Last Wednesday morning heralded a particularly slow start for 100 Port Elizabeth wine lovers who shouldered the responsibility of delighting in no fewer than 12 Veritas gold award-winning wines and six double gold laureates at the Garden Court the night before.
The dull cranial reminder was a small price to pay for what has become a calendar highlight over the past 17 years: the chance to be thoroughly entertained by one of the most amicable and knowledgeable personalities in the SA wine industry – Cape Wine Master, MC extraordinaire and oenophile “teddy bear” Bennie Howard.
While the privately owned Michelangelo is billed as SA’s only international wine competition and Michael Fridjhon’s sophisticated Old Mutual Trophy Wine show is aimed predominantly at financial services, Veritas is the only competition owned and run by the industry itself, theoretically allowing less of a financial imperative to prevail.
With 1600 entries being judged, Veritas facilitates a field more generally representative across most estates, although it is also argued that there is a leaning towards the likes of Distell-owned big brands at the expense of exciting “young gun” winemakers who are generally not as well represented.
With 2015 proving to be one of the great vintages and this year showing particularly well for whites, a record number of 71 double golds and 193 golds were awarded, with silvers remarkably outnumbering bronzes by 654 to 554 this year.
Unusually, Spier earned three double golds for their chenins. The Spier 21 Gables Chenin achieved top honours for their 2015 and 2016 vintages, with the former winning the Veritas Vertex award as overall champion.
Bargain hunters should swoop on the double gold-winning Spier Signature Chenin Blanc 2017, currently available at Prestons at no more than R39.90!
Another excellent value offering was the gold-awarded Glen Carlou Merlot, with a price tag of less than R100.
We were introduced to the superb De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2010 and flights included three cabernets by Ormonde, Asara and Neil Ellis respectively, proving uniformly elegant but a bit light for our layman’s taste.
Top reds of the night were the exceptional double gold Neethlingshof The Short Story Collection, The Owl Post Pinotage 2016 and the similarly impressive Muratie Ronnie Melck Family Selection Syrah 2013.
Dessert preceded main course as the popular sweeter servings culminated in the Nederburg Eminence 2013 and the world-class 10-year-old potstill Richelieu Vintage brandy.
Thereafter the traditional feast ensued and annual debates regarding the nature of wine competitions began. Some argued about the inconsistencies between the scoring of the same wines in different competitions, some pointed out the impact of bottle variances and judges’ palate fatigue, others focused on the Platter debate, the diminished value of sighted tastings and proffered the hypothesis that the need for wine writer celebrity was pushing wine scores up.
Still others pointed to a study which demonstrated instances of well-known wine judges, unbeknown to themselves, tasting the exact same wines and giving them completely different scores!
One thing everyone agreed on was that competitions such as Veritas add to the colour and understanding of our wonderful world of wine. Jacques van der Merwe from Wine Roots deserves a special mention for collaborating with Veritas to make these wines available for tasting to PE’s general public, something which Old Mutual should definitely reconsider, given the exclusive nature of their offering.
- Sam Venter will be back next week with her usual Vine Time column.