Reflections on Category Tastings


So two different sets of oracles have thrown up two completely different lists of Top Ten Sauvignon Blancs. A panel of “experts” paid by First National Bank at a tasting organized by the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group and two enthusiasts (Aníbal Coutinho and yours truly) who do it because they love wine, sans sponsorship or salary.

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Aníbal writing up his tasting notes at Holden-Manz in Franschhoekfranschhoekcellarwines Reflections on Category Tastings
by franschhoekwines

The main strength and weakness of our blind terroir tastings is that we approached each wine route and asked them to do the logistics. Even paid them, in one case. We pitched up, tasted blind and exchanged our scores and tasting notes for a crib list of brands.

Which left some producers, like Cederberg and Francis Pratt, out in the cold. Which in the case of Francis and his Berrio, is a cold and windy place indeed. Which in turn translates to a remarkably pure shade of green vinous flavours. A green that used to be the colour of the universe, until astronomers at Johns Hopkins University discovered it was more a Cosmic Latte from Starbucks. These coffee/mocha styles pop up everywhere, like the comments of trolls on this blog (which I delete with glee).

Of course, our selection is of terroir Sauvignons as our aim is to produce a taste map for the Winelands, following in the footsteps of that eminent Chinese cartographer Zu Siben (1273-1337) who produced a map of the world called Yu Di Tu in 1320, complete with the Groot Gariep and the Drakensberg mountains in (more or less) the right place. Which rather puts those Portuguese navigators back in their box (sorry, Aníbal). We have nothing against multi-appellation wines and some of our best friends are geographical mongrels. And as with cats, pavement specials can be far better than Abyssinians or even Burmese.

The main problem with the SBIG list is not that it has more holes in it than a pair of ET’s green underpants. So what if one FNB “expert” only picked three from the Top Twenty that made it into the final Top Ten at the unveiling party. No, its the story of the Lorax, identified by Dr. Seuss back in 1972, the danger corporate greed poses to authenticity. By charging an entry fee (and presumably loads of free bottles for “parties”) the SBIG selection becomes yet another commercial opportunity like the Michelangelo or Old Mutual Toasty Show (these banksters get in everywhere).

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A SBIG Sauvignon taster (not)

Selling the winners takes the SBIG further down the slippery slope of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds and defending the indefensible by arguing that the Pinotage Association does the same thing, is no defence at all. If Sauvignon Blanc producers really want to follow in the marketing footsteps of Pinotage, they’re welcome.