South Africa, he says, is “a match for any other New World country in terms of quality and ahead of the field on value”. Yet he warns that while low prices are good for consumers, such bargains are less beneficial for grape growers and wine producers. “The country needs to charge more for its wines, and we should be prepared to pay for such excellence.”
The 2016 vintage, which was one of the hottest and driest on record, was “very tricky”, but Atkin says that the best producers have made some excellent wines. Of his 149 wines of the year, 76 are from 2016. “Don’t write off the harvest,” he advises.
This year, Atkin singles out Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cinsaut and sparkling Méthode Cap Classique wines for special praise, but adds that “the Cape is capable of making almost any wine style to a very high standard”.
Atkin's 2017 South Africa Special Report runs to over 200 pages and is the product of two trips to the Cape this year, as well as further tastings in the UK and Germany, and includes:
Top wines of the year (white, red, sweet, fortified and sparkling);
Scores for over 1,400 wines, with retail prices in South African Rand, ranging from R40 to R4,900;
1,100+ tasting notes;
Evocative photos of the winelands and winemakers;
His 2017 classification of the 200 best South African wineries.
Atkin has also named his Overall Wines and Winemakers of the Year:
Winemakers of the year: Chris and Andrea Mullineux
Young Winemaker of the year: Mark Le Roux
Winemaking Legend: Neil Ellis
Overall White Wine of the Year: 2016 Sadie Family Kokerboom, Olifants River
Overall Red Wine of the Year: 2015 Beeslaar Pinotage, Stellenbosch
Overall Sweet Wine of the Year: 2012 Mullineux & Leeu Essence, Swartland
Overall Fortified Wine of the Year: 2015 De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve, Calitzdorp
Overall Sparkling Wine of the Year: 2011 Graham Beck Cuvée Clive, Western Cape
White Wine Discovery of the Year: 2016 Rall Ava Chenin Blanc, Swartland
Red Wine Discovery of the Year: 2015 Gabriëlskloof The Landscape Series Cabernet Franc, Bot River
Best Value White of the Year: 2017 Swartland Winery Limited Release Roussanne
Best Value Red of the Year: 2014 Onderkloof Cabernet Franc, Stellenbosch
Best Value Sparkling Wine of the Year: Villiera Tradition Brut NV, Stellenbosch
Tim Atkin MW’s 2017 South Africa Special Report is available to download from www.timatkin.com for £20 or R340.