Verily a great achievement

The crown jewel in the competition line-up of the South African National Wine Show Association (SANWSA), Veritas is in its 29th year, and it attracted 1 491 entries.

It was truly a gala event, one of the most anticipated in a fiercely busy wine industry calendar, MCd with aplomb, by the inimitable Benny Howard.

Spier Wine Estate won best achiever of show in the more than 10 entries class, with a staggering nine double gold and seven gold medals, followed by Simonsig Estate (four double gold and three gold), Nederburg (three double gold and six gold), and Perdeberg Cellar (two double gold). A record number of 29 wineries each received one double gold award and several gold medals.

Spier cellar master, Frans Smit, had a grin on his face a yard wide, when he took to the podium with his team of winemakers and viticulturists to receive the big prize.

Best achiever of show with 10 or fewer entries, went to Orange River Cellars, which should make anybody who drinks wine sit up and take notice. Known for years – rightly or wrongly – as a source of cheap and cheerful wine (producers in the Orange River Valley have been known to crop up to 40 tons a hectare, compared with around seven or eight tons a hectare in Stellenbosch) the region is beginning to produce wines of substance, which still sell at what amount to bargain prices.

The Vertex Award recognises a single wine as the best wine of show. It’s a toughie for me to accept that in a competition with such an enormous variety of entries, a single wine can be adjudged the best, but there you are.

Domaine De Dieux, in the Hemel en Aarde Valley, took home this one, for its Domaine De Dieux Chardonnay 2015, crafted by formidable cellar master, Sharon Parnell. Her daughter, Megan Mullis, took to the podium to accept the award.

Veritas recognises a number of “Living Legends” each year, and this time around, Jan Boland Coetzee, Kiffie de Wet, Hempies du Toit, Johan Rossouw, Kobus Rossouw, Eugene van Zyl and Gyles Webb received “Living Legends” honorary scrolls for their contributions to South African wine and brandy.

We were privileged to be seated with Gyles and Eugene, and Jan Boland and Hempies were at an adjacent table. Even more fun was being at table with Michael Broughton, exec chef at Terroir at Kleine Zalze, and Christophe de Hosse, exec chef at Joostenberg Bistro and The Vines at Glenelly Estate, who respectively created the starter and main for the evening.

The food was sublime, without doubt the best I’ve experienced at Veritas, which is no mean achievement when you’re feeding over 700 people.

A testament to the creators of the dishes, and to CTICC exec chef, Roberto de Carvalho, who aside from creating the dessert, was in the kitchen hard at work, slaving no doubt over the proverbial hot stove, while Michael and Christophe enjoyed the festivities.

Roberto did emerge briefly to take a well deserved bow with Michael and Christophe, to thunderous applause from the assembled company, well fuelled no doubt by the fabulous wines on offer. (Thank heavens for the likes of Uber and Taxify, which allow one to imbibe with no prospect of having to get behind the wheel.)

The totals in the medal stakes were 76 double gold, 198 gold, 219 silver outstanding (a new category for wines scoring 86 to 89 on the 100 point scale), 596 silver and 322 bronze medals, making for a total of 1 411 medals.

Norman McFarlane has been a judge at Veritas since 2015.