Spirits in the Durbanville Wine Valley are ebullient after the region delivered the most winners in this year’s Absa Top 10 Pinotage Awards.
Most often celebrated for its white wine varieties and Sauvignon Blanc in particular, the Durbanville Wine Valley’s reputation as an all-rounder for quality wines has steadily gained momentum with the latest accolades giving it a significant boost.
Proudly taking their place among the Top 10 winners, announced in Stellenbosch last week, were the makers of Altydgedacht Pinotage 2011, Diemersdal Pinotage 2011 and the Durbanville Hills Rhinofields Pinotage 2011.
“We are very proud of these achievements,” says Thys Louw, chairman of the Durbanville Wine Valley Association. “A highlight for us of course, which makes this performance even more exceptional, is that only seven of our 11 member farms actually make Pinotage.”
Louw, who is also the winemaker at Diemersdal, says an Absa Top 10 Pinotage award must rank as the single most sought-after accolade for Pinotage makers . The Louw family has been making wine on Diemersdal, a 17th century farm, for six generations. Combining the best of the old and the new worlds, with minimum intervention in the cellar to conserve the prominent varietal character in their classic wines, is part of Diemersdal’s winning formula.
“Being part of the best-represented region at the awards this year is certainly remarkable,” Louw says.
“Stylistically, I think Durbanville gives a modern expression to Pinotage – intense red fruit character, velvety tannin structures and balance between fruit and wood,” says winemaker Etienne Louw of Altydgedacht, the historic estate owned by the Parker family – one of the oldest in the country with a cellar dating back to 1705.
“For me, the Altydgedacht 2011 already showed its potential from fermentation – if the picking point was right, then a large part of the battle has been won. And I followed the philosophy of minimum winemaker intervention, which in my cellar usually sees the best wine made.
“From our first Top 10, we’ve seen a quadrupling in Pinotage volume, therefore the value of this competition should not be underestimated.”
According to Durbanville Hills cellarmaster Martin Moore, having three out of ten winners from Durbanville Wine Valley is a compliment to the local producers’ belief in treating Pinotage with a soft touch and avoiding too much wood contact. “We go to great lengths to avoid interfering with what is given to us on a plate.”
In addition, the region’s cool climate makes for a superb Pinotage, he says. “As the Pinot Noir is given expression, the Cinsaut brings volume that leans heavily on the Pinot Noir fruit.”
The specific terroir of the Durbanville Wine Valley, which is situated only some 10km from the cold Atlantic Ocean, features a maritime climate where seasonal mists from the coast and cool breezes from the south east temper potentially high summer temperatures. It is one of the coolest regions in the winelands and enjoys a lengthened ripening period, bringing forth elegant wines. The hills of the region offer a range of cooler and warmer aspects, allowing different varieties to be planted and giving different styles of wine from the same variety.
The Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition was launched in 1997 to increase the awareness of
Pinotage and to encourage wine-making excellence in this South African variety.
In a statement from the organisers, Duimpie Bayly, convenor of the judging panel for this year’s Absa Top 10, says the final line-up represents a range of wines which can hold their own among any of the world’s great reds. “Before judging commenced I made it clear to the other judges that we were not going to limit ourselves by looking for any particular style of Pinotage,” he says. “The goal was to look for red wines that could be described as great in any language due to their elegance, balance and pure presence. During the judging process, consensus was reached that the makers of Pinotage are reaching levels never attained before and the winning 10 wines show that this grape variety can take its place alongside the great reds of any country, anywhere in the world.”
Proud award winners Martin Moore (Durbanville Hills Cellarmaster) with winemakers Wilhelm Coetzee (Durbanville Hills), Etienne Louw (Altydgedacht) and Mari Branders of Diemersdal.
High-resolution images are available on request.