Tokara Wine Estate has exited this year’s award season with its head held high and perhaps more than just a little glint in its eye. Voted as one of the “50 most admired wine brands” in the world by Drinks International and the most successful producer in Wine Magazine’s 10-year-old wine awards, Tokara’s resolute disdain for mediocrity has earned this winery the attention and respect it deserves, both locally and abroad.
This is not even to mention the long list of awards and accolades their wines have snatched up. Suffice it to say that some of their wine bottles look more like Christmas trees with all of their gold medals, international award stickers, and trophies.
As such, it’s little wonder that Tokara’s exclusive vintage release party attracted the who’s who of the wine and food industry. Not that I count myself amongst those people, but I have sufficient wine drinking practice under my belt to know an excellent wine when I drink one. And so, we all clustered into Tokara’s sophisticated and artful restaurant, the walls of which are hung with tapestries by well-known South African artist, William Kentridge. Taking our seats, we embarked upon a tasting of the estate’s brand new vintage releases, lead by winemaker Stuart Botha and viticulturist Aiden Morton.
New vintage release wines
Reserve Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Stellenbosch isn’t particularly known for producing Sauvignon Blanc grapes, given how hot it gets here in summer. Yet, Tokara is in possession of a special parcel of land that is perched atop Sir Lowry’s Pass, just south of Stellenbosch in the cool-climate wine-producing region of Elgin. This explains the calibre of their Reserve Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2018, which delivers a fresh bouquet of granadilla, cape gooseberries, and lemongrass. 13% of this wine has been barrel fermented to lend it a little weight, texture, and creaminess, which supports the delightful citrus and grapefruit flavours.
Director’s Reserve White 2016
Tokara’s Bordeaux style white (70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Sémillon) was a complex, rich, and indulgent white wine with a gorgeous nose of passion fruit, toasted almonds, and that heavenly baked brioche smell of French oak. Clean, yet with extraordinary depth and fullness, this is a wine to enjoy with grilled fish or roasted duck. Or, if you’re like me, as a sunset treat. Who needs gin & tonic when the wine is this good?
Reserve Collection Chardonnay 2017
I’m always excited to try a good chardonnay and with Tokara’s name on the bottle you just know it’s going to be an exquisite balance of wood and freshness, which, it was. Citrus at first, followed by a rich, creamy mid-palate, gently winding down with vanilla, almond, and anise flavours. There was a savouriness that I absolutely loved and the fact that it was a lovely butterscotchy Chardonnay, yet still fresh and elegant where it needed to make this a wholly delicious and too-easy-to-drink wine.
Limited Release Pinotage 2016
Producing only five to seven barrels per year, Tokara’s Pinotage is indeed a limited release. This wine is made from 100% Pinotage grapes grown on the northwest-facing slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain, which borders much of the estate. A deep garnet in colour, this Pinotage delivers aromas of sweet red berries, vanilla, and dark chocolate, which it backs up with intense fruit flavours of ripe berries and strawberries, intermingled with a savoury depth and a slightly tannic finish. Absolutely lovely!
Reserve Collection Stellenbosch Syrah 2014
A dark and broody crimson in colour, this deeply expressive Syrah has a ripe fruity depth laced with savoury notes of tomato and marmite. A rich perfume of cedar, blackberries, and vanilla leads to a silky, rich palate, bursting with violets and ripe dark fruits, finishing with a nice peppery bite. Such a refined yet meaty Syrah would pair excellently with lamb, pork, and venison.
Reserve Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Again, this red wine of Tokara’s features that ever-present savoury character. In this wine, however, it’s beautifully expressed as an earthy, umami fragrance (a sort of mature cheddar/parmesan cheese), which is nestled deeply into aromas of dark berry fruits, bright red currants, and cedarwood. I also picked up on delicious hints of eucalyptus. Stored correctly, Tokara’s Reserve Collection Cabernet Sauvignon has good ageing potential (2030).
Director’s Reserve Red 2014
Ah, my favourite wine of the day, which is saying a whole lot considering the calibre of Tokara’s Reserve Collection and Director’s Reserve range wines. This Bordeaux-style red is powerful, elegant, meaty, and intense. A brooding, tall, dark, and handsome wine of great depth and fruit that marries beautifully with heavier dishes like grilled fillet steak or veal osso bucco. Dark cherries, raspberries, and blackcurrants are, again, underscored by gorgeous umami flavours: an exquisite wine, to be sure!
A new chapter at Tokara Restaurant
With the wine tasting concluded, the tables were cleared and set for a three-course lunch whipped up by Tokara’s brand-new executive chef, Carolize Coetzee, who has taken the reins from Richard Carstens. Girl power! Chef Carolize has quite the impressive résumé, having graced the kitchens of Dornier Wine Estate (head chef), Delaire Graff Restaurant, Makaron Restaurant at Majeka House, Haute Cabrière, Equus at Cavalli, and Cuvée at Simonsig.
Needless to say, the three-course lunch she delivered was absolutely exquisite, starting with a delightful and summery white asparagus dish with goat’s cheese, sunflower seeds, oats, and chive blossoms, followed by tender lamb sirloin perched on a bed of aubergine tartar and served with potato gnocchi, red pepper purée and kapokbos jus.
The final course was a dessert of such evil indulgence that it would take three months in an ashram to cleanse my soul (thankfully, I’m perfectly comfortable with hedonism): toasted almond, dark chocolate mousse, poached pear, burnt vanilla, honeycomb, and cacao nib. Even now, my mouth waters as I write this.
Tokara’s restaurant is considered one of South Africa’s very best fine dining restaurants and it’s a pleasure to see Chef Carolize carry on that legacy. She will be launching her new menu from the first week of December, so it is greatly recommended that you pay the estate a visit. Just be sure to start your experience with a tasting of Tokara’s absolutely spellbinding new vintage release wines, too!
For reservations call 021 885 2550; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tokara.co.za.