Iconic performance

SPAR’s Fairtrade win

The International Wine Challenge (IWC) announced its results and among them was a win for both SPAR and South Africa.

“South Africa reclaimed the IWC Fairtrade Award for the first time since 2018 with the SPAR Reserve Chenin Blanc Fairtrade 2021 from Breede River Valley producer, Uniwines,” the Challenge’s release stated.

Other top performers at the 2022 Challenge included Neil Ellis wines of Stellenbosch which won the South African wine trophy for its 2020 vintage of Whitehall chardonnay. The South African red trophy was awarded to Walker Bay producer Bouchard Finlayson for the 2020 Tête de Cuvée pinot noir.

Brandy in fine spirits

South African brandy producers have enjoyed a rich run of form this year.

It was announced that the KWV was the best brandy producer overall at the International Spirits Challenge, the world’s most comprehensive and authoritative competition of its kind.

KWV’s Heritage XO won the trophy for Best Cognac, the KWV 15 the trophy for Best brandy, while its KWV 20 won double gold and KWV 10 and 12 each won gold. On the back of that performance it was no surprise that the KWV was awarded the ultimate accolade as best producer.

In addition to that silver medals went to Richelieu 10, Richelieu International, Klipdrift Premium, Van Ryn's 10, 12, 15 and 20.

“These producers are truly the cutting edge of the country’s 350-year brandy history,” said South African Brandy Foundation director Christelle Reade-Jahn in her congratulatory message. “South Africa remains enshrined as a world leader of quality brandy.”

Commenting on KWV brandy's trophies at the Spirits Challenge, brandy master Pieter de Bod said they represented a “real achievement” for the team. “The ISC is the major event for spirits in the world, with over 2 500 entries from more than 70 countries for spirits alone.”

The most recent accolades followed weeks after Van Ryn's 20-year-old potstill brandy was named World’s Best Brandy by the panel at the World Brandy Awards. At the same event, both 20-year-old brandies from Van Ryn's and KWV took gold.

Recognition for Nederburg

In 1974 Nederburg produced a world class cabernet sauvignon that has gone on to become the stuff of legend. In July a local fine wine auction knocked down a bottle of it for R25 000!

There is no doubting the commercial success and scale of the Paarl-based wine producer. And yet wine consumers tend to overlook Nederburg, perhaps because it can be found on every wine shelf and in almost every restaurant. It has been estimated that a bottle of Nederburg’s Baronne is opened every 15 seconds!

And still this wine is capable of trouncing other wines in blind tastings with the most recent accolade an appearance in the Prescient Signature red blend report where it made it into the top 10 performers.

Furthermore the cabernet sauvignon and shiraz-led blend which is unashamedly intended for everyday enjoyment, scored 92 points out of a possible 100 and was easily the best value offering among the top 10 wines. The average price of the wines scoring 90 points and higher was R253 – and Nederburg Baronne retails for less than R100.

Nederburg’s red wine maker Zinaschke Steyn said there is a dedicated team which works year round to ensure the quality of this large volume red blend doesn’t falter. “It’s just the wine you want for bonding, whether you are with the family, watching sport with your mates or celebrating an occasion. It’s a fixture in our house – and in so many others.”

10/10 for merlot

Merlot has a chequered history locally. It’s a wine style which consumers love and which is widely planted but it is seldom taken seriously or known for producing truly excellent wines.

For this reason the Merlot Forum, a collective of merlot producers, decided to start a competition to single out the best of the best. Here is the list of the Top 10: Dornier 2019, Bein little merlot 2019, Delaire Graff Banhoek Reserve 2019 – all from Stellenbosch; Glen Carlou Collection 2019, Anura Reserve 2019, Vondeling barrel selection 2019 and Landskroon 2020 from Paarl, with Groot Constantia 2018 from Constantia, Elgin Vintners 2019 from Elgin and Org de Rac 2019 from the Swartland completing the selection.

Veteran vintner and former Meerlust cellarmaster Giorgio Dalla Cia shared some insights into the development and use of merlot in South Africa, since Meerlust was one of the first to plant and vinify it in the 1970s with its first commercial release in 1980. “It’s not a grape you accidentally make well,” he said. “You have to have a plan and make it with intent.”

To the winner, the spoils

The Trophy Wine Show came of age with its 21st staging in 2022, and unveiled a new sponsor in the form of Investec.

For the first time since the global pandemic international tasters were able to form part of the panel and show convenor Michael Fridjhon praised the contributions made by British wine writer Anthony Rose, American sommelier and Robert Parker Wine Advocate reviewer for South Africa, Anthony Mueller and Eric Goettelmann, executive sommelier of the Michelin-starred Relais Bernard Loiseau group in Burgundy, France.

Best producer overall was adjudged to be Spier wine farm, the second time the Stellenbosch producer has won the top award. Glen Carlou won the Investec trophy for the best red wine, the Riedel trophy for the best Bordeaux blend and the inaugural Vinolok trophy for the best premium wine entered.

Paul Cluver estate’s 2020 chardonnay was the top white wine overall while newcomer Brookdale was awarded the Rosa Kruger trophy for best old vine wine for its chenin blanc 2020. The 2021 chardonnay from Oldenburg vineyards won the international judges trophy being the highest scoring individual wines from the visiting palates.

By the numbers, 673 wines were entered with just 29 being awarded gold medals – and of those, 20 won trophies.

For a full list of the trophy winners and gold medallists, visit www.trophywineshow.co.za/winners-and-results/

Iconic performance

How do you follow up South Africa’s first ever 100 point wine? By remaining humble and sticking to your knitting, would be the answer from Kanonkop’s cellarmaster Abrie Beeslaar.

Kanonkop’s Paul Sauer 2015 was the first local wine to receive the so-called perfect score, awarded in 2018 by international wine critic and master of wine Tim Atkin.

The Stellenbosch estate is not one given to grandiose gestures or elaborate brags about how good their wines are. They double down and work harder at ensuring the winemaking team delivers quality across the board, be it the Kadette pinotage or the Black Label version which sells for four figures!

The latest vintage to be released is the 2019, and cellar chief Beeslaar said they hadn’t deviated from the blend that works so well. Cabernet sauvignon leads the trio at 75% while cabernet franc and merlot at 14% and 11% respectively make their own contribution.

Beeslaar, who celebrated his 20th vintage at Kanonkop in 2022, remembers the 2019 vintage as a difficult one. “It was very confusing being at the tail end of the drought years. I picked the older vineyards before the younger ones – usually it’s the other way around!”

He admitted he didn’t hold out too much hope for the vintage but as time has gone by, the wines have surprised him. “I’m so delighted with how they turned out.” He said it had been a reminder that “we work with a natural product – and we don’t make it according to a recipe”.

The stuff of dreams

A 24-year-old from Bergvliet, Joshua Hendricks, will be the only South African bartender competing in the global finals of the Diageo World Class competition which takes place in Sydney, Australia in September.

Hendricks is a bartender at Fable in Cape Town’s renowned restaurant strip in Bree Street, and has showed impressive career growth in a short space of time, having gone from a protégé (mentee) in the Diageo SA The Hand-Up mentorship programme to the South African national winner in the Diageo SA World Class competition. To date, he’s the youngest ever national winner in the South African leg!

The national final was held in the Mother City over three days in June, where 10 contestants were put through their paces in front of a judging panel which included Johnnie Walker brand influencer, Kay Ngonyama (popularly known as Kay Yarms); award-winning chef, cookbook author, MasterChef SA and Ultimate Braai Master judge, Pete Goffe-Wood; three time World Class champion and co-founder of Diageo SA The Hand Up Mentorship Programme, Brent Perremore; Diageo Reserve Brand ambassador and facilitator of the World Class programme, Dom de Lorenzo; and runner-up for two consecutive years in the World Class competition and current bartender trainer, Haroon Haffejee.

“The first day kicked off with a Mastery challenge, where we had to identify 50 cocktail ingredients by smell and taste alone,” Hendricks said. “Classic cocktails were served in test tubes and we had to identify these blind.” It was a knock-out, with only one contestant left standing.

“I came fifth in this challenge, so I didn’t do that great. In fact, I did not win any of the rounds but I managed to be consistent about placing in the top three and this is why I had the highest mark at the end of the competition,” Hendricks said.

In the speed round, contestants had to create 10 original cocktails in eight minutes. “My best creation from this round was a Singleton honey sour, with a red wine and pear reduction between the foam. It is a New York sours type of drink which is done quite often, but the way I did it was amazing.”

Gin is still in

Musgrave craft gin has been ranked amongst the best gins in the world at the distinguished 2022 Fifty Best Gin Awards in New York, USA. Taking home, a double gold medal for their Musgrave Original, along with just seven other international gins, and a gold for Musgrave Rose Pink – South Africa’s original pink gin – one of 22 other international gins.

“It’s an absolute honour to have been selected for both our gins and to stand amongst the world’s very best,” said Simone Musgrave, the founder of Musgrave crafted spirits. “The original pink gin that SA loves along with our original gin are as I always intended for them to be: in a class of their own.”

The original Musgrave gin is made up of a selection of 11 botanicals, each reflecting some aspect of the African spice route of yesteryear. It boasts expressive top notes of cardamom, African ginger, and grains of paradise, whilst the citrus and other spices marry together a tale of flavour spanning a continent.

TheFiftyBest.com is a digital guide to wines and spirits, featuring rated listings resulting from proprietary blind tastings as judged by wine and spirits journalists, spirits professionals, wine and spirit retailers, mixologists, spirits consultants and connoisseurs.