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Award Winning South African Wine: How Much Should South Africans Pay for Award Winning Wines?

Purpose

South Africa is known for producing some of the best wines in the world.

But have you ever wondered how much you should really pay for a bottle of award-winning South African wine? That’s exactly what I’m here to find out.

This report takes a close look at the top award winning South African wines, comparing their prices and getting an idea of what the average consumer can expect to pay. Whether you’re a casual wine drinker, or a devoted connoisseur, this report aims to guide you through the interesting world of South African award-winning wines.

Data Sourcing, Cleaning, and Analysing Process

I chose to do my analysis using the results for 5 different Wine Award competitions/rating organisations, specifically for the year 2023.

The Competitions and Rating Organisations:

  • Platter’s
  • Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards
  • Veritas Awards
  • Terroir Wine Awards
  • Global Fine Wine Challenge in Sydney
  • International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC)
  • Amorim Cap Classique Challenge

Why Include an International Competition?

I included two international wine competitions (Global Fine Wine Challenge in Sydney and the IWSC) which gives an idea of which South African wines win awards in the contexts of competing against other countries, and the price of them relative to the others on the list from South African wine award competitions / ceremonies.

Are These Wines Really Representative of All South African Wines?

There is the argument that there is politics at play in the wine industry, and the best wines don’t always make it to these events, but that can be said of any sport or competition.

At the end of the day these are some of the biggest local wine competitions with 2 international compositions and the panels consist of experts that have extensive experience with the wine and have studied it.

Wine Prices

To get the prices of each wine, I manually searched each one online. I chose the first South African store that came up, selling that exact wine and vintage.

Prices can and do vary when buying them on the farm.

It was not always possible to find the vintage for all the wines – there were few wines I was not able to find at all, and for a few I used the vintage that was within 1-3 years of the wine that won the award. I understand that wines from a different vintage would have undergone different environmental and other conditions which affect the taste, so I was very selective about when I made this decision.

Finding the prices online for the wines locally was rather difficult. Many websites of the winery’s themselves don’t have the price for the specific vintage, some did not have an online store, and some had sites with broken links. I mostly used online retailers and winery websites where available.

Rating Scales

The Rating Scale for Platter’s Wine Awards works on a star system which is based on a point scale. It starts at zero stars and goes up to 5 stars. The rating scale includes increments such as 3.5 stars 4.5 and so forth. The higher point score and stars represent a better wine.

Because different competitions have different rating systems or scales, and a different number of categories, I only looked at the two highest categories (where there was more than one category) to try to even out the ratings. For example, one competition may have 5 separate categories, and another may have 3 or one category. The reason I did not only look at the highest category is that it would be artificially limited and inflate the prices for award-winning wines.

Terms

MCC and CC are acronyms for terms used in the South African wine industry to distinguish sparkling wines that have bubbles as a result of natural fermentation, rather than chemically being pumped into the wine. It is a lot more expensive to produce and is similar to the process used to make French champagnes.

The term was originally Method Cap Classique but it is now called simply Cap Classique.

Data Filtering / Subsetting

I excluded wines that were auction only, since this analysis seeks to understand and attempt to make a data-informed recommendation on what the end consumer should pay for an award-winning wine, in South Africa.

The Red Blends had four separate categories, I combined them all into a single Red Blends category.

The original breakdown was as follows:

  • Red Blends, Cape Bordeaux
  • Red Blends, with Pinotage
  • Red Blends, Shiraz/Syrah-based
    Red Blends, Other

The Wines of the Year originally had 26 Categories, I narrowed it down by only including my personal top 5 favourites (which happen to include some of the most popular varietals anyway).

  • Shiraz
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Pinotage
  • Pinot Noir
  • Red Blends

For the Five-Star category from Platter’s there were 196 wines awarded 5 stars, among a wide variety of varietals.

I narrowed this down to my favourites as well:

  • Shiraz
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Pinotage
  • Pinot Noir
  • Red Blends

For white wines, I selected only Chardonnay, as it is my favourite white wine.

I also included Cap Classique wines.

Data Cleaning

The data was not provided in the same format, so the data required some cleaning before I could use it. Mostly, it required ensuring that the entries were consistent in terms of the format of the wine name.

For example, Platter’s would provide the category winners in this format:

Pinotage

Kanonkop Black Label 2020

But the wine name is written “Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage 2020”.

I also removed “.”, spaces and certain special characters.

I removed these wines as I could not get a price:

  • Diemersdal Prospect 2020
  • Silverthorn CWG Big Dog VIII 2017

Analysis

After cleaning up the data in Excel, I used it for basic analysis such as finding the cheapest and most expensive wines, as well as average costs.

I then exported the raw data as a CSV, and used Python and Jupyter Notebook for the charts and graphs.

Key Findings and for Consumers

Cheapest, Most Expensive, and Average Wine Price

Cheapest Red Single Varietal: Verreaux Pinotage 2021 Produced by Alvi`s Drift Private Cellar – R 85

Most expensive Red Single Varietal: Kanonkop Black Label 2020 – R 2350

Average price of Red Single Varietal: R569

Cheapest Red Blend: Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap Red 2022 – R70

Most expensive Red Blend: Delaire Graff Banghoek 2018 – R 2200

Average price of Red Blend: R623

Cheapest Chardonnay: Merwida Papenkuils Kukumakranka Chardonnay 2023 – R75

Most expensive Chardonnay: Capensis Fijnbosch 2018 – R 1500

Average price of Chardonnay: R498

Cheapest Cap Classique: Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut CC 2019 – R170

Most expensive Cap Classique: Graham Beck Cuvee Clive 2018 – R 1250

Average price of Cap Classique: R 371

Average Cost of a 5 Star Platter’s Wine:

  • Red Single Varietal: R 725
  • Red Blend: R 673
  • Cap Classique wine: R 461
  • Chardonnay: R 616

Price Distribution Graphs

Scatter Plot of Prices for Chardonnay Wines by Vintage

Z-Score of Wine Prices for Pinotage (with Outliers Highlighted)

The Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage 2020, at a price of R2350 is a clear outlier when compared to the rest of the Pinotage wines.

Price Distribution comparing Red Blends and Red Single Varietals

Heatmap of Average Wine Prices by Category and Vintage

Frequency Distribution of Red Single Varietal and Red Blends Wine Prices

Price Breakdowns

Price Breakdown of Red Blends

90% of wines are priced underR1087
80% of wines are priced underR992
50% of wines are priced underR500
30% of wines are priced underR290
10% of wines are priced underR170

Price Breakdown of Pinotage

90% of wines are priced underR1286
80% of wines are priced underR726
50% of wines are priced underR450
30% of wines are priced underR366
10% of wines are priced underR208

It is interesting to note that I didn’t see any wines featuring in the top categories of both local and international competitions. (A caveat – this report was only looking at the top two levels of awards, it is possible that the wines happened to score lower in other competitions. More detailed analysis will be required.)

Recommendations

Price is not always a good indicator.

For example, the Nederburg Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 retails at R165, while the Reyneke Biodynamic Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 retails at R1070. Both wines received a 5 Star Platter’s rating in 2023.

Similarly, Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut CC 2019 retails at R170, while the Graham Beck Cuvee Clive 2018 retails at R1250. Both Cap Classiques received Double Gold at the Amorim Cap Classique Challenge 2023.

A wine that is more expensive may be more likely to win awards, but it does not mean that cheaper wines are not as good. Results like this underscore the principle that excellence in wine is not exclusively the domain of the most expensive wines.

Which wines should you buy?

The short answer – whichever wines you enjoy.

How much should I spend on a bottle of wine?

There is no ideal price point, however, if you look at our ‘Price Breakdown’ for Red Blends and Pinotage, it does give you a good indicator of how easy it will be to get an award-winning wine in your budget.

Should you only buy award-winning wines?

I don’t recommend only buying award-winning wines. Not all wines end up being entered in competitions, and doing so risks overlooking exceptional wines that have not received formal recognition, thereby narrowing our appreciation of diversity and quality.

The landscape of wine production is rich and varied, with new wineries emerging alongside established vineyards. These newcomers, despite lacking the extensive history of their predecessors, often produce wines that resonate with quality and enjoyment. It is a reminder that discovery and personal preference should guide our wine selections.

In Conclusion

As South Africans, we are fortunate to have a rich variety of wines to explore, marked by both tradition and innovation. This report aimed to get a better idea on how much a consumer could expect to spend on an award-wining wine. And while there is no clear answer, it can be used as a guide along with discovery and personal preference to guide our wine selections.

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