The Natalia Wine Society from the Midlands in KwaZulu-Natal walked away with the blending glory when they were announced the winners of Blaauwklippen Blending Competition, beating 90 other blends!
This blending competition, celebrating 30 years of bringing the wine industry closer to the consumer through this fun, yet informative blending of wine, was in a sense way ahead of its time. For 30 years it has focussed on the consumer by demystifying wine and taking the ‘rules’ out of wine to make it accessible and creating friendships that lasted for years and years.
For 2013, entrants received a selection of four barrel matured wines, Merlot 2012, Malbec 2011, Cabernet Franc 2011 and Shiraz 2010. All four these wines had to be used in creating the submitted blend and the Shiraz component had to be limited to a maximum of 20% of the total blend. The challenge to the clubs was to produce a complex, serious dry red blend with a subtle tannin structure and a good balance – a wine with finesse and freshness which can be enjoyed soon, but also allows potential for cellaring.
After the clubs had determined the ideal percentage of blending components to create their final wine, the blends were tasted by a panel of wine judges to determine the final four. The triumphant wine was a sophisticated blend of 28% Merlot, 32% Malbec, 22% Cabernet Franc and 18% Shiraz.
The Natalia Wine Society was formed some thirty years ago by a group of friends and colleagues, and is named after the Province of Natal, now of KwaZulu-Natal. The membership is fixed at 28, determined by the number of tastings from a bottle of wine. The club meets each month in the evenings, with tastings provided by distributors and cellars, enabling members to sample wine varieties, followed by a small supper, catered in turn by members.
According to the club’s spokesperson, Laurence Davies, the objective of the society is to “encourage an awareness of wine, to offer members the opportunity of learning about and appreciating wine and to provide a forum for social interaction among members, producers and purveyors of wine”.
The annual Blaauwklippen Blending Competition is one of the highlights of the club’s calendar, and they have taken part since its inception, being selected for the semi-finals four times and winning the competition in 2004.
This unique competition is the only wine contest in South Africa where amateur wine clubs are given the opportunity to submit their own blends for judging by a panel of professional wine experts. Prizes include wine from Blaauwklippen and glassware from Vitria, who has been a sponsor of this competition since its inception in 1984.
Finalist clubs are treated to a fun filled and informative weekend in the winelands, courtesy of the Protea Hotel Stellenbosch, and every finalist club is treated to a personal visit and exclusive wine tasting by Rolf Zeitvogel, Blaauwklippen’s Cellar Master. The winning club gets the honour of having their blend bottled under the Blaauwklippen Barouche label and sold commercially. The label for the winning blend is based on a specially designed artwork by well-known Stellenbosch artist, Frans Groenewald. The wine is sold in Magnum bottles from selected retail outlets, the wine centre on the farm and online through www.blaauwklippen.com at R144 per bottle.
In the final round of the battle of the blends the Natalia Wine Society was up against:
- Winemag.co.za Wine Club from the Western Cape, the club was formed in 2013 and this is their first entry into the Blending Competition.
Blaauwklippen introduced an additional award in 2008, the Newcomer Trophy. This trophy goes to the highest scoring wine of a wine club which has never entered the competition before. The honours went to Winemag.co.za, as well as the additional honour of being the top scoring media wine club. To celebrate 30 years of blending, Blaauwklippen invited wine media to enter and a special award was created for the highest scoring entry.
- Oude Molen Wynkring from Potchefstroom in the North-West Province. This club started 35 years ago when colleagues from the former Potchefstroom University, now North-West University decided to get together on a regular basis to taste wine. The club has 20 members and only meets six times a year, usually at one of the member’s houses. They have been participating in the Blaauwklippen Blending Competition since its inception 30 years ago and they have won the competition twice, in 2003 and 2005.
- Web Wine Society from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. Their name actually came about by using the first letter of the Society’s founding members: Worthington, Embery and Bennett and was started eight years ago. The club is made up of five couples and they meet once a month. This is their third entry into the competition and the second time of reaching the finals.
“Blaauwklippen aims to give South African wine enthusiasts a real life taste of the wine industry, as well as a chance to become involved in the process of wine selection first hand. This competition has become an institution on wine club calendars and definitely gives the clubs something to look forward to each year,” says Rolf Zeitvogel, Blaauwklippen Cellar Master and convenor of the judging panel.
“The number of entries and repeat entries underscores the popularity of this competition and the role it has on the wine club calendar. We received three international entries from Australia, Belgium and Namibia. Rolf’s panel of judges this year consisted of Albert Basson (Blaauwklippen assistant winemaker), Clive Torr (Cape Wine Master and winemaker), Samarie Smith (wine judge and journalist), Jonathan Snashall (journalist), and Elona Hesseling (wine judge and journalist).
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