If you don’t like the results of wine competitions, don’t enter. Simple as that.competition season having just ended with this year’s Platter’s revelation, I have of late been privy to some unprecedented bitching from within the wine-making fraternity as to the credibility of results and the status of wine competitions-awards-judging and so on.
Judges are frequently deemed incompetent, and the conspiracy theories as to why so-and-so keeps winning such-and-such an award are quite Kennedy-esque in their grandeur.
Anyone with a modest amount of sense and wine appreciation should surely know that competitions are the final word on wines entered, as seen by the respective judges only. There is surely no harm in hearing their word, and then using it as a lever to get your own conversation going.
I like competitions as it gives me the chance to get invited to the awards ceremonies and drink copious amounts of “award-winning wines” which helps one to stay within the mix of what is happening on the local scene.
The Prescient Chardonnay Report was the latest competition to provide food for thought, the main dish being that something is happening within the local Chardonnay scene. Slowly but surely, Chardonnay is making itself heard as one of South Africa’s indisputable leading varieties for the making of premium wines. The fact that Chardonnay is known throughout the world and that the country’s interpretation of this noble variety has led to excellence and distinctive site-reflection has helped in this, assisted by the positive media coverage and top results on international wine shows.
As per usual, Prescient Chardonnay Report organiser Christian Eedes invites wines to be entered and then sits down with critics James Pietersen and Roland Peens to taste, discuss, score, rate and do whatever wine judges do within the rarified space in which they ply their trade. At the resulting function all the wines scoring 90 points and more were introduced and made available for tasting.
The total list can be found here, but the two observations that I was left with was that Elgin is coming to the fore as South Africa’s quality Chardonnay capital, and that Andries Burger from Paul Cluver must rank as one of the very finest Chardonnay makers the country has delivered.
If there is something to take out of wine competitions it is consistency. And here Paul Cluver has of late pretty much dominated the Chardonnay scene, along with Jordan who incidentally did not crack a 90 or-above score in the Prescient Report.
Paul Cluver had two wines in the group of those scored to 94 points, this year’s highest. These were the Paul Cluver Estate Chardonnay 2014 and the new number, the farm’s Seven Flags 2014.
I have been fortunate to follow Paul Cluver’s Chardonnay endeavours for over 12 years and can honestly say that the wines are becoming ethereal in quality, personality, beauty and sense of place.
The Paul Cluver Estate Chardonnay has the chalky, sagebrush and grilled nut backbone running through the thread of citrus and green melon. Great Chardonnay characters, especially wonderful when found in such harmony, such balance as in this wine.
The Seven Flags, made from a vineyard planted in 1987, furthers the story of refined excellence and royalty to a degree that I have not personally encountered in South African wines. The vines are stumpy and old. They take a cold-climate beating, not to mention damp and wind, and then the odd searing summer arrives now and again to stir things up.
But the wine is so gentle and balletic and graceful, if it could sing it would break your heart.
It is just the kind of Chardonnnay that keeps people drinking it, keeps us searching for the Holy Grail. Individual and distinct flavours harnessed with the care and skill of an artist creating art not for himself, but for those whom he loves and love him.
Obviously the fingerprint of Paul Cluver’s property and Elgin have pushed the wine in this un-paralleled direction for a local Chardonnay. But having had the privilege of engaging with Andries in his cellar, I could not help but spot that he is a master when it comes to barrel selection and use of wood.
What else happens between winemaker and Chardonnay grape best remain untold, as it obviously is a special and unique relationship unworthy of prying eyes, but the result of which provides so much joy.
– Emile Joubert