Vitis Vinifera Awards 2021

In search of the best

The ninth annual Vitis Vinifera Awards took place during the first week of September at the majestic Lanzerac Hotel and Spa in Stellenbosch. Jaguar Stellenbosch supplied vehicles for the occasion and used the opportunity to display their elegant and sporty vehicles.

Some of our partners

This year marked a conscious decision to focus the judge’s profile, to be in line with the event’s quest to find the best of the best. Panellists consisted of Masters of Wine, Cape Wine Masters, and top qualified sommeliers. For these experienced palates, it was all in a day’s work to taste through the vast array of entries in the quest to find the best.

Jaguar Stellenbosch supplied the vehicles for this event.

It is the purpose of this event to promote all drinks produced by Vitis Vinifera grapes and to celebrate being fortunate enough to work with this noble vine.

Thriving in the post-COVID-19 world

It has never been this important that the battered wine and spirit industry find ways to fully recover. Several lockdowns and multiple on-consumption and off-consumption trade restrictions saw businesses haemorrhaging. It is time to recover and find new opportunities to become stronger and more resilient.

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

The panel was Spencer Fondaumiere, the Chairman of South African Sommelier Association, Wanda Cronje CWM, Meryl Weaver CWM, Dave March CWM, Richard Kershaw MW, Lizette Tolken CWM, Jacqui Henderson CWM, Lisha de Villiers CWM, Dr. Andy Roediger CWM, Dr. Caroline Snyman CWM, Dr. Carla Weightman, Dr. Mare-Loe Prinsloo.

The Anchor Oenology. Best on show Trophy

This year the industry-leading Anchor Oenology came on board and sponsored the Anchor Oenology Best on show Trophy. Congratulations to Klein Roosboom, the inaugural winner with their Klein Roosboom Marné Brut MCC.

Piti Coetzee from Klein Roosboom proudly displays the Anchor Oenology Trophy Klein Roosboom garnered for the Klein Roosboom Marné MCC.

Comments on the wines

The sparkling wines were a mixed bunch and the best displayed biscuity flavours. The Méthode Cap Classique wines showed well as expected and had lots of yeasty and biscuity character. The panel felt that generally, the wines were well made and elegant. Lizette Tolken CWM said that the sparkling wines were refreshing and of exceptional quality, with great finesse and balance.

Wanda Cronje CWM working through the smaller categories of single cultivars.

Dave March CWM tasting

Most of the Chenin blanc entries were from the 2021 vintage. These wines showed great diversity and zestiness. Many of them were outstanding fruit-driven styles. According to Jacqui Henderson CWM, South Africa has Chenin blanc with real class and finesse that can rank with the best of the Loire.

In the Sauvignon blanc category, the 2021 vintage stood out as vibrant, fruity, and flinty. Dr. Andy Rudiger CWM said the Sauvignon blanc wines varied from the grassy-green style to some with minerality and elegant green fruit. He also thought that skin contact could have contributed to the complexity of some of the wines.

The unwooded Chardonnays showed excellent fruit and freshness, with some balanced examples. MW Richard Kershaw, a Chardonnay specialist himself, reckons that Chardonnay produces should pay more attention to differences in terroir, rather than trying to induce differences with oak and other cellar practices.

MW Richard Kershaw tasting Chardonnay

The rosé wines showed well with finesse. “They were very balanced, with fewer tutti-fruity styles than usual” – Meryl Weaver CWM. The wines were refreshing, across the spectrum, and well-integrated.

Among the smaller categories of single cultivars, the Clairette blanche and Grenache Blanc 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.

Pinotage was generally well made with some classy executions. Wanda Cronje CWM noted that the Pinotage wines varied somewhat in style, with over-use of American oak in some. Generally, the wines were well-made, with great finesse.

Tasters concentrating on the job ahead

The Merlot category had bold and well-balanced examples. Few of the entries had a green character. Some of the panellists thought this category was the most exciting. Cape Wine Master Lisha de Villiers noted that the quality of Merlot has improved in South Africa, with more judicious use of oak and more elegant styles that emerged, producing more linear wines with less over-extraction.

Among the Cabernet Sauvignon wines, the 2018 and 2019 wines showed the best. Some were serious wines and had decent structure and balance. The 2020 vintage wines were young, and the panel thought that these wines need time.

The Shiraz wines varied wildly. There were some excellent 2018 wines, while the 2019 wines were soft, smooth, and velvety. Dr. Andy Roediger CWM noted that South African Shiraz stands its own on the world stage and is better when compared to France and California, as opposed to Australia. South Africa is also way ahead as far as price-point goes.

The few examples of Pinot noir varied in quality, with some showing good balance and typicity.

Comments on the spirits

In the tasting of the spirits, the quality and diversity of gin were good, with something for everyone. Most of the gin were exceptionally good, especially in the new style gin category. Dr. Mare-Loe Prinsloo said that the gins were very diverse in style, but some were over-flavoured and lacked balance.

Some distillers do so much better than the others across different classes. Dr. Caroline Snyman CWM said the reason for this is that these producers pay particular attention to the distilling process and then focus relentlessly on the integration and balance of high-quality flavours. Dr. Carla Weightman also stressed that these producers never let a single botanical overpower the spirit but find a good balance.

The vodka category varied a lot in style and quality. The brandies were also very diverse.

Dr. Caroline Snyman CWM

Dr. Caroline Snyman CWM

Dr. Mare-Loe Prinsloo

Dr. Carla Weightman

Spirit panellists for the 2021 Vitis Vinifera tasting

The Top 10 performing producers were:

Du Toitskloof Wines, Imbuko Wines, Koelenhof Wynkelder, Montagu Winery, Perdeberg Wines, Rooiberg Winery, Sands Traders Wineways, Silkbush Mountain Vineyards, uniWines Vineyards, Van Loveren Family Vineyards.


We want to extend a special thanks to our partners that helped to make this event a success:

Overall, the judges were incredibly pleased with the spectrum of quality wines and spirits entered in this year’s competition. Details about the 2022 Vitis Vinifera Awards will be announced in the last week of January 2022.