Malbec Challenge 2019 Awards

On Tuesday December 3rd , the five gold medallists of the 2019 Malbec Challenge were announced at a function at The Wood Mill in Stellenbosch. The winning wines were Mitre’s Edge 2017 (also the top scorer); Blake’s Single Vineyard 2018 (only to be released in 2020); Bizoe Idioglossla 2017; Bellevue 2016 and Neethingshof 2013.

The Challenge judging by a panel of five tasters using the international 100 point system had taken place on November12th. The panel, chaired by Cape Wine Master Christine Rudman, consisted of Anton Swarts, Cape Wine Master and senior winemaker at Spier in Stellenbosch; award-winning wine and food writer Malu Lambert; Nomonde Kubheka ex-KWV winemaker and currently training facilitator for Winetech; and sommelier/wine writer Barry Scholfield.

There were 26 entries, just under half of all the single varietal Malbec bottlings on the market.

When asked what had inspired them to plant Malbec, the answers from the winemakers had a common theme, either for it to be part of the classic 5-variety Bordeaux blend, in the case of Lola Nicholls of Mitre’s Edge and Wilhelm Kritzinger of Bellevue, or because they had visited countries where Malbec is widely grown and were impressed by it.

Andries Blake of Blake Family Wines’ love affair with Malbec started about 10 years ago on a visit to Argentina, while Rikus Neethling of Bizoe remembers  the variety from a trip to Buenos Aires, deciding there and then to include it in their range. Bizoe buys in grapes, which for the winning 2017 vintage came from Swartland and Stellenbosch. De Wet Viljoen’s discovery was in the Cahors in France, where he and his wife went for their honeymoon.

A juicy, soft-skinned variety, Malbec requires care in the vineyard to avoid over-cropping or sunburn damage, and in the cellar quick and careful fermentation to prevent oxidation. The winning wines used either only older oak or a combination of new and used barrels, to showcase the succulent drinkability part of its character.

Plantings are still small, well under 1% of vineyards, and production is limited, except for Bellevue which is also to be found in Woolworths.

The competition has a generous sponsor, RX South Africa, agents of Tonnellerie de Mercurey wine barrels, an internationally respected family-owned specialist business based in France. The oak comes from three different forests, to create a wide range of barrel styles and qualities for international wine cellar requirements, with the stave mill located in Champagne.

Mitre’s Edge’s prize is a free new barrel, size of their choice, while all participants in the competition have been offered a 7.5% discount on barrel purchases for the 2020 season. In addition, funding was provided for the Awards function.

Finally, on a personal note, the Idioglossla part of Bizoe Malbec’s name refers to the language of twins, the 6 year-old boys of Rikus and Estalet Neethling, while Andries Blake has named his second boat Malbec, a name his first boat also carried.

and the sponsors’ are:

and the winner is: Mitre’s Edge for their Malbec 2017

and the Gold Medallists are:

Bellevue Malbec 2016
Bizoe Idioglossla Malbec 2017
Blake’s Single Vineyard Malbec 2018
Neethingshof Malbec 2013

Wilhelm Kritzinger winemaker – Bellevue Estate
Rikus Neethling Winemaker/Owner – Bizoe Wines
Marinda Blake – Blake’s Family Vineyards
De Wet Viljoen – Winemaker Neethlingshof Estate

and the Silver Medallists are:

Sonklip Malbec 2017
Ondine Malbec 2018
Diemersfontein Woolworths Reserve Malbec 2017
Kevin King BBK 2016
Diemersdal Malbec 2017
Benguela Cove Malbec 2017
Stellekaya Malbec 2018
Blake’s Malbec 2018
Neethlingshof Malbec 2018
Vergenoegd Löw Malbec 2015
Diemersfontein Carpe Diem Malbec 2017
Stellekaya Malbec 2017
Le Pommier Jonathan’s Malbec 2018
Perdeberg The Vineyard Collection Malbec 2018
Diemersdal Malbec 2018