Firday’s Celebration of Chardonnay at De Wetshof saw a new icon hoisted into the pantheon of SA wine fame by unanimous acclaim. It’s a 1993 vintage, aptly named finesse, made in the year Danie de Wet was hailed Diners Club Winemaker of the Year, back in the day when the competition had some credibility and would even provide accomodation for lucky hacks and bloggers invited to the awards dinner. Alas overnight stays have been suspended as the credit card company seeks to offset some of the huge losses from its Platter wine label guide. Hacks feel a bit like Jack Marrian, grandson of the 25th Thane of Cawdor, being shown part of an R85 million cocaine bust in Kenya last week.
The credibility of the guide itself continues to melt down. No fewer that 78 Chardonnays were nominated sighted for Platter 5* glory this year and 17 made it. Of course there were many more, but someone edited the list, according to one winemaker. But not a single MCC – many made from Chardonnay of course. So consistency of judging was clearly lacking, yet again.
Back on De Wetshof, guest speaker Jay McInerney gave a Churchillian address to open the Celebration, calling Chardonnay an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Of course SA wine is full of mysteries, like why SA focuses on the most elitist of grapes in an age of popularism, as Brexit and the accession of President Trump confirms.
Of course we should rather focus on Chenin, the people’s white. The only problem being one of taste. The great white grape of Burgundy tastes better than the Loire. Especially when it comes in the form of Domaine Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Mouchere 2014. Which is quite a mouthfull to pronounce and even harder to pay for, as it’s R1600 a bottle from the importer.
But Chardonnay’s elitist bubble was pricked when the first wine tasted was presented by a former tractor driver from Eikendal whose name I did not catch.
The wine is called Janina 2015 and was the least expensive of the day. A blend of grapes from the Helderberg and Elgin, it is neither a terroir wine nor a continental wine like Mouchere. In fact the selection panel was clearly in a maritime mood with Twiggy, rather than Marilyn Monroe, the model they chose to showcase. Which is a pity.
Speech of the day was given by chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen who won the Golden Vine Award. This golden god of SA cuisine, the first SA chef to win a Michelin star, nearly gave the game away when he recounted how he and his kitchen react if there is a suspicion of a Michelin inspector in his establishment. Which confirms the Achilles heel of awards – so easy to manipulate. Given by elites and served to people who may be mistaken for elites.
Thank heavens the age of elites is over. Pundits and pollsters have been fired en masse from American TV after last week’s melt down. The same thing is overdue in food and wine judging. After all, wine is far too important to be managed by discredited elites.