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Strikingly consistent performances from the country’s top wineries

| Wine and liquor

The results of the 2015 OMTWS were released at a function held at the Mount Nelson in Cape Town on 27th May. They show the growing strength of the country's red wines – both Trophy and Gold Medals were pretty evenly distributed between dry white and dry red classes.

Though in the Silver medal classes, whites continue to dominate. Just the same, the vast majority of this year’s Trophy and Gold Medal winners are frequent visitors to the winners’ podium, usually with the same wines, sometimes with successive vintages, and in one case, with the same wine!

The Old Mutual Trophy for the most Successful Producer was won by Rustenberg, with Trophies for its Five Soldiers Chardonnay 2012 and its Peter Barlow 2009 red, supported by a canteen of silver medals for several other wines from the cellar. Runner-up was Spier with trophies for The Hutton Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Woolworths selection) and the Windy Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Woolworths selection). The judges awarded a total of 27 gold medals, from which the final 17 trophy winning wines were selected. These included 11 dry red wines, 12 dry white wines, 3 dessert wines, 1 Cape port, and included 4 Museum Class entries.

Total medal counts were down on 2014, a function of the slightly uneven quality of the vintages currently available in the industry. Compared with the 37 (2014) gold medals - including final trophy winners, this year saw 27 golds and 20 trophies (2014: 28), 88 silver medals (2014: 121) and 430 bronze medals (2014: 469). The strongest classes were Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon-Semillon blends and Shiraz. Merlot and Pinot Noir continued to show weakness in the higher medal categories, while Pinotage and Méthode Cap Classique delivered solid results but no trophy.

Of the Trophy and gold medal winners, Eikendal, Flagstone, Iona, Nederburg, Rustenberg, Spier, Fleur du Cap, Vergelegen, KWV, Kleine Zalze, Jordan, Diemersdal, Paul Cluver, Highlands Road, Saxenburg and De Krans are all past winners. However, there were also new faces notably La Motte, Perdeberg, Rare Earth, StellenRust, Wildekrans (among the golds) and Morgenster, Olifantsberg and Leeuwenkuil amongst the trophies.

Show Chairman Michael Fridjhon was delighted with the dynamism shown by the industry. “New appellations continue to win gold medals alongside established locations like Stellenbosch, Elgin and the Swartland,” he said. “Last year we saw the Cape South Coast and Sutherland among the serious medal winners, this time it's been a sauvignon blanc from Plettenberg Bay.”

The 2015 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show saw the number of entries judged rise slightly from 1040 (in 2014) to 1082. Regular panellists commented on the markedly better quality of the top wines in most of the classes, while the overseas judges (two without prior experience of the competition) expressed their delight at what was on offer in some of the strongest classes.

Singapore-based Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, editor-in-chief of The Wine Advocate and, was very impressed with the Cabernets she tasted and had this advice for winemakers: “South Africa seems to have areas in which cabernet can ripen well. That’s gold-dust. You need to maximise the potential, because if you can make great cabernet, why wouldn’t you?”

John Gilman, editor of, one-time sommelier and wine merchant from New York, tasted (among others) pinot noir and chardonnay. Of the pinot noir he declared most, if not all, “aromatically enticing on the nose”, but would have preferred more subtle use of new oak. He had high praise for the chardonnay class: “I really enjoyed the chardonnays. There were some really world-class wines and of the panels I was on – (it’s shown) it was the highest overall quality”.

Steven Spurrier, one of the UK’s most respected wine commentators and chairman of the Decanter Worldwide Wine Awards, first judged at the OMTWS in 2007. He pronounced certain of the white blends he tasted as “Phenomenal!” He suggested South Africa make more of Pinotage as a signature grape and use it as a “calling card” for the industry.

The Museum Class entries continued the trend of accounting for at least 5% of the submissions – and revealed what is clearly a change in emphasis amongst the country's super-premium cellars. “Increasingly we see the country's top wineries choosing to send a message about the age-ability and age-worthiness of their best vintages,” observes Fridjhon. “Since this coincides with a wider industry commitment to emphasise the age-worthiness of our top wines, we see in the growth of the Museum Class numbers an important message for South Africa's wine aficionados.” This year’s Museum Class entries yielded 4 trophies, 9 silvers and 20 bronze medals.

Old Mutual, headline sponsor of the competition since its inception, sees great value in a process which identifies the country’s top wines and makes this information available to the South African wine drinking public. Discernment of future value is a key component of the investment side of Old Mutual's business, locally and internationally, so the process by which the show's judges approach the task of sifting through the more than 1000 wines entered annually resonates with the country's financial services group. Recognising the importance of the rigour which goes into the Show's judging methodology, Old Mutual takes the top wines on a national roadshow to present them to some 3000 wine enthusiasts in eight cities in Southern Africa.

Old Mutual is proud of its 14 year affiliation with the country’s top wine competition“, says Karen Thomas, Old Mutual’s Head of Brand. ”The sponsorship is a natural fit for us. Like investments, wines take time to cultivate and develop. What’s more, investing for the long-term, like making world-class wine, requires specialist care and expertise. We are excited to play an important role in discovering talent and highlighting it both locally and on the international stage and we enjoy building relationships with wine lovers all over South Africa. Skills development is an important element of all our sponsorships and we are pleased to also support the development of world-class wine judges through the Wine Judging Academy, run with the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business.”

Within the next two weeks, a series of tastings will be taken to seven major centres countrywide including Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London followed by a Masterclass® in Windhoek. Wine lovers in Cape Town and Johannesburg will be able to taste more than 102 trophy, gold, silver and some of the Museum Class medal-winning wines at public tastings in Cape Town and Sandton on 12 and 18 June respectively, and will have an opportunity to judge these top achievers for themselves.

They can also take advantage of the opportunity to buy superlative wines (while stocks are available) at special show prices via show fulfilment partner Makro.

Ready, as ever, to embrace new technology, Old Mutual has replaced the printed Icons Guide which details the results of the show by category and producer with a downloadable app to go live immediately after the final results have been announced at the function. This will enable all smartphone-users to access the key information they will need to optimise their wine-purchasing decisions – at restaurants and wine merchants – for the year ahead.

Visit the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show website for all the results, The Top Tens (Top Ten whites, reds, bubblies, fortifieds, MCCs, producers), the judges’ profiles and the AV from the judging.

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