The 8th annual Gold Wine Awards took place in mid-September 2021 at the Neethlingshof Wine Estate. The assembled panel of adjudicators were mostly retail specialists and were tasked with finding vinous value at R180 and below per bottle, in a double-blind tasting. Land Rover Stellenbosch supplied the vehicles for the event, and although the tasting is serious business, there was a festive atmosphere in the air.
Wines at R180 and below per bottle
The overwhelming number of wines produced in South Africa sell in the R180 and below price bracket. There is little guidance for consumers to find value-for-money wines, especially in the lower price categories. Awarded wines give producers a marketing tool, and the consumer can make more informed buying choices.
The best wines were awarded gold, indicating value for money. The top-performing producers will also be able to use a Top 10 sticker on their bottles proclaiming their Top 10 position.
Scenes from the tasting
Retail outlets know that the value wines on their shelves are the reason they keep their doors open, and consumers are increasingly becoming more and more value-conscious, not settling for mediocre wines. The standard of the awarded wines was outstanding, especially considering that the wines are selling at R180 or below per bottle.
The convenor chose panellists with extensive retail experience. These are the people in the industry making their living from understanding the flavour profiles and price points of the wines they need to stock. By partnering with industry doorkeepers, The Gold Wine Awards is keeping pace with the people monitoring the consumer’s pulse.
The judges on the panel were: Karel Wegner from GetWine, Rebecca Constable from Woolworths, Caroline Rillema from Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar, Joseph Dhafana an experienced Sommelier, Gregory Mutambe sommelier and regular taster for Wine of the Month Club, Jacques Lombard owner of Winebrands, Chris Groenewald the owner of Pounding Grape and the manager at Culture Wine Bar, Ralph Renolds Sommelier at Aubergine Restaurant and Cape Wine Master Lizette Tolken.
Tasting at Neethlingshof
Finding the shining stars
Sauvignon blanc was the biggest category and is usually a good indicator of the year. There were different styles of Sauvignon blanc wines on display, but in general, they were very consistent in quality. Most of the 2021 wines were vibrant and showed balance, acidity, attractive fruit, and racy characters.
When asked if there was enough value for money Sauvignon blanc wines in South Africa, Caroline Rillema from Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar said that value for money Sauvignon blanc wines should be at R120 per bottle or less, and at that price they should then sell well.
Caroline Rilemma from Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar
Chenin blanc was the second biggest white wine class and a testimony to how well the cultivar does in South Africa. Chenin blanc lost its Cinderella status long ago. The entered wines had some excellent examples of the cultivar with consistent quality.
Chris Groenewald, manager at Culture Wine Bar, said that Chenin blanc is much better value for money than Sauvignon blanc in his books. Rebecca Constable from Woolworths said that there is a place for serious Chenin blanc and value Chenin blanc wines on the shelves, something for everyone. Ralph Reynolds commented that the more serious Chenin blanc wines are creating a higher expectation from every Chenin blanc producer.
Ralph Reynolds, Aubergine restaurant Sommelier
Most of the Chardonnay wines entered were either unwooded or made judicious use of oak. Rebecca Constable from Woolworths said the ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) era is done, modern Chardonnays are much more fruit-forward and integrated wines than they were many years ago.
Rosé / Blanc de noir
The Rosé and Blanc de noir was the third biggest white wine class. This year there were exceptional examples that show why this class is so popular.
The panellists agree that Rosé offers serious value when compared against other white wines.
Smaller white wine classes
In the smaller white wine classes, the Grenache blanc and Pinot Gris did well.
Shiraz was the fourth biggest red-wine class, and the wines were very consistent with some excellent quality. The 2020 vintage showed very well, packed with vibrant red fruit, spice, and integrated oak and spice.
The panellists were all in agreement that Shiraz has something for everyone across price ranges. Rebecca Constable from Woolworths thinks Shiraz is a gem in South Africa because the value end is a great introduction to red wine.
Jacques Lombard from Winebrands
It seems that winemakers are increasingly getting the handle on this cultivar. Most wines were very well-made, showing lots of varietal character, balance, and clever use of oak.
Most panellists think that resistance to Pinotage is overcome in the marketplace, but Ralph Reynolds from Aubergine thinks Pinotage still needs to define its style and characteristics. He says that styles are diverse, so the consumer does not always know what they will be getting.
The Cabernet Sauvignon class had a few ‘greener’ wines, but the judges were impressed overall. Some excellent examples had fabulous fruit, supported by firm tannins and good balance. Some of these wines are of higher quality than the price point indicates.
Merlot was the biggest red wine category. This class impressed, showing why consumers often have this as their go-to category. The wines were soft, with good length and soft finish.
All the tasters commented that it is difficult to sway Merlot devotees. They tend to stay with Merlot because it is safe, but given the right environment, they will try something else. The Merlot wines ranged from bright red and fruity to dark chocolate, but mostly earthy, without being green.
Rebecca Constable from Woolworths
Smaller red wine classes
In the smaller red classes, Cinsaut impressed, and Tinta Barocca showed layers of flavour and the beautiful balance between soft tannin and fruit.
The red blends displayed diversity and impressed the panel overall. The 2020 blends showed well with fresh black fruit character and good balance.
Cape blends are often thought to be a value category, and producers seem to be getting a better grip on integrating Pinotage in the blend.