Accolades for Orange River Cellars Muscadel wines are hardly news for wine consumers these days, but this year the Northern Cape producer’s long-running success story has truly reached new heights. In the recent launch of the Platter’s Wine Guide 2018, South Africa’s pre-eminent ratings system, Orange River Cellars garnered its first-ever Five Star award, this for its White Muscadel 2016.
According to Koos Visser, marketing manager of Orange River Cellars, this is the most prestigious South African award to be bestowed on the winery in its 52 year-old history.
“The annual Platter’s Wine Guide is the country’s most comprehensive and inclusive wine-rating system where most of South Africa’s wines are scrutinised and rated by an esteemed panel of wine experts,” says Visser. “The guide is also one of the most printed and sold wine guides of any country and is essentially the Michelin Guide for South African wine. Everybody and anybody interested in the country’s wines buys a copy of Platter’s. So to be selected as one of only 111 wines to achieve five stars is certainly going to boost the presence and image of Orange River Cellars – not only for our Muscadel, but our other wines too.”
But what makes Orange River Cellars’ Muscadel wines rank among the best in the world?
“Our Muscadel is not made in the old traditional way anymore; we make use of modern technology to ensure that the balance and quality are perfect before we bottle,” says Chris Venter, manager of the wine portfolio at Orange River Cellars.
“We take part in Platter’s and other competitions annually because the feedback we receive from the judges help us better our product. In addition, the sticker on the bottle draws the attention of the consumer which leads to better sales,” says Venter.
Venter explained that the 2016 harvest was a good one for ORC because it was a hot, dry season which led to a more concentrated flavour profile – perfect conditions for Muscadel wine.
According to Henning Burger, manager of viticultural services at Orange River Cellars, the geographic conditions of the vineyards are perfectly suited to yield grapes of outstanding quality.
“The Muscat de Frontignan vineyards that our white and red Muscadels originate from, enjoy the best living conditions imaginable,” says Burger. “They are planted in deep alluvial soils that are rich in clay. Combined with the long ripening period filled with lots of sunny days, this ensures grapes with deep and intense muscat flavours. We harvest the grapes between 26º and 30º Balling when they are full of flavour concentration, which gives our winemakers the perfect fruit to work with.”
“I often joke with the winemakers by telling them that they have no excuse not to make winning wines from this calibre of grapes!”
According to Visser, Orange River Cellars is in the favourable position of making Muscadel wines that also have a loyal following among consumers.
“The Muscadel market has declined in the past few decades, but our brand is standing firm among Muscadel lovers,” says Visser. “It is good for us and for our region, but more importantly, good for South Africa and for Muscadel wines that are such a wonderful part of our industry.”
The Platter’s Five Stars caps an illustrious year for Orange River Cellars, one in which it also won two Platinum Awards at the Muscadel SA Competition, one of South Africa’s most influential fortified wine competitions. Here both the Red Muscadel 2016 and White Muscadel 2016 were awarded Platinum.
Visser is upbeat about the effect the Platter’s Five Stars could have on wine tourists who will now include the Northern Cape on their must-see list. “And now we have a fantastic tasting venue to show our wines,” he says. “If tasting rooms were part of the judging criteria, we would have received six stars!”