The Berrio The Weathergirl 2008

Essence of green.

A continuous point of debate while judging the Unwooded Sauvignon Blanc Class during this year’s Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show was how much methoxypyrazine character to tolerate. In line with the general tendency prevalent locally at the moment, I was inclined to give high reward to wines showing a pronounced herbaceous character, international judge Debra Meiburg MW out of Hong Kong was particularly hard on them, while third panel member and head of the Singita Private Game Reserve wine programme François Rautenbach was somewhere in between.

Meiburg’s argument is that high pyrazine Sauvignon Blanc is passé, it doesn’t age well and tends not to pair well with Asian food. So is our fixation with cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc from areas such as Darling, Durbanville, Elgin and Elim misguided?

Yesterday, The Weathergirl 2008 from Elim winery The Berrio, a blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon and rated 5 Stars in the 2010 edition of Platter’s. Weightless intensity with scintillating acidity making for super-long finish but flavour profile very, very green. Think of every green flavour you’ve ever tasted: green bean, green pepper, coriander, parsely, rocket. Essence of green. Green exemplified. I’m not sure this would be big in Hong Kong but I’m afraid I remain a sucker for it.

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5 Comments

  1. ChristianMay 20, 2011 at 9:51 amReplyAuthor

    Thanks for the various contributions above. The original post was definitely not intended to call Debra’s judging approach into question. On the contrary, I think the presence of international tasters is a huge strength of the OMTWS in that they play a vital role in avoiding parochialism that inevitably is a factor if panels are made up entirely of locals. Debra, Francois and I had a robust but entirely good-natured exchange of ideas throughout the judging of the Sauvignon Blanc category and I think we all came away with a more nuanced and sophisticated idea regarding what’s worth rewarding and what’s not when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc.

  2. Cathy van ZylMay 20, 2011 at 7:53 amReply

    Debra’s opinion about excessive grassiness is a lone one: I remember another international judge at a previous OMTWS having similar misgivings, and have had like discussions with players well seeped in global markets about preferred styles etc. And, knowing Debra’s palate and professionalism, I am certain balance, concentration and weight were her criteria for rewarding wines – not ‘does this go with kung poa chicken’.

  3. Debra Meiburg MWMay 20, 2011 at 3:12 amReply

    Hello all,  Most definitely I would NEVER mark a wine down because of it’s lack of compatibility with Asian food.  I hope you would give me far more professional credit than that! I was simply pointing out that in many global markets, not just Asia, the extreme green is increasingly being viewed as under-ripe fruit, just as the once popular green notes in Cabernet Sauvignon are now viewed as unripe. I warned not to head to pointedly down that path as most wine regions are backing off the severe green profile.  I am not against herbal accents (I like them as well), but if all the wine has to offer is pyrazine-based flavours without fruit ripeness to balance them, then yes, I would not award such a wine a high medal.

  4. KwispedoorMay 19, 2011 at 1:18 pmReply

    To be clear, of course some Sauvignons with marked pyrazine character doesn’t age well, but making a blanket statement like “…high pyrazine Sauvignon Blanc … doesn’t age well…” is certainly not true, IMHO. We have many good Sauvignons over a variety of styles (pyraziney, thiol-driven, etc.) and they should compete on a level playing field in competitions. Award the best ones, regardless of style.

  5. KwispedoorMay 19, 2011 at 1:06 pmReply

    I’m a bit mystified by Debra Meiburg’s reasons for being intolerant of (and one can probably assume scoring down) the wines that displayed marked pyrazines.
    1. Because it doesn’t pair well with Asian food? So, is one intolerant of Cabernet because it doesn’t go well with ice cream? The OMTWS is a wine show, not a wine and food show – wines should be judged on their intrinsic quality.
    2. It’s passé? Not to me and many other people. Fashion also has nothing to do with intrinsic quality, otherwise all the “coffee/chocolate” pinotages should rate above the really good ones.
    3. It doesn’t age well? I have to disagree. South Africa’s original pyrazine bomb, the 1986 Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc is famous for its longevity and it was simply stuffed with asparagus character when young (asparagus being the prime manifestation of the MIPP methoxypyrazine). I have personally drank many, many pyraziney Sauvignons at advanced age that has matured beautifully – in fact, I won’t even think of drinking the good ones within four years of vintage. My 2008 Weathergirl is still waiting in my genotgrot (cellar), but I was recently really impressed by my last 2006 Weathergirl and wished I had kept it for longer.

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