NEVER mind wine guide-books, the best accessory when attending a tasting of Veritas gold medallists has to be a thesaurus.
At the recent awards roadshow, it was difficult to decide what was more entertaining – wine legend Bennie Howard’s banter or watching tasters scrabbling for super-superlatives for the selection of 17 presented from a “fantastic harvest” of 68 double-golds awarded last month.
The 23-year-old Veritas awards stand out among the abundance of wine trophies on offer because they’re probably the most non-commercial of the lot – organised by the industry itself, they’re chaired by a wine-maker and judged by six international and nearly 100 local judges, most of them wine-makers themselves.
They also focus on “market-ready” wines, which means consumers can consult the list of double-gold, gold, silver and bronze winners on www.veritas.co.za and be reasonably sure of finding them on a bottle-store shelf somewhere nearby.
For those who like to do things by numbers, the double-golds scored at least 18/20 and the golds 17/20, by consensus of the judging panel – no easy feat.
Purely subjectively then, the “super-best” included the beautiful Tokara Reserve Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2012 – unwooded, with perfectly balanced creamy vanilla and crisp limes.
Running out of adjectives already, the Zonnebloem Limited Edition Semillon 2013 was dubbed the When Harry met Sally wine (go Google the scene from the movie if this makes no sense), and this was also the best description for the “fab Cab” Rust en Vrede Vineyard Selection 2010.
Altydgedacht’s 2013 Gewurztraminer is unusually very dry – the typical honey and nuts without the typical aromatic sweetness, balanced by crisp fruit and a lingering finish.
The Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection Grenache 2010 proved, said Howard, that “elegance doesn’t have to be heavy”. A heady, herby nose is followed by delicious spicy-nuttiness and fynbos – unusual and outstanding, well worth a try.
The 2010 Kanonkop is a brilliant example of the best of Pinotage, featuring the typical earthy, smoky, burnt rubber flavours that once gave it a bad name, now rounded out in refined, elegant modern style.
Likewise, the Saronsberg 2011 Shiraz stands out as an example of the best of its kind – deep, inky, smooth and full-bodied with cloves on the nose and flavours of pepper and almonds. Howard reckons a few horizontal years will mellow this one out, but it’s great now anyway.
Go look for those Veritas stickers – you won’t be sorry.