Absa Top Ten Pinotage Competition: first day of judging

The first of three days of judging the Absa Top Ten Pinotage competition started this morning at the Devon Valley Hotel outside Stellenbosch. On the menu are 148 wines: 1 from the difficult 2002 vintage, 10 from the great 2003 vintage, 27 generously fruited 2004’s, 45 from tannic 2005 and 59 as yet unknown 2006 and 6 2007’s – unknown as the 2006 and 2007 wines are scheduled for tomorrow.

The competition is unusual in that three days are allocated to assessing 148 wines – other shows controversially get through more than this in a single day. Another nice feature is that panel chairman, Duimpie Bayly, behaves like an ordinary judge, rather than wafting around the tasting room and disappearing into the pouring room to check up on the performance of favourite wines.

The other six judges include two winemakers, Charles Hopkins from De Grendel in Durbanville and Chris Roux from Wellington, Dave Hughes, SA’s most experienced foreign taster and two international palates: Julian Brind MW, former wine buyer for the UK Waitrose supermarket chain and Michelle Cherutti-Kowal, a Canadian wine educator now resident in London.

We got through 70 wines this morning, with the 2004 vintage delivering several standout wines. With several wines scoring 18/20 and 19/20, Brind made the comment that this was no Special Olympics – the wines are genuinely world class.

This afternoon, we’re off to taste even more of SA’s own unique grape at Kaapzicht and Bellevue in the Bottelary Hills appellation.

read more on Neil Pendock