WINEMAKER Abrie Beeslaar, cellarmaster at Stellenbosch estate Kanonkop is International Winemaker of the Year.

Beeslaar, who said the award was “still a surprise”, was named top winemaker by the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) last week.

Along with Beeslaar’s win, Kanonkop was also named South African Producer of the Year, and claimed the trophy for Best Pinotage, for the Kanonkop Pinotage 2012.

“It’s still a very big surprise. Here at Kanonkop we don’t make a big fuss, we know that what comes around goes around and that this is God-given. We are not that special,” Beeslaar told Business Day.

The IWSC awards dinner took place in London on November 27, with the big winners Kanonkop Wine Estate, Marks & Spencer (Retailer of the Year Award and Wine Buyer of the Year Award), Gusbourne Estate in Kent and London Wine Bar, Sager + Wilde.

“Celebrating its 46th year, the IWSC was the first competition of its kind and is now renowned for its rigorous seven month judging process which includes a double blind tasting and chemical analysis. Truly international in its reach, entrants are judged from all over the world by over 300 experts from 30 different countries,” the competition said on its website.

Wine aficionado Michael Fridjhon said Kanonkop’s 2015 awards confirm the estate’s supremacy as, consistently, SA’s top Pinotage producer. “There is no question,” he said.

Beeslaar also won Winemaker of the Year in 2008. Of his win this year, he told “I was quite gutted by the Springboks’ failure to win this year’s Rugby World Cup, so to be able to retire some respect for SA, albeit on the international wine scene, helped to mend the wounds somewhat.”

Beeslaar said his approach to winemaking was simple. “I don’t try to reinvent the wheel. I am only the third winemaker here in 55 years. I try to build on what was done before, but keep the quality going up and the style consistent, while keeping an eye on technology and developments (in the wine industry). When people open a bottle they want that Kanonkop feeling and I don’t want to jeopardise that.”