A Ruby Cabernet crowned as SA’s Best Young Wine for 2020 

by | Sep 30, 2020 | News

A wooded Ruby Cabernet from Badsberg in the Breedekloof clinched the coveted General Smuts Trophy as overall South African Champion Young Wine for 2020, after also being crowned as the best entry in the category ‘Other Red Cultivar’ at this year’s SA Young Wine Show.

It’s the third time that Badsberg walks away with the big General Smuts Trophy as overall winner, after achieving this in 2016 with a wooded Pinotage, and in 2009 with a natural sweet wine.

This annual show for wines of the current vintage year – presented by the SA National Wine Show Association (SANWSA) in collaboration with Agri-Expo – took place later than usual due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is the second time in the competition’s 188-year existence, the oldest of its kind in the world, that a Ruby Cabernet takes the laurels as the 69th winner of the General Smuts Trophy. The previous time was in in 2012.

The competition’s customary gala dinner, where trophies are handed over to the winners, was cancelled this year as a result of the coronavirus. Altogether, 40 wines achieved class winner status and 74 received gold medals.


The 2020 Pietman Hugo Trophy was shared by Robertson Winery and Wellington Wines. (L to R:) Bennie Howard (vice-chairman of the SA Young Wine Show), Francois van Niekerk (cellar master at Wellington Wines), Rianco van Rooyen (senior winemaker at Robertson Winery) and Christo Pienaar (chairman of the SA Young Wine Show).

In a unique result, two cellars, namely Robertson Winery and Wellington Wines, shared the Pietman Hugo Trophy – which is awarded to the winery scoring the highest total points for its best five wines. 

The total entries showed a decrease, as expected by the organisers in view of the Covid-19 limitations. The overall commentary by the judges, however, was that the judged wines were of outstanding quality. 

The quality of the 2020 white wines met with the expectations of particularly good quality. Among the Chenin Blanc wines, the unwooded entries generally performed better than the wooded ones, which probably needed more time to come to their full right. 

It was a particularly good year for the various Sauvignon Blanc styles, which showed well throughout this category thanks to a very cool January and February. The judges were impressed by the myriad of greener and tropical styles of Sauvignon Blanc.

2020 has been very favourable for Chardonnay too and the panel experienced top unwooded wines with good balance, mouthfeel and length, while the excelling wooded ones were characterised by balance, more natural acidity and limy-citrus characteristics.


In the White Blend Class without wood, entries with typical Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon cultivar character stood out, as well as blends with Colombar, supported by strong tropical flavours. 

Among the Other White Cultivars, both wooded Sémillon and Viognier yielded more complex wines, while muscat cultivars such as Morio Muscat and Irsai Olivér showed well rounded off wines with good acid balance.

With regard to red wines, all the panels were unanimous that 2020 has been a very good year. The blended wines were full-bodied and mostly showing good balance, while Merlot yielded beautiful, promising and full wines with soft tannins.

The 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon vintage has proven to be as exceptional as expected. The winners of Gold and Silver medals had great fruit purity and a firm, ripe tannin structure, both in the wooded and unwooded categories.

The Pinotage wines showed very well this year and the vintage’s quality was well-reflected in good colour, structure and soft, rounded tannins.


Johan Ehlers (CEO of Agri-Expo), Willie Burger (cellar master at Badsberg), with the Genl Smuts Trophy for the 2020 Best Young Wine (a wooded Ruby Cabernet), and Christo Pienaar (chairman of the SA Young Wine Show).

With Shiraz, the unwooded class stood out this year, the wines showing good cultivar characteristics, varying from elegant red fruit, with white pepper and a fine tannin structure, to dark fruit, black pepper and more complexity.

Other cultivars that stood out were Cinsaut, Touriga Nacional, Tannat, Petit Sirah and Petit Verdot. About Ruby Cabernet, the panel stated that there were beautiful examples that “took our breath away”.

The almost 50 judges on 13 panels scrutinised the entries subject to the most stringent protocols, which comply with world standards, at Nederburg in Paarl. The safety measures included daily sterilisation of the premises, bottles, equipment and glasses by a process of UV- and ozone treatment with equipment supplied by Tharo Wines.

Meanwhile, the winner of the General Smuts Trophy also boasts a special bottle sticker since 2013 to stand out among other wines at sales points. Meanwhile, organisers have noticed that more and more trophy winners had in recent years been bottled as such instead of “losing their identity by being further blended”.

In terms of overall results, those who excelled at the show – in addition to Badsberg’s top achievement – with two national winners each, were the following:

  • Darling Cellars with the SA champions Merlot (wooded) and Red Blend Shiraz/Pinotage (wooded)
  • Spier Wines with the SA champions Sémillon (wooded) and their White Blend (Sauvignon/Sémillon) (unwooded)
  • Wellington Wines, with Pinotage (wooded) and Shiraz (unwooded)   


The rest of the SA Champion wines are:

  • Chardonnay Nuy Wine Cellar, Chardonnay (wooded)
  • Chenin Blanc – Perdeberg Cellar, Chenin Blanc (wooded)
  • Sauvignon Blanc – Diemersdal, Sauvignon Blanc
  • Other White Cultivar – Van Loveren Family Vineyards, Colombar
  • Natural Sweet White Wine – Robertson Winery, natural sweet white wine (RS >20g/l)
  • Noble Late Harvest Wine – Bon Courage Estate, noble late harvest
  • Cabernet Sauvignon – Alto Estate,  Cabernet Sauvignon (wooded)
  • Dessert Wine – Excelsior Vlakteplaas, Red Jerepiko
  • Muscadel – Namaqua Wines (Spruitdrift), White Muskadel Jerepiko
  • Cape Style – De Krans Wines, Cape Vintage


The chairperson of the Young Wine Show, Christo Pienaar, said that the quality of the young wines judged had been excellent and a good reflection of the 2020 vintage year. “I was impressed that the winners of SA Champion wines were from all over the country’s wine producing areas, as well as diverse types of wineries. I wish to thank all those who participated for their ongoing support.”

The SA Young Wine Show dates back to 1833 when the first such competition was held by the Cape of Good Hope Agricultural Society (today Agri-Expo) in Rondebosch. Agri-Expo has been the proud presenter of this Show over all the years, being the main sponsor every second year and fellow sponsor in the alternative years.

2020 Results:


John McDonald Trophy – SA Champion Sauvignon Blanc: Diemersdal Estate: Sauvignon Blanc (unwooded) (Thys Louw/Mari Branders).

JG Graue Trophy – SA Champion Chardonnay: Nuy Cellars: Chardonnay (wooded) (Christo Pienaar).

Les Tastevins Du Cap Trophy – SA Champion Chenin Blanc: Perdeberg Cellar: Chenin Blanc (wooded) (Albertus Louw).

Frank Myburgh Trophy – SA Champion Sémillon: Spier Wines: Sémillon (wooded) (Jacques Erasmus/Antony Kock/Bennie Liebenberg).

HA Conradie Trophy – SA Champion Other White Cultivar: Van Loveren Family Vineyards:  Colombar (unwooded) (Chris Crafford).

SBW Trophy – SA Champion White Blend: Spier Wines:  White Blend – Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon (unwooded) (Jacques Erasmus/Antony Kock/Bennie Liebenberg).

Agri-Expo Silver Trophy – SA Champion Natural Sweet White Wine: Robertson Winery:  Natural Sweet White Wine (unwooded) (Rianco van Rooyen/Thys Loubscher).

Agri-Expo Goue Trophy – SA Champion Noble Late Harvest: Bon Courage Estate: Noble Late Harvest (unwooded) (Jacques Bruwer/Philip Viljoen).

Roberto Moni Trophy – SA Champion Cabernet Sauvignon: Alto Wine Estate: Cabernet Sauvignon (wooded) (Bertho vd Westhuizen).

Burgoyne Trophy – SA Champion Shiraz: Wellington Wines: Shiraz (unwooded) (Francois van Niekerk).

Dr AI Perold Trophy – SA Champion Pinotage: Wellington Wines:  Pinotage (wooded) (Francois van Niekerk).

Libertas Trophy – SA Champion Merlot: Darling Cellars: Merlot (wooded) (Pieter-Niel Rossouw/Reon Richter/Maggie Immelman).

Stephan Smit Trophy – SA Champion Other Red Cultivar: Badsberg Cellars:  Ruby Cabernet (wooded) (Willie Burger and team).

Vine Products Trophy – SA Champion Red Blend: Darling Cellars: Red Blend – Shiraz/Pinotage (wooded) (Pieter-Niel Rossouw/Reon Richter/Maggie Immelman).

HJ Etchell Trophy – SA Champion Dessert Wine: Excelsior Vlakteplaas: Red Jerepiko (unwooded) (Jan-Jurie Schoeman).

Agri-Expo Silver Trophy – SA Champion Muscadel: Namaqua Wines (Spruitdrift):  White Muscadel Jerepiko (unwooded) (Johan Weideman).

SAWFA Trophy – SA Champion Cape Style: De Krans Wines: Cape Style – Cape Vintage (wooded) (Christoff de Wet).

Pietman Hugo Trophy: Best Points Achieved With 5 Top Wines | Joint winners | Robertson Winery – Rianco van Rooyen/Thys Loubscher & Wellington Wines – Francois van Niekerk

Genl Smuts Trophy – SA Champion Wine: Badsberg Cellars:  Other Red Cultivar: Ruby Cabernet (wooded) (Willie Burger and team).



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