Savaged by a grape again, continued…

The plot thickens. The counter attack by Platter pundits from the picture framing shop on Mount Anorak in response to my interview with Spar liquor executive Ray Edwards on his decision to withhold Spar wines from inclusion in the guide until tastings are done blind, raises several issues: Spier cellar master Frans Smit made the same point the week before without any anorak anxiety but if you want to improve your rating in the guide, it seems being suspected of wanting to quit does the trick.

Oranjerivier Wine Cellars are big suppliers to Spar’s Country Cellars range and last year their “surprisingly ungenerous” Ruby Cabernet 2005 was rated one star – translation “plain and simple.” When Spar dropped their boycott bombshell, spies from Mount Anorak attempted to gauge the thinking in Upington. Last year’s OWC taster Meryl Weaver was hastily redeployed and replaced by Concerned Mom from Somerset West aka the editor’s wife (MW) as resident guru.

Faster than you can say conflict of interest, a teaser appeared on mom’s June blog
“just two days into the schedule, I’ve made one or two ‘discoveries’; there’s a handful of unoaked reds from Oranjerivier Wine Cellars that are pretty decent and modestly priced, for example” which was duly leaked to Upington command.

Not too surprisingly, the Oranjerivier boys decided to stick with Platter and not too surprising either to read in the 2008 edition of Platter’s that the Ruby Cabernet 2006 is now miraculously two-and-a-half times better. Talk about vintage variation!

That Frans Smit interview in full:

fs Savaged by a grape again, continued...

With two double gold medals and five golds, Spier Wines in Stellenbosch were joint top performers (with Nederburg) at last month’s Veritas Awards, SA’s oldest and largest wine competition. Neil Pendock spoke to Spier cellar master Frans Smit.

Q: Spier always seems to do better in blind wine tastings and foreign shows than local tastings where wines are tasted sighted or “seeded” (given a place in the final tasting round if they are eliminated early on and have sufficient status to merit a second look).

A: Spier is not a small boutique brand. We have a strong presence in supermarkets and other retail outlets. I suspect this dilutes our image in some quarters but when you put our product in a one on one situation, quality always wins out regardless of whether it’s a local or international competition.

Q: Your two double golds were for Chardonnay and Merlot, cultivars overlooked in the five star ratings for the 2008 edition of the Platter wine guide.

A: Platter is a good guide to quality but the first round tasting is always done by only one person and it is not done blind. So it is just a personal perception of a single individual tasting a wine with the label visible. I obviously would have liked to see five stars but I have no control over that and again we are not a small boutique producer.

Q: A poll in WINE magazine last year voted Veritas SA’s most trusted wine competition. Do you see any effects on sales?

A: We certainly have seen an effect in the past.

Q: You made the five component wines for Spar’s magical Bordeaux blend, the Quintette 2005, but this was a one-off. Why?

A: This started out as a commercial project and we at Spier Wines have made, in consultation with Spar, a decision to focus on brand building for our own branded products in future.

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