The precious heritage of the SA Young Wine Show

A Ruby Cabernet crowned as SA’s best young wine
Sep 30, 2020
Jun 11, 2021

The precious heritage of the SA Young Wine Show

The South African Young Wine Show was held for the first time in 1833 and it is probably one of the oldest wine competitions in the world and the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere. Started by the Cape of Good Hope Agricultural Society in that year, this show was held for the first time in the Company’s Garden in Cape Town.

When the annual local Agricultural Show moved to Rosebank and eventually to Goodwood, the Young Wine Show became the showpiece of quality for the new wines made each year.

The accompanying awards luncheon became a prestigious institution, a grande highlight following the mammoth tasting of all the gold medal and trophy-winner wines. It stood out on the wine calendar in those years and a major wine event at the Goodwood Showgrounds, fondly remembered as a glamorous, all-day affair.

Not only participants joined in the event, but the judges were also in attendance and played an enormous role to give feedback and to train newcomer judges to take over in years to come. The Cape of Good Hope Agricultural Society – renamed Agri-Expo in 1996 – has been actively involved with the Young Wine Show over all the years and, as custodian of this remarkable Wine Show, has continued its commitment as its sponsor to this very day. In the process, Agri-Expo has entrusted the SA National Wine Show Association (SANWSA) with the most impressive array of gold and silver trophies which are awarded each year to the winning winemakers.

Says Johan Ehlers, CEO of Agri-Expo and ex-officio board member of the SANWSA, “The ongoing co-operation that exists between the two organisations is unparalleled in the world of wine and of great benefit to the whole wine industry. The legacy of the SA Young Wine Show is also unique and should be treasured for generations to come.”

The competition’s two most coveted trophies, the General Smuts and Pietman Hugo Trophies – respectively for the overall champion young wine and the combined highest score for five best entries – are named after giants in South Africa’s history. General Jan Christian Smuts, recognised as international statesman, piloted the creation of KWV as the then umbrella organisation of the wine industry in Parliament during his reign as South African Prime Minister, and leading Breede River Valley farmer Pietman Hugo, who was a former chairperson of KWV.

The impressive and beautiful Sterling Silver trophy with its intricate detail was awarded for the first time in 1952 – to AP Conradie, and has been coveted by winemakers as one of the most significant domestic wine awards ever since.

Thanks to the value of these, as well as 17 other quite magnificent trophies presented in the various categories in collaboration with Agri-Expo ever since the glorious Goodwood days, the SA Young Wine Show has been going from strength to strength as a yardstick of the country’s new wines from each vintage.

The tradition of a glamorous annual awards function, preceded by large-scale tasting of the top young wines, has been upheld over all these years followed by a gala dinner with some 350 guests in attendance – the tasting was, however, substantially scaled down in this year of the Covid-19 pandemic and without a presentation function. The competition nevertheless received almost 900 entries from 75 wine cellars in 2020.