Blending to Deceive

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In the world of wine anoraks, news that a wine has been disqualified from a competition is comparable to the rest of the world being told that Barack Obama has been unmasked by the CIA as a Taliban spy who sleeps with (male) goats. A competition scandal is about as pants wetting as it gets in the wine world.

So here we are, 2010 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show. And after the results are announced, a few hours goes by before the news breaks: Zonnebloem’s Laureat blend has been stripped of its Gold Medal because it did not consist of pure Bordeaux varieties. Yes, it has a “dollop” of Shiraz juice, therefore making it un-Bordeaux.

Cool, we say. Rules is rules.

But ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+ëdem competition rules ain’t always easy to comprehend. Take Vergelegen’s V flagship wine. This wine has always been marketed and punted as a Bordeaux blend. So why was it entered ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ two vintages, nogal ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ in the Old Mutual’s Cabernet class?

Sure, according to legislation a wine labelled under a specific variety is allowed to have a 15% other-juice component. So Vergelegen could, technically, shun the more competitive Bordeaux blend section preferring to aim for Gold in the Cabernet Sauvignon division.

But this is misleading, as the wine prefers to be marketed as a blend and flies this flag in the public eye. It should therefore be forced to play with the blend boys, not hang around in the Cabernet section.

Now think of the “disqualified” Laureat. The wine was kicked out because it had a 5% “foreign” component, namely Shiraz. But, were one to use the 15% leeway with which the V was permitted to muscle in on the Cabernet Sauvignon section, a producer could technically add 15% Shiraz or Viognier or Malbec to his Cabernet Sauvignon and still be allowed to enter this class. But whack in 5% Shiraz in a Bordeaux blend, and you get disqualified.

Question: If the addition of 5% Shiraz makes a wine unsuitable to qualify for Bordeaux blend status, why is a competition Cabernet permitted to add a dollop of what in normal-speak can be termed as “something else”?

Obama and the rest of the world won’t lose any sleep over this, but a bit of clarity would not hurt those following the travails of the anoraks.

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