Terrific Tejo


What a pity it was the Dutch and not the Portuguese who brought Bacchus to the southernmost tip nearly four centuries ago, for then in addition to Arinto, my favourite versatile white and Touriga Nacional, we’d also have regionality with teeth. Wine routes that certify wines regionally after they are tasted blind by a panel of local judges. Bulk exports from Alentejo? Fuggedaboutit as they say in the Big Apple.

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Portugal’s Robert Parker but better looking, Anibal Coutinho, has taken the wine certification system to the next level by visiting each appellation annually and tasting wines blind for his annual People’s Guide. I’ve tagged along for the past four years. Yesterday it was 81 wines from Tejo and there were some seriously good stunners at the R20-R50 price point. Nine winemakers and marketers took part in the tasting and listened attentively to comments as their wines were assessed. This is everything a Platter tasting should be but isn’t: blind with immediate feedback for producers to be feed back into the system. No chance of House of Mandela wines sneaking in with 4.5/5 stars in this system and embarrassing guide owner Diners Club!

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With the big news today in Rawsonville the merger of Wine Cellars SA with Vinpro, now that Rico Basson has sorted out the Su Birch/WOSA/WIETA mess, perhaps he can turn his razor sharp intellect to implementing a regional certification system in SA for fine wine. For how else can the bulk export juggernaut be diverted? With a unified vision for both big (WCSA) and small (Vinpro) producers now in place, never has the time been more auspicions. Perhaps Vinpro should next take over the Estate Owners Association to put a third leg on the stool of terroir. Then producers would have something to sit on.