British-Argentina Wine Critic Amanda Barnes on South Africa

This is the second year I ran into Amanda Barnes, British wine writer and judge based in Mendoza, Argentina, at the Michelangelo Wine & Spirits Awards. Between flights of vino I got her talking on what she’d been tasting.

Michelangelo Judge Amanda Barnes on Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz
Judging for this year’s Michelangelo International Wine & Spirit Awards kicked off in Stellenbosch with 30 judges from 16 countries making their way through the record number of 2 244 wines and spirits entered for this year. Visiting South Africa for her second stint as a Michelangelo judge, Argentina-based British wine writer and judge Amanda Barnes is one of the assessors of the two largest wine categories, namely Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz.

Having lived in Argentina since 2009, Amanda is familiar with the Sauvignon Blancs from Latin America – most noticeably the Chilean wines – as well as being experienced with those from Sancerre and New Zealand.

“I wouldn’t say I picked up something one could call a South African style in the Sauvignon Blanc line-up,” Barnes says. “There were three distinctive flavour profiles. One tended to offer noticeable yellow-fruit, while the tropical profiles were noticeable in others. Thirdly, there were wines showing the ubiquitous green characteristics found in others. Very diverse and all the wines with a degree of varietal specificity.”

Freshness was a feature, and she could see why this was South Africa’s number one selling varietal due to the reputation of the African summer.
On the red side, Shiraz offered diversity – as can be expected from this widely grown grape – as well as pleasure and satisfaction.

“The wines were truly pleasing to taste, something a wine judge really like as it does not feel like too much work then!” says Barnes. “Pronounced fruit characteristics, well-made with styles varying from elegant and refined to assertive and punchy. Some of the picking was a bit too ripe, though. All in all a fine class.”

About South African wine as a category, Barnes says the products themselves are well-known in Europe due to the historical links. “But if you want to get into the American wine market – something every wine country wants to do – one must be marketing your wines on the ground and have ambassadors in place who can give the retailer and consumer the necessary face-time,” she says.

“South Africa has so much to offer as tourism and lifestyle destination, though. It is seen as an exciting place and linking this image to your wines can only benefit the industry. You have so much to offer.”
Currently, Amanda is also on a global wine tour for her book and digital publication – Around the World in 80 Harvests.

A multi-media journalist, Amanda works in print and digital communication and is experienced in writing, editing and video broadcasts. Her creative work has been awarded by Born Digital Wine Awards, Millesima Blog Awards, Great Wine Capitals Best Of and Young Wine Writer of the Year.

Read more about Amanda an her journey on

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