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Savouring South Africa: A guide to great white wines

Diemersdal Wine Estate vineyards on the Durbanville wine region.

Within the last three decades, South Africa’s wine industry has undergone a revitalisation, embracing innovation and exploration as key pillars of its growth. From the past era of grape production aimed at bulk and brandy, to the wines of today that stand with some of the best globally, South Africa’s white wines are at the forefront.

Chenin Blanc, one of the Cape’s headline varieties, has long been renowned in South Africa’s white wine scene. However, as evidenced by recent years’ Decanter World Wine Awards results, and echoing South Africa’s ongoing commitment to quality and development, there’s much more to explore.

Scroll down to discover 15 South African white wines from DWWA 2023

The diversity of white wines awarded top ratings at the competition continues to expand, ranging from world-class Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon, to Rhône-style and proprietary blends.

The range of regions these wines come from is widening, too. From cool-climate Elgin in the Cape South Coast – standing out for its exceptional expressions of Chardonnay – to hot, dry Western Cape’s Citrusdal Mountain – benefiting from altitude to deliver fresh and exemplary whites – South African wine producers are delivering noteworthy whites, with the likelihood of further expressions emerging in the future.

Below discover 15 greats from the 2023 competition, with more to seek out at awards.decanter.com

Savouring South Africa: A guide to great white wines


Iona, Elgin Highlands Chardonnay 2021

Best in Show, 97 points
£22.99-£27.95 Bush Vines, Latitude, Thorne Wines, Vin Cognito, Winoship
Lean, shapely, intense: a cool waterfall of fruits sweep seamlessly over the tongue. Drinkability, refreshment and a unique regional style come together with aplomb, and the 11 months’ oak provide an aromatic backdrop. Alcohol 12.8%

Neil Ellis, Whitehall Chardonnay 2021

Platinum, 97 points
£27.95-£31.95 (2020) Cellar Door Wines, Cheers, South Downs Cellars
An enrapturing sea breeze freshness cascades over pure peach, zingy pineapple and lemon curd with a persistent tension of racy acidity. Youthful and spirited with a moreish, lemongrass-infused finish. Exceptional. Alc 13%

Lothian, Chardonnay 2021

Gold, 96 points
£26-£30 (2020) All About Wine, Corking Wines, Hic, The Wine Rooms Cambridge, WineTrust
Poised and focused with searing notes of salted lemon, tangy lime and Granny Smith apple, nuanced with textured smoky oak and a flinty mineral tension. Alc 13.5%

Paul Cluver, Seven Flags Chardonnay 2021

Gold, 95 points 
£58-£64 Christopher Piper, Frontier Fine Wines, Winoship
A flourish of white blossom, peach and mango dance on a creamy base of oatmeal and cashew oak, with a salty minerality and twist of lime cutting through. Alc 13.5%

Cape Town

Diemersdal, The Journal Sauvignon Blanc, Durbanville 2022

Platinum, 97 points
£27 Laithwaites
Beguiling aromas of elderflower, herbaceous verbena, white peach and apricot with a gorgeous, mouthcoatingly taut ruby grapefruit core and a fresh line of salty acidity. Incredibly well-defined and refreshing with a long, vivid finish. Alc 13.5%

Coastal Region

Bellingham, The Founders Series Freda 2021

Platinum, 97 points
Vivacious lime zest, green mango and apple encased in layers of fragrant herbs and courgette flowers, beautifully aligned with the creamy banana bread texture and nourishingly supportive oak. Luxurious and bewitching, with a cleansing saline finish. Alc 13.5%

Boschendal, Chenin Blanc 2022

Value Gold, 95 points
£9.75 Tesco
Honeyed sundried peach aromas with notes of nectarine, orange rind and ripe pear. Textured and creamy with a broad structure and a singing saline finish. Alc 13%

Escapades, Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Gold, 95 points

Waxy aromas of lemon rind, ripe red apple, tangerine, lime oil and fresh stone fruit. Impeccably balanced with racy acidity and a creamy texture. Ageing beautifully. Alc 13.5%


Capensis, Silene Chardonnay 2021

Gold, 96 points
£28.50 (2020) Fareham Wine Cellar
Bursting with ripe peach, pear and pineapple, this has an expressive vanilla bean oak intensity and a lively tension from the lemon acidity. Long, herbaceous and fulfilling style. Alc 14%

Bartinney, Hourglass Chardonnay, Banghoek 2021

Gold, 95 points
£42.45-£44.60 Humble Grape, Port2Port
Simmering with fruit salad energy atop a mellow custard tart creaminess. Classy and vibrant with a joyous fluidity and an enriching savoury tone to the finish. Alc 13.5%

Rustenberg, Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch 2022

Value Gold, 95 points 

£14-£15 Frontier Fine Wine, Majestic, Selfridges, Vinvm
Enchanting clementine zest, grapefruit and green grass with a flinty focus and refined acidity cutting through the mellow creamy texture. Long, poised and impressive. Alc 13%

Tokara, Director’s Reserve 2020

Gold, 95 points
£24.50-£32 Alexander Hadleigh, Hedonism, Pull the Cork, The Wine Reserve, Vinvm
Alluring orange, grapefruit, kiwi fruit and nectarine lead into a full palate that seamlessly integrates savoury oak alongside full, mouthcoating fruit of an almost viscous intensity. Alc 13.5%

Citrusdal Mountain

Piekenierskloof, Grenache Blanc, Piekenierskloof 2022

Value Gold, 95 points
£12-£16 Cellar Door Wines, Stone Vine & Sun, The Fine Wine Co
Bewitching plump stone fruit, yellow apple, quince and ginger spice with a taut tang of acidity and a classy gravel note. Wonderfully harmonious and long. Alc 13%


Quest, Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2022

Gold, 95 points
Billowing with white blossom, crisp citrus and stone fruit, building momentum to a mouthcoatingly creamy palate engulfed in a subtle frame of baking spice and quince. Alc 12.5%

Western Cape

Nederburg, The Winemasters Chardonnay 2022

Value Gold, 95 points
£10.55-£12 Biltong St Marcus, Fareham Wine Cellar, ND John
Bright and vivacious with lush honeyed apples and a clean citrus crush lifted by steely acidity, with charming creamy cashew notes at the end. Alc 14%

Search all DWWA 2023 results 

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