London in Spring – when the weather is good – is a sight to behold. Everywhere daffodils add splashes of yellow to impossibly manicured parks where trees burst into vibrant lime green bud. The cherry trees are full of pink blossom and remind people of the trauma the Japanese nation is undergoing at a time when they’re the ones usually worshipping the blooms.
The weather over the past week has been amazing – national daily newspapers have published photographs of people basking in the sunshine – and it has been dubbed a “mini heatwave”. As one friend of mine put it, “at least we can say we’ve had a summer now…”.
And that’s before taking into account all the sprucing up and hype and hoopla over the Royal wedding in a few weeks’ time. Jokes and descriptions aside, London is full of wine folk who are currently judging at some of the annual crop of competitions – the Decanter World Wine Awards and the International Wine Challenge.
Decanter is the relatively new kid on the block having only kicked off in 2004 but it’s going from strength-to-strength. Publishing director Sarah Kemp announced that last year’s number of 10 983 entries has been exceeded healthily. “We were aiming for a figure in the 11 000s,” she said at a judges briefing on Monday. “We are comfortably over 12 000! That’s a wonderful vote of confidence and support from the wine industry the world over.”
In terms of numbers, last year there were 208 gold medals awarded overall, 99 regional trophies and just 28 international trophies. South African wines were awarded two of those international trophies – and a further seven regional trophies. In addition, 15 SA wines were awarded gold medals – all in the over 10 pounds category while 62 silver medals (11 of them in the under 10 pound threshold) and 176 bronze medals (61 in the under 10 pound bracket). All that from a total entry of 691 wines.
The big winners – which took international trophies home – were Cape Point Vineyards’ Isleidh 2008 (Best White Blend over 10 pounds) and the De Heuvel Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2009 (White Single Varietal over 10 pounds). By way of illustration, the De Heuvel of Tulbagh beat out such fancied opposition as a 2004 Tyrell’s single vineyard Semillon from the Hunter Valley, as well as Guigal’s 2008 Condrieu from the Rhône!
The number of SA entries to Decanter isn’t known just yet but what is clear is that on the evidence of the first day’s judging there’s a golden glimmer for local producers already!