Michelangelo Wine Awards, making South African wine safe..

gallery_02_largeThis summer I was lucky enough to be invited to be a judge at the 2009 Michelangelo International Wine Awards in Stellenbosch, South Africa. This is the only one of the many South African wine competitions that uses only non-South African judges. The awards were created in 1997 by the very entertaining Lorraine Immelman and are run by her and Sue van Wyk, a Cape Wine Master who is one of the foremost authorities on Pinotage.

I was honoured to be be invited and enjoyed the process very much indeed; we worked hard tasting many hundreds of wines and visited lovely wineries, saw wonderful places and met many fascinating people.

gallery_14_largeIf you have not been to the Cape I do recommend a visit. The scenery is lovely and Cape Town is a wonderful and vibrant city. In the winelands Stellenbosch and Franshhoek are very attractive towns full of interesting shops, lively bars and good eateries. A trip here is very enjoyable and memorable.

Over the course of the judging I tried lots of terrific wines and many that were not so terrific, but it was all interesting and a great experience.

I have now tasted many, many South African wines and have to be honest here; there is no doubt about it, there is a character to some South African wines that does not suit my taste or indeed many of the other people that I have discussed this with.

This does not of course apply to all South African wines, but the reds can often be bitter and taste burnt and rubbery, not just the Pinotage, but other varieties too. This is a symptom that I have noticed in other ‘emerging’ wine regions; a tendency to overextraction and the use of too much oak as well as a general belief that more power is better. Some of the whites, too can be bitter and green, but this is only a part of the story – there are some magnificent wines too, at all price levels and they really do repay trying.

CIMG0588The best way to get to grips with South African wines, if you are new to them, might well be to taste some of the winners from the Michelangelo Wine Awards. After all we tasted over 1500 entries to make sure that only the best got awards, so it should make choosing a South African wine that bit easier.

Here are some that I rate highly:

Diemersdal Sauvignon Rosé 2009

Wine of Origin Durbansville

This beautifully elegant rosé is 93% Sauvignon Blanc with the colour coming from 7% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sounds odd I know, but it really works. The colour is lovely, while the nose is grassy and true to Sauvignon Blanc. The palate is clean and pure with good acidity and balance, just ever so slightly sweetened and given a touch of red fruit weight by the red wine, this wine is fine, elegant and long and it is no wonder that it was awarded the DieLaker & Le Roux Most Innovative Wine Trophy at the awards.

I also tasted many of this producers superb white Sauvignon Blanc wines and would highly recommend:

Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Silver Medal)

Wine of Origin Durbansville

Quite rich with a slightly more savoury edge than New Zealand can generally deliver.

Diemersdal Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Silver Medal)

Wine of Origin Durbansville

6 months lees ageing has helped create an elegant and restrained wine with a concentrated palate, great finesse and a long, long finish.

Diemersdal Eight Rows Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Gold Medal)

Wine of Origin Durbansville

If anything this was even finer, a concentrated and elegant Sauvignon that balanced minerality and tropicality beautifully.

Diemersdal wines are available in the UK from: www.jeroboams.co.uk

Also seek out:

Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Chenin Blanc Bush Vine 2009 (Gold Medal)

Wine of Origin Stellenbosch

Classic varietal character of fresh guava and honeyed notes.

Flagstone Free Run Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Double Gold Medlal)

Generally around £10 a bottle, but the (nearly as good) 2007 and 2008 vintages are being sold off very cheaply at Majestic.

Lourensford Estate Viognier 2008 (Double Gold Medlal)

Wine of Origin Stellenbosch

A nicely balanced example of this exotic grape.

Lourensford Winemakers Selection Chardonnay 2008 (Gold Medal)

Wine of Origin Stellenbosch

Lourensford Winemakers Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Gold Medal)

Wine of Origin Stellenbosch

Capaia Blue Grove Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Gold Medal)

Wine of Origin Darling

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Gold Medal)

Wine of Origin Constantia

Backsberg John Martin Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Gold Medal)

Wine of Origin Coastal Region

A complex, barrel and lees aged example using fruit from Paarl, Groenekloof and mainly cool, coastal Durbanville.

RED WINES

Arra Vineyards Shiraz 2004 (Double Gold Medlal)

Wine of Origin Durbansville

Flagstone Writer’s Block Pinotage 2007 (Gold Medal)

Wine of Origin Stellenbosch

Laibach Organic Ladybird Red 2008 (Gold Medal)

Wine of Origin Stellenbosch

Lourensford Merlot 2008 (Gold Medal)

Wine of Origin Stellenbosch

Mulderbosch Shiraz 2005 (Gold Medal)

Wine of Origin Stellenbosch

Flagstone Dark Horse Shiraz 2007 (Silver Medal)

Graham Beck Brut Rosé (Silver Medal)

As you can tell, this is not an exhaustive list, but there are plenty of lovely wines here.

4 thoughts on “Michelangelo Wine Awards, making South African wine safe..

  1. Pingback: Stellenbosch again « Quentin Sadler's Wine Page

  2. Pingback: Stellenbosch part 2 – a traditional braai « Quentin Sadler's Wine Page

  3. Pingback: Stellenbosch – good friends, delicious food & fine wines « Quentin Sadler's Wine Page

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