Mountain Battle Sets New Standards for Wine Contests


Ain't no mountain high enough....
Ain’t no mountain high enough….

At wine marketing school they say a wine needs to tell a story. That’s about all you learn at wine marketing school, mind you. They don’t even tell you it needs to be a good and interesting and compelling story.

So why must it tell a story? Possibly to differentiate a specific wine from the hordes of others in the vicinity. And the same applies to wine competitions.

The South African wine calendar is stuffed to foie gras levels with wine competitions, surveys, reports and Top 100s. And this ubiquity has made many of these competitions much-of-a-muchness. For a competition to stand out, be seen and add value, it must have an original narrative.

Big, overblown and all-inclusive competitions will in the next decade or two be replaced by tighter, focussed and themed events. How much of an indication of quality, uniqueness and focussed excellence is a wine competition with over 1000 entries? Ten years ago it was, perhaps. But as the consumer becomes more informed and has access to selective and constant information, these bloated vinous beauty contests are becoming as passé as a gay wedding in Sea Point.

That is why the Battle of die Berge Competition, which happened at the Muratie Estate last week, is set to change the face of South Africa’s wine contest scene. The event aimed to judge wines from two of South Africa’s foremost regions in terms of their ability to express site and terroir, aspects consumers are ready to embrace as they become more educated and aware that a taste of place actually exists.

As Danie de Wet, arguably South Africa’s best wine taster when it comes to judging the effects of soil and climate on a wine, said: “Beauty contests are a thing of the past. Focus and intelligence are what South African wine competitions need as our terroir and site specific expression has more of an influence on the country’s wines than what they are given credit for.”

Some 70 wines were entered into the inaugural Battle of die Berge, and going through the line-up it was evident that Danie’s words were spot on.

The white wines from the Helderberg showed ocean and mineral, whereas the Simonsberg’s had a delicious tropical crispness. Simonsberg’s reds abound with earth, rock and earthy funk, while the Helderberg’s show a succulent and visceral fruit depth. And so one can go on. Helderberg’s Cabernet is all California with a Left Bank integrity. Simonsberg’s Cab is old school depth and minerality, crushed centipede. And so one can go on, getting enthusiastic about this level of distinction now present in our wines.

Best of all, the horse has bolted and the new narrative for wine competitions is being written. Well done Neil Pendock and Jonathan Steyn for turning a fresh new chapter. I’m behind it all of the way.


Battle of die Berge 2013 Results



Pocket Friendly

Vergenoegd Runner Duck Red 2011

Lyngrove Reserve Shiraz/ Pinotage 2010



Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2013 (Best performing White and Best Overall) Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc (Old Vines) 2012



Alto Shiraz 2011 ( Best performing Red)

Lyngrove Lattitude 2011




Pocket Friendly

Glenelley Glass Collection Syrah 2010

Remhoogte Chenin Blanc 2012



Delaire Graff Chardonnay 2012

Simonsig Chenin Blanc Avec Chene 2010



Warwick Trilogy 2010

Hoopenburg Integer Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

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