Tokara, South Africa Realized
Feb 12, 2019
There’s no dabbling with charismatic Mr. Ferreira, who spent a healthy chunk of his fortune in the mid-nineties on a showcase winery in Stellenbosch that houses a serious art gallery built in a circle around a topflight restaurant.
The winery called Tokara is named for a mysterious Affrikan word derived from feelings of gratitude, essentially for the good fortune of living in a land of majestic beauty. Like much of panoramic South Africa, Tokara’s sibling vineyards Home Farm, Highlands and the original estate site in Stellenbosch are surrounded by natural wonders. So inspiring is this descriptive landscape that it’s given rise to a series of highly creative names including “Table Mountain,” Bay of False Hope” and “The Cradle of Human Kind,” among many others.
In a significant sense, Tokara Winery brings thing full circle in South Africa where wine was first made almost 400 years ago along the southern slopes of the Simonsberg Mountains in frontier towns called Stellenbosch and Durbanville. Much more recently, GT Ferreira has connected one of the country’s youngest winemakers, the talented wunderkind Miles Mossop, to these venerable terroirs and created a three-tiered range of native wines with global personalities.
Working with superior grapes from top viticultural areas including Elgin, Simonsberg and Hemel-en-Aarde, Mossop crafts these impressive raw materials into three separate tiers including a Premium Collection containing Sauvignon Blanc (arguably South Africa’s most overachieving varietal), Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz (by consensus the country’s best red wine), a Reserve Collection of smaller production gems from special sites and the two wines that crown the range, Tokara Director’s Red and White. Mossop has a thing for matching vineyard sites and varietals, probably the reason he gets consistently high scores from top wine writers.
Tokara’s wines are distinctive and like the best wines in the world, based on small production vineyards planted with modern clonal material in sites rigorously selected for suitability. They are processed intuitively in an innovative winery equipped with all the “bells and whistles” that make big differences in modern winemaking. Here’s a few thumbnail profiles of Miles Mossop’s Tokara wines.
Tokara Sauvignon Blancs are blended from three different sites to lend multiple shades of varietal flavor, all knit together in a delicious wine that is fresh up front and silky going down. The Reserve selection includes a small percentage of barrel-fermented wine and ratchets up all the expressive style points.
Tokara Chardonnays are fermented and aged partially in oak (some new) to build richness around a generous core of pineapple/citrus fruit and toasty brioche. Like the best examples, Tokara Chardonnays are driven by a broad set of pleasing flavors that offer complexity while never sacrificing balance or true varietal character.
Cabernet Sauvignon is perhaps where the winery shines the brightest. Ironically it’s also the grape that South Africa struggles with the most. However, when planted in the right places no other red wine grape in the country achieves such purity of flavor. Simonsberg is that perfect spot and Tokara Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with components of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Merlot, is the proof.
Simonsberg, like other top sub-regions in Stellenbosch sits in a valley nestled below a rocky ridge. Its inland location means much warmer temperatures and less rain. Shiraz from here is amazing and lends credence to the argument that it’s South Africa’s top performing grape. Miles Mossop blends in 12% Mourvèdre (also from Simonsberg) to Tokara’s Shiraz to lend an authentic Rhône style point to the final cuvée.
The two wines from Tokara’s top tier, Director’s White and Director’s Red are what first caught the attention of major wine writers like Robert Parker. Both wines are Bordeaux-inspired blends and both are blockbusters. Director’s White is based on a marriage of 3/4s Sauvignon Blanc and 1/4 Semillon, while Director’s Red combines 67% Cabernet Sauvignon with 20% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot and 5% Malbec. Both are legitimate Bordeaux style wines that probably will surprise you when you first taste them.
Ironically, after four centuries of producing wine, South Africa only now is coming into its own. Wineries like Tokara are leading the way and helping to put this amazing country on the premium wine map where it justly belongs.
“This is a well balanced Chardonnay that gently fans out towards the saline finish.” 90pts Wine Advocate
“There’s a pleasant herbal edge that’s reminiscent of fresh-cut grass, white asparagus and lemon verbena on the nose of this wine…” 91pts Wine Enthusiast, Editors’ Choice
This wine has an amazing depth of color of intense garnet with a red plum rim.
“Bright, crisp and clean, this has a classic Sauvignon Blanc character of vibrant citrus aromas and flavors…” 90pts Wine Enthusiast, Top 100 Wines of 2018
The wine has stunning flavors of bright red fruits, dried herbs and sour cherries.
“…the palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, well-judged acidity, cedar and sandalwood infusing the black fruit that segues into a Chinese five-spice tinged finish.” 92pts Wine Advocate
“Just a superb white from Tokara that will give a decade or more of drinking pleasure.” 93pts Wine Advocate