2020 MR (Mvemve Raats) de Compostella, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Alcohol 14%, Residual Sugar 2 g/l) LCBO Vintages Online Cellar Collection $115 (750ml bottle)

And coming in as a late entry as my favourite wine of the 2023 comes the MR (Mvemve Raats) from the minds of Mzokhona Mvemve and Bruwer Raats.

It’s not the easiest wine to find on the LCBO website, as it requires a little bit of digging and delving to find the actual ordering page, right here. As of writing, there are only 51 bottles left in the system, so you had better get your skates on if you’d like to add this absolutely killer bottling to your cellar.

And here’s why you should invest your hard-earned dollars in this particular wine:

Mzokhona Mvemve, the first recipient of the Indaba Scholarship, is graduate of Stellenbosch University and was one of the first qualified black oenologists in South Africa. He also makes his own wine under the Sagila label. Bruwer Raats is the owner and winemaker of Raats Family Wines, where over two decades he has earned reputation for crafting some seriously top-tier Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, arguably some of the very best in South Africa.

Together, sine 2004, using tiny parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc from all over Stellenbosch, they have produced the finest five-variety Cape Bordeaux blend I have ever tasted. Honestly, if the truth be told, I would actually rank this up there with some of the hallowed examples from elsewhere in the world of wine; it’s a modern classic, of that there is no doubt. This particular vintage is 30% Cabernet Franc, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Malbec, 16% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot, the cépage differing from vintage to vintage.

The bouquet is a little shy at first, but with some gentle encouragement (think: a decant two hours before pouring and a gentle warming in the glass), this is a hell of a complex parcel to unwrap; my scrawled tasting notes appeared to go on for ever, and by the end of the second side of the second Post-it note had become entirely unintelligible, as if having taken on a Ralph Steadman-esque life of their own. Over the decades, I have discovered that this, my friends, is the sign of a truly great wine.

The aromatic basket of pristine red, black, and blue fruit is damn impressive: blackberries, raspberries, cherries (both red and black), blackcurrants, and blueberries. This is augmented with a wholly savoury potpourri of violets, elderberry flowers, dried lavender, roasted coffee beans, a wet-soil earthiness, pencil lead/graphite, and a lovely warming hit of cedar hidden deep within its enchantingly perfumed folds.

In the mouth, it’s the sense of reserve that really enchanted me. It dances on the palate, with fine-grained, silky tannins framing all that picture-perfect fruit, but with the addition of subtle cocoa elements and a vibrant freshness due in no small part to the fresh, jump-up acidity reminiscent of raspberries, cranberries, red currants, and tart red cherries. The weight is medium-full, and that finesse and elegance sets it at a completely different level from its peers. The mineral finish leans towards the graphite and is deeply satisfying.

When questioned about the philosophy of this project, it becomes apparent that the word “quality” is key. According to the two men, quality, not terroir nor variety, governs every step of the winemaking process, from vine to bottle. It’s an utterly fascinating concept whose proof is in the proverbial pudding.

Like many of the greats from Bordeaux and beyond, this wine is certainly crafted for the long haul (I’m honestly thinking 35+ years here). While a decent decant and some time in the glass will open it up a little, long-term cellaring will reap great rewards for the patient wine lover. But don’t let that put you off, as this wine, while still somewhat reserved, is an absolute delight, particularly alongside food. Save it for something extra special though.

Speaking of special, this bottle would make a great holiday gift for someone who appreciates a great bottle of wine. You’ll find very few true wine lovers who would ever turn up their nose at a wine like this.

It’s pretty exciting stuff.

(Five out of a possible five apples)

Raats are represented in Ontario by Icon Vins Fins.

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