ASPIRE Pick of the Week: South African Wines Feature in Top 100 Wine Discoveries 2020

Following the success of unveiling ten top wine discoveries last year at their New York Matter of Taste event, the review team at Robert Parker Wine Advocate have since taken this initiative a step further. Announcing their best newly discovered, under-the-radar wines of the year, Robert Parker Wine Advocate holds true to their vision of independently evaluating and highlighting wines from all around the world. Through this innovative review, the organisation aims to encourage exploration of new territories within the winemaking industry, whilst learning about the passionate work of often previously unheralded winemakers.

Robert Parker Wine Advocate looks for unknown wines that are good
Robert Parker Wine Advocate scours little-known wineries for some of the best wines that are not popular. Image courtesy of Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Dubbed the Top 100 Wine Discoveries 2020, this review is panelled by an expert team of 10 wine critics. With over 30,000 wines reviewed throughout the past year, this list not only complements the 100-point rating system developed by Robert Parker Wine Advocate back in 1978 but reverts its spotlight away from the well-known, highest scoring wines. Prioritizing the singular wine gems which reveal unexpected greatness or fresh, exciting new takes on familiar labels, this selection discovers a number of wines produced from lesser-known grape varieties from non-traditional growing regions and rediscovers dozens of renowned marques that are making significant innovations in sustainability and terroir-driven decisions.

Scouring the earth for the most noteworthy wines, the selection criteria for the Top 100 Wine Discoveries are founded on wines that come from outside the mainstream, are new, and have one or more of the following attributes: value, age-worthiness, sustainability, and wines that represent innovative approaches, whether in the vineyards, winery or otherwise.

Colmant brut Rose
South Africa’s Colmant made the Robert Parker Wine Advocate list. Image courtesy of Colmant

Making the list this year are four wines of African origin, all from South Africa, and all checking the non-mainstream and value criteria. Of the four, only the 2017 Stellenbosch Cinsault was not considered age-worthy, a trait given to a wine “that will benefit greatly from additional cellaring.”

Paserene, Union 2016 (non-mainstream, age-worthy, value, innovative)

Paserene Union is part of the South African wines that make the Robert Parker Wine Advocate 100 Wine Discoveries List
The 2016 Paserene Union. Image courtesy of Paserene

Owned by Martin Smith and Ndabe Mareda with the sole purpose of producing high-end luxury wines, Paserene is a small family-operated winery located in Franschhoek. Apart from its unique wines, Paserene is known for the original artwork on their labels that tell a story.

The Union 2016 is a red wine which is an exotic blend of Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre, and boasts of complex aromas of blueberries, charcoal, violets and bacon fat.

Beaumont Family Wines, New baby 2017 (non-mainstream, age-worthy, value, innovative)

Beaumont New Baby 2017 is part of the SOuth African Wines on the Robert Parker 100 wines Discoveries list
The Beaumont New Baby 2017. Image courtesy of Beaumont Family Wines

As the name suggests, this is another family-owned winery, but with a very rich history. The farm is home to the region’s oldest wine cellar originally established in the 1700s by the Dutch East India Company. All wine bottles bear the crest of the Beaumont family – the roaring lion – which represents honour and courage and serves as a symbolic message of balance.

An interesting blend of Chenin, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Colombar, the New Baby 2017 is a vintage described by the panel as “absolutely delicious and … incredibly food-friendly.”

Natte Velleij, Stellenbosch Cinsault 2017 (non-mainstream, value)

The Natte Valleij Cinsault Stellenbosch is part of the South African wines that made the Robert Parker Wine Advocate 100 Wine Discoveries List
The Natte Valleij Cinsault Stellenbosch. Image courtesy of Natte Valleij

Natte Velleij is located in Stellenbosch and owned by the Milner Family. Its winemaker is Alexander Milner who is fascinated with Cinsault.

The Stellenbosch Cinsault is a beautiful mix of fruits, cherries and strawberries, that lends truth to the shortened maxim, “the proof is in the pudding.”

Colmant, Absolu  (non-mainstream, age-worthy, value, innovative)

The Colmant Absolu South African wine
The Colmant Absolu. Image courtesy of Pull That Cork

After owning & running a stone manufacturing business in Belgium for twelve years, JP Colmant & his wife, Isabelle moved to Franschhoek, where they began planting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards and building a cellar that would be dedicated to the classic method of Champagne production. JP felt that the country’s sparkling wine industry, “Methode Cap Classique” (MCC), had not been given all the attention that it deserved. He studied with the locals to learn how to become a successful farmer and winemaker, and in 2005, Colmant became the first in the country to be dedicated solely to MCC.

A stellar MCC, the zero-dosage Absolu is sure to deliver pleasure to the savviest of champagne connoisseurs. A true blanc de blanc, this 100% Chardonnay was blended with an additional 15% of reserve wine to fulfil the assemblage.

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