Estate Brandy Pioneer Backsberg Wins Veritas Gold for 10yr Old Brandy

A Gold medal at the prestigious Veritas Wine Awards is apt recognition for Backsberg Estate Cellars in the year in which this eminent Paarl wine farm celebrates its centenary year. The award went to the Backsberg Sydney Back Aged 10 Years Brandy.

This year’s Veritas Awards attracted 1670 entries from various producers of wines, fortified wines and brandies of which only 167 were deemed to be Gold medal quality.

Throughout his career on Backsberg, the late Sydney Back had the vision of producing an estate brandy. But it was only when South Africa’s liquor laws were amended to permit the making of brandy on wine estates that Back was afforded the chance, and in 1991 he began to distill estate made Chenin Blanc wine into brandy using a pot-still imported from the Cognac region of France.

The results showed the talent of a master distiller and brandy connoisseur, and in 1995 the Sydney Back Brandy won the Domecq Trophy at the London International Wine and Spirits Competition for Best Brandy in the World.

According to Pietman Retief, former head of the SA Brandy Foundation, Sydney Back played a pioneering role in establishing a culture of premium quality South African estate brandies.

“When the laws were amended to permit estate brandy production at the beginning of the 1990’s, a new era began for South African brandy,” he says. “Brandies of a lower alcohol level were permitted and distillers like Sydney could select his own personal batch of grapes for making the distillation wine. The result was brandies of greater complexity, diverse and lighter flavours of fruits and floral notes. Suddenly we were sitting with brandies – like that of Sydney Back – that could compete with French Cognac.”

Retief says that the South Africa’s current reputation for world class brandies including those distilled on estates and in smaller batches by the bigger producers can largely be laid at the door of the early pioneers.

“Here Sydney Back was the leader in many ways – I have come across few individuals so committed to the art of distillation whilst being an extremely fine winemaker as well,” says Retief.

Simon Back, grandson of Sydney and current Backsberg Estate Cellars CEO says the Veritas award vindicates the Estate’s commitment to continuing the work began by Back snr.

Simon Back

Simon Back

“There are some very fine brandies in the South African market place, many produced by iconic liquor companies with a huge amount of resources to their disposal,” says Back. “To be seen in this company is a great honour for Backsberg. The team in the vineyard, cellar and distillery are unswerving in its goal of making brandies of excellence that express the Backsberg ethos established by the previous generations.”

The Backsberg Sydney Back Aged 10 Years Brandy is distilled on the estate from distillation wine made from Chenin Blanc grapes and aged for 10 to 15 years in old French oak casks.

The two other estate brandies made by Backsberg are the Sydney Back 15 Year and the prized First Distillation, a 20 year old masterpiece.