The Top Wine Judging Panels
Top Wine SA seeks consensus among the experts over time and in various forums, showcasing the results of respected panel tastings where the judges aren’t told the names of the wines or where they are from. Reviews by individual critics do not have a bearing on the SA Wine and Cellar Classifications – nor do the results of various questionable wine competitions. For information about the SA wine ratings that count, see below. For examples of those that don’t, click here.
Published by Getaway magazine in February, ‘Best Value Wines’ is the culmination of an annual competition for wines on sale in South Africa at below a stipulated price ceiling. The wines are rated according to a 5 Star system and Value Awards are presented in various categories according to wine types and varieties. For more info click here.
The competition exclusively for the Cape’s Cabernet Franc producers culminates with an awards function in March/April. Of the gold medal winners, the top six are lauded. Silver and bronze medals are also presented. Older wines usually no longer on sale from the producers are judged in a vintage class to gauge development, longevity, and there is also a class for Cab Franc-led blends. For more info click here.
Sponsored by Amorim Cork, the Cap Classique Challenge takes place in September every year. The competition is organised by the Cap Classique Producers Association and awards are presented for the best bottle-fermented sparkling wines produced in South Africa according to the traditional method made famous in Champagne, France. For more info click here.
The annual Port & Wine Challenge is hosted by the Cape Port Producers’ Association in June, focusing on improving the quality of Cape Ports and recognising top examples of the different styles made in South Africa – namely Cape Ruby, Cape Tawny, Cape Vintage, Cape Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), Cape Pink and Cape White Port. For more info click here.
The Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships in London in July attract hundreds of entries to what is the largest competition where a panel of specialist judges focus on bubblies from around the globe. Champagnes of France, Cap Classiques from South Africa, Cavas from Spain, Proseccos from Italy and numerous other sparklers compete for gold and silver medals as well as national and international titles. For more info click here.
The Forum Oenologie’s Chardonnay du Monde competition is held in March every year. The venue: Château des Ravatys, the wine estate of the Pasteur Institute at Saint Lager in the Burgundy wine region of France. The goal: to pick out the best Chardonnay wines of the world while celebrating the diversity of styles, with the winners awarded gold, silver and bronze medals on the basis of their intrinsic quality and the Top 10 gold medallists showcased. For more info click here.
Organised by South Africa’s Chenin Blanc Association, the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge culminates with an awards function in August every year. An objective of the challenge is to help unlock the potential of South Africa’s most widely planted wine grape variety, and the competition winners receive prize money intended “to reinforce the economic and social benefits in the workplace”. For more info click here.
One of the largest wine competitions in the world, the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles culminates with a prize-giving in May every year. The International Union of Oènologists who organise the event are based in Belgium, although the judging has been done in numerous countries over the years and more than 40 nationalities are represented on the tasting panels who determine the medal winners and best wines overall. For more.
Organised by the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles of Belgium and held every year in March at various venues, the competition is geared to promote all wines made from the varietal, including blends made primarily but not exclusively from Sauvignon Blanc. Trophies as well as gold and silver medals awarded. For more info click here.
Britain’s leading consumer wine publication, Decanter conducts various tastings during the year and the annual Decanter World Wine Awards highlighting quality in various price bands are presented in June. A 100-point scoring system is used, with gold medals awarded for ‘outstanding’ (98 to 100/100) or ‘excellent’ (95 to 97/100) quality and silver medals equating to ‘highly recommended’ (90 to 94/100). For more info click here.
The Drinks Business is Britain’s leading publication for the retail and wholesale drinks trade. The various Global Masters competitions involve tasting panels comprising mainly Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers, culminating in the awarding of Master awards (over 95/100), gold medals (91 to 95/100), silver (86 to 90/100) and bronze medals (81 to 85/100). For more info click here.
An international competition for the best sparkling wines in the world, organised by Forum Oenologie and held in November each year at Le Castel Culinary School in Dijon, France. Gold and silver medals awarded, with the Top 10 gold medal winners showcased. For more info click here.
The International Wine & Spirit Competition is the longest-running wine competition in Britain with the results announced in tranches that culminate in a final awards banquet in November. The aim is to award excellence in wines and spirits worldwide by means of authoritative tasting panels as well as technical controls and analysis. Trophies as well as gold, silver and bronze medals awarded. For more info click here.
The biggest wine competition in the world involves over 400 judges including over 40 Masters of Wine as well wine journalists and wine buyers. Medal winners are announced in tranches during the course of the year, with trophy winners announced in May and the top trophies presented at an awards dinner in July. For more info click here.
The results of the annual Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards convened by Lorraine Immelman-Steyn of founding company Lorman Communications, are arrived at by a panel of judges from around the world in awarding trophies and medals including platinum, double gold, gold and silver. The prize-giving is held in September each year. For more info click here.
The Forum Oenologie’s Muscats du Monde competition is held in July every year. The venue: Frontignan-la-Peyrade (Maison Voltaire) in the Languedoc Roussillon region of France. The goal: to reflect the diversity, quality and high standards of the best Muscat wines of the world. Gold and silver medals awarded.
For more info click here.
The Muskadel SA Awards are contested in May every year. Gold medals are presented on the basis of a 20-point scoring system, with platinum awards presented to those gold medallists judged to also have an exceptionally high standard in terms of their labelling and packaging in general. For more info email.
The National Wine Challenge convened by online retailer Buybetterwine.com, incorporating the Top 100 SA Wines Challenge, culminates in April every year. The judges include Masters of Wine (UK) and entries are assessed using a 100-point scale: a score of 91+ is required to be eligible for selection among the ‘Top 100 SA Wines’ on show. For more info click here.
The South African Pinotage Producers Association’s annual Perold Absa Cape Blend Competition is geared towards establishing benchmarks of international quality in respect of red blends comprising between 30% and 70% Pinotage. The event takes place in September/October each year. For more info click here.
The South African Pinotage Producers Association’s Pinotage Rosé Competition was introduced to benchmark and award exceptional wines over and above the single-varietal Pinotages and Cape Blends for which South Africa is famous. The event takes place in October each year. For more info click here.
For a 5 Star rating (95/100 or higher) in the Platter’s guide by Diners Club International published in November, the wines scored 4½ and 5 Stars in the primary assessment by individual critics (labels in sight) are included in a second round of tastings (without sight of the label) by panels of critics. ‘Highly Recommended’ wines in the guide are those scored 94/100 in the panel tastings. For more info click here.
The aim of the Rosé Rocks competition in October/November is to recognize excellence in rosé winemaking and to promote the South African Rosé category. All SA Rosé wines are eligible, from dry to sweet, sparkling and still, with the judges choosing the Top 10 still wines, the Top 3 Cap Classique sparkling wines and the overall winners in each of these categories. For more info click here.
The Novare South African Terroir Wine Awards in July are the brainchild of wine writer and marketer Marius Labuschagne. The competition was created to promote the various types of terroir in the Cape. All entries must be certified as originating from a specific (single) vineyard, estate, ward or small district not divided into wards. For more info click here.
The FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 competition is presented by the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group of South Africa (SBIG). The judges comprise professional tasters and winemakers, with the results (including the Top 10 runners-up) announced in September/October each year. For more information click here.
The organisation representing South African Shiraz producers hosts an annual competition in May/June in which the judges comprise winemakers as well as wine writers/critics and which culminates in the announcement of 12 winning Shiraz wines and three winning Shiraz-led blends. For more info click here.
A taste-off with an October awards function held in Sydney that focuses on many of the finest wines from Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. The event involves six judges (one from each country) scoring a line-up of wines nominated by the judges – in the case of South Africa, entry into the competition is at the invitation of leading SA wine critic Michael Fridjhon, one of the founders of this competition. For more info click here.
Wines judged by a panel comprising members of the South African Sommeliers Association in categories “moulded around those of a wine list”. Winelist awards presented and various recommendations made in terms of ‘wine by the glass’, ‘elegant and classy’ and various taste descriptors. ‘Food appropriateness’ and ‘gastronomical relevance’ also taken into account, with the winelist circulated to restaurants countrywide in July. For more info click here.
The Forum Oenologie’s Syrah du Monde competition is held in May every year at Château d’Ampuis in the village of Ampuis in the northern Rhône Valley, France. The goal: to pick out the best Shiraz/Syrah wines of the world on the basis of their intrinsic quality. Gold, silver and bronze medals awarded. For more info click here.
The South African Pinotage Producers Association’s Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition in August is geared towards establishing benchmarks of international quality in respect of this uniquely South African variety, with the Top 10 runners-up also commended. The event takes place in August/September each year. For more info click here.
The annual Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show is a national competition convened by leading wine critic Michael Fridjhon that recognises South Africa’s top local wines and winemakers. Judging takes place in May at the Grande Roche hotel in Paarl, with the winners of the silver medals, golds and trophies showcased a month later at public and private tastings around the country. For more info click here.
A competition convened by online retailer Buybetterwine.com in search of the best quality wines retailing in South Africa for under R100 a bottle. Double gold, gold and silver medals are awarded in September on the basis of a 100-point value rating system. As per South Africa’s National Wine Challenge, the event is the brainchild of Robin von Holdt. For more info click here.
The SA Wine Show Association’s major competition culminates with the Veritas Awards in October every year. The aim: to recognise wines of exceptional quality, providing connoisseurs with an authoritative guideline. Double gold, gold and other medals awarded, followed by public tastings of the top performers. For more info click here.
The various reports and awards on Winemag.co.za are pitched as category analyses and sometimes involve wines assembled on the basis of competition entries, sometimes on the basis of local and competition laureates, sometimes according to track records and sometimes by invitation only. For more info click here.