I had the pleasure and honour of being a judge at the prestiguos Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show at the Grand Roche Hotel. Wine Supremo Michael Fridjhon is the founder and Chairman of the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show. He founded this wine competition in 2001. The judging took place from the 30th April to 3 May. I was one of 6 local judges and we all had the pleasure to judge with 3 International judges namely Hong Kong Based Master of Wine Debra Meiburg, Charles Chevallier ex technical director and now group ambassador to Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite Group and Isa Bal UK based Master Sommelier, former Head Sommelier at The Fat Duck Heston Blumenthal’s 3 star Michelin Restaurant.
The 2 categories that impressed me the most was Sauvignon Blanc and Bordeaux Blends. South Africans love Sauvignon Blanc it’s by far the top selling white wine, it had great appeal it’s light, crisp, refreshing to drink and generally easy to easy on the wallet
There were 96 Sauvignon Blanc entries to support the popularity of this category. We had great time judging Sauvignon Blanc, the panel was chaired by Christian Eedes, other judges were Debra Meiburg and Ndaba Dube (associate). What impressed me the most was the wide spectrum and intensity of flavours. The industry has moved away from simple Sav Blanc dominate by green flavours of cut grass, green pepper, asparagus, tin pea to fruit driven (passion fruit, peach, green apple), aromatic (not green) and floral. It was also encouraging to see more producers who barrel ferment their Sauvignon Blanc. These examples had beautiful integration of oak, richness in the mid palate, more depth of flavour and they lingered forever in the palate. These examples are more suitable to food pairings. I was particularly impressed with 2 museum class Sauvignon Blancs these are wines that are 5 years and older. They were in pristine condition and that had so much going for them. I look forward to seeing what they are. Sav Blanc can age very well and older examples are intriguing. Overall Sauvignon Blanc is moving in the right direction, the focus should be on purity and intensity. To Sauvignon Blanc lovers keep an open mind, try different examples from a different region, perhaps wooded you are really spoilt for choice.
Bordeaux Blends is a strong category in SA which I believe is getting stronger and stronger from a quality point of view. Many wineries flagship or premium offering ais a Bordeaux style blend. This is a popular category think of the iconic Meerlust Rubicon, Rustenberg John X Merriman, Rupert and Rothschild Classique and Baron Edmond, Jordan Cobblers Hill, Mulderbosch The Faithful Hound. Past Trophy and Gold winners in this category include Gabrielskloof The Blend 2013 and Buitenverwachting Meifort 2014. Legally Bordeaux Style blends have to be made up of any of the following, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The wine can be a blend of any 2, 3 or all 5 of these varieties. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts is true when it comes to Bordeaux blends. The art of blending requires skill and patience by the winemaker and his team. Winemaker is always driven to produce a blend that is harmonious, precise and drinkable.
Tuesday 1 May (someone has to work on a public holiday) 8.15am we had a huge task ahead of us as we started judging 86 Bordeaux Blends with the legendary Charles Chevallier, Narina Cloete and Spencer Fondaumiere (associate). Narina Cloete Winemaker at Blauwklippen Wine Cellars chaired the panel. Bordeaux Blends by nature are full bodied, big and powerful. They are great with food and have great ageing potential. Overall the quality has improved the best examples showed great finesse, elegance, freshness and purity. There was sublime integration of oak and tannins (mouth drying feeling you get in your mouth after swallowing red wines). On the down side there were some wines that were ultra ripe and driven by oak flavours and not fruit. These lacked fruit purity and freshness. The industry has to safeguard against using lots of oak and ultra ripe examples. The oak has to support the fruit and not the other way around. We have to be obsessed with the positive and it is tough being South African as we are so obsessed with the negative. Bordeaux Blends in SA are in a good place and they need to continue moving in the right direction.
Please join me on the 15th June at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show Public tasting at The Sandton Convention Centre. This is a walk around tasting of all Trophy, Gold and Silver medal winners. Results will be announced on Tuesday 29th May
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Writer: Nkululeko Mkhwanazi