More dubious triumphs for big tasting competitions!

The Decanter Awards results don’t seem to have aroused as much interest as the rather lacklustre winners on the mysteriously popular Michelangelo Award list. One nice thing about Decanter is that, like Veritas, it gives out as many prizes as possible. There are four tiers of them: Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Commended. It’s nice, because sceptics like me who get a despairing pleasure out of registering the absurdities of all these big tasting competitions can more easily compare extremes of winning and losing.

So, if anyone else would like to compare, here are two lists. One is the list of the 26 Gold Medal Winners. The other is the same number of wines taken from the dregs of the results – the fourth-level Commended medalists. See if you think either is much more convincing than the other.

Here’s list number 1:

  • Boschendal Reserve Collection Chardonnay 2009
  • Bouchard Finlayson Kaaimansgat Chardonnay 2009
  • Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2010
  • David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner Semillon 2009
  • De Wetshof Bateleur Chardonnay 2009
  • Fleur Du Cap Noble Late Harvest 2010
  • Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 2007
  • Graham Beck Bowed Head Chenin Blanc 2009
  • Graham Beck Pheasant’s Run Sauvignon Blanc 2010
  • Hartenberg Gravel Hill Shiraz 2006
  • Kaapzicht Steytler Pinotage 2007
  • Kanonkop Pinotage 2005
  • Le Bonheur Prima 2007
  • Morgenhof The Morgenhof Estate 2004
  • Nederburg Private Bin Eminence 2008
  • Nederburg Private Bin D234 Sauvignon Blanc 2010
  • Nederburg Private Bin R163 Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
  • Newton Johnson Pinot Noir 2009
  • Oldenburg Cabernet Franc 2009
  • Plaisir De Merle Grand Plaisir 2007
  • Quoin Rock The Mendi 2006
  • Raka Biography Shiraz 2008
  • Steenberg Magna Carta 2009
  • Thelema Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
  • Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc 2010
  • Warwick Estate Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc 2010


Here’s list 2:

  • Asda Extra Special Fairtrade Chenin Blanc 2010
  • Beaumont Wines Hope Marguerite 2010
  • Cape Point Vineyards Chardonnay 2009
  • Cape Point Vineyards Isliedh 2010
  • Dieu Donné Cross Collection Shiraz-Viognier 2008
  • Drostdy-Hof Chardonnay 2010
  • Fleur Du Cap Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
  • Holden Manz Big G 2009
  • Jordan Nine Yards Chardonnay 2009
  • Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc 2010
  • KWV Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay 2010
  • Lomond Pincushion Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2010
  • Longridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
  • Longridge Chenin Blanc 2010
  • Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur 2007
  • Nederburg Winemasters Reserve Chenin Blanc 2009
  • Quoin Rock The Nicobar 2009
  • Rickety Bridge Paulina’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
  • Rijk’s Estate Syrah 2007
  • Saronsberg Full Circle 2008
  • Saxenburg Shiraz Select 2006
  • Spier Mitchells Pass Malbec 2010
  • Steenberg Semillon 2010
  • Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Pinotage 2008
  • Thelema Mountain Vineyards Sutherland Cabernet Sauvignon-Petit Verdot 2008
  • Waterkloof Circumstance Syrah 2008

Well, it was List 2 that has the wines sprinkled with Decanter gold. Including some bizarre surprises as well as some very fine wines. My point is not that the winners are not (mostly) plausible – but that they’re not more plausible than many of the losers – and I haven’t even considered the bronze medallists, including such fine wines as Glenelly Lady May and Klein Constantia Vin de Constance  that clearly weren’t much thought of by the judges.

And it does seem hard to accept the validity of a process that rates Drostdy Hof Chardonnay and a supermarket’s cheap own-brand chenin as so much higher than Steenberg Magna Carta and Hartenberg Gravel Hill.

I suppose it’s like so many other mysteries. You either believe in the nonsense, or you don’t.

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