We drink: Cape Chamonix Wine Farm Chardonnay Reserve

Cape Chamonix Wine Farm is a SAWi 2015 High-End White Wine Producer of the Year Finalist, with an average of 93.80 for its top three scoring whites. The Cape Chamonix Wine Farm Chardonnay Reserve scored 96.9 points in 2015, earning SAWi Platinum status. We taste the 2013 vintage as an example of the producer’s white wines portfolio.

The wine is a pale staw colour. Delicate hints of tropical fruit, banana, bitter marmalade and apricot skin appear on the nose, with the pleasing effects of lees contact and 14 months of oaking also evident.

The wine is well-balanced and almost full-bodied with all the scent-suggested flavours, but somewhat subdued. These subtle flavours are bound to develop over the next couple of years, so it’s advisable to delay drinking it now; if possible. Given this it’s best enjoyed on its own or with mild flavoured foods.

The finish is good, leaving hints of lime and that intriguing apricot skin.

Accolades (according to the chamonix.co.za website)
Decanter World Wine Award 2014
Taj Classic Wine – Chardonnay Reserve 2012
SA Top 100 wines – Chardonnay Reserve 2012
Taj Classic Wine – Chardonnay Reserve 2011
Gold Medal at Six Nations Wine Challenge
John Platter 5 stars 2013
John Platter 4½ stars 2012
John Platter 4½ stars 2011
Old Mutual Wine Awards, Trophy for Museum Class 2010
Gold, Tri Nations International Wine Show 2009
Gold Medal Santam Classic Wine Trophy 2009
Old Mutual Wine Awards, Trophy for Museum Class 2008

See technical and other details here.

We Drink: Constantia Glen Three

Contantia Glen is a stone’s throw from the Cape Town city centre, just below the Constantia Nek, in South Africa’s oldest wine producing region.

The estate produces four wines, two whites – a Sauvignon Blanc and a Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon blend, and two reds – both Bordeaux blends, respectively. Constantia Glen is SAWi 2015 High-End Red Wine Producer of the Year Finalist, with an average of 94.22 for its two reds, and a SAWi 2015 High-End Overall Wine Producer of the Year Finalist, averaging 95.08. The Contantia Glen Sauvignon Blanc and Constantia Glen Three are both SAWi 2015 Platinum Award recipients.

The Constantia Glen Three is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The cool coastal climate yields beautifully ripened fruit which is batch vinified. While the 2011 vintage is drinking well, this is a wine to keep for a while and will certainly express its true value with a few more years in the cellar.

Expect lots of dark berries on the nose, with the Merlot distinctive.

Dark fruit flavours dominate the palate, and despite its relative youth, the tannins are well-integrated. There is a pleasant spiciness to the wine which, together with the wine’s superb structure and 14.5% alcohol, points to a fabulous foil to robust flavoured foods.

The excellent mouth-feel gives way to a lingering finish that will hold up well to venison/red meats, smoked food, a hearty stew or another glassful…

Accolades (from http://www.constantiaglen.com/wines/)

We Drink: Raats Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2013

nullRaats Family Wines is a SAWi 2015 High-End White Wine Producer of the Year Finalist, with an average of 93.86 for its top three scoring whites. The Raats Original Chenin Blanc scored 92.8 points in 2015, earning SAWi Grand Gold status. We taste the Raats Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2013 as an example of the producer’s white wines portfolio.

This is a fantastic wine and an excellent example of the often-missed (in SA) value and potential complexity of Chenin Blanc.

In the glass the wine is striking, with a beautiful golden straw colour and distinct notes of pear, white peach and nettles on the nose. As the wine warms, tropical aromas are evident with citrus obvious and just a hint of spice.

With 30% of the wine aged in French oak for 9 months, and the additional 2 months lees-contact the oaked and unoaked components enjoy before bottling, the wine is noticeably full bodied and almost creamy, without masking any of the inherent Chenin Blanc fruitiness.

On the palate the wine exhibits tropical and stone fruit, citrus peel and ginger. There’s an enticing liqourice flavour prominent when inhaling after swallowing. The wine exhibits a perfect medium acidity, leading to a pleasing lingering mineral/lime finish.

The wine is perfect on its own, served cold, and is complex enough to be enjoyed with food – particularly a mild curry/spiced chicken or prawn dish, rocket-based salad, gammon or butternut soup.

Raats Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2013 costs R234 per bottle from Wine.co.za.

Accolades (according to the Raats.co.za website)
2013 – scored 90 points by Stephen Tanzer (June 2015).
2013 – 4½ stars John Platter 2015.
2013 – scored 92 points by Neal Martin from The Wine Advocate (0ct 2014).
2012 – scored 89 points by Wine Spectator (August 2014).
2012 – scored 93 points by Tim Atkin (July 2014).
2012 – 4½ stars John Platter 2014.
2012 – scored 89 points by Neal Martin from The Wine Advocate (October 2013).
2011 – scored 91 points by Wine Enthusiast (July 2014).

See technical and other details here.

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.”

SA Does Traditional Varieties Well

Mulderbosch Vineyards Barrel Fermented ChardonnayWriting for the TheTimes-Tribune.com on 13 May, David Falchek writes positively about the value of the South African varieties, Pinotage and Chenin Blanc (read the article here). He points out that as of 2013, the largest consumer of wine, the USA, accounts for only 6% of our exports. He suggests South African wine should feature more prominently. All-in-all we tend to agree.

But, David’s piece does include this: If someone doesn’t buy into pinotage or chenin, then South Africa will become the source of another cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay. South Africa can do those international varieties well, but the world doesn’t really need more of them. As far as we’re concerned, the world needs the best wines of every variety, even Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay – especially those from South Africa.

We hope that those who take David’s advice to stock up on the Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Rosé don’t miss the fact that Mulderbosch has a SAWi Grand Wine to its name… the Mulderbosch Vineyards Barrel Fermented Chardonnay. Why not try it, and let him know what he’s missing?

The SAWi Approach

There’s no shortage of wine competitions and reviews these days – and while each has credibility in its own right, it is remarkable how often the same wine is judged differently.

The result is that wine consumers are usually forced to rely on a multitude of wine results, interspersed with a diversity of competition structures every year. As annual results often appear to be little more than once-off subjective opinions, and tend to change remarkably, it leaves the majority of wine lovers somewhat confused.

This is where SAWi is able to help. The SAWi methodology compares and condenses results from 84 multinational competitions, reviews and listings, acknowledging the nature of the competition and additional accolades bestowed on a wine, and expresses this as a single number out of 100.

In other words, the SAWi system distills the collective wisdom of a multitude of authoritative wine competitions and wine reviews into a single point score which is consistent and drowns out much of the subjective noise of various judging panels. Through SAWi’s Mathematical algorithm patterns are recognized making it easy to distinguish wines which are consistently accepted as exceptional. Most importantly, it allows a comparison of like with like.

Highly rated SAWi wines have special value, especially given the rolling nature of rankings over multiple years of judgment. The SAWi rating sets an aspirational benchmark for quality and brings together top producers under a new brand concept promoting South Africa as a collective.

In this way, SAWi showcases top South African wines, and will continue to support excellence in wine making as the catalyst for progress and development.

Pinotage – Our Signature Red

Rijks Private Cellar PinotageJohn Lewis, in Australia’s Newcastle Herald on May 12, has an interesting piece on the Pinotage produced by the Kirkby Topper’s Mountain winery, in the New England wine region.

The article is more about Kirkby than Pinotage, but it does include this quotable quote (albeit somewhat dated given the attention our local Pinotages have received in the last few years):

Pinotage is a hardy variety that is often scorned as being coarse with ‘‘a flamboyantly sweetish, paint-like pungency’’ and ‘‘either South Africa’s signature red or its worst vinous ambassador’’.

If you’re interested in some good examples of great South African Pinotage – our “signature red”, try the following from the SAWi Grand Wines Collection:
Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage | Diemersdal Pinotage Reserve | Doolhof Signatures of Doolhof Pinotage | Kaapzicht Estate Steytler Pinotage | Kanonkop Estate Pinotage | Rijks Private Cellar Pinotage | Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Pinotage