In a repeat of last year’s performance, the Kakamas Cellar dominated South Africa’s leading retailer-driven wine show, the Tops at Spar/Orange River Wine Competition. Kakamas, one of the five wineries in the stable of Upington-based Orange River Cellars, was announced winner of the competition’s Grand Champion Cellar Award for 2016. The awards were made on Saturday 15 October in Upington.
Kakamas also won the individual awards for Best Red Blended Wine (Ruby Cabernet/Shiraz/Petit Verdot), Best Matured Wine (White Muscadel 2012) and Best Single Vineyard Wine (White Muscadel). The award for Champion Winemaker went to Bolla Louw, the man in charge of operations at Kakamas Cellar. His assistant Marko Pentz was named Runner-Up Champion Winemaker
With the important role played by the viticulturists in ensuring Orange River Cellars receives the finest fruit from its vast region, this competition also awards the year’s Best Viticulturist and for 2016 this was Ockert Vermeulen – also from Kakamas.
This unique wine competition, now in its 15th year, celebrates the relationship between South Africa’s top wine retailer, Tops, and Orange River Cellars, the country’s largest winery which also supplies the wines for Tops’ private label, Carnival, as well as to incentivise winemakers towards improving overall wine quality.
For this annual highlight on the winemaking calendar, winemakers from Orange River Cellars’ five wineries – Upington, Groblershoop, Grootdrink, Kakamas and Keimoes – each make wines specifically for the competition.
The judging panel for 2016 comprised Tinus van Niekerk, one of South Africa’s foremost wine experts who is also consultant to Tops at Spar, international wine judges Neil Pendock and Fiona McDonald, Guy Webber from Stellenzicht, Ntsiki Biyela from Stellekaya Winery in Stellenbosch and Yonder Hill cellar-master Abé Beukes.
Speaking at the awards function, Tops at Spar CEO Mark Robinson said the quality of Orange River Cellars’ wines and the passion, skill and commitment of the local winemakers make it an honour for Tops at Spar to have a supplier such as Orange River Cellars in its fold.
“This competition epitomises the successful relationship between a winery and supplier,” he said. “As South Africa’s leading wine retailer, Tops at Spar and our customers need product of the highest standard supplied on a consistent basis of quality and volume. In this regards, Orange River Cellars continues to deliver year-in and year-out. We would like to think that this joint wine competition, a truly one-of-its-kind, contributes not only to our working relationship but also to the quality of wines we are able to offer to the most important link in the chain, and that is the customer.”
Judge Fiona McDonald, who has been on the judging panel since the inception of the competition, noted the panel’s amazement at the standard of this year’s white wines.
“We have come to expect high standards among the white wines entered into this competition, but the 2016 wines showed that Orange River Cellars’ different cellars have reached new levels of excellence,” she said.
“Chenin Blanc and Colombard – the two mainstay varieties – were delightfully fresh and vibrant. But it was the blended whites that blew me away. Chenin Blanc and Colombard, sometimes blended with Chardonnay, showed skilled, confident winemaking far removed from what we were seeing 10 or 15 years ago. The blending was seamless and showed a true understanding of the varieties’ personalities. And where wooding was done, this was unobtrusive and judicious.”
Besides the good showing from Kakamas, Orange River Cellars’ Keimoes Cellar won awards for Best Red Cultivar (Shiraz) and Best White Blended Wine (Colombard/Chenin).
The full list of awards for the 2016 Tops at Spar/Orange River Cellars Wine Competition:
GREAT GARIEP AWARD
|BEST WHITE CULTIVAR|
Jopie Faul/Renier Baard
BEST WHITE BLENDED WINE
Rianco van Rooyen
BEST RED CULTIVAR
Rianco van Rooyen
BEST RED BLENDED WINE
BEST MATURED WINE
White Muscadel 2012
BEST CLASSICAL MUSCADEL WINE
SINGLE VINEYARD WINE
Jopie Faul & Renier Baard
BEST SINGLE VINEYARD WINE
Winemaker: George Kruger
Ruby Cabernet/Shiraz/Petit Verdot
VITICULTURIST OF THE YEAR