Food, wine, travel, music
In August I spent five days tasting some terrific wine close to Stellenbosch in South Africa. It was all of eleven years since I had judged at this competition, at the time based in Johannesberg. The old location was largely compensated for by meeting Nelson Mandela, but that’s another story.
This time no such great men, but some good ones (and women) making up a team of judges with various skills’ backgrounds from winemakers to technical experts, wine educators and journalists. These events are hard work, but those we get to know on panels add to our body of knowledge and approach to wine. Their expertise is invaluable.
The results are out now and it’s good to see our week’s work yielding results for a large band of deserving winemakers.
We were all designated wines according mainly to grape types, but also to wine styles. All wines are tasted blind, well covered with no clues, and well poured by trained sommeliers. I was one of a panel of five who tasted 166 Shiraz samples – it seemed like more – it’s not good for tooth enamel. More compensation here, as we discovered the winner of the Grand Prix trophy. Eagle’s Nest Wines 2012 Shiraz was well spotted by all of us and we also had three platinum medals, nine Grand d’Or, 19 gold medals and 24 silvers. Not a bad haul. There was little disagreement on our panel, and when there was, we talked through our reservations and enthusiasms. It was an achievement to change someone’s mind! Mine was changed a few times too, usually ending in an improved score. Any lapse in concentration is easily spotted.
The Simonsvlei 2014, a Gran d’Or medal winner, had wonderful fruit, good structure and great potential. These wines will keep, but don’t have to be once given a chance to aerate a little.
Tulbagh Winery’s 2013 Shiraz got a well deserved platinum medal while Robertons’ Winery got golds for a few vintages – Fat Bastard was a beauty, though doesn’t sound like it.
We judged Chardonnays too and the Gran d’Or medals awarded to Robertson Winery, Simonsvlei and Windmeul were well deserved, as were the platinums to Wildekrans and Bon Courage. I was impressed that since the last time I was there, the oak was dialed down considerably and decent fruit allowed to come through. Overall more elegant wines. There were only a few instances where oak was overpowering. They didn’t get medals.
Our panel judged Merlots, not many of them, but most impressive was Bloemendal, a Gran d’Or medal winner. 100% Merlots can be a little dull, but what we tasted were not at all.
Our flight of dry rosés brought welcome relief and we had some sweet rosés too. Gran d’Ors went to Signal Gun and Frohlich Family Wines.
The most memorable wine of the week was awarded the Golden Oldie Trophy. KWV SA entered a 1948 port style made from Tinta Barocca and Souzao, proving that South Africa can give Portugal a run for its money. I wanted to bring it home to my father who knew his port. It kept him happy until he died at the age of 95. Self preservation?
All in all some well deserved wins for some special wines. They are worth seeking out, wherever you are.
There are more details of winners on the Michelangelo website: http://www.michelangeloawards. Profiles and videos on Youtube at:
https//youtu.be/IYh2EhG6Bo8 (part one)
https//youtu.be/7UpBnBWPUtQ (part two)