Smaller and lesser-known cellars take top prizes at Swiss Air Line Awards

Wednesday, 28 April, 2004
Fran Botha
'you have one of the most vibrant wine industries in the world – and that’s something to treasure'
South Africa has one of the most vibrant wine industries in the world, with smaller and young cellars leading the quality drive. This was the impression of judges at the Swiss International Air Lines Wine Awards held at the Cellars-Hohenort hotel last week.

Surprises during the awards ceremony highlighted this fact, with three relatively new wineries taking top prizes. Franschhoek winery, Glenwood, stole the show, winning awards for both the Best White Wine – the Glenwood Chardonnay 2003 – and the prize for Best White Wine from a Boutique Winery. Of the total of six gold medals awarded, two other small wineries also claimed top places – Allée Bleue for their Shiraz 2002 and Cloof for their Pinotage 2002.

Robert Joseph, President of the Swiss International Air Lines Wine Awards said, ‘it is remarkable that three wineries that were established as recently as 1998, 2000 and 2001 have achieved so highly. It also means that you have one of the most vibrant wine industries in the world – and that’s something to treasure.’

This comment was mirrored by many of the other judges, amongst them Cape Wine Master, Irina von Holdt, who said, ‘so many young wineries have achieved and beaten established wineries. How nice for a change to see these smaller and lesser-known cellars take the top prizes!’

Cape Wine Master, Allan Mullins said, ‘I judge in so many competitions, and I feel so good about the results of this one’. Isabel Hancock, General Manager of Swiss International Air Lines in South Africa said, ‘we really wanted to give those wine farms filled with enthusiasm and delight for making wine the opportunity to showcase their products, and have them evaluated against both international and local standards. These awards are about acknowledging the wineries and their wine-makers that have a passion for what they produce and their willingness to share this.’

‘It is this ‘passion’, which we, at Swiss, truly believe is the key to success and what differentiates one from another,’ she said. Winner of the Best Red Wine was Glen Carlou Grand Classique 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, which has already won numerous local awards. Winner of the Best Value Red Wine retailing at R50 or less per bottle was Diemersdal Shiraz 2001.

Despite agreement on an improvement in quality at this year’s competition, Joseph also highlighted some issues which he felt the South African industry needs to address. ‘The use of oak and its abuse is a major issue as a number of wines were over-oaked. Chardonnay was a disappointing category especially for this reason, but also because of over-cropping.’

‘The least successful category was Other Red Blends. You really have some work to do there, along with sparkling wines and rosé, which need to be revisited, ‘ he said. The panel did not present awards for the Best MCC – Sparkling Wine or the Best Rosé.