Stellenbosch has long been a centre of excellence across diverse fields, from sport to academics. In terms of wine, this year is no exception with a great roundup of achievements over the past few months.
Highlights include the highest score awarded by UK wine writer Tim Atkin’s South Africa Report to Kanonkop Paul Sauer – the first South African wine to achieve this 100-point accolade; and the region’s performance at the esteemed International Wine & Spirit Competition by claiming an almighty seven out of eight trophies.
More recently, L’Avenir Wine Estate was nominated as ‘New World Winery of the Year’ at the coveted Wine Enthusiast Magazine 2018 Wine Star Awards – the only South African winery to do so. Each year, the editors of this influential US publication honour individuals and companies that have made outstanding achievements in the drinks industry.
For Stellenbosch wine producers, the year has indeed been thrilling.
Crowding the podium at Six Nations Wine Challenge
In mid-October, a total 42 wines from Stellenbosch received recognition at the annual Six Nations Wine Challenge, with the trophy for Best Bordeaux Blend awarded to Morgenster Estate Reserve 2014 and Best Wine in the category of Other Whites, going to the Stellenrust Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016.
The challenge is an annual competition for New World wine countries of Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. It features six wine judges, one form each participating nation, with Michael Fridjhon, one of South Africa’s most highly regarded international wine judges and writers, representing South Africa.
Six hundred wines are entered by invitation only, 100 per participating country. Each judge is set the task of selecting wines across 16 classes. A trophy is awarded for the top scoring wine in each class, with double gold and gold medals awarded to the rest of the wines in the class according to the points achieved.
Runners-up for Double Gold from Stellenbosch, with their respective categories, were: Uva Mira OTV 2015 (Bordeaux Blends); and Warwick Professor Black 2017 (White Bends).
Double Golds for Stellenbosch wines were awarded to: Kanonkop 2013 (Cabernet Sauvignons); Uva Mira The Dance Cabernet Franc 2015 (Other Reds – Light to Medium Bodied); and, Spier 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2016 (Other Whites).
Gold was dealt to Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2016; Warwick Cabernet Franc 2015 and Meerlust Rubicon 2015.
27 Stellenbosch producers received the status accolade of “Judges Selection”.
Stellenbosch confirms its position as dominant Chardonnay region in SA
Stellenbosch dominated the Prescient Chardonnay Report presented by Winemag this year too. The record number of 117 entries included 44 from Stellenbosch with a total 31 of them scoring over 90/100.
The report, which is compiled by SA wine critic Christian Eedes and his panel of expert wine judges, highlights two key facts: South Africa’s ability to produce exceptional Chardonnays across multiple regions and the category’s continuing increase in quality.
Out of the top 24 wines, 10 were from Stellenbosch, with the rest from Elgin, Hemel-en-Aarde, Franschhoek, Constantia and Darling.
Stellenbosch wines scoring 94 were: Delaire Graff Terraced Block Reserve 2016; Le Riche 2017; and, Meerlust 2017.
Scoring 93 were: Delaire Graff Banghoek Reserve 2017; Hartenberg The Eleanor 2016; and, Longridge 2017.
A total eight wines scored 91: Bartinney Hourglass 2017; Jordan Nine Yards 2016; Longridge 2016; Stellenbosch Vineyards Credo 2016; Stellenbosch Vineyards Credo 2017; Uva Mira The Mira 2017; and, Uva Mira The Single Tree 2016.
Scoring 90 points were: Haskell Anvil 2017; Hazendal 2017; Jordan Barrel Fermented 2017; Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection 2017; Louisvale 2017; Lourensford Limited Release 2017; Muratie Isabella Reserve 2017; Oldenburg Vineyards 2017; Stellenbosch Reserve Moederkerk 2018; and, Uva Mira 2016.
Champions at the IWSC
The UK-based International Wine & Spirit Competition stands out as a jewel in Stellenbosch producers’ achievements this year. The annual competition receives entries from over 90 countries worldwide. The awards are considered among the industry’s highest honours in the industry.
In addition to claiming seven out of eight trophies, Stellenbosch producers brought home eight Gold Outstanding awards and 15 Golds.
The trophy winners were: Bartinney Hourglass Chardonnay 2017; Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2014; Beyerskloof Faith 2014; Oldenburg Merlot 2015; Spier 21 Gables Chenin Banc 2016; Spier 21 Gables Sauvignon Blanc 2017; and, Villiera Monro Brut 2012.
Making history with Tim Atkin’s 2018 South Africa Special Report
Among the crowning glories of 2018 will be the historic achievement of Stellenbosch’s Kanonkop wine estate. Singled out by award-winning British journalist and Master of Wine Tim Atkin in his latest special report on South African wine, the winery’s Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015 was among 59 others from Stellenbosch awarded scores of 95+ in his Wines of the Year, a category of only 105 products.
“This is a huge percentage! Stellenbosch undoubtedly confirmed its position as the home of South Africa’s greatest wines,” adds Ratcliffe.
In this his seventh annual report, Atkin contends that the 2015 and 2017 vintages produced a brilliant series of wines that surpass anything in the country’s long history, and that they are “two of the best ever harvests” at the Cape.
It was on this backdrop that Atkin awarded his first ever 100-point score in the New World to the Kanonkop Paul Sauer. “I don’t give very high scores lightly,” he said, “but this stunning, world-class wine has earned it.”
A sterling show at Veritas
Among the Veritas Awards 2018 highlights for Stellenbosch were Spier clinching the most medals for the second time in a row, with three Double Golds and 11 Golds. Neil Ellis Wines’ reputation as one of SA’s leading Cabernet Sauvignon producers was re-affirmed when the Neil Ellis 2015 terrain-specific Jonkershoek Cabernet and the 2015 regional Stellenbosch Cabernet were honoured with Double Gold and Gold Medals respectively for the third consecutive year.
And last but certainly not least – ending a bumper year for Stellenbosch wines on a high – was the much-awaited announcement of top performers in the 2019 Platter’s South African wine guide, which brought further joy to wineries of the City of Oaks. Stellenbosch clinched more than a quarter of the 90 enviable five-stars awarded. The guide’s most impressive Wines of the Year accolades also belong to the heartland of SA wine with Le Riche Reserve 2015 clinching top Cabernet Sauvignon; Kanonkop Black Label 2016 the Pinotage title; and, Beyerskloof Faith 2014 winning the Red Blends-with-Pinotage category. The Red Blends (Other) title went to the Ernie Els Proprietor’s Blend 2016, whilst Villiera Monro Brut 2012 sparkled as best Méthode Cap Classique and Overgaauw Cape Vintage 1998 as the finest Port-style rendition.