Yesterday a chance to test-drive some of the top-end models from German car manufacturer Audi from the Cape Town dealership to Bouchard Finlayson near Hermanus.
First the three-litre diesel A6 starting at R520 000. A front-wheel drive sedan, very well behaved. Next, the Q7 3-litre diesel starting from R679 000. Supposedly an off-roader but more likely yummy-mummy school-lifter. Thereafter, the three-litre Turbo Direct injection A7 starting at R730 000. This seriously sexy coupé is ideal for the 50-something exec who has sent the kids off to university and is about to start an affair with his PA. Finally the 4.2 litre, V8 A8 starting at R1.1 million. Ultra-luxurioius, the perfect vehicle for Johannesburg CEOs and ANC cabinet ministers.
At lunch, the stand-out wine for me was the Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2010, this being only the second release of this wine from Bouchard Finlayson and selling for R120 a bottle. It contains 14% Semillon and shows a broad range of flavour, good palate weight and fresh acidity. Rich but balanced, I thought it was excellent.
An interesting discussion with winemaker Peter Finlayson who contends that the plethora of wine competitions is preventing the development a tiered system or meaningful quality hierarchy in South Africa. “One cellar is in the ascendancy this year, another cellar takes its place next year”. Finlayson calls for a “think-tank of wise men” to deliberate on how to achieve a “golden circle” which would incorporate those wineries that have demonstrated their excellence over time. “We need to create a structure that will allow the top performers to stay top”.
Finlayson is particularly irked that the inaugural Top 100 SA Wines competition held earlier this year failed to include a single example of Pinot Noir in its final list of what was claimed to be the 100 best wines in the country (this despite his Limited Edition Kaaimansgat Chardonnay 2009 getting through). Finlayson labels Pinot’s lack of representation as “ridiculous” and points to the fact that despite very small plantings of Pinot, South Africa has enjoyed statistically significant success with the variety in international competitions. “It’s damaging to our credentials as a country capable of serious Pinot Noir”.
The counter-argument is put to him that unlike Bordeaux or other well established European regions, part of what makes South African wine so exciting at the moment is how fluid and dynamic it is, no better example being the excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that his sons Peter-Allan and Andrew are making under the Crystallum label despite no track record. He smiles wryly at this and replies that perhaps what is needed is experts from Burgundy to review producers of these varieties each vintage and issue “seals of approval” accordingly.