For the first time since the 1998 edition, the Platter guide will be tasting and rating brandy this year. Nearly 40 producers have been contacted and invited to submit their brandies – from the huge brands to the tiny ambitious makers of estate brandy.
The procedure will be somewhat different from that for table wines, given that not all the tasters would feel they have the competence o taste brandy. A panel of three – led by veteran spirits expert Dave Hughes will assess the brandies (tasting sighted, with full awareness of the aims and origins of the brandy concerned). Where a brandy is part of an estate’s output, however, it will be included under a separate heading at the end, as I understand things.
Dave wrote the very short section on brandies in the 1998 edition. There were then only two estate producers: Backsberg and Boplaas. I tasted that same Backsberg at the recent Brandy Fusion event – only now it was a long-matured selection selling as a 20 Year Old. Superb. And special Boplaas brandy is a frequent and much-honoured participant in the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction.
I understand that the South African Brandy Foundation, particularly through its General Manager, Danie Pretorius, has been continuously consulted throughout the development of the protocols for the tasting process. The Foundation is an enthusiastic supporte3r of the initiative.
It’s an exciting development (certainly for me, as a fairly recent convert) though not a straightforward one in some ways. For example, given the extraordinarily high quality of Cape brandy, I think we should expect (it would surely by justified!) a larger proportion of brandies getting very high ratings than is the case with wine. ANd will the tastings be repeated each year, given that most of the brands offer pretty invariable stuff, year after year?
But let’s hope the initiative gets welcomed with the enthusiasm due to this superb class of spirits, and that it helps to draw attention to the category.