2004 Diners Club Winemaker Awards

Friday, 12 November, 2004
Shelly van Zyl
For the 24th consecutive year, Diners Club International has sponsored what has become the longest-running and most valuably endowed competition in the wine industry – their annual Winemaker of the Year Awards, including, for the fourth year now, an Award for the best Young Winemaker.

Judging for the 2004 edition, featuring Cap Classique as the style of wine in the main spotlight, took place on 20th  October on a rainy day near Cape Town, when seven hand-picked experts sat down to taste the 54 entries. The last time Cape Classiques had featured as a Diners Award category was in 1995.

Diners Club International always invites a guest judge from abroad to sit on its panels to taste the wines entered for the Winemaker and Young Winemaker of the Year competitions. Their 2004 guest was from the house of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin in Champagne: François Chirumberro is a young winemaker with roots in the Basque country, but trained as an enologist in Bordeaux. This also equipped him well to comment on the red wines entered for the Young Winemaker award. He serves as a taster on Veuve Clicquot's in-house panel in Rheims, as well as carrying out winemaking and promotional duties for the company, part of the giant LVMH Group.

"As a European, I was pleased to see the high quality of the Shiraz wines entered for the Young Winemaker competition: people today want to drink young wines immediately, and many of these are very enjoyable right now. However, I would like to see some of them again after five years - will they maintain their good colour and stability, and will they gain complexity?"

As for the Cap Classique sparkling wines judged for the Winemaker of the Year award, he had this to say: "I was impressed - 60 to 70 per cent of the wines I regarded as high quality. A few of them would have confused me in a line-up of Champagnes!"

He went on to observe that the majority of local judges seemed to prefer a more fruity, developed style of bubbly, often showing oak influence, while he favoured the more elegant, under-stated examples.

"You have to be very careful with oak in sparkling wines," he noted. "One or two were a bit obvious for my taste. And the dosage left a few of them a little on the sweet side. But a pretty fine tasting - I enjoyed myself. The tasting proceedings were very well organised indeed - world class!"

His fellow judges concurred. Expert bubbly taster Allan Mullins CWM recognised the high quality of many of the wines on the table, but felt that local winemakers have a long way to go to emulate Champagne. "Their climate is just so different from ours - Robertson and Rheims are poles apart weather-wise, so to make such tasty examples here in the Cape is little short of miraculous."

Veteran Diners Club Awards judge Margaret Fry CWM was again impressed by the slick organisation of both the tastings by the WINE magazine staff. "I'm glad there was a screening panel the week before to select the top wines for the Young Winemaker Award," she noted, not keen to have to wade through 79 reds entered for this competition. "Some of the Shirazes on this tasting were simply lovely - particularly the winner."

Which will, of course, be announced, along with the Winemaker of the Year, at a luncheon function at the Winelands Hotel near Paarl on 19 November.

He or she will carry off a prize of R15 000 and an international air ticket, while the Young Winemaker of the Year wins R5 000.

For further information contact Tony Mossop, competition and panel convenor, at:
Cell no. 082 490 4248
Fax no. 021 780 1178


Last year's Diners Club Winemaker John Loubser
Last year's Diners Club Winemaker John Loubser

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