Stuart Botha is a winemaker fond of a good view. After making a name for himself in the cellars of Eagles’ Nest on the slopes of the Constantia winelands, he joined the winemaking team at Tokara Wine Estate in Stellenbosch where he guided his first harvest through the presses in 2018. And while Tokara was a significant step up in both production volumes and diversity of cultivars, a nine-month handover and Tokara’s dovetailing approach to viticulture and winemaking meant Botha felt right at home.
‘There’s all the same attention to detail, and the same precision viticulture,’ says Botha, who credits Tokara’s owners, GT and Anne-Marie Ferreira, with giving the team space, and support, to excel.
‘Their philosophy is that we should do everything possible – no compromises – in the vineyards and the winery to ensure we’re producing world-class wines,’ he says. That includes an ever-increasing presence of technology, from using drones to monitor vegetative growth to investing in cutting-edge cellar technology. ‘We’re constantly trying new things in the cellar,’ Botha adds. ‘At the moment the trend is on fermentation vessels, and our focus is on experimenting with different parcels in clay amphorae, concrete eggs, and changes to traditional wooden vessels.’
In terms of white wine, Tokara’s calling card is undoubtedly its Sauvignon Blanc. With fruit sourced from both Stellenbosch vineyards and a unique site in the Elgin Valley, their trio of Sauvignon Blanc releases showcases both terroir and a deft hand in the cellar. One of the standouts is the Tokara Reserve Collection Elgin Sauvignon Blanc 2018, which neatly balances freshness and acidity with the purity of fruit. Little wonder Botha’s maiden release made the cut at the prestigious 2018 FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 Awards.
Tokara also marked a major milestone last year with the release of the Telos 2015, its Bordeaux-inspired flagship blend. The Greek word ‘telos’ means ‘ultimate end’, and it’s a fitting name for a wine nearly two decades in the making. With just a tiny portion of Merlot and Malbec, it’s a wine dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, the iconic red-wine cultivar of the Stellenbosch winelands. And happily, for Botha, Tokara’s slopes on the Simonsberg are widely regarded as some of the finest Cabernet terroir in the region. Further, last year’s maiden release of Telos comes from the 2015 harvest, hailed as the best vintage in 30 years.
Priced north of R4 000 a bottle, Telos also marks Tokara’s first foray into the world of ultra-premium wines. South African winemakers are working hard to throw off the label of producing uncomplicated value-driven wines, and leading cellars are showing that South African wines can stand beside the first-growths of the Old World. And, crucially, demand the prices to match.