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  • Two South Africa wines have recently been judged among the best in the world.
  • If you'd like to sample the award-winning varietals, though, you may have better luck trying in Europe.
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South Africa’s Groot Constantia wine estate has, once again, been named be among the best white wine producers in the world – at least as far as high-profile awards ceremonies go.

According to the International Wine Challenge (IWC), the estate’s 2019 Sauvignon Blanc was the world’s best; in November it handed this vintage from Groot Constantia its International Sauvignon Blanc Trophy.

In winning the award, Groot Constantia has also managed to break a stronghold on the Sauvignon Blanc award held by France and New Zealand; it’s the first time in a decade that either the Loire or New Zealand haven’t won this section at the IWC.

In total, South Africa had two wines listed among the “30 Best Wines in the World” at this year’s IWC, with Boschendal’s Elgin Chardonnay 2018 making the cut and also winning the South African White Trophy. 

DeMorgenzon’s Reserve Chenin Blanc and Maestro White also picked up regional trophies at the IWC.

The IWC is now in its 38th year, and is regarded by many as one of the more prestigious wine competitions in the world. As far as wine competitions go, it’s also impartial: judges assess the wines blind, and each winning wine is tasted on three separate occasions by two panels of judges. The result is then further verified by two co-chairs. In total, by the time a wine wins one of the IWC’s medals, it's been tasted by at least eight judges.

As with most wine competitions, though, winning a “best in the world” award is a bit of a misnomer. A more appropriate title would be the "best wine amongst those estates who cared to enter". In the case of IWC, this entry process attracts a fairly significant fee of at least R2,700. Include a few added extras like entry into the “Discovery Tasting” section, and international shipping with preferred partners, and you’re looking at more than R5,000 to enter a single bottle into the competition.

But winning can have marked positive spinoffs for an estate. IWC says awards such as these are known to open new doors for international distribution, and with the right marketing noise behind them, they can also drive sales and visits to estates.

When Groot Constantia won best chardonnay in the world at the Chardonnay du Monde competition in 2015, then marketing manager Grant Newton said the award put the estate "back on many international travellers’ bucket lists of ‘must visit attractions’."

Groot Constantia Winemaker Boela Gerber said in a press release that the estate is “very excited about the IWC trophies” for the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc. 

“The Constantia Valley has always produced beautiful Sauvignons and we put a lot of effort into these vineyards," Gerber said. "It is a great award for all our efforts."

Groot Constantia is South Africa’s oldest wine farm, and claims to be one of the oldest brands in the world.

“History tends to repeat itself,” Jean Naudé, CEO of Groot Constantia, said. “Over the 335 years that this farm has produced wines they have continued to garner respect throughout the world and bring home top accolades. The 2019 Sauvignon Blanc is part of that legacy.”

Naudé says the achievement is the result hard work over many years.

“It is the same discipline by which the Chardonnay 2013 was produced to achieve a similar award at Chardonnay de Monde in 2015. The same discipline resulted in us having nine wines on the list of Top 100 Wines in South-Africa in 2020. We are extremely grateful for this as it comes at a difficult time for the South African Wine industry, and we hope that this will bring more international focus to the general high quality of South African wine”.

Want to taste the winners?

Getting your hands on these award winning wines is likely to be difficult, if not impossible, however - particularly if you live in South Africa.

Groot Constantia says its 2019 Sauvignon Blanc is already sold out at the estate and in local retailers - but that their 2020 vintage, which costs R174 from the cellar door or on the Groot Constantia website, is widely available and “promises the same winning flavour profile as its predecessor”.

Wine drinkers in the United Kingdom may have better luck securing a bottle of the 2019 vintage, though they’ll pay quite a bit more. The Drink Shop is selling a bottle for R280, with stock arriving soon, and Hard to Find Wines has stock at R350 a bottle.

Cases of Boschendal’s Elgin Chardonnay are currently for sale on the Boschendal website for R2,070, a unit price of R345 - although it’s not clear if this is the award winning vintage. 

The exact award winning vintage is widely available throughout Europe, with prices varying between R460 at Hans-Werner Andreae in Germany, up to R700 a bottle at Martinez Wines in the United Kingdom.

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