A Letter from our Cellar Master, Charles Hopkins
As 2019 draws to a close, we look back on an exceptional year for De Grendel, certainly one of my best ever in 32 years of winemaking, with a string of great accolades and outstanding ratings that were crowned with our first Platter’s five-star rating.
And we’re holding our breath for the end of November when the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) in the UK announces the winners of the industry’s global “Oscars”. In another first for De Grendel, we are one of four wineries shortlisted for the World’s Best White Wine Producer trophy.
It takes a team effort – from pruning the vines through to signing the cheques – to maintain the kind of consistent quality that achieves consistently excellent results across numerous guides, reports and competitions. Nurturing and growing the team at De Grendel is one of the most rewarding aspects of the privilege I have to be a winemaker, and so my heartfelt thanks go out to every single one of the team, as well as to the loyal patrons who reward our efforts by loving, and buying, our wines.
Our five-starred Elim Shiraz 2017 is a wine close to my heart. Coming from vineyards planted in an area I identified more than 20 years ago for its potential to produce Shiraz, with intense peppery flavours, it is a personal favourite of mine. This year, in only its second vintage, the Elim Shiraz 2017 was rated the Best Wine Overall in the winemag.co.za Shiraz Report, with an outstanding 95 points, and then the absolute highlight – those five stars in the 2020 Platter’s South African Wine Guide launched in November.
Meanwhile, our De Grendel Shiraz 2017, made from selected Firgrove and Paarl vineyards, has shown wonderful consistency this year, with a rating of 4.5 stars (94 points) in the 2020 Platter’s and scoring extremely well in no less than five competitions. The best of these was a Gold medal, with a score of 97, from the International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) in London, considered the most prestigious competition of its kind in the world.
The wine also achieved Gold at the Michelangelo and Veritas Awards, a Top 20 place (92 points) in the winemag.co.za Shiraz Report, and was a Top 20 finalist in the Shiraz SA Challenge.
A consistently excellent track record earned De Grendel Shiraz a place in South Africa’s Top 100 Most Highly Rated Wines in the 2019 SA Wine & Cellar Classification, based on performance across at least three vintages of the past 10 years and consensus of judging panels in local and international competitions.
The Op Die Berg vineyards in the Witzenberg Mountains, Ceres
Our vineyards in Ceres are coming of age now and really showing the true potential of their cool, altitudinous continental climate of warmer days and cold nights, with Op Die Berg Chardonnay 2018 also now achieving great consistency: Gold in the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards, IWSC Gold (96 points), Veritas Double Gold, Michelangelo Gold, 94 points in Tim Atkin’s SA Special Report and 4.5 stars (93 points) in Platter’s 2020 and 95 points in the winemag.co.za Prescient Chardonnay Report being crowned the Top Performer.
From the same area, Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2017 was rated Best Wine Overall in the winemag.co.za Tonnellerie Saint Martin Pinot Noir Report with 94 points (the third of our wines this year to come out tops in the magazine’s cultivar reports) and also achieved 4.5 stars in Platter’s 2020.
Koetshuis Sauvignon Blanc 2019 has done well too, a winner in the FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 and achieving 91 points in the Tim Atkin report, while De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc 2019 earned 90 points from Atkin and a Michelangelo Gold.
Bearing in mind that we started making Pinotage only three years ago, we were thrilled with a Michelangelo Double Gold for the 2017 Amandelboord Pinotage.
To top it all, the outstanding 2015 vintage of our widely loved luscious and opulent Rubaiyat red blend is having its best year ever, building on Double Gold and SA Wine of the Year in the 2018 China Wine and Spirits Awards. This year, the wine has achieved Gold from the international jury of the Mundus Vini, Gold at both the Michelangelo and Veritas awards, 92 points in the Tim Atkin report and 4.5 stars in the Platter’s 2020 guide.
I’m also extremely proud of my colleague, head chef Ian Bergh, and his team at De Grendel Restaurant, recognised recently with a TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award as one of the Top 10 Fine Dining Restaurants not only in South Africa, but in Africa. They came in 3rd place overall in South Africa. Thank you to Ian and the team for creating a beautiful space and a culinary experience that plays a huge part in showcasing our wines.
In my 32nd year of winemaking, I still consider mine a privilege rather than a job, and a learning journey on which I’m constantly curious to know more. Nothing satisfies me as much as sharing what I’ve learned with a young winemaker, and I believe this mentoring and guidance has played a substantial role in building up the strong team we now have at De Grendel.
When you are young you want to achieve things – win medals and earn great ratings – but later you realise it’s about more than that. Successful winemaking is about growing a brand through building quality and volumes – and always respecting the vintage.
Looking at the successes achieved this year, we are certainly building the De Grendel brand based on harnessing the best of every vintage, particularly the two most recent outstanding years of 2015 and 2017, with 2019 shaping up well too.
Thank you once again to an incredible team of passionate, focused people at De Grendel, and to all those who support and join us on our winemaking journey.
May your festive season be relaxed, happy and filled with great people, food and wine – we look forward to sharing the 2020 vintage with you in the coming years!
Charles Hopkins, Cellar Master