2023 South African Wine Judging – deliberations from our judges

Wine news

Thu 3 Aug 2023

By Kristen Dougall

This week a selection of IWSC’s international judges have joined forces with local judges in Stellenbosch to judge South African wines in situ. We caught up with the judges live from the tasting room, to get a sneak peek into the highlights from the flights of wines tasted so far.

With over 560 wines to judge in South Africa, our judges have been spoilt by the array of wine styles, and vast number of grape varieties entered this year. This year’s judging team is comprised of Maggie Macpherson, Colin Thorne, Samantha Glanfield, Sophia Longhi and Luke Harbor. All judging panels are overseen by IWSC’s Wine Judging Committee member, Dirceu Vianna Junior MW.

Diving into the white wines judged so far, our judges have been pleasantly surprised by the flights of Sauvignon Blanc tasted. South African producers have presented a broad range of styles for our judges. Judges praised the gastronomic style of the wines, with great texture and less prominence given to the often-popular green style of this variety.

Chenin Blanc was another white variety that delighted our judges, the flights showed great consistency and exciting and diverse characteristics. One medal-winning Chenin had our judges praising its “opulent palate of crystalline pineapple, roasted nuts and burnt sugar”. Whereas another medal-winner was more reminiscent of Loire Chenin, with its “flinty nose, wet river pebbles and minerality on the palate”.

Moving to the red grape varieties, flights of Cinsault and Cabernet Franc were noted as a mixed bag by our judges, however two excellent silver medal-winning wines were the highlight of the day for one panel. The wines demonstrated lighter styles of winemaking with judicious use of oak not overpowering the bright, crunchy fruit characteristics. Our judges commented that they were “looking forward to finding out the producers of these two wines”. All will be revealed on Monday 7 August when our full results are released.

The grape variety that has most impressed our judges this year is Shiraz. The purity of fruit and herbal complexity has given these wines the edge, warranting many medals in return. Our judges have praised the “thoughtful winemaking”, and the cooler sites really stood out with their pronounced black pepper aromas.

And of course, we can’t talk about wine from South Africa without mentioning South Africa’s indigenous grape, Pinotage. The flights of Pinotage really impressed our judges. It was clear to see the modern winemaking approach that focused on good-quality grape growing producing high-quality wines, with bright fruit characteristics shining through.

The IWSC’s 2023 South African Wine Results will be available from 7 August 2023.