Women judges find rare bottled gems at the 2019 SA Women’s Wine & Spirit Awards

The 2019 SA Women’s Wine & Spirit Awards discovered some wines, spirits and liqueurs that are out of this world.

The fourth year in a row, Michelle Grimbeek, the convenor of judges and her team welcomed the all-women panel on the morning of June 6th at the Nietvoorbij campus in Stellenbosch. Half an hour after the obligatory photo session, the selected judges for the SA Women’s Wine & Spirit Awards were hard at work. Some panellists were appointed to assess the wines, while others were responsible for the spirits and liqueurs in double-blind tastings. This competition has seen a steady growth in the number of wines and spirits entered, but surprisingly, it was the spirit section that grew more than 35% this year. The continued support from every sector of the industry has made this event an ongoing pleasure to host.


The aim of the annual competition is to find worthy wines, spirits and liqueurs judged by all-female panels, and to award the best products entered.

The top scoring producers were: 

Wine Category:

  • Imbuko Wines
  • Landzicht
  • Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards
  • Nicholson Smith Agencies
  • Taillard Family Wines

Spirit and Liqueur Category: 

  • Cape Town Gin & Spirits Company
  • KWV
  • Old Craft Link Distillery
  • Steel Cut Spirits
Judging during the 2019 tasting
The judges on the wine panel were: Katie Barratt, Wanda Cronje, Tanja Beutler, Erika van Zyl, Catherine Dillon CWM and Doulette Braak. The judges in the spirit and liqueur panel were: Dr Caroline Snyman CWM, Marlene Bester and Anriënka Vlok van Zyl.

White wines saw a significant growth from last year and the number of 2019 wines entered was surprising, especially considering how early in the year this competition is being held. The general feedback from our panellists was very positive. The 2019 Sauvignon blanc wines stood out as crisp with persistent length. Last year 2018 Chenin blanc wines were highlighted as outstanding, and 2019 again stood out this year. Panellist agreed that the Chenin blanc class was really exciting and diverse, especially the newer vintages.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Sauvignon blends seem to do consistently well and this year was no exception. One judge singled out the Shiraz wines for the good integration shown, while some thought the red blends were some of the most impressive categories.

This year the sweet wines showed extremely well, with the Muscadels and natural sweet wines some of the favourites.

Spirit and Liqueur Panel:

The spirit and liqueur panel found some excellent brandies, and the panellist commented that the aged brandies specifically showed well. There were quite a wide variety of styles and ages of brandy entered.

The expert spirit panel was able to form a well-rounded opinion of gins available locally, as the number of craft gins entered is constantly growing. Gin in general is becoming increasingly fashionable and an endorsement from this competition can help guide consumers. The variation and differences in styles of gin was highlighted, as the panellists had to work through a large number of products. One panellist commented the gin class was the impressive category due to “the size of the category and the styles and flavour nuances”, while another said that the London dry gins had some excellent entries. Although the panel found interesting variations among the different infused gins, The London Dry and New Style Gins impressed. Although the various gin categories were the biggest spirit style entered, aged rum, whisky, vodka, absinthe and grappa also featured.

Details about the 2020 SA Women’s Wine & Spirit Awards will be announced in the last week of January 2020.