WineHandpicked by IWSC

20 top South African red wines

From powerful Cabernet Sauvignon made in Stellenbosch to Pinotage from Paarl, discover the diversity South African red wines can offer with this award-winning selection from the IWSC

Words by IWSC Judges

stellenbosch vineyard
Handpicked by IWSC
The vines of Stellenbosch in autumn

Although South Africa’s wines are considered to be from the New World, winemaking has been taking place there since the 1600s. However, for much of the 20th Century there was little international attention paid to South African wine, and apartheid-related boycotts of wines made in the country were common. But alongside a post-apartheid boom in the 1990s came many new, artisan producers who are now making some of the country’s best bottles – and with them came an increase in plantings of red wine grape varieties, which now take up over 40 per cent of the country’s vineyard area.

Stellar Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and more are now produced in the major vine-growing areas of Stellenbosch, Constantia and Paarl. In these areas and others spanning the Western half of the country, bright and vibrant New World fruits combine with Old World complexity. The Western Cape’s large array of flora helps to create singular wines with an often herbal, earthy character – especially seen in Pinotage, a signature grape for the country and an essential building block in so-called ‘Cape blend’ red wines.

Winemakers are experimenting with other black grapes, including Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault, but the big hitting varieties make up the bulk of this year’s award-winning bottles from the IWSC. In an impressive year for South African reds, twelve Gold Medals were awarded to producers. Topping the list was Vilafonté’s Series C 2014 – ‘a wine of true elegance and class’ according to IWSC judges, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec scoring an impressive 96 points.

Vilafonté's C Series 2014, a South African red wine that expresses 'true elegance and class'

Other wines nabbing top scores included Tesco Shiraz 2020, which judges said had the taste of ‘red and black cherries sprinkled with white pepper and a hint of black olive,’ and Old Road Wine Co’s 12 Mile Syrah 2018, which was praised for ‘savoury, herbal elements emerging on the palate.’

Pinotage made a splash this year too, with the peppery Fairview Barrel-Aged Pinotage 2020 and Kanu Wines Pinotage 2019 both picking up Silver Medals. Discover these brilliant bottles and even more superb South African red wines, all tasted blind by experts, in our selection of award-winners at this year’s IWSC.

grape harvest south africa


We run a tightly structured, rigorous wine tasting process. That means that each wine sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC wine judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the wine industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.


Only the best wines sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, wines have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.


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