Top 100 list a handy help when selecting a suitable wine

SOUTH African winemakers are in celebratory mood – at least those who made the Top 100 SA Wines list are, while surely hoping that those medals will translate into increased sales and exports.

The wine PR machine has been working over-time since the Top 100 were announced last week. While some may debate the credibility of the various wine competitions (which probably outnumber vineyards by now), make no mistake, those trophy-winning bottle stickers are sought-after for their marketing value.

Faced with a bewildering array of choices, how many times have we stood in front of the bottle- store shelf and picked a wine based on a gold award or a bright “great value” sticker? After all, if a bunch of posh wine judges say it’s good, it must be, right?

Fairview owner Charles Back’s comment on this year’s Top 100, in which he has four wines, is refreshingly direct: “As with many other winemakers, we usually shoot down competitions other than those we do well at.”

That said, this Top 100 is a useful tool in navigating the wine minefield, especially when you’re looking to try something new. However, let personal taste (and budget!) be your final decider.

Judged by a mostly international panel of wine masters, with a second panel of consumer experts combing the list for Best Value awards, the Top 100 is not an easy list to get onto.

The judges blind-tasted 426 wines from 128 vineyards, sampling each wine at least twice.

Cederberg private cellar tops the consistency list, with 14 wines making the cut over the past three years of the competition, followed by Saronsberg (13) and Paul Cluver (9).

The Top 100 is a good mix of the big and small players, with giants like Simonsig (8) and Groot Constantia (7) regularly making the list, alongside boutique estates like Alvi’s Drift and Allee Bleue.

Red wines took the lion’s share of this year’s Top 100, with 61 making the grade, mostly blends. Shiraz (10), Pinot Noir and Pinotage (six each) were the top single cultivars. Sauvignon Blanc took nine of the 27 places given to white wines, while Chardonnay and Chenin “struggled” this year, the organisers said, with only four of each making the cut.

Bubblies, red and fortified wines selling for under R90, and whites under R70, were considered for Best Value awards.

So, if you’re looking for a wine that delivers quality at a great price, consider Bonnievale Vertex Shiraz 2011, Raka Quinary 2009 and 2010 in the red family, and in whites look for 2012 Sauvignon Blancs from Paul Cluver, Delaire Graaff and Saronsberg, and Val du Charron’s VDC Chardonnay 2012.

The full Top 100 list is at www.top100sawines.co.za. Happy shopping and tasting!

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