South Africa has a long history with Cabernet Sauvignon, both as a varietal and blended wine. Highly rated examples abound, too, including many Stellenbosch-based bottlings from producers with long track records, like Kanonkop, Le Riche, Rust en Vrede, Rustenberg and Waterford,
But South African Cabernet Sauvignon was never firmly identified as a consistent exemplar on the international wine stage.
It’s time for that to change, the Wine Enthusiast online recommends. Beyond the diversity and caliber of Cabernet Sauvignon produced in South Africa, the wines also represent tremendous value.
Babylonstoren 2015 Nebukadnesar (Simonsberg-Paarl); $45, 93 points.
Dark and brooding, this Cabernet Sauvignon-led blend, with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec, currently smells somewhat reserved, with shy notes of black plum, cassis, Baker’s chocolate, boysenberry and cigar-box spice. It’s medium-plus in weight, with opulence and a rich body that’s framed by bold, supporting tannins and medium acidity. It’s well balanced, with a long, spicy finish that ends with a kiss of dark chocolate. Catamarca Imports LLC.
Ernie Els 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch); $24, 91 points. While this is currently slightly tight and closed, it shows the structure and elements to present a complete and well-balanced wine with a little time. Scents of charred plum skin, dark chocolate, cigar box and roast beef dance in the bouquet, while the bold, firm palate offers flavors of black fruit skin, cassis and char. Drink 2019–2022. Editors’ Choice.
Robertson Winery 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Robertson); $10, 91 points. Brambly berry, black plum and cherry abound on the nose of this attractive wine. Touches of cinnamon stick, violet and milk chocolate add interest. The medium-weight palate is fresh and vibrant in ripe fruit tones, with velvety tannins and ample acidity. It’s well balanced and harmonious, while the lasting finish evolves from fruit flesh to soil then tree bark and finally soft sweet spice. Best Buy.