Bumped into Liam Campbell at La Mouette in Sea Point this lunch time. Liam was one of 16 judges at the annual Michelangelo International Wine Competition which went down at Romond in Stellenbosch last week in torrential rain. It was eye-opening to compare his experience with the much hyped Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show earlier this year. Michelangelo seems to be pulling away from Toasty with 1400 entries – 40% more than Toasty – plus 28 brandies.
All eyes now on Veritas numbers for wine show dominance. Wine shows are particularly important for SA consumers who have lost confidence in the Platter wine guide which assesses entries sighted. The guide is now owned by Diners Club with a Diners director a major wine brand owner, which compounds the problem. The situation is so fraught, some producers are even talking about moving their corporate bank accounts away from Diners owner Standard Bank.
While cork failure was a major feature of the Old Mutual tourney with 2/3 of whites reporting a cork problem, Liam’s panel of three international judges (Christine Rudman is the only SA taster allowed to pass an opinion at the show) only called for two fresh bottles over five days of tasting. Liam spent the first two days on Chardonnay, tasting around 120 wines which should have necessitated 80 repours according to Old Mutual statistics.
Could it be that Liam and the other 15 panellists are insensitive to cork taint? Could the Toasty judges have confused terroir with taint or vice versa with the Michelangelo mouths – easy to do for foreign experts with limited exposure to SA wine? Could it be that SA producers give their faulty bottles to Old Mutual? Or could this be a vintage thing and cork suppliers gave untainted corks to vintage 2013 which was not much in evidence at the Toasty Show? Whatever the explanation, I bet Old Mutual are wishing they’d sponsored Michaelangelo. Old Michelangelo has a nice ring to it.
Clearly the message for producers is screw caps for the Toasty Show (if you must) and cork for Michelangelo. Meanwhile the presence of auditors at Michelangelo has gone a long way to clearing up charges of manipulation which bedevilled past editions of the competition with foreign judges complaining bitterly about rigging of results and scams galore. The only disappointment was the 28 brandies submitted when over 50 were expected. Although quite why a brandy producer would enter a competition when the vintage of distillation is not mentioned on the label, is moot. Surely once you get a gold, you never need to enter a competition again as you can keep using the same bottle sticker?