South African Rosé: Selections from the 2021 Vintage

Today’s excellent South African rosé wines reflect the many improvements in rosé winemaking over the last decade or two. They’re usually direct pressed from vineyards harvested early and specifically farmed for rosé, as opposed to being the saignée byproduct of red wine making. They have bright natural acidity, fresh flavors and moderate levels of alcohol. In this article, we review some of the best from the 2021 vintage that we tasted during our Cape Town trip earlier this year.  

The rosé wines reviewed here come from several of the Western Cape’s growing regions and many of the grape varieties used to produce rosé in France, plus South Africa’s own Pinotage variety, of course.  We’ve listed US importers and prices, when known. In general, these are not expensive wines, and they are very good quality relative to price. While the 2022 vintage rosés will be released soon in South Africa, the 2021 wines are the ones currently available in the US market.

The Wines

Anthonij Rupert Wyne 2021 Jean Roi Cap Provincial Rosé Riebeeksrivier Swartland 91  Pale pink. Scents of rose petals, citrus and savory herbs. Provence-like in its subtle fruit and floral flavors complemented by bright acidity. There’s good volume in the mouth and an overall sense of refinement. Very well done! A Provence blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Hand harvested, cold soaked overnight, gentle direct press, half ambient yeast fermentation, and 5 months on the fine lees, 78% stainless, 22% used oak puncheons. 13% alc. The winemaker is Mark van Buuren.

Bartho Ecksteen 2021 BLOM Western Cape 90  Pale pink. Mineral like, light rose petal and red berry nose. Fresh and well balanced on the palate with light fruit flavors and prominent mineral notes. An excellent food rosé that’s Provence-like in character. A cofermented (partly in French oak) blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Viognier sourced from the Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley given minimal skin contact. The winemaker is Bartho Eksteen. 13.5% alc. Importer: Z Wines USA

Boschendal 2021 The Rose Garden Coastal Region 88  Light peachy pink. Lightly aromatic with floral and berry scents. Light red berry with a hint of nectarine on the palate with medium acidity and density. Serve well chilled. A blend of Merlot, Pinotage and Shiraz. A very pleasant dry, drinking rosé that we recommend be served well chilled. 12.5% alc. The 2020 vintage sold for about $10 at Costco; it’s a good value at that price.  US Importer: Cape Classics

De Wetshof Estate 2021 Lilya Rosé Robertson 89  This rosé of Cabernet Franc shows onion skin color in the glass and reticent aromas of citrus and stone fruit. There’s good freshness and acidity on the lightly flavored, laser-focused palate. Nice long gripping finish. Sourced from the calcareous soils of the Breede River Valley and made saignée style. The winemaker is Izak de Vries.  US Importer: Broadbent Selections

Douglas Green 2021 The Beachhouse Rosé Western Cape 88  Light bronze-pink color. This Pinotage Blanc de Noir reveals reticent berry, stone fruit and rose petal aromas that are followed by a nicely weighted palate of upfront fruit with bright acidity helping to offset the sweet fruit. Even better with a couple of ice cubes in the glass. Jaco Potgieter is the winemaker. 12.5% alc. RS 15 g/L

Elgin Vintners 2021 Belle Amie Blanc de Noir Elgin Valley  90  Pale pink. With a reticent nose but bracing attack, this Merlot based blend shows good substance and light red fruit flavor. The finish shows excellent lingering berry extract. A blend of 88% Merlot and 12% Shiraz grown in the cool Elgin Valley, whole bunch direct pressed, fermented in stainless steel and aged for 3 months. Marinda Kruger-Claasen is the winemaker. 12.5% alc. Well done!

Franschhoek Cellar 2021 Club House Rosé Western Cape 87  Made from a blend of grape varieties, the Club House Rosé shows red berries on the nose and palate. It’s and easy drinking, quaffing-by-the-pool sort of rosé that finishes with just a hint of sweetness. Ryan Puttick is the winemaker. Franschhoek Cellar is one of the wineries in the DGB collection. 12% alc.

Fryer’s Cove 2021 Doring Bay Pinot Noir Rosé Cape West Coast 88  With light red cherry scents, this rosé of Pinot Noir reveals its varietal origins. It offers an attack of subtle fruit with medium acidity on a dry palate. Finishes soft with flavors that mirror the bouquet. Nice, pleasant drinking. Jan Van Zyl is the founder of Fryer’s Cove, and Liza Goodwin is the winemaker. 12.5% alc.

Kleinood 2021 Tamboerskoof Katharien Syrah Rosé Stellenbosch 90  This 100% Syrah from Stellenbosch vineyards is a tantalizing light coppery orange in color. Ripe red berries show on the nose and palate along with blood orange notes. Crisp, firmly textured and packed with flavor, freshness and tangy acidity, this is an outstanding rosé. The winemaker is Reynie Oosthuizen. Incredible value and low in alcohol (12%), too.  Importer: United Wine & Spirits

Kruger 2020 Grenache Rosé Piekenierskloof  91  Medium salmon pink. Fine scents of fresh strawberry and minerals. Full and suave in the mouth with red berry flavor and good acidity and balance, finishing on long clean fruit and mineral notes. Sourced from vines grown at Johan Van Zyl’s Heidedal Vineyard in the Piekenierskloof Mountain at 700m elevation on decomposed granite soils. Given some skin contact and then whole bunch pressed aged on the lees in stainless steel for 6 months. 12% alc. Johan Kruger is the winemaker.

L’Avenir 2021 Glenrose Single Block Stellenbosch ($30) 91 Savory with earth and cherry skin nuances on the nose, this Pilotage-based rosé from a single parcel is cultivated and made for rosé. Pale copper tinged pink in color, it is well balanced and full in the mouth, subtly flavored and with good grip that lingers on the finish. Quite a sophisticated rosé! Pinotage sourced from the estate Glenrosa vineyard of weathered shale and cultivated for rosé. Made with only free run juice and 20% matured in 400L French oak. The winemaker is Dirk Coetzee. US Importer: Cape Ardo

L’Avenir 2021 Rosé de Pinotage Stellenbosch ($15) 87  Blush copper tinged pink. Reticent on the nose, this rosé shows good earth and berry flavors on the palate. Attractive upfront fruit with lingering flavors on the palate. Sourced from L’Avenir’s estate vineyard on Simonsberg Mountain, this Pinotage rosé was managed specifically for rosé with higher trellising and more leaf cover. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. Dirk Coetzee is the winemaker. US Importer: South to South

Le Grand Domaine 2021 Grand Vin de Stellenbosch Rosé Stellenbosch ($16) 90 Light copper tinged pink. Very fragrant with notes of orange citrus and red berries. Bright on the attack with good concentration of zingy flavor. Vibrant and fresh with tangy acidity on a dry palate and a long finish. Well done! A 50/50 blend of Shiraz and Clairette Blanche fermented in stainless steel. Debbie Thompson and Marthinique de Bruin are the winemakers. Also available in magnum. 12.6 alc.

Leeuwenkull 2021 Reserve Rosé Swartland 91  Made from whole bunch pressed Cinsault grown in the Swartland, this is a serious rosé with impressive phenolics, excellent balance, and earthy, pomegranate flavors. Rich, lingering finish. A perfect rosé to pair with fowl and light pork and veal dishes.  Madre van der Walt is the winemaker.

Lothian of Elgin 2021 Isabel Rosé Elgin Valley 90 Medium pink salmon color. The Isabel Rosé is a very satisfying rosé with the right color, good medium weight, and subtle red berry aromas and flavors, all packaged in an attractive bottling. Made of the Mourvèdre grape, it’s a bit reticent in its youth, but give it a another year or two in bottle, and it should reveal an earthy complexity rarely found outside Bandol. 13.5% alc. Richard Kershaw is the winemaker. US Importer: USA Wine Imports

Mulderbosch 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé Coastal Region ($17) 90  Starbright rose petal pink. Made from grapes cultivated for rosé and harvested early for freshness and bright aromas, this light-colored rosé shows good depth and weight. Very good balance and length and overall very impressive with a nice chalky aspect to the finish. Cool fermented with aromatic yeasts and bottled early. The winemaker is Henry Kotzé. US Importer: Third Leaf Wines

Pink Valley Wines 2021 Rosé Stellenbosch ($10) 91  Blush coppery pink in color. Shows guava and pronounced floral aromas. Very dry and bright with good density of flavor, nice palate grip, and a very long finish. Well done! A blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Sangiovese and 20% Shiraz picked early, cold soaked, destemmed and direct pressed for rosé. Aged on the fine lees in stainless steel for 5 months. Petri Ventner is the winemaker. Owned by the French company Oddo Vins & Domaines, Pink Valley is located on the slopes of the Helderberg. 12% alc. RS 1.9 g/L

Quoin Rock 2021 Namysto Rosé Stellenbosch ($8) 89  Medium peach-orange color. Freshly aromatic with ripe citrus and stone fruit scents. Nice breadth and depth in the mouth with ripe nectarine and strawberry flavors. With medium weight and good length, this is a rosé made more for food than for simple quaffing. Well done! A blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Shiraz fermented and aged 87% stainless steel and 13% neutral French oak. The winemaker is Schalk Opperman. US Importer: Cape Ardor

Spier 2021 Signature Rosé Western Cape ($10) 89  Light copper-tinged pink. Aromas of red berries and stone fruit are mirrored on a richly flavored, ripe fruited but dry palate. There’s good balancing acidity and a long rich finish. Should be excellent with Asian cuisine. A blend of 52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir fermented together in stainless steel. The winemaker is Anthony Kock. US Importer: Silver Lake Imports

Stellenbosch Vineyards 2021 Arniston Bay Rosé Coastal Region ($13) 89  The vegan certified Arniston Bay Rosé is a good, easy drinking rosé. It reveals light red berry/cherry flavors, good freshness, and is satisfying to drink. An excellent, poolside sipping wine that can also hold up to light cuisine. The winemaker is Abraham de Villiers. Predominantly from Shiraz grapes with a small portion of oak-aged Verdelho added for complexity.  US Importer: Advini USA

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