Grand Dame Veritas Deserves Coddling from the Wine Public

by Jacques Dommisse

If the country’s Veritas competition were a person, even those of us who are most un-royal yet have a modicum of imagination would see parallels in the style of the country’s leading wine competition and how the late Queen of England lived without fanfare but made an impression and difference with finesse.

Still, most people will probably have to drink much wine before a few may believe that Veritas can be to South Africans what the monarchy is to the British. Or can one dare to say it was? That is not the point. Some sober wine lovers may well see and agree that some of the character traits that Professor Margarita Mayo of the IE Business School penned in a Leadership opinion article on the legacy of the late Queen Elizabeth may have parallels with Veritas. Precisely what the queen did right in the eyes of some can also be seen in what Veritas does. Mayo based her opinions on the queen’s prestige on five summary personality traits: being an introvert, her pragmatic attitude, logic, having a sense of responsibility and creating stability.

According to Mayo, what one should learn from the five human qualities and how they can also be of value to companies and institutions is that these qualities should be transposed to four categories important for institutions: Authenticity, self-control, purposefulness and legacy.

Here parallels with Veritas are now drawn based on Moya’s four building blocks:

1. Authenticity: The authenticity of the competition lies in the fact that since 1991 the country’s producers have had confidence in the judging process of the oldest and most prominent wine competition in the country, which is precisely recognised as a prestigious and the most reliable competition for market-ready wines and brandies enjoyed because no stone is left unturned to continue learning, whether about the composition of tasting panels, broader inclusion or transparency in reporting. Not only are the tasting panels carefully assembled, but because the tasting is done blind, bias is limited.

2. Self-control: In the 32-year existence of Veritas, there has never been a case of petty criticism that was handled with hysteria or self-pity. The openness and transparency with which everything is done did not make it necessary that another noble handling of controversy or disagreement – namely, never trying to explain excessively or complain about it – was ever in play.

3. Purposefulness: Veritas has a collective mission with which a variety of winemakers, researchers, academics, Cape Masters of Wine, wine buyers, sommeliers, wine writers, consultants and – crucially – the person with the glass in his hand can identify. This shared identity was created with purpose, with precisely the symbolic value of the leadership of the competition located in the inclusive depiction of the Veritas emblem, awarded to producers across a broad spectrum. It is a language that the ordinary consumer clearly understands when he sees the emblem on a bottle of wine. The emblem is there for a reason – and it tells a complete story about the wine.

4. Legacy: People come and go, but strong institutions remain, and individuals’ legacies live on. Thus, since 2009, Veritas started with the  Living Legends awards: honoring legendary figures at an award function known for many decades as the Oscars of the wine industry. It serves as recognition for the individuals’ dedication over time and to pay tribute to their remarkable achievements. As a sector, the wine industry, in particular, has many legends at different levels who all make a difference but are now highlighted at the ceremony.

The solid Veritas foundation means for an industry already centuries-old but locally still in its infancy to distinguish itself as a growing cultural phenomenon across borders, among other things, highlighting excellent cultivation. Making quality wine has long been an art form, but so is enjoying it. Because Veritas throws its doors wide open to Jane and John Doe, it can contribute to the fact that consumption as a form of culture will grow even faster. The enjoyable and responsible appreciation of wine during a celebration, at a meal or with someone special, whether with brandy, sweet wine or a glass of table wine, is starting to catch fire also among the middle class in the country – in contrast to a nasty drinking culture that can be detected worldwide and gives alcohol consumption a lousy name.

At this year’s Veritas tastings, open to anyone who wants to buy a ticket, the 103 wines that won double gold and the 136 wines with a gold Veritas label were all offered for tasting. The tastings took place in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. Veritas invites the media, restaurateurs, liquor store owners, hoteliers, sommeliers and specific guests, and the public can purchase tickets from Quicket.

All 239 wines are displayed according to cultivar or style, such as a red wine blend or sweet wine.

In 2020, Veritas launched its app – VinoVeritas, which enables the public to immediately order a specific wine on the app on their mobile phone the night they attend a tasting. And people who can’t be at a tasting can activate the app in their living room. Veritas’ distribution partner is Getwine, who will deliver it to your front door.

At the tastings, the public also gets the opportunity to share impressions directly with winemakers, Cape Wine Masters, wine legends, experts and wine lovers in a comfortable and friendly atmosphere or to find out who finds what unique. Unembellished. While the average person, or sometimes also an expert, can quickly see the tasting notes of a specific cellar on his mobile phone on the VinoVeritas app (by clicking on the cellar’s website listed on the app); who rated what wine, the listed price, and any other wine information.

A Veritas tasting is an experience, but how many wines, especially new ones from producers with whom one is unfamiliar, can be seriously tasted in one evening? And there are always fantastic surprises, such as the beautiful sauvignon blanc from the Kalahari Vleishuis in Keimoes, awarded a double gold. The VinoVeritas application allows one to continue at home over an extended period the exploration of wines that are new to you or something that may be exceptional on occasion. Still, because you usually like a specific cultivar or preferred wine type, you can now be surprised by your discovery through the app.

Every wine consumer has their taste preferences, that’s only human, but one sometimes wonders if South Africans realise what a high standard our muscadel, jerepigo and dessert wines are. These are wine categories that, thanks to Veritas, get their rightful recognition but are a little gem within the country’s wine culture that should be pampered and appreciated much more widely by the wine public. Perhaps it is premature, suggestive and exaggerated to try to compare Veritas with a special royal or to see the parallels in their characteristics, but that our own Veritas competition is already a young grand dame cannot be doubted. A grand dame who should not only be pampered by industry leaders and wine legends but also by the greater involvement of the public’s wine lovers. Because the Veritas competition is also the most important showcase of a country with an exceptional wine industry that can stand tall on the world stage.

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6 thoughts on “Grand Dame Veritas Deserves Coddling from the Wine Public

  1. Hi Emile …

    1. In order of credibility how would you as an independent journalist rank the proliferation of Award competitions in SA ? Veritas, Mutual, Gilbert and Gaillard, Gold Awards and so many more.
    What are your top 10

    2. Are many little more than medal peddlers ?

    3. I did some research a year ago on the “value” of SA medals and posed the following question to 8 overseas wine people, 3 of whom were MW …… “While a wine might be feted in South Africa with gold galore, we realise that our local awards mean little or nothing in your market. It is those internationally recognised ratings we need. Which would you rate as the top 3 “International” ratings that carry the most credibility in your specific market? Sincerely appreciated . Charles

    1. Would be interesting to get Emile’s response to your question, Charles, and/but what say you? What is your ranking of the Top 10 wine competitions (a) in South Africa and (b) in the world? Veritas at number one, really? Mutual is no more… and the Gold Awards, mmm!

  2. Sjoe! Jacques, please can you advise as to your association (relationship?) with the Veritas Awards? Are you on their payroll by any chance? Veritas provides a service, for sure, and many of the judges are experts in their fields, but the presentation of their findings is questionable. Transparent they are not. Perhaps you can justify why their scores out of 100 are made available to the entrants but not to the public where they publish the competition results?

    1. Jacques Dommisse is a former business editor and special investigations reporter at Media 24. With no association to Veritas, or any wine competition. These are his personal views. However, as editor I must apologise that his positive opinion upset your laborious negativity, thus triggering that famous in-built whinge-application.

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