South African Star
In 2018, Kanonkop’s Paul Sauer 2015 became the first South African wine to receive a perfect 100-point score from Master of Wine Tim Atkin.
The top UK wine critic described the Bordeaux-style blend as “one of the greatest young wines I have ever tasted,” naming it overall red wine of the year in his seventh annual guide to South African wine.
The iconic wine was named after Kanonkop’s formidable founder, the government minister and wine-lover Paul Sauer. A member of the South African parliament for over 40 years, Sauer was one of the leading advocates for the country’s wine industry, and was responsible for implementing the law that South African supermarkets could sell wine (but no other forms of alcohol).
Sauer founded Kanonkop (Afrikaans for “Cannon Hill”) Estate in 1929, just down the road from the family farm where he had been raised. But it wasn’t until 1973 when the first wines bearing the Kanonkop label were produced.
Now, the estate is run by Sauer’s grandsons, Paul & Johann Krige, and Kanonkop has become something of a legendary name among wine lovers globally. In fact, in April this year it was named one of the World’s 50 Most Admired Wine Brands by Drinks International Magazine.
Paul Sauer (left) with the estate's first farm manager (source: Kanonkop.co.za)
So what sets this fourth-generation, family-run winery apart?
For starters, Kanonkop were one of the first producers to grow and vinify South Africa’s signature grape variety, Pinotage. The red-blooded grapes were first planted at the estate in 1941, and now make up just under half of Kanonkop’s vines. To this day Kanonkop is famous for producing benchmark examples of the style.
Then there is the fact Kanonkop only produce red wines, a decision the family made in 1981 and have stuck to ever since. Previously they had produced Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, but these were poorly suited to the terroir.
Another point of distinction is that all Kanonkop’s wines are designed to age well: not just in terms of longevity, but in the way they gain complexity and nuance in the bottle.
Finally, it comes down to the family’s down-to-earth and hospitable attitude.
As Johann Krige puts it: “We don’t have time for and are not inclined to airs and graces at Kanonkop. This is who we are: we are not just selling wine, we are selling a lifestyle. This is ours, and everybody is welcome.”
Paul and Johann Krige (source: Kanonkop.co.za)
Paul Sauer 2017 has been one of the most hotly anticipated (and strictly allocated) releases of 2020, and will be landing in-store at Planet Wine in September. If the early reviews are anything to go by, stocks will not last long. As Master of Wine Greg Sherwood, who scored the wine 98/100, wrote:
“This 2017 Paul Sauer has all the subtlety and finesse, elegance and seamless balance to rival the greatest Bordeaux blends of France, while retaining its own unique South African signature imprint.”
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