Now in its 187th year, the annual SA National Young Wine Awards, hosted recently by the Robertson Wine Valley and attended by more than 300 guests, recognises remarkable wines from the current vintage, and rewards excellence.

Benguela Cove Winemaker, Johann Fourie and assistant winemaker, Michelle Waldeck with the Young Wine chair, Christo Pinaar (left) and vice-chair Bennie Howard.

Despite another difficult year due to challenging climatic conditions and uneven ripening during harvest time, the quality of the young wines judged this year prevailed against all odds. Chairman of the Young Wine Show, Christo Pienaar, said that smart handling of the grapes in the vineyard and cellar were contributing factors in guiding the winning wines to excellence.

“This is a technical competition with 1 455 entries, 128 judges and 16 panels that need to assess wines that still need refining. They have to look past this to see if the winemaker understands the basics. It is a true reflection of skill and of what is happening in the respective cellars.”

Benguela Cove debunked the belief that cool-climate wine regions are best suited to Pinot Noir and white cultivars by outshining the competition and having two National Champions on the podium for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Starting this year’s Young Wine trajectory, Benguela Cove scooped 4 gold and 13 silver medals, and won the regional trophies for the champion Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Blend and Merlot. The award for best overall red also went to their Cabernet Sauvignon. All the wines are estate grown and carry the proud stamp of Wine of Origin Walker Bay.

Cellar master Johann Fourie believes quality and diversity are aided by micro-climates that enable Benguela Cove to produce grapes suited for all traditional red Bordeaux cultivars, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.

“Although we have cool average temperatures during the growing season, similar to bordering areas of Walker Bay, we also enjoy very big minimum and maximum temperature fluctuations on the estate. Adequate heat accumulation during the first half of the day ensures that these grapes will reach phenolic ripeness, while the welcoming sea breeze at noon envelops the vineyards with sufficient coolness to harness natural acidities. This adds to the freshness, delicate fruit nuances and supple tannins in the final wines to produce elegant and classic styles, reminiscent of old-world wines that have stood the test of time.”

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