The SA Young Wine Show – the official name, South African National Young Wine Show, is about as formidable as the trophies – provided its usual quota of surprises. But the fact that the overall champion wine was a red, hailing from the Stellenbosch district, with “King Cabernet” as its main ingredient, might have been expected, considering the region’s tradition of red wine. Even so, over the past decade the SA champion has increasingly been coming from other districts.

Meanwhile the estate that produced the winner, Clos Malverne, has expanded significantly since the days when it was marketed as the smallest estate in Stellenbosch. Two years ago Seymour Pritchard purchased two neighbouring parcels of land – and now counts his blessings.

Even so, the popular winelands saying that “small is beautiful” is still personified by the estate’s approach, namely to focus on a limited range of red wines, extending these gradually so that today they might boast an impressive track record in local competitions and with overseas critics.

A Cabernet/Merlot blend proved the winner from no fewer than 2 185 entries, all from the 2001 vintage. To achieve this distinction, the wine had to be awarded a gold medal and triumph in one of 48 “classes” (categories) from six districts, ranging from the Klein-Karoo to the Cape and beyond, as far as the banks of the Orange River in the northwest. The champion wines are awarded in six main categories, and the SA champion is eventually selected from these ranks.

 

Although these young wines often reach the market at a much later stage and in an entirely different guise, after blending, maturation and so forth, the award represents enormous prestige for the winning cellar. Although the significance thereof is not of direct importance to wine consumers, industry leaders regard the competition as an important mechanism to raise wine standards by enabling regions to compete on an even footing with entries from a specific vintage.

To tell the truth, in physical size alone the trophy which enabled the young winemaker from Clos Malverne, Izak “Ippie” Smit, to claim the spotlight, makes the Currie Cup look like a coffee mug. And the other trophies, bringing the total ensured value of these so-called works of art to more than R200 000, do not actually lag far behind.

As far as wine lovers are concerned, this year’s grand champion is significant, since Seymour Pritchard says there are large volumes of the wine, most of which will eventually be sold on the domestic market. There are more than 30 000 litres, a certain proportion of which will end up in the cellar’s flagship blend, the Clos Malverne Auret, with “our best Pinotage”. Approximately 500 cases will be released in October next year, following maturation in new, small oak barrels, as a Limited Release Cabernet/Merlot 2001, not to be confused with the cellar’s “standard” such blend.

He mentions that the Cab comes from their new farm, Dwars-in-die-Weg, “just down the road,” in Devon Valley, and the Merlot from the original Clos Malverne property itself.

Meanwhile, at the fancy presentation ceremony – which, in terms of a round robin system, was held in Vredendal in the Olifants River district this year to coincide with the region’s own young wine show (at Klawer cellar) – the name Clos Malverne sounded rather strange to the guests and “Klos Mlwin” was heard more than once, pronounced with a fine West Coast accent. In Afrikaans the French pronunciation is not quite so simple!

According to many of the guests who each received a few sips, the wine itself, with its deep, purple colour and young, full-bodied vitality of sturdy tannins still puckering the palate, did not feel very comfortable in the mouth either. But on the other hand, a wine such as this has a long way to go. And this one will certainly be able to do so. Obviously, it was first also crowned the SA Champion Red Table Wine, from the ranks of the 69% of the young wines entered this year who were awarded 94 gold, 501 silver and 864 bronze medals.

As far as the other winners are concerned, Slanghoek Cellar near Worcester once again distinguished itself by winning three trophies this year. This is the fifth year running that cellarmaster Kobus Rossouw and his team have walked away with the Pietman Hugo Trophy – for the most points with the five best entries – and the third time that Slanghoek is awarded the trophy for the SA Champion Noble Late Harvest Wine. The cellar’s Red Muscadel Jerepigo was named the SA Champion Muscat Fortified Wine.

Boland Cellar’s Sauvignon Blanc (wooded) garnered yet another sought-after title for this Paarl cellar, who achieved phenomenal success at the International Wine and Spirit Competition. It was named the SA Champion White Table wine.

Landskroon reinforced their standing as a leading producer of port. Winemakers Paul de Villiers and Kobie Viljoen were awarded the trophy for the SA Champion Non-muscat Fortified Wine for the second year running with a Red Port. Last year this estate’s 1997 Vintage Port clinched the sought-after Diners Club Winemaker of the Year title for De Villiers.

It is also the second time that André and Jacques Bruwer of Bon Courage Estate in Robertson are awarded the trophy for the SA Champion Natural Sweet White Table Wine.

Meanwhile regional champions were announced over a three week period. The young wines that distinguished themselves as champions and class winners and the recipients of gold, silver and bronze medals, were tasted at the following young wine shows: Olifants River (18 August), Klein-Karoo (25 August), Stellenbosch (30 August), Robertson (1 September), Orange River (7 September), Paarl (7 September) and Worcester (15 September).

For the record, the other SA champion young wines since 1990, in reverse chronological order, were: Cape Point Sauvignon Blanc, Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc, JP Bredell Port, Middelvlei Shiraz, Wildekrans Cabernet Sauvignon, Muratie Cabernet Sauvignon, Vredendal Ruby Cabernet/Cabernet Franc, JP Bredell Cabernet Sauvignon, Grangehurst Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Saxenburg Cabernet Sauvignon and Neethlingshof Noble Late Harvest.

These are the 2001 SA Champion young wines
GENERAL SMUTS TROPHY: S A CHAMPION WINE
Clos Malverne Estate
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend

PIETMAN HUGO TROPHY: HIGHEST SCORE FOR 5 BEST ENTRIES
Slanghoek Cellar – Website

J G GRAUE TROPHY: S A CHAMPION WHITE TABLE WINE
Boland Wine Cellar – Website
Sauvignon Blanc (with Wood)

RESERVE CHAMPION WHITE TABLE WINE
Steenberg Vineyards
Semillon

WPLG SILVER TROPHY: S A CHAMPION NATURAL SWEET WHITE TABLE WINE
Bon Courage Estate
Natural Sweet White Wine

RESERVE CHAMPION NATURAL SWEET WHITE TABLE WINE
Boland Wine Cellar – Website
Natural Sweet Sauvignon Blanc

WPLG GOLD TROPHY: S A CHAMPION NOBLE LATE HARVEST
Slanghoek Cellar – Website
Noble Late Harvest

RESERVE CHAMPION NOBLE LATE HARVEST
Verdun Estate
Noble Late Harvest (with Wood)

ROBERTO MONI TROPHY: S A CHAMPION RED TABLE WINE
Clos Malverne Estate – Website
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend

RESERVE CHAMPION RED TABLE WINE
Louwshoek-Voorsorg
Ruby Cabernet

H J ETCHELL TROPHY: S A CHAMPION NON-MUSCAT FORTIFIED WINE
Landskroon Estate
Red Port

RESERVE CHAMPION NON-MUSCAT FORTIFIED WINE
Swartland Cellar
Red Jerepigo

WPLG SILVER TROPHY: S A CHAMPION MUSCAT FORTIFIED WINE
Slanghoek Cellar – Website
Red Muscadel Jerepigo

RESERVE CHAMPION MUSCAT FORTIFIED WINE
Du Toitskloof Cellar: Hanepoot Jerepigo

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