THE Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Award for 2020 was awarded to Simonsig Estate’s Johan Malan. Each year the wine style or variety used differs. The styles and varieties are already in place until 2025, giving winemakers the opportunity to prepare – particularly red wines – for the awards. For the 40th anniversary, the wine style chosen was Cap Classique, the name given to the South African wine made by the traditional method of a second fermentation in the bottle.
The coveted title was presented to Malan for the 2015 Kaapse Vonkel Brut. “Dom Perignon said ‘come quickly I am tasting the stars!’ I felt as though I was tasting the stars, and appropriately, it was Diane’s and my wedding anniversary too. Also so timeous with 2021 being the 50th anniversary of the first Kaapse Vonkel and also for Cap Classique! This award is full of meaning and symbolism for me and my team, all of whom played a part in this award. I am humbled and grateful.”
The Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Awards was originally founded by wine legend Peter Devereux and Hugh Peatling, CEO of Diners Club, with the first award being presented in 1981. Since then, it has become the South African industry’s premier award for winemakers.
Johan’s father, Frans Malan, Stellenbosch wine pioneer, started experimenting with this style of wine using Chenin Blanc. In 1990 Johan Malan travelled to Champagne on a study tour. His travels inspired him to plant Pinot Meunier and in 1997 Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel became the first Cap Classique to include all three of the classic grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The first wine was named Kaapse Vonkel, now a legend in its own right. For many years Frans was the only winemaker to make bottle fermented sparkling wine in the Cape. In 2021 this milestone will be celebrated with the 50th anniversary of Cap Classique.