Cups which runneth over

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The wine world is driven by the seasons. There is the biblical ‘time to plant and time to reap’ but right now South African producers are reaping alright – not bunches of grapes, though. They’re reaping in the trophies, gold and silver medals and commendations!

If April is wine competition and judging season, then May is the time for revelation with both Concours Mondial de Bruxelles and the International Wine Challenge announcing the results of their respective selections. Closer to home, late May also sees the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show results revealed.

Staged in Italy, the 22nd annual Concours Mondial de Bruxelles assessed 8 000 samples over just three days. Run according to OIV rules (L’Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin or Organisation of International Vine and Wine), the competition saw South Africa awarded four grand gold medals, 33 gold and 42 silver. The big news was that Stellenbosch wine farm Kleine Zalze was awarded the singular honour of being adjudged the top white wine of the competition for its 2013 Family Reserve Chenin Blanc. This is an honour afforded the best sparkling, white, rosé and red wines overall – something which South Africa has achieved only once before with Spice Route’s 2000 flagship Syrah, way back in 2003. (Coincidentally the same year its older sibling, Fairview, was rewarded with two grand golds for the 2001 Fairview Solitude Shiraz and 2000 Cyril Back Shiraz.)

For a wine to win a grand gold medal it must be scored 96 points out of a possible 100 by every member of the five to six member tasting jury – which is no mean feat! The four local examples which achieved this were Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 and aforementioned Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2013, as well as Savanha Naledi Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.

Attracting more than 12 000 entries, the International Wine Challenge is a significantly larger and somewhat more stringent competition with the judging held in London over the course of two weeks. (For a description of the judging process, click HERE). South Africa’s haul included 13 trophies, 27 gold medals, 111 silvers, 175 bronzes and 239 commendations. And at a gala banquet to be held in London mid-July, the international trophies will be announced.
Regional trophy winners were: Cape Point Vineyards Isliedh 2013, Oldenburg Chenin Blanc 2013, Oldenburg Syrah 2012, Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Noble Late Harvest 2013, Constantia Glen Two 2014, Cederburg Sauvignon Blanc 2014, DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2014, Mon Vieux ‘Hell’s Heights’ Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Flagstone Free Run Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marks & Spencer Paul Cluver Late Harvest Riesling 2013, Saronsberg Full Circle 2013, Sutherland Chardonnay 2012 and Vergelegen Chardonnay Reserve 2013.

The Decanter World Wine Awards is the other international ‘biggie’, with results set to be announced on June 14. Publishing Director Sarah Kemp announced at the start of the judging in London that entries had once again exceeded expectations, with more than 16 000 wines entered from all over the world. South Africa was awarded 44 gold medals – with those wines then going forward to a second round of judging to be assessed for regional trophies. Should the wines have been deemed the best of the best in their regional price categories they then went on to be assessed for a third time – and consideration for the coveted international trophies, of which there are only a handful. The past two years has seen South Africa fare rather well at this rarefied level, winning five international trophies in 2014 (23 gold medals) and four in 2013.

Interestingly, there was a preponderance of red wines (28) to whites, where 13 wines won gold. Sauvignons Blanc and Chardonnay were equally matched with four apiece while on the red front Shiraz outstripped Bordeaux blends by 15 wines (11 of which were above the £15 level) to eight. Just 18 of the 44 golds were under £15 with the rest in the over £15 category. The significance of this is that South African wines are justifying the hype of international wine writers beating the drum about the necessity for higher prices to be achieved. It’s not just at the lower price points where South African wines can compete. Results of the DWWA 2015 go live on June 14.

The Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show is the most prestigious of the local competitions with selection convenor Michael Fridjhon again making the point that a bronze or silver at this event “really means something” because of the stringency of the judging. Medal tallies were down in comparison with previous years – 27 golds and 20 trophies versus 37 and 28 in 2014. There were just 88 silvers and 430 in contrast to 121 and 469 the previous year. The wine farm which claimed top honours overall was Rustenberg, having been awarded trophies for its Five Soldiers Chardonnay 2012 and Peter Barlow 2009, selected as the international judges’ trophy pick.

The best red overall, having already won the trophy for the best Shiraz, was Fleur du Cap Shiraz 2013 while its white wine counterpart as best white overall was the Morgenster White 2013, a Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend, which also won the trophy for the best white blend. The Discovery of the Show trophy went to Ultra Liquors for its Secret Cellar Merlot-Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon No. 702 2013.

The remaining trophy winners were: Noble Late Harvest Dessert Wine – Paul Cluver Riesling NLH 2013 Chenin Blanc and Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc 2014; Chardonnay – Rustenberg Five Soldiers Chardonnay 2012; Bordeaux-Style Red Blend – Diemersdal MM Louw Estate Red 2013; Shiraz-based red blend – Olifantsberg Silhouette 2013; Cabernet Sauvignon – Spier Woolworths Single Vineyard The Hutton Cabernet Sauvignon 2012; Sauvignon Blanc (Unwooded) – Spier Woolworths Single Vineyard Windy Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2014; Cape Port – De Krans Cape Vintage 2012 and Best Niche Red Variety – Leeuwenkuil Cinsault 2014. Museum class trophies were awarded to the KWV Likeurwyn 1937 in the dessert wine category, Vergelegen GVB 2011 for its white blend, Jordan Nine Yards 2009 Chardonnay and Highlands Road Estate for a 2007 Sauvignon Blanc.

– Fiona McDonald