Thursday, September 06, 2018

The South African Young Wine Awards in the Stellenbosch Town Hall

Before we show you this story, we must apologise for the quality of the food photographs at the Awards dinner. The lighting in the hall was red most of the time, largely because of a set of multi-coloured floodlights at the foot of the stage. It was particularly bad when the food arrived and those pictures are the worst...

The South African Young Wine Awards were presented in the Stellenbosch Town Hall this year. It is the oldest wine competition in the world, having been started in 1833. It is always interesting to taste these wines in their very raw state and so, during the afternoon preceding the awards gala, we were invited to a hall at The Markotter Sports Centre at the Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch to taste the finalists. It can be quite heavy going, as most of these are tank samples not yet ready for bottling. The judges must be able to see where a wine might go and what it might become at this early stage. You need a lot of experience in the industry to do this
White wines on the left, ranging from Sauvignons Blanc to sweeter white wines, then the reds ranging down the table on the right. Shiraz and "stickies" the really sweet wines were in another hall
It was an extremely chilly evening, the event was Black Tie and Lynne was well wrapped up in her woollen cloak. Some risked being glamorous, but the hall was huge, there were many doors and the drafts blew the candle out constantly. We were welcomed with a glass of sweet sherry. This was the media table
We were beautifully entertained by Opera singer Robin Botha, who is from Stellenbosch. She had the lead role of Christine in Phantom of the Opera for which she won the 2012 Fleur du Cap award for the best Actress in a Musical. She opened with the Song to the Moon from Dvořák’s Rusalka and Wishing You Were Here Again from Phantom. Her high notes are so impressive and pure. She did sing again later and really captivated the audience
The trophies on the stage awaiting the awards and a picture of the main trophy, The General Smuts, which goes to the Overall South African Champion Wine producer. We do wonder which hero or heroine gets to polish these each year when they come back from the farms who won them last year
The MC for the evening was De Wet Viljoen, Cellarmaster of Neethlingshof Wine Estate
The welcome and grace was done by Johan Ehlers, CEO of sponsors HUB Agri-Expo
The starter of seared salmon pieces with a beetroot cumin soil, beetroot crisps, pea puree dots, lovely new fresh peas, and something we have never, ever been served before. A dollop of cold, congealed mushroom risotto! No thank you. There was a selection of wines on each table, red and white, and the waiter could get you others you wanted to try. There was also a cash bar
An enormously impressive flower arrangement; it has to be so large as the hall is vast and there were several of them around the hall
Minister Alan Winde was to give the Address but, sadly, he was ill and not able to make the event. His place was taken by Christo Pienaar, Chairman of the SA National Wine Show Association, who ably and skilfully filled in
After the starter it was time for the awards
These are the 2018 Trophy winners

This is Bon Courage getting the SA Champion Trophy for the Best Late Harvest wine, received by a smiling Andre Bruwer, who made the wine
The main course was a Moroccan lamb pot pie. The braised leg of lamb was flavourful, but the pastry was odd and we were unable to cut it. This was served with butternut purée and baby rainbow carrots
After the many awards, there was a roll of drums, and the winner of the main Trophy, the General Smuts Trophy, was announced. It was Wellington wines for the Wooded Pinotage. Wellington wines has done very well indeed lately, winning three awards that we witnessed. This one, and a Top 10 Pinotage Award and Top 10 Chenin Blanc Award. Definitely a wine-making success story and wines to buy and watch in future  
The heavy, glittering trophy was carried shoulder high into the hall by two stalwarts to the rousing theme tune from Chariots of Fire by Vangelis. It certainly was an impressive entry
And the team from Wellington collecting their Trophy
Winemaker Izelle van Blerk with the Red Wine Trophy which was won by KWV for SA Champion Red Blend (Pinotage/Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Malbec – wooded)

After the awards we enjoyed a platter of award winning South African cheeses and then it was time for carriages

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