Tokara wines recently brought home an impressive total of three gold medals from two highly contested UK wine competitions: the 2019 International Wine Challenge (IWC) and the Sommelier Wine Awards (SWA).
The estate’s Reserve Collection Chardonnay 2017 won gold at the IWC, while the Reserve Collection Elgin Sauvignon Blanc 2018 and the flagship Director’s Reserve White 2016 impressed sommeliers in the SWA gold medal stakes. The Elgin Sauvignon Blanc, which earned winemaker Stuart Botha an FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 ranking on home soil last year, also received the SWA Food Match award.
This was a dream achievement for Botha who had a number of challenges to overcome in the lead-up to producing these wines.
“The drought brought numerous challenges and demanded a re-focusing of the methods in which we utilise and manage this precious resource,” explains Botha, who adds that the estate was not unduly affected due to their forward planning.
“At Tokara, we have the capacity to irrigate all our vineyards with drip irrigation. Without it, it would have been a very different picture and I’m sure our vineyards would still be recovering,” he said.
Described as ‘a classic South African style of Sauvignon Blanc’, and ‘a good partner for springtime dishes with herbs’ by the judging panel, the Reserve Collection Elgin Sauvignon Blanc 2018 stems from Tokara’s Highlands farm in Elgin. This cool climate region produces some of the best renditions of this variety, with fresh acidity and purity of fruit in perfect balance.
“There is an amazing freshness as the wine enters the palate, with clean citrus flavours leading to a creamy mid-palate and a lingering crisp finish. This Sauvignon Blanc shows remarkable ageability and will evolve with correct cellaring over the next few years,” says Botha, who prides himself on the individual attention each wine receives.
“Every vintage sees experimentation and pushing of the proverbial envelope in developing and improving the wines. In the same breath, each vintage is different which requires an interpretive approach. These wines would have each received tailor-made attention,” he says.
The Tokara Director’s Reserve White 2016 is described by The Fat Duck’s Annamaria Juhasz as an ‘excellent wine’ that ‘needs some creamy seafood’. This classic Bordeaux-style Sauvignon blanc (70%) and Semillon (30%) blend is made from grapes grown on the highest slopes of Tokara’s Stellenbosch property.
“This is a wonderfully complex wine with rich layers of ripe quince, passion fruit and baked apples, rounded off by hints of lemongrass, toasted almonds and freshly baked brioche. It finishes with amazing clarity and depth with a slight grip just lingering,” says Botha.
SA wine estate success ‘inevitable’
Tokara was among a few South African estates that brought home awards from international competitions this year, something Botha believes was “inevitable”.
“There has been a lot of focus and massive capital injected into the South African Wine Industry in the last 25 years. Areas that have benefitted greatly range from the technology utilized through to education – specifically research oriented. The result is that South African Winemakers and Viticulturists are far more capable of harnessing the incredible terroir on offer and believe me, we really do have incredible terroir. Coupled to this is an increased understanding of what cultivars work best in what areas and it was inevitable that we would arrive on the world stage with some very worthy wines,” he says.
This knowledge means that Botha is confident the next few vintages, which are already in the bottle or maturing in the barrel, will be of superior, hopefully, award-winning quality.
“Each vintage comes with a unique set of blessings and challenges. It’s all about how one interprets and manages them … In my experience, judges praise wines that display individuality and depth of character. Tokara wines are incredibly terroir-driven with both Viticulture and Winemaking practices aligning to express these attributes,” he says.
And while these wines have received the kind of praise that will likely see their prices spike over the next few years, Botha says there are still some undiscovered gems at his estate.
“We have a small MCC project on the go, producing about 3,500 bottles of fine bubbly each vintage. The first release was of a 2011 wine which spent 60 months on the lees in bottle and was unveiled in 2017. It is early days for this project so the wines have not been rated by many. It’s somewhat of a “best-kept secret” and in many respects. I’d like to keep it that way because, with such a small number produced, there’d be more for me to enjoy,” he says.