Moderate enthusiasm from Jancis Robinson

A reminder, perhaps, that not everyone thinks quite as highly of Cape wine as we – and some others – do? I’ve just got round to reading a report from the redoubtable Jancis Robinson on a tasting of wines from the fairly recently formed PIWOSA (Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa), a grouping of winemakers who, as Jancis puts it, “consider themselves both premium and independent”.

It’s mostly a pretty classy group, in terms of reputation, with a few lesser-known names. But I would guess, for example, that a good handful of the wines tasted by Jancis in June, and reported on last week, would have been put forward for the mass, blind tasting of Platter Guide five-star candidates last Friday.

Now, Jancis has always been one of the critics more receptive to Cape wine – particularly the whites, so her generally rather unenthusiastic (it seems to me) reception of this bunch of “premium” wines is interesting. Not a single wine out of the 50 reported on scored 18 out of 20, though I counted seven that scored 17 or 17+. The most-favoured variety was chenin blanc – with top scores for wines from Beaumont, Ken Forrester (two of them, including the FMC which got such a convincingly severe bashing from Eric Asimov for the previous, 2009, vintage), Raats, and Mullineux (chenin-based, at least). Though she didn’t care for the Radford Dale Renaissance as much as I do.

Let me quote a few other general remarks from Jancis’s report. She says:

I’d say that many of the Chardonnays on show tasted just a year or so behind the curve in terms of being rather richer than the current international fashion, and still showing some rather-too-obvious leesiness in some instances. But I’m sure more recent vintages will be increasingly refined. I loved the one Sémillon shown [from Shannon – though it rated only 16.5]; another under-used South African resource. The reds on show last June were remarkably unlike the old Cape stereotype of massive alcohol, tannin and wood. There were some very smart reds indeed.
… It was interesting to see how keen the PIWOSA members were to show off their Pinot Noirs. None was absolutely knockout but they are definitely getting there. Among the reds, South Africa has long shown it can produce fine Bordeaux blends, but in June some of the Rhône blends were particularly impressive.

To see such locally-vaunted pinots as Newton Johnson Family Vineyards 2011 and Paul Cluver Seven Flags 2010 being scored 15 and 15.5 respectively by such an eminent critic is surely worthy of note and, whether or not one disagrees, a salutary reminder – especially when so many producers (NB not these one just mentioned) get very grumpy when their wines don’t score well locally.

It is. of course, just possible that the PIWOSA wines were not showing well on this particular occasion (or not being as happily received) – I see, for example that on two previous occasions Jancis has give 17/20 and enthusiastic notes to the Glenelly Lady May 2009, but on this occasion she clearly didn’t like it much and it got only 16.

But this note of mine isn’t intended as a full report or commentary on Jancis’s report. Let alone do I wish to pick quarrels with her – despite some inevitable disagreements (she already, I think, finds me sufficienly quarrelsome!). I just thought it interesting and worth pointing out….

Unfortunately, I can’t give a useful link to her report and notes, as they are on the subscription-only part of her website.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Are you human? *