Friday, December 01, 2017

The 2017 Diners Club Winemaker and Young Winemaker of the Year Awards dinner at La Residence, Franschhoek

This is one of the high points of the wine world each year and was held, again, at La Residence, a five star boutique hotel in Franschhoek on Saturday night. They also present an award to the Young Winemaker of the year. People do follow the dress code of Black Tie, so it is a rather glamorous evening, filmed by TV and the awards are presented during dinner where the winning wines are served
It is such a beautiful setting too
Welcomed with Steenberg's 1682 MCC Chardonnay Brut
Wade Roger-Lund of Jordan Wine Estate, Stellenbosch and 2016 Diners Club Winemaker of the Year, Pierre Wahl of Rijk's in Tulbagh with Wade's fiancée Elizabeth Mathewson and Pierre's wife Anli
Some canapés appeared, small blinis topped with smoked salmon, skewers of tomato and olives and tiny fish cakes
Two industry gentlemen, previous winner Bartho Eksteen and Distell's Duimpie Bailey in serious discussion
A peacock on the roof
The other welcoming MCC was from Colmant in Franschhoek
Willie du Plessis and his partner for the evening. He is Standard Bank’s Head, Business Banking, W Cape. Standard Bank holds the South African franchise for Diners Club
The crowd gathering on the lawn. There were some very beautiful dresses and most men looked immaculate in their dinner jackets
Michael Crossley of Reciprocal trading with Teddy and Doreen Hall
Time to take our seats at the long tables in the Long Hall
It is a very long room
JP Rossouw, Publisher of Platters Wine Guide, was the MC for the evening. This is the 37th year of the competition for Winemaker of the Year and 17th year of the competition for the Young Winemaker of the Year. A different category for each is chosen every year, this year it was Pinotage for the senior competition, next will be Chardonnay. The category for the Young Winemaker (must be under 30 years of age) alternates each year between white wine (2017) and red wine (2018). This year it was white wines. Entry is free and cases of the winning wine must be available to Diners Club. The winning Winemaker will be able to choose a winemaking destination in the USA and be given two first class return tickets on Delta Airlines and a prize of R50 000. The Young Winemaker will win the same prize, but travel in Tourist class and the prize is R25 000. The Judges this year were William Prudhomme, Carrie Adams, Debi Van Flymen, James Pietersen, Michael Crossley, Nomonde Kubheka, and Ntsiki Biyela, who was at our table. He also said the judges were very sad that Dave Hughes was not able to be involved this year, he has been involved for many years
Duimpie Bailey looking happy and content
Managing Director of Diners Club Pan Africa, Lesego Chauke-Motshwane spoke about her job and about the Diners Club Cares Corporate Responsibility programme, investing in education to make a better life for people in this country. Diners Club has had a 61 year relationship with Standard Bank
JP  Rossouw with last year's Young Winemaker of the Year, Murray Barlow of Rustenberg, who had to hand over the award to the new winner
We all watch on screens above our heads as the room is too long for us to see the presentation
There are some anxious faces here
Murray Barlow handing over the Trophy to Wade Roger-Lund for his Jordan MCC Brut
Wade is really delighted about his win
The proud Young Winemaker of the Year 2017
Lots of loud applause
Editor of Platters Wine Guide, Philip van Zyl with esteemed former Nederburg cellarmaster Razvan Macici
The menu for the evening
As the Young Winemaker award was announced, the wine was poured and we had it with our starter. Blanc de Blanc 2015 Mèthode Cap Classique from Jordan, has been on the lees for 2 years and is floral on the nose with some wisteria and brioche, fresh and lively on the palate, clean and slightly spicy, full of limes and lemons, with lots of prickle on the tongue and it has long flavours. This is a temporary label; the wine will only be available to the public from the cellar in the New Year

Herb butter and lard
The rather minimal starter of a couple of cold baby calamari with salad, mango squares, raw onion salsa and a cashew crisp
Time to applaud last year's winner who will hand over the trophy to this year’s winner
Pierre Wahl, Winemaker of the Year 2016 with the trophy
And the winner is...
Christiaan Groenewald of Eagles Cliff/New Cape Wines, Winemaker of the Year 2017 for his 2017 Pinotage

It was then served to us to go with our main course. It is an old style Pinotage, in a screw cap bottle, with rusty nails, some spice and banana bread, initially soft on the palate with lactic notes then prunes, sharp mulberries and rhubarb, and a rather bitter (wood?) end. Over the course of the evening, we had some more wine from four different bottles poured for us and some different characteristics appeared. The wine does change in the glass, and it did go well with the food. We had three winemakers at our table and a senior member of the wine trade, so there was much discussion. The 2016 is described in the latest 2018 Platter as "Unoaked, juicy, rounded, very fruity & moreish. A fun wine for early drinking" 3.5 stars
The main course of lightly spiced springbok loin which, we surmise, had been marinated in buttermilk, so was tender. Served on a lake of parsnip and potato purée and a very sharp tomato ratatouille and sour plum, baby carrots and a little lamb jus. Were they matching the flavours to the Pinotage? Sadly, it was stone cold. They were feeding a very large audience
The judge for the winner of the social media tweet of the evening gives his result
The winner of the social media tweet of the evening getting her reward which was a signed bottle of each wine, which she is not permitted to sell. We managed to send out just one tweet before all the others were lost, the WiFi was completely overwhelmed as so many social media messages were sent out. The competition trended #1 by 10 pm
The winners pose with last year’s winners
Time for dessert. a jelly topped panna cotta with some berries, a wonderful pistachio ice cream and a very chocolatey mini macaron. Could have eaten three of those with ice cream and been happy
The winners with judge Carrie Adams, director of Norman Goodfellows. The band was beginning to play. And then our carriage was at the door to drive us home. A really great memorable evening
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