In its best performance in any wine competition to date, Orange River Cellars in the Northern Cape won the Pietman Hugo Trophy for the top-scoring winery at this year’s South African National Young Wine Show.
In the process Orange River Cellars took four South African National Champion Trophies back to the Northern Cape for SA Champion Sauvignon Blanc, SA Champion Other White Cultivar (Colombard), SA Champion Blended White Wine and SA Champion Dessert Wine (Hanepoot Jerepigo).
The dessert wine was produced at the Groblershoop winery, one of Orange River Cellars’ five production units, while the other three wines came from the Keimoes winery. This year’s SA National Young Wine Show attracted 1 680 entries from wineries throughout the country.
According to Koos Visser, marketing manager for Orange River Cellars, the achievement at this year’s South African National Young Wine Show exceeded every expectation.
“As the country’s oldest wine show with roots going back to 1833, this event 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 the national trophy winners in the past, mainly with our internationally renowned fortified dessert wines. But the success of our dry white wines at this year’s show, where they won three national trophies, is unprecedented in the history of our winery.”
One of the national trophies sure to raise a few eyebrows is the one for Best Sauvignon Blanc, a grape variety as much associated with the Northern Cape as Pinot Noir is with Egypt.
Yet, Sauvignon Blanc was one of the largest wine wine categories judged at this year’s show, with Orange River Cellars coming out tops.
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 National Champion Sauvignon Blanc.”
However, says Van Rooyen, careful lees management, a portion of wine fermented and aged in 2nd fill oak barrels 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.”
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.”