Monday, June 04, 2018

Shiraz SA 2018 Awards tasting and lunch at Rhebokskloof, Paarl

We are great fans of good South African Shiraz; we believe that this cultivar is well suited to our climate and terroir. This year's Awards ceremony was held over lunch at Rhebokskloof wine estate in Paarl and we were able to taste the top 25 and ten blends before the awards. A total of 192 wines (36 blends and 156 single varietal wines) from every wine making region was submitted this year.
Shiraz, or Syrah to give it its other name (there is no difference in the wine, just a nod to whether it is in a certain Northern or a Southern Rhône style), can be made in many different styles. Do we make Syrah? Some think we are just being pretentious. Can you charge more if it’s called by a French name?  We should make Shiraz in the many South African styles, and how closely those can and should resemble styles from France, Australia, California, South America, Italy, sunny Spain or even chilly New Zealand – or any other areas that grow this grape - is up for a long debate.
This year, we found that the panel awarded wines that were quite linear and elegant, yes, but tight and lean. Many did not show the terroir they came from, but were indeed mirrors of French northern style wines. Were there enough of the more complex, layered and rounded Shirazes that are full and have spice and pepper? And the other heavier or lighter styles that this versatile grape makes possible. Those that come from warmer climates and revel in it rather than trying to be something that, perhaps, they are not? There were a few - one was our wine of the week last week immediately after the competition - but not many of these won awards. Why do we not recognise that, like Chenin blanc, Shiraz has several different good styles, all laudable?
The top wines were offered at tasting tables in this room. 25 Single varietals and 10 blends were finalists. You had to be quick, as people were going back and re-tasting their favourites which, sadly, ran out before some of us could get to them. 
The panel Chairman of Judges this year was Dr Andy Roediger (Cape Wine Master).  Other members of the panel were Edmund Terblanche (SA Shiraz chairperson & Cellar Master at La Motte), Charles Hopkins (Cellar Master at De Grendel), Samarie Smith (Brand manager, Benguela Cove), Jeanne-Mari de Villiers (Odd Bins Checkers), Jac Borman (Cellarmaster and owner of Boschkloof), Klaus Fischer from Germany (Vinventions) and this year's Cape Winemakers Guild intern Gynor Fredericks

Standing outside was a pleasure as the day was sunny, if not very warm
Nick and Mariette van Huyssteen of Saronsberg. The Full Circle Blend and the Provenance Shiraz both took awards
Fairview Winemaker Stephanie Wiid made a cracker of a wine 
The Lomond Conebush was complex and layered with soft fruit, spice, licorice and chocolate with a long finish
Boela Gerber and Anthony de Jager. Boela's Groot Constantia, a cool climate shiraz, was fruity and floral with a lovely nose. And the Eenzamheid from Anthony's team at Fairview really impressed, spicy on nose and palate, full of fruit and delight
The De Grendel Elim 2016 Shiraz deservedly made the top 12 and was our wine of the week last week
Pieter Badenhorst, who made the Lomond wine, sampling the De Grendel
Anel Grobler with JD Pretorius of Steenberg
The Ernie Els was lean on the nose with incense wood and spice and elegant and lean on the palate with mouth puckering tannins, so it needs a long rest in your cellar
Shiraz SA Chair Edmund Terblanche and Pinotage King Beyers Truter of Beyerskloof
The Roodeberg Dr Charles Niehaus is a big wine with good fruit but needs years. The KWV Cathedral Cellars was aromatic and woody, fruity, dark and lean on the end. 
Sandra Lotz, who so ably organises the event
The three Saronsberg entries
Waiting in the garden for the dinner gong to go
The Spier Creative Block was one of the three champions in the blend category. Spicy, full of fruit this is, as always, very quaffable
Canapés were served before lunch. We were both still tasting wine, so didn't manage to taste many
Amanda Harlow and Braam Gericke of Wildekrans
Michael Bampfield-Duggan and LRJ enjoying a refreshing bubble after the reds
Time to take our seats in the marquee
Some of the competition entries
Maryna Calow of WOSA and Charles Hopkins of De Grendal 
Entertainer Pietman Geldenhuys had us amused. For a good Afrikaans boy he does a good Scottish accent
The First Sighting Sauvignon Blanc 2017 was served at our table and is Menu's Wine of the Week this week. It went so well with the soup of the day and cut through the creamy cheesy flavours very well
The order of ceremony
Broccoli and Blue Cheese soup starter
Edmund Terblanche, SA Shiraz chairperson, said that 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” 

This year, they 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 was no discussion in between judging sets and every judge had a unique order of wines to be tasted, resulting in a more objective outcome

Jac Borman of Boschkloof
Nick van Huyssteen
Pieter Badenhorst
JD Pretorius
Beyers Truter
Stephanus Eksteen of Checkers, who told us of his imminent retirement. He has been one of the best corporate wine selectors and we wish him a very happy retirement
Stephan van Rooyen of sponsor Exceed Group
Johan Conradie of sponsor Vinvention/Berthomieu
The main course of Springbok shank served with mieliepap (local white maize meal)and a good red wine jus - Shiraz, we hope
The top 3 awards for Blends received engraved hand-blown decanters from Riedel; an interesting shape with an incorporated glass straw - or breathing tube
For those of us with Scottish antecedents, the rendition of Flowers of the Forest, the unofficial Scottish National Anthem sung by Pietman Geldenhuys was rather emotional. He did sing it very beautifully. One was almost transported to Murrayfield
Dessert was a chocolate pudding tart
All the winners with their awards. 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
The champions in the category for Shiraz blends are: 
Babylonstoren Babel 2016, Saronsberg Full Circle 2016, Spier Creative Block 3 2015
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