After much anticipation, the winning wine producers of the 2017 Absa Top 10 Pinotage competition have been announced at the Cavalli Estate on 3 August. The event also commemorated 21 years of Absa Bank's involvement with the Pinotage Association. The top 10 laureates in this annual event are among the finest ambassadors of Wine SA, all judged to be masterful expressions of the Pinot Noir Hermitage/Cinsaut cross that dates back to the previous century and including some from wineries that have triumphed on numerous occasions in the past.
There were 147 entries in the 2017 Absa Top 10 Pinotage competition, and with around 50% of the 21 finalists from Stellenbosch wineries, it was no surprise that five of the eventual winners are from cellars in this district: Lanzerac, Delheim, Stellenbosch Vineyards, Kanonkop and Neil Ellis Wines. The Absa Top 10 this year are mostly wines from established cellars with solid track records in the world of Pinotage, all with a common goal in striving to produce the ultimate Pinotage ‘masterpiece’.
The winning wines are:
• Delheim Pinotage 2012 - WO Stellenbosch, winemaker Altus Treurnicht
• Diemersfontein Carpe Diem Reserve 2015 - WO Wellington, winemaker Francoise Roode
• Flagstone Writer’s Block Single Vineyard Pinotage 2015 - WO Breedekloof, winemaker Gerhard Swart
• Kanonkop Pinotage 2012 - WO Simonsberg - Stellenbosch, winemaker Abrie Beeslaar
• Lanzerac Pionier Pinotage 2014 - WO Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch, winemaker Wynand Lategan
• Môreson MKM 2015 - Franschhoek cellar, WO Stellenbosch, winemaker Clayton Reabow
• Neil Ellis Bottelary Hills Pinotage 2015 - WO Stellenbosch, winemaker Warren Ellis
• Stellenbosch Vineyards Bushvine Pinotage 2015 - WO Stellenbosch, winemaker Abraham de Villiers
• La Cave Pinotage 2016 - Wellington Wines, winemakers Francois van Niekerk and Chris Smit
• Windmeul Pinotage Reserve 2015 - WO Paarl/Coastal, winemaker Abraham van Heerden
Museum Class Trophy Winners
For the first time in the history of the competition, producers were invited to also submit entries in a Museum Class specifically for older wines – 10 years and older. As expected, these proved how top Pinotage fulfils the promise of great maturation potential, with a trophy presented for the top example on the tasting bench.
Winner: Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection Jonkershoek Pinotage 2007
• Neethlingshof Pinotage 1999
• Rijk’s Reserve Pinotage 2007
• Lanzerac Pinotage 1992
The panel of judges included Neil Ellis of Neil Ellis Wines (chair), wine educator and consultant Nomonde Kubheka, winemaker Corlea Fourie of Bosman Family Vineyards, Francois Rautenbach of Singita Premier Wine Direct and viticulturist Stephan Joubert of Douglas Green Bellingham (DGB).
Beyers Truter, chair and founder of the Pinotage Association, is overwhelmed by the expansion of the market for Pinotage and the passion with which winemakers have embraced this grape cultivar over the past two decades. “Our 21-year journey with Absa has been full of many highlights and it is pleasing to see how the bar continues to be raised year after year. One of the objectives in creating the Absa Top 10 Pinotage competition was to improve the quality and perceptions of this lovely, uniquely South African wine, and, looking at the standard of the finalists this year as well as the degree to which Pinotage has been embraced, we are definitely on the right track.”
Truter emphasises just how much the quality of Pinotage wines has increased, particularly during the past decade. He applauds the producers of all the wines included among the finalists for their exceptional commitment and hard work. “Pinotage is a grape that needs special viticultural and winemaking techniques. It can be tough and demanding, but when you get it right the rewards are astonishing world-class masterpieces,” he states.
Truter went on to thank Absa as the Pinotage Association’s long term “partner in wine” and “a crucial part of the expansion of our beloved Pinotage.”
Congratulating the finalists and the winning winemaking teams, John Tshabalala, Absa’s Managing Executive, Western Cape, says the group is proud and honoured to be part of the Pinotage journey. He adds that is it pleasing to see the increased commitment of the Pinotage stakeholders and the positive effect of the category’s success in the wider communities of various regions of the Winelands. “On behalf of Absa, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to this year’s outstanding finalists and winners in the Absa Top 10 Pinotage competition. We wish all the trophy winners and finalists great success on their winemaking journey and hope they continue to prosper in local and international wine markets,” he says.
Tshabalala adds that Absa’s continued support of the Pinotage Association is in line with the bank’s Shared Growth vision, through which it aims to use its assets and resources to grow and develop the societies where it operates. “When the communities where we live and work thrive, we do too. And when society prospers, we all do,” says Tshabalala.
Get the Absa Top 10 Pinotage Pack exclusively available from Wine-of-the-Month.