Some may envy a wine judge’s job ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ constantly travelling to glamorous destinations to sample the world’s finest and most sought after wines. However, after a marathon tasting such as this year’s Veritas Awards, even the most seasoned tasters admit their chosen vocation has its fair share of challenges!
This year a whopping total of 1 728 wines were put through the wringer for the 19th annual Veritas Awards, held at the Nederburg Auction Complex in Paarl from 31 August to 4 September. This prestigious event rewards the country’s finest wines with the coveted Veritas double gold, gold, silver and bronze medals ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ revered indications to the wine lover (layman and connoisseur alike) of their stellar status.
Each year the competition invites a delegation of international experts to assist the local panel members in identifying the Veritas winners. These foreign fundis, all from diverse wine orientated backgrounds, not only add to the credibility of the results, they also bring with them a wealth of experience in wine assessment and the intensely specialized field of identifying global wine market trends and tendencies. This year the overseas component consisted of four highly respected tasters, hailing from Sweden, Germany, Australia and the UK.
For Sweden’s Anders Barr+¬n judging on the Veritas panel proved to be a rewarding and stimulating experience. “This is my first time in the winelands of South Africa and I’ve had a great time meeting people and discovering exciting new wines,” he comments. Barr+¬n is the wine purchaser for all South African wine for Systembolaget, the Swedish alcohol retail monopoly, which has SA as its largest category. At this year’s Veritas Awards Sauvignon Blanc accounted for the most entries (201) and Barr+¬n commented on the wide variety of styles on offer: “The best examples showed elegance, freshness, good concentration and a tendency towards cooler climate minerality”. Although he enjoyed the younger vintages most Barr+¬n believes there is potential for longevity in some well made SA Sauvignon Blancs. Chardonnay also displayed well, with “good balance and versatility, ranging in style from citrusy and restrained to more full bodied and creamy”.
A seasoned adjudicator and familiar face at the Veritas Awards, Lynne Sheriff is a South African wine consultant, lecturer and wine judge living in London. As both a Cape Wine Master and Master of Wine, Sheriff has more than 30 years of experience in the wine industry. On the whole she was impressed with the Sauvignon Blanc line-up, lauding the complexity of the wines on offer. “I tasted a broad spectrum of characteristics, from the grassy and herbaceous to the more tropical. Some of the 2008 entries stood out, proving that some producers from certain regions are making structured Sauvignon Blancs with the ability to age,” she says. She cautioned producers to watch out for overtly herbaceous styles which are not popular with the global market.
When it came to the reds, lead buyer of South African wines for Germany’s WIV Wein International AG, Thomas L?+¦???+¦?+¦???+æber, was enthusiastic about the Pinotage single varietal entries as well as the Pinotage blends on show. “The so-called ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+ëCape Blend’, or Pinotage based red blend, creates a wonderful opportunity for South Africa to present something completely unique to the world,” comments L?+¦???+¦?+¦???+æber. “I was really surprised at how well it works as a blending component and also impressed by the single varietal examples, which ranged from ripe and structured to fresh and fruity,” he explains. “Pinotage is an extremely versatile variety, easily adapted to the entry level wine drinker as well as the connoisseur,” maintains L?+¦???+¦?+¦???+æber. The Bordeaux blends also produced a few stunners, exhibiting “excellent typicity and good balance”. Currently European consumers are looking for fruity, easier drinking reds with lower alcohols he maintains.
Also part of the international contingent was Australia’s most senior wine judge, Ian McKenzie who is well known for his role in developing two of his country’s most celebrated wine brands, Seppelt Salinger (sparkling wine) and Penfolds Yattarna (Chardonnay). This is McKenzie’s third year in succession as a Veritas judge and he was impressed with the general progression of styles and improvement in quality in the Shiraz category. “The first time I judged on Veritas the wines were very full bodied and occasionally over-ripe, but there appears to be a greater balance and elegance amongst them now,” he remarks. It was McKenzie’s first time judging the sparkling wine category and a few definitely found his favour. “A number of the Cap Classique style wines can hold their own in any company,” he believes.