In its best performance in any wine competition to date, Orange River Cellars from Upington was named one of the top producers at this year’s acclaimed Veritas Awards, South Africa’s leading wine and brandy competition. Orange River Cellars was recognised as Best Producer for 10 Wines or Less Entered, winning three Double Gold medals, one each for Orange River Cellars Colombard 2018, Sauvignon Blanc 2018 and the Straw Wine 2017.
This year’s Veritas Awards was the most competitive in the competition’s 28 year history, with 1 677 wines and brandies vying for medal status. Only 39 Double Gold Medals were awarded in the competition’s wine section, making Orange River Cellars’ achievement that more remarkable. Especially as the winery is situated on the banks of the Orange River in the Northern Cape, some 800 kilometres from South Africa’s traditional wine regions in the Western Cape.
According to Koos Visser, marketing manager for Orange River Cellars, the achievement at this year’s Veritas Awards exceeded every expectation, especially after the recent performance at the South African National Young Wine Show where Orange River won the National Champion Trophy for Best Wine on Show.
“Veritas has always been an important vehicle for Orange River Cellars to compare its wines with those from our peers in the Western Cape,” says Visser. “We have been fortunate to feature among Gold medal winners in the past, mainly with our internationally renowned fortified dessert wines. But the success of our wines at this year’s show, where they won three Double Gold Veritas medals, is unprecedented in the history of our winery. It is a game-changer for wines from our region due to the importance a Veritas Double Gold or Gold holds in the wine market. The consumers want wines with a Veritas medal on it.”
One of the medals sure to raise a few eyebrows is the one for Best Sauvignon Blanc, a grape variety as much associated with the Northern Cape as biltong is with Iceland.
Yet, Sauvignon Blanc was the largest white wine category judged at this year’s show, with Orange River Cellars winning one of only three Double Gold medals awarded.
Rianco van Rooyen, winemaker at Orange River Cellars’ Keimoes winery where the winning Sauvignon Blanc was made, says the grapes grow on the flood plain of the Orange River in the Skanskop area.
“Soils are deep and alluvial, days are warm to hot and the only cooling sea-breeze is about 500km away,” says Van Rooyen. “These are all factors traditionally not deemed as being conducive to making Sauvignon Blanc at all, never mind Veritas Double Gold Sauvignon Blanc.”
However, says Van Rooyen, careful lees management over four months, temperature control and plenty of watchful eyes in the cellar resulted in a Sauvignon Blanc expressing an array of fruit, floral and mineral characters.
“I cannot speak on behalf of the esteemed panel of judges for this year’s competition, but truly think that the Sauvignon Blanc from Orange River Cellars had enough points of difference and unique flavours to make it a stand-out wine,” he says. “This award is going to make people sit-up and take notice of what we are doing in this region, especially in terms of Sauvignon Blanc which is South Africa’s biggest-selling single-varietal white wine.”
Visser says that Orange River Cellars’ investment over the past decade in a team of viticulturists is playing a major role in the all-round quality of wines made from the region’s vineyards.
“They work together with our producers in managing current vineyards, identifying new pockets of terroir and ensuring the winemakers get the best possible fruit to work with. Add to this a team of committed and skilled people in the cellars, and we are in a very strong position to add to the already important role Orange River Cellars is playing in offering wines of a quality exceeding the expectations displayed by their price-points,” says Visser. “We can expect still better things to come, but I must admit that three Veritas Double Golds is a tough one to beat.”