Friday, November 25, 2016

2016 Diners Club Winemaker of The Year Awards Dinner at La Residence, Franschhoek

Diners Club is the sponsor of this prestigious annual event and, each year, they set the categories of wine to be entered for the Young Winemaker of the Year and the Winemaker of the year. This year they asked for a red blend from the Young Wine Maker of the year (under 30 years of age) and a Chenin for the Winemaker of the Year. The gala dinner and awards ceremony was held again at La Residence in Franschhoek. It was a sparkling evening full of anticipation, joy and celebration
A golden plate of small canapés
We were welcomed with a glass of Colmant Brut Reserve MCC from Franschhoek
A band played soft music on the terrace
We take our seats in the long gallery
Jean-Pierre Rossouw, publisher of the Platter Wine Guide (owned by Diners Club) was the MC for the evening. He welcomed everyone and explained how the awards ceremony would proceed. This is the 36th year of the competition and the 16th year for the Young Winemaker of the year competition. It is a tradition to pair the winning wines with the food being served and, this year, the starter would be served with the red wine from the winner of the Young Winemaker Award and the main course with the Winemaker of the Year's Chenin. The Award wines are on sale now
The prizes are very generous indeed: The winning Winemaker receives R50 000, while the Young Winemaker receives R25 000. Both winemakers are awarded two return business class tickets on Delta Airlines to any wine producing region in the USA

There was a lovely moment when Lesego Chauke-Motshwane, Managing Director, Diners Club South Africa took the stage in her sparkling gown as they played the song Diamonds in the Sky. She took over her role only one month ago from Ebrahim Matthews. Diners has very strong links with the wine industry, as they sponsor many awards. She then announced that Philip Viljoen, the Young Winemaker of the Year 2015, would hand over the award to the 2016 winner
Head of Diners Club Card division told us who the finalists for Young Winemaker were and which wines they entered: Tamarin Turck-Nel, 2014 Cederberg Shiraz; Murray Barlow from Rustenberg in Stellenbosch: 2013 Rustenberg Buzzard Kloof Syrah, 2014 Rustenberg Buzzard Kloof Syrah and 2015 Rustenberg RM Nicholson red blend; Louis van der Riet from Calitzdorp: 2013 De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve; Petri de Beer: 2015 Credo Limited Release Grenache, from Welmoed Cellar, Stellenbosch
And the winner is: Murray Barlow with his Rustenberg RM Nicholson red blend of Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet sauvignon. Murray was Young Winemaker of the Year in 2013 and was a finalist last year

Last year's winner, Philip Viljoen of Bon Courage, hands Murray the trophy to very loud applause
He was delighted with the award
The new generation is taking over. This talented young man was born into a family with a long history of winemaking, with the Barlows having owned Rustenberg in Stellenbosch since 1941. Growing up amongst the vineyards and in the cellar, Murray's passion for the farm and wine grew and he decided to pursue his studies with a view to joining the family business. After completing his undergraduate studies at Rhodes University, Murray completed the 2009 and 2010 vintages at Rustenberg before reading his Masters in Oenology at the University of Adelaide in Australia, where he graduated Cum Laude in 2011. He is now Cellar Master at Rustenberg and is still under 30
Murray spoke about the wine and the competition. We found the wine to be superb. It is full of expensive fresh oak incense notes with cassis and cherries in layers, cassis leaves and black pepper and chilli on the end. Sweet and sour fruit in abundance with mulberries, cherries and cassis. Lots of room to age and grow and it goes very well with food
The menu
The starter of tender Springbok Carpaccio with a smoked forest mushroom mousse, wild mushrooms, boysenberries, dried porcini mushroom and walnut crumble. They were, we think, trying to replicate their interpretation of the wine on the plate. Rather too generous with the cress salad and not enough springbok was the consensus on the table!
Time for the Winemaker of the year Award. Lesego Chauke-Motshwane with Johan Fourie, last year's winner, about to award the Trophy. The finalists were: Lizelle Gerber for 2016 Boschendal Rachelsfontein Chenin Blanc from Franschhoek; Pierre Wahl for 2014 Rijk's Private Cellar Chenin Blanc from Tulbagh; Jasper Raats for 2014 Longridge Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch; Jacques Erasmus for 2016 Spier Ideology Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch; and Tertius Boshoff for 2015 Stellenrust 51 Barrel Fermented Old Bushvine Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch
And the winner is Pierre Wahl, for his 2014 Rijk's Private Cellar Chenin Blanc. Pierre was born in Port Elizabeth and then lived in Gauteng. He studied wine at Elsenberg College, and was the youngest in his class to take cellar technology. After graduating in 1995 he joined Neil Joubert in Paarl and in 1998 went to Moreson in Franschhoek where he gained much of his wine making experience and had a chance to travel the world of wine. In 2002 he took a leap of faith and went to work for Rijks Private Cellar in the then little recognised area of Tulbagh, which is now known as a quality wine area. Pierre has won many wine awards and has done a lot of consulting in the Tulbagh area. He went off to Northern Rhône in France for a harvest in 2007. Rijk's cellar is known for its world class, award winning Chenin Blanc, Pinotage and Shiraz
It was a very popular award, Pierre was given a standing ovation. This very humble winemaker spoke of his delight at winning and about his wines. The winning wine, his 2014 Rijk's Private Cellar Chenin Blanc, is a very worthy winner. It is a quite spectacular rendition of what South Africa can do with Chenin Blanc. It is barrel fermented. We found honeyed, buttery smoke on the nose and tongue tingling, luscious ripe fruit on the palate. Honey and lime, ripe lemons, winter melon, toasted muffins, and long flavours with a toasty end, the perfect food wine too. We loved it when we tasted it on the farm with Pierre earlier this year, when we found it rich and elegant and we are not at all surprised that it won
We drank the wine with our main course
This terrine was served as the vegetarian option
We had Pan seared, very fresh Franschhoek Trout, with a lovely lemongrass infused sweetcorn puree, asparagus spears, a chilli tuille, a coconut and lime sauce and rather strangely half a peach. It was a nice peach, but peach does not pair well with fish. With the wine yes
Diners Club MD Lesego Chauke-Motshwane with Young Winemaker of the year Murray Barlow and his wine. An autographed bottle was awarded to the best social media exponent of the evening
Beaming Young Winemaker of the Year, Murray Barlow, with Pierre Wahl, the Winemaker of the Year, and their trophies. Both are delighted with their prizes and are planning their trips to the USA wine areas
With dessert, a Dark Chocolate Delice with salted peanut caramel and a beetroot and Honeycomb ice cream, we had the unctuous, honey sweet Nederburg 2010 Noble Late Harvest Edelkeur
And then it was time to dance the night away. Ludwig Maske from La Cotte Wines in Franschhoek
Linda Coltart and Chef Margot Janse were enjoying themselves, as were we. Then it was time for carriages and our B&B in Paarl
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2016
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