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Guide to Wine Awards: How They Work and Which Ones To Follow

Explore the world of wine awards, including different judging methodologies like blind tasting. Also, learn about Alvi's Drift's top wine awards of 2023.

We’ve all experienced that moment of standing before a shelf brimming with wines, pondering over which bottle to choose. Often, the choice comes down to the number of gold or silver labels adorning a bottle, as wine awards can significantly influence our purchasing decisions.

But sometimes the plethora of wine awards, each with its unique judging standards and considerations, can make understanding them a rather bewildering task!

This is where organisations like SAWI (South African Wine Index) can be a real lifesaver. SAWI's The Definitive Fine Wine Guide doesn't just spotlight outstanding South African wines; it also enables enthusiasts to discover which varieties consistently excel across different regions and unique terroirs throughout SA.

Truly, the South African Wine Index serves as an essential resource for any wine aficionado who values quality and seeks to deepen their knowledge of South Africa's finest wines.

So, without further ado, let’s take a deep dive into the fascinating world of wine awards, and explore some of Alvi’s Drift’s favourite local and international wine competitions.

Blind Tasting: The Judging Methodology That Eliminates Bias

Situated in a cooler pocket of a warm wine-producing region, Alvi’s Drift prefers entering wines into competitions where wine entries are tasted blind.

The reason? This judging methodology eliminates all bias in an industry where preconceptions about wines’ growing regions might create a perception of the wine, before it has even been tasted.

Wine Competitions’ Judging Criteria: What Aspects Are Considered?

When it comes to wine awards, understanding the judging criteria is key to knowing what all those little stickers on a wine bottle truly represent.

Competitions often start with judges considering the wine's appearance, assessing its clarity and hue. The wine’s aroma then takes centre stage, with judges identifying a range of scents.

Tasting the wine weighs its sweetness, acidity, tannins, alcohol, as well as its “finish”against the competition’s target criteria. The wine’s overall impression holds weight too, considering its complexity and ageing potential.

Alvi's Drift 2023 Awards Overview

"Spain’s Ribera del Duero region produces some of the world's finest red wines. To have our wines score so impressively in a Spanish wine competition fills me with pride. It’s an affirmation of the hard work from our vineyards, to the cellar and beyond." - Alvi van der Merwe

2023 was a stellar awards year for our winery. At the Catavinum World Wine & Spirits Competition: Spain, wines from our Flagship, Reserve, Sparkling, and Albertus Viljoen ranges were awarded a total of 19 awards for our winery, including 5 Great Gold awards!

Closer to home, our local NWC SA Top 100 Wine Awards recognised Alvi’s Drift with no less than 25 awards, including eight sought-after Double Platinum Top 100 SA Wine Awards, two Grand Cru National Champion Best in Class awards and the coveted Special Vineyard Consistency Award. The latter makes us especially proud, as it acknowledges Alvi’s Drift for consistently producing excellent, award-winning wines.

Alvi’s Drift Wines Crowned in Three SA Specialised Wine Competitions

Another feather in our cap is that three of our wines came out tops in local Specialised Wine Competitions this year.

Our Reserve Sauvignon Blanc won a well-deserved Gold award at the Concours Mondial du Sauvignon Blanc 2023 Awards, hosted by Sauvignon Blanc SA. This competition evaluates Sauvignon Blancs from around the world, not just South Africa, so it is a great honour for our winery indeed.

Another 2023 Alvi’s Drift standout achievement is that our Albertus Viljoen Chenin Blanc was among the 10 winners in the 2023 Standard Bank Top 10 Chenin Challenge.

Finally, one of our proudest 2023 achievements was when our Flagship Verreaux Pinotage was honoured with the coveted Pinotage Trophy at this year’s 27th Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards.

Some Of Our Favourite Local and International Wine Competitions

Michelangelo International Wine & Spirit Awards

A South African competition judged by a panel of international judges, the Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards was established in 1997 to offer South African producers the opportunity of having their wines adjudicated locally by a highly experienced and respected panel of professional wine experts from around the globe.

Our 2023 Michelangelo winners are:

  • 2023 Pinotage Trophy: Alvi’s Drift Verreaux Pinotage.
  • Double Gold: Alvi’s Drift 221 Chenin Blanc, Alvi’s Drift Albertus Viljoen Chardonnay, Alvi’s Drift Albertus Viljoen Chenin Blanc, Alvi’s Drift Signature Chenin Blanc.
  • Gold: Alvi’s Drift 221 Special Cuvée, Alvi’s Drift Albertus Viljoen Bismarck (Red Blend), Alvi’s Drift Reserve Chardonnay, Alvi’s Drift Signature Merlot, Alvi’s Drift Reserve CVC (White Blend), Alvi’s Drift Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.
Alvi’s Drift Verreaux Pinotage was awarded the 2023 Pinotage Trophy at the 2023 Michelangelo Awards and Great Gold (97 points) at the 2023 Catavinum International Wine Awards: Spain.

Catavinum International Wine Awards: Spain

The Catavinum Wine Awards: Spain is a prestigious international wine competition with the stated objective of promoting the production of quality wines and spirits, and “to contribute to the expansion of a culture of appreciation for high-quality wine and spirits”.

Our 2023 Catavinum International Wine Awards: Spain winners include:

The Veritas Awards

A long-standing local wine competition since 1991, the esteemed Veritas Awards celebrate top South African wines and brandies. Each September, over 120 expert judges from around the world convene in the Cape's picturesque winelands to evaluate a diverse range of entries. To ensure impartiality, tasting sessions are conducted blind, with panels of seven judges sampling sets of 10 wines or brandies at a time.

Our winery’s 2023 Veritas awards included four Gold and three Double Gold medals.

Our 2023 Double Gold Veritas winners are:

  • Alvi's Drift Sparkling Brut Cap Classique
  • Alvi's Drift Reserve Muscat Nectarinia
  • Alvi's Drift Signature Chenin Blanc
Alvi's Drift Sparkling Brut Cap Classique was a 2023 Veritas Double Gold winner.

National Wine Challenge (NWC) SA Top 100

The National Wine Challenge (NWC) is one of South Africa's premier wine contests, renowned for its impartial and expert judging. Their esteemed panels, featuring Master of Wines (MWs), global connoisseurs, Cape Wine Masters (CWMs), and seasoned winemakers, evaluate each wine “blind” to ensure fairness and eliminate bias. After each tasting session, the panel engages in a thorough discussion to calibrate scores and record results. The standout wine from each category is honoured with the prestigious Grand Cru first-place award.

In 2023, our winery was honoured with a total of 25 awards at the NWC Top 100 SA Wine Awards. Counting among them are eight sought-after Double Platinum Top 100 SA Wine Awards and two Grand Cru National Champion Best in Class, for our flagship Verreaux Pinotage and our popular Reserve Drift Fusion red blend.

Lumo Awards

Formerly known as the SA Women’s Wine & Spirit Awards, the Lumo Awards, known for an “unwavering dedication to commending distinctive excellence”, aim to identify the finest wines and spirits crafted in South Africa. Entries are judged solely on quality by an all-female panel of wine experts. To ensure unbiased evaluations, the tasting procedure is audited for impartiality and conducted blind to meet international standards.

In 2023, a total of 16 Alvi’s Drift wines were honoured with this wonderful award.

Our Double Gold Lumo Award winners are our Reserve Muscat Nectarinia and Albertus Viljoen Chardonnay.

Our 14 Gold Lumo Award winners of 2023 are:

  • Alvi’s Drift Sparkling Brut Rosé
  • Albertus Viljoen Chenin Blanc
  • Reserve Chardonnay
  • Reserve Sauvignon Blanc
  • 221 Sauvignon Blanc
  • Signature Sauvignon Blanc
  • Signature Viognier
  • Reserve CVC White Blend
  • Verreaux Pinotage
  • 221 Pinotage
  • Signature Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Signature Shiraz
  • Reserve Drift Fusion
  • 221 Special Cuvée Red Blend

Tim Atkin’s South Africa Special Report

Of course, no article on SA wine awards would be complete without a mention of world-renowned UK Wine Master Tim Atkin’s South Africa Special Report. Atkin, an award-winning wine writer and Master of Wine with 38 years’ experience, annually releases his Special Report to highlight the finest wines from various countries.

This year, three of our wines were honoured in his prestigious South Africa 2023 Special Report. Our 2021 Albertus Viljoen Chardonnay received a score of 91 points from the celebrated wine expert, while Atkin scored both our 2021 Albertus Viljoen Chenin Blanc and 2021 Reserve Chardonnay 90 points.

Our 2021 Albertus Viljoen Chardonnay received a score of 91 points from Tim Atkins, while Atkin scored our 2021 Albertus Viljoen Chenin Blanc 90 points.

A Toast to the Passion Poured Into Crafting Award-Winning Wines

Wine competitions not only celebrate outstanding wines. They also offer a lens into the art and science of winemaking, recognising the dedication, passion, and skills of expert winemakers and their teams.

As we raise a toast to superb wines and dedicated winemakers around the globe, let's remember that each bottle of wine comes with a story of labour, sacrifice and perseverance.

Cheers to exploring, savouring, and celebrating the finest of wines!

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