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Tokara launches new £200 flagship red wine

Stellenbosch estate Tokara has announced the release of a new flagship red wine that is the “culmination” of almost two decades of work and costs over £200 a bottle.

The new top blend from the estate is called ‘Telos’ and the first vintage to be released is the 2015.

A blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec and 3% Merlot, all the grapes are hand harvested block by block in a carefully managed series of phases. There is rigorous sorting and a mix of whole and crushed berries are then fermented with indigenous yeasts, basket pressed and then only free run juice is collected and matured in barrel for 22 months prior to bottling.

Before the arrival of Telos, Tokara’s red wines had covered two single site expressions and a Bordeaux-style blend as its flagship.

Tokara’s general manager, Karl Lambour, said: “In 2000, owner GT Ferreira’s brief to the young wine team at Tokara was ‘make a world class wine’. So in essence the vision for Telos was born out of those exact sentiments expressed almost 20 years ago.

“Finally, after many years of trialling individual parcels, various fermentation techniques and maturation regimes we found what we believe to be the magic formula – the parameters necessary to craft the most expressive wine from the Tokara site.”

Just 1,000 bottles have been produced and the estate has “unashamedly” positioned the wine in the luxury category not just with its packaging (the labels are printed on an old Heidelberg Letterpress machine) but also with an asking price of R4,200 a bottle (£232).

The wine has already received some very positive scores and remarks from leading international critics such as Tim Atkin MW and Neal Martin.

Atkin, referencing the ambitious price in his recent South Africa Report, argued that Telos is, “definitely a world class wine” and that, “the Cape belongs at the world’s top table, not just in its bargain basement.”

Lambour added: “Telos is made to honour the Ferreira family’s investment and persistence in the pursuit of excellence in the South African wine industry.”

db view: The price of ‘Telos’ is certainly ambitious at a time when South African wines in general remain very much undervalued. There will always be those who roll their eyes at new wines that are introduced at high prices. Most top wine labels in the market today commanding these prices are there on the back of a track record many decades, even centuries long.

On the other hand, Telos has an extremely limited production, Tokara is a very widely admired and respected estate with an excellent track record that has put a lot of apparent effort and care into its new top cuvée.

The quality of South African winemaking is shooting upwards currently and riding a wave of widespread critical approval. Two hundred pounds for a bottle of South African wine seems like a lot but Telos is aimed at a certain echelon of the fine wine market where that price is perfectly normal, quite low even in relative terms.

The industry in the Cape is battling problems of profitability and creating value through its production chain. If there are opportunities to be ambitious with regards pricing, to make a buzz, then it is right for Tokara or any other estate to take them. Not every wine or winery in South could or should of course but unless leading estates start asking for serious prices for their top wines and positioning them alongside other leading fine wine labels from around the world, then the people who form the key market for those sorts of wines will continue to overlook those from South Africa.

Sometimes if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

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