It is definitely not the final word on recognising the role of terroir and terrain in the South African wine landscape, but the Novare SA Terroir Wine Awards is a doped-up Chinese swimmer’s length in front of the rest. Started by the ebullient Marius Labuschagne some seven years ago, the Terroir Wine Awards recognises wines produced on demarcated pockets of South African terroir. Single vineyards. Estate. Ward. Or small district (districts not divided in wards.)
Recognising uniqueness of place is not something any other competition bandies about. For this we have to think South Africa’s complex Wine of Origin system which makes a Mangosuthu Buthelezi speech seem lucid, well-reasoned and focussed. Wards. Districts. Wine of Origin Somewhere West. A clutter of disconnected wine routes. It is, to put it lightly a balls-up.
Through this muddy landscape, Marius Labuschagne has put together a show with a point of differentiation ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ the plethora of wine competitions being another animal altogether. For in the SA Terroir Wine Awards, judges taste wines from clearly and concisely demarcated areas.
Look, I don’t think they taste for terroir as in “this is the best expression of Robertson’s limestone and clay character, the one complemented by the cooling oceanic breezes in summer”. No, the wines are chosen for performance, and their performance drives the recognition of the specific terroir.
But this competition is at the right place, at the right time. Terroir has been a popular throwaway line among wine industry marketers for too long a time. We have not nailed it. Have not communicated it. Have not understood, nor really tasted it.
With a few exceptions ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ Danie de Wet and Jan Boland Coetzee, among others, can spot any wine district with one whiff.
To take terroir from its irrelevant place in the marketing brochure or back-label, it has to become a living breathing part of the wine industry. This is where the SA Terroir Awards is a good start.
At the same time, leading industry figures are currently grappling with the issue of creating a vineyard landscape with proven pedigree and heritage. The implementation of the abortive Wine of Origin Western Cape label has prostituted the industry, ignoring those wine makers and drinkers who yearn to hang onto a product whose lineage can be traced to point of real origin. Like in the vineyard. Or in them thar’ surrounding hills that are part of said vineyard.
But while we wait for aforementioned industry bodies to get their act together, let’s give Marius some Space for a well-run competition.
After a record 276 entries for the seventh annual Novare SA Terroir Wine Awards, the first ever SA Terroir Top 5 Estate Wines were selected by the panel of seven judges. South Africa’s top five estate wines are Groot Constantia Chardonnay 2011, Kaapzicht Steytler Pentagon 2008 (red blend), Kaapzicht Steytler Pinotage 2008, Neethlingshof Short Story Collection Maria 2011 (natural sweet) and Wildekrans Chenin Blanc Barrel Selection 2010.
The top wine estate is also selected out of all the estate wine entries. The winner of the Novare Trophy for SA Terroir Top Wine Estate is Wildekrans Estate, between Grabouw and Elgin in the Bot River Ward of the Walker Bay District.
The Wildekrans Chenin Blanc Barrel Selection 2010 was in the five top scoring wines of all the wines entered in the competition and besides being one of the Top 5 Estate Wines, it was also selected as the National Winner of Chenin Blanc. Two more Wildekrans wines were selected as winners in the Walker Bay District, while another wine received an above average rating. Following very closely in second place for the Top Wine Estate Trophy was Kaapzicht, with two National Winners, with the same wines selected as Top 5 Estate Wines, while another wine received an above average rating.
“The focus of the annual Novare SA Terroir Wine Awards is on the wine producers who, with passion, have become wine growing terrain (terroir) perfectionists. This is a perfect combination of soil, climate, viticulture and vinification. Only wines certified as Wine of Origin (WO) from a single vineyard, estate, ward or small district not divided into wards can be entered,” says founder and project leader Marius Labuschagne.
The 2012 Novare SA Terroir Wine Awards National Winners for cultivar wines, red and white blends, ros+¬, sparkling wine and dessert wine are: Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve White, 2010 (white blend), Wildekrans Chenin Blanc Barrel Selection 2010, Kaapzicht Steytler Pentagon 2008 (red blend), Kaapzicht Steytler Pinotage 2008, KWV Mentors Viognier 2011, Jordan The Real McCoy Riesling 2011, Lisha Nelson Cabernet Franc 2008, Nuy Chardonnay 2009, Nuy White Muscadel 2007, Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2012, Anura Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2007, Anura Syrah Limited Release 2007 (Shiraz), De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2008 (port), La Motte Brut Cap Classique 2009 (sparkling wine), Neethlingshof Gew?+¦???+¦?+¦???+ærztraminer 2012, Neethlingshof Short Story Collection Maria 2011 (natural sweet), Welbedacht Merlot 2005, Signatures of Doolhof Malbec 2010 and David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner Semillon 2010.
For the third year the trophy for a winegrowing terrain that produced the most top performing wines was also awarded. The winner of the 2012 Novare Trophy for SA Terroir Top Wine Area is Stellenboschkloof in the Stellenbosch District. Jordan Estate and Neethlingshof Estate were the main contributors with three National Winners, one of the Top 5 Estate Wines and six winners in the Stellenbosch District.
The 2012 judges were Andrea Freeborough, Dave Hughes, David Biggs, Guy Webber, Irina von Holdt, Marilyn Cooper and Pierre Marais., The technical coordinator was Charl Theron. Results were audited by Novare’s accounts department. For the full results visit www.terroirwineawards.co.za.