The international Wine and  Spirit Competition was established in 1969 by a German wine Chemist, Anton Massel, who was resident in Surrey,  England. Known first as “Club Oenologique” and held it’s prize giving at the Bristol International Wine Show. Before TV South Africans got to know about the show and the competition when the Bergkelder did so well and Peter Stuyvesant produced  a magnificent , wide screen cinema advert that ran for more than a year ! Now the IWSC is in it’s 46th year it is recognised as the World’s premier wine and spirit competition. Currently receives entries from about 90 countries around the world and for many years the annual awards banquet is held in the magnificence of Guildhall in London. With all the pomp and ceremony that only the Brits can do.

South Africa has always done well and it’s wines and spirits have a long and proud record of achievement.  When the Trophy for the best overall wine producer was first introduced in 1985   Gunter Brozel of Nederburg was the first ever winner. The Cape Wine Academy very early on presented a trophy for the best South African performer. When they withdrew the trophy for the best South African wine producer it was taken over by Dave Hughes and it is still the trophy for the top performing South African winery. The trophy for the best overall Distiller is a more recent innovation and it first  came to South Africa when Distell won it in 2007.

2015 is the first time South Africa have succeeded with both.  Turned out to be very popular winners with the 500 people erupting with the announcement first of the Kanonkop success and then that of Distell. No other Country has ever matched the achievement and it would be difficult to do as there are few countries that excel at both wine and spirit production. France, Italy, Spain and Portugal could, but have never come close. The next trick would be for one company to win both !! Distell and KWV are probably the only companies in the world that could achieve this. Now there is a challenge if ever there was one !

Only three wineries have ever won the Winemaker of the year three times. Wolf Blass and Mc Guigan both of Australia and now Kanonkop of South Africa.

This year the success of the Distiller and Winemaker awards has somewhat overshadowed the other South African successes. As might be expected the best Pinotage worldwide went to Kanonkop 2012 with other entries from Israel, new Zealand and California. The best Chenin Blanc went Forrester Meinert with their FMC 2013. The best Riesling was a complete turn up for the books with Paul Cluver Ferricrete 2014. The best Chardonnay went to Jordan with their 2013 Nine Yards. The third time Jordan has won this which draws about the biggest entry world wide. South Africa has agreat record with Chardonnay with Rustenberg winning the trophy two years in a row, 2008 and 2009. I would expect South Africa to win the Pinotage but there was a year when a wine from a Southern Hemisphere country that was well admired by the judges until I said “it might be a great wine but it is not pinotage!”. On inspection the label stated “Pinotage” but it was a blend of mainly Shiraz (Known by some in that country as “Hermitage”) and some Pinot Noir ! South Africa has also done particularly well with blended reds. However, the Cape has absolutely dominated the Dry Chenin Blanc category. Introduced in 2006 and sponsored by Spier Wines. The first winner  was the 2004 Maverick Chenin Blanc. For lack of a sponsor there was no award in 2010 but every other year it has been won by South Africa. Twice by Stellenrust, 2011 and 2012. The FMC 2007 win in 2009 and the 2013 FMC took the honours this year  (2015).


South Africa has dominated the Brandy awards in recent years having received  the top trophy for Best Brandy Worldwide 10 out of 12 years. Van Ryns 12 year old is the master in this respect having been judged the best  four times over past twelve years. Van ryn’s 20 year old has won twice while Joseph Barry 10 year old has been successful once in 2009. The KWV have won three times with 12 year old in 2014 and previously their 15 year old in 2007 and the Laborie Alambic in 2010.

The IWSC has a different “President” each year and in this department South Africa has not done well with Dr Anton Rupert being our only ever representative in 1996.

The International Wine and Spirit Competition is a great and consistent barometer of the quality of South African wines and spirits. South Africa really punches above it’s weight when see our success measured against the number of entries from other countries. With wine, France leads the entries with some 15 % each year. Followed by Italy with 14%,  Australia 12 %, South Africa 10%, New Zealand and Chile with 6% each. Portugal 5%, Argentine 4% and the USA 2%. When it comes to spirits Scotland leads with 24% followed by France 15% . USA 3% and South Africa 2 %

Hopefully the above gives a good perspective of just how well South Africa has done and is doing at the International Wine and Spirit Competition.