Paul Clüver Icon Chardonnay Wins Three Trophies at International Wine Challenge
In its best performance at an international wine competition to date, Paul Clüver Family Wines – the pioneer of winemaking in the Elgin region – won three trophies at this year’s International Wine Challenge (IWC) for the estate’s icon Seven Flags Chardonnay 2021.
At this competition, known as the most rigorously judged on the international wine awards circuit, the Paul Clüver Seven Flags Chardonnay 2021 secured the IWC International Chardonnay Trophy, the trophy for best South African White Wine as well as the IWC Sustainable Trophy. The wine accrued a score of 97pts.
Now in its 39th year, the IWC is widely acknowledged as the world’s most rigorous, impartial, influential and global wine competition. The competition assesses every wine ‘blind’ for its faithfulness to style, region and vintage, with trophies awarded to the very best wines in each category.
Paul Clüver Jnr, MD of Paul Clüver Family Wines, says that although the winery has put in a number of commendable showings in international and local wine competitions, winning three trophies at the IWC is a highlight of this Elgin farm who paved the way for wine-growing in the region by planting its first commercial vineyards in 1987.
“Being the holder of the 2023 IWC Trophy for Best International Chardonnay is celebrated by the whole Paul Clüver family and our team in the vineyards and in the cellar,” says Clüver.
“But if there is one person I would like to give this honour to, it is my father Dr Paul Clüver. It was his vision and foresight to plant the first commercial vineyards in Elgin, putting the family and our team on the trajectory of involvement in the fascinating world of wine. The fact that Chardonnay was one of those first varieties to be planted on our farm in 1987, and now to have the IWC Trophy for Best International Chardonnay underscores my father’s vision, although he will not blame me for saying that I do not think even he anticipated this achievement when laying down the first Chardonnay vines.”
Adding a touch of special relevance to the IWC trophy awards is that the winning Seven Flags Chardonnay 2021 was made from those very first Chardonnay vines planted in 1987.
Andries Burger, cellarmaster at Paul Clüver Family Wines, says these three IWC trophies for the Seven Flags Chardonnay 2021 are a result of the vision the winery had when releasing the first Seven Flags Chardonnay in 2014.
“The wine was created to optimally express Paul Clüver terroir, which from the outset we believed was conducive to making Chardonnay that can lay claim to greatness in an international context, while bearing the distinct nuances of our Elgin soils, climate and aspect,” he says. “The recent IWC Trophy awards have helped realise this vision, and for a winemaker there are few things in life more gratifying than succeeding in what you have set out to achieve.”
Burger says that with Chardonnay grapes of this quality, winemaking is predictably minimalistic. “The fruit is 100% whole-bunch pressed, with the rest destemmed and crushed before the juice was allowed to settle without any additions,” he says. “Natural spontaneous fermentation commenced in 300l Burgundian oak barrels – 35% new, the rest 2nd and 3rd fill.”
The wine remained on the lees for a total of nine months without any sulphur addition. “We like to retain as much of the natural acidity as possible which gives great freshness to the wine, thus we prefer to avoid malolactic fermentation. After tasting and blending trials, the wine was assembled from the best barrels, stabilised and prepared for bottling,” he says.
Clüver says adding the IWC Sustainability Trophy to this year’s IWC accolades was of special importance, as regenerative farming and conserving the estate’s natural fauna and flora has been part of the farm’s ethos since the Clüver family began farming in Elgin in 1896.
“With over 1000ha of our 2000ha farm being a recognised conservation area, Paul Clüver Family Wines is proud to play a leading role in the sustainability of the Cape winelands,” he says. “This mind-set spills over in farming the 70ha of vineyards where science plays a profound role in curbing emissions, conserving water and ensuring soil health. We firmly believe a sustainably minded approach to viticulture has a profound role to play in allowing the best expression of terroir in our wines. It is important for IWC to recognise the role of sustainability in the wine industry, and we are truly honoured to receive its sustainability trophy.”