A Ruby Cabernet crowned as SA’s best young wine

Wednesday, 30 September, 2020
SA Young Wine Show
A wooded Ruby Cabernet from Badsberg in the Breedekloof near Worcester, clinched the coveted General Smuts Trophy as overall SA Champion Young Wine for 2020, after also being crowned as the best entry in the category Other Red Cultivar at this year’s SA Young Wine Show.

It was the third time that Badsberg walks away with the big General Smuts Trophy as overall winner, after they also achieved this in 2016 with a wooded Pinotage, and in 2009 with Natural Sweet Wine.

This annual show for wines of the current vintage year – presented by the SA National Wine Show Association (SANWSA) in collaboration with Agri-Expo – took place later than usual this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is the second time in the competition’s 188-year existence, the oldest of its kind in the world, that a Ruby Cabernet takes the laurels, as the 69th winner of the General Smuts Trophy. The previous time was in in 2012.

The competition’s 19 SA Champion trophies in total, including the Pietman Hugo Trophy for the best points achieved with five entries, have just been announced in the broad media. The customary gala dinner, where the trophies are handed over, has not been held this year as a result of the Covid-19 realities. Altogether 40 wines achieved Class Winner status and 74 received Gold Medals.

In a unique result, two cellars, namely Robertson Winery and Wellington Wines, shared the Pietman Hugo Trophy – which is awarded to the winery scoring the highest total points for its best five wines. They finished head to head with total points for their best wines.

The winner of the sought after Genl Smuts trophy
Johan Ehlers, CEO of Agri-Expo, Willie Burger, cellar master of Badsberg Wine Cellar, With the Genl Smuts trophy for the best wine of 2020, a wooded Ruby Cabernet, and Christo Pienaar, chairman of the SA Young Wine Show.

The total entries showed a decrease, as expected by the organisers in view of the Covid-19 limitations. The overall commentary by the judges, however, was that the judged wines were of outstanding quality. 

The quality of the 2020 white wines met with the expectations of particularly good quality. Among the Chenin Blanc wines, the unwooded entries generally performed better than the wooded ones, which probably needed more time to come to their full right. 

It was a particularly good year for the various Sauvignon Blanc styles, which showed well throughout this category. This, thanks to a very cool January and February. The judges were impressed by the many beautiful greener, as well as tropical styles.

2020 has been very favourable for Chardonnay too and the panel experienced top unwooded wines with good balance, mouthfeel and length, while the excelling wooded ones were characterised by balance, more natural acidity and limy-citrus characteristics.

In the White Blend Class without wood, entries with typical Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon cultivar character stood out, as well as blends with Colombar, supported by strong tropical flavours. 

Among the Other White Cultivars, both wooded Sémillon and Viognier yielded more complex wines, while muscat cultivars such as Morio Muscat and Irsai Olivér showed well rounded off wines with good acid balance.

The Pietman Hugo Trophy for the cellar with the best points for five wines at the SA Young Wine Show will be shared by Robertson winery and Wellington wines this year
ltr: Bennie Howard, vice chairman of the SA Young Wine Show, Francois van Niekerk - cellar master of Wellington wines, Rianco van Rooyen - senior wine maker of Robertson winery and Christo Pienaar, chairman of the SA Young Wine Show

With regard to red wines, all the panels were unanimous that 2020 has been a very good year. The blended wines were full-bodied and mostly showing good balance, while Merlot yielded beautiful, promising and full wines with soft tannins.

The 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon vintage has proven to be as exceptional as expected. The winners of Gold and Silver medals had great fruit purity and a firm, ripe tannin structure, both in the wooded and unwooded categories.

The Pinotage wines showed very well this year and the vintage’s quality was well-reflected in good colour, structure and soft, rounded tannins.

With Shiraz, the unwooded class stood out this year, the wines showing good cultivar characteristics, varying from elegant red fruit, with white pepper and a fine tannin structure, to dark fruit, black pepper and more complexity.

Other cultivars that stood out were Cinsaut, Touriga Nacional, Tannat, Petit Sirah and Petit Verdot. About Ruby Cabernet, the panel stated that there were beautiful examples that “took our breath away”.

The almost 50 judges on 13 panels scrutinised the entries subject to the most stringent protocols, which comply with world standards, at Nederburg in Paarl. The safety measures included daily sterilisation of the premises, bottles, equipment and glasses by a process of UV- and Ozone treatment with equipment supplied by Tharo Wines.

Meanwhile, the winner of the General Smuts Trophy also boasts a special bottle sticker since 2013 to stand out among other wines at sales points. Meanwhile, organisers have noticed that more and more trophy winners had in recent years been bottled as such instead of “losing their identity by being further blended”.

In terms of overall results, those who excelled at the show – in addition to Badsberg’s top achievement – with two national winners each, were the following:

  • Darling Cellars with the SA champions Merlot (wooded) and Red Blend Shiraz/Pinotage (wooded)
  • Spier Wines with the SA champions Sémillon (wooded) and their White Blend (Sauvignon/Sémillon) (unwooded)
  • Wellington Wines, with Pinotage (wooded) and Shiraz (unwooded)

The rest of the SA Champion wines are:

  • Chardonnay – Nuy Wine Cellar, Chardonnay (wooded)
  • Chenin Blanc – Perdeberg Cellar, Chenin Blanc (wooded)
  • Sauvignon Blanc – Diemersdal, Sauvignon Blanc
  • Other White Cultivar – Van Loveren Family Vineyards, Colombar
  • Natural Sweet White Wine – Robertson Winery, natural sweet white wine (RS >20g/l)
  • Noble Late Harvest Wine – Bon Courage Estate, noble late harvest
  • Cabernet Sauvignon – Alto Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon (wooded)
  • Dessert Wine – Excelsior Vlakteplaas, Red Jerepiko
  • Muscadel – Namaqua Wines (Spruitdrift), White Muskadel Jerepiko
  • Cape Style – De Krans Wines, Cape Vintage

The chairperson of the Young Wine Show, Christo Pienaar, said that the quality of the young wines judged had been excellent and a good reflection of the 2020 vintage year. “I was impressed that the winners of SA Champion wines were from all over the country’s wine producing areas, as well as diverse types of wineries. I wish to thank all those who participated for their ongoing support.”

The SA Young Wine Show dates back to 1833 when the first such competition was held by the Cape of Good Hope Agricultural Society (today Agri-Expo) in Rondebosch. Agri-Expo has been the proud presenter of this Show over all the years, being the main sponsor every second year and fellow sponsor in the alternative years.

To see the complete Champion list for 2020 click here.

The precious heritage of the SA Young Wine Show

The South African Young Wine Show was held for the first time in 1833 and it is probably one of the oldest wine competitions in the world and the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere. Started by the Cape of Good Hope Agricultural Society in that year, this show was held for the first time in the Company’s Garden in Cape Town.

When the annual local Agricultural Show moved to Rosebank and eventually to Goodwood, the Young Wine Show became the showpiece of quality for the new wines made each year.

The accompanying awards luncheon became a prestigious institution, a grande highlight following the mammoth tasting of all the gold medal and trophy-winner wines. It stood out on the wine calendar in those years and a major wine event at the Goodwood Showgrounds, fondly remembered as a glamorous, all-day affair.

Not only participants joined in the event, but the judges were also in attendance and played an enormous role to give feedback and to train newcomer judges to take over in years to come. The Cape of Good Hope Agricultural Society – renamed Agri-Expo in 1996 – has been actively involved with the Young Wine Show over all the years and, as custodian of this remarkable Wine Show, has continued its commitment as its sponsor to this very day. In the process, Agri-Expo has entrusted the SA National Wine Show Association (SANWSA) with the most impressive array of gold and silver trophies which are awarded each year to the winning winemakers.

Says Johan Ehlers, CEO of Agri-Expo and ex-officio board member of the SANWSA, “The ongoing co-operation that exists between the two organisations is unparalleled in the world of wine and of great benefit to the whole wine industry. The legacy of the SA Young Wine Show is also unique and should be treasured for generations to come.”

The competition’s two most coveted trophies, the General Smuts and Pietman Hugo Trophies – respectively for the overall champion young wine and the combined highest score for five best entries – are named after giants in South Africa’s history. General Jan Christian Smuts, recognised as international statesman, piloted the creation of KWV as the then umbrella organisation of the wine industry in Parliament during his reign as South African Prime Minister, and leading Breede River Valley farmer Pietman Hugo, who was a former chairperson of KWV.

The impressive and beautiful Sterling Silver trophy with its intricate detail was awarded for the first time in 1952 – to AP Conradie, and has been coveted by winemakers as one of the most significant domestic wine awards ever since.

Thanks to the value of these, as well as 17 other quite magnificent trophies presented in the various categories in collaboration with Agri-Expo ever since the glorious Goodwood days, the SA Young Wine Show has been going from strength to strength as a yardstick of the country’s new wines from each vintage.

The tradition of a glamorous annual awards function, preceded by large-scale tasting of the top young wines, has been upheld over all these years followed by a gala dinner with some 350 guests in attendance – the tasting was, however, substantially scaled down in this year of the Covid-19 pandemic and without a presentation function. The competition nevertheless received almost 900 entries from 75 wine cellars in 2020.

For more information, contact the SA Young Wine office at tel 021 863 1599 or e-mail info@veritas.co.za or visit www.youngwineshow.co.za.

Follow SA Young Wine Awards on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SouthAfricanYoungWineShow) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/SAYoungWine).

Join the conversation using #sayoungwine.

The winner of the sought after Genl Smuts trophy, Willie Burger
The winner of the sought after Genl Smuts trophy, Willie Burger

The Pietman Hugo Trophy will be shared by Robertson winery and Wellington wines this year
The Pietman Hugo Trophy will be shared by Robertson winery and Wellington wines this year

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