Anyone old enough to appreciate South African wine has an opinion on the fermented grape: there’re probably as many wine writers and awards as there are wine makers. With well over eight thousand local wines, how do one decide what to drink?
Is choice based on the number of trophy stickers the bottle bears, Google what Christian Eedes drank last night or see how many stars the Platter Guide gave it? Or just based on pot luck?

Opinions are by nature, subjective. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with subjectivity since we’re entitled to our preferences and opinions, it makes determining a reliable wine ‘standard’ difficult. National and international competitions are a starting point as these are generally blind tastings judged by a professional panel but even these have limitations: wine producers often have to pay to enter, limiting the sample size; scoring protocols differ and there’s no measure of a wine’s performance, year on year. And how on earth is the man in the wine shop meant to know which award trumps which?

Let’s illustrate by way of analogy: imagine you wish to invest your savings. Would you be comfortable buying shares based on a single reference point (i.e. company X won a gold medal in the 2010 Da Vinci Start-up Awards) or would you prefer information which tells you how company X performed over the last 5 years in relation to similar companies? The gold medal offers limited information as it relates to an isolated event in company X’s history while the latter offers greater insight into the relative performance of the company over a longer period and is thus more meaningful to your decision making process. Now the company operates within an industry with a known average index of 85 for example and X’s score is 90, you could safely conclude that this company is in the top percentile of the industry and is probably a good investment. This concept of an industry index allows the investor to determine the company’s comparative ‘value’ and forms the basis on which shares can be traded on stock markets.

So, what’s the answer in the case of wine choice?
An Index system process which:
– retrieves existing data and applies a specific formulation;
– finds precise values based on multiple criteria; and
– expresses a particular status (via a standard unit).
As such, an index is a single number, the result of a mathematical equation designed to aggregate a set of data effectively, allowing comparing like with like.
– this symbol affirms the state or condition of something in particular;
– a body of facts/information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid;
– something serving as a visible/tangible representation of a fact or a state of quality.

Indices provide us with benchmarks, their usefulness evident in our daily life: from the CPI (Consumer Price Index) to GI (Glycemic Index) to BMI (Body Mass Index) to the Dow Jones Index. What if this could be applied to the wine industry? Perhaps finding the holy grail of great wine would finally be within reach.
‘An Index of Wine Excellence…’

This is the concept behind SAWi, the South African Wine Index, a score derived from a multi-phase algorithm to help wine lovers identify consistent excellence. Such scores take into account a specific wine’s best results over multiple vintages, national and international accolades won, proven record of quality as well as trophies and Top 10 listings. In other words, only accolades above a gold medal. As such, the collective wisdom of the judging panels, authoritative reviews and the wider wine industry is distilled into a single figure that drowns out much of the subjective noise, making it easy to distinguish truly extraordinary wines.

It has become particularly clear that all those making wine are excited by the potential a reliable, recognizable standard offers the industry. With a credible index as a benchmark, the true value of South African wines can now for the first time be gauged and celebrated. Most importantly, to be rolled out to the two top market segments namely wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs.

Having built out an eight year performance record for all SA Wines, a milestone was reached which enables SAWi to announce it’s ‘Grand Wines Collection’ (GWC) in 2016. This collection represents 400 wines which made the benchmark of 93/100 over a ten year adjudication period. It culminated in a world first wine cultivar ranking list from where unique sets of combined wine lots are offered to the above target market, with SAWi answering the calls of high profile private client individuals to help them to obtain good wine and to build up their private wine cellars. The GWC will be rolled out via unique wine lot compilations. A wine club affiliation process (with mainly wine enthusiasts as members) is well underway too.

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