Thursday, May 23, 2019

Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show Judges' Feedback Session at the Grande Roche, Paarl

Last week, we attended this year’s Judges Feedback Session of the 18th Old Mutual Trophy Awards. Held again at Grande Roche, this competition is run by Chairman Michael Fridjhon. It has 1 Chairman; 9 judges – three from overseas; 6 associates; 956 wines from 206 producers were entered: 103 Shiraz; 86 Sauvignons Blanc; 84 Chenin Blanc; 84 Chardonnay; 83 Cabernet Sauvignon; 76 Bordeaux Blends; 54 Pinotage and 44 Merlot and some blends

A selection of local MCC bubblies was served before the feedback session began

Jacqueline Lahoud of with Alex Mason Gordon of Outsorceress Marketing
She and Janice Fridjhon organise the competition and manage the Public Relations

Janice Fridjhon was dispensing name badges to the visiting wine trade and media

Some of the great wines to sample. Loved the Laborie's MCC Blanc de Blanc, always one of our favourites
Where do we get some of this wonderful wine?

and some others
Some great wine homilies on Alex's apron!
Time to take our seats. We sit far forward to hear well so that Lynne can take accurate notes
and John can take photographs of the panel of judges and record their words

The line-up of judges for 2019. You will find the full transcript of the Feedback Session on
In his opening remarks, Michael told us that there were 32 golds awarded this year, down on last year by a small margin, but last year it was very high as they tasted some spectacular wines from 1915 and 1917 vintage; not so many were in this year's tasting and the 2016 and 2018 wines are not yet showing their best. Has climate change meant that we might perform better with Rhône varieties and wines? Not yet it seems. They saw some really nice Rhône varieties (25 entries), but the newly introduced category has not yet produced the quality they were hoping to find; that might be the function of the vintages they tasted. He did say there was one good Mourvedre and one good Roussanne that came through
There were three international judges this year and the first Judge to speak was
Benjamin Roffet 
He has the unique distinction of winning, in consecutive years, the two most prestigious titles in French sommellerie - the Best Sommelier in France 2010 and the Meilleur Ouvrier de France Sommellerie in 2011. He knows a lot about not only French wine, but European wine. This was his second visit to South Africa and in 10 years there have been many changes
He loved the Chenins he tasted, he is a big Chenin fan (he liked that he didn’t have to pay for them!) and that was where he had his highest scoring wine. He was quite impressed with the fortified wines. He was on the Bordeaux wine panel with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon and found high quality & balance. He was looking for elegance and found it. He was impressed by these three days

Narina Cloete
She is the winemaker at Blaauwklippen, is a long serving Trophy Wine Show judge, as well as a panellist at the Zarcillo International Wine Competition in Spain. She tasted the Red blend classes from Bordeaux blends to the All Other Blends category: Rhône, Cape blends, some Portuguese varieties to some they have never seen before
She spoke about the Other Red blends, which they called the mix and match batch, not that it was all that. There were some interesting examples, where you could see where winemakers had a plan behind it, where you could see the integration, the interest, the wines being melded together. What was unfortunate was the mix and match wines, the bits and pieces left over in the cellar that were thrown together and, here and there, some wines where the cultivars were standing apart. It was an interesting category all in all, but the Rhône category was a little disappointing. Some of the wines were dramatic, but fell apart on the palate with harsh tannins, flabbiness and no freshness and the wines didn't follow through. The panel thinks that this is where the vintage comes in, maybe picking at the right time when you are looking for ripeness; instead you get harsh tannins and freshness. The Pinotage blends had some of the best examples of what Pinotage can do, which was good for the overseas judges to see. The Bordeaux blends were bit disappointing in comparison to last year, some high extraction problems and rough tannins, no finish on the end. We think the drought is really affecting us. We need to look at oak use, sometimes there is just not enough fruit purity and intensity to carry the wood. We need to look at oak budgets and use less wood and extraction
Simon Field MW
He is a freelance wine writer who qualified as a Master of Wine in 2002 and worked for 20 years as a buyer for London wine merchant Berry Bros and Rudd, specialising in the wines of Spain and France, Champagne, the Midi and the Rhône Valley. He was made a member of the Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino in 2012. He was also a judge last year. He judged Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Rhône Blends
He was impressed with the fantastically organised forensic investigation of the wines and is sure that the trophy wines are really worthy winners. With his experience of Rhône wines, he found the Rhône blends a little disappointing; a paradoxical situation, presented with an embarrassment of riches of blends and single varietals but, when they tasted the top wines for the Trophy that morning, 30 were single varietals, very few actual Rhône blends. There must be a moral there. There was one very good Roussane and a Mourvedre which came through, as Michael mentioned. The wines are not quite there, things fell apart. What percentage were blends? Some were nice. Cabernets and two really superb Chenins. South African Chenin is absolutely outstanding structurally and temperamentally. Good impressive Pinotages. "My view is that the new voice of South Africa – for want of a better word, the modish producers – don’t really talk to some of the traditional producers, and then you’ve got the bulk wine, so you have a real triangle with a lot of distance between the elements. We had a large Chardonnay flight. I tended to mark up all the wines that reminded of Meursault and so forth, and the rest of the panel were far more rigorous in their structural investigation of the wines. There was a lot of variety, not too much over-oaking. It’s a shame that not many of them made it through to the final round. Chardonnay fared so much better than Pinot Noir, which was frankly a little disappointing. Single varietals do better than blends"
Kirk Bauer
He obtained his degree in Oenology & Beverage Technology from the University of Geisenheim in Germany and has worked in the wine industry for almost 20 years. In 2005 he founded a company which provides consulting and technical advice to wineries in Germany and Luxembourg, France, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. In 2000 he helped to create Mundus Vini - the Grand International Wine Award which, with more than 10 000 entries annually, is today the biggest European wine challenge. He currently serves as a board member and president of the Jury. In addition he is a permanent member (and has been the President of the Jury) for International Wine Challenge (IWC), the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) and the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles (CMB). He is also a member of the editorial team for WEINWIRTSCHAFT, a trade magazine which is part of the Meininger’s Group
He found strength in certain categories; why do blends fall down? Opportunity to taste Shiraz and Pinotage, White blends, Sauvignon Blanc & Chenin. “Having the opportunity to taste your Shirazes from South Africa as well as a whole row of Pinotages, and on the white wines I had a deep insight into the Sauvignon Blanc class as well as the Chenin, and from a European point of view - I’m from Germany and I think we are a very important market for you, for your exports. I know you struggle with global climate change as new world countries do. I must say, seeing your development, especially in the Shiraz class and comparing it with Australia (I recently spent 8 weeks in a row there), your winemakers managed to give a certain, very sharp profile of what Shiraz can be. Maybe I’d better say that you can divide Shiraz into two sections: on the one hand is the Syrah class, the Rhône Valley style with elegant spiciness, herbal characters, which you show very clearly - but that’s the minority. The majority of your Shiraz style is what the Australians define quite well. It’s the richness, the rich dark fullness and sometimes peppery and cassis-like - a smooth finish, full-bodied Shiraz. Both were represented in this show very clearly and that is something I will remember for a long time. Then coming to one specific white wine variety which I sometimes think is underestimated. The variation is huge in your Chenin Blanc. You are able to produce very fruity, well-balanced, from easy drinking to enjoyable with food Chenin Blancs but, at the same time, your wine industry shows that Chenin Blanc is something which ages well and has a huge potential to age. So I take these things home. Coming to your actual original wine variety which is Pinotage, I take three things home: Chenin Blanc is Chenin Blanc is nonsense, Pinotage is Pinotage is nonsense and South Africa, amongst the New World wine countries, is the most Old World wine country” 
Patson Mathonsi
Brand Ambassador at Asara Wine Estate, Eat Out and Mercedes-Benz Sommelier of the Year in 2014. From coffee shop to Italian bistro, his career in fine wine progressed with his appointment as Head Sommelier at DW11-13 Restaurant in Johannesburg and as sales representative at The Reciprocal Wine Trading Company from 2015 until 2018. Has completed the Cape Wine Academy Certificate in Wine and WSET Levels 1, 2 and 3. He is a member of the Hugues Lepin Sommelier and Wine Academy. Michael Fridjhon Wine Judging Academy 2016 graduate. Trophy Wine Show associate judge in 2016, 2017 and 2018
“I think we’re still going in the right direction with our Chenin Blanc. Obviously struggling with climate. Going back to 2016 when I judged as an associate, we had quite a lot of 2014/15 vintages, which was really amazing and, coming back to it now, we’re still going in the right direction, with very pure fruit, very clean and fresh. I was privileged to be in the Pinotage class and also in the Cape blend class as well. What I picked up in the Pinotage class is that, stylistically, it seems we are a bit confused with our own grape varietal. At some point you taste this big tannic Pinotage, so it can be tough. I think we need to stick to a blended Pinotage quite a lot more
I must say I was very impressed with the MCC. We had a few, but I wish a lot more had been submitted. There was lots of freshness, very clean as well. You do get that brioche, very yeasty character of Cap Classique, but although some of them were very yeasty and woody, they had a lovely freshness as well. Some of the Pinotages were a little watered down with lots of tannins” 
Alexandra McFarlane
Owner winemaker of McFarlane Wines. Former winemaker and viticulturist at Druk My Niet and viticulturist at De Toren Private Cellar. Graduated from the University of Stellenbosch with a BSc degree in Viticulture and Oenology in 2010. Awarded Dombeya Scholarship to work the 2011 Australian harvest in Margaret River and Barossa Valley, returning to South Africa to take up the position of assistant winemaker at Mulderbosch. Further international experience includes stints in the Napa Valley in 2012 and a return to Australia in 2013 for seasons at Kalleske Wines in Barossa Valley and Henschke Wines in Eden Valley. Also worked at Dombeya and Waterkloof and more recently as junior winemaker at Spier. Distinction graduate of the Michael Fridjhon Wine Judging Academy in 2015. Trophy Wine Show associate judge from 2015 to 2017 and judge in 2018
 “3 Golds for MCC. I think the Chardonnay class - I don’t want to say is disappointing - I think some of the most notable part of the class which was really positive was the handling of the fruit and the oak weight. I also expected to see a lot more of the steely, flinty reductive style, which we didn’t see. I do think that the drought - I’m not going to say climate change - but definitely the drought has had an effect on the quality of wines that came through. We had one gold that was showing very well. I was definitely punting a bit more of a different style but without as much support as I wanted. We’re happy and proud of that Chardonnay that came through, but most notably again, just to echo, the handling of the fruit and the oak has become a lot more fine and really well done and really impressive. I think we hold Chardonnay to a different standard sometimes, because it’s a bit of a holy grail for some of us. To echo the sentiment of really good handling of fruit coming through the Sauvignons and Semillons, I don’t drink a lot of Sauvignon, but that was one of the most impressive classes
We had some very clever wines that came through. In an unwooded Sauvignon Blanc, you’d expect a little bit more Semillon, a little more wood to give them something extra on the palate. Probably my favourite wine of all the top wines that we tasted today was a straight Sauvignon Blanc - no wood! Extremely fresh, really powerful on the palate. So, whoever made that, well done! I’m going to be spending a lot more money on Sauvignon Blanc
I think we saw some really great museum Sauvignon Blancs, moving away from that really green pyrazine style, which don’t tend to age well. I think the potential for that class is really astounding for the vintages that are on the market now
JD Pretorius
Newly appointed cellarmaster at Warwick Wines from May 2019. General Manager at Steenberg Vineyards from July 2018 to April 2019 and cellarmaster since 2012. Graduated from Stellenbosch University in 2007 with a BSc. Viticulture and Oenology degree. Worked at Beyerskloof and Graham Beck Wines as well as at Stonestreet Winery in Sonoma County, California. Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the Year in 2014. Distinction graduate at the Michael Fridjhon Wine Judging Academy in 2010 and attended the Advanced Wine Judging Academy in 2014. Trophy Wine Show associate judge from 2011 to 2013 and judge in 2014, 2015 and 2016
He was on the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc panels
"I’ve had a two year sabbatical, so to come back after two years has been quite interesting, especially on the technical side. We had a lot less faulty wines that got knocked out on technicality. I don’t think we had one in what I did. So oxidation, VAs, pickling and sauvignon blanc reduction – all those things – have become a lot better managed, which I think is a great sign
Chardonnays – we were looking for real fine wine. If you look at the whole category, I think it’s shrunk towards silver, so not lots of gold medals in Chardonnay, a lot of silvers and a lot of bronzes. So I think there’s been a step up in the general average of Chardonnay in the country and that’s made it really hard to pick the golds, because you now sit with such a strong class, that to really find the few that stand out in a line-up of 80 or 90 wines is quite challenging
On the Sauvignons, I think there’s a very clear stylistic ID coming through on a lot of wines. There are a lot of wines that show beautiful pyrazines, backed up by other characters; they’re not one-dimensional and that’s quite fun. There’s a lot more of the blackcurrant leaf wines as well, so you can see the guys are honing in on a style: they’re quite broad and they’re quite textured and they’re nice. Acids are well managed, the wines have got good textures and good richness. So, in all, I think they were very, very impressive. We might have given less gold medals – less outliers – but I think, as a standard, everything has taken two or three steps forward, which I was very happy to see, as a lot less faulty wines, knocked out on technicality. Pinot Noir lacking in good entry, not yet matching Chardonnays. I think that, generally, the base line quality has also improved quite substantially. A lot of wines showing very pure fruit. There are still a lot of wines that show a little bit of virus stress, a leaf-roll stress, a kind of herby quality, a bit smoky and that kind of character, but that’s become a lot less. So the wines can taste of vine material, which is a lot better, cleaner than it was a few years ago. Again, the wines get there on aromatics, then they don’t have the structure to back that up. I don’t know if it’s vine age, or wine making, or what the thing is, but I think we’re moving in the right direction, and I think we’re 80 - 85% there"
Francois Rautenbach
Heads up the Singita Premier Wine Direct programme for the Singita Conservation brand, sourcing and supplying wines for the group’s 13 lodges and camps across conservation properties in Southern and East Africa. Deeply invested in hospitality, having lived and worked in Africa, France, the UK and Australia - always with emphasis on food and wine excellence. Cape Wine Academy Diploma graduate. Graduated with distinction at the Michael Fridjhon Wine Judging Academy in 2008, served as associate judge at the Trophy Wine Show that year and as judge from 2011 to 2017. Attended the Michael Fridjhon Advanced Wine Judging Academy in 2014
Chaired the Cabernet panel - Cabernet and Cabernet Franc - and it’s a class that is certainly beginning to get serious attention. "It was a red wine week for me, which was actually really good. It plays to our investment and our best interests and certainly Cabernet and Bordeaux-style blends are a vital part of our guests’ interests. It was fantastic to have the opportunity of book-ending the three days, and even better news was the fact that we had some wonderful results coming out. That, I think, was particularly positive considering the challenging climatic conditions. What came through distinctly - and also came through in the Shiraz/Syrah class - was the fact that, whether you are using your vineyards for the fresher or lighter styles, or whether you’re for the fuller bodied styles, it really does come down to those that are getting the best out of their vineyards and there is a group that, despite all the challenges have got phenomenal purity - really fantastic! I think the world is still very much interested in the Cabernet category, and if you can put together these wines, it’s very positive
The quality of the fruit that was coming through on the good wines was extremely positive and I think there’s a good balance between the oaking and the density of fruit and retaining freshness - not all of them - but in the particularly impressive ones, it was very much the case 
Cabernet Franc, lighter or heavy styles. It shows great fruit purity, the world market is interested, which is very positive. Showing quality of fruit, good balance of oak and fruit and freshness"
Christian Eedes
Editor of Freelance wine writer contributing to Decanter and other titles on an occasional basis. Completed a small-scale winemaking programme run by Stellenbosch University's Department of Viticulture and Oenology and is a graduate of the inaugural Michael Fridjhon Wine Judging Academy. Experience includes tasting for Platter’s South African Wine Guide, taster and judge for various local and international competitions. Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show judge from 2007 to 2014 and then since 2016. Attended the Michael Fridjhon Advanced Wine Judging Academy in 2014
"I think we live in a world now where the market won’t tolerate mediocre, so you have to be making wine that meets a minimum standard and hence the number of bronzes. That said, and what happens as a result - and JD alluded to it - is that all the wines on the table are pretty good and it’s about discerning excellence and that becomes quite tricky. I think excellence ultimately stops being about winemaking and starts being about the right grape being in the right place
I think Simon poses a really interesting question: Why are our single varieties on the whole better than our blends? I think very often our blends are preconceived ideas. If you think about it, a Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvèdre blend doesn’t really have a true home at all. It’s a contrived type of wine. If you think of how good single variety Syrah is versus, by all accounts, the Rhône blends were, it’s because the guys working with Syrah are absolutely focused on making the best Syrah they possibly can
Coming back to Cabernet, I think what happened is it went out of fashion and fell into neglect and then the producers who were really serious about Cabernet realised they needed to work with the cleanest possible fruit
Nobody’s really spoken about leaf roll virus, but we seem to be managing it very well. So, if you’re going to make a gold medal Cabernet, you’ve got to try as much as possible to work with clean fruit. I totally agree with what Narina was saying that, if you’ve got a medium-bodied wine, don’t chuck too much oak in it! Your oaking regime needs to be appropriate to the fruit. I think Cabernet is in a very good place so well done to the Cabernet producers
I thought the Cabernet blends, i.e. the Bordeaux style blends, were pretty smart; again because you’ve been at it for a couple of decades. The people who are producing Cabernet blends are very serious about it. They demand a premium in the market place and they can’t afford to be anything less than very good"

The staff that are involved in the week of the competition tasting came in and were thanked

Janice Fridjhon relaxing at last after her Herculean labours and looking rather regal
Time for questions: "You haven’t specifically mentioned white blends
In my opinion, since 2012 there’s been a huge improvement in the white blend category. Can you comment on that?"
Christian Eedes answered: I was lucky enough to taste both Sauv/Sem and so-called other white blends. Other white blends obviously include quite a few Chenin driven wines, but also, for want of a better way of putting it, miscellaneous
Sauv/Sem - it should come as no surprise - were just fantastic. It really is a case of those two varieties working really well together and again, to something of a template in Bordeaux, so there’s an international precedent that they work well together. That’s not to say that the wines look too much like Bordeaux. There’s a little sense of them being quite South African, which I think is fantastic and we really should celebrate them. I know they’re difficult to sell, but somehow we have to find a way to make serious wine collectors engage with them
The other white blends were intriguing, plenty of interest, but again not fully resolved. There are obviously some benchmarks, possibly wines entered into this competition. So there is precedent and we should definitely persist with them but, as a general comment, they feel a little experimental or unresolved, but they certainly have their place. I think what’s good about them is they’re unique to South Africa. The Chenin-driven ones are Rhône/Sauv varieties and there does seem to be some kind of synergy between the Grenache, the Roussanne and the Marsanne and Viognier. So certainly I think we must persist, but true excellence is something we need to work on

Jacques Roux:
The same silly question I suppose on white blends, but I do want to also ask if Chenin grows as it does and there’s so much more support for premium white wines, Sauvignon as well; how do we get our prices up? Why are we stuck at a level where Chenin has got a ceiling on it? MCC is going through the same thing I suppose. We’ve got great wines and nobody puts the prices up. Internationally, we’re still the cheapest red wine and white wine category ever. We’re cheaper than Spain by 12 or 13%. Is there a way that you guys can think of?

Simon Field: Lots of unpacking going on today. Glass ceiling I’m not sure about. I think it’s all about the medium is the message. As I said earlier, so much variety, the embarrassment of riches, I think, having done an exclusive Chenin blanc tasting last year and tasting two wonderful Chenins this year, you just need to focus more on the quality, the people behind it, and the terroir as well. I personally think there is a triangular divergence in South Africa between the so-called fine wines, the so-called experimental wines, and the so-called bulk wines, whereas ironically in other parts of the world, the edges of all three triangles speak to each other a bit more and support each other a bit more. I think there’s a strange stand-offishness which often happens in a rapidly evolving market. The rapidly evolving market is extremely exciting. It just needs to focus more on the message
Patson Mathonsi: Coming from a restaurant background as well, that’s where you actually create your demand. When you can get a lot of people to try your wines, they’ll still go back to the retail and buy it. You need to do a lot more investing in restaurants and also in educating the guys as well. Yes, people know we are growing and making quite a lot of Chenin Blancs, but are they really educated about it? Do they know the styles of Chenin Blancs that we are actually making? That’s why you get people talking about the same guy, the same producer. That producer has invested in trade and they end up just focusing on that brand and what they know. So I think we actually need to invest more in the (restaurant) trade for us to actually pull it up and try and benchmark it at a higher price point as well
Norman McFarlane, journalist:
Michael: the matter of climate change and the wine industry. It’s kind of been touched on, it’s kind of been skirted. The latest editorial report coming out of Vinpro makes the categorical statement that climate change has dramatically affected wine harvests going back a number of years, so they’re putting it out there that’s there’s an issue. Alexandra mentioned it, but didn’t want to call it climate change, preferring to call it drought. If we look at the calamitous harvest that the European wine industry had last year, there were extreme weather events which a number of people were disinclined to say were caused by climate change. Climate scientists have stepped forward and said we will see an increase in extreme weather events going into the future. Commentary from you or from anybody else on the panel as to the likely impact going forward, particularly with regard to wine grape harvest size and its impact on the industry.
Michael Fridjhon: I’m certainly very happy to share what is going to land up being a controversial answer with everyone on the panel and in the room, because I don’t have a squirrel on my head, so I can’t be accused of being a climate change denialist. I am going to make a few - not entirely in line with Vinpro - comments. The first is that, undoubtedly, the shortage of water has progressively played a role, but not necessarily a bad role. The two best vintages, in more or less living memory, are 2015 and 2017 and they fall very well into that drought bracket. So the more serious question is whether the wine industry is an optimum use of a rare resource which is water. We have to face that question. Secondly, to go back to Jacques’ question, if we can’t earn enough money, what is more likely to damage the industry is the movement towards irrigation areas to bulk up the volumes available in the country. Pour water and sunlight into the Northern Cape and you get lots and lots of very inexpensive commercial juice. Because we don’t have enough of a price point for the Mediterranean coastal region, we don’t keep those vines in the ground. The vines we keep in the ground are virused because we can’t afford to replant. That’s a completely separate question. If you want to know why there’s a low and mediocre crop this year, JD was entertaining us with this story: 200ml of water in one afternoon doesn’t lead to perfect harvest conditions. That’s climate change. The question is, is it an extreme weather event, climate change, and will it always be bad news? You have to balance that against the 2015/2017 scenario. You have to ask Bordeaux whether they think climate change is working for them, because they’re having a fabulous time. That doesn’t mean - if you look at what’s happened to the European harvest - that you also don’t get hail, you also don’t get late frost. Kirk arrived in South Africa on Monday morning having made his way through freshly fallen snow the day before at a date that was the latest in around 50 years, so it’s not just about temperature change.
Christian Eedes: I know climate change doesn’t just affect the South African wine industry and we need to find ways to deal with it. But on a less abstract level, I think the industry is responding by planting warm climate grapes. That seems like common sense to me.
JD Pretorius: Just to tie in to your question. Let’s take this away from the agricultural part of it. We did a lot of work at Steenberg to try to become a little more water conscious and water wise. To give you an idea, I installed water loggers on every single pipeline on the winery and the estate and, on a Saturday and Sunday, we use 70% of the building’s water. Then there’s zero winery activity and that consists largely of people coming to visit the tasting room and the kitchen. So that’s toilets flushing, using 90% of the consumption in the tourist industry. So we’re looking at this problem from one side, saying it’s not raining, so there’s not a lot of water. Look at it from the other side. Look at reducing our usage in all aspects, not only in agriculture. Don’t look at desalination. Rather look at using your shower water to flush your toilet. So it’s not only based on agriculture, it’s everything around it. You’d be frightened to know the amount of water that goes to waste in the shopping mall, the rugby stadium with a leaking pipe, etc. So we’ve got to think about this holistically. We need to look at it much, much wider than we are currently

From the floor: I was very fortunate to sit in a meeting with our Minister of Tourism, Mr Derek Hanekom, where he mentioned the damage the words “Day Zero” had done to Cape Town and the tourism industry. What I basically want to say is, let’s call it a warning for the wine industry, but we must be very careful how we word these things like “drought” in terms of not creating a negative picture. JD just mentioned it - there is so much being done in the industry. Focus on the positive, and the quality - as Michael said, like the ’15 and ’17 vintage. MF: Just as there’s positive PR in things like carbon neutrality, I think the work that’s being done in the industry, in the big companies certainly, was pre-emptive in terms of water management, water re-cycling. I think it’s very good to have the message out there that the industry is getting value out of the water it has to use
Pieter Badenhorst, Fleur du Cap Cellarmaster:
Thank you everyone. I’ve attended this feedback session almost as many times as Christian has judged. It may well be the first time that reds have been singled out for praise so, hopefully, it’s a turning point and not just an anomaly. I wondered if we could get a little more precise feedback on the Cabernets and Bordeaux blends that have been singled out for praise
Michael Fridjhon: It’s great to see red wine not being excoriated here. In order, Francois, possibly you want to talk more. You had the privilege of doing Bordeaux blends, Merlot, Shiraz, Cab Sauv and Cab Franc
Francois Rautenbach: I think what’s come out is the focus areas. The good news, despite challenging harvests and climate etc, is that those who are really committed to what they want to do, to make great Cabernet or great Bordeaux styles, you have the vineyards, you’re putting the care and attention into them. It’s starting to show in terms of the balance and the really positive purity of the fruit, and it was interesting to see whether the choice was to go for a more medium-bodied style or a fuller style. It didn’t make a difference when it came to those who got it right. That was a particular message that came through. One style isn’t better than the other. It was about who was getting the best out of their vineyards. That is particularly important. All of them had some form of a fresh component which I think was critical, even in the bolder ones; so both in the Cabernet/Bordeaux driven and in the Cabernets themselves. But it’s a relatively small group. It’s much-improved and that group is doing really well. The question right at the beginning came about the blending of Rhône varietals. Bordeaux is showing a greater understanding. The Cabernets are showing a greater understanding and it’s those practitioners who really got to grips with what they’re doing that realised those results. That is a positive. Trying to do the liquorice allsorts is not the way to go, and I think that is definitely showing
Michael Fridjhon: I’m going to pass the microphone to Benjamin because you did two of those three classes and I do want to make the point to you about Vilafonté, which is that from the beginning the plan in Series M and Series C was to assemble the varieties with intent and the fact that those percentages change every year is a function of what the vintage and the circumstances given, but the intent was there from the outset. If I’m correctly understanding what Francois is saying, that was very rare 10 or 15 years ago. It’s becoming increasingly evident - even if it’s still on a relatively small scale and with that intention, with that focus, planting through to focused viticulture, through to focused vinification, through to thoughtful blending. The seamlessness of the end result is much more likely to be a matter of intent, rather than a matter of chance
Benjamin Roffe: Blends are the hardest wines to craft. Why? Because you need to be putting everything together, and it needs to be better. We have been doing that in the Rhône valley for years by Chateauneuf du Pape for example. The basis is in the terroir. You need to know your vineyard, your soil and your vines as well, then you can adapt to climate change and then wine really is something different. You need to respect the fruit and what I saw here is that the fruit is respected more and more. Then regarding the museum class question I think 2017 will give some very pleasant wine in a few years’ time
Martin Moore, Cellarmaster Durbanville Hills:
I haven’t heard the swearword of all panels at all wine shows, and apparently you can’t ever get more than a bronze - and that’s rosé. The industry is focusing on rosé, making proper rosés in the proper fashion - not as a by-products any more. It just seems very funny that rosé is just not cutting it on the wine shows. If you look at consumption and the growth in the market, it is actually huge
Michael Fridjhon: That’s a really fine question. You’re getting it JD, because you were on the panel. On the way, let me say that one of the problems in rosé, to pre-empt JD’s response, is that it’s possible to make very good wine, without making great wine and certainly the cut-off point here may be worth recapping: it is that we use at least a 50/100 point system where wines scoring between 50 and 60 are technically faulty and any wine that gets a score like that has to have a named fault next to it. 60 to 70 falls into a non-medal class which we call “good commercial”. A good commercial is, unfortunately, the reality of where a lot of rosé wine sits, and it doesn’t mean it’s bad wine at all, it means it’s just that. 70 to 79 is bronze and that is obviously a step up from commercial. When you’re starting to look for aesthetic integrity, nuance, detail, management of fruit, management of oak, it starts getting quite hard for a rosé that was made for pleasing drinking as opposed to great wine. So in defence of the panels everywhere that are getting this question from you, that is a point worth making. JD you’re on
JD Pretorius: "What Michael said! What we have to emphasise is that the man in the middle is a very hard taskmaster. So if you get a silver at this show – I’m talking about 80 – if you get 80 on this show, it’s pretty much the equivalent of a gold on any other show. If you’re moving into high silvers, you’ve made an exceptional wine. Obviously with gold and a trophy, you’ve really done everything you should. So, in this competition, I think for rosés in this show which would be getting bronze, they have to be really exceptional to make that jump into silver. Rosés are growing well. The market is growing well, but they’re growing in a commercial style in the R80 to R100 price range. The ones that are pushing R300 and up a bottle, the wines from Provence, there are very few of real exceptional quality. I think we had 11 or 12 rosés. It is tricky to benchmark, but the quality is good and stylistically they are hitting the money and there are very few that are confected and sweet. There are very few that taste of Cabernet being drawn off, as you say. As a wine, I don’t think we’re making high silvers or golds yet"

Time for lunch on the terrace of the Manor House
There was a selection of wines entered into the competition for tasting or drinking with lunch
The judges always sit together. It would be nice if they would sit with the media so we could get a bit more information!
Service begins
The starter was a mixed salad
The main course of steak with lentils, grilled courgettes and roasted tomatoes
Fun at our table with the McFarlane family in the sun and another two good wine makers,
Alex Starey of Keermont and, out of picture sadly, Nick van Aarde of Oldenburg
A very good dessert of a Chocolate Delice with grilled banana, fruit purée and cream. Good pastry chef
Coffees followed and then we wended our way home

No comments: