I was at a tasting recently, when a colleague whose opinion I respect asked me what I thought of a particular wine. He’d given it a score of 58/100.
It was the 2012 LAM white from Lammershoek (a leading winery from South Africa’s Swartland region), a blend of Chenin, Chardonnay and Viognier, priced very reasonably at £10.95. It’s a brilliant, brave wine (I think), with lovely savoury intensity, minerality, and some oxidative characteristics. Real personality: something that is sadly all too lacking in many affordable Chenin Blanc blends or varietal wines. I gave it 91/100.
Who’s right? There’s little point in asking this question. I think I am. My colleague thinks he is. We agree on most wines (we judge together often), but on this one we differ.
A third, less experienced taster came to the table. When pressed, she sided with my colleague. She didn’t like the wine. But I am not surprised: these flavours are challenging. This is not a simple, fruity, new world wine. I love the bravery that comes with making a wine like this, and I think it will succeed: some will hate it, but those who like it will really love it. It is the sort of wine you can keep coming back to. It grows on you. It seduces you slowly; it is not an instant attraction.
I wouldn’t serve this to guests who weren’t adventurous in their tastes. But I would take it along to a wine geek dinner, and I can’t think of many wines at this price that I’d say this about.
My conclusion? There are many wines that experienced professionals will almost all agree are serious, world class wines. But there is a subset of wines that are going to polarize even the most highly regarded wine professionals. Often, these are the most interesting wines of all.