Merlot Championed among South African Wine Producers at Second Annual Merlot Top 10 Competition

Hallo Merlot

Following the successful debut of the Taransaud Hallo Merlot Top 10 Competition in 2022, supported by local Merlot wine producers and agricultural industry leaders, the awards returns for its second year. The event aims to showcase the exceptional quality of South African Merlot and recognise the dedication of the nation’s leading winemakers to this varietal, while offering consumers more accurate insights into the calibre of wines produced from the Merlot grape.

Hallo Merlot is a non-profit organisation formally known as the Merlot Forum. The group was established in 2014 by a small collective of local winemakers and individuals who simply share a love for the cultivar. “What started as a passion project has gradually grown into a significant community movement among stakeholders, fostering a deeper appreciation of Merlot among South African wine consumers and producers alike,” says chairperson, Dawie Botha.

In the latest SAWIS report, 90,512 hectares of South Africa’s wine grape vineyards span 800 kilometers, with white varieties accounting for 55.1 percent and red varieties at 44.9 percent. On average, Merlot comprises only 5.9 percent of a total vineyard, highlighting its industry scarcity.

“For those wine producers acquainted with the grape, its unpredictability is well-known, presenting a challenge to craft the highest quality vintage. Merlot has often been overshadowed in terms of national recognition, and our aim is to influence a sense of pride within the winemaking community for a varietal that may not be as widely produced as other wines.” Botha is also the head winemaker at Antonij Rupert Wines.

“Our decision to continue helping Hallo Merlot’s expand initiatives stems from our mutual goals to help elevate a favourable understanding of the remarkable range of Merlot wines in South Africa,” says Taransaud representative, Mark Goldsworthy. “We have enjoyed being a longstanding member and supporter of the forum for a considerable period of time, and it seemed only natural for us to intensify our commitment to Merlot in South Africa. Our aim is not just to support the showcasing of this country’s finest Merlot, but to contribute to its development and prominence. We perceive ourselves not merely as a provider of barrels, but as a collaborator who is genuinely invested in the growth and success of those we work with. We’re eager to see what the future holds.” The French cooperage’s involvement entails securing the producer of the top-scoring Merlot with a new 225l Taransaud barrel.

Last year saw almost 100 national and internationally recognised South African Merlot producers participate in the competition. The wine judges selected for this year’s Merlot Top 10 panel include Cathy van Zyl (Master of Wine), journalist Malu Lambert, Raymond Noppé (Cape Wine Master) and experienced international winemaker, Francois van Zyl. Vondeling winemaker and Hallo Merlot committee member, Matthew Copeland will also be the convener.

“The quality of wines submitted in last year underscores not only the producers’ eagerness to showcase their Merlot wines, but also their commitment to a joint undertaking of emphasising the expertise necessary for creating great Merlot wine”, adds Malu Lambert. “Anticipation is high for this year’s submissions, with the judges eager to discover the entries’ outcomes.”

The Top 10 winners will be announced on 21 June 2023, with late entries being accepted up until 19 May 2023.

While Hallo Merlot has benchmarked the competition as an important milestone in their mission to elevate perspectives of the South African Merlot and #MakeMerlotMatter, they are also a catalyst for educational gatherings and opportunities for like-minded wine enthusiasts to share their opinions and learnings across various fields of expertise. The group has also decided to launch South Africa’s very own National Merlot Day on 8 September this year.

Important Hallo Merlot dates:

  • Closing date for late entries: 17:00 Friday 19 May 2023
  • Delivery dates for wines: 09:00 – 16:00 Thursday 25 May & Friday 26 May
  • Judging: 30 and 31 May 2023
  • Announcement of Results: Wednesday 21 June 2023
  • Debut of National (South Africa) Merlot Day: Friday 8 September 2023
  • Technical Workshop featuring Adolfo Hurtado Cerda of Montgras Cellar (Spain): Wednesday 20 September 2023

Wine producers can enter their Merlot wines at or email Sandra at

Stay up-to-date with the Forum’s progress on the #HalloMerlotTop10Competition by following them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.