A dozen remarkable Shiraz wines and three impressive Shiraz blends captured the limelight during the fifth annual Shiraz Challenge awards ceremony held on 31 May at the Rhebokskloof Wine Estate in Paarl.

by Michael Olivier

Fans of this noble cultivar can safely set their sights on these front-runners when next they find themselves facing the extensive range of wines on the shelf of any retail space.

According to SA Shiraz chairperson Edmund Terblanche, some 220 wines vied for inclusion in the top echelon – a steady climb of entries since the inception of the competition in 2013. “Initially we focused only on Shiraz, but soon after we invited winemakers to put forward their best blends as we see this competition as an encompassing celebration of Shiraz,” he says. “We’ve witnessed consistent growth in the blends category – not only for the Rhône style, but for all compositions where Shiraz remains the leading component.”

2017’s Top Shiraz Wines:

Cederberg Shiraz 2015
D’Aria The Soprano Shiraz 2015
Eagles’ Nest Shiraz 2014
Fairview Beacon Shiraz 2014
Fairview Swartland Shiraz 2014
Flagstone Dark Horse Shiraz 2013
KWV Cathedral Cellar Shiraz 2015
La Motte Pierneef Syrah Viognier 2015
Rustenberg Buzzard Kloof Syrah 2015
Saronsberg Shiraz 2015
Strandveld Syrah 2013
Wildekrans Barrel Select Reserve Shiraz 2015

The Top 3 Shiraz Blends:

Bellingham The Bernard Series SMV 2014
Rustenberg Stellenbosch RM Nicholson 2015
Saronsberg Full Circle 2015

Attendees of the award ceremony had the opportunity to taste the 25 Shiraz finalists and the top 10 Shiraz blends and the winners were served with lunch.

Eight esteemed judges took responsibility for the stringent adjudication process, with Dr Andy Roediger at the helm. Which started for him as a lightweight interest in wine and a consequent wine course at the Wine Academy, had led to producing his own Garagiste wines and completing his Cape Wine Master thesis on Phenolic ripeness in South Africa. Roediger shares his expertise with many leading wine producers by carrying out phenolic ripeness analyses on a commercial basis in his laboratory.

The rest of the judging line-up included Charles Hopkins (De Grendel cellar master), Cathy van Zyl (British Master of Wine), Pearl Oliver (head sommelier at the Taj Hotel in Cape Town), Edmund Terblanche (La Motte cellar master and Shiraz SA chairperson), Samarie Smit (wine writer and editor of Die Burger: Versnit and regular judge at Veritas and the SA Young Wine Show) and Maryna Huysamen (Cape Wine Makers Guild protégé). Huysamen’s inclusion serves as training to provide exposure for future judges.
International wine judge Claus Fischer joined the team for the first time. Fischer applies his academic background in chemistry in the wine environment, having focused amongst others on the development of an aroma wheel for German wines. Fischer remarked about the impressive speed of the tastings which delivered such high standard, in-depth scorings.