Tractable tastings with some feathered friends

Arrived in Upington this morning with Tinus van Niekerk to screen wines for the Orange River Winemaker of the Year Competition. Darling Cellars winemaker Abé Beukes arrives from Cape Town at 4:30 and tomorrow the I-threes tackle 96 wines made by winemakers of the five Orange River cellars: Kakemas, Keimoes, Upington, Grootdrink and Groblershoop. The brief is to select forty-or-so for a final tasting in October. Sipping, swirling and spitting happens at the Africa River Lodge on the banks of the Groot Gariep and I’d like to think the new deck poised above the river was built especially for our tasting.

o1 Tractable tastings with some feathered friends

As a sign of changing times, great things are expected from Upington winemaker Philani Gumede who has submitted five white blends. Have a look at the line-up for this year’s Cape Winemakers’ Guild Auction for confirmation that white blends are the flavour of the season – even up here in Upington, on the uttermost fringes of SA wine.

Hats off to the Spar supermarket chain who sponsor the competition and who realize how important it is to bring three Mohammads from the Mountain to Upington to taste wines in-situ and in-terroir, rather than the boring (but more profitable for competition organizers) reverse. And how much better a screening round to provide tasting tractability than the travesty of adding seeded players to a blind tasting. Besides, seeded players won’t work in extreme winemaking regions, with today’s hero (a seed) tomorrow’s zero (a pip). And vice versa.

Inter sips, the Africa River Lodge provides a perfect platform for watching the passing trade, some of whom are shown below:

o2 Tractable tastings with some feathered friends