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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #170 (article first published : 2007-03-30)

A total of 128 outstanding wines were on display and available for tasting when the Veritas Wine Awards recently held a show in Durban for the first time.

Veritas is the largest and most authoritative wine competition in South Africa. Its awards --- double gold, gold, silver and bronze medals--- are prized proof of quality, and award-winning wines carry an appropriate badge on their bottles.

Last year Veritas Awards received 1,673 entries from 298 South African wineries, and its panels of more than a hundred judges awarded 1,195 medals (each panel judges wines in a different category, according to cultivar or type).

The Durban show offered 36 double gold and 92 gold wines, an enticing array that attracted a big crowd of tasters at an admission fee of R80 each (which included a tasting glass and snacks).

Faced with such an embarrassment of riches, one has to be selective and make sure that tasting is not drinking, bearing in mind the drive home from Gateway, where the event was held. On such occasions I like, as a general rule, to sample wines that are new to me or that I do not often taste, and here are my comments on my researches this time.

Warwick Chardonnay 2005, from the Warwick estate at Stellenbosch, a lovely creamy white wine with quite a distinct grapefruit flavour.

Hartenberg The Eleanor Chardonnay 2004, from the Hartenberg estate at Stellenbosch. The unusual name comes from the wife of a former owner of the property. The wine is splendid, with peach and citrus features. Made in relatively small quantities, so not too easy to acquire.

Perdeberg Sauvignon Blanc 2006, from a winery at Paarl which was formerly called a co-op and is owned by 40 members. This is an excellent wine, with the grassy, lively character typical of sauvignon blanc.

Ernie Els Cirrus Syrah 2004. Wines bearing the famous golfer’s name tend to be expensive but they are good. This aromatic and quite powerful shiraz is a worthy member of the Ernie Els collection.

Nederburg Manor House Sauvignon Blanc 2006. Nederburg is probably the most famous name in the Cape wine industry, and its manor house at Paarl is known to many thousands of visitors. This white wine is another brilliant sauvignon, with plenty of fruit flavours plus the dried fig character of the cultivar.

Nuy Colombar 2006. Here’s an old favourite from a long established cellar, former co-op, at Worcester owned by 23 members.

Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 2002. A bubbly that is barely distinguishable from many French champagnes.

Many (but not all) of these Veritas wines are showpiece specialties that are not easily available at the ordinary bottle store but no doubt you can inquire about them through a retail outlet or from the producer.

Prices are generally upmarket --- for example The Eleanor chardonnay sells at about R130 a bottle and the Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs at about R105 ---but the Perdeberg sauvignon and the Nuy colombar are probably reasonably priced and good value, as of course are many other wines with the Veritas label. – Michael Green




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