High Altitude Brings High Accolades for De Grendel’s Op Die Berg Pinot Noir in Michelangelo Awards 2020
De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2017 has claimed the Pinot Noir Trophy in the Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards 2020, a lofty accolade for a wine that reflects its unique terroir almost a kilometre above sea level where vineyards are blanketed in winter snow.
The trophy for the overall top-scoring Pinot Noir capped a trio of achievements for De Grendel in one of South Africa’s biggest wine competitions – the De Grendel Shiraz 2018 was one of just 24 entries scoring 96 points or more to achieve a Platinum medal, while Rubaiyat 2016 was awarded Gold.
This is the second Michelangelo Pinot Noir Trophy for De Grendel, with the 2015 Op Die Berg Pinot Noir winning the title in 2018. This year’s winning 2017 vintage also achieved the top score in the Winemag.co.za Pinot Noir report in 2019.
“It’s an exceptional feeling that in the year we celebrate 300 years of De Grendel’s heritage, our wines are outdoing themselves in terms of awards and recognition,” De Grendel cellar master Charles Hopkins said.
“Our Op Die Berg Pinot Noir is on a tremendous journey to greatness, becoming more expressive of its unique terroir as the vines mature with every vintage. We’re delighted that it has earned the overall Pinot Noir Trophy for a second time, building up a convincing track record of recognition in national and international competitions."
“Rubaiyat has become an iconic wine for De Grendel, our Bordeaux-style blend that continues to be both sought-after by wine lovers and collectors as well as regularly achieving awards. For us, that is the ideal combination – customer appreciation and loyalty together with critical recognition – that tells us we’re getting it right,” he said.
Hopkins said the Platinum medal for De Grendel Shiraz 2018 was especially exciting as it placed the wine in the top 1% of more than 1 500 entries and was the first accolade for the recently released 2018 vintage of a wine that ranks consistently as one of South Africa’s best shiraz wines.
De Grendel was the first to produce Ceres Plateau wines of origin, from vineyards on Pieter Graaff's farm in the Witzenberg mountains near Ceres, an area 950m above sea level and about 200km from De Grendel’s cellar in the Durbanville wine region close to Cape Town.
Winter temperatures on the Ceres farm often drop below freezing and cover the vineyards in snow, providing the perfect resting-and-recovery conditions while the vines are dormant, while the mountainous region’s hot days and cool nights in the growing season result in slower ripening and fruit concentration – providing ideal conditions overall for Pinot Noir.
Hopkins describes the area as “South Africa’s only truly continental climate” in that it has no maritime influence. Fruit from Ceres – an area until recently better known for the quality of its apples and pears, and now producing wines from only a handful of farms – “displays surprising cool climate characteristics compared to other wine regions of the Western Cape”.
Ceres Plateau grapes were first used as a portion of the 2010 vintage of Op die Berg Pinot Noir and the wine is now solely sourced from that appellation, producing increasingly perfumed wines as the vines mature with each successive vintage, says Hopkins.
Gently basket-pressed and matured in older French oak for 13 months, Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2017 is abundant with cranberry, sour cherry, mushroom and forest floor aromas, with a medium-bodied palate of liquorice, spice and earthy dried mushrooms complementing the fruit. Drinking exceptionally well now, it has cellaring potential of up to 10 years.
The Platinum medal De Grendel Shiraz 2018 is made from Paarl and Firgrove vineyards, a soft and seamless wine with an aromatic spice, floral and smoky nose moving into layers of cloves, nutmeg and warm spices, underpinned by a savoury and meaty finish.
De Grendel’s flagship Rubaiyat 2016 is a Bordeaux-style blend with a poetic twist – named for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the 10th century collection of Persian love poems, a treasured edition of which is in the Graaff family collection – made from four Bordeaux varietals to echo the poem’s quatrain format, a different verse appears on each vintage of Rubaiyat.
The wine is rich, luscious, velvety, with fruit and spice integrating into a deep and complex wine that improves with ageing.