The evening was perfect as we arrived at La Residence in Franschhoek for the highly anticipated 2018 Diners Club Winemaker and Young Winemaker of the Year awards. The setting and (perfect!) weather added to the jovial spirit as the who’s who of the winemaking community rubbed shoulders with media and top South African personalities. The evening was hosted by the charming Platter’s wine guide publisher, Jean Pierre Rossouw with Clayton Reabow (Môreson, Franschhoek) and Rudger van Wyk (Stark-Condé Wines, Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch) claiming top honours respectively.
The Winemaker and Young Winemaker awards, focusing on quality and recognition of excellence, are regarded as the country’s most prestigious and well-respected wine industry competition. Celebrating the skills and talent of the vintners, these awards are open to all in the South African wine industry at no cost, thus affording all winemakers an equal opportunity.
The Winemaker of the Year is in its 38th year, while the Young Winemaker has been running for 18 years. Guests were treated to a three-course dinner menu designed to complement the elements of the winning wines. Clayton’s Syrah paired perfectly with the Lamb starter, whilst Clayton’s Chardonnay took centre stage with the main course of line fish.
The awards are presented to the winemakers who produce a wine that the judging panel considers the best in a specified class. The categories for 2018 were Chardonnay single varietal wines for Winemaker of the Year, and Red Wines of any varietal or blend for Young Winemaker of the Year. The field was narrowed down to eleven finalists through rigorous judging by a panel of wine experts: with five winemakers shortlisted for the prestigious Winemaker of the Year award, and six for the Young Winemaker of the Year title.
This year’s Diners Club Winemaker of the Year (Chardonnay category), Clayton Reabow, delighted the judges with his Môreson 2017 Mercator Chardonnay. Clayton was a finalist in the 2017 Winemaker awards (Pinotage category) and the winner of the 2009 Young Winemaker of the Year award. The 2018 Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year, Rudger van Wyk, received his award (Red Wines category) for the Stark-Condé 2016 Stellenbosch Syrah.
The winning Winemaker receives R50 000 while the Young Winemaker, R25 000. Both winemakers get two return air tickets on Delta Airlines to any wine producing region in the USA.