In St James, Cape Town, judging wine

st james

For the last few days I have been in St James, Cape Town, judging wine for the Top 100 South African Wines competition.  It’s the fifth year of the competition, and many of our small judging team of seven have been here since the beginning. So it’s a nice family feeling. We’re led by uncle Tim Atkin, and then Richard Kershaw and I are deputy chairs. Making up my team are Greg Sherwood and Duncan Savage, while Richard has Justin Knock and Lizette Tolken.

Duncan Savage

Duncan Savage

The judging process is pretty rigorous. It’s based around flights of wines divided by category. For example, on day 1 our team had 44 Cabernets in the morning, followed by 31 Chenin Blancs in the afternoon. We have two glasses of each wine: a freshly poured glass and a decanted glass. There’s a lot of discussion and retasting. Panels work like this: often one person will spot a wine that’s really good and the others miss it first time round.

Greg Sherwood

Greg Sherwood

Judging wine blind is complicated and requires skill and concentration. It’s not an exact science, but if you have the right setting, efficient logistics, and a robust protocol, coupled with experienced tasters, you are more likely to produce useful results.

st james tidal pool

As for the setting? It’s a lovely time to be in the Cape, and St James is a beautiful place. Kalk bay is just a short stroll along the sea front and has nice bars and restaurants, as well as a sort of hippie feel. There’s a nice path that runs up to Muizenberg that’s good for an early morning loosening run. I’ve stayed here six times in the last five years, and it feels a bit like home from home. I have one more day here: I’m off to lunch at Longridge, and then it’s on the late flight home. A chance to watch bad movies and nurture some more precious memories of a good time in a lovely setting, with great people for company.

wine glasses

2 comments to In St James, Cape Town, judging wine

  • We have found some fantastic South African wines – Raats, Lomond, Mooiplaas and Graceland all very popular with our customers.

  • keith prothero

    Has the standard of wine improved Jamie,because as you are well aware most of the better wineries in the Cape, do not submit wine for this competition.Those that do, often do not submit their best wines.
    No doubt you are all very conscientious and the judging process is rigorous,but you are well aware that the Moniker given to this ,implies too your average man in the street,that you are deciding the Top 100 wines when, in reality, it is far from the case !!!

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