Make hay while the sun shines, they say, but don’t forget about the straw wine. This is what Orange River Cellars in the Upington region does very well – good enough to win the only Gold medal for Straw Wine at this year’s Veritas Awards, South Africa’s largest and most prestigious wine and brandy competition which this year celebrated its 26th anniversary.
The Orange River Straw Wine 2015, made from Chenin Blanc grapes, won a Gold medal in a strong line-up of wines standing at a total of 1 670 Veritas entries of which only 167 wines took Gold. Orange River Cellars also won a Gold Medal for its White Muscadel 2015.
Since its maiden vintage in 2010 Orange River Cellars’ Straw Wine has achieved local and international recognition for this far-flung Northern Cape winery. Besides this year’s Veritas Gold Medal, the wine has garnered a score of 91 points in the influential International Wine Review as well as being included in a list of 21 South African sweet wines making up the International Wine Review’s recommended sweet category.
International Wine Review, published in America, is a leading indicator of wine trends and quality throughout the world.
Tasting the Orange River Cellars Straw Wine, reviewers described the wine as such: “Beautiful golden amber in colour, this is a creamy smooth, beautifully balanced wine with lots of ripe sultanas and stone fruit, and just a hint of crème brûlée. Air-dried grapes are fermented and aged in used barriques. Best served well-chilled.”
According to Rianco van Rooyen, wine-maker at Orange River Cellars’ Keimoes Winery, one of the five wineries in the Orange River Cellars stable, the quality of the fruit and the warm temperatures during harvest time when the straw wine grapes need to be air-dried gave him the idea to attempt this category.
“We were more than pleasantly surprised at the result as the fruit was concentrated in perfect balance during the air-drying, keeping acidity, sugar and prime fruit flavours in harmony,” he says. “The recognition from the Veritas judges is further proof that the Orange River region is showing its ability to produce wines of increasing quality, as vindicated by this and other accolades for our other wines.”
Koos Visser, marketing manager at Orange River Cellars, says the local and wine world is becoming increasingly aware of the improved quality of the region’s wines. “We have one of the biggest teams of viticulturists – six – of any winery in South Africa, so fruit quality is improving in leaps and bounds due to scientific research and farming best practices,” says Visser. “Orange River Cellars is also committed to innovation, giving our wine-makers the opportunity to follow their passions by experimenting with new wine styles.
“And in the case of the straw wine, this commitment really seems to have paid off!