It is curious to me how one particular producer can be a front-runner in a particular category for a while and then seemingly get overtaken by other producers who deliver wines even more impressive and aesthetically pleasing.
Stellenbosch farm Simonsig enjoyed significant success with its Merindol Syrah in the mid-2000s, the 2000 vintage winning double gold at Veritas 2002, the 2001 winning the inaugural Wine magazine Shiraz Challenge in 2004 as well as double gold at Veritas 2003 and the 2002 winning gold at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show2005 . Though Merindol remains a very good wine, it hasn’t really shone in competition since.
I opened the 2001 last night and it was in fine nick: flavours of dark fruit and black pepper, fresh acidity and tannins that were still firm despite it being nearly ten years on from vintage. There was a slight “meatiness” or savoury quality about it and I did wonder if this wasn’t due to the smallest amount of spoilage yeast Brettanomyces. If so, its effect was just a nuance and added more than it detracted from the wine.
This poses the question as to whether or not wine faults are acceptable. With the wine market hugely overtraded, a key function of wine competitions is to provide consumers with reliable purchase advice and I always endeavour be very strict on wine faults when judging. However, there is a difference between tasting and drinking and outside of the competition environment, some low-level faults definitely add to a wine’s interest for me.