Shiraz’s popularity among wine lovers is not to be doubted and the diversity of styles on offer by winemakers ensures that every taste is catered for. The Shiraz Challenge, presented by Shiraz SA for the sixth time, serves as a trustworthy compass for consumers wanting to buy SA’s top Shiraz. This year, three Shiraz blends and twelve Shiraz stole the limelight.
And the winners are …
The winning Shiraz wines for 2018 were announced on Wednesday 30 May at Rhebokskloof following a tasting of the 25 Shiraz and 10 blend finalists.
The champions in the category for Shiraz blends are:
- Babylonstoren Babel 2016
- Saronsberg Full Circle 2016
- Spier Creative Block 3 2015
A dozen exceptional Shiraz wines are worthy of the 2018 Top Shiraz title:
- Alvi’s Drift Signature Shiraz 2016
- Babylonstoren Shiraz 2016
- Bloemendal Syrah 2013
- Boschkloof Louis 57 Shiraz 2016
- D’Aria The Soprano Shiraz 2016,
- De Grendel Elim Shiraz 2016 (the only 1,5ℓ magnum entered)
- Diemersfontein Shiraz 2017
- Eagles’ Nest Shiraz 2015
- KWV Cathedral Cellar Shiraz 2015
- Oldenburg Vineyards Syrah 2014
- Saronsberg Provenance Shiraz 2016
- Wellington La Cave Shiraz 2016
Brand new judging process
According to panel chairperson Dr Andy Roediger (Cape Wine Master and chairperson for the past five years) palate fatigue can be a wine judge’s biggest enemy, especially when tasting a large selection of wines in the same category. “In addition, when using a set order for a tasting, an absolute winner can completely overshadow a fine wine following it, giving it an unfair advantage,” he explains. “For these reasons we implemented a new tasting format (developed in conjunction with the University of Stellenbosch) with good results. Previously the panel tasted a few wines and discussed them. This year there were no discussion in between judging sets and every judge had a unique order of wines to be tasted, resulting in a more objective outcome.”
According to Edmund Terblanche, SA Shiraz chairperson, quality always shines through. “It is easy enough to identify the top 20% and then, with a fresh palate, to choose the absolute leaders. Having twelve winning slots to fill enables us to acknowledge champs in the different styles.”
The rest of the authoritative judging panel includes Charles Hopkins (Cellar Master De Grendel), Edmund Terblanche (Cellar Master La Motte and Shiraz SA Chairperson), Samarie Smith (Brand Business Manager Benguela Cove and previously wine journalist for Die Burger) and Jeanne-Mari de Villiers (Odd Bins Checkers), Jacques Borman (Cellar Master and owner of Boschkloof). Claus Fischer from Germany added his expertise for the second consecutive year. Fischer has been tasting for Mundus Vini since 2003, serves on their governing body and is Vinventions’ chief technician for quality issues. Vinventions is also the main sponsor for this competition. As in previous years, Shiraz SA empowers a protégé of the Winemakers Guild by including them on the tasting panel. This year Gynore Fredericks – currently an intern at De Grendel – had the opportunity to gain valuable experience.
This year’s entries – an overview
A total of 192 wines (36 blends and 156 Shiraz, and 27 less than in 2017) from all the country’s wine-making regions entered. The decrease in entries is comparable with other similar wine competitions. According to Edmund Terblanche the pinching economy might be compelling cellars to only enter their very best.
Concerning the quality of entries, the judges agree that very few faulty wines were presented for tasting. “We saw more lighter styled wines as a result of earlier pickings,” says Terblanche. “And therefore, also found more definition and prominent varietal characteristics.”
Judge Jeanne-Mari de Villiers of Checkers’ Odd Bins shares that the entered wines once again portrayed the diversity of Shiraz. “The Shiraz grape is suitable for the creation of a wide variety of styles that need not only be terroir driven but can reflect the influence of the wine maker.”
What do the judges look for?
The varied terroir found in the Cape Winelands enables wine makers to experiment with different styles. The panel’s assignment was to acknowledge all styles and to judge in terms of intensity, variety characteristics and purity, and aging potential. The aim of the competition, to identify twelve wines that can hold their own with internationally acclaimed wines.
“I always look for balance, integration and elegance,” says De Villiers who takes into account the input and preferences of Checkers’ consumers. “It is true that Shiraz is so diverse with lots of potential for flavour, tannins and colour inherent to the grape. But I feel wine makers should avoid too heavily oaked wines with high alcohol content that can dominate the tasting experience.”
For more information regarding the competition, contact Sandra Lotz by email@example.com or 082 924 7254.