World's best brandy is made right here

Johannesburg - South African brandies recently triumphed at the World Drinks Awards in London, where Oude Meester Demant claimed the ultimate accolade of World’s Best Brandy.

This is the second consecutive year that a South African brandy has held the highest honour – Klipdrift Premium won World’s Best Brandy last year.

Guests at a glittering award ceremony on 30 March at the Waldorf Hilton also saw gold medals go to Richelieu International, Klipdrift Premium and Oude Meester Sovereign 18-year-old.

The blind-tasting judging panel was comprised of highly respected and experienced authorities from the drinks and hospitality industry, and they adjudicated hundreds of international submissions. They scored merit on nose, palate, finish, balance, character and quality.

The Oude Meester Demant was judged to have “luminous amber clarity, a nose rich in chocolate and nutmeg, with apricot and pineapple on the palate”.

With an ideal climate and a history of brandy production stretching back more than 300 years, it should come as no surprise that South African brandies are among global leaders. Many of the country’s award-winning brandies are actually Cognacs because they are made in the Cognac style. Unfortunately, the term is geographically delimited and refers only to brandy distilled in and shipped from the area surrounding the town of Cognac in France.

Iconic Soweto shebeen owner Wandi Ndala believes that education is required to help South Africans begin to recognise the value of their beautiful “Ibrandy ebomvu”.

“In the old days, we used to sell cases and cases of brandy, but not any more. When the international brands came in, people switched.

“I keep saying to customers: ‘That Cognac you are ordering is not necessarily better than this South African brandy that you say you don’t want. It’s more expensive because of the exchange rate, not its quality,’” says Ndala.

He says customers are unwittingly rejecting a world-class drink in favour of foreign-made Cognac.

“When they taste the local stuff again, they understand that they do actually like brandy – they just forgot about it.”

He adds that there is often confusion as many Cognac drinkers believe that Cognac is a kind of whisky.

“They don’t know that it is a type of brandy. If our industry would put more money into brandy education, I am sure it could re-establish its place in the market,” he says.

With the recent crash in the rand, a rise in imported liquor prices is expected. Epicurean education about the value of home-grown brandy cannot come soon enough.

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