Veritas 2009 top performers reveal the secrets of their success

Spier Wields Veritas Scepter
October 5, 2009
Legendary Wine Industry Personalities Lauded
November 6, 2009
Spier Wields Veritas Scepter
October 5, 2009
Legendary Wine Industry Personalities Lauded
November 6, 2009

Veritas 2009 top performers reveal the secrets of their success

Part science, part art, winemaking is a true alchemy of talent and tenacity. Add the ever changing moods of Mother Nature into the mix and you’ll soon realize that creating an exceptional wine is all about meticulous planning, endless innovation and terrific teamwork.

Each year the stars of the Veritas stage raise the bar when it comes to quality and consistency. This year was no exception when, once again, South Africa’s top producers received recognition for their outstanding achievements. Now in its 18th year Veritas remains the country’s oldest and biggest competition for market ready wines.

Wine lovers have come to rely on the results of the Awards as a reliable indication of excellence and superior drinking pleasure. This year no less than 1 728 wines were entered and adjudication was as stringent as ever. The rigorous judging process ensures only the very best contenders receive the coveted double gold, gold, silver and bronze medals.

This year one producer set the Veritas red carpet well and truly aflame, claiming one medal after the other. Stellenbosch based Spier Wines walked off with an impressive five double gold and half a dozen gold medals at the sumptuous Veritas prize giving ceremony held recently at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The double gold medals went to: the Spier Private Collection Chardonnay 2007, Spier Private Collection Pinotage 2007 and Spier Private Collection Shiraz 2007, while their Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2007 and True to Terroir The Hutton Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (both under the Woolworths label) also achieved double gold status.

“Winning awards of this caliber are a wonderful affirmation of the team’s constant pursuit for the ultimate in quality” says Spier cellarmaster Frans Smit. “Our winemaking philosophy is to achieve the best expression of the cultivar and terroir. Varietal specificity at its highest level is sought across the range with minimal intervention to the character of the fruit,” he explains.

“A cold winter and favourable climatic conditions during 2006 set the scene for an excellent 2007 vintage,” comments Frans. Wine lovers are sure to agree when sampling the 2007 Spier Private Collection Chardonnay with its rich aromas of citrus and nutty butterscotch. A well balanced palate and lingering finish make this Spier stunner a perfect partner to seared butterfish in a lemon herb sauce. If that hasn’t sufficiently whetted your appetite the 2007 Private Collection Pinotage is sure to! With its ripe cherry aromas, subtle spiciness and flavours of roasted vanilla, banana and toffee this wine is simply delicious with peppered ostrich fillet, caramelized baby beetroot and mascarpone cheese topped with sunflower seed croutons.

Certainly no stranger to the Veritas hall of fame is Nederburg, surely one of South Africa’s most enduring and well loved wine brands. This year saw the iconic Paarl cellar take two double gold and five gold medals. Double gold went to the 2007 Nederburg Sémillon Noble Late Harvest Private Bin and 2007 Nederburg Private Bin R181 Merlot, while the 2007 Nederburg Private Bin R121 Shiraz, 2008 Nederburg Private Bin D252 Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon, 2008 Nederburg Eminence Private Bin, 2008 Nederburg Winemasters Reserve Noble Late Harvest and 2009 Nederburg Private Bin D234 Sauvignon Blanc all collected gold medals.

The Nederburg Sémillon Noble Late Harvest Private Bin 2007 was the only wine in its class to achieve Double Gold status at this year’s Veritas. A highly versatile style of wine, it makes a superb partner to a wide range of gourmet delights, including rich, ripe cheeses with green fig preserve. Alternatively try it with paté de foie gras, in the time honoured French tradition.

“It was truly a thrill to hear our name called on the night. These medals are confirmation that we’re certainly on the right track,” says the soft spoken Tariro Masayiti, Nederburg’s White Winemaker. Under the guidance of cellarmaster Razvan Macici the Nederburg winemaking team is meticulous in their quest to respect the essence of the fruit by maintaining the unique varietal and terroir characteristics. “We also cherish a close relationship with our consumers, relying strongly on them to provide us with valuable feedback,” comments Razvan.

Underlining once again the versatility and diversity of the South African terroir, the little hamlet of Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo stole the limelight when Port maestros Boplaas Family Vineyards clinched two double gold and three gold medals. Always at the top of their game, this family orientated cellar took double gold for their Boplaas Cape Tawny Port N/V and Cape Vintage Port 2006, while the gold medals went to the Cape Tawny 1997, Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2004 and Vintner’s Tawny Port.

“You should never rush a good port – from the time the grapes spend on the vine, to when the sugar is at just the right level in the middle of the night in the depths of the cellar, to waiting patiently for the wine to mature in the barrel for 12 years, to the final moment of bliss when you share it with good company,” says Boplaas winemaker Margaux Nel. “The best way to make a world class port is to learn from the best. That’s why we learn from the finest the Portuguese have to offer, tasting their old ports and newer styles on a regular basis. We also use the varieties which are ideally suited to our South African climate and soils, such as Touriga Naçional, Tinta Barocca and Souzão,” explains Margaux’s father and Boplaas cellarmaster, Carel Nel.

The Boplaas Cape Tawny Port N/V is a wine for all occasions and seasons – delicious when served ice cold in the summer with dessert or in front of the fire with a cheese platter and preserved green figs. It’s also perfect as a nightcap after meals or as an aperitif as your guests arrive.

Over the years Fleur du Cap, one of the Distell group’s flagships, has become a firm favourite amongst wine lovers across the globe. Based in the historic Bergkelder mountain cellar in the heart of the Stellenbosch winelands, the Fleur du Cap team continues to produce expertly crafted wines “inspired by nature”. This year saw them raking in a total medal tally of 20 for their wines from the premier Unfiltered range as well as the Bergkelder Selection – two double gold, two gold, eight silver and eight bronze.

Both the flagship Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Merlot 2006 as well as the newly released Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 achieved double gold status. “We strive to make our wines, particularly the Unfiltered range, in a more traditional manner by preserving the natural or inherent flavours of the specific terroirs in question. The Unfiltered Merlot and Cab are two excellent examples of this and are a fitting culmination of a joint effort to produce the most excellent wines possible from our very best vineyard blocks,” comments Bergkelder cellarmaster Andrea Freeborough. “The entire team’s dedication and passion are the driving forces behind any award winning wine,” she adds.

The fruit for the Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 was meticulously selected and hand harvested from prized vineyard blocks in the Cape Coastal Region, where the cool breezes from the Atlantic Ocean ensure slower ripening periods and intense flavours. “This robust wine is dark ruby in colour with seductive aromas of blackcurrant, jasmine, vanilla, dark chocolate and mocha on the nose, while the palate displays complex red fruit flavours of cherry and plum, complemented by a spicy oakiness and supple tannins. It makes the ideal accompaniment to fillet of beef and roast lamb but is equally delicious with rich, hearty dishes and strongly flavoured cheeses,” says Fleur du Cap red winemaker Justin Corrans.

Situated in the famed grape growing area of the ‘Golden Triangle’ between Stellenbosch and Somerset West, Ernie Els Wines has established a reputation as a red wine producer of note. The double gold and gold medals they received at Veritas ’09 bear testimony to their go-getting approach. “I’m really happy with our results. You never know what the judges are looking for but it appears as though we’ve got it right this year!” says an elated Louis Strydom, Ernie Els winemaker. “It’s very gratifying to see our wines being rewarded both locally and internationally. Veritas has cemented itself as the most prestigious awards in South Africa so it’’s a real honour to receive these accolades,” says Louis.

The Ernie Els 2005 (traditional Bordeaux style blend) and Engelbrecht Els Proprietor’s Blend 2007 (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot) earned double gold together with the Guardian Peak Lapa Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 and Guardian Peak Merlot 2008, while the Cirrus Syrah 2007 took gold. “I’ve always tried to bring my own style to the wines and I really enjoy a wine that can last but is also accessible at a relatively early stage,” says Louis of this multi-faceted range. “It’s a big challenge finding the right balance, but I’m really fortunate with the terroir on the property – the soil types and climate conditions are perfectly suited to the wines I’m trying to create,” he explains.

Windmeul Co-Operative Wine cellar was established in 1944 with 23 founder members. Today this Paarl cellar is proving extremely popular amongst wine lovers for its range of palate pleasing and value for money wines. This year saw this vibrant and innovative outfit bag an enviable two double gold medals (Pinotage Reserve 2008 and Cape Blend Reserve 2008) and one gold medal (Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008). “All the blood, sweat, tears and load-shedding during harvest time is finally paying off,” quips Windmeul winemaker Francois van Niekerk.

“These awards prove we can make fantastic wines at fantastic prices. Gone are the days where co-ops are regarded as ‘plonk’ or bulk producers. We’ve always believed in the quality of our wines and it is wonderful when our hard work is recognized in highly respected competitions such as Veritas,” says Francois. At Windmeul the ‘x-factor’ remains seamless teamwork. “The co-operation between the cellar and its member producers has always been outstanding, our members display a loyalty and dedication beyond expectations. Everybody strives to produce the best quality of grapes possible to ensure the eventual success of the wines,” he maintains.

In both the Windmeul Cape Blend Reserve and Pinotage Reserve SA’s national grape, Pinotage, occupies centre stage, highlighting the versatility and appeal of this proudly South African cultivar. In these cash strapped times it’s comforting to note both wines sell for under R100 a bottle from the cellar – proof that great wines needn’t necessarily break the bank.

If, by now, your mouth is watering and your curiosity piqued then don’t miss an opportunity to sample this year’s double gold and gold Veritas Award winners at a series of wine tastings and gourmet events countrywide. Tickets can be booked at Computicket outlets nationwide or online at www.computicket.com. For further details and Veritas news visit www.veritas.co.za.