Glenwood and Glen Carlou are the winning white and red wines at Swiss Awards

Wednesday, 28 April, 2004
Neil Pendock
The panel comprised 50% of wine buyers
Glenwood and Glen Carlou could both be names of single malt whiskies but in this case they were the winning white and red wines at the second Swiss International Wine Awards judged last week at the Cellars Hohenort in a damp and glen-like Constantia Valley. With Glen Carlou now owned by Swiss wine investor Donald Hess, the sponsors in particular, must have been happy with the result.

With local wine competitions now taking on antipodean proportions, SIWA did well to increase entries this year by a third to 425 wines. Perhaps it was their unique selling point of having a panel comprised 50% of wine buyers in the shape of Chris Murphy, chief wine buyer for UK retail giant Marks and Spencer, Chandra Kurt, who buys the stuff for the airline and Alan Mullins, Woolworth’s wine consultant. As low prices and unsold lots at the recent Nederburg Auction confirmed, selling wine is not for the fainthearted.

Another powerful selling point for SIWA is the inclusion of a People’s Choice Award, to be decided by the 35 000-odd punters at next month's Good Food and Wine Show at the Cape Town Convention Centre. As the success of Rossouw’s Restaurants guide confirms, Piet and Petronella Public love to have their say and as chairman of the SIWA judging panel, Robert Joseph, confirms, UK wine consumers don’t read wine reviews, they rely rather on recommendations from friends. Which leaves wine marketers in the position of latter day Saint Thomas Aquinas, searching for the uncaused cause.

Joseph, arguably SA’s most influential wine writer (he penned the forewords to both major SA wine guides this year) had a couple of other insights for the industry:

Last year’s flavourant scandal was declared a storm in a local wine glass, with little coverage in the UK media. Murphy confirmed that it had no effect on SA wine sales at M&S while all judges agreed they could find no evidence of dodgy flavours in the wines they tasted.

Corked wines ran somewhere between 7 and 8% of entries, a scandalously high rejection rate, while on the subject of Pinotage, a variety Joseph calls ‘an offense against nature’, he was forced to admit finding a gold medal example in the show – one of only six gold medals awarded. Cape Blends came in for some stick (‘disappointing’) as did Chardonnay, damned as ‘tired’ by SA’s Queen of Steen, Irina van Holt, who not surprisingly, preferred the Chenin.

A general complaint about wood abuse (too much of it) was aired, but Joseph was complimentary on tannin ripeness and drew a stark contrast with the 500-odd 2003 vintage Bordeaux he had tasted the previous week. ‘They could have been old SA reds with their green tannins and over extraction.’