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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2003-03-17)

Not long ago I wrote about what is probably the most expensive wine ever produced in South Africa: the Abraham Perold shiraz of 1998, made by the KWV cellar at Paarl and sold only at the KWV and at the duty free shops at Johannesburg and Cape Town airports, at a price of R800 a bottle.

This wine, made with grapes from a special vineyard on the top of the Paarl mountain, was recently assessed by the monthly magazine Wine, which is published in Cape Town. I was interested to read that in a blind tasting, Wine magazine’s panel of five distinguished experts --- three Cape Wine Masters (a qualification roughly equal to a doctorate in wine matters) and two prominent winemakers --- reckoned the Perold shiraz was worth only three stars out of a possible five, a lower grading than they gave to a pinotage costing R40.

Three stars means a score of 15 out of 20 in the tasting, the maximum of 20 being made up of three points for colour, seven for nose (bouquet) and 10 for taste. Three stars is a disappointing score for a wine that costs R800.

Anyway, I decided to put a bottle of the Perold into a shiraz blind tasting for our private group at my home recently, and the outcome was very different. I presented eight wines, six South African shirazes, one from France and one from Australia (an alternative name widely used for this wine is syrah).

Shiraz is a high quality red wine which is supposed to have originated in the city of Shiraz in ancient Persia. It is produced in many parts of the world now and typically it has a dark colour and a smoky, fruity character.

I did not participate in the tasting. I did the pouring and kept the secrets until the end. Perhaps I should explain that the wines are poured from bottles concealed in bags or napkins. The tasters are given a list of the wines and descriptions of them, but they do not know which is which. Only after they have scored, and tried to guess the identities, is the truth revealed.

We had eight tasters, and they made no mistake with the bottle of Perold shiraz. Everyone correctly identified it, and their average score for this wine was a fraction under 19 points out of 20, the highest anyone could remember in the 20 years or so that our group has been in action. One taster gave the wine 20 out of 20, and nobody could remember this happening before.

The other seven wines, ranging in price from about R70 to R30, all scored well. Second place went to the Swartland cellar shiraz of 2001, from the Swartland wine area north of Cape Town, a savoury, tangy kind of wine that is given four stars in the well-known John Platter guide. At about R40 a bottle this is good value. Third was the 1997 shiraz from the famous Klein Constantia estate. Dark colour, spicy and herbal on the palate.

Then came Hardy’s VR shiraz 2001 from a cellar in south-east Australia; Louis Eschenhauer syrah 2001 from the south of France; Allesverloren shiraz 2000, also from the Swartland area near Malmesbury, price in Durban about R48; Neethlingshof shiraz 1998 from Stellenbosch, dark and peppery, R45; and a veteran, Zonnebloem shiraz of 1989, smoky, quite light-bodied, still good after 14 years. – Michael Green




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