Orange River Reflections


Judging the Tops at Spar Orange River Winemaker of the Year Competition is a bit like playing cricket – short bursts of intense activity and then long intervals savouring the after taste. It took us three days to pronounce on 34 short-listed wines this past weekend, which must be the slowest tasting in the business. At Veritas they’d do 34 before rooibos tea.

It takes so long as there is now only one SA Airlink flight a day from Johannesburg to Upington. Cape Town doesn’t even have a flight on Saturdays so Silver, the entertainment, had to fly up via Johannesburg. Sharing the name of the Lone Ranger’s horse, perhaps the duo should have ridden up. Huge carbon credits if your horse is not too flatulent.

IMG 4293 225x300 Orange River Reflections

To wile away Saturday before the black tie awards dinner (at which Ntsiki Biyela, above, made an elegant entrance) we had the traditional tasting where each judge brought along two bottles of wine, which were tasted blind. This year, all but three of the wines were local and the foreigners colonized the bottom two positions of the score card. The two Champagnes – an Ernest Rappeneau and Mumm – brought by Mark Robinson, were not included as they were tasted sighted.

The top five blind rated wines (ranked by average scores) were:

2007 Vin de Constance brought by Joaquim Sa with an average score of 17.9/20;
1992 Clos Malverne Debenture Reserve red blend. Brought by Guy Webber, it was the first real Cape Blend and scored 17.35/20 – a remarkable wine with only 12% alcohol;
1995 Rozendal red blend which was brought by yours truly and scored 17/20;
2008 Oldenburg Cabernet Franc brought by Fiona McDonald which scored 16.95/20;
2006 Kallfelz Riesling brought by Abe Beukes which managed 16.9/20.