Competition Matters | DWWA, Points and Medals

Writing on TimAtkin.com in 2014, Robert Joseph, has this fantastic introductory line to his piece What’s the point of wine competitions?:

“Wine competitions are the worst way to identify the world’s best wines.”

It’s a sentiment we hear at SAWi from time to time – although far less often now than a few years ago. Joseph goes on to apologise to Churchill before concluding his introduction by pointing out that competitions “actually work better than the alternatives.” We have to agree; but when determining SAWi scores we also consider key listings, reviews and comments from the world’s leading wine authorities.

The SAWi ‘Algorithm of Excellence’ distills the collective wisdom of a multitude of authoritative wine competitions, reviews and listings into a single point score which is consistent and drowns out much of the subjective noise of various judging panels.

One of the competitions we include is the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA).

Together with the many entrants, we’ll be keeping an eye on the DWWA 2017 Timeline, so that we can feed the results into our SAWi algorithm ahead of the 2017 Grand Wines Collection update, as well as the 2018 SAWi Wine Excellence Awards.

According to the DWWA site, “DWWA has judges from around the world, including Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers, and many of them are the foremost experts in their field. Judging is organised into categories, initially based on region. For example, Champagne will be judged by a panel of Champagne experts.

The judges taste wines individually. They know the region, style and price bracket, but they don’t know who produced the wine or the brand name. They then compare notes on the wine and reach a consensus on each wine’s medal.

Medal categories correspond to the 100-point scoring system used by Decanter and many top wine critics around the world.”

SAWi also represents wine performance as a value out of 100, but the SAWi Index value is a unity-based normalised score that uses raw data comprised of the wine’s average score over a 10-year period, as well as additional points for consistent top performance and any additional accolades achieved.

As will be appreciated by the DWWA description above, the competition process is rigorous, and a wine that walks away with DWWA Gold Medal can truly claim to be exceptional. More so if it then receives a Platinum Medal or is crowned ‘Best in Show’.

For this reason, the Decanter World Wine Awards and its additional medal accolades carry SAWi’s full endorsement and make a sizeable impact on the SAWi wine rating methodology.

All the best to the many worthwhile South African candidates who will submit their wines over the upcoming months. We look forward to celebrating your success with you.

The South African Grand Wines Collection – Update November 2016


The South African Wine Index is proud to present a biannual update to the first SAWi South African Wine Ranking List, previously published in June 2016. The South African Wine Ranking List identifies South Africa’s top performing wines using the SAWi multi-vintage ‘Algorithm of Excellence’, and these top wines are presented as a collective referred to as the South African Grand Wines Collection (GWC).

SAWi’s unique ‘Algorithm of Excellence’ is applied to measure the performance of individual wines across a minimum of three vintages, and compares and condenses the results from more than 100 multinational competitions, ratings, reviews and listings (acknowledging the nature of the competitions and any additional accolades bestowed on the wine) over a rolling period of ten years, and expresses this as a single value out of 100. The Grand Wines Collection only features wines that achieve 93 or more index points.

As the ranking process considers a wine’s performance over a relatively long period, whole-scale changes to the South African Wine Ranking List are never expected, particularly when considering the top performing wines. This update does, however, highlight considerable movement within certain cultivar or wine style categories, and several newly ranked wines have entered the Grand Wines Collection.

Highlights of the latest update include:
• Tremendous overall movement within the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir categories, with a 54% increase in the number of wines that qualify for inclusion;
• Noticeable overall movement within White Blends (+50%), Bordeaux Blends, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinotage categories (+44%), followed by Rhone Blends (+34%);
• Some 40 wines, previously scoring just below 93 index points, have joined the GWC and two wines have fallen off the list;
• 57 new wines stand poised to join the GWC;
• There were no additions to the Viognier and MCC categories, and very few to the Semillon, Red Blends, Merlot, Cape Blends, Dessert/Fortified Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc categories;
• The Shiraz category is the biggest with 87 ranked wines, followed by Bordeaux Blends, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage and Chenin Blanc, respectively;
• The Rhone Blends, Red Blends and Sauvignon Blanc categories exhibited the greatest movement within the Top Ten and Top Five subsets.

This ranking update lends weight to the reputations of the mainstay of the South African wine industry, but it also highlights that things are changing. The strong standing in the industry of some leading cultivars of the past seems to have become relatively tenuous and the sheer number of consistently excelling wines suggests that there are no longer any single pinnacle varieties.

With the SAWi indexing process recognised as the ultimate quality benchmark for South African wines, the South African Wine Ranking List represents the best wines in this country.

Visit www.sawineindex.com for more information and the full Grand Wines Collection list.

Franschhoek Uncorked 2016


Franschhoek hosts the Franschhoek Uncorked festival on 24 and 25 September and a number of the 18 participating wineries have wines listed in the SAWi Grand Wines Collection.

The 18 wineries (as listed on the official Franschhoek Uncorked Festival programme) and their respective GWC wines, where relevant are:
1. Noble Hill
2. Plaisir de Merle
3. Allée Bleue – Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Shiraz
4. Boschendal – Reserve Syrah, MCC Brut, Reserve Collection Sauvignon Blanc
5. Anthonij Rupert Wyne
6. Lynx Wines – Shiraz, Viognier
7. Topiary Wines & La Chataigne
8. Maison Estate
9. Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards
10. GlenWood – Vigneron’s Selection Chardonnay
11. Rickety Bridge – Foundation Stone Red, Paulina’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
12. Grande Provence – Chardonnay, The Grand Provence Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon
13. Mont Rochelle
14. Black Elephant Vintners
15. Dieu Donné – Cabernet Sauvignon
16. Haute Cabrière
17. La Bri
18. Boekenhoutskloof – Chocolate Block, Cabernet Sauvignon Franschhoek, Semillon Franschhoek, Syrah (Coastal region), Syrah Franschhoek

While we’re not suggesting that the wineries with GWC wines will have those wines available for tasting as part of the festival programme, we are sure you’ll get a sense of why they’ve managed to achieve at a consistently high level to earn a place on the list, should you visit them.

Feel free to share your weekend experience(s) of the Franschhoek GWC producers via a comment to this post.

2017 SAWi Wine Excellence Awards

The South African Wine Index (SAWi) was established in 2009 with the aim of independently identifying South Africa’s best wines. SAWi’s hope was that the collection of these best wines, or ‘South African Grand Wines’ (see Part 2), would then allow for the international promotion of the South African wine industry as a producer of high-quality wines, in contrast to its reputation at the time as a producer of cheap bulk wine.

SAWi’s unique ‘Algorithm of Excellence’ is applied to measure the performance of individual wines, across multiple vintages, and compares and condenses the results from more than 100 multinational competitions, reviews and listings, acknowledging the nature of the competition and any additional accolades bestowed on a wine, and expresses this as a single value out of 100.

Through the ongoing indexing process, it is now easy to distinguish top performing producers, and which of their wines are consistently accepted as exceptional. In addition to making the international promotion of the best South African wines possible, the Index offers consumers an opportunity to make a reliable decision about which wines to buy – without being subject to the necessary vagaries of annual wine competitions, or a vintage-specific performance.

SAWi sets two aspirational benchmarks against which to measure wine quality: Grand Gold status, which is awarded to wines that score more than 93 Index points, and Platinum status, for wines which score above 95. Together, these sets comprise the ‘South African Grand Wines Collection’.

Sourced from 585 wineries or more than 8000+ wines, the ‘Grand Wines Collection’ currently includes 400 wines, representing 187 wineries.

While SAWi indexes all South African wines as a matter of routine, SAWi members are invited to attend the annual SA Wine Index ‘Wine Excellence Awards’ at which their performance in particular is acknowledged.

The 2017 SAWi ‘Wine Excellence Awards’ were hosted, again, by Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, who accommodated guests in a number of luxurious rooms on the Grootbos property and in nearby De Kelders.

Grootbos regularly tops various international travel lists as South Africa’s leading 5-star family friendly leisure destination for the environmentally and socially conscious. SAWi is proud to be associated with Grootbos, the home of the South African Wine Index Awards and most of SAWi’s top performing wines.

SAWi is pleased to be supported by Union Pay International and the SAWi ‘Algorithm of Excellence’ is endorsed by PKF Chartered Accountants.

Neil Ellis was nominated as the latest SAWi Wine Legend, having, amongst other achievements, being first in sourcing grapes from vineyards and sites he wanted, going single-handily up against the bureaucracy ‘who was stifling everything at the time’. This was part of the revolution South African Wines were waiting for.

Neil joins other SAWi Legends, with the likes of Peter Finlayson, Jan ‘Boland’ Coetzee, Beyers Truter, Etienne le Riche and Hempies du Toit.

Overall trophy honours went to KWV, with unprecedented 15 Platinum accolades. The Trophies for best Fine White and Red Wine Producers of the year once again went to DeMorgenzon (including the highest score for a white wine produced) and Bouchard Finlayson, while the trophy for best brandy went to Laborie.

Wineries with the highest number of accolades were KWV 20 (15 Platinum); Distell 18; Cederberg and Spier 9 each; Groot Constantia and Kleine Zalze 8 each; Creation, Paul Cluver and Saronsberg 7 each; and Diemersdal and Annandale 6 each.

DeMorgenzon, Bouchard Finlayson, La Motte, Rustenberg, Vergelegen, Vriesenhof, Wildekrans and Windmeul all received five awards each. Many other wineries received multiple awards.

What is of particular importance is the consistency in multiple-vintage results for most wines mentioned here. This is paramount in wine competitions.

Comments on Achievements
No doubt that in general SAWi adds a meaningful definition as to the state of SA Wines.
The GWC in particular shows the overall best wines the country has. There is also no question that the so called ‘old guard’ still holds the very front positions.

Highlights of the latest update include the following:
• The GWC now consists of just over 400 wines.
• While Shiraz still dominates the rankings in terms of number of wines, the adjustment in the SAWi Algorithm has seen 23 wines disappearing from the list, just more than as for Sauvignon Blanc.
The only other noticeable downward movement on the ranking list was for white blends.
• The added list of wines that were ‘On the Brink’ of making the ranking list (close onto 93 points) also came down a lot but still stands at 87.
• The number of ranked wines for most of the other cultivars, not mentioned above, stayed pretty much the same on between 10 and 20 wines each.
• Shiraz has the most ranked wines namely 54, followed by Bordeaux Blends 46, Chardonnay 45, Chenin Blanc, Pinotage and Cabernet have around 30 ranked wines each.
• Pinot Noir, Rhone Blends and Dessert Wines received the highest average point scores and are at the same time also pitched at the highest individual price at the top.

While it is clear from these rankings which wines are arguably the mainstay of the industry, it is certainly also true that the local wine industry has moved on and is not what it was yesterday, given that the strong standing in the industry of some leading cultivars of the past era seems to have lost the lead and are even perhaps tenuous. The variety of wine cultivars which are excelling today is simply showing that there are almost no longer many single pinnacle wine varieties on their own in the lead any longer that dominates at the very top.

The Grand Wines Collection

The South African Wine Index (SAWi) was established with the aim of setting a quality benchmark for South African Wines. The value of SAWi’s multi-year wine performance adjudication process has earned it official recognition as a definitive measure of a given wine’s quality, irrespective of vintage.

Until the introduction of the Index, the quality adjudication of wine depended on annual events, which by their nature present the once-off and subjective opinions of the adjudicators. This not only makes it difficult to track a wine’s performance over time but, more importantly, it prevents meaningful empirical deductions from being made.

SAWi is proud to present the South African ‘Grand Wines Collection’. The GWC represents a little less than 400 of the 8000 South African wines currently available that have consistently achieved the highest acknowledgement from various wine judging panels and respected wine commentators, all over the world. Each ranked wine in the list below has scored a minimum of 93 Index points. As a collective, the GWC sets a unique benchmark for South African wine quality.

See the Grand Wines Collection here.

DISCLAIMER
All SAWi scores and the NWN ranking are determined using SAWi’s unique ‘Algorithm of Excellence’ (AOE). While the utmost care is taken in the preparation of these scores, errors and omissions are possible. Producers are encouraged to inform SAWi of competition and other results at year end.

Competition Matters | Faster than Usain Bolt

My 8-year-old son is convinced that his best friend’s older brother is the second fastest man alive, after Usain Bolt. That said brother is 12, and runs a 100-metre sprint in just about enough time to allow Bolt to win his race, sign autographs and complete a press conference, is beside the point; to one adoring fan it’s only a matter of time before I hear the words “He’s faster than Usain Bolt!” and there’s a new champion atop the winner’s podium.

Until then, Usain Bolt has proved that he’s worthy of his place as the top-ranked 100-metre sprinter in the world – that despite recording only the 8th fastest time this year (tied with South African, Wayde van Niekerk, 2 places below another South African, Akani Simbine), and with everything to prove at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

“But we don’t do competitions,” was a common cry some years ago, when I asked a handful of producers about their international status – partly for some background work I was doing for an article in a local publication, and partly to interrogate the validity of the SA Wine Index, to which I had just been introduced.

The truth is every producer that puts a bottle on the table – whether mine or anyone else’s – is “doing competition”. Should the wine not be as good as that of ‘the competition’, the second bottle on the table will bear a different producer’s mark.

With social media being what it is, and the ready access we have to many sources of commentary about practically every wine sold and consumed at present (with ratings from stars to thumbs to glasses, or points out of 5 or 20 or 100) no-one can claim that they are above, or outside of, the competition circuit. They may not compete formally; but compete they do.

The SA Wine Index is unique in that it considers the multi-vintage performance of every South African wine across more than 100 national and international competitions, ratings, listings and reviews. The majority of these are listed on the sawineindex.com website, and any new and noteworthy platform that serves to make a statement about a wine’s performance or value is considered by the Index.

The Index aggregates the wine’s various multi-vintage performances, using a complex but not complicated algorithm that weights the various competitions and rewards best in class performances as well as consistency over a rolling 10-year window. The result is a single point score that definitively separates the athletes from the older brothers, and which provides a reliable measure of the true class of the wine.

And while The Olympic Games stands ahead of other competitions when it comes to any self-respecting athlete proving his or her worth, it’s not the only measure. Rather, while coveting an Olympic medal, athletes look to the IAAF rankings to properly indicate where they stand. In the same way, the SA Wine Index leads the wine world in its ability to definitively identify South Africa’s finest wines.

The 2016 SAWi Awards take place on 18 June 2016, when the South African Wine Index celebrates the exceptional performances of the county’s finest wines, and releases the South African ‘Grand Wines Collection’ ranking of South Africa’s top performing wines

@SAWineIndex | 2016 SAWi Wine Excellence Awards | 18 June 2016 | Grootbos Private Nature Reserve | @Grootbos

SA’s best MCC? Mum’s the word, for now…

On 18 June 2016, the 2016 SAWi Wine Excellence Awards, at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, will reveal which are South Africa’s consistently best performing MMCs.

Writing for BDLive, 6 May, Sue Blain quotes, among others, Peter Short, wine manager at Norman Goodfellows in Illovo, Johannesburg. According to Short there are “around 80 different French Champagne brands in the Norman Goodfellows stock range, and around 100 MCC or SA sparking wines”. Of the local bubblies, 20-odd have achieved a SAWi rating of 93+, allowing them to bear the coveted SAWi ‘Grand Wines Collection‘ label. In a first of its kind, and in the Methode Cap Classique sector, this full list will be unveiled on 18 June.

@SAWineIndex | 2016 SAWi Wine Excellence Awards | 18 June 2016 | Grootbos Private Nature Reserve | @Grootbos

Terroir: Terrible or Terrific?

The SA Wine Index has, for many years, supported the notion that South African terroir is both a legitimate concept and significant in the production of consistently noteworthy South African wines.

While some will pooh-pooh the very notion of terroir, we were pleased to see that James Lawrence, writing recently on Wine-Searcher.com, doesn’t. His article headline “South African Wine’s U-Turn on Terroir” is rather wishful, but we hope it’s prophetic, nonetheless.

Photo by Dominic Morel

The soon-to-be-released SA Wine Index 2016 results will make interesting reading for those into terroir. For the first time ever, SAWi will release the full list of South African wines to achieve SAWi Grand Wine status – an accolade bestowed on wines that have achieved an Index score of 93+, when considering non-vintage specific performance over at least three vintages, in more than 100 local and international competitions, ratings and reviews.

The list itself is sure to generate much interest, but it’s the underlying performance of certain styles and cultivars in certain regions that will get the aficionados reaching for their notebooks.

Don’t miss the breaking news on 18 June 2016; follow us and the awards hosts, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, on Twitter, or like SAWineIndex on FaceBook to stay up to date.

@SAWineIndex | 2016 SAWi Wine Excellence Awards | 18 June 2016 | Grootbos Private Nature Reserve | @Grootbos

No Colour-blind Tongue

The soon-to-be-released SA Wine Index 2016 results will show, for the next year at least, that while the Rainbow Nation is keen to move past issues of colour, wine judges the world over certainly can’t hide their collective South African wine colour preference.

There can be only one most highly ranked wine, and given SAWi’s multi-national, multi-vintage index mechanism, that now includes more than 100 local and international competitions, ratings and reviews, only SAWi can definitively say which wine that is. More importantly, only SAWi can say which South African wines perform consistently well, time and time again.

Want to know which colour is best? The 2016 SAWi Wine Excellence Awards take place at the acclaimed Grootbos Private Nature Reserve on 18 June 2016; stay close to Twitter for all the results. @SAWineIndex @Grootbos

“Fine Wines Are Effectively Recession Proof”

In an article on InvestorIdeas.com, Jason Phillips, shares some investment insight, including a focus on wine investment. Here’s an excerpt (or read the article here):

Fine wine – a popular alternative investment that can’t be overlooked

There are many different types of collectable investments; the most common ones are coins, violins and wine. Wine has become one of the most popular alternative investments as it has been shown to provide better returns over the last twenty years than many of the more traditional investment vessels. Part of the recent increase in interest is the belief that fine wines are effectively recession proof; this is, unfortunately, only true if you are able to hold onto the wine for the long term.

The premium wines are still the French wines, predominantly Burgundy’s, Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley. However, there are also some excellent quality wines arriving from Italy and Spain; even South Africa and California are starting to produce investment quality wines.

While we’re not qualified to offer investment advice, we’re confident that money spent on any of the wines that feature in the SAWi Ambassadors Collection, or the SAWi Grand Wines Collection, will be well spent – whether now or in years to come.