SA wines to try before you die

Want to make every weekend special for the next 19-odd years? Columnist Heather Parker takes a look at a new book: 1001 Wines You Must Try Before You Die.

by: Heather Parker | 28 Aug 2008

Penguin has just brought out a book that could make this come true (at least for wine geeks): 1001 Wines You Must Try Before You Die.

It’s a global guide, so financially and logistically, a modest one bottle a week could be a goal – and would keep your palate in adventures for the next, oh, 19 years and 3 months. And, of course, you’d be arguing with the publisher for 19 years about the selection.

Who decides what the world's most memorable wines are?

There are 44 contributors, and presumably the last word belongs to the tome's general editor, Briton Neil Beckett. His biography tells us that he has a 'first class honors degree in English and Medieval History...' though that's not the relevant part. What's relevant is that he made his hobby pay, as contributing editor to Harper's Wine & Spirit Weekly, and editor of The World of Fine Wine. He's one of the big knobs of wine tasting in Europe, on the Grand Jury Européen.

Leaving the wine credentials of the contributors aside, I was delighted to see we have a mountaineer, a professor of criminal law, a handful of journalists including the chief editor of Madrid newspaper El Mundo, and a bunch of academics. They're not just spit-or-swallow snobs then. The only South African contributor is Capetonian Tim James of, and of Noseweek.

For practical reasons, you'd want to start your vinous journey with the wines closest to home; to celebrate with the 30-odd locals which make the cut for, to use the rather defensive term employed by the book, having 'a record of high quality and, even more important, distinctive character'. Knowing how snippy the wine world can be (witness the current spat around the next Platter guide, even before it comes out), I'd also be defensive.

Theoretically, our 30 champs could take you through to early next year, giving you time to source wines for the rest of your journey from those other great wine-producing countries featured, like, oh, India and Lebanon. Our local heroes are:


  • Cape Point Vineyards Semillion 2003
  • Chamonix Chardonnay Reserve 2005
  • Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest Weisser Riesling 2003
  • Hamilton Russel Vineyards Chardonnay 2006
  • Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 1986
  • Nederberg Edelkeur Noble Late Harvest 2004
  • Oak Valley Mountain Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2005
  • Rudera Robusto Chenin Blanc 2002
  • Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2005
  • Vergelegen White 2005


  • Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2004
  • Bouchard-Finlayson Galpin Peak Tête de Cuveé Pinot Noir 2005
  • De Trafford Elevation 393 2003
  • Ernie Els 2004
  • Fairview Caldera 2005
  • GS Cabernet 1966
  • Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2003
  • Kanonkop Pinotage 1998
  • Klein Constantia / Anwilka Estate Anwilka 2005
  • Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2003
  • Meerlust Rubicon 1996
  • Morgenster 2005
  • Rust en Vrede Estate Wine 2001
  • Rustenberg John X Merriman 2003
  • Sadie Family Columella 2004
  • Solms-Hegewisch Africana 2005
  • Thelema Merlot Reserve 2003
  • Vergelegen 2003


  • Bredell's Cape Vintage Reserve 1998
  • KWV Muscadel Jerepigo 1953

    You see why I say theoretically?

    What were you thinking, Tim James? Where do you expect us to find 1953 Jerepigo, 1966 GS Cabernet et al? I flipped through one of the better online wine shops looking for prices for the more current vintages, and drew a blank even with those – not one of these 30 wines was for sale there.

    So maybe it's not going to help you plan dinner parties, but consider this a reference book of note. It's as thick as a brick and as heavy as one too, and if you're a wine anorak, then it gives you a challenge you could die (and bankrupt yourself) trying to meet.

    Far more useful to Food24 readers: let's draw up a list of our own favourite wines, and vote on them. I'll start by backing, from the list above, Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Bouchard-Finlayson Galpin Peak Tête de Cuveé Pinot Noir, and Vin de Constance – but any vintage, you hear me, Tim! And then I'd add anything from Springfield, but especially the Special Cuvee. And then...

    Over to you.

    Heather Parker is the editor of Health24 and Bride magazine. She is one of SA's most respected journalists, and a serious foodie to boot.

    - None


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