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Veritas Awards 2010 tasting: some reflections

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De Wetshof Finesse Chardonnay 1993. Not the best bottle.
De Wetshof Finesse Chardonnay 1993. Not the best bottle ever.

To qualify for museum class at Veritas 2010, white wines are required to be five years from vintage and older, reds 10  years and older. Significantly, whites produced one double gold and three gold medals, and reds no double golds or golds. Producers were obliged to show only one bottle of wines at last night’s tasting of top performers in Cape Town so those were the wines I covered off first.

Things did not bode well for the gold medal winning De Wetshof Finesse Chardonnay 1993 when  the cork broke in the bottle and when it was finally extracted, the wine seemed a little flat. It would have been a real treat to taste this at its best as it won Danie de Wet the title of Diners Club Winemaker of the Year in 1993.

Nederburg Private Bin D266 Semillon 2003 (double gold)  was riveting: still primary with wonderfully pure fruit. Tariro Masayiti, winemaker in charge of white wines, confesses that he chanced upon a small batch during a routine stock-take and initially didn’t expect much of it, but upon sampling it was amazed at its quality, something confirmed by the Veritas judges. “Not bad for Paarl fruit,” he says – the grapes having been grown on Plaisir de Merle.

The Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Sur Lie 2005 (gold) was very much in the house style being rich and intense, a wine of some pedigree having won double gold at Veritas 2006 and 4 Stars in Wine magazine both on release (November 2005 issue) and five years on from vintage (April 2010).

Welbedacht Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2005 (gold) showed good complexity with lots of appealing secondary character from time in bottle. This was another wine to rate 4 Stars in Wine magazine’s review of whites five years from vintage , panel member Angela Lloyd then giving it a perfect 20/20 score.

To end my evening of tasting, some of the fortifieds. Worcester cellar Nuy had won double gold for its Red Muscadel 1998 and it was indeed rich, complex and delicious. I was going to leave it at that but was persuaded to sample the whole line-up of wines on offer: the 2010, 2009 and 1998 vintages of Red Muscadel as well as the 2005 and 1989 vintages of White Muscadel, all of which had won gold. These wines are sublime but really do need 20-odd years to come into their own, the White 1989 even better to mind than the Red 1998 thanks to more finesse and delicacy. How to generate more of a following for them? Apparently Nuy releases small quantities of aged Muscadel every year at R90 a bottle to their database customers. You feel that more ambitious pricing is needed to add to the prestige of the product.

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