JP wades in

Jean-Pierre Rossouw, the Cape Times’ dapper wine guru who fortuitously shares initial initials with SA wine guide sensei John Platter, yesterday waded into the blind versus sighted rating debate in his Veritassies column. Perhaps his most valuable contribution was confirmation that the colour of this year’s Platter guide is French Lavender, a far more polite descriptor than risqué Penis Purple advanced on the Pinot Pile website.

13 s JP wades in

JP quotes Platter publisher Andrew “Big Mac” McDowall on the rationale for sighted tastings embraced by the guide. “It promotes more informed and nuanced assessments, resulting in (hopefully) a more readable and informative book. Secondly, (it will)… offer an opinion on not only current performance but track record and predigree.”

JP accepts the Big Mac argument and draws an analogy to restaurant reviews (his own specialization) asking should restaurant critics be blindfolded? While amusing, his proposal is sure to be messy and totally misses the point about the criticism of sighted tastings. When blindfolds are off, what matters is who is doing the assessment. A commercial winemaker rating his competition? A retailer assessing his stock? The chairman of Backsberg? Platter uses all these and more.

I totally accept the merits of sighted tastings when and only when they are conducted by impartial tasters. Which is NOT the case at the house of Platter. Just how badly the current system serves SA wine was reinforced at Rickety Bridge in Franschhoekfranschhoekcellarwines JP wades in
by franschhoekwines

The Rickety Sauvignon ‘08, IMHO streets ahead of the Paulina’s Reserve Sauvignon ’08 from the same producer, gets a humble ** assessment while Paulina boasts ***1/2. The *1/2 accorded to the natural sweet is shurley shome mishtake.

The public seem to agree as the RB Sauvignon is sold out on the farm, in spite of a 25% price hike after it exceeded all price expectations at this year’s Nederburg Auction. That it was even selected for the Auction at a competitive blind tasting would surely make it worth more than **, one might have thought.

Could it be the taster (another JP) read that the RB Sauvignon is made from estate (i.e. Franschhoek) grown grapes as opposed to Elgin fruit used for Paulina’s Reserve? Or is a Reserve supposed to taste better because it’s pricier? This was the explanation offered by one of this year’s five star laureates as to why his Cape Winemakers’ Guild offering was tipped ahead of the normal bottling. “They see CWG on the label and automatically assume it’s a better wine.” He begged to differ.

Label awe is the reason Uitvlucht winemaker Alwyn Liebenberg advances for the **** rating of The Goose Cabernet ’07 as opposed to his half-star Uitvlucht Bo-Langkloof Cabernet ’07 as they are the same wine – samples drawn from the same barrel at the same time. Multiplying your rating by eight by putting the name of a golfing superstar on the label certainly confirms that sighted assessment is for celebrities and dedicated followers of fashion. Wine lovers might beg to differ.

Challenged as to whether I had tasted the wine in question, I attach an extract from the second day of the Good Value Guru Diaries that appeared in the Sunday Times on July 13.

gvg2 JP wades in