Franschhoek Valley first: wines awarded for displaying regional attributes

Today the highest quality Franschhoek Semillon, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, displaying regional provenance, were granted Appellation Grand Prestige (AGP) status at the inaugural AGP awards ceremony, sponsored by Cork Supply South Africa and Anglo African Finance.

Wines were awarded AGP status based on them epitomising the flavour and aroma profiles found in Franschhoek wines. These profiles were determined during a ‘typicity tasting’ in 2013, which included 115 wines from 30 Franschhoek producers, with vintages dating back to 1992.

The wines were systematically tasted and analysed by industry experts – winemakers, critics, retailers and sommeliers – to establish the particular regional attributes that clearly define Franschhoek wines. This was followed by a classification tasting where wines labelled and certified Wine of Origin Franschhoek were selected for being of a high quality and displaying strong regional characteristics.

In order to qualify for AGP status, wines entered in the selection process had to be produced from grapes grown solely in the Franschhoek ward. Wines made from grapes grown outside Franschhoek were not included in the selection process and could not qualify for AGP status.

This rigorous approach to define a regional identity is the brainchild of founding members Craig McNaught of Stony Brook Vineyards, Clayton Reabow of Môreson Wine Farm and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir. As producers they recognise the need to provide the consumer with an identification system which effectively communicates regional typicity while encouraging quality Franschhoek wine offerings.

“The selection process showed a remarkable flavour and aroma agreement between similar varieties, which clearly indicated a unique expression of Franschhoek provenance that we felt needed to be acknowledged to the winemakers, and communicated to the consumers,” says Reabow. “With this identification system, consumers who love the wines produced in Franschhoek will be able to identify wine made only from grapes grown in the valley, and make an informed purchasing decision.”

According to McNaught a regional identification system like AGP is becoming even more important as international enthusiasm for South African wines mounts. “It’s about boosting the Franschhoek brand of wines by making it possible for consumers to make regional associations, similar to wine industries in Europe. When sampling a wine from Bordeaux, consumers know what to expect from the wines produced there, and the same principle applies for other regions across the globe. There is no reason why the same idea shouldn’t apply in South Africa.”

The first wines to be granted AGP status are:

Chamonix Chardonnay Reserve 2013

Maison Chardonnay 2013

Rickety Bridge Chardonnay 2013

Moreson Mercator Premium Chardonnay 2013

Moreson Knoputibak 2012

Franschhoek Vineyards Semillon 2012

Franschhoek Vineyards Semillon 2013

Haut Espoir Semillon 2009

Rickety Bridge Paulinas Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Stony Brook Ghost Gum Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

According to the AGP founding members, this system might prove useful to other wine districts where producers are seeking to highlight regional typicity in their wines. “It potentially provides the rest of the Winelands with a systematic and scientific classification system to identify and reward the individual character profile of grapes grown in various wine appellations,” says Armstrong.