The South African Top 100 results are announced

It was only a few weeks ago that I was one of the small international team judging the new South African Top 100 competition.

It was a competition that begin amid controversy: a lot of noses had been put out of joint, most notably Michael Fridjohn, who runs an existing wine competition (see this legal challenge aiming to take out this Top 100 competition before it began).

Now the results have been released. They make interesting reading. Personally, I am thrilled by the list. It contains some fantastic wines, and as one of the judging panel I’m proud to stand behind them. Remarkably, the book containing the results is also published today, which must be some sort of world record.

I think Robin von Holdt deserves a lot of praise for persevering in the face of a lot of criticism and negativity. The results vindicate his original vision for a seriously judged competition with real credibility. His aim is to create something that helps consumers choose the finest wines from South Africa, and the publication and associated events should help to do this.

53 comments to The South African Top 100 results are announced

  • GREG SHERWOOD MW

    Wow, what a excellent selection of wines. As always, you have to be in it to win it! But this selection must surely announce to the industry in SA, that if you have a good or potentially great wine, submit it and you may win! As a fellow judge, I am very proud to put my name behind this competition and I fully stand by the results. Such wonderful diverity, it makes me proud to be South African. No doubt Michael F of the Old Mutual Competion is picking over the results… Michael… do yourself and the SA industry a service and proclaim the results as honourable, accurate and wonderfully respresentative of our diverse industry! It will only service your own cause! Much more fun than a law suit! Well done Robin. You have raised the bar of wine competitions impossibly high! Thank goodness I am not a competition organiser! I will stick to judging. Bravo and bravo to all the judges hard work over the week. It has been worth it!!

  • Martin

    A really good list. On many trips to SA, many of these wines have made it into my suitcase, so I at least feel that it is representive of the top end. Some new names for me to seek out also.
    Of concern is the level of cork taint. 23 out of 390 – almost 6%!! And that is before taking into consideration the number under screwcap. This could leave us with us with taint around 7, 8 or 9%. Always interesting to see what happens when the anocdotal (I am seeing less taint) is confronted by reality. 7 oxidised as well (hopefully not cork related). Of the 10 other faults Jamie – do you know how many wines under screwcap were rejected for reduction?

  • I agree, a really good list, mixing established names with exciting newcomers. It was a pleasure to judge with you guys. Greg, your tasting notes will live long in the memory. I hope some of them made the book!

    I also think that Robin and his team deserve credit for creating a competition from scratch in a matter of a few months. It will be even better next year, but what a start!

  • glenn

    There are loads of top south african producers such as beyerskloof, vergelegen, warwick and others nowhere on the list. Is this because they didn’t enter or didn’t make the quality standard? If they didn’t enter then I don’t think this could be called the Top 100 SA wines. As someone said it should be called “Top 100 wines that entered the competition”

    But as someone else said, this is a good list to start with and shows some interesting new names to explore

    But I do hope the competition grows and well done to all involved

  • An interesting point noted by Martin regarding the cork taint.
    Tim and Jamie, do you know what the reasons were for the 15 wines that were ‘declined’ or did that happen before the wines got to judging panel?
    I hope to have the opportunity to taste (well actually to drink) some of the wines on the list that I have not yet tried.

  • glenn

    Just read another site and the following top producers aren’t anywhere on the list:

    Kanonkop, Meerlust, Chamonix, Boekenhoutskloof, Newton Johnson, Springfield, Crystallum, Oak Valley, Thelema, Warwick, Eagles’ Nest, Strandveld, Waterford, Sadie Family, Kleine Zalze, Reyneke, Raats, Beyerskloof, De Toren, Boplaas, Haskell, De Trafford, Neil Ellis, Nederburg, Meinert, Hartenberg, Kaapzicht,

    Did they not enter

  • keith prothero

    Most of the top wineries and quality smaller producers did not enter.
    The cost of entering and the stipulation that each winery had to buy a number of the books annoucing the result,put many off including the winery I am a Director of, Mullineux

  • Kwispedoor

    Glenn: looks like my list copied from Christian Eedes’s blog. That was just some top producers that came to mind at the time and doesn’t even include Vergelegen (probably the producer thought by most to be the best in SA). The selected wines are mostly very good and – considering the various inaccuracies and inherit problems with tastings such as these – it seems that the judges did a sterling job too. I also really like the fact that the wines were tasted both fresh and decanted.

    However, FACT is it’s far removed from a top 100 list of South Africa’s wines. Though I love both Saronsberg and especially Cederberg, they do not produce 10% of South Africa’s top wines, as the competition claims. I guess it’s easier to set up a tasting of 400-odd wines than to set up one that’s representative of the more than 7000 produced in the country…
    A competition name that describes the competition more accurately than the lie they ended up with would have spared the organisers literally 95% of the criticism. They could also have been less greedy with their entrance fees, etc. to make sure that they had a pool of wines the size and quality of which would have ensured more passable representation of what SA produces. Then they might even have kept the title without too much dissent.

  • Guy Harcourt-Wood

    This competition is a breath of fresh air and will only go from strength to strength, I’m sure next year we will see a increase in the number of wines entered. Hats off to Robin for organising and all those at Rodwell House for being such good hosts.

  • Glenn: some of those producers didn’t enter because they never enter competitions. Some didn’t enter this competition, I guess, because they wanted to see whether it was serious or not.
    And others will have entered, but despite what you or other SA commentators might think, their wines aren’t world class and aren’t SA Top 100 quality. A harsh truth, I know.
    Keith, you are being harsh saying ‘most’. You didn’t enter Mullineux, but at one stage you said you would. You really should have paid the modest entry fee – I think that whatever the sometimes lamentably insular SA wine press says, the producers whose wines made the top 100 will benefit from the strong consumer angle of this competition.
    Look at the other competitions. What benefit would you get from a good result at the Old Mutual? Those with a financial interest in the competition would get plenty of benefit. But the winning wines?
    I was disappointed by the way some in SA responded to this new initiative, which has the goal of offering real value to winning producers. It’s as if the prevailing mentality is one of bashing anyone trying to do anything a bit different. That’s really negative.

  • glenn

    Hey Kwispedoor – the list was from CE site:)

    Jamie – Thanks for the feedback. I don’t think the competition is bad at all and I really wish it all the best. I do wish that there’d be a competition, like this perhaps, where all wine producers would submit their wines to be able come up with a better reflection of the top 100, because at the moment the name doesn’t reflect actual reality imho. I don’t know what the entrance criteria were so I can’t comment on that. Good luck with future endevours

  • keith prothero

    Modest fee Jamie? Come off it.
    I maintain that most top producers did not enter and many that did are guys who are best mates with the organiser from his monthly wine tasting circle.
    Where are Kanonkop,Sadie,Meerlust,Boekenhoutskloof,De Trafford,Hartenburg,Vegelegen,Thelema,Chamonix,Oak Valley,Springfield,De Toren,Crystallum,Morgenster,Rust en Vrede etc etc

  • Kwispedoor

    Agreed, Glenn. Entrance criteria, amongst other things, required producers to buy an exorbitant amount of Top 100 books (adjusted a bit later on), which scared off quite a few producers.
    One will never get a competition where all producers enter. Some long-established producers like Kanonkop and Meerlust probably stand more to lose if they do. And to get a fairly representative Top 100, one does not really need 7000 entries, but 400 is not nearly enough. Once again: the list seems great, considering that about 95% of the country’s wine was not entered. Let’s hope for a whole lot more entrants next year to give the competition’s name at least some sort of credibility.

  • Alex Lake

    Guys, in the spirit of openness, tell us what the fee (including any mandatory purchases) is.
    I’m currently on the side of the skeptics here, but I find most wine competitions to be seriously flawed in one way or another and feel uneasy about the moral peril faced by people like Jamie and Tim who judge in them (they can hardly be neutral!)

  • Alex Lake

    BTW, just to clarify, I mean they can’t be neutral about the value of the competition. Of course I respect their neutrality about the wines themselves.

  • So most of the top wineries didn’t enter, eh, Keith? Tell that to Hamilton Russell, Badenhorst Family Wines, Bouchard Finlayson, Steenberg, Klein Constantia, Diemersdal, Cederberg, Le Riche, Paul Cluver, Jordan, Graham Beck, Tokara, Uva Mira, Cape Point, Quoin Rock, Rijk’s, Teddy Hall, Miles Mossop, Ken Forrester and Rustenberg among others. Have you actually tasted the wines that were selected? Many of them are far better than some of the so-called “top” wineries in SA.

    By the way, some of the other top names that have been mentioned in posts NEVER enter SA competitions to my knowledge: Boekenhoutskloof, Meerlust, Sadie Family, for instance. I’m sure that others will enter next year now that they have seen the results, the book and the quality of the judging.

    Keith, why not support something that is genuinely trying to reward good producers and spread the word about Cape wines? I’d love to see Mullineux in the Top 100 next year.

  • Ben

    A Top 100 selected from only 390 wines and not including that long roll call which Keith refers to can’t be described as a representative Top 100 SA wines.

  • Have you tasted the winning wines then, Ben? Some of the “top” wineries that people get very excited about in South Africa aren’t that great in my view.

  • Ian S

    Alex
    A point I almost made myself, but I couldn’t quite find the right words. I’m not sure the words that follow are better than the ones I wasn’t happy with!

    For me it’s good that judges like Jamie, Tim and Greg bring independence and international experience to the judging, however the moment they become champions for the event, they start to ‘cross the Rubicon’ in my mind.

    FWIW I thought Tim’s comment was fine, but I share the unease of independant judges glossing over the issues of the entry list to intimate a different perception of the event.

    regards

    Ian

  • John Smith

    I know Jamie is a great taster/writer etc, but I really can’t see how he can be so heavily involved in a project, and then preach to us what a wonderful competition this is – there has to be a conflict of interest there.

    It’s interesting that Tim and a few others have backed Jamie, but in a way, the moment you declare your involvement in something, I think you surrender your right to an objective opinion about it, because your judgement has to be clouded in some way.

    Would be very interesting to know how much it cost each winery to enter, and also why the best SA wineries didn’t enter.

  • Sorry if there is a conflict of interest – it only extends to economy class flghts, accommodation (admittedly, this is very nice at rodwell house) and a small fee (less than my normal day rate for a week away from home, so about 1/7 what I’d normally charge for this). It’s just that I have a strong sense of justice. Robin stuck his neck out trying to do something that was better than the existing SA competitions which have low credibility overseas. For this, he ended up taking a serious amount of negative publicity from some very jaundiced commentators, and got threatened with legal action (which I find obnoxious, and I have lost a great deal of respect for the individual involved). So I’m prepared to go out to bat for this underdog, because I think what they are doing is positive for south african wine. And I’m a fan of south africa and its wines.

  • John I can’t see the conflict on interest myself. None of the judges has a financial stake in the competition’s success, none of the journalists involved consults to wineries or grows grapes in the Swartland and the winemakers were not allowed to judge their own wines. I can confirm that there is a very thick Chinese wall between the administration of the competition and the judges. None of us even knew which wineries had entered.

    I find it hard to understand the negative criticism of a competition that seeks to reward excellence and is professionally run. It could only happen in South Africa, I’m afraid, where much of the local wine “journalism” is pathetically parochial and under-qualified. Robin deserves praise for having the guts to create a new competition, as do the wineries who had the courage to back him.

  • Alex Lake

    Maybe (as someone else suggested) it’s just the name of the competition. If it had been called “Robin’s South African Wine Hall of Fame” or something like that, it would have been far less controversial.

  • keith prothero

    Yes it is nonsense,to label it as they have.
    The wineries who did not enter were mainly put off by the exhorbitant cost and the “winners” having to commit to buying a load of the books.
    There was no hidden agenda.

  • Kwispedoor

    Some elements of SA journalism are, surprisingly (and disappointingly), always looking for contrversy, drama and can sometimes get downright unpleasant. For me, the effect is mostly boring or embarassing.

    As merely a lowly wine drinker, living far from the winelands hub, I don’t think conflict of interest is an issue here. It’s also not a real big issue that wines that one can readily assume were entered, like Steenberg Magna Carta, quite a few rather good Pinots, etc. didn’t make the cut.

    However, if every wine entered has a 25% mathematical chance of making the list, two producers end up representing a full ten percent of the list and close to 95% of the country’s wines are ecxluded from the tasting, it is (to put it mildly) a gross misrepresentation to call the list the Top 100 South African Wines. The name is the only real problem and, frankly, I’m perplexed that some people are unable to recognize this.

  • First of all, Tim, Jamie and Robin in particular should be thanked for their time and effort. The comments above regarding conflict of interest are horse manure. Obviously they need to to be transported and housed, none of which can be deemed excessive.
    Whilst the wine industry in South Africa has made great strides forward in the post apartheid era, certain aspects remain as parochial and boorish as ever. Wine “journalism” in particular fits this bill.
    I am based in California and have tried my level best to promote South African wines. However there simply are no meaningful guides or advice for consumers, so mostly SA wines are ignored. Nobody buys something they no absolutely nothing about. This is most unfortunate as SA wines, do by and large offer great value for money. Particulary when compared to Californian wines for instance
    To me it is almost a no-brainer that this type of competition could completely revolutionize the South African wine industry, as it finally allows consumers the world over to make a somewhat educated guess when buying South African wine. Sure it’s not perfect, but it is loads better than anything else out there. Why? Because there is nothing else out there. The Old Mutual shindig? Please. In todays world that system is so archaic and definitely not suited to young consumers. The Old Mutual format is something more suited to classic French wines, which again is something South African wines are not. What makes this rating so useful is it’s simplicity, which after all is what the vast majority of overseas consumers yearn for. The only regret I have is that this competition did not originate 10 years ago.
    I am very confident that 10 years hence, this competition will stand head and shoulders above the rest. Good luck to all involved.

  • Angela Lloyd

    Jamie, with respect, the benefit to consumers of the Top 100 results have yet to be proved and will be realised only if the selected wineries themselves also get their act together to market themselves.
    I do take exception to your and Ingo’s disparaging remarks about SA wine writers (which I am rather than a journalist), as many of the criticisms of the show – some yet to be answered – are entirely valid. I have yet to read of the results being audited – hmm.
    However, I do agree abou the boorishness of personal spats between journalists.
    Ingo, you say there are no meaningful guides do you completely write off the Platter Wine Guide, avaialble on the internet and as an app (if I have the term correct) on an Iphone. I have to declare an interest in that and the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, on which I’ve judged every year to date. Without going into the merits of the division of the trophies and medals, as opposed to a Top 100 list of wines that were entered, well-regarded international judges (Tim Atkin included) are part of the judging line up each year and do much to promote our wines in their own countries.
    What is far more important than having yet another competition is the training of competent tasters; those SA is sadly lacking and needs among both winemakers and consumers for SA wines to continue to improve. Michael Fridjhon runs the annual Academy, where Peter McCombie MW lectures, but that is limited to 20 people over one weekend. Maybe when the judges come to SA for the 2011 Top 100, they would like to make time to give a masterclass in tasting?

  • Michael Fridjhon

    Jamie, I think you’re a little out of line: the legal objection was based on an incontrovertible copyright infringement – a point I will come back to later. I see that now you have taken Mr von Holdt’s piece of silver (about which you may be dismissive, but it compromises your independence in this matter as much as mine is tainted in respect of the Trophy Wine Show) you’ve become something of an expert on what value there is in entering the Top 100 compared with other shows. For your information, wines which have done well in the Old Mutual event are taken on a roadshow which covers seven different cities. There are seven Masterclass tastings and two public tastings – in all between 2000 and 3000 wine-interested consumers get to see the line-up at a time when the wines are still commercially available. A +- 200 page book – entitled Icons – is produced in time for the results. It details not only the outcome of the show and list of medal winners, but it also has profiles on the top wines/wineries as well as several chapters of useful information – articles by the overseas judges, wine storage, wine service etc. 20000 copies of Icons are distributed around the country and – unlike Mr von Holdt’s venture – producers are not asked to pay any extra for their copies, or for their coverage in the text. (In other words, it is not advertorial).

    I’m surprised you are confident that the result, however credible, justifies the claim that this is a “Top 100,” If you were not on the inside circle of this – just a wine writer with the interests of consumers at heart – wouldn’t you feel compelled to express some concern about the misleading nature of the title/brand? You also seem very confident that your Top 100 was drawn from 390 paid-for entries. In the absence of an auditor’s report to this effect – and given Mr von Holdt’s shameless cut-and-paste job in the entry kit – I cannot share your conviction. I put it to you – and the other consumer-oriented wine writers now in the employ of the Top 100 – that if you were to approach this matter with your usual impartiality you would be more reserved in your endorsement

  • Angela and Michael, thank you for taking the time to come here and comment.

    Michael, I appreciate that I have been a little strong in my endorsement of this competition. In part, this is because I have a strong sense of justice, and felt that the SA wine writing fraternity was behaving badly towards someone trying to do something a bit different.

    In terms of your legal action, I would have more respect for this approach if it was confined to a copyright infringement issue. But you went well beyond this, and suggested that the whole commercial model of the Top 100 was based on your Trophy Wine Show. It’s as if you were suggesting that only you had the right to operate a wine competition in South Africa. And you wouldn’t normally insist that someone cancel an event because the legal rules and regulations were infringing copyright. I realise that you make a considerable amount of money from your Trophy show, and that this is a competitive event, to a degree. But I don’t think firing of legal letters is the best way to deal with competition.

    The chief criticism of this event – that it claims to be a Top 100 but only paying entries are considered – is valid, but the matter is actually a little more complicated.

    It is true. But there’s no way ever that an event like this would get off the ground if the insistence were that every top winery in south Africa should enter in year one. Yes, the title is a little misleading. But I think in future years the number of wineries entering will increase. Looking at the Top 100 list as it stands, I think it’s a pretty impressive bunch of wines.

    Angela, I wondered why you were so opposed to this competition. The chief difficulty in running wine competitions where judges taste blind is that it takes a great deal of skill and experience to come up with sensible results.

    I’m a huge fan of SA wine and would be delighted to give masterclasses. As would the other judges, I’m sure.

    And I’m also on record as a fan of platter.

  • Kwispedoor

    Jamie, you say “But there’s no way ever that an event like this would get off the ground if the insistence were that every top winery in south Africa should enter in year one.” That would be unrealistic, of course, but the organisers would have endeared themselves to many more people (and would have received many more entries, providing some credibility to the competition’s title) had they not insisted on making entry as expensive as they did. Plus their insistence on entrants buying so many of their books came forth as a bit arrogant and greedy.

    You also say “But I think in future years the number of wineries entering will increase.” I suppose the resulting exposure and sales of the chosen “Top 100″ will dictate this to a large extent. Entries might well go through the roof, even – let’s wait and see.

    All this talk of gorgeous wine makes me thirsty – I suggest the organizers put together some public tastings of the “Top 100″ ASAP!

  • Kwispedoor

    Ah, I see they do have a public tasting. Where? In the Cape. Nothing up here in Gauteng, the province that spends the most money on wine, where people are far from the wineries. That’s one thing the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show gets right, although it’s become too crowded by now and seriously needs a bigger venue.

  • Michael Fridjhon

    Jamie

    Yet again – on the strength of your own assumptions alone – you seem willing to make unsubstantiated statements like “I realise that you make a considerable amount of money from your Trophy Wine Show.” As a partner in the business which runs the Trophy Wine Show I earn money from the event – when there is a share of profit from the net revenue. I assume you don’t have an objection to that? So does/would Robin von Holdt. On the pricing model with which he launched the event he would earn R1.3m just from the first 100 entries, plus a further R900 per entry on all other paying entries. On the available information for both 2011 shows, that puts him at over 50% more than Trophy Wine Show – before costs! Since he isn’t running 10 post judging events and he does own the venue at which the judging takes place, it’s safe to assume his overheads and costs are far less than those of the Trophy Wine Show.

    His copyright infringement went beyond the cut-and-paste of our rules (which you seem surprisingly willing to condone) – show format, panel format, post show book etc. For what it’s worth, our response was not the reaction of a show organiser threatened by an event. We all knew – from the immediate and general reaction of a great number of serious producers who have treated the Top 100 with diffidence or contempt – that it wasn’t destined to undermine the Trophy Wine Show. We don’t seek a significantly increased entry because we cannot do justice to the submissions we receive if the numbers much beyond their current level (which is, incidentally, about 5% up on 2010).

    Finally, in response to Kwispedoor: the venues for the 2011 Public Tastings have been changed to meet the vastly increased attendance of the past couple of years.

  • Michael, I am not willing to condone any copyright infringement, which I regard as a serious issue (I can’t speak about this specific allegation, because I haven’t looked into it). But your legal letter did go a little too far, I feel – your cause would have been better served by sticking to specific allegations of copyright infringement. You can’t claim copyright to the format of panels tasting wines blind, and then producing a book of the results – it’s standard practice.

    I am glad to hear the Trophy wine show is going strong. And that it has a consumer element. We need ways of pointing consumers towards wines other than price promotion, and well-judged competitions are one way of doing this.

    Thank you once more for taking the time to comment here.

  • Angela Lloyd

    Jamie, just to put the record straight. My initial reaction when hearing of the Top 100 was the same as my colleague, Tim James’s ‘oh, not another competition’. That was my initial main opposition. As I wrote in my Wineland article on judges and their reaction to all these competitions, every one has its own rules and regulations with more, or less competent judges. I honestly still can’t see how the Top 100 will take SA any further forward than OMTWS which I believe is the best run of those I’ve judged on.
    But now I’ve learnt the Top 100 results weren’t audited and that there were several re-tastes to decide which made the final cut – were they scored or just voted in or out? – and bearing in mind there were plenty of winemakers involved in one way or another whose wines did make the list I feel justly worried. This is something Robin absolutely must rectify next year. I might not believe there was any cheating but what about the consumers who don’t know either Robin or the judges; this lack doesn’t promote credibility.
    In the end, as Christian Eedes has written, the market will decide.
    I hope this clarifies and thanks for your offer re masterclasses. Perhaps we could communicate about that elsewhere.

  • John Smith

    Just out of interest, how many copies of this book were entrants obliged to buy?
    What was the total cost to the wineries that made the list?

  • keith prothero

    Basically including VAT it cost R1083(about £100) per wine to enter and should your wine be in the top 100, a further R2793.
    Initially wineries were told they had to purchase 120 books at R65 a copy but this was reduced closer to the event to 20, in a desperate attempt to encourage more wineries to enter.
    So if a winery entered just one wine and it made the top 100 the revised cost was R5176 or about £500.

  • Angela,
    My remarks about South African wine journalists certainly do not pertain to you. I have always thought your articles to be thoughtful, educational and most of all considerate. You also never get “personal’, something I admire and respect.
    However, I do feel that (most) wine journalists are generally insular and petty. Perhaps it’s a function of SA’s geographic isolation, but there is an awful amount of backstabbing that seems to be going on. Of course, the ultimate losers are the wine producers. As a proud South African currently living on California, it’s immensely frustrating to see how underrepresented South African wines are. Just last night we had an impromptu “Loire showdown”. I was allowed to bring a ringer so I took along a 2008 Mullineux. 10 of the 12 participants voted it as their favourite. It was the only wine priced below $70 ($28 here in California). Of course afterwards everybody asks where they can get hold of it. It’s very difficult as only a couple of stockists on the East Coast carry it.
    I guess my point is, that competitions like the Top 100, are good publicity for South African wines. It is also the format that most (American) consumers, irrespective of the merits or lack thereof, identify with. It’s basic marketing 101. If the Mullineux wine was on a Top 100 list and advertised as such on a supermarket shelf, Joe Public would at least have his interest piqued. And at that price point Joe Public would probably even give it a try. I am pretty confident that once Joe tries the wine, he’ll be hooked. And from there, he would try other SA wines and so on. Here in California, a cab in the class of a Le Riche will set you back over $100. Joe does not have a particular allegiance to Napa wines, and would be more than happy to make the switch if it means saving a buck.
    Angela, with regards to the Platter guide and Old Mutual Trophy, I regard them as inconsequential when it comes to moving South African wines off the supermarket shelves here in California. Consumers haven’t heard of them. And they are unavailable unless paid for which is not going to happen, especially amongst young hipsters. Apps of course are a completely different ball game, and is definitely where it’s all happening. But again, a Top 100 list lends itself perfectly to this medium. I only hope that next years competition is better represented and that wine journalists at least judge the merits of the competition with some sense of objectivity.

  • keith prothero

    Ingo—-as the major investor and Director of Mullineux,I am obviously pleased that our white wine did well in a tasting against wine from the Loire.
    Not sure though that I support you argument regarding this Top 100 competition.We place far more value on the individual opinion of wine writers,who we know have drunk our wine,often with food and not just a spit out and move on note.
    Hence,we place great value on the notes given by writers such as Jancis,Tim Atkin and indeed Jamie,and more recently James Molesworth,in the latest(May) edition of the Wine Spectator. I maintain that these notes are a lot more valuable than making this Top 100 list

  • Hi Jamie,

    Thanks for using my results article as your main link – appreciate that. Ingo – I just want to add something to your last comment. I spoke with the judges whilst they were over here and Jennifer Simonetti MW was adamant that this competition would be of enormous benefit in cracking the US market in particular. With their penchant for scores/lists/figures and easy soubriquets, a competition named Top 100 of anything provides an instant shortcut to market in her opinion – clearly great minds think alike as I’m sure you would say! Oh – and she also claims she’s never heard of the Platter guide – a gap in the MW’s education methinks!

  • Nicola Tipping

    As a recent entrant to the Cape wine industry I have been rather surprised by some of the incredibly nasty backbiting among some wine writers here. It really doesn’t do the cause of promoting South African wine any good. It appears also that there is some truth in the earlier comment about a resistance to change or anything new here.
    Regarding the Top 100, (and I can’t comment on other wine competitions due to lack of knowledge)it does seem strange that if you “win” a competition, you actually pay more. I thought prizes were supposed to be given to winners! I have no doubt, however, that being on this list, however valid it is, will benefit sales for the wineries involved.
    Jamie – perhaps you would consider giving a tasting masterclass when you are here for the Swartland Revolution?

  • Angela, I can confirm that no winemaker tasted his wine at any stage of the competition. And yes, there were retastes, but the same principle applied. There are always retastes at wine competitions. Duncan and Richard’s wines sailed through on first taste. I can also confirm that I do not act as a consultant to any wineries, either in South Africa or elsewhere, import or export wines, or own a vineyard.

    On the subject of auditing, Decanter, the IWC and the IWSC (the three big UK competitions) aren’t audited either. Does that make them bad competitions? Similarly, just because OMTWS is audited doesn’t make it a better competition, although I know it to be well run.

    I can’t see what’s wrong with having another SA competition, assessed in this case by five Masters of Wine and four other highly competent judges. That can only be a good thing for SA wines, surely. I’m biased (as are all the people who judge at the OMTWS or for Platter) but I think it’s a good competition, run and judged by people with integrity. Only in South Africa could it have caused such a fuss….

  • Kwispedoor

    Sure, some of the fuss was a bit too much and some people were looking too hard for anything that could be wrong. I also think few people would deny that, mostly, it’s a fine list of wines.

    But – again – any competition where every wine entered has a 25% mathematical chance of making the list, where two producers end up representing a full ten percent of the list and close to 95% of the country’s wines are ecxluded from the tasting (mostly because of a seemingly greedy R5000+ charge for a single listed wine) and they STILL insist on calling the list the “Top 100 South African Wines”, deserves a healthy dose of criticism.

    Makes me think of when Douglas Adams described his book, Mostly Harmless, as something like “The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurate named Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy”. At least he acknowledged the inaccuracy. Plus it was funny.

  • Ingo

    Kwispedoor,
    So Sebastian Vettel cannot claim to be the F1 World Champion because only 28 people compete(out of a potential 6 billion)?
    Maybe the wineries who did not compete felt their product wasn’t up to snuff.Kind of like a process of self elimination.
    There was nothing wrong with the competitions format. It was open to everybody. Nobody was forbidden from entering.
    As Tim says…only in South Africa.

  • colyn truter

    To Jamie and whoever else involved in this “competition”. The schoolboy error you made was to give it its name. If this was called anything else then no one wouldve said anything. Stop hiding behind the fact that there are certain brands that generally don’t enter competitions and therefore it is fine for your Top 100 to suddenly be justified. Like any or most things in life, when you link a number to a competition it should include everyone in the industry.

    Your competition are causing a lot of false perceptions to the world market and mainly the consumers because they are not as clued up with what we all know. To them a Top 100 means just that, to most people in the south african wine industry we know its not the case. I do believe that some wines that you selected might have been in the list was it supported by everyone. Unfortunately it wasn’t and that’s what irritated most producers in South Africa at the moment. Don’t you think its a bit like a top 100 restaurant list in South Africa and Rust&Vrede doesn’t feature because they didn’t enter??

    The validity about the blind tasting etc etc is all fine to a certain extent, but like most things in life…the name/tag it carries doesn’t make sense.

  • Colyn,
    As an overseas consumer I find your statement “because they are not as clued up with what we know” offensive.
    Would you care to educate me as to exactly what it is that I don’t know. Is it that pinotage is the greatest wine in the world but that I just don’t know it?
    As far as I am concerned, the Top 100 wines listed are South Africa’s top 100 wines.
    As Jamie points out, many of the so called great names are just not that good. Or put another way, why would I buy Boekenhoutskloof when for the same price I can get something from northern Rhone. As good as Columella is, I can get something just as good for $20 less. And on and on. Not to mention Chile, which has a host of outstanding wines and more or less the same price points as SA wine.
    For the longest time I’ve wondered why South African wine hasn’t sold as well as I believe it should. It’s all starting to make sense now.

  • Kwispedoor

    Ingo. Your logic defies reason. The question here is not whether Boekenhoutskloof (one must assume you’re talking about their Syrah) is better than comparatively priced Rhône, neither is it how any SA wine compares to that of any other country. It’s whether this competition’s name describes itself properly. So, for instance, whether Boekenhoutskloof’s Syrah (or one of the many other good ones, like Eagle’s Nest, etc.) would fare better in a blind tasting than, say, a Graham Beck Wines The Ridge Syrah (or any of the others on the list).

    “Maybe the wineries who did not compete felt their product wasn’t up to snuff” – maybe you didn’t read the real reasons given in the comments, or maybe you just don’t get it?

    Apart from the selected wines being a pretty good bunch of wines, anyone who really knows SA wine will burst out laughing at your comment: “…the Top 100 wines listed are South Africa’s top 100 wines.” – even while allowing for differences in taste. I can elucidate further, but reasonable people in the know shouldn’t need me to.

    The Vettel comparison is even worse. Should I start by explaining the pre-F1 elimination process; how these boys earn their dues over various racing disciplines over years of competition before they even get to their first F1 race? Nah – waste of time, if you ask me.

  • Should have called it 100 Top SA Wines. No one above has said the listed wines are not good. The 2 most surprising points above are 1: There’s an MW who has not heard of Platter and 2: how personal some of you are making this. Jamie & Tim’s comments are very balanced.

  • You guys are aware that Christian Eedes is calling this thread “handbags at dawn” – that should say enough.

    While a lot of people with stakes, however minor (and you can’t claim total impartiality Kwispe… as neither can I), intensely disagree with the competition’s name – and for very good reason at this point – you cannot argue with the marketing logic of it as presented by Ingo. If that’s the best way to crack the US, then so be it.

    In my option, one of the main reason this show has ruffled so many feathers is how the competition was unveiled. I can’t claim to be an expert, but as someone who stays read-up, the first thing I knew about it was the outrage it caused local writers reading the website – not a frank communication to the media from the person in charge, Robin, informing everyone of the motives and aims of this new competition with the ambitious name and the somewhat high price-tag. In fact, what is clear from this list, is that most people are still not clear on what the motives of the competition are, with some assuming its profit for Robin and others saying its international wine marketing.

    So my question is, what is Robin going to do now, other than sell the wines and sell the guides at further profit to himself? How is the label of Top 100 SA wine going to profit the farms on the list (which I agree, are an excellent line-up in spite of a lack of representation)? Is Ingo going to get his wines on the shelves in California with the appropriate sticker on and the local marketing to back that up? How is this going to benefit the local industry other than putting pressure on local producers to give up more free wine bottles for tastings and more money in the endless chase for ‘bottle bling’ and titles?

  • Dieter

    All it needs a sponsor’s name added e.g. Von Holdt’s SA Top 100. It’s a great competition but with the current sweeping name I can’t help feeling producers are coerced just a little to enter and commit to the steep financial conditions.

  • Kwispedoor

    Provided the marketing mechanisms behind it stay the same, names like “100 Top SA Wines” or “Von Holdt’s Top 100 SA Wines” should not have significantly hurt any possible sales. Question is, would it have elicited the same amount of propaganda and entries?

    As far as my impartiality goes, of course I’m not impartial: I like the list of wines and most (if not all) of the judges and the judging process. I mostly don’t like the name and have some minor issues with the high entry cost and perceived presumtiousness/arrogance of certain aspects of the competition’s organization/organizers. But I have no “stakes”, however minor and my opinion is completely independent – I’m just a dude that loves wine.

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