Monthly Archives: January 2014


Deciphering the SAWi wine quality ratings
[θ’3((1+i)/3,q) of rational function (x+4)/(x5-3ix3+2)]

The SAWi wine rating is:
– a description of standard that is used to determine the general competitive level of a wine;
The SAWi Algorithm of Excellence as a description of standard has been developed to describe
rating categories for wine.
– grouping wines of a similar level together within a category;
The number of rating categories is limited to five only to ensure that the system is simple, easily
understood and relatively easy to promote and to use. These are point scores of: 95+ iconic; 94-93
superlative; 92-90 excellent; 89-80 very good; and 79-75 good.

Based on consecutive annual ratings wines are ranked just as in a golf handicap or tennis ranking which are examples of top performers. The relative skills level of players within each category is not determined by the rating system. This is the job of a ranking system.

The SAWi wine rating methodology is applied in creating a convincing national benchmark for quality wines. A wine’s rating should over multi-vintages move to an applicable ranking. As a result, once the SAWi Algorithm is applied for multi-years, a wine’s point’s-score will not necessarily move up much or down as it normally occurs from year to year with the majority of other wine competition results.

Therefore, as can be expected, when the SAWi Awards are presented, a number of wines stand atop other rankings. To become number ‘No 1’ is akin to continuously winning the highest of accolades in wines out there. These are outstanding achievements, made even more so by determining the meaning of the math behind the rankings that so many follow and maybe so few understand. In the words of a clever person describing the challenge of making peace in the Middle East, if you think you know the answer, you didn’t understand the question.

So, let’s then de-code this wine ranking system.
The first thing to know: that it is a 10 year rolling ranking (for which a consistent minimum of 3
year’s numbers – completion results are required). That is levelling the playing field and explains how top wines can overtake each other or stay amongst the top. Have we forgotten how the world tennis or golf rankings work? Even with a loss, results from the previous year(s) could still be better to maintain one’s position, despite losing at a prime event.

Anyone who follows the ranking system in major sports should see why this is significant. In rugby or football teams are re-ranked every week based on their most recent games creating instability and emphasising resent results over long term performance. If tennis were ranked like this, Roger Federer would never have achieved his astonishing streak of 237 consecutive weeks atop the world rankings. He lost more than twenty times while in this position!

In contrast with a rating (which refers to an annual score), SAWi has set an aspirational benchmark for all wineries by way of a wine’s ranking. This is a number that represents a wines general overall status level, based on cumulative annual ratings. Currently this system only provides for the top 125 national wines. In other words, the SAWi ranking system provides a cumulative points number for continues achievement of the highest order, as expressed by way of a NWN (National Wine Number).

Even with a dip in scoring at a certain wine competition, previous year’s results can pull a wine to stay amongst the top. Anyone who follows other rankings based on most recent results only, should see why this is significant.

Considering ratings as one wine competition follows on another, creates instability and simply confuses the consumer with some scores below 80% and others at 90%. A top wine simply doesn’t do that and rather exposes the subjectivity of wine judging.

Next to understand is that rankings are formed by several annual exposers of a wine at multi- national wine competitions. Since the status of wine competitions differ according to how balanced wine panels are compiled or the easiness to pick up a medal of some sorts, SAWi applies different weights to specific competition results. So, the kind of wine competition entered always remains important as it provides a risk. Those which provide consistency in results should be favoured.

There are competitions in which SA competes against SA to produce a somewhat predictable result. But that is in the first round only. After this however, borders are eliminated and the top category
Trophies are chosen from an open field. In many instances South Africa often boxes above its weight. Relative to the reputation of France, the US and Australia, SA often outperforms these countries.

The important thing here is that the ranking is formed by multiple annual events. While there is no compulsory ‘Grand Slam’ or ‘Masters’ events with wine competitions, nor instructions for which competitions to enrol, as with tennis, each competition carries different points.

In fact, failures to defend points can still have a wine move up despite not entering a competition in a particular year. Points can held steady for some time, depending if another wine overtakes yours or fall behind. Competitions have evolved over the years, with SAWi being the first to count them all in its scoring algorithm.

Surely, a wine gets rated only by entering wine competitions. This needs to be continued if you want to compare your wines with others. This may be the cutthroat nature of the game. There is no way to loaf in the lower ranks.

Much more homework is required by wineries in this respect as they have the freedom to control which competitions they plan to expose their wines. Are there wine competitions which could bring forth world rankings? Surely there are!

In other words, the SAWi ranking is like an international tour card. You obtain success only by entering the best wine competitions and you can declare yourself amongst the best in the world based on the SAWi ranking.

Given the rolling nature of the rankings, the best scores for a particular vintage are selected once a year and are not replaced by any most recent weaker result. While lower numbers in a particular year (similar to a loss in a grand slam) may influence the ranking, it may only slightly affect the ranking if the result emanated from a slightly weaker ‘tournament’.

Thirdly, added to the above is another nominal number. Winning an event locally is one thing but doing it internationally is certainly a higher achievement. Just consider the worth of a trophy in such respect or being recognised as part of a top 10 list! Surely, that should count points too.

Together, the above provides a base for defending numbers, which refers to the challenge of rather matching or exceeding one’s finish from the previous year. The ultimate achievement comes not in reaching the top, though, but in staying there. Therefore, to stay on top winemakers must consistently produce the best.

Just over 30 wines (or 125 from the SAWi all-comers ‘Grand Wines Collection’ out of 6000+ odd wines) have been good enough, stayed the course long enough to end tops at another seasons end. And only 4 wines have been good enough to spent 4 consecutive seasons at ‘no 1’. But everyone starts at the bottom. Are there any challengers out there?

This at last would bring meaning to the wine enthusiast and public.