Yesterday I presented a tasting intended to explore what constitutes icon wine to the final-year winemaking students at agricultural college Elsenburg at the invitation of lecturer and resident winemaker Bertus Fourie. Some thoughts on what constitutes icon wine:
When does a cult wine become iconic? A wine becomes “cult” when it manages to capture the imagination of those highly involved with top-end wine; icon wines meanwhile are recognised as great across the board.
Matters of 1) quality and 2) style: icon wines obviously have to be of a very high intrinsic quality but I would further contend are classically styled more often than not. Wines made using extreme techniques of viticulture and winemaking in order to stand out in the market place may succeed commercially but will always struggle to acquire icon status, the Bordeaux garagiste movement a case in point.
Does there have to be a limited production? Rarity often contributes to the mystique of a label but is not essential to icon status – the Bordeaux First Growths typically between 15 000 and 20 000 cases.
Is pricing a relevant attribute? The argument might be made that Chateau Libertas and Tassenberg are iconic but their positioning at the bottom end of the market means that they will always struggle to shake off commodity status.
Is there an established evolutionary curve? Track record is important but not essential to a wine acquiring icon status. Mondavi-Rothschild venture Opus One was created out of nothing and has acquired icon status but this route is not easy. KWV’s failed effort with Abraham Perold Op die Berg Shiraz a reference. In addition, icon wines are nothing if not luxury brands – brands have life cycles and need to be carefully managed.
The line-up as follows:
Dom Pérignon 2002
Desiderius Pongrácz 2003
Vergelegen White 2009
Domaine de Chevalier 2006
Giaconda Chardonnay 2005
Bachelet Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2009
Meerlust Rubicon 2007
Vergelegen V 2007
Mouton Rothschild 1997
Vega Sicilia Tinta Valbuena 5 ⁰ 2005
Gaja Sperss 2007
Amarone della Valpolicella Giuseppe Quintarelli 2000