Monthly Archives: June 2015

Saronsberg Cellar Does It Again

For the second time in five years Saronsberg Cellar took the top honours at the 2015 SAWi Wine Awards. This is indeed a sterling achievement amongst top wine competitors. In 2010 they first received the trophy for winery of the year before having won the trophy for best red wine producer in 2013.

Nestled in the picturesque Tulbagh valley, vineyards are in a bowl surrounded by imposing mountain ranges, with the Obiqua Mountains to the west, the Winterhoek Mountains in die north and the Witzenberg Mountains to the east. The Southern side of the valley is open to cooling south-east winds during the hot summer months. Accordingly Tulbagh enjoys some of the most diverse and attractive conditions for viticulture in the Cape and the differences in terroir available to wine makers allow for a wide diversity of distinctive wines of excellence, attributes which have attracted many new producers to the valley.

Three wines in particular stands out with the Saronsberg Full Circle Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier topping the SAWi best red wine list, closely followed by the Saronsberg Shiraz and Saronsberg Provenance Range Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Malbec Petit Verdot Bordeaux Blend. These wines indeed carry their weight amongst quality wine achievements worldwide.

Top SAWi Achiever – A Firmly Rooted (Wine) Farmer

Land and landscapes reflect a living synthesis of people and place, combining physical origins with a cultural overlay. Site specific wines do the same.

How does this apply to winemaking, or more specifically, what makes a particular wine distinctive? Considering the track record of one such wine, the Saronsberg Full Circle Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier, which has consistently achieved the highest accolade a South African red wine can, Dewaldt Heyns, its architect, explains:

“A good winemaker must be a farmer first, intimately linked to the soil. He must begin in the vineyard and decide for himself how he intends to farm – choosing the best methods, and considering if others would do it differently? You can’t copy anything – after all, what you have is bound to be unique.”

Dewaldt applies this approach to each block of land which will ultimately provide its own unique style that goes with the area. From here the challenge remains to always focus on the detail, bearing in mind the ultimate aim of establishing a top brand.

This starts from the moment the soil is turned right through harvest and until the wine is in the bottle. Taking no short cuts, he likes to work slowly and carefully, nurturing each element to ensure that no mistake crops up.
“You can’t easily correct mistakes later,” he shares, “and if you try the wines you create will never stand the test of time. The buck starts and ends with the same person. Decisions can’t be delegated. An attitude to excel can’t be compromised.

All winemakers are dealt similar cards in terms of allocated land. Everything should be done right from the start. Mistakes occur when focus is lost. Ultimately, a wine must find favour with you as its overseer. If so, it will always give consistency and quality. There is no end to what elegance a wine can give as long as you know that you must live in close harmony to what you were given.”

Dewaldt has continued to imitate his achievements, with Saronsberg having again received the High-End Red Wine Trophy and overall Trophy and top honours at the 2015 SAWi Wine Awards.

Why A ‘South African Grand Wines Collection’?

We’ve had a few SAWi followers ask about the motivation for SAWi to compile the SA Grand Wines Collection… Here it is:

The ‘South African Grand Wines Collection’ stands as an independent brand, with SAWi only taking the initiative to bolster the perceptions about the country’s top wines. The brand will be marketed directly and exposed to high profile individuals, influencers and connoisseurs.

Rather than being selected by a panel, tasting a number of top wines, a particular wine is selected based on the result of its exposure to any of the 84 national and international wine competitions and or listings that qualify for indexing. The result is based on the wine’s rating performance over multi-vintage periods and reflects a variety of opinions, in one score.

The Index stems from the development of a system a number of years ago to reliably quantify the perceived quality and value of a wine. In the years since it was first introduced, the Index has gained traction in South Africa as a reliable and accurate tool that accommodates the often-criticised vagaries of traditional wine competitions and represents an aspirational benchmark of quality.

In the course of indexing the wines of SAWi members, comprising almost 20 000 vintages, the Index brought to light a very small number of truly exceptional South African wines, referred to as the ‘SAWi Ambassadors Collection’, with a rating of 95 or above, out of 100. Less than 40 wines have achieved this particular accolade.

Driven by a desire to highlight the exceptional nature of South African wines, SAWi went a step further and applied its indexing methodology to data available for ALL qualifying wines produced in South Africa, including wines of non SAWi members. Wines that achieved a rating of 93 or higher were then included in the ‘South African Grand Wines Collection’.

‘Grand Wines’ (or the French ‘Grand Vin’) are commonly regarded as the best a producer has to offer – showing a level of intellectual or emotional stimulation able to capture the consumer’s imagination and intrigue, if not delight, the palate. As such, a ‘Grand Wine’ is not restricted to a particular area, style or wine-making philosophy, but rather simply stands ahead of its peers as a wine that exhibits the best on offer, in the best possible way.

The result is not simply a list of great South African wines, but a collection that commands the attention of the world, being very close to the very best South Africa has to offer. The ‘South African Grand Wines Collection’ is undoubtedly as close to a complete and unbiased list of top achieving wines as it is possible to come. Using the ‘South African Grand Wines Collection’ the stage is set for South Africa to showcase its finest wines to the world’s luxury consumers.

See the current list here, and let us know what you think! The upcoming SAWi Wine Awards at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve on 20 June 2015 will see an update to the Grand Wines Collection – so be sure to bookmark the page and visit it again.

Chasing The Right Numbers

Martin Green quotes Kleine Zalze’s Kobus Basson in a recent Off Licence News piece (read it here), making the point that:

“The challenge over the next 5-10 years is to sell more wine in that upper segment. That’s the only way forward. It’s strange to see the figures drop, but producers are happy to be selling more at the upper and middle levels. Chasing numbers is not sustainable.”

We agree with Kodus – and have been making this point for years now. Chasing numbers is not sustainable, not when you’re chasing numbers that equate simply to the volume of wine sold. That approach has done us no favours; and is partly to blame for the impression that South African wine producers are basically bulk exporters of cheap blending components.

Chase the right numbers, such as those you’ll see in the SA Wine Index, and you’ll soon be convinced that Kleine Zalze’s winemaker, Alastair Rimmer, has it right when he says “If managed correctly, the trajectory for South African wine should be to the stars.”