Veritas at the tipping point

Tuesday, 12 October, 2004
Neil Pendock
Veritas, SA’s largest wine show by far, becomes all embracing, awarding medals to over 80% of entries.

The big three SA wine competitions for market-ready wines are Veritas, with almost sixteen hundred entries, Michelangelo with 1200-odd and the Fairbairn Trophy Wine Show, in the 900s.  With Veritas a strapping 14 year old teenager, Fairbairn a 3 year old toddler and Michelangelo somewhere in the middle, their respective roles in the SA family of wine are starting to crystallize.

Winecorp was one of this year's big winners and cellarmaster Frans Smit was thrilled, sitting as he now does on a mountain of 50 000 cases of gold and double gold wine.  "A Veritas gold sticker is incredibly important in the local market" volunteered Smit "but its effect overseas is negligible."  With five international judges out of 91 on the Veritas panels, this comes as no surprise.  Foreign palates at Michelangelo, by way of contrast, outnumber local tasters by ten to one with Fairbairn somewhere in the middle, with a local:foreign ratio of 2:1.

Panel composition could explain the huge differences between the show results.  As usual, Veritas was dominated by corporate wine.  Monis, the Stellenbosch-based sherry producer, was overall best performer.  But whether double gold medals for its Tawny Port, Full Cream, Medium Cream and Pale Dry Sherries, will help sales, is doubtful.  Double Gold will be a boon to Winecorp and Fleur du Cap, with the latter brand well on the way to becoming Distell's premium label.

Golfers had a bad round, with David Frost and Ernie Els both carding double bogey bronzes for their wines.  For a Veritas bronze is no Olympic medal, with over 40% of entries so awarded.  In fact this year's bronze winners outnumbered wines with no award by a margin of better than 2:1.  The Platter wine guide is one authority that argues strongly that the Els 2001 shouldn't miss the cut - in fact as a 2004 five star wine, it was rated in the top 17 of the many thousands of wines tasted for the guide.

The largest cloud on the Veritas horizon is the absence of such top drawer producers as Vergelegen (top performer at Fairbairn), Fairview and Spice Route (most successful local wineries in foreign wine shows) as well as Rupert and Rothschild, Thelema and Rustenberg from the entry lists.  Which provides a golden opportunity for some sponsor with deep pockets to calibrate the Veritas results by adding bottles bought off the retail shelf, to the competition.