The 2018 harvest is out. It was comprised of sweat, tears, hard work and promises good quality wines. Winemakers can enter their best young wines to participate in the Young Wine Show. As winemakers taste and filter through their young wines, they might even discover a South African Champion.

This prestigious event and show dates back to 1833. South African wine making regions like Robertson, Worcester, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Oranje-Vaal, Olifants River, Swartland and Little Karoo are allowed to enter their wines in the competition.

Each year Agri Expo, the host and sponsors of this event, invites students from the university of Stellenbosch to attend not only the wine tasting of the best young wines but also the prize-giving gala event. The event took place on the 25th of August and I was one of the lucky nine students that got invited to attend.

I knew it was time to prepare my palate for some good wines and to put on my best dress and heels. For weeks my class mates and I waited for the event to come with childlike excitement. Finally, the event was about to start and exceeded my wildest expectations within the first five minutes.

We arrived, humble and excited at the Town Hall in Stellenbosch and found ourselves seated amongst the most respected winemakers and connoisseurs in South Africa. We enjoyed some of the best wines and the most exquisite gourmet meal. It was magical.

By the end of the night, just before dessert, winners were announced. Judges were tasked to taste 1 680 different wines, out of which 165 titles were chosen, including SA Champion wines, class winners and gold medals. Wellington wines’ wooded Pinotage claimed the General Smuts trophy and is thus the best young South African wine of the 2018 harvest. Orange River cellars’ Keimoes received the highest points for all five their wines entered and walked away with the Pietman Hugo Trophy.

South African Champion trophies were awarded to farms like Bon Courage for their Natural Sweet white wine as well as their Noble late harvest. De Wetshof Chardonnay, Spier wines’ wooded Chenin Blanc and La Motte’s Semillion were the white wine champions.

Young red wine champions of 2018 were all wooded wines and included wines from Babylonstoren Stellenbosch Hills, Darling Cellars, Le Bonheur Estate and KWV.

Needless to say, dessert was delicious. The evening ended with inspirational speeches and a good shuffle on the dance floor. The 2018 BSc Viticulture and Oenology class left the event feeling enriched, inspired and excited for their futures in the industry. It was good to see that it’s not all just gumboots and stained hands, but also glamorous and enriching.

I am proud to be part of such an industry where farms all receive an equal chance to showcase the fruits of their hard labour. It is no secret that the 2018 harvest was a challenging one, but good faith and perseverance turned this harvest into a championship harvest. The Young Wine show of 2018 was truly an unforgettable event.