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Nederburg's noble late harvest wins Old Mutual's 2019 dessert wine trophy

Nederburg has won the Old Mutual Trophy for Best Dessert Wine (Unfortified) at the 2019 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show. The trophy was earned for The Winemasters Noble Late Harvest 2018.
Elmarie Botes, Nederburg and Ms Thobile Tshabalala, Head of Brand for Old Mutual LR
Elmarie Botes, Nederburg and Ms Thobile Tshabalala, Head of Brand for Old Mutual LR

Now in its 18th year, the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show honours wine excellence and is chaired by wine authority Michael Fridjhon.

While Nederburg has over two centuries established an unassailable reputation for distinction across its range of red and white varietal and blended wines, there is one style, in particular, that is virtually synonymous with the famous winery.

The noble harvest wine style

The winery broke new ground with the noble late harvest wine style in 1969 when Günter Brözel, Nederburg cellar-master from 1956 to 1989, made the first wine in South Africa with grapes affected by noble rot or botrytis cinerea, the fungus attacking grapes under a very specific set of climatic conditions to produce richly-scented, honeyed, complex wines of remarkable longevity.

Noble rot grows in moist, humid conditions, often brought on by summer rains, followed by moderate temperatures and enough of a breeze to ensure good air circulation through the vine canopies. The noble rot literally feeds on the juice of the grapes and concentrates not only their sugars, but their acids and flavours.

"One of nature’s miracles, it depends on a pretty exact sequence of events - a few days, at most, of wet weather and then sunshine - to produce wines of luxurious depth and sweetness. Wet weather, followed by extended cold temperatures, insufficient air movement through the vines, and high humidity or too hot weather, can turn the noble into sour rot, rendering the grapes worthless and totally unusable for any wine at all," explains Niël Groenewald, managing director of Nederburg.

Groenewald describes the layered and complex natural sweet wine as elegantly styled and very fragrant with floral notes and aromas of orange peel, apricot, honey and dried peach. The palate, where sugar and acid are in perfect harmony, is luscious but refined with delicious dried fruit, pineapple and citrus flavours.

The 2018 vintage of this wine is made from a blend of Chenin blanc (56%), Muscat de Frontignan (39%), Sauvignon blanc (3%) and Grasă de Cotnari (2%). The fruit was sourced from trellised vineyards in Durbanville and Paarl, and cooled by morning mists and afternoon winds.

It was made by Nederburg white-wine maker Elmarie Botes, who joined the winery in December 2017. "The actual vinification takes enormous focus," says Botes. "Fermentation is extremely slow given the very high sugar content of the grapes."

Nederburg’s noble late harvests are always tank-fermented and receive no wood contact, and both the Edelkeur and The Winemasters version stand out for their luxuriously sweet yet graceful aromas and tastes, tempered by a firm acidity.

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