Classic Top Ten Chenins

“You turn down being a taster but still crack an invite to the awards” was my greeting on Friday night from Ronell Wiid, one of the Classic judges at the Top Ten Chenin awards. Which is true, but it was my birthday and not stage fright that was my excuse to bow-out back in December. Looking at Classic’s Top Ten, I wish I’d been born the previous week as while believable, two things about the Classic selection worried: all the wines were wooded and none were from the Swartland. And the Paardeberg in particular, that fiery Mount Doom in Mordor (JRR Tolkien’s Black Land) that some would call the natural home of Chenin in SA.

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The top table at Friday night's elegant affair

Including the Swartland’s irascible publicist, recently moved from Kenilworth to a lock-up garage in Wynberg, curiously absent from the awards. As indeed were all his fellow pips from the Grape communal blog: not an Angela in the Area, a Cathy in the Chamber, a Mr. Min on the Margin; no Ma Nolte in the Neighbourhood, nary a Bowtie Backstage. Which was a pity, as dinner was free seating sonder name tags. Underlining that this was no WINE magazine function, where the seating plan was drawn up by “avoid Angela” requests from attendees.

The Top Ten is not without wistfulness for the Tokara 2009 has been discontinued and tremendous Teddy Hall was present in 30% of the entries. Two he made: the De Morgenzon 2007 and Dr Jan Cats Reserve 2010 and one like he used to: the Rudera Robusto 2009 redolent of old squashed apricots. Let’s hope Teddy has a Cat’s Reserve Sauvignon in the bag with a dripping gooseberry bush on the label.  And what a pity his Sybrand Mankadan 2010 didn’t make it – the name is so cool, you’d expect Adi Badenhorst to be involved.

My pick was the Welbedacht 2009, made in that phenolic Swartland style with an oxidative oranginess. But then Schalk does sit on the rim of the Swartland, softly strumming his guitar with fingers bigger than polonies.

Sticking with the music theme (well the event was sponsored by a radio station) the difference to WINE extended to the provision of entertainment: the aurally and visually appealing Spanish guitarist James Grace instead of watching Ramsay staff getting rotted and an address from Makhulu Baas, Dominic Ntsele, who lifted the veil on the whole boxandice rather than a tongue-tied apparatchik going through the motions.

Seems that a breakfast at Scusi in Parkview was convened by Hylton Appelbaum early in 2009. At that stage, H was chair of Classic FM and De Morgenzon denizen. Eggs Benedict were accompanied by discussions on “how to take over WINE magazine.” Present were retailer-to-plutocrats Carrie Adams, WINE columnist and partner in the Trophy Wine Show (and other initiatives) Michael Fridjhon and Dom, who arrived late from Midrand, running as he does “on township time.” Three years later and many of the final WINE crew are now producing Classic Wine. A magazine so out there, it features an ad of fashion god Tom Ford, with big pores. Quite an eventful breakfast!