| SA Wine Ratings, News, Opinion & Analysis

Who tanked in the Decanter tasting

March 10, 2011
by Christian
in News
with 10 Comments

Decanter April 2011“Monotony, neutrality and non-existent regionality were sadly the buzzwords of this tasting,” begins the report on SA Chenin Blanc in the April issue of UK magazine Decanter. Below are some of the big-name wines that got trashed (panel average score out of 20 alongside). This goes beyond the vagaries of blind tasting and points to a fundamentally different aesthetic between local and UK judges:

3 Stars
De Morgenzon 2009 14.88
Rudera 2008 14.88
Rijk’s A Touch of Oak 2009 14.75 (vs. trophy for best in category at Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show 2010)
Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Bush Vines 2010 14.63

2 Stars
Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2009 14.33
Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine 2009 14.25
Botanica 2009 14.17 (vs. 5 Stars in Platter’s 2011)
Villiera Tradional Barrel Fermented 2010 14.17
Ken Forrester 2009 13.88
Raats Original 2009 13.75
Kanu KCB 2007 13.5
Simonsig 2010 13.33
Ken Forrester The FMC 2008 13.25
Jordan 2009 13

I Star
Raats Family 2008 12.17
Rudera Platinum 2009 12
Leopard’s Leap 2010 11.5
Teddy Hall 2008 11.25

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  1. IrritatedMarch 29, 2011 at 9:14 pmReply

    Thanks for the encouragment Saxton. There is a generation or motivated young Cape winemakers on the move who regard Chenin as our trump card. Hopefully the true quality of cape white wine will be recognised soon. Have a brilliant honeymoon in RSA. you can email me at if you want any wine tips.

  2. Richard SaxtonMarch 28, 2011 at 10:25 amReply

    Maybe I can add an English view point. I’m a wine blogger based in England and love my Chenins. I’m coming to SA on honeymoon in November and am looking forward to visiting some of my favoured SA wineries. Panel tastings should be taken with a pinch of salt and I think I speak for many wine drinkers in England when I say that I’m not going to let the opinion of a panel dictate what I drink! I’ve tried wines costing £25+ which panels have praised but I have found useless, and I’ve tried wines for below £10 which panels have panned and I have loved! SA should be proud of its Chenin and ensure this is just a minor blip…..

  3. IrritatedMarch 27, 2011 at 5:09 pmReply

    I’m so annoyed, although I probably shouldn’t be. No no wait, I should be. I know this post is a couple of weeks old, but I suddenly feel like throwing in my 10 cents. Its true that we might not get the same international wine exposure down here as they get up in Blighty, but experience doesn’t imply skill or eliminate stupidity. I don’t care who that panel consisted of, they are fallible humans who definately don’t always get it right as often as we’d hope. Decanter claim to be the world’s best wine mag, but in this instance they can’t tell the difference between comodity wine and fine wine. Whats guts me, is that instead of them looking like a pack of rookies, cape Chenin looks bad. I find it ludicrous that with the stroke of a pen, litterally years of bloody hard work and dreams can be comprimised by an incompetent panel. Hope Marguerite is a brilliant wine, as are the offering from Raats, Rudera and Teddy Hall. These are from great vineyards, elaborated by skilled individuals, and certainly deserve more credit. Also, comments like ” monotony, neutrality, and non-existent regionality” are total tripe. Who paying these guys? Why are we so willing to play whipping boy? In cases like this it would be great to see the cape’s top wine voices galvanizing, and giving decater a public lambasting. How do you think Argentina would react if the entire category of Argentine Malbec was so poorly handled.

  4. ChristianMarch 13, 2011 at 10:11 amReplyAuthor

    In response to Tim, I concede that big panel tastings just about always produce a few odd results. However, this does not make such undertakings utterly pointless and in highlighting the results of the Decanter tasting, my intention was rather to engender debate as to the merit or lack thereof of South African Chenin Blanc as an overall category. After what must be acknowledged as a comprehensive tasting, Decanter accuses the wines of “monotony, neutrality and non-existent regionality” while most local commentators would consider the same line-up generally strong in quality and diverse in style. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Not at all an academic debate given that Chenin Blanc is still by far the country’s most widely planted variety…

  5. Tim ConroyMarch 12, 2011 at 1:08 pmReply

    I think, rather than rubbishing WCape chenins, this is a wake up call.  It IS surprising given that Raisin Social import a lot of Cape wines; their buyer and Greg Sherwood of Handfords (who is South African and will be one of the judges in the upcoming Top 100…) and Margaret Rand are hardly ignorant of the Cape wine scene. I am surprised at the verdict on Cederberg and where was La Capra?

  6. Tim JamesMarch 11, 2011 at 5:21 pmReply

    How gratifying to see that Christian has at last discovered the pleasures of pointing to the inevitable absurdities in these big panel tastings. He never seems to appreciate it when others laugh at similar sorts of results in the ones he is involved with for Wine mag. Among the wines getting three stars or less in the last Chenin Challenge, for example, were: Ken Forrester Woolworths Reserve, Rijk’s Private Cellar With a touch of Oak (the same 3-star rating that Christian criticises the Brits for giving it!), Jean Daneel Signature, Land of Hope, Cederberg Five Generations, Mulderbosch Small Change, Villiera Traditional Barrel Fermented, Spier Private Collection, De Trafford Reserve, Villiera Cellardoor Reserve, etc.
    That said, the Decanter team do look to have been particularly incompetent.

  7. ChristianMarch 11, 2011 at 3:07 pmReplyAuthor

    For the record, the panel was Christine Parkinson (buyer for Michelin-starred restaurants), Nancy Gilchrist MW (wine lecturer and columnist), Margaret Rand (writer and former editor of Wine Magazine), Greg Sherwood MW (buyer for Hanford Wines), Sarah Ahmed (wine writer and blogger), Joanna Locke MW (buyer at The Wine Society) and Gerard Barnes (buyer for Raisin Social).

  8. Roger SleighMarch 11, 2011 at 12:37 pmReply

    Hopefully the SA wine industry is big enough not to worry too much about what Decanter thinks. WOuld be interesting to know who the panel was and how scores diffred between members. Also possiblelike Dionysus suggested that a degree of preconception was present…

  9. dionysusMarch 10, 2011 at 2:22 pmReply

    Hi C

    Who were the Decanter panel members? One can understand different panels coming up with different scores, that fairly normal. But if one looks at the bigger picture of two panels looking at the same wines, there is no way the picture should be , well chalk and cheese. These discrepancies show something is wrong…can European taste be so different to ours? Are our tasters so out of touch with the international palate? I wonder what the result would have been had the tasting been double blind, not knowing the producer or the country of origin…I hate conspiracy theories, I leave that up to certain heavyweights, but what does one put this down to? Thank God I didn’t spend all that money on MFs Judging academy… 

     Cheers Dionysus

  10. Nicola TippingMarch 10, 2011 at 2:18 pmReply

    I don’t regard 3 * a trashing at all! Decanter regard 3* as Recommended. 2* is regarded as Fair which of course is not a great comment! But I see your point that this is possibly just a matter of different taste between local and foreign judges. Similarly, some SA wines have been give 2* by some local assessors but 90+ points from Spectator. I am sure there are some great SA wines though that will be universally appreciated.

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