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Viticulture & Oenology News South Africa

Top South African wines shine at 2024 National Wine Challenge

The results for the 2024 National Wine Challenge (NWC) have been announced, celebrating the finest wines South Africa has to offer. This year’s competition saw a diverse range of entries, reflecting the high quality and variety of SA wines.

Robin von Holdt, NWC founder, notes the continued excellence and international recognition of South African wines, stating, "These are fantastic wines! The rewards of working with the talented individuals and teams who are at the forefront of our brilliant local wine industry are tremendously uplifting."
Source: Kym Ellis via
Source: Kym Ellis via Unsplash

White wines

White wines scored a total of 31 podium wins, with Chardonnay leading with 15 awards. Notable mentions include:

• Chardonnay: Dominated with 15 awards.
• Chenin Blanc: Maintained its performance with 6 wins.
• White Blends: Also secured 6 awards.
• Sauvignon Blanc: Underperformed with only 2 wins.

Regions with the most wins included Elgin (8), Paarl (5), and Worcester (5). The highest-scoring white wines were dominated by Chardonnay, followed by Other White Blends and Chenin Blanc.

Red wines

The red wine category performed exceptionally well with 58 winning wines. Highlights include:

• Shiraz: Leading with 16 awards.
• Bordeaux Blends: Secured 11 wins.
• Other Red Blends: Earned 7 awards.
• Cabernet Sauvignon: Achieved 6 wins.

Stellenbosch led the regions with 14 wins, followed by Paarl (9) and Robertson (6). The top red wines included strong showings from Other Red Blends, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

MCC and sparkling wines

The MCC and Sparkling Wines category had a successful year with 8 awards. Robertson excelled with 6 wins, while Stellenbosch and Worcester each secured one award.

Natural sweet and fortified wines

• Natural Sweet Wines: Only one win from Elgin.
• Fortified Wines: Enjoyed 5 awards, with Worcester gaining 3 wins and Robertson 2 wins.
• Port Style Wines: Three awards, all from Calitzdorp.

Top vintages

• White Wines: Vintage 2023 led with 16 wins.
• Red Wines: Vintage 2021 was most successful with 23 awards.
• MCC Wines: Vintages 2017 and 2018 each gained 2 awards.

Top wines by scores

Highest 15 scores for white wines (Including MCC, Sweet, and Rosé):

• Two Elgin Chardonnays
• Two Stellenbosch MCCs
• Two Worcester White Fortified
• One Worcester Chardonnay
• One Constantia Chardonnay
• One Worcester Chenin Blanc
• One Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc
• One Worcester MCC
• One Constantia Other White Blend
• One Paarl Other White Blend
• One Franschhoek Semillon
• One Constantia Sauvignon Blanc

Highest 12 scores for red wines (Including fortified and port):

• Two Worcester Red Blends
• One Constantia Bordeaux Blend
• One Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon
• One Worcester Red Fortified
• One Constantia Merlot
• One Robertson Merlot
• One Stellenbosch Red Blend
• One Paarl Cabernet Franc
• One Cape South Coast Cabernet Franc
• One Elgin Pinot Noir
• One Tulbagh Shiraz

Statistics and ratio of entries, to wins

Red wines accounted for 50% of total entries, a small decrease from 2023. White wines represented 34% of total entries, a slight increase from last year. Rosé wines accounted for just 1% of all entries, a significant drop. MCC entries increased again, totaling 8% of all entries. The sweet/fortified/port category grew slightly to 6% of all entries in 2024.

"Firstly, we look at the percentage of winners by category, against all wines entered: Just over 10% of the high-quality red wine entries in 2024 gained Top 100 status this year, representing a small increase. White wine Top 100 winners enjoyed a higher winning ratio than in 2023, achieving a success ratio close to 5.5%. 1.4% of MCC entries enjoyed winning Top 100 status, identical to 2023. 1.6% of the Sweet, Fortified, and Port wines were awarded Top 100 status, a solid increase from 2023.

"Secondly, we looked at the Top 100 winning wines by cultivar or blend. These are expressed as a percentage of total entries for that cultivar or blend, from highest to lowest performing:

• 29% for Bordeaux Red Blends
• 27.5% for Shiraz
• 27% for Other White Blends
• 25% for Chardonnay
• 23% for Other Red Cultivars
• 21% for Merlot
• 20.5% for Other Red Blends
• 17% for Cabernet Sauvignon
• 14% for Pinot Noir
• 12.5% for Red Rhone Blends and Other White Cultivars
• 11% for Chenin Blanc
• 9% for Pinotage
• 7% for Cape Blends
• 4.5% for Sauvignon Blanc

"It was Bordeaux Red Blends, Shiraz, Other White Blends, and Chardonnay that enjoyed the highest ratio of successes to wines entered," says von Holdt. "Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Cape Blends, and Sauvignon had the lowest ratio of winning wines from the total of wines entered.

"On the global platform, critics and commentators maintain strong support for South Africa's fine wine whose quality is now a well-fought-for given. There are several positive facts of which to be proud: Vineyard practices that include more accurate planting, better clonal selection, canopy management, sustainable viticulture, and harvesting skills are all much improved," says von Holdt.

"Better cellar protocol means hygiene factors, sensitive pressing and extraction, smaller tanks to tie in with vineyard selections, better barrel selection, and much more all add to positive differences.

"Altogether, the result fine wines have a more influential tailwind via these numerous fine-tuning upgrades. At their best, top-winning wines offer a harmonious balance of elegance, structure, and complexity. These are the attributes of great wines. Our best wines do justice to these.

"Tough economic times continue in much of what comes across as a very stressed world right now. This is mirrored in South Africa today. The South African wine industry remains enthusiastically committed to making better wines and doing so with hard work and exceptionally long hours. Our wine industry culture is humorously resilient, a feature of ‘how we do things’.

"In 2024, it is true to now say our local fine wines can be talked up. They are indeed really very good. The 2024 Top 100 portfolio of winning wines is even more so. They deserve your full support and places on your table and in your cellar too. Every last one of them is going to offer immense enjoyment!

"The strong set of 2024 results showcases a diverse portfolio of fine South African wines. It is very difficult to win a Top 100 podium award. This is the toughest nut to crack, as winemakers attest. New vineyards and new wines again entered into the 2024 NWC for the first time. Altogether it is just that much harder to achieve the recognition that this very special award commands.

"The performance of the panels, the quality of judges, and the rigorous disciplines and protocols behind it all, underpinned by the independent audit, set the professional standard."

"We offer our thanks to all of our numerous supporters. Special congratulations, of course, go to all 2024 winners.”

Top 100 Winners 2024

Significant winners of the Double Platinum/Top 100 awards include:

• Alvis Drift Private Cellar: 10 awards
• Van Loveren Family Vineyards: 7 awards
• Groot Constantia: 6 awards
• Fairview Wines: 5 awards
• Paul Cluver Wines: 5 awards

Other notable winners include Graham Beck, Saronsberg Cellars, Villiera Wines, Boplaas Landgoed, and De Wet Cellar.

Winner testimonials

Almenkerk: Joris van Almenkerk praised the meticulous efforts behind their Merlot 2022, attributing success to canopy management and winemaking precision.

Constantia Uitsig: Estian de Wet expressed pride in their Sauvignon Blanc winning Grand Cru – Best in Class and their Estate Red securing a Double Gold award.

De Krans: Christoff de Wet highlighted the flavours in their award-winning Tawny Port and Tritonia Verdelho 2022, emphasizing the harmonious blend of flavours.

Groot Constantia: CEO Jean Naude and Winemaker Daniel Keulder both celebrated the consistency and quality of their wines, reflecting the estate’s rich heritage and dedication.

Jordan Wine Estate: Sjaak Nelson attributed their success to the detailed attention in the cellar and unique vineyard situation, celebrating multiple awards.

The 2024 NWC results underscore the exceptional quality and diversity of South African wines. As von Holdt states, "It is celebration time both for winners as well as for consumers." The awards not only enhance the wineries' reputation but also provide consumers with a selection of some of the finest wines available.

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