Last week the IWSC headed to Stellenbosch to judge South African wines in situ. Our international judging team was overseen by IWSC Judging Committee Member, Master of Wine Dirceu Vianna Junior. A panel of industry-leading experts joined 'Junior' at the tasting table: Maggie Macpherson, Colin Thorne, Samantha Glanfield, Sophia Longhi and Luke Harbor. Local South African wine experts also took part in the judging, bringing their invaluable insight and knowledge of local terroirs and styles. Over 3 days in Stellenbosch, the judging team tasted over 560 South African entries. Our judges expressed that the judging has been "a treasure hunting exercise", as they delved into the delights that South Africa had to offer.
Dirceu Vianna Junior MW commented "We've started to see real individuality across the Cape, there is greater accuracy, in terms of sense of place, and overarching consistency of quality."
A total of 570 medals have been awarded to South African wines, with 18 gold medals, 190 silver, and more than 350 bronze medals.* Chardonnay was the grape variety that led the gold medal count with 5 out of the 18 gold medals going to the white grape variety. There were some real highlights in the Chardonnay flights, with diverse styles showcased. Our judges praised the site-specific styles, stating that Chardonnay was “absolutely a variety to watch in South Africa. Watch out Burgundy!”.
The highest-scoring white wine was a 2017 Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon blend - Bloemendal Wine Estate Kanonberg 2017. The judges were so impressed by the wine they awarded 96 points, a gold medal. The judges were pleasantly surprised by “the freshness of a 2017 vintage.” The wine had a “savoury, sweet, spice finish with real poise and elegance”.
Chenin Blanc was another white variety that performed well, with judges awarding 2 gold medals to stand-out Chenins – Perdeberg Wines, The Dry Land Collection Courageous Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2022 and Koelenhof Wynkelder, Stellenbosch 1679 Single Vineyard Old Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2022. The wines showed great consistency and exciting and diverse characteristics.
A stand-out Pinotage, South Africa’s indigenous grape, was awarded 95 points, a gold medal - Neethlingshof Estate’s The Owl Post Pinotage 2021. The judges praised the “elegant and self-assured style, with earthy and wild raspberry characteristics on the nose and persistent concentration on the long finish”. The judges were impressed by the "different winemaking techniques demonstrated through the Pinotage flights, you could see some great development in quality from the last five years. It's really exciting what is happening here."
Another high-scoring wine was a single-varietal Pinot Noir - La Vierge Wines, Apogée Pinot Noir 2021 which scored 96 points, a gold medal. The wine was an example of a classic South African Pinot Noir, showing great typicity, with “great fruit concentration, and excellent varietal definition on the nose”.
Cabernet Sauvignon led the medal table for the reds, with 4 golds awarded to single-varietals and Cabernet blends. One of the highest-scoring wines was Constantia Glen, Five 2020 – a Cabernet blend, awarded 96 points, a gold medal. The wine was “complex and well made, with restrained oak and pleasant minerality cutting through”.
Full medal results can be viewed here.
*The medal count includes the wines tasted both in South Africa and in the UK, during the IWSC's wine judging in May.
2023 Gold Medal Winners from South Africa