Tim James has been up to his usual wine competition bashing efforts over on Grape.co.za (see here, here and here), his issue not only that any one competition will produce a set of results that are “mix of valid and rubbish” but also that there is “extraordinary disparity” between the results of different competitions.
I’m afraid I think this is James at his curmudgeonly best (or worst). Of course there is little about wine competitions when viewed collectively that is systematic but that is precisely the beauty of them. Wine competitions cannot possibly generate a formal ranking valid under all circumstances and for all time but rather they serve to engender ongoing discussion about quality and style and in so doing promote change for the better.
Scrutinise the category results within any one competition and there will always be some that are more pleasing than others to the individual observer. Take a less pedantic approach, however, and wine competitions can be a useful means of detecting general trends. For instance, Stellenbosch winery Tokara won the trophy for best in category for its Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2007 at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show 2009. Flash in the plan? No, the same winery went on to win the title of most successful producer at the competition in 2010.
Last night, a bottle of the Chardonnay 2007 proved very enjoyable, its defining characteristic being its great subtlety: pure fruit, deft use of oak, gentle but sufficient acidity. I’m sure James’s argument would be that there were at least half a dozen other examples of Chardonnay that could have won the trophy back in 2009, but then they didn’t and Tokara did and that’s why this post is about Tokara and not about any other wine.