Cabernet: Vanity or Value?

Neil Pendock February 9, 2014 0

The bombshell that Ultra Liquors is to switch allegiance from the best value camp to Robin von Holdt’s Top 100 SA Wines should ignite a furious debate among retailers. How best to sell wine? Value for money or appeal to a shopper’s inner wine snob? Something Robin clearly does by hiring as Batman, Tim Atkin, a former UK wine columnist, to chair his tasting panels dominated by UK palates. The alternative is to continue focusing on best value quality, something Ultra were incredibly good at when their own brand (Secret Cellar) was best value Cabernet in a hotly contested field at the Best Value Guide last year.

Secret Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon No. 466 2008 15.00 R29.99
Distell Obikwa Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 14.90 R35.00
Wellington Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 14.60 R33.30
Swartland Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 14.90 R40.00
Boland Cellar Five Climates Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 15.10 R48.99

Big is Beautiful Poster.

One little-known fact about the 9 BVG tasters – usual suspects all and hopefully not now redundant – is that a team of three associate judges – tasters of colour – got the chance to taste alongside the local small guns rather like women do in the UK as Jancis Robinson pointedly points out in her report of a recent UK tasting of 2010 Bordeaux wines. How many black tasters will help determine Robin’s Top 100 wines I wonder?

Most interesting to see la Jancis list her top value Bordeaux wines in the FT, hardly a bargain hunter’s bible, I’d have thought. And some kind of unspecified value criterion has been applied to list the wines which are sorted neither by price nor alphabet.

Best Value 2010 Bordeaux (* indicates a particularly good buy and not a Platter recommendation)

● L’Enclos, Pomerol, £31
● Quinault l’Enclos, St-Émilion, £24
● Haut Bergey, Pessac-Léognan, £31
● *De Fieuzal, Pessac-Léognan, £30
● *Deyrem Valentin, Margaux, £18
● Croizet Bages, Pauillac, £24
● *Phélan Ségur, St-Estèphe, £33
● Tronquoy Lalande, St-Estèphe, £30
● Haut Marbuzet, St-Estèphe, £30
● Cos Labory, St-Estèphe, £29
● *Capbern Gasqueton, St-Estèphe, £16
● Sociando Mallet, Haut-Médoc, £27
● Belgrave, Haut-Médoc, £26
● Chasse Spleen, Haut-Médoc, £24
● De Camensac, Haut-Médoc, £20
● Lestage, Listrac-Médoc, £18
● *Fourcas Borie, Listrac-Médoc, £13
● Bel Orme Tronquoy de Lalande, Haut-Médoc, £15
● De Lamarque, Haut-Médoc, £12
● *Malescasse, Haut-Médoc, £12
● Tour St Bonnet, Médoc, £11
● Beaumont, Haut-Médoc, £11

Today is the day SA wine producers decide whether to follow Jancis and focus on Value or follow Batman and Robin who present the highest scored wines entered into their competition, mischievously called the Top 100 SA Wines, which quite clearly they aren’t.

For consumers, the top five quality value wines in the Best Value Guide would seem the best way to go and the list makes total sense. A whisker behind Ultra’s own brand is Obikwa which once again demonstrates what bloody good value the brand is. The final three are all what I call Wine Collective numbers from Wellington, Swartland and Boland Co-ops respectively. These are the precisely the kind of wines we’ll be presenting to hoteliers and restaurateurs at our inaugural Big is Beautiful B2B festival in the Cathedral Cellar of the KWV in Paarl. The poster for the event brightens up this blog post immeasurably.

Vanity or Value? is the question facing SA consumers. Hoteliers and restaurateurs should ask themselves, should I list a Top 100 wine chosen by some UK “expert” or whizz down to Paarl on Saturday 9 August and taste for myself? To paraphrase the apostle Matthew in the good book “ye shall know them by their wine lists.”

Leave A Response »