Master of Wine and leading UK wine writer, Tim Atkin, recently released his eagerly-awaited South Africa 2020 Special Report, now in its eighth year and widely regarded as the most detailed and authoritative overview of South African wine. After having suffered great losses and hardship during the Covid-19 lockdown, Tim offers some encouraging words for the South African wine industry.

“Despite the well-publicised challenges it faces, South Africa is making the best wines in its history,” writes Tim. “Over the decade I’ve been writing these reports, it has been a delight to see the general improvements in quality and the tentative emergence of a South African fine wine sector, with bottles that are discussed, cellared, coveted, shared and sold at auction. Rather than just a few individuals, what we have now is a constellation shining bright above us in the firmament, made up of more than 100 winemaking stars.”

To prepare his South Africa 2020 Special Report under the restrictions of Covid-19, Tim tasted 1 381 wines in London, and had 62 Zoom calls with winemakers to replace his usual month-long tour of the Cape. The 225-page report includes his top wines of the year and the 125 best South African wineries. 

Hemel-en-Aarde Wines could not be prouder of the region’s spectacular performance, especially when it comes to its flagship varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In Tim’s Wines of the Year selection, 5 out of the 12 Chardonnays and 8 out of the 11 Pinot Noirs are from the Hemel-en-Aarde region. And although the region is not generally known for its Pinotage or Cabernet Sauvignon, two local producers consistently produce top quality wines for both these varietals, which also feature in their categories for Wines of the Year.  

The Hemel-en-Aarde wines that scored 95 points and above are:

Pinot Noir

  • 2019 Creation Art of Pinot Noir, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge (97)
  • 2019 Creation Emma Pinot Noir, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge (95) 
  • 2019 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir, Walker Bay (95)
  • 2019 Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (96)
  • 2019 Newton Johnson Windansea Pinot Noir, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (97)

Chardonnay

  • 2019 Creation Art of Chardonnay, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge (96)
  • 2019 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (95)
  • 2019 Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (95)

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 2017 Restless River Main Road & Dignity Cabernet Sauvignon, Upper Hemel-en Aarde Valley (95)

Pinotage

  • 2018 Ashbourne Pinotage, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (95)  

The Hemel-en-Aarde wineries who are among the Top 125 producers are:   

  • Hamilton Russell
  • Newton Johnson
  • Creation
  • Restless River
  • Ataraxia
  • Bouchard Finlayson
  • Ashbourne 
  • Bosman Family Vineyards 
  • La Vierge

Also on Tim’s 2020 podium for standout wines and winemakers of the year is Peter Finlayson of Bouchard Finlayson winery, who was named Winemaking Legend of 2020. 

Please support our world-class local wineries, not only in Hemel-en-Aarde but also further afield in Botrivier – including Beaumont, Wildekrans, Luddite, Gabriëlskloof, Arcangeli and Benguela Cove – as well as the Stanford area, where you’ll find producers such as Boschrivier, Raka, Sir Robert Stanford, Stanford Hills and Springfontein. Most of these wine farms offer wine tastings, platters, meals, and food and wine pairings in idyllic country settings surrounded by picturesque vineyards and mountains.

It’s time for a road trip to wine country!

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