Legendary Stellenbosch wine estate Kanonkop and Rijk’s Cellars from Tulbagh have furthered their dominance of the Absa Top 10 Pinotage Awards by each raking in an unprecedented 11th Absa Top 10 Trophy. At this year’s awards function, held on 26 August at the Cavalli Estate outside Stellenbosch, the Kanonkop Pinotage 2010 and Rijk’s Reserve Pinotage 2013 won two of the Absa Top 10 trophies handed to the winning wines in the 2016 competition. The 10 winners topped a total of 144 wines entered for the event, which was the 20th time South Africa’s leading cultivar-focussed wine competition was held.
This year’s competition also marks the 20th consecutive year of collaboration between Absa Bank Ltd (Absa), member of Barclays Africa Group Ltd (Barclays Africa), and the Pinotage Association in recognising wineries from throughout South Africa for their interpretation of the country’s famous indigenous grape variety.
Beyers Truter, chairman of the Pinotage Association, said that two features stood out from this year’s competition: the milestones reached by Kanonkop and Rijk’s and the performance of wines made from the 2014 vintage which produced four out of the Top 10 winners.
“When the Pinotage Association founded the Absa Top 10 Competition in 1997, we had a vision of not only honouring Pinotage wines but also to create legends,” said Truter. “By winning Top 10 awards eleven times, Kanonkop and Rijk’s have now undoubtedly established themselves not only as legendary producers of Pinotage, but icons in the South African wine industry, too.”
“As a producer myself I know how high the demands of the judging panel are, and to show the kind of consistency Kanonkop and Rijk’s have done throughout the years is an affirmation of the winemaker’s understanding of his terroir, the unique traits of the Pinotage grape and tremendous winemaking skill.”
This year’s winners reinforced the exceptional quality Pinotages that South Africa’s diverse wine regions are capable of producing. Knorhoek Two Cubs 2015 and L’Avenir Single Block Pinotage 2014 joined Kanonkop in showcasing the marvels of Stellenbosch. Flagstone Writers Block 2014 and Rooiberg Winery Reserve 2015 from the Breedekloof and Robertson respectively reiterated the fact that good winemaking does not stop at the Du Toitskloof Tunnel. KWV The Mentors Pinotage 2013 is a Coastal Region wine while Fleur du Cap Pinotage Unfiltered 2014 bears the Western Cape seal of Origin. Diemersdal Pinotage Reserve 2015 and Perdeberg’s Dry Land Collection Pinotage 2014 originated from the cool and warmer areas of Durbanville and Paarl respectively.
Commenting on the four trophy winners produced from the 2014 vintage, Truter said that the competition shows this is a vintage to watch out for.
“The vintage was late and cool, with a very wet pre-season and produced a relatively light crop,” he said. “However, the wines from that year are now showing the quality and refined elegance to take Top 10 trophies, showing us how exceptional the vintage actually was. Consumers can definitely tick off 2014 as a must-have year for red wine.”
Neil Ellis, convenor of the judging panel, says that the panel was not restricted to awarding a certain style of Pinotage. “My brief to the judges was to be objective in acknowledging diversity in styles found within the range of Pinotages entered and they really took this to heart. This year we saw many more examples where winemakers are not simply trying to follow the tried-and-tested methods used by icon wines from one or two specific regions. More Pinotages are made in styles that best suits the unique characteristics the winemakers are getting from grapes in their own areas.
“This progression is welcomed, but expected as Pinotage producers count among South Africa’s leading and most visionary winemakers today. Overall there appears to be a better understanding of the grape. Extraction is well-managed, leading to brighter fruit expression and more balanced wines.”
Ellis said, however, that judges would like to see older wines. “If there is one area for improvement, it is creating a Museum Class for wines of 10 years and older. Some of the younger vintages entered clearly do not do justice to their potential, and a platform for older wines will see the wonderful ageing potential of Pinotage.”
Speaking on behalf of the sponsors, Doug Walker, Absa’s Provincial Managing Executive in the Western Cape, says: “On behalf of Absa, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to this year’s outstanding finalists and winners in the Absa Top 10 Pinotage competition, especially Kanonkop and Rijk’s Cellars for once again re-writing the history books. We wish all the trophy winners and finalists great success on their winemaking journey and hope they continue to prosper in local and international wine markets.”
“At Absa we are proud of our partnership with the Pinotage Association, now in its 20th consecutive year, as we continue to promote uniquely South African wines made from Pinotage grapes. The Absa Top 10 Pinotage competition has become an important platform for the recognition of excellence in the wine-making industry.”
“Our continued involvement with and support of this competition is driven by our confidence in the new generation of South African winemakers. These winemakers are working hard to increase the prestige and sophistication of wines produced in South Africa. The longevity of this competition has made it possible for Pinotage pioneers to become Pinotage legends.”
Walker adds that Absa’s continued support of the Pinotage Association is in line with the bank’s Shared Growth vision, through which it aims to use its assets and resources to grow and develop the societies where it operates.
“When the communities where we live and work thrive, we do too. And when society prospers, we all do,” says Walker.
This year’s judges with Neil Ellis were Johann Fourie, winemaker for KWV, Stephan Joubert, DGB viticulturist, Singita wine and beverage director Francois Rautenbach and wine writer Samarie Smith. Two winemaking students joined the panel as protégés. Kayleigh Hattingh and Tim Whitfield from Stellenbosch University and the Elsenburg Agricultural College respectively participated in the full tasting, but their scores were not counted.
Top 10 winners 2016
2015 Diemersdal Pinotage Reserve
2014 Flagstone Writers Block Pinotage
2014 Fleur du Cap Pinotage Unfiltered
2010 Kanonkop Pinotage
2015 Knorhoek Two Cubs Pinotage
2013 KWV The Mentors Pinotage
2014 L’Avenir Single Block Pinotage
2014 Perdeberg The Dry Land Collection Pinotage
2013 Rijk’s Reserve Pinotage
2015 Rooiberg Winery Reserve Pinotage
Other 10 finalists:
2014 Delheim Vera Cruz Estate Pinotage
2015 Frater Family Wines Oupa Bull Pinotage Reserve
2013 Kanonkop Pinotage
2014 Landskroon Pinotage
2014 Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage
2015 Maastricht Pinotage
2014 Manley Pinotage
2015 Rickety Bridge Pinotage
2014 Simonsig Pintage Redhill
2012 Springfontein Jonathan’s Ridge Single Vineyard Pinotage