Politically Correct Punditry


The comment of newly-anointed editor of WINE magazine, Christian Eedes, that “the international acclaim Bordeaux-style red blend MR Mveme [sic] Raats De Compostella currently attracts might be due to the picture-perfect collaboration between a white and a black winemaker as much as wine quality” went down like a drol in the fermentation tank. This reported on his Gulp! blog the day it was revealed that another gastronomic guru, political pundit and motorcar maven David Bullard had been separated from his column for perceived racism.

raats Politically Correct Punditry

But is the Christian contention true? Certainly the 93 point (out of 100) Wine Spectator rating for the De Compostella ’05 is no affirmative action statement as the Speccie rates their wines blind. And the observation that the previous vintage attracted the same stellar score, supports the inherent quality argument.

But that said, when wined and dined by the BBC last month on suitable subjects for an upcoming wine documentary, the director’s mantra “but is he black?” became quite tedious when I suggested winemakers with names like “Johan Kruger” and “Duncan Savage” worth featuring. Which confirms the point I think Mr. Eedes was making, that SA wine has an inescapable cultural context.

Yet another reason for tasting wines blind if you feel the urge to rate them. The debate still rages in the SA wine spitoon as to the merits of sighted versus blind tastings with increasingly bizarre arguments advanced in favour of Peek-a-Boo Pundity.

Like the recent one received via e-mail last week: “ratings generated on the basis of blind tastings are utterly impractical – 6000 wines tasted at a rate of 3 minutes per wine would equate to 12.5 consecutive 24-hour days of tasting.”

Quite why blind tastings should take longer than sighted ones (I would have thought the converse rather) is not explained but it is worth pointing out that spending 3 minutes per wine is hopelessly generous – last year a panel under UK wine god Jancis Robinson got through 151 Shirazes at the Trophy Wine Show – that’s over 7½ hours of back-to-back tasting with barely enough time to blow your nose in between glasses.

Of course everyone knows the real reason for Peek-a-boo Punditry: blind panels are sure to “get it wrong” with overpriced fashion statements assigned to the spittoons of the lowly rated and “also tasted” when assessed blind. Financial suicide for those publications depending on producer largesse and red faces all round for the pundits self-tasked with separating quality SA wine drops from the irretrievably ordinary.