We’ve been classing wines by the grape, by popularity, quality (and “purity”) of the production process, even by appellations and their terroir, and also by barrel genealogy.
However, few wine listicles truly give wine drinkers a good serving of commendable wines on the lower-end of retail pricing. It’s understandable too since most wine drinkers seem to seek out their weight in a comprehensive and compelling beverage experience, that is usually found in the curated provenance and flavour of renowned international brands and their pricier wine rosters.
“You do not get to know Bordeaux, say, or Napa Valley, or anywhere else, really, by chasing the cheapest options.”Eric Asimov. (May, 2021). New York Times.
I just wanted to give a nod to the drinkable, and even sensational wine picks from South Africa, that have endeared themselves to many through their affordability, taste, and sometimes the addition of a kick-ass quirky name!
In no particular order or ranking I give you 20 South African wines under $20 (ZAR 300 ) – by recommendation of myself AND the Instagram polling & Twittersphere:
Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay|
$8.77 – ZAR132.50
What gives the aromatic Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay its particular complexity, as well as its character, has very much to do with the appellation and terroir.
The chardonnay grapes for this wine come from three Wineland areas: Stellenbosch, Elgin Valley and the Boschendal Farm itself. The result of the grape picks on the palate, is a character that’s buttery and rotund, while also lending an interesting flavour polarity of zesty citrus and pungent tropical fruitiness.
The golden yellow with a green tinge Chardonnay is definitely a worthwhile pick if you should dine on something like a Butternut & Tomato Soup where a prolonged lingering of the flavour, is welcome.
Arabella Cabernet Sauvignon|
$3.97 – ZAR60
Everyone knows that so many red wines pair well with Steak, but I’m not much of a hearty red meat eater, nor a full-bodied red wine fan.
However, the plum-noted Arabella Cabernet Sauvignon has a delectable balance of young tannins and blackcurrant aromas, which marry mouth-wateringly with the likes of Roasted Lamb and Lamb Shanks, which I’m always up for.
At ZAR 60, this intense and rich local wine does well to make an impression, whether you’re dining, or simply sipping.
Bosman Family Vineyards Adama Red|
$12.25 – ZAR185
If you’re the type to favour a short and clean finish to your reds, then look no further than the Bosman Family Vineyards Adama Red.
Its soft tannins and caramel that makes its home in the wine’s core, leads to a red even I can stomach and, even better, enjoy!
Coffee-rich oaks and the grape blends of Viognier, Shiraz, Grenache Noir etc. aren’t for everyone, but their meaty and spicy prominence in this wine is less a stark splash on the palate, and more a blending in among a steadfast fruit flavour profile.
Zonnebloem Merlot | $6.62 – ZAR100
You’ll want to have a Lamb dish or an Oxtail Stew at the ready for this wine.
The Zonnebloem Merlot is an exceptionally bold wine – structured, with its tannins at the ready.
The colour is decadently ruby red, and its flavour reveals the estate’s adept hand with wood integration with fruit. This Merlot is spicy and nearly reminiscent of a cigar box with its hints of a smoky aroma.
Alvi’s Drift Signature Pinotage|
$4.83 – ZAR73
Known as one the winemakers focused on preserving a real fruit-driven expression in their wines, Alvi’s Drift’s Signature Pinotage is surprisingly without airs on the shelves and the palate, and is just easily enjoyable.
The care they take with hand-harvesting the Pinotage grapes and doing so in the early mornings for the perfect grape bunch, as well as them eventually keeping their wines in American oak barrels, results in a rich wine with a juicy plum, liquorice, cherry and berry, as well as vanilla, bouquet.
Pour a ruby red-rimmed glass immediately, or even keep your wine for a while as it’s recommended to get even better with time in the cellar.
Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons Classique|$12.91 – ZAR195
Buy into delicious pedigree for a steal, with the Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons Classique.
This Bordeaux-style blend red is from wine producers whose origins stem from a collaboration between Baron Benjamin de Rothschild of France, and the late Anthonij Rupert of South Africa, then owner of Fredericksburg farm.
Regardless of lofty origins and esteemed local regard, the Vignerons Classique is enjoyable due to its medium acidity and intensity, the combo of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as the uniqueness of its bouquet.
Scent the likes of ripe figs and fragrant plum blossom and raspberries and even toasted caramel, liquorice, and vanilla.
Beef Wellington to match, anyone?
Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block|$15.56 – ZAR235
This is one of the intense red wines on the market, which offers great value for money.
Unique in design and enjoyment, this award-winning wine is comprised of Cinsault and Viognier, prominent Syrah with Grenache Noir, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon.
One of the things that makes it so caught after, is the taste and its fine-grained tannins – distinct even to untrained palates. Your nose will pick up hints of spice and pepper, and black fruit aromas.
Every sip reveals cocoa nib, plums, blackcurrant, and milk chocolate to the palate, and what a memorable impression the overall smooth wine leaves.
Fat Bastard Chardonnay|
$6.62 – ZAR100
By recommendation from worldly tastemaker Nontando Mposo, the Editor-In-Chief of Glamour Magazine South Africa.
Given that this tank-fermented wine was one of the highest polling wine recommendations by locals on social media, clearly there’s a loyal vanilla-loving drinker following for this brand’s inexpensive vino!
WCC Brut Cap Classique by Villiera|
$5.96 – ZAR89.99
It is an award-winning vegan wine that genuinely hits all the right notes in flavour and drinking experience – quite the surprise, but worthy of a try!
Note: If you don’t favour the prominence of yeast on the nose, in your sparkling wine, then pass on by.
IONA Sauvignon Blanc|$10.33 – ZAR156
If you have a Cheese Board at the ready this is the wine for you.
Wine critics praise it for its acidity and the bracing nature of its finish.
Iona’s SauvBlanc has a distinctive herbal and floral undertone too, to accompany its flavours, like limes and ripe gooseberry.
It’s crisp, and perfect to accompany a seafood dish like fresh prawns…but it’s almost too refreshingly crisp for the casual drinking I get up to.
4 Cousins Rosé|$5.96 – ZAR90
“4 Cousins Rose . Tastes like juice, hangover like Zeus”Originally tweeted by KO_Hartz (King of the Skull Servants) (@Cadaverific0) on 12 February 2022.
Graham Beck Bliss Nectar Rosé|
$12.58 – ZAR190
Hailing from one of the most significant wine regions in this hemisphere – Robertson, where the natural limestone deposits and huge diurnal temperature shifts make for singular base wines – this renowned local wine brand has a stable of formidable wines, including their Prestige Collection (Cuvée Clive) the Non-Vintage (NV) Collection comprised of Brut NV, Bliss Demi Sec NV and Brut Rosé NV), and finally, their Vintage Collection of Blanc de Blancs, Brut Zero and Brut Rosé.
Their artfully blended Cap Classique (Méthode Cap Classique) sparkling wines have endeared themselves to locals and visiting locals abound.
They have a particular affinity for bringing more than just bubbles to a sip, but the evocation of the grape, its vine, and the atmosphere at the heart of their region – for a steal!
Get the best of both grape worlds, with sweet bubbles included, when you drink the pink-hued Graham Beck Bliss Nectar Rosé comprised of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and a world of floral nuances and honeyed tones.
Warwick The First Lady Rosé|
$5.96 – ZAR90
From Stellenbosch comes this dry Rosé that’s both rich and fruity.
Fans of Pinotage grapes can rejoice because the grape is a deep and abiding part of what makes this wine so beloved.
A very delicate pink colours the wine, and thematically accompanies the raspberries and jasmine aromas. From the first sip, one is easily lost in the lightness of the rose blossoms and watermelon flavours on your palate.
If you’re having this wallet-friendly wine, I recommend nibbling on something with chilli, perhaps a tomato soup too, or even a dish with the pungency of Truffles.
Esona Sauvignon Blanc|$7.61 – ZAR115
It is quite inexpensive for a wine from the Robertson region – thankfully though!
If you had to visually sum up this white wine, many would profess it to be quite green and flinty compared to what white wine drinkers are used to.
It’s an admirable testament to its appellation and terroir though. The palate can easily & enjoyably pick up the minerality, as well as the earthy undertones that flow along in symphony with the guava and bell peppers flavour, and fruity bouquet.
Simonsig Vin de Liza|$14.90 – ZAR225
Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Satin Nectar|$11.59 – ZAR175
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m gonna be honest: I love sweet wines, and bubbly more than anything else.
Simonsig actually has a wealth of incredible red wines though (some bold and others so perfectly structured too) which pair quite beautifully with Ribeye Steak and even a juicy hamburger (try it with a pepper sauce, for grand flavour in the mouth).
What Simonsig wine I would consistently return for though, as someone prone to bi-monthly brunches and drinks suited to lazing about in the sunshine, is both their dessert wine, the smooth Vin de Liza with its complexity, and their spritzy Demi-Sec Cap Classique.
If you are a fan of “delicious earthy, wet river stone minerality” or perfumed aromas and fruity flavours such as sundried raisins, dried apricots and baked apples, then do give the budget-friendly Vin de Liza a try.
For those seeking something that’s both fresh and youthful, but enjoyable even to discerning palates, the Kaapse Vonkel Satin Nectar is a savvy choice. Give yourself the gift of a noseful of peaches and sun ripe apples, along with tropical fruits, and then let hints of lemon cream biscuits and mango hit sweet notes on the tongue.
De Grendel Rosé |$5.63 – ZAR85
South African wine drinkers seem to have an affinity for rose gold-hued wines, and so De Grendel Rosé has always found its way onto peoples shopping lists.
The Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage grapeful wine, is one of those pleasant picks you can enjoy even if you are a novice to wine drinking.
On the nose, it charms with passionfruit, watermelon and something like raspberries. When it hits the palate, the flavours to revel in include citrus, berry and floral undertones, which are well-matched to the youthful and light tone of the dry wine.
By recommendation of the producers themselves: Try this wine with dishes like spicy prawns, Portuguese sardines and salads made with red fruits.
Groot Constantia Shiraz|
$18.21 – ZAR275
Lauded for its savoury notes and heady texture and mouthfeel, the Groote Constantia Shiraz is the dinner table Must-Have vino!
The wine lingers much like dinner guests would when thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Choose this one if you’re a fan of quite dense fruit flavours (plum, wild raspberry), prominent French oak, pepper, and gamey notes.
Van Loveren African Java Pinotage|
$5.23 – ZAR79
Tired of heavy wooded red wines?
Try the Van Loveren African Java Pinotage. It’s light on the oak despite being well matured in the barrel.
The award-winning wine stands apart from many due to its very interesting combination of intense aromas and flavours – somehow making blackberry, mocha-java, ripe berry fruit, plum and wood, work together in a wine with a smooth (dark chocolate, I’ll have you know) finish.
Windfall Mendola Blanc de Blanc MCC|$10.59 – ZAR160
If you are a fan of citrus, then the Windfall Mendola Blanc de Blanc is a worthy sparkling wine for easy drinking.
Think nutty, toasted butter & biscuit flavours, and guava, peaches, and citrus blossoms on the nose.
The bottle is quite elegant, and how the dry wine sits on the palate makes it well-matched with so many dishes.