Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show feedback at The Grande Roche

Held again at Grande Roche on Friday, this valuable feedback session where the judges, local and international, give their impressions of the wines they have tasted and have finished judging earlier that morning. The session is open to all entrants and the wine industry as a whole. We find this a very good barometer of where the industry is at present. We hear where there have been improvements, what has impressed or underperformed and if there are any new trends

We like to get there early so we can chat to the judges informally before the session to see what their thoughts are
The morning is broken by a good glass of bubbly. Or coffee or tea
A good selection ....
... of local entries into the MCC category
Tired judges who have just finished judging the trophy wines
Judges James Pietersen (The Wine Cellar) and Nerina Cloete (winemaker at Blaauwklippen)

Meeting Michael Fridjhon, who says it is time to start
Janice Fridjhon the Outsorceress genie, who puts this all together with help from her band of willing and able assistants
Judges getting ready to report
Proceedings were opened by Michael FridjhonMore wines were entered this year than they ever expected. They have just completed the four days of tasting . On Monday, which was a public holiday they had a tasting of older South African wines 1966 was the oldest vintage. This give the foreign judges a chance to see what the wines can become. The South African market has no confidence of wines older than five years , we need to encourage and train them, especially the younger drinkers, to wait and see what can happen in the bottle over time, and the industry needs to know what they can pack into the bottles to make them last. The panels working together is so important that they agree on precision and levels of quality. The industry is moving into a new space: the young guns and wild cards and the old guys are all giving wine better attention and have produced a lovely array of good examples. A broad range of styles made gold comfortably. The industry has lifted its game across the board, there is diversity across the wide range of terroirs and regions. There is much better use of wood , more carefully handled. There were fewer museum class wines with trophies and golds despite the higher entry. Does this mean the past is not as good as the present?
Michael took this chance to thank all the regular helpers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make this competition work so well
Then it was the turn of the Judges to comment on what they tasted. Each judge will taste in three or four different panels . The audience waits in anticipation. There were three International Judges. See the judges profiles here. ***
First to speak was Eduardo Brethauer from Chile
He said that he had found this competition to be the most fair and respectful in all the world and he has done competitions in 30 different countries . He especially likes the way that wine is discussed amongst the judges and controversy is allowed. It is his first time in South Africa He is impressed how much better wines are now than 20 years ago, He tasted Sparkling wines, Sauvignon Blancs and sweet wines and was amazed. His advice to our industry: Don't market the wood, show the fruit, not the wood, let the fruit escape the sun, especially in the afternoons. Always be honest and original , don't try to be something you are not. And don't make Pinotage like Cabernets, or over wood it. Much had to much wood, show the fruit, the cultivates, vineyards, the climate and the personality.
Heidi Mäkinen 
Also her first visit to South Africa. She agreed with Eduardo about how good the wine show arrangements are. Timing is always hard. People here are amazing, the rigorous competition is so honest and good. She confessed she did not know much of our industry. This week has changed her shallow opinions. She tasted white wines, Pinot Noir and nice varietals.. One category has risen - Chardonnays, they are doing a great job. She doesn't know the bad old over wooded ones. Very distinctive styles here. Good use of oak, not promoting the French tonneliers. Good acidity, good grape handling, really thrilling wines. Oaked Sauvignon Blancs also good with great balance and aromas, piercing acidity softened by good oaking.
Francois Rautenbach
He reiterates what Heidi says. Impressions over the last few years have made for a steep pyramid. Top class good value with purity and delicacy very exciting. Sauvignon Blancs with real personality. A small entry of wooded ones, very exciting at the top end, now we must bring the quality downwards. Put money into vineyards and not the woo. Of the merlot category he was impressed with the light colours, more rose petals than dark black wine, moving along in quality for the top ones. Advice on 2016 Sauvignons: sell them as quickly as you can. Shiraz not massively over developed, good consistency
Nkulu Mkhwanazi 
Impressed but shortcomings on the Cabernet Francs. An exciting variety but very few have elegance, purity and finesse Too much oak, not focussed. Cabernets were an exciting strong category , lots of competition. Some smartly made with big elegance finesse and intensity. Chenin Blanc great examples but diverse, judges had to pay attention to the different styles. Chardonnays in the medal class were really amazing, especially the museum class. Grande Roche is a very comfortable venue for he competition
Heidi Duminy MW chaired the Bubbly panel. 
The class showed so well, there is a track record and impressive how far they have progressed in a short time, growing in double digits. Stand out wines, with purity of fruit, the new style of glasses really helps the MCCs. Chardonnays are showing the best,. Lovely lees are showing, patience is needed, there is gorgeous freshness of fruit. We need to look at the work the Pinot Noir isn't doing, it is not adding much to the wine. She liked the smile on Eduardo's face, he was impressed. A quote: The only pain I can bear is Champagne"
Nerina Cloete
A great show. From a wine makers perspective Sauvignon Blanc challenging this year - follow what you know. We can make beautiful Chardonnay and she liked the Pinot Noirs. Sees people putting layers into white blends. Wooded Sauvignon Blancs -stunning to see the effect of wood on this grape.
Neil Becket 
commented how good the show is and how well conceived . More excited at the huge progress in our wines. He is as excited as everyone with the Chardonnays. The Pendulum has swung too far worldwide in reductive wines. The best wines avoid it and find the sweet spot in the middle. Red wines the best improved were the Bordeaux blends and Cabernets . There is an advance in judgement, how the wine is made, less oak, better fruit and acids are better than 10 years ago. More wines had their own balance and people are not frightened of green herbs and pyrazines. Rather that than grapes are pushed to over ripeness and then added acid is needed to balance. There are some outstanding world class wines in the Cabernets and Bordeaux class.
James Pietersen
This is his 8th year as a judge. Lots of fun with the international judges. There is such diversification of SA wines , a willingness to experiment, to have more fun, new varietals being tested and used with good results. Lots of excitement with wines using Duro, Rhone and Italian varietals. The market movement from heavy extracted wines with tannins to ore playful delicate wines with more detailing offer more drinking pleasure.
Christian Eedes 
says he usually plays the Bad Cop. Chardonnay showed exceptionally well, it's a great grape which in South Africa responds well to the right site and good wine making. 20 Pinot Noirs were exciting, 200 Pinotages were generally dreadful, it has got stuck again. Different industry sectors with new wave Pinot Noir. Old school Pinotages are not showing sensitivity, thoughtfulness too ambitious, overdone, ham-fisted We need to encourage a lightness of touch. Leaf roll virus and the drought are badly affecting the industry. We must take a view: is Cabernet the best grape to plant in drought affected areas? No. In the cool climate areas Pinot Noir producers are working really hard. There are 2 or 3 golds in the Pinotage class so there are people who are applying some thoughtfulness, they are a small minority.
During the short question time Eduardo was asked what he thought of Pinotage: Scary, so difficult to understand, made in so many different directions, so concentrated green, over extracted. He is looking for subtlety, difficult to find gently and light wines they are there we need to go deeper. John asked should we be more area specific with them? Christian - still traumatised, said its not about the site. Nadia said approach is the issue, the style that is being produced is not helping the glass, huge black fruit with tarry oak, not commercial. Eduardo added: they are not getting awards from the judges. The top ten however might get a Trophy.
Tips please asked someone in the audience about Blanc Fumé - wooded Sauvignon Blancs. Support with oak but not too much, and only a limited amount of new wood. Use good Sauvignon Blanc, your best, intense wines from the best sites but only use a small percentage and experiment with it and the size of barrels . Start small, use and work the lees, but don't roll the barrels, lay a bit. Now we are going to need a new category for wooded Sauvignon Blancs, a new Trophy.
Wood was used sometimes in the past to cover up problems . This is not happening how Francois said personality comes with time, oak is a supporting role.
Was there excitement on Chenin it was asked? The wines were exiting with good acidity and brightness of fruit. Spontaneous ferment, vibrant attention grabbing wines. In no way were those overwhelmed by the Chardonnays.
What about the White Blends of Sauvignon Semillon , exotic Chenin blends, Rhone varietals. There is a very worthy trophy.
Sweeter wines, Port style? The quality is superlative, every bit as good as 10 years ago, but it is a struggling class worldwide, we must help it survive.
Funky flavours, naturally made wines vs old methods? James commented that they are not letting wines through that are weird and wonderful.
What about Rosé wines, what is the direction to go? Heidi Mäkinen said Rosé is trending worldwide, it should be taken seriously and made to pair with food with structure. Enough of that bulk in the world we need a restrained style, gentleness not over extracted and with good acidity. Christian commented that Rosé is not really a wine. 1 million litres to keep the business running, what is your intention? It is difficult to make a gold medal wine. How ambitious can you get? Grapes should be grown specifically, said Heidi. She commented that at 67 Pall Mall where she works they don't sell blush wines. Heidi Duminy said Rosé is the fasted growing market. There are a handful of seriously styles but they are few and an expensive niche with niche results. Its growing in the bubbly field too, with skin contact or a blend, the consumer expectation of fine rosé is delicate rather than full.

Michael's final comment was that wine is a middle class indulgence, it lubricates the wheels of the economy and is an important factor in it. It has been a good competition this year with lots of good wine
Leon Coetzee, The Fledge, discussing his wines with Eduardo Brethauer

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