Merit Wine and Spirit Challenge 2021
Quality and value offerings across the board
The third Merit Wine and Spirit Challenge took place at the end of September 2021. The jury sat down at the Conference Centre at Klein Joostenberg, Stellenbosch, to adjudicate quality and value entries. The focus of this event is to give the younger generation of wine and spirit consumers a voice. Often wine and spirit panellists are older and not in touch with the preferences of the younger generation.
Millennials do not have the same tastes as their parents, nor did they grow up in an era with limited choices dominated by a few major producers. They are more experimental, not influenced by tradition, and are on the way to becoming an influential, fine-wine consuming generation. That is why the convenor of adjudicators, Celia Gilloway, selected mostly younger panellists. The continued growth of this event is an acknowledgement of the unique features that are filling a need in the South African industry. Several high-end wines and spirits were entered, as well as several value offerings.
Some good news first: The wine and spirit industry has been hoping for this. With declining sales and a love of health and fitness among the younger generation, Generation Z and Millennials are finally drinking more.
The bad news is that this new trend was probably fuelled in part by a global pandemic that has ushered in an era of destruction throughout the economy, including the wine and spirit industry’s portion of it.
It is undoubtedly worth focusing on this demographic shift. Role-players in the wine and spirit industry must make difficult decisions in the coming months during the economic challenges created by the pandemic. The youngest consumers have the longest road ahead. The level of their consumption has consequences that will compound as time goes on.
Younger consumers are more comfortable shopping and interacting online. Making wine and spirit culture more approachable and shareable will be crucial if the industry wants to see this interest grow.
Consumers are driven by both quality and value
The Merit Wine and Spirit Challenge awarded Gold Awards to all the outstanding products and Value Awards to wines R190 and below and spirits at R380 or below. Some products achieved both awards and can now proudly display a double award.
Best Sauvignon blanc, Rosé and Gin on show:
There is a move by younger consumers towards a preference for Sauvignon blanc, Rosé, and Gin. This event put focus specifically on these three categories. Every year, fashion and tastes change, and therefore The Merit Wine and Spirit Challenge will always stay up to date with new trends.
This year the Trophy for the best Rosé / Blanc de noir went to KWV for their 2021 Laborie Rosé.
The Trophy for the best Sauvignon blanc went to Klein Roosboom for their 2021 Jéan Sauvignon blanc.
The Trophy for the best gin went to Time Anchor Distillery for their Mirari Celebration gin.
The wine judges were Jono Le Feuvre, Spencer Fondaumiere and Kerry Alborough.
The spirit judges were Neil Tabraham, Malu Lambert and James Copeland and Georgio Meletiou.
The categories that received the most entries were Sauvignon blanc and Rosé, followed by Shiraz. Overall, there were more white wines entered compared to red. The Spirit category was dominated by gin, as expected, followed by Grappa and Rum.
The Sauvignon blanc wines showed a diversity of styles. The nose of the wines ranged from tinned peas, asparagus to the more exotic and tropical notes. Most of the wine had vibrant acidity and balance. The tasters commented that consumers are becoming more experimental. Where Sauvignon blanc was the go-to wine for wine evenings, younger consumers might try Chenin blanc or other wines they have not tasted before.
Chenin blanc as category seem to continue showing well at tastings. Most of the 2021 wines were packed with freshness and flavour. The wooded examples were well made, with some showing lots of complexity. The tasters generally agreed that price is a huge factor when deciding what wine to buy, and Chenin blanc is a front runner in that category.
All the tasters agreed that the ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) movement is not present among younger consumers anymore.
The tendency towards drier rosé wines with good acidity serves the Rosé / Blanc de noir category well. Many of these wines tend to be on a lighter colour spectrum ranging from a slight blush to salmon. The wines, in general, had good acidity and were invitingly elegant with good balance. Some quality contenders shook up this customarily pedestrian class. When pressed on what colour they preferred for Rosé and Blanc de noir, the panel was divided, with preferences ranging from salmon to darker pink colour.
The Pinotage and Cape Blends did well in general, and the styles seemed to have evolved towards more fruity wines.
The Merlot was consistent, and some of the 2020 wines were fruit bombs. The Shiraz class is showing that South African Shiraz wines are world-class. Most Shiraz wines were well-structured with smoky, leathery tones. There seems to be no obvious move towards Shiraz and Merlot among younger consumers, and they seem to keep the door open to try new things.
The judges scored the brandies very well and were among their favourites for the day. The Vodkas were well balanced with good aromatics.
The Gin class had a mixed bag ranging from mediocre to absolutely sublime. The London Dry gins were clean and juniper forward with a dry finish and were generally very good. Another special mention should go to the pink gins that did very well.
Younger consumers are apparently not brand loyal when it comes to gin, and will experiment and try new brands constantly.
|Barnardt Boyes Wines||Carrol Boyes Sketchbook Sauvignon Blanc||2020||Double Award|
|Barnardt Boyes Wines||Carrol Boyes Sketchbook Chardonnay||2020||Double Award|
|Barnardt Boyes Wines||Dorp St. Sauvignon Blanc||2021||Double Award|
|Craft Link Distillery||Hayward's Vodka||NA||Double Award|
|Craft Link Distillery||Le Fée Verte||NA||Merit Gold|
|Craft Link Distillery||Haywards Dry||NA||Double Award|
|Craft Link Distillery||Ginologist Orient||NA||Merit Gold|
|Craft Link Distillery||Ginologist Citrus Gin||NA||Merit Value|
|Craft Link Distillery||Ginologist Floral Gin||NA||Double Award|
|Craft Link Distillery||Cullinan Gin||NV||Merit Value|
|Craft Link Distillery||Haywards Rose||NA||Double Award|
|Craft Link Distillery||Not Your Average Rum||NA||Merit Value|
|Craft Link Distillery||Occident Rum||NA||Double Award|
|De Wetshof Estate||De Wetshof Estate Limestone Hill||2021||Merit Gold|
|Die Mas van Kakamas||Die Kalahari Truffel Potketelbrandewyn||NA||Double Award|
|Die Mas van Kakamas||Ver In die Ou Kalahari Brandewyn||NA||Double Award|
|Die Mas van Kakamas||Kalahari Dry Gin||NA||Merit Value|
|Die Mas van Kakamas||Kalahari Naartjie Infused Gin||NA||Merit Value|
|Frater Family Wines||Frater Family Wines Chenin blanc Barrique Selection||2019||Merit Gold|
|Frater Family Wines||Frater Family Wines Grenache Rosé||2021||Merit Gold|
|Fynbos Distillery||Jolly Rooster Plain Husk Spirit||NA||Merit Value|
|Fynbos Distillery||Jolly Rooster Purple Haze Gin||NA||Merit Gold|
|Gravel Junction Wine & Spirits||Three Peaks Chardonnay||2021||Double Award|
|Gravel Junction Wine & Spirits||Three Peaks Rosé||2021||Merit Value|
|Gravel Junction Wine & Spirits||Three Peaks Pinotage||2020||Merit Value|
|Gravel Junction Wine & Spirits||Three Peaks Shiraz||2020||Merit Value|
|Gravel Junction Wine & Spirits||Three Peaks Cantata||NV||Merit Value|
|Great Karoo Spirit (Pty) Ltd||Bossieveld Mystique Craft Gin||NA||Merit Value|
|Groote Post Vineyards||Groote Post Pinot Noir Rosé||2021||Double Award|
|Kindred Spirits||Sugarbird Brandy XO||NA||Merit Gold|
|Klein Roosboom Boutique Winery||Klein Roosboom Marné Brut MCC||NV||Merit Gold|
|Klein Roosboom Boutique Winery||Klein Roosboom Jéan Sauvignon Blanc||2021||Double Award|
|Klein Roosboom Boutique Winery||Klein Roosboom Marianna Roos Rosé||2021||Merit Gold|
|KWV||Laborie Rosé||2021||Double Award|
|Le Roux & Fourie Vignerons||Le Roux & Fourie Pinnacle||2015||Merit Gold|
|Massimo's Spiriti Famosi||Massimo's Spiriti Famosi Limone||NV||Double Award|
|Massimo's Spiriti Famosi||Massimo's Spiriti Famosi Zenzero (Ginger)||NV||Merit Value|
|Massimo's Spiriti Famosi||Massimo's Spiriti Famosi Arancia Orange-chocolate liqueur||NV||Double Award|
|Mischa Wines (Pty) Ltd||Mischa La Famille Merlot||2019||Double Award|
|Mischa Wines (Pty) Ltd||Mischa La Famille Cabernet Sauvignon||2019||Merit Gold|
|Montagu Winery||Montagu Winery Chenin blanc||2021||Merit Value|
|Montagu Winery||Montagu Winery Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon||2020||Merit Value|
|Montagu Winery||Montagu Winery Merlot / Ruby Cabernet||2020||Double Award|
|Montagu Winery||Montagu Winery White Muscadel||2021||Double Award|
|Montagu Winery||Montagu Winery Red Muscadel||2020||Double Award|
|Nicholson Smith Agencies||Cybele Classic Gin||NA||Double Award|
|Nicholson Smith Agencies||Cybele Blood Orange Gin||NA||Double Award|
|Niel Joubert Wines||Niel Joubert Chenin Blanc||2021||Merit Value|
|Niel Joubert Wines||Niel Joubert Grüner Veltliner||2021||Double Award|
|Niel Joubert Wines||Niel Joubert Pinotage||2018||Merit Value|
|Niel Joubert Wines||Niel Joubert Cinsault / Grenache Noir||2020||Merit Value|
|Perdeberg Wines||Perdeberg Cellar The Vineyard Collection Chenin Blanc||2021||Merit Gold|
|Perdeberg Wines||Perdeberg Cellar Classic Collection Chenin Blanc||2021||Merit Value|
|Perdeberg Wines||SAAM Chenin Blanc - Fairtrade||2021||Double Award|
|Perdeberg Wines||Perdeberg Cellar The Vineyard Collection Sauvignon Blanc||2021||Double Award|
|Perdeberg Wines||Perdeberg Cellar Classic Collection Sauvignon Blanc||2021||Double Award|
|Perdeberg Wines||Perdeberg Cellar The Vineyard Collection Grenache Blanc||2021||Double Award|
|Perdeberg Wines||Perdeberg Cellar SSR - Soft Smooth White||2021||Double Award|
|Perdeberg Wines||Perdeberg Cellar SSR - Soft Smooth Rosé||2021||Merit Value|
|Perdeberg Wines||SAAM Pinotage - Fairtrade||2020||Merit Value|
|Perdeberg Wines||Perdeberg Pinotage - Fairtrade||2020||Double Award|
|Perdeberg Wines||Perdeberg Cellar The Vineyard Collection Malbec||2020||Double Award|
|Perdeberg Wines||Perdeberg Cellar Classic Collection Merlot||2020||Merit Value|
|Poetic License Distillery ZA||Poetic License Old Tom||NA||Merit Gold|
|Poetic License Distillery ZA||Poetic License Fireside||NA||Merit Gold|
|Republic of Swellendam||Rebel Classic Dry Gin||NA||Double Award|
|Rosendal Wines||Rosendal Sauvignon Blanc||2020||Merit Gold|
|Rosendal Wines||Rosendal Barony Idunn Cinsault||2020||Merit Gold|
|Rosendal Wines||Noble Nomad He Stole My Horse Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon||2019||Merit Gold|
|Silkbush Mountain Vineyards||Silkbush Chenin blanc||2021||Merit Gold|
|Silkbush Mountain Vineyards||Silkbush Rosé||2021||Double Award|
|Silkbush Mountain Vineyards||Silkbush Pinotage||2020||Double Award|
|Silkbush Mountain Vineyards||Silkbush Hillside Red||2018||Double Award|
|Summerhill Wines||Summerhill Wines Chenin Blanc||2021||Double Award|
|Summerhill Wines||Summerhill Wines Merlot||2019||Double Award|
|Time Anchor Distillery||Mirari Celebration Gin||NA||Merit Gold|
|Time Anchor Distillery||Mirari Pink Damask Rose Gin||NA||Merit Value|
|Tulbagh Winery||Groot Tulbagh Cabernet Sauvignon||2015||Double Award|
|United Nations of Wine Incorporated||Frisky Zebras Game Ranger Reserve Chenin Blanc||NV||Merit Value|
|United Nations of Wine Incorporated||Frisky Zebras Game Ranger Reserve Sensuous Sauvignon Blanc||NV||Merit Value|
|United Nations of Wine Incorporated||Frisky Zebras Game Ranger Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon||NV||Merit Value|
|Upland Organic Estate||StuckiKaap||2021||Merit Gold|
|Van Loveren Family Vineyards||Van Loveren Sauvignon Blanc||2021||Double Award|
|Van Loveren Family Vineyards||Van Loveren Daydream||2021||Double Award|
|Van Loveren Family Vineyards||Van Loveren Cabernet Sauvignon||2019||Double Award|
|Vigne d'Or||Vigne d' Or Cabernet Franc||2020||Merit Gold|
|Vigne d'Or||Vigne d' Or Shiraz||2020||Merit Gold|
|Vin de Classique International||Charmé Cabernet Sauvignon||2018||Double Award|
Overall, the judges were pleased with the spectrum of quality wines and spirits entered. The Merit Wine and Spirit Challenge 2022 details will be announced in the last week of January 2022.
We are thankful to our partners who helped to make this event possible:
For all enquiries, visit https://themeritchallenge.com, or email email@example.com