It's always easier, of course, to say who should be IN a list of South Africa's top 20 wineries than who should be excluded. That's why, rather than simply offering my own, I got a wide range of experienced people to offer their opinions in a poll (as reported in the Mail & Guardian here). It's a case where an average, a degree of consensus, is going to give something more useful than an individual opinion. Not the "truth", of course - there is no truth in such matters.
Many of those submitting their lists remarked on how difficult a task it was, but most found it a useful and interesting exercise to weigh the pros against the cons. So, yes, it's very tempting to look at the final list and say - where on earth is so-and-so? how can such-and-such a winery be omitted? I do it myself. But then, if there's a limit of 20, you must say who should be kicked off to accommodate your nomination!
As I remarked in my note accompanying the results, there were 54 wineries which got voted for by three people or more, and it would be difficult to argue in most cases that they are not suitable candidates.
For the record, just to illustrate my case, the following are the wineries I myself voted for which did not get on to the final list (though all got at least a couple of other votes): Eagles' Nest, Lammershoek, Nederburg, Stark-Conde and The Winery of Good Hope. I reckon I could put up good arguments for the inclusion of all of them.
But if I'm saying that it's a pretty cheap game to suggest inclusions without suggesting compensatory omissions, I must go along with that principle. These are the wineries which made it onto the final list which were NOT in my own list: Bouchard-Finlayson, De Toren, Jordan, Klein Constantia and Steenberg. Looking at those five names now, I'm a bit aghast, especially in some cases, at how I could have omitted them and I'm glad that my some of my fellow pollsters didn't!
But that's the point. I'd have been aghast if Id left out the others. And what about a whole lot of others that I'd have been happy to give space to, and wouldn't have been surprised to find on a final list?
Probably it will be worth doing this exercise again in a few years - it does provide a useful snapshot of the current critical view of the top end of Cape wine. And, given the dynamism and quality improvements in the local wine industry, it will be even more difficult then. This year I required a track record of at least three years in terms of released wines - that effectively excluded a winery like Glenelly, just for example. There are numerous other up-and-coming wineries; the current "top 20" must enjoy their laurels - but look to ensure they keep them.