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Picture: 123RF/KAREL NOPPE
Picture: 123RF/KAREL NOPPE

The success of the Global Wine Challenge shows that the risk of going ahead — despite border closures, travel restrictions and diabolical logistics — was worthwhile. The goodwill of pandemic-bound judges and a supporting cast of wineries also highlights a remarkable cross-oceans wine community spirit.

The results reveal a neatly balanced tension between the participating New World producing nations. There is no dominating country. While SA chenin blanc, New Zealand pinot noir, Californian cabernet sauvignon, Australian shiraz and Canadian ice wine, have become signature styles, closer analysis in this blind-tasting forum reveal that no country truly has a monopoly on style or quality.

The entries for this the 2021 competition were selected by Michael Fridjhon (SA), Huon Hooke (Australia), Bob Campbell MW (New Zealand), Patrick Comiskey (US) and Christopher Waters (Canada). Though their combined selection reads like a who’s who of the New World, these famous, avant garde and emerging classics all rubbed shoulders with each other in an anonymous blind-tasting format. Stripped bare of their provenance and backstory, the wines competed on a level playing field with only vintage, category and grape variety revealed.

Typically, the judging team would have been the above-mentioned wine experts and a few other participants, but travel restrictions, quarantine regulations and other factors made it impossible or impractical for them to participate. Consequently, a new team of Sydney-based Masters of Wine were invited to fill the breach. The “surrogate” judging team in 2021 comprised Toni Paterson, Andrea Pritzker, Alison Eisermann Ctercteko and myself.

Recognised standard

Over three days in November we blind-tasted about 600 wines in a perfect wine show environment and at a comfortable pace. Having trained through the same school of thinking, collaborative conversations were the norm. Personal preferences were sometimes quite different, but the overall results reflect a spirit of open-mindedness and a highly intuitive approach to style and genre.

The invitation-only Global Wine Challenge is different because every wine in the line-up is theoretically a standout. Each has been selected because it represents a recognised quality standard, or it has received strong reviews in the preceding year. There are few wine competitions in the world that celebrate the best of the best. Yet, the winners of the 2021 Global Wine Challenge were outstanding wines and beautiful examples of their kind.

Way back in 1996 I organised, with Michael Fridjhon, the inaugural (and only) SA Australia Wine Test Match. The results were embarrassingly skewed to Australia even though the judging team was drawn equally.

Though cricket and rugby circles would rejoice in such a drubbing, it was never intended to be a winner-takes-all competition. It took a few years before an attempt was made to get a similar event up and running successfully. The Global Fine Wine Challenge (formerly Six Nations Wine Challenge), now in its 18th year, has become one of the world’s more advanced and sophisticated wine competitions.

It was a privilege to have tasted so many exquisite wines and to collaborate with such a generous and committed team. We were so impressed by the quality, character and individuality of the entries from the participating nations. It was a spectacular reminder that we live in the golden age of wine.

We are proud to stand by these results and hope they will create debate, generate interest, contribute happiness and further add to the cause of fine wine.

Congratulations to all the participants.


SA’s winning wines at the 2021 Global Wine Challenge

1. Sparkling Wines: Quoin Rock Wines MCC Black Series Brut Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2014

2. White Wine Blends: Stark-Condé Wines Field Blend Roussanne Chenin Blanc Verdelho Viognier 2020

3. Non-Aromatic White Wines: Cederberg Cellars Five Generations Chenin Blanc 2020

4. Cabernet Sauvignon: Le Riche Wines Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

5. Bordeaux Blends: Tokara Directors Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot Merlot Malbec Cabernet Franc 2018

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