Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. The SAWi Awards.

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Grootbos. – This weekend saw Grootbos Private Nature Reserve host the respected SA Wine Index Awards with winemakers, oenologists, viticulturists and lovers of the fruits of our fine vines gather at this wonderful reserve to honour the best.

I was there too. Equipped by SAWi’s Izak Smit and Brett Garner with the knowledge that in the South African Wine Industry, the numbers do indeed add up.

How does it work? Well ’SAWi was born in 2009 in an attempt to bring consumer clarification to all the wine competitions, accolades and voices out there laboring to determine the quality of a wine’. Izak developed an algorithm to determine the competitive level of wines, grouping wines of a similar level together within a category. The number of rating categories is limited to five to ensure the system is simple, easily understood and relatively easy to promote. With about 568 wineries in South Africa this does set a reliable reference point.

As for the location. Well no better place to host an event of this calibre, than one that talks of people, passion and South African pride.

You will know that my love affair with Grootbos is deeply rooted and built on the respect and admiration that I have for the people that run this luxury lodge and its myriad of outstanding activities, all in a precious milkwood forest and nature reserve that overlooks the unspoilt coastline. Not to mention the excellent work being done by the Grootbos Foundation. Its a special place. One where heart, soul and compassion have gone into creating an Overberg retreat that the country can be proud of.

With part of the SAWi group arriving on the Friday, a private dinner was hosted by Peter and Gia Finlayson of Bouchard Finlayson. We were treated to a vertical tasting of his Pinot Noir vintages 1995, 2003, 2007 and 2012, followed by his very best Tete de Cuvee 2010 and 2012. An incredible privilege.

Saturday offered the group a tour of the Grootbos Foundation and the work being done as well as a flower safari in the reserve. This was followed by lunch as the crowds continued to arrive and check into their accommodation. The place was filled to overflowing with all rooms taken in the Forest and Garden Lodge as well as the private Villa.



After an afternoon of leisure we gathered in the dining room at Garden Lodge for a tasting of the winning wines before the presentation of the awards. The room was bursting with the finest wine producers our country has to offer and their nervous anticipation as we waited for the word was palpable. And then the announcements came!



With Izak and Brett talking algorithms.



The above photos are by remarkable Jacques Smit of Pursue the Wolf. Do have a look at his farm worker photographic series.

Award highlights in summary.

Constantia Glen received the SAWi Trophy for Wine Producer of the Year, with Justin van Wyk (Winemaker) and Ettiene Southey (Vineyard Manager) and his team acknowledged as top achievers for 2014.

DeMorgenzon received the 2014 SAWi Trophy for White Wine Producer of the Year.  Kanonkop Estate the 2014 SAWi Red Wine Producer of the Year.

Top scoring wines – 99 points – Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay, Saronsberg Cellar Full Circle, Rijks Private Cellar Pinotage and Kanonkop Estate Paul Sauer

2014 Platinum and Grand Gold Awards – Bouchard Finlayson and Cederberg Private Cellar (trophy winners in 2013) once again won most awards, followed by Groot Constantia Estate, Saronsberg, Constantia Glen, Hamilton Russell Vineyards and Kanonkop Estate, while KWV, De Grendel Wines, Rustenberg Wines and Creation received at least four awards each.

Top Fortified Wines – De Krans Cape Tawny Port (Platinum). KWV Cape Tawny Port (Grand Gold) and Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port (Grand Gold).

Top Brandies – Van Ryn’s 15-year Old Fine Cask Reserve Brandy (Platinum) and 12 year Old Distiller’s Reserve Brandy & Van Ryn’s 15 Year Old Vintage Brandy (Grand Gold). KWV 20-Year Old Brandy and Laborie Alambic Brandy (Platinum).

Wine Legend – Beyers Truter was honored as the SAWi Wine Legend of the Year and joined Hempies du Toit, Jan Boland Coetzee and Peter Finlayson on this honors roll. His contribution to the global profile of South African wines has made Beyers a true pioneer in the South Africa wine industry.

It was a night to behold and I certainly came away with the firm believe that South Africa makes the finest wines. Now to offer the world a tasting.

Read more about the SAWi Awards on the Grootbos blog or on the SA Wine Index website. Needless to say, if you’re planning a similar event or awards ceremony, this is the place to do it.

During previous visits I’ve enjoyed a 4×4 Flower Safaritroglodyte adventures at the caves, whale watching, Foundation honey harvestinghorseriding and quadbikingtaken forest walks through the milkwood trees and spent time at their Growing the Future project. I have stayed at Forest Lodge and Garden Lodge and visited the Villa. From start to finish, from the warm greeting to the sad ‘see you the next time’ goodbyes, its a faultless experience.

I proudly consider myself part of the Grootbos family.

Note: The photos used on top are from the Grootbos gallery.

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