Vitis Vinifera Awards 2020

Discovering Quality

The eighth annual Vitis Vinifera Awards took place in the first week of November at the Nietvoorbij campus, on a day meant for basking in the glorious sunshine. A team of demanding palates meticulously worked through the entries for this event, to reward the best of the best.

Post-COVID19 focus


In the wine and spirit industry more than 21 000 jobs across the value-chain have been at risk since the nine-week ban on local sales of alcohol were enforced. Estimations are that more than R7 billion was lost, and more than 80 wineries and many more grape growers will go out of business over the next year and a half.

The current situation is that there is now a wine surplus of around 300 million liters, and consumers are under financial strain. Marketing wine and spirit is difficult enough in ‘normal circumstances’, and the year ahead will be more difficult than ever before.

More than ever, consumers are looking for quality, therefore an awarded product is still one of the best ways of differentiating your product from the masses, and makes it stand out on a shelf.

Not out of the woods yet

Although exports have recommenced, the export ban severely damaged the reputation of the South African wine and spirit industry. The prolonged limit on the hours and days that alcohol can be sold will also have a negative long-term effect.

Consumers will not magically make up for lost time to get rid of all the stock that wasn’t sold in time, so the world surplus will affect the 2021 harvest prices, and in some cases grapes might not be harvested at all. Cellars currently have wine in tanks with an over saturated bulk wine market and the new harvest is looming.

Gaining the advantage

Vitis Vinifera Awards had a makeover in 2020. Stickers with a new, fresher, and modern look will ensure that consumers will easily recognise the quality associated with winning gold and double gold awards.

The Top 10 performing producers were:

  • Alvi’s Drift Private Cellar
  • De Krans Wines
  • Diemersfontein Wine Estate
  • Imbuko Wines
  • Kranskop Wines
  • La Vierge Wines
  • Landskroon Wines
  • Middelvlei Wines
  • Rooiberg Winery
  • Van Loveren

The 2020 Vitis Vinifera Tasting Team

The panel were Farai Magwada, Tanja Beutler, De Bruyn Steenkamp CWM, Ad Wegner, Joseph Dhafana, Brad Gold CWM, Dr Greta Geldenhuys, Dr Caroline Snyman CWM, Dr Carla Weightman, Wanda Cronje CWM, Erika van Zyl and Wim Braak.

Tasting comments

The categories that received the most entries were Sauvignon blanc, Shiraz, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chenin blanc. More red than white wines were entered, and the category that showed consistent growth in entries for a second-year running were Merlot.

The panel was surprised at how well the sparkling wines fared and were quite impressed with the fine bubbles and biscuity flavours. Producers of sparkling wines that were not bottle fermented have made great strides to improve quality. The Méthode Cap Classique wines showed lots of yeasty and biscuity character. The panel felt that generally, the wines were well made and elegant.

Among the white wines, the 2020 Chenin blanc wines proved that this vintage was exceptional for this cultivar, showing great diversity and zestiness and towering above their 2019 rivals. There were some particularly good fruit driven styles in this category.

In the Sauvignon blanc category the 2020 stood out as vibrant, fruity, and flinty, true fruit bowls. There were even some that showed black current fruit on the nose.

The unwooded Chardonnays showed excellent fruit and freshness, with some classy balanced examples. The rosé wines showed well with wonderful finesse. Among the smaller categories of single cultivars, the Pinot Gris wines stood out.

Most of the Bordeaux styled blends and the Cape blends displayed great structure and depth. The Cape blends as a class generally exhibited a lot of concentration, and judicious use of Pinotage.

The Pinotage wines demonstrated more traditional notes, as well as some classy executions. Some of the judges thought the Pinotage category was one of the most exciting.

Generally, the Merlot wines were bold and well balanced, with no hint of green character at all. Among the Cabernet Sauvignon wines the 2017 and 2018 wines showed the best, with some serious wines with decent structure.

The Shiraz wines varied wildly. There were some excellent 2017 wines, while the 2018 wines were soft, smooth, and velvety. The 2019 vintage Shiraz wines were young, and the panel thought that these wines need time. Of the single cultivar reds, the Sangiovese showed good balance and typicity.

In the spirit tasting the quality and diversity of gin was good, with something for everyone. The gins were mostly exceptionally good, especially in the new style gin category, with some excellent ones in between. The grappa category varied a lot in style and quality.

Overall, the judges were incredibly pleased with the spectrum of quality wines and spirit entered in this year’s competition. Details about the 2021 Vitis Vinifera Awards will be announced in the last week of January 2021.

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