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.