Stellenbosch wineries keep on shining

It’s been a great week for Stellenbosch wineries on the podium. The winners of the Standard Bank Top 10 Chenin Challenge were announced yesterday, reaffirming our local wineries and winemakers’ high esteem following an impressive showing from the region in last week’s ABSA Top 10 Pinotage Awards.

Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge 2020

The spread of vineyards contributing to this year’s line-up of Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge winners shows just how adaptable the grape is, in the view of Chenin Blanc Association (CBA) chairman Ken Forrester. “From Stellenbosch to Worcester, Breedekloof and the cooler-climate Durbanville, these wines really do demonstrate Chenin’s ability to successfully put down roots in a variety of growing conditions. With the mounting impact of climate change worldwide, it’s not surprising that so many growers in the Americas and Australasia are now looking to it as the grape of their future, too”.

Forrester said South Africa’s critical and commercial success with Chenin was inspiring many producers around the world. “It’s why there has been such a groundswell of interest in the International Chenin Blanc Summit to be hosted in South Africa next year.  At the same time, it’s why our Chenins have become the go-to choice for so many consumers in export markets. It’s their way of showing support for our industry during these difficult times. Make no mistake, they do so, not as an act of charity but as a mark of respect for and confidence in our wines.

“You know what they say: South African Chenins are a lot like South Africans themselves – vibrant, resilient and readily responsive to changing circumstances. Both the vines and the people put down deep and tenacious roots. It’s how we overcome adversity and even flourish under stress.”

Speaking on behalf of the judges, panel chair James Pietersen said this year’s top ten were sourced mainly from mature vines, with some as old as 48 years.  “From the 136 wines we assessed we found a clear link between wine quality and older, established vines. Seven of the top ten wines were harvested from vines 35 years’ old at the very least, and in another instance the age of the vines ranged between 25 and 40 years.

“Across the spectrum of styles, we noticed an appealing freshness and vivaciousness. Part of the reason was the impact of nuanced, sophisticated oaking, with some producers this year introducing larger 1 500-litre and 2 500-litre barrels to their wood regimes. Also noteworthy was that for the second time only in the history of the challenge, now in its seventh year, one of the wines selected was entirely unwooded. It came from a 43-year-old vineyard. We see it as confirmation that oak is in no way an absolute as far as depth and complexity are concerned.”

He said there were three newcomers to the Top Ten line-up. First-timer Alvi’s Drift delivered two of the winning wines. The other producers to debut were Badsberg and Kaapzicht.

“Remarkably, Stellenrust, with two wines this year – one the unwooded expression – is the only producer to have featured on the challenge every year since its inception in 2014.  DeMorgenzon and Spier have also been regular winners, while all the others on the list have also made multiple appearances.”

Pietersen said that while the composition of the judging panel was deliberately changed each year to allow for fresh perspectives, “the appearance of some of the same producers year after year speaks to a consistency of attributes sought by the judges, whomever they are. Nevertheless, the line-up also shows there is ample accommodation of new players.”

Stephan van der Merwe, head of commercial banking at Standard Bank in the Western Cape, confirmed that his organisation would be awarding a cash prize of R25 000 for each of the winning wines.  According to the competition stipulations, the money goes towards producer projects intended to “reinforce economic and social benefits in the workplace”.

To date, R1,35 million has been distributed, with producers thus far investing in a range of initiatives to enhance the lives of their worker communities.  These have ranged from educational, to health and housing projects.

Listed alphabetically, the top 10 wines are:


DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2019     

Kaapzicht Kliprug Chenin Blanc 2019      

Mulderbosch Vineyards Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc Block S2 2018

Spier Wines 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2019

Stellenrust Chenin Blanc 2019

Stellenrust Stellenbosch Manor Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2019

Rest of South Africa

Alvi’s Drift Private Cellar 221 Chenin Blanc 2019   

Alvi’s Drift Private Cellar Albertus Viljoen Chenin Blanc 2019

Badsberg Wine Cellar Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2019 

Durbanville Hills Collectors Reserve The Cape Garden Chenin Blanc 2019

Stellenbosch wines lauded in Tim Atkin

“South Africa is making the best wines in its history” according to Tim Atkin in his latest 2020 report that saw Delaire Graff awarded Best Cellar Door Experience, Johan Reyneke named the Grower of the Year, and Kleine Zalze receiving medals of excellence. 

Atkin who tasted 1 381 wines for this report, remarked “rather than just a few individuals, what we have now is a constellation shining bright above us in the firmament, made up of more than 100 winemaking stars”.

Winner of the Winemaking Legend award Peter Finlayson.

Best wines in its history

“Despite the well-publicised challenges it faces, South Africa is making the best wines in its history. Over the decade I’ve been writing these reports, it has been a delight to see the general improvements in quality and the tentative emergence of a South African fine wine sector, with bottles that are discussed, cellared, coveted, shared and sold at auction.

“Rather than just a few individuals, what we have now is a constellation shining bright above us in the firmament, made up of more than 100 winemaking stars. “This is my eighth South Africa report,” comments Tim, “and it was very different in terms of its preparation to the previous seven. However, thanks to the help of Wines of South Africa and others, I was able to taste almost everything I needed to and talk to leading winemakers, viticulturists and industry figures.”

Johan Reyneke of Reyneke Wines was named Grower of the Year.

Perfect scores

Two Swartland wines – Eben Sadie’s Sadie Family Skurfberg Chenin Blanc 2019 and Porseleinberg Syrah 2018 – received full marks in Tim Atkin, world-renowned and award-winning wine journalist,’s eighth report on South Africa. These are only the second and third wines from the New World to which Atkin awards 100 points. This honor went to Kanonkop’s Paul Sauer 2015 in 2018.

For only the second time ever, Atkin has given the highest mark possible to a New World wine. This year, two wines, one red, one white, scored 100 points.

Eben Sadie of Sadie Family Wines was awarded a perfect score for his 2019 Sadie Family Skurfberg Chenin Blanc.

“This year I have awarded two perfect scores of 100 points; these are only the second and third wines ever to receive this accolade (the first was Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015, in 2018),” he says. “These remarkable, world-class wines are the 2018 Porseleinberg Syrah from the Swartland, and the 2019 Sadie Family Skurfberg Chenin Blanc from Olifants River. “Not only that, but 23 other wines scored 97 points or higher. Chenin Blanc is the standout grape this time, with 32 Chenins scoring 95 points or more, but rarer grapes such as Colombard, Tinta Barocca and Palomino also featured among my 153 wines of the year. I salute all the winning winemakers and viticulturists for their fantastic efforts and can’t wait to see them in person again soon.”

Tim said he learned this year how important it is to celebrate constructive things. “Initially I gave the Skurfberg Chenin Blanc 99 points, but during dinner with friends, where we tasted it blindly with wines from Burgundy, everyone was stunned. They could not guess where the wine came from, but said it was world class. I went to look at my notes again and decided it’s worth giving 100 points. It is a wine that expresses the place and it is made by one of the best winemakers in the world. South Africa is happy to have Eben; it’s inspiring what he has done for the wine industry. ”

Podium finishes: Stellenbosch

Best Cellar Door Experience: Delaire Graff

Grower of the Year: Johan Reyneke of Reyneke Wines

Overall Rosé of the Year: 2019 Lievland Liefkoos Rosé

Red Wine Discovery of the Year: 2017 Miles Mossop Sam

Best Value White of the Year: 2019 Eikendal Janina Unwooded Chardonnay

Podium: Western Cape

Winemaker of the Year: Gottfried Mocke of Boekenhoutskloof

Young Winemakers of the Year: David and Nadia Sadie of David & Nadia

Co-operative of the Year: Riebeek Valley Wine Company

Winemaking Legend: Peter Finlayson of Bouchard Finlayson

Overall White Wine of the Year: 2019 Sadie Family Skurfberg Chenin Blanc, Olifants River

Overall Red Wine of the Year: 2018 Porseleinberg Syrah, Swartland

Overall Sparkling Wine of the Year: 2014 Graham Beck Cuvée Clive, Robertson

Overall Sweet Wine of the Year: 2017 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance, Constantia

Overall Fortified Wine of the Year: 2018 De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve, Calitzdorp

White Wine Discovery of the Year: 2019 Thorne & Daughters Snakes & Ladders Sauvignon Blanc, Citrusdal Mountain

Best Value Red of the Year: 2019 Boplaas Touriga Nacional Family Reserve, Calitzdorp

Best Value Rosé of the Year: 2019 Meerhof Grenache Rosé, Swartland

Best Value Sparkling Wine of the Year: 2011 Bon Courage Jacques Bruère Blanc de Blancs, Robertson

Best Value Sweet Wine of the Year: 2019 Klawer Cellars Villa Esposto Straw Wine, Citrusdal Mountain

Best Value Fortified Wine of the Year: 2014 Alvi’s Drift Muscat de Frontignan, Worcester