The 2004 Fairbairn Capital Trophy Wine Show

Tuesday, 18 May, 2004
Fairbairn Capital
This year's tasting panel comprises an extraordinary line-up of wine authorities
The Fairbairn Capital Trophy Wine Show – which has been voted South Africa’s most credible wine competition – was launched in 2002. Sponsored by Fairbairn Capital, a member of the Old Mutual Group, it numbers amongst its partners British Airways, the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl, and Riedel glassware. Unique judging procedures minimise the risk of the more sophisticated wines failing to obtain recognition. In the two years since its inception, it has generally rewarded complexity and subtlety.

Judging takes place at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl. Three-person panels comprising judges with extensive international tasting experience – including one overseas judge per panel – assess the entries, all of which must be bottled and certified and in a market ready condition. All wines are judged blind, and are on the tasting bench at the same time, enabling the jury to back-taste and compare the wines as they evolve in the specially designed Riedel tasting glasses.

The judges are directed to produce consensus-driven results – rather than a mere arithmetical summary of their scores – using the 100 point system. Wines that score 90 and over qualify for a gold medal and are automatically carried forward to the Trophy wine judging. Wines in the 80 to 89 point range obtain a silver medal while those scoring between 70 and 79 are awarded a bronze. The trophy judging is held at the end of the show when all the panellists reassess the gold medal wines from freshly opened bottles to decide on the various category winners and to finalise the rankings of wines which scored 90 or more.

Show chairman Michael Fridjhon works with the three panels to arbitrate disputes and to confirm the gold medal candidates. In this way he is responsible for setting the thresholds between each of the medal categories and to guide consensus in terms of the final results. These are audited by chartered accountants Deloitte & Touche.

This year’s tasting panel comprises an extraordinary line-up of wine authorities including the UK’s Tim Atkin MW, Australia’s Brian Croser and France’s Michel Bettane. The panel of nine judges is complemented by local critics Neil Pendock and Tony Mossop CWM, winemaker Marc Kent, wine judge and writer Angela Lloyd, wine taster and Master of Wine scholar Cathy van Zyl, and international wine buyer Richard Kelley MW. 

Associate judges for this year’s show have been selected from South Africa’s new generation winemakers. A different associate judge will sit with each panel on each of the medal judging days of the show. They will participate in the tasting and the post-judging discussion though their scores will not be taken into account in the final tally. Their involvement provides a training platform for the country’s wine judges of the future.

The 2002 show attracted 787 entries. 447 medals were awarded, viz. 26 gold, 97 silver, and 324 bronze. In 2003, 916 wines were judged. There were 397 medals of which 19 were gold, 65 were silver, and 313 were bronze. This year’s show has attracted 972 entries, of which 147 are Shiraz, 122 Chardonnay, 118 Cabernet Sauvignon, 72 Pinotage, 61 Sauvignon Blanc and 45 Chenin Blanc.

Management of the tasting logistics will be in the hands of WINE Magazine’s Celia Gilloway for the third successive year. She and her team ensure that the wines are laid out in the pre-determined tasting order, that the correct replacement bottles are drawn when a second sample is required and that service procedures are meticulously maintained. Liebherr wine storage units have been provided by Miele South Africa to ensure that all wines are brought to the panels at the ideal service temperatures. The Grande Roche’s sommeliers, together with the hotel’s functions team, bring their own unique skills to the management of the event.

The results will be announced at an awards luncheon in Cape Town on the 8th June. There will be public tastings of trophy, gold and silver medal winners in Cape Town on the 9th June at the Table Bay Hotel and in Johannesburg on the 10th June at the Park Hyatt.

For more information and judges’ profiles visit 

Issued by: Fairbairn Capital Trophy Wine Show
Contact: Michael Fridjhon
Tel: +27 (0) 11 455-4920