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.

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.