An index is essentially an abstract mathematical principled construct applied to measure the performance of something. The South African Wine Index or SAWi (pronounced savvi) is such a result, a contrivance created to appraise and make a formal judgment on the quality of wine with the sole aim of identifying SA’s finest wines. Having in this way set a comparative value in wine quality judging, it highlights wines consistently recognized as exceptional.

What is given is that a wine’s quality rating will over multi-vintages move into an applicable quality category. Therefore, a wine’s point’s-score should not move up or down much - unlike the results of the majority of annual wine competitions. Therefore, the SAWi system is much more credible and fair in comparison.    

The system consists of an algorithm in which index principles are applied to track the performance of any wine over multi-vintages. Included is multi-national results weighted according to a number of adopted criteria such as the compilation of wine panels, the qualifications of its members and the number of accolades on offer.   

These imply that all wine competition results, often expressed as trophy or double gold accolades, are also turned into point-scores. Using the 100 points scoring base, trophy and double gold achievements automatically receive 94.5 points. Or else the particular points-score itself is taken. All points above 93 are included in the algorithm. While a wine normally needs a minimum 3 year track record to achieve 93 points, new releases can simply not immediately claim star status.  

Then, apart from a points-score only, a nominal bonus point is added for the type of competition in which the wine was entered. As such, annual international and local competition results are spread out over a band of categories, with the lowest international category equal to the highest local category. At the pinnacle level, there is a 3.2 points difference between International and local bonus points to be had.   

A further two things then happen. The total points achieved over a 10 year turnaround period are first of all condensed and secondly, normalised. The result is that point-scores adjudicated in such a narrow band of approximately 7 points (100-93), will differ only very slightly. However, this distinguishes and brings the fine wine category together. It also allows turning this into a ranking list of top wines much like the tennis or golf ranking systems. 

In the end, wines having a multi-vintage points-score of 93 and 94 get awarded as ‘Grand Gold’ (known as the SAWi ‘GWC Grand Reserve Range’) and those on 95 and higher as Platinum (known as the SAWi ‘GWC Reserve’ range). It is this fine wine portfolio which is then known as the SAWi ‘Grand Wines Collection’ (or GWC). A winery entering the platinum arena also then obtains SAWi ‘Wine Ambassador’ status, which implies having become a leader in fine wine production in South Africa.

The search for a more reliable system to adjudicate quality in wine, proceeding along a new innovative path, influences things in the space the industry finds itself. As a result of what has been achieved, SAWi is a disruptor, but with a clear goal of recognising wine excellence which only comes with the resilience and exceptional craft of the winemaker, culminating in association of top wines. Sharing in the result will always be priceless.    

Developing and building out such a new standard for SA wines sets an aspirational and convincing national benchmark for quality wines. As such, top producers are brought together under a new brand concept promoting the GWC as a collective of fine wines, standing proudly amongst others in the international arena. 

See further articles on the SAWi blog-post.

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