Pinotage stalwarts L’Avenir in Stellenbosch and Tulbagh’s Rijk’s Private Cellar joined relative newcomers including Black Elephant Vintners from Franschhoek in the winning line-up for this year’s Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition.
This year’s Absa Top 10 Trophy winners underscored the belief that excellent soils and climatic conditions for Pinotage are found throughout the Cape winelands. Besides L’Avenir, Stellenbosch produced winners in Lyngrove Wines’ Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage 2012, while Manley Pinotage 2011 from Manley Private Cellar also got the nod for Tulbagh. Franschhoek is represented by The Back Roads Pinotage 2012 from Black Elephant Vintners, with the Anura Pinotage Reserve 2011 sealing the Paarl slot.
Closer to the coast there is Springfontein Jonathan Ridge Pinotage 2010 from Stanford and Wildekrans Pinotage 2011 in the Botrivier area. Robertson’s Rooiberg Winery also takes a Top 10 with its Rooiberg Winery Pinotage Reserve 2012 and the Diemersdal Pinotage 2012 ensures that one of South Africa’s oldest wine-making areas, namely Durbanville, also makes the list of this year’s winners.
This year’s Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition attracted 126 entries.
L’Avenir and Rijk’s Private Cellar cemented their status as two Pinotage wine icons by winning their eighth Absa Top 10 Pinotage Trophy. Since its launch in 1997 the Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition has become South Africa’s leading showcase for the country’s own grape variety, and according to Beyers Truter, chairman of the Pinotage Association, for any cellar to win eight Absa Top 10 Trophies in 16 years is a monumental achievement.
“Apart from having to impress a discerning panel of judges each year, the competition among cellars has increased in intensity over the years,” says Beyers. “For a winery such as L’Avenir to win an Absa Top 10 Trophy at the inaugural competition in 1997 and to still have what it takes to come out top in 2013, is an amazing achievement. It not only says a lot about the respective wine-making teams’ commitment to Pinotage and their understanding of the grape’s unique intricacies, but also speaks volumes of the importance of established terroir in the specific regions.”
L’Avenir won Top 10 Trophies in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Rijk’s Private Cellar in Tulbagh produced Trophy winners in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012 before reaching the magic number eight at this year’s Top 10 awards. The two cellars’ winning wines were the L’Avenir Pinotage 2011 and Rijk’s Reserve Pinotage 2009.
“For 17 years now, Absa has been the driving force behind the Top 10 Pinotage competition, enticing wine makers every year to aim for one of the prestigious trophies. Our partnership with this competition reflects our long-standing commitment not only to the Pinotage Association but to the SA wine industry in general. This competition encourages the growth of this vibrant sector which has an enormous contribution to make in the economic landscape of our country,” says Brienne van der Walt, Managing Executive: Absa AgriBusiness.
Internationally-respected sommelier, restaurateur and author Guido Francque is one of the wine world’s most ardent admirers of South Africa’s Pinotage grape variety, and the Belgian says the quality of Pinotage wines are showing vast improvements as wine-makers and viticulturalists put their fingerprint on the cultivar.
Francque said the 126 entries from 80 producers was the most impressive line-up he had experienced in his years of judging the Top 10.
“I have been following Pinotage for over 20 years now, so have seen pretty much all that the South African wine-makers have employed in making your country’s signature wine variety in terms of extraction, wood-maturation and levels of ripeness,” says Francque.
“One thing that struck me about this year’s entries was the discernible classical structure among so many of the wines entered. Less American oak – an experiment which I think does not work so well with Pinotage – and a nurturing of the variety’s Pinot Noir and Burgundian character has led to some truly extraordinary wines.”
According to Francque, a classic wine is both feminine and masculine. “It needs the feminine elegance and lightness, just as much as the masculine structure and back-bone must be present,” he says. “This is being found in more-and-more Pinotage wines as wine-makers achieve balance and integration.”
One of the striking features of this year’s ABSA Top 10 judging experience, he says, was the vintage variation among the wines. “The entries produced wines from 2007 to 2012, and experiencing such noticeable variation in the vintages was, for me, extremely exciting as it not only showed expressive character of Pinotage, but also vindicates my belief in South Africa as a wine country with true terroir that allows for such different expressions between vintages.”
This year’s judging for the Absa Top 10 took place at Nederburg. On the panel with Francque were: Duimpie Bayly, Chairman, Neil Pendock, Winnie Bowman, Chris Roux, Frans Smit and Debbie Thompson.
Absa Top 10 Winners 2013
Anura Pinotage Reserve 2011
The Back Roads Pinotage 2012
Diemersdal Pinotage 2012
L’Avenir Pinotage 2011
Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage 2012
Manley Pinotage 2011
Rijk’s Reserve Pinotage 2009
Rooiberg Winery Pinotage Reserve 2012
Springfontein Jonathan’s Ridge Pinotage 2010
Wildekrans Pinotage 2011
Diemersdal Pinotage Reserve 2012
Fairview Primo Pinotage 2011
Kanonkop Pinotage 2010
Kanonkop Pinotage 2009
KWV The Mentors Pinotage 2011
Môreson Pinotage 2011
Simonsig Redhill Pinotage 2011
Wagenboom Pinotage 2010
Windmeul Pinotage Reserve 2012
Windmeul Pinotage 2011
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