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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 : 2003-11-26)

The thirtieth annual Nederburg wine auction will be held at Paarl on April 2 and 3 next year and will probably have a record number of cellars participating. The auction manager, Bennie Howard, says that over the past three decades the event has become an icon of industry excellence and now rates as one of the top five wine auctions in the world.

Wines submitted for the auction are tasted by a large selection panel to see whether they measure up to the standard required. The panel for 2004 had 60 members, including winemakers, viticulturists, wine consultants and wine judges. One hundred and twenty estates and wineries submitted over 300 wines for scrutiny and 169 wines were accepted. Strict criteria are applied. Red wines have to be from the 1999 vintage or older and whites from the 2002 vintage or older. All wines must have been unavailable to the public for at least a year.

One of the tasters, wine consultant Dave Hughes, said the quality of the wines submitted was improving every year. The red blends, he said, were particularly impressive, and the pinotages were starting to show a real South African identity.

The selection procedure is designed to ensure absolute impartiality. This year the panel was divided into three groups of 20 each. Tasting was “blind” and each wine was tasted by two different groups. The judges were isolated in cordoned off cubicles so that they could not confer with neighbours.

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By way of variety our wine tasting group had a whisky tasting at our last gathering at the home in Durban North of Dennis Banks and Vanda Davies. We sampled six exceptional whiskies, three Scotch and three Irish, three of them single malts, all of them well matured. The technique is to add a little water at room temperature, about one-third water, two-thirds whisky.

Here are the whiskies we tasted, with some of the characteristics noted, and the imposing retail prices for these products:

Jameson 12-year-old, spicy, nutty, sherry sweetness (R232 a bottle); Jameson 15-year-old, smooth, mellow, herbal, no price available; Bushmills Single Malt 10-year-old, deep golden colour, sweet spicy aroma reminiscent of apple pie (R334); Glenlivet 12-year-old, light gold, floral fragrance, vanilla and honey (R350); Glenlivet 18-year-old, tastes of honey and toffee (R383); Glenlivet Archive 21-year-old, multiple fruit tastes and floral sweetness with almost creamy texture (R444).

An extravagant evening. – Michael Green




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