The quality of South African-made port-style wine was re-affirmed with the recent release of one of the year’s broadest assessments of South African wines by an international wine authority.

The quality of South African-made port-style wine was re-affirmed with the recent release of one of the year’s broadest assessments of South African wines by an international wine authority. At the same time, the 2017 Special Report on South African wine by UK Master of Wine Tim Atkin also glowingly acknowledge the excellence of wines made from traditional port varieties.

That this achievement was realised by a single producer has given Boplaas Family Vineyards near Calitzdorp particular cause for celebration. Rating wines out of 100 points, Atkin awarded 94 to the Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2015; and, 91 each to Boplaas Family Reserve Gamka 2015 and Gamka Branca 2016.

Atkin’s 2017 South Africa Special Report is in its 6th edition with the current version running to over 200 pages. It is the product of two trips to the Cape this year, as well as further tastings in the UK and Germany. It includes scores for over 1 400 wines, with retail prices ranging from R40 to R4 900.

“Tim Atkin is an influential commentator in a market that is one of the biggest for South African producers, which is why his opinion is so highly anticipated,” says Boplaas owner Carel Nel, who shares winemaking duties with daughter Margaux. “Many local producers have done well in his report, but these are with more well-known varieties.

“We are very excited that the excellence we see in our vineyards of particularly Portuguese varieties is finally getting the international recognition it deserves.”

The Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2015 – which most recently was named South African champion at the SA Young Wine Show – is crafted from traditional Portuguese varieties that thrive in the arid climate of the Little Karoo. They are Touriga Nacional (60%); Tinta Barocca (8%) Souzao (2%); and, Touriga Franca (30%). After vinification, the wine is fortified with wine spirit, matured for two years in old large format French oak barrels and bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The Boplaas Family Reserve Gamka 2015, a South Africa Top 100 wine, is named after the eponymous river that is the lifeblood of the farm. The second vintage of this trailblazer, it is produced from low yielding old vine Portuguese varieties Touriga Nacional and Tinta Barocca, and rounded out with fulsome Shiraz.

The Family Reserve Gamka Branca 2016 is a barrel fermented and matured white blend – Branca meaning ‘white’ in Portuguese. A maiden release, it combines the Portuguese variety Verdelho – a recent addition to the Boplaas plantings, but one which has a bright future – with low-yielding Verdelho from Calitzdorp, cool climate Chardonnay, exotic Viognier, Stellenbosch Grenache blanc and old dry-land bush vine of Swartland Chenin blanc.

The performance of Boplaas’ wines in the Special Report as well as other esteemed local and international competitions is the fruit of an approach to explore the potential of Portuguese varieties, traditionally used in its fortified wines, to produce fine table wines.

As a premier Port producer, it began collecting numerous awards from early on. Boplaas history dates back to 1880 when it was owned by current owner Carel Nel’s great-grandfather.

These days, it has planted Verdelho and re-established sites of Souzã, Tinta Barocca and Touriga Naçional, while all the while scouring the Cape for old vine sites to supplement its own fruit.

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