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

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.

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.

THE STORY NOT TOLD

I wish there were a dedicated language for describing wine, one that did not rely on the artistry and creativity of writers whose comments rather belong to another world.

I know I have a lot to learn and that I can learn from just about anybody. So I go about my job, sometimes thinking to myself what a drag it is to be at this large industrial complex that claims to make wine! And then something gets said, or a bottle gets poured, or a vista appears that allows me to alter, perhaps imperceptibly at first, the trajectory of my course through wine as I know it.
One of the great fallacies of wine blogging is that this is somehow said to be a zero sum game.

But yes, we would like to learn more about what does it for you. Let’s share this through this blog and put the spotlight on the differences between individuals in this respect, between our wine habits and perhaps how age effects it all.

There are no standards that apply. No good or bad: Just your views.

EXPECTATIONS EXCEEDED

Expectations are running high amongst top wine producers to see if they have qualified for a SAWi Award. There are definitely going to be a number of new faces to see at the function.

Word has it that we are certainly in for a more than the usual number of surprises. It was established that there will be almost 60 Platinum Awards (95+points) to be handed out with more than 50 Grand Gold Awards (points between 93 and 94) which will be presented too.

The Platinum category of achievers also becomes part of the SAWi Ambassadors Club, currently representative of 31 wine cellars. This is out of a total number of wineries that runs a few hundred. It is expected that only a handful more wineries will become part in 2014.

The criteria for achievement were indeed been set very high. A wine needs a minimum of three years competition results to be considered for a SAWi rating. Without excelling above the rest with a trophy or top ten achievement, a wine will just stay part of the bigger bunch, even if a wine consistently scores 90 points, which by the way should at least be expected nowadays, otherwise why bother? Furthermore, such results must maintain its consistency over multi-years to come into contention for a SAWi Award.