The Merit Wine & Spirit Challenge 2019
Quality entries and numerous value entries

The Merit Wine and Spirit Challenge held its inaugural event this year. Several high-end wines and spirits were entered, and subsequently several super value wines.

The event was run by Celia Gilloway who ensured that everything ran like clockwork. She and her staff made all the logistics seem easy. As convener of judges, Celia did not pull any punches and ensured some of the best wine professionals were invited to sit on the panel of adjudicators.

The need to gain advantage

Big parts of the South African wine industry are feeling the pinch and vintages do not sell out as easily as it did before. Marketing wine and spirit is cutthroat business and positioning your products to gain the upper hand is more difficult than ever. An awarded product is still one of the best ways of differentiating your product from the masses, and makes it stand out on a shelf.

Does the consumer see value in your product?

The Merit Wine and Spirit Challenge awarded Gold Awards to all the outstanding products and Value Awards to wines that are R110 and below on the shelf, and spirits that are R220. Quite a large number of wines achieved both awards and can now proudly wear a double award.


The 2019 Merit Wine & Spirit Tasting Team

The judges were Fiona Mc Donald, Dr Winnie Bowman CWM, Allan Mullins CWM, Dr Caroline Snyman  CWM, Kent Scheermeyer, Barry Scholfield and Jean Vincent Ridon.

Tasting comments

The categories that received the most entries were Pinotage and Chenin blanc, followed by Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet sauvignon. Overall there were a few more white wines entered, compared to red. The Spirit category was dominated by gin, as expected, with a few Rums, including two from Mauritius.

The 2019 Chenin blancs were extremely fresh and lively and showed good fruit expression. This was one of the most consistent categories, proof of a good vintage and good winemaking.

The Sauvignon blanc wines showed a diversity of styles from the slightly asparagus, pea and vegetable side to the extremely tropical. All had vibrant acidity and showed extremely well as a class.

The Pinotage wines showed a change in style away from the meaty over-extracted wines, towards lighter and more fruit expressive wines.

The red blends generally showed well, with the few Cinsaut wines also displaying very good quality and refinement at the price.

The brandies showed very well in their class. The gins as a class showed that it was difficult to find a balance of botanicals that offer refreshing appeal. There were, however, some stunners.

Dr Caroline Snyman CWM

Overall the judges were very pleased with the spectrum of quality wines and spirits entered.

Details about the 2020 The Merit Wine and Spirit Challenge will be announced in the last week of January 2020.