly talented Lukas van Loggerenberg. Track his eponymous wines down!

My fellow MW class mate, Bordeaux marathon 2014 team mate and now Decanter Man of the Year 2018… Eduardo Chadwick.

Bordeaux En-primeur fires the starting gun for the new South African fine wine fund managed by financial wizard, the highly talented Ken Kinsey-Quick. Tasting the Chateau Le Pin 2017 with Jacques Thienpont and son in April 2018.

Chateau Lafleur winemaker Omri Ram presenting an outstanding tasting and lunch in London’s St James’s.

Always a privilege to judge South African wines with Fiona McDonald … the Decanter South African panel chair.

An incredible flying visit and marathon tasting with JC Martin at Creation Winery in the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. Some of South Africa’s finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines!

Tasting the 2017 Port component parts in London with the legend of Portuguese wines and Ports, Dirk Niepoort.

One of my favourite tastings of the year with Allegra Antinori tasting a vertical of one of my favourite white wines in Italy, Cervaro della Sala from Umbria.

Tasting the new Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2007 at the London launch with the new Taittinger maitre de chais Alexandre Ponnavoy and the irrepressible fine wine aficionado Gareth Birchley, now ex-BBR and taking up the buying reins at Burns & German fine wine merchants in Chelsea in 2019.

A very proud moment in 2018 seeing South African artist William Kentridge being selected to design the Vendemmia d’Artista label for Ornellaia 2015. Tasting here with Ornellaia wine maker Axel Heinz and Steven Spurrier at the V&A for the launch.

More great friendships forged through wine. Tasting at Duncan Savage’s new urban winery with Ian Naude and bubbly producer extraordinaire Paul Gerber from LeLude in Franschhoek.

A highlight of the year, visiting Raffaele Pagano at Joaquin Winery in Campania to taste his iconic wines. Unquestionably one of the best kept fine wine secrets of Italy!

Celebrating a triumphant year of success for Meerlust with Hannes Myburgh, viticulturalist Roelie Joubert and wine maker Chris Williams.

Another epic visit to Montalcino to taste the barrel samples of Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino with owner Vincenzo Abbruzzese together with his son and his UK importer Masi Jacobacci. Truly epic age worthy wines.

After 11 years of carrying the mantle of being the 4th and last South African to pass the rigorous Master of Wine exams, in 2018 I finally passed the baton on to London based South African Cassidy Dart MW who became the 5th South African MW to pass since the institute started in 1953. Seen here celebrating with guest appearances by Chris Mullineux and wine journalist Angela Lloyd at Michelin Star Trinity restaurant in Clapham, London.

Another day, another epic tasting. This time a sweet Chenin Blanc tasting of the wines of Moulin Touchais back to 1947… with the current export manager Frederic, Chris Mullineux and Roger Jones.

Another real highlight for me was attending a Masterclass with these two Californian legends of Chardonnay… Jim Clendenen and David Ramey. Incredible benchmark wines from both these wineries.

Happy faces all round after another incredibly successful Old Vines Project Tasting In London at High Timber restaurant with Andre Morgenthal and IWC Wine Personality of the Year 2018, Rosa Kruger. Two people doing such important work to save South Africa’s old vine heritage.

One of the beneficiaries of the work of Rosa Kruger and the Old Vine Project… Chris Alheit, who probably produced the unanimous South African white wine of the year with his lieu dits Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017 from old Skurfberg vines sourced by Rosa Kruger.

A rare relaxed lunch with my favourite Bloemfontein gal in London. High Timber restauranteur Neleen Strauss joined our South African wine lunch with Keith Prothero at La Trompette restaurant for a day of fine wine. Neleen is another unsung champion of South Africa’s fine wines in London.

Watch out for the Fine Wine Safari year in Pictures part 2…. coming soon!