SA’s Most Wanted Wines

Many of the wines on our bottle store shelves are graced with stickers attesting to the awards they have achieved at shows and competitions. Sometimes they tend to confuse rather than inform. Now there’s a new sticker that trumps them all. The CVC (Cape Vintner Classification) neck collar will be seen only on South Africa’s most respected wines, and the very strictest standards must be attained before it is awarded. For many years South African wines have been regarded internationally as “cheap and cheerful”. This is 

fine for everyday quaffing wines, but it detracts from the fact that South African winemakers now produce some of the world’s highest quality wines that compete successfully against the products of the world’s most respected cellars. 

In order to “raise the bar” and build an awareness of the high quality of our top wines, a small group of leading wine personalities met in 2011 to take a look at the existing Cape Estate Wine Producers’ Association (CEWPA) and see whether it needed upgrading. 

The result was the drafting of a whole new set of standards and the formation of a non-profit organization called the Cape Vintner Classification. Extremely stringent standards have to be met before a cellar can qualify for CVC status and so far full membership has been granted to only 24 estates.  

To be considered for membership winemakers must have the qualifications and winemaking facilities to pass the standards set by the IPW for “integrity and sustainability”. They must also have been registered as a member of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative. 

Members must have cellar door facilities on the same property as their winemaking facilities. (This will eliminate many garagistes who rent cellar facilities and buy grapes wherever they can.)   

The cellar door facility must have a tasting room with staff to serve the public. The estate must have ethical accreditation based on the International Labour Relations code. All vineyard blocks from which these wines are made must be registered as single vineyards with the Wine and Spirit Board. 

Now for the wines themselves: members will be asked to nominate specific wines for their portfolio and at least five vintages of each wine must be presented for evaluation by an independent panel. If four of the five vintages score at least 80 per cent the wines will quality for Silver Standard. 

At least four of the five must attain a score of 90 per cent or more to reach Gold Standard. An audited statement must show that the wines submitted are sold at a retail price of not less than R200 a bottle. 

Members of the evaluation panel must present at least one of the following qualifications: The US Wine Evaluation certificate, Cape Wine Master’s qualification or the Michael Fridjhon Wine Tasting Academy diploma. 

Meetings of the CVC are held under the independent chairmanship of respected wine veteran Duimpie Bayly and the committee members are Danie de Wet, Neil Ellis, Johan Krige, Don Tooth, Schalk Burger, Johann Rupert, Jannie Engelbrecht and Gary Baumgarten. 

Serious South African wine producers hope that the CVC neck collar will become the symbol by which the country’s wines are recognized. There will always be a place in the market for “cheap and cheerful”, but it’s time for our wines to reach for greatness. So which wines made the cut? 

Here’s the full list: