Singing from the Same Hymnbook

A spirited and eloquent defense of the tasting status quo from the chairman of the various tasting panels at WINE magazine, Christian Eedes. Leaving aside outrageous claims that parts of the defense were lifted from the Wikipedia entry for Postmodernism – which would be a pretty postmodern thing to do in any event – Christian’s list of senior tasters speaks volumes for the status quo ante: Carrie Adams, Michael Fridjhon, Colin Frith, Tim James, Angela Lloyd, Allan Mullins and Christine Rudman. It’s the cast of an Agatha Christie whodunnit. My own establishment tasters would include South Africa’s most prolix foreign judge Dave Hughes and Duimpie Bayley, who chairs the panel for the Absa Top Ten Pinotage Competition. A competition reckoned to be to the most believable by Charles Back, the country’s most believable wine marketer.

Our blind tasting of Two Oceans yesterday included another omitted figure of towering reputation, Tinus van Niekerk, who wrote the textbook of wine appreciation back in 1981. We were joined by cosmopolitan blogger Clare Mack who brought a fresh Irish irreverence to the process, an exposure to popular wine styles in Europe and some excellent jokes. For while SA winemakers may be accused of suffering from “cellar palate”, local wine judges may likewise be accused of defending this palate in tasting tourneys, both blind and sighted (gasp!). Certainly Tinus and I were on the same wavelength, with our likes and dislikes in synchronized step, while Clare offered a refreshingly honest appraisal.

t3 Singing from the Same Hymnbook

Carlen Groenewald and Clare Mack

Tinus and I both loved the gooseberry greenness of the Two Oceans 2009 Sauvignon Blanc while Clare went for the more tropical charms of the Lindemans 2009. Went it came to Pinot Grigio, Barefoot from California “dinged Clare’s dong” while Tinus and I found it too perfumed and preferred the lifted floral Two Oceans. Clare looked into the eye of the partridge and chose the Arabella Rosé 2010 while Tinus and I preferred Lady Gaga in a shockingly pink Two Oceans. This could be a boy/girl thing.

My sea shells on the Lindemans 2009 Pinot Noir were smelly fish for Clare but we did agree on petillance – a slight spritz on the palate was a “ditsy doo da” for Clare and a no-no for Tinus and I. Of course there are no right or wrong answers in tasting, just comments which may or may not be useful to consumers and producers.

Judging by the reaction of Distell Global Marketing manager (Premium Wines) Carlen Groenewald and cellar master Michael Bucholz, yesterday’s tasting was a valuable experience for the latter congregation, an experience they intend to repeat. So watch out for more focus group tastings and non-conventional panels which offer a powerful roto-rooter to the blocked U-bend of the SA wine tasting spittoon. Heck, if someone blogged our tasting notes, they’d have the first edition of a digital wine consumer magazine and an ice-cold douche for dead-tree lifestyle publishers.

t4 Singing from the Same Hymnbook

Tessa de Kock and Carlen Groenewald