Mark Robinson  (Tops@Spar Liquor Executive) & Rianco van Rooyen (Champion Winemaker)

Mark Robinson (Tops@Spar Liquor Executive) & Rianco van Rooyen (Champion Winemaker)


Keimoes Cellar, situated 40km west of Upington on the banks of the Orange River, this year dominated South Africa’s leading retailer-driven wine show, the Tops at Spar/Orange River Wine Competition. Keimoes, one of the five wineries in the stable of Upington-based Orange River Cellars, was announced Grand Champion Cellar for 2014, winning awards for Best White Cultivar (Colombard), Best White Blend (Colombard/Chenin Blanc), Best Red Cultivar (Shiraz), Best Red Blended Wine (Petit Verdot, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and Best Dessert Wine (White Muscadel). Unsurprisingly, Keimoes Cellar winemaker Rianco van Rooyen was named the Competition’s Champion Winemaker for his Keimoes Shiraz.

Mariken Jordaan, also from Keimoes Cellar, was named Runner-Up Champion Winemaker.
This unique wine competition, now in its 13th 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 wine, 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 2014 comprised Tinus van Niekerk, one of South Africa’s foremost wine experts who is also consultant to Tops at Spar, Joaquim Sá from cork company Amorim, journalists and international wine judges Neil Pendock and Fiona McDonald, Guy Webber from Stellenzicht, Ntsiki Biyela from Stellekaya Winery in Stellenbosch and Yonder Hill cellarmaster Abé Beukes.
According to Mark Robinson, CEO of Tops at Spar, the quality of Orange River Cellars’ wines and the passion, skill and commitment of the local winemakers was “truly incredible”.
“This is not only being recognized in this Tops at Spar/Orange River Cellars Competition, but also at leading shows throughout the country,” he said. “This year saw Orange River winning an Old Mutual Trophy for its Red Muscadel and recently the winery’s magnificent Colombard received a Gold Medal at Veritas. The region and this winery’s time have come. And we at Tops at Spar would like to believe that the enthusiasm with which the winemakers take on this competition has over the past 13 years played a role in inspiring them to create a standard of wine excellence along the Orange River.”
Robinson said the partnership between Tops at Spar and Orange River is one of great mutual benefit.
“From Orange River Cellars’ side, the winemakers are producing individually crafted products of excellence in wine styles not found anywhere else in South Africa. From Tops’ side we are truly lucky to have a strong relationship with such a formidable team of winemakers and in Orange River Cellars a business entity with superb logistical resources and management skills.”
“As they say in the classics, it is a win-win situation, and this annual competition celebrates this unique relationship between Tops and Orange River Cellars.”
Judge Guy Webber echoed Robinson’s call for regional wines to be bottled separately to express the individual pockets of terroir found in the areas from where the grapes are sourced.
“Currently Orange River Cellars is doing an amazing job in the market by getting one brand – Orange River Cellars – into the public domain, offering terrific wines at stunning value-for-money prices,” said Webber. “However, the wines we judges get to taste from each of the five separate cellars tell us there is more than enough individual expression of terroir and unique character that these wines will make true waves in the market if bottled on their own.”
According to Webber, other wine regions in the world would do anything to get their hands on wines offering such pure fruit. “The fruit-forward flavours – clean, delicious and bright – are a feature of the wines from the Orange River,” he said. “They are gems and the best thing is, as a winemaker you don’t have to give your accountants sleepless nights as the grapes don’t require lots of new wood or extra tannins to express themselves. This is a region where it all comes naturally.”
Rianco van Rooyen, this year’s Champion Winemaker, said it is both an inspiration and a challenge to make wines for the Tops at Spar/Orange River Cellars Wine Competition.
“The five cellars in the Orange River Cellars’ stable are each manned by a team of skilled winemakers who have access to various pockets of unique terroir,” he said. “Add this competitiveness and talent to the requirements of the discerning panel of judges, and winning any award is a huge achievement. To be Champion Winemaker…well, I am elated. I humbly accept this award on behalf of my team in the Keimoes Cellar, our viticulturist and the producers who supply us with such magnificent fruit.”

Full list of Awards:

AWARD CATEGORY WINNER
GREAT GARIEP AWARD BEST WHITE CULTIVAR
Colombard
Rianco van Rooyen
Keimoes

KATHU AWARD BEST WHITE BLENDED WINE
Colombard/Chenin Blanc blend
Rianco van Rooyen
Keimoes

AUKARABIS AWARD BEST RED CULTIVAR
Shiraz
Rianco van Rooyen
Keimoes

KALAHARI AWARD BEST RED BLENDED WINE
Petit Verdot/Shiraz /Cabernet Franc blend
Mariken Jordaan
Keimoes

GROOTDRINK AWARD BEST MATURED WINE
White Muscadel
George Kruger
Kakamas

RIEMVASMAAK AWARD BEST DESSERT WINE
White Muscadel
Rianco van Rooyen
Keimoes

KANONEILAND AWARD RUNNER-UP SINGLE VINEYARD WINE
BMN Steyn

KOKERBOOM AWARD BEST SINGLE VINEYARD WINE
Dirk Malan

*ORANGE RIVER AWARD RUNNER-UP CHAMPION WINEMAKER
Mariken Jordaan
Keimoes

*TOPS AWARD CHAMPION WINEMAKER
For his Keimoes Shiraz
Rianco van Rooyen
Keimoes

*SPAR AWARD GRAND CHAMPION WINE CELLAR
Keimoes Cellar

*KHAMKIRRI AWARD VITICULTURIST OF THE YEAR
Working between Grootdrink and Groblershoop Dirk Sutherland


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