South Africa goes on a terroir

Simply saying a wine is from Australia, South Africa, Argentina, France or wherever doesn't satisfy the true wine lover. Such folks thrive on detail, such as terroir.

That's the characteristics of the dirt and the atmosphere and the topography of where a particular grape is grown, and what the better winemakers wrest from the soil.

The first South African Terroir Wine Awards gives recognition to the importance of such information.

Bon Courage Estate in Robertson, Steenberg Vineyards in Constantia and Bloemendal Estate in Durbanville made history at the first-ever SA terroir event.

Bon Courage entered two wines, and each won a national certificate emblematic of the best in class -- shiraz and fortified dessert wine, in this instance.

Steenberg also received two national certificates, the top red blend and the top merlot.

Bloemendal won only one best in class, the top sauvignon blanc, but it did double duty by receiving the highest score of all the wines entered.

Twelve wines originating from eight different winegrowing areas in South Africa's Cape winelands received national certificates. Only a certified "wine of origin" made from grapes from a specific ward (a smaller area within a district), estate or single vineyard qualified for the competition.

Its organizers say this type of competition is the first of its kind in South Africa and probably the first of its kind in the world.

The 2006 SA Terroir Wine Awards national certificates for the top wine of a specific cultivar were awarded to the Meerendal pinotage 2004 (Durbanville), Hartenberg cabernet sauvignon 2003 (Stellenbosch/Bottelary), Koelfontein chardonnay 2004 (Ceres), Hamilton Russell pinot noir 2004 (Walker Bay), Hildenbrand chenin blanc 2005 (Wellington), Bergsig touriga nacional 2005 (Breedekloof), Bloemendal sauvignon blanc 2005 (Durbanville), Steenberg merlot 2004 (Constantia) and Bon Courage shiraz inkara 2004 (Robertson).

The Steenberg Catharina 2003 (Constantia) received the national certificate for the top red blend, the Bon Courage white muscadel 2005 (Robertson) the national certificate for the top fortified dessert wine and the Lord Neethling weisser riesling noble late harvest 2005 (Stellenbosch, Neethlingshof) the national certificate for the top natural sweet wine.

Most entries were shiraz wines (24), followed by red blends (23), sauvignon blanc (20), pinotage (18), chardonnay (15), cabernet sauvignon (13), merlot (10), chenin blanc (7), fortified dessert wines (7) and natural sweet (4). Two Cap Classique, Colombar and touriga nacional wines were entered and one gew├╝rztraminer, Cape riesling, pinot noir and white blend.

The three wines that received the highest average points were the Bloemendal sauvignon blanc, Avondrood sauvignon blanc 2006 (Goudini) and Steenberg merlot 2004.

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