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Brand new winners join new masters
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The Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition this year created great expectations after a record 148 entries. The international and local judges made the statement that a large number of the wines entered were absolutely top-of-the-range, making it almost impossible to select just the top ten.

The results were announced this week and six of the Top 10 wines are first-time winners, from five different wine of origin areas, the Bon Courage Pinotage 2006 (Robertson District), Fantail Pinotage 2006 (Stellenbosch District), Fleur du Cap Pinotage 2005 (Coastal Region), Four Paws Pinotage 2006 (Piekenierskloof Ward), Marianne Pinotage 2004 (Paarl District) and Windmeul Reserve Pinotage 2006 (Paarl District).

They share the limelight with new Pinotage masters who are now coming to the fore. The Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Pinotage 2006 is this Stellenbosch winery's third consecutive Top 10 wine and the fourth in five years. Cellar master Guy Webber now joins the group of winemakers who have delivered four or more Top 10 wines at the competition, in the past eleven years.

Simonsig and Môreson, with winemakers Debbie Burden and Hannes Meyer respectively, each entered their third Top 10 wine with the Simonsig Red Hill Pinotage 2005 (Stellenbosch District) and Môreson Pinotage 2006 (Coastal Region), a clear indication that they also have a winning recipe with this homegrown red wine variety.

Another star on the horizon is Pulpit Rock Winery near Riebeek West. Winemaker Piet Kleinhans this year entered their second consecutive Top 10 wine in the competition, with the Pulpit Rock Pinotage 2006 (Swartland District).

There is a connection between the Four Paws Pinotage 2006 (one of this year's first-time winners) and Allée Bleue, who has twice before entered winning wines. Four Paws' winemaker, Anne Jakubiec, uses Allée Bleue's cellar facilities to make their Pinotage, while both buy their grapes from the same farmer in the Piekenierskloof Ward. It says a lot about that terroir for Pinotage.

The Top 10 wines in this year's closely contested competition came from a wide spectrum of areas - Stellenbosch (3), Paarl (2), Robertson (1), Piekenierskloof (1), Swartland (1) and the wider Coastal Region (2). After years of research initiated by the Pinotage Association, this is proof of the increase in very high quality Pinotage wines being vinified throughout the Cape Winelands.

The judges at the competition confirmed the general rise in supreme quality wines and this was also clearly expressed in the words by South Africa's international wine expert and Pinotage connoisseur, Dave Hughes.

"A few years ago, it was my opinion that you could only select the top five to seven out of all the entries, now it is difficult to select the top fifteen. The quality and fine balance of the wines improve year after year," said Dave.

"The success of this truly South African wine can be attributed to the dedication and commitment of the winemakers and farmers who have, despite initial opposition, persisted in making wines of superior quality. Through the Pinotage Top 10 Competition, Absa wanted to create an opportunity for winemakers to compare wines, so as to continuously improve the quality. We see our sponsorship of the Top 10 Competition as not only adding to the prestige of the wine, but supporting and promoting a proudly South African cultivar," says Robert Emslie, Executive Director: Absa Corporate and Business Bank.

The Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition winners in alphabetical order are: Bon Courage Pinotage 2006Fantail Pinotage 2006 (Morgenhof Estate), Fleur du Cap Pinotage 2005, Four Paws Pinotage 2006, Marianne Pinotage 2004, Môreson Pinotage 2006, Pulpit Rock Pinotage 2005, Simonsig Red Hill Pinotage 2005, Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Pinotage 2006 and Windmeul Reserve Pinotage 2006.

The runners-up out of the twenty finalists in alphabetical order are: Anura Pinotage 2006, Bergsig Pinotage 2005, Beyerskloof Reserve Pinotage 2003, Cathedral Cellar Pinotage 2004, Devon Rocks Pinotage 2006, La Cave Pinotage 2006, Longridge Pinotage 2004, Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage 2005, Rijk's Private Cellar Pinotage 2003 and Spier Private Collection Pinotage 2005.

The judges were Duimpie Bayly (convener), Charles Hopkins, Chris Roux, Dave Hughes, Neil Pendock, Michelle Cherutti-Kowal (wine lecturer in England) and Julian Brind (Master of Wine from England).

Presentation packages of the 2007 Absa Top 10 Pinotage wines will soon be available for sale at the Wine-of-the-Month-Club, Telephone (021)-657-8100; e-mail

For more information on Pinotage and the South African Pinotage Association, visit the website

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P.O. Box 1, De Gift, Riebeek West, 7306, South Africa