More restaurants in the Western Cape than in any other province entered and received a Diners Club International Winelist Award 2013. At the 30th Awards function held for the Western Cape at the Vineyard Hotel on Wednesday, MasterChef SA Judge and Tsogo Sun Chef Benny Masekwameng announced the 38 winners in the Diamond, 30 in the Platinum, 26 in the Gold, and 2 in the Silver Award categories, 96 awards in total.
Veteran wine critic Dave Hughes chaired the judging panel, which included fledgling judge Chef Benny, restaurant guide editor JP Rossouw, wine judges Christine Rudman and Fiona McDonald, Winestyle.biz owner Nikki Dumas, and the Cape Wine Academy head Marilyn Cooper. He said that it was fitting that the Awards ceremony was held at The Vineyard hotel, the Newlands area having been the first in Cape Town in which grapes were grown, but soon vegetable farming dominated and grapes growing moved to Constantia.
The wine lists were judged on the basis of their:
* wine selection (35%), including the number of wines, the ratio of wines by the glass to bottles, cultivars sourced from appropriate regions, originality of choice, mature and rare wines stocked, selection of distributors, and wine descriptions.
* how well balanced the selection was (30%), including pricing, value, local/garagiste/boutique/organic wine makers included, imported wines and champagnes, match of the wines to the style of restaurant, cultivars and styles, and between established and new labels.
* the presentation of the wine list (25%), including vintages, regions, consistency, accuracy, spelling, clear design and layout, easy to read, and categorisation.
* the suitability in terms of cuisine offered and its style and image (10%).
High priced wine lists were not what the judges were looking for. More important was the creativity and choice offered. The Winelist Awards reflect that a restaurant offers a good selection of wines which is original and in harmony with the menu.
The Diamond Award winners, scoring 91% or higher for their winelists are La Colombe, Indochine at Delaire Graff, Bosman’s at Grande Roche, JennaVIVA, Dash at the Queen Victoria hotel, Karibu, Meloncino, Greek Fisherman, City Grill, Pierneef â La Motte, Rust en Vrede, Signal at the Cape Grace, Wild Fig, B’s Steakhouse, Bombay Brasserie, Aubergine, Pure Restaurant, Buffelsdrift Game Reserve, Den Anker, Bientang’s Cave, Makeron at Majeka House, Tswalu Kalahari Private Game Reserve, Planet Restaurant, Panama Jacks, The Bayside Café, Flavours at Devon Valley Hotel, Wild Peacock, Zachary, Azure at the Twelve Apostles hotel, La Cantina at Fancourt, The Square and Garden Lounge at the Vineyard Hotel, Ellerman House, Atlantic Grill at the Table Bay Hotel, and Bushman’s Kloof.
Platinum Award winners, achieving 81 – 90 %, are French Connection, Constantia Uitsig, Pembreys, Tuscany Beach, Cattle Baron Paarl, Hussar Grill (in Stellenbosch, Rondebosch, Green Point, Camps Bay, Steenberg Village, and Willowbridge), Mint at Taj, Peddlars on the Bend, Cattle Baron Constantia, Abalone House, Chatters Bistro, Die Viswijf in Jeffrey’s Bay, Turbine Boutique Hotel, Ginja, OYO at the V&A Hotel, Woodall Country House & Spa, Simola Hotel, Carne, Myoga, La Campanina, Café Mario, Mezepoli in Camps Bay, and Plaka.
Gold Award winners, achieving between 71 – 80% for their winelists, are Col’Cacchio’s (Camps Bay, Cape Town, Belvedere, Canal Walk, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Cavendish, Westlake, and Willowbridge), Blowfish, Monneaux at the Franschhoek Country House, Quayside Cabin in Hermanus, Slug & Lettuce (Newlands, Stellenbosch, and Kloof Street), Silver Boutique Olive Estate, Bertha’s, Black Marlin, Hildebrand, Waterside Bar & Grill, Pistachio, Dish at Inn on the Square, 95 Keerom Street (which must have been a shock to Giorgio Nava attending), Lemon Butta, and Pomodoro. The Silver Awards (61 – 70%) went to Rhapsody’s Easy Lounge at Cape Town International, and Quay Four in Knysna.
A number of additional Awards were presented:
* Best Platinum winelist award went to Simola
* Best Small Winelist went to Wild Peacok Food Emporium.
Two things were evident at the presentation:
* A number of restaurants were not present to receive their Awards, even some Diamond winelist winners!
* A number of past Eat Out Top 20 Western Cape Finalist restaurants were visible by their absence in not having entered the Winelist Awards, including The Test Kitchen, The Tasting Room, Jordan’s Restaurant, Overture, Tokara, Nobu, Bizerca Bistro, and Grande Provence. Other noticeable exclusions are the Slick Group (especially Belthazar, but also Balducci’s, and Gibson’s ‘Gourmet‘ (sic) Burgers and Ribs), Pot Luck Club, Burrata (co-owner Neil Grant being a wine sommelier by training), all Reuben’s restaurants, the One & Only Cape Town (always known for the most extensive winelist in the country!), the McGrath Collection (The Greenhouse at the Cellars Hohenhort, Pavilion and Seafood at The Marine, Seafood at The Plettenberg) Waterkloof, Stables and Camphors at Vergelegen, Maison, Buitenverwachting, La Mouette, and Catharina’s and Bistro Sixteen82 at Steenberg. Some of the wine estate restaurants support their own wine brands, and therefore may not enter the competition as a result.
Mr Hughes shared that the number of wines listed on winelists has markedly ‘slimmed down’, with more craft beers, wines by the glass, non-alcoholic wines and sparkling wines, kosher wines, and bottled and filtered tap water added to winelists. ‘This year’s Diners Club Winelist Awards entrants have been truly impressive, it’s encouraging to see the exceptional rise in standards year on year‘, he said.
Ebrahim Matthews MD of Diners Club International, said, ‘We congratulate all the Western Cape establishments awarded in this year’s Diners Club Winelist Awards. Diners Club has a long and proud history of supporting the South African wine industry and the Winelist Awards have become an established benchmark for excellence.’
The winners of the Diners Club Winelist Awards are to be congratulated, for the hard work in compiling, proofreading, preparing for presentation, and entering their winelists. Odd was the poor standard of food offered to what were managers and sommeliers from top restaurants across the Western Cape, being fruit slices, sandwiches, spring rolls, biscuits, and samoosas!
POSTSCRIPT: 6/8: The overall national Best Diamond Winelist Award went to Restaurant Mosaic at the Orient in Johannesburg for its exceptionally unique winelist, reports www.wine.co.za. Simola Hotel won Best national Platinum, Best national Gold went to Lacuna Bistro in Johannesburg, and Best national Silver went to Makaranga in KwaZulu-Natal. For the second year running Ewan Mackenzie of La Colombe won Best Wine Steward.
Diners Club Winelist Awards: http://connoisseurs.dinersclub.co.za/restaurants The 2013 results are not yet listed.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage