The good & bad news on the SA wine front

This year, white wine and Shiraz submissions at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show were lauded, but there were concerns about the reds, the lack of screw caps and unfair criticism of Pinotage. Sonja Burger reports.
Issue date : 11 July 2008

- Advertisement -

The feedback session after THE seventh Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show at Grande Roche in Paarl, from 5 to 8 May, provided lively debate about various issues in the SA wine industry. After an interesting and arduous three-and-a-half days of judging and 1 024 submissions, the nine panellists, including three from overseas, provided varying perspectives on wine industry issues.

Most of the judges were impressed with the quality of the submissions. Sam Harrop, one of five chairpeople of the International Wine Challenge said, “I haven’t been to for eight years and can’t believe how the quality has improved in that period.” He added the white wine and Shiraz classes had a complexity and elegance he’d never seen in before. He was also impressed with the level of debate among the judges, as was organiser Michael Fridjhon.

Angela Lloyd, who has been tasting for the John Platter SA Wine Guide for 22 years, lauded the wineries’ willingness to experiment with white cultivars other than Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. “For white blends, we’re seeing the introduction of different varieties such as Grenache Blanc,” she said. However, she warned that Viognier might be becoming too fashionable and that winemakers should use this ancient cultivar carefully as “a little can take over.”

- Advertisement -

For Lloyd, the Chenin class was the highlight of the competition. “We awarded Gold for an unwooded Chenin, which is unheard of in the history of the industry,” she said. Last year there was concern about the poor performance of Shiraz, but judging by the judges’ reaction this year, the 2006 vintage was an improvement on 2005. SA slow with screw caps ’ s failure to introduce screw caps more rapidly in comparison with other New World producers such as Australia and Zealand also came under fire.

Antony Rose, wine columnist for The Independent and contributor to Decanter, said the slow uptake was disappointing. “Less than 50% of the Sauvignon Blancs had screw caps. This is ridiculous. The number of corked wines we saw was a disgrace.” Some 10% of the wines tasted at the show were corked. S am Harrop also supported the move to screw caps, but warned that there were reduction issues associated with them, so winemakers would have to manage wines slightly differently. “You don’t want a frying pan into the fire scenario,” he warned.

Pinotage is special Joel Payne, editor of Meininger’s Wine Business International and chief editor and publisher of Gault Millau German Wine Guide, commented that Pinotage deserved a lot more recognition than it was given and said that it could add to a distinctive identity in a homogenised wine world. “don’t want to say Pinotage can be what Shiraz is to Australia, but it has potential.

Pinotage is special,” he said. Payne felt that local judges were too critical of this cultivar. “When you guys talk about Pinotage, you try to find what’s wrong with it. You always want to find fault with it!” C hristian Eedes, newly appointed editor of WINE magazine, took just this negative stance, when he called Pinotage a “regional oddity”, saying he’d been forced to conclude that the Cape Blend was not going to make the local wine industry famous.