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The Cape Wine Industry - Confident and for good reason

Posted on: 2014-05-29
Posted by: Old Mutual Trophy Awards

The hallmark feature of the results of the 2014 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show was their coherence across a broad range of classes, with red wines enjoying particularly positive feedback from the panellists.

In previous years the under-performance of reds was pretty much a constant refrain from the judges. It seems that the current releases herald a crucial turning point. This change has been a long time in coming, and is the result of extensive work in the premium red variety vineyards. Older virus-free vines are now contributing a depth of texture and fruit - the absence of which was commented upon by the show's judges in previous years. 

With mainly fine recent vintages on the judges' tasting benches, medal counts were generally higher than in 2013 (where the inconsistent 2010s comprised an important percentage of the submission). Panellists were unanimous in their praise of the overall steep improvement in the quality of the wines reviewed over the three and half days of the judging. Some openly admitted that, despite raised standards and elevated quality expectations, it was impossible to deny the medal-winners their just entitlement. Show Chairman Michael Fridjhon remarked at the industry feedback session (which was held immediately after the judging) that it was the depth in the overall quality of the wines that most impressed the panellists.

The Fairbairn Capital Trophy for the Show's top performing winery went to KWV, which had taken home the coveted award in 2012 and finished as runner-up in 2013. This achievement was primarily the result of a string of high scoring wines from the cellar's premium selection marketed under “The Mentors” label. It was however supported by several museum class trophies and golds (whose contribution cannot exceed 20% of the total points counted for the Fairbairn Capital Trophy). In second place was Nederburg which last won the Fairbairn Capital Trophy in 2009. Amongst the Paarl cellar's class winners was the Nederburg The Brew Master 2010 which took home the Riedel trophy for the Show's best Bordeaux blend and the Nederburg Private Bin Eminence 2011 which won the trophy for the show's top natural sweet dessert wine. 

There was, as always, a high percentage of regular winners amongst the 37 trophy and gold medal laureates: Delheim, whose 2011 Edelspatz Noble Late Harvest won the 2012 dessert wine trophy, and whose 2012 vintage took the trophy last year, was back on the winners' podium this year with its 2013 vintage. This is the first time in the Show's history that three consecutive vintages of a wine from a single site has won a class trophy. Jordan won the American Express Trophy for the show's best Cabernet Sauvignon, repeating its triumph two years ago with the 2009 vintage. Nederburg, Rijk's, Steenberg, Delaire Graff, Jordan, Cape Chamonix, De Krans, Mulderbosch, Vergelegen, Kleine Zalze and Diemersfontein are all back again this year with trophies and gold medals.

In accordance with the dynamic nature of the Cape wine industry, there are also several newcomers, with the show's top red wine coming from the De Waal's Super Single Vineyard at Mount Sutherland. The Old Mutual Trophy for The Discovery of the Show (the best value gold medallist) was awarded to Baleia Bay for its 2013 Chardonnay produced on a site near Riversdale in the Southern Cape.

Mulderbosch collected a hat-trick of trophies for its 2013 Chardonnay, winning the Miele Trophy for the Show's best Chardonnay as well as the Old Mutual Trophy for Best White Wine Overall and the Old Mutual International Judges’ Trophy. Chardonnays from Mulderbosch frequently appear among the Show's trophies and golds, including the inaugural competition in 2002.

KWV's The Mentors Chenin Blanc 2013 won the Harold Eedes Trophy for the Show's best Chenin Blanc, adding this to its trophies for Semillon, Museum Class red blend, and Museum Class fortified dessert wine. Rijk’s Cellar, the first ever winner of the Harold Eedes Trophy (in 2010, and again in 2013 for its 2008 Reserve) garnered a gold medal for its 2009 Reserve wine. The Nestlé Pure Life Trophy for Sauvignon Blanc was awarded to Delaire Graff for its Coastal Cuvée 2013.

The 2014 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show saw the number of entries judged rise slightly to 1040. Regular panellists commented on the markedly better quality of the top wines in most of the classes, while the overseas judges (all without prior experience of the competition) expressed their delight at what was on offer in some of the strongest classes.

Véronique Drouhin-Boss, winemaker in Burgundy, France and Oregon, USA was very impressed with the Chardonnays she tasted: “This is the third time I’ve been in South Africa since 2008 and the improvement has been amazing. The level of quality was very high.”

China’s best-known wine educator, Fongyee Walker, was very excited about Chenin Blanc: “(It was) a fantastic Chenin Class, a real mind-blowing experience for me to see the diversity of style and to see that so many different styles have been produced so well.” Michael Fridjhon summarised the class: “There were 57 entries in that Chenin class. It finished with 3 golds, 10 silvers and 31 bronzes, so 44 of the 57 wines got medals. It is the best result in a large class that we’ve ever had in the history of the show.”

The Museum Class entries continued the trend of accounting for at least 5% of the submissions – and revealed what is clearly a change in emphasis amongst the country's super-premium cellars. “Increasingly we see the country's top wineries choosing to send

a message about the age-ability and age-worthiness of their best vintages,” observes Fridjhon. “Since this coincides with a wider industry commitment to emphasise the age-worthiness of our top wines, we see in the growth of the Museum Class numbers an important message for South Africa's wine aficionados.” This year’s Museum Class entries yielded 7 trophies, 1 gold, 7 silvers and 23 bronze medals. The growth in Museum Class entries led last year to the creation of the Old Mutual Trophy for the highest scoring Museum Class gold medallist. This year's winner is the KWV White Muscadel Jerepigo 1968.

“The Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show sponsorship is a natural fit for Old Mutual, a company backed by 169 years of investment knowledge and experience,” adds Mokaedi Dilotsotlhe, General Manager Marketing, at Old Mutual. “Our sponsorship not only celebrates fine wines but also plays an important role in skills development for the wine industry - The Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show supports the development of world class wine judges through the Michael Fridjhon Wine Judging Academy, run in conjunction with the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business.”

Within the next two weeks, a series of tastings will be taken to seven major centres countrywide including Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London followed by a Masterclass® in Windhoek. Wine lovers in Cape Town and Johannesburg will be able to taste 153 trophy, gold, silver and some Museum Class medal-winning wines at public tastings in Cape Town and Sandton on 6 and 12 June respectively, and will have an opportunity to judge these top achievers for themselves. They can expect to sample the industry’s best entries from 36 judging categories covering a wide range of varieties and wine styles - from bubblies, sauvignons and rieslings to cabernets, shiraz, merlots and Cape Port with some lesser-known varieties making an appearance.

They can also take advantage of the opportunity to buy superlative wines (while stocks are available) at special show prices via show fulfilment partner Makro. Those attending the public tastings will receive a copy of Icons – the 216 page show guide - which contains details of all the winning wines, chapters contributed by Véronique Drouhin-Boss on Pinot Noir and Fongyee Walker on the dynamic wine scene in China, as well as a substantially augmented glossary, vintage information and advice about wine service. Icons will also be distributed with the July issue of WineLand.

Visit the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show website for all the results, judges’ profiles and historical statistics.

Twitter: @omtrophywines and #OMTWS


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