The annual Best Value Wine Guide competition took place in Constantia last week – and for the first time in years an extra panel had to be convened to accommodate the number of wines which got through the initial screening round.
Joining the two three person panels comprising Carrie Adams, Ginette de Fleuriot CWM, Christian Eedes, Mark Norrish, Howard Booysen and myself were Winnie Bowman CWM, Corlien Morris and Mike Bampfield-Duggan.
Sponsor of the Best Value Guide (BVG), Mark Norrish of Ultra Liquors said he was delighted that there had been a positive response this year. The Guide used to form part of WINE magazine’s annual publishing schedule and with the demise of the magazine late last year there was some concern that the BVG might cease to exist. However, it has remained within the Ramsay Media stable and now become part of Getaway magazine. The price threshold was also lifted from under R60 to all wines under R80.
“There’s always a concern that lifting the price bar will see fewer wines submitted, but that wasn’t the case,” Norrish said. The price of R60 had remained static since 2008 – the longest period without any hike since the inception of the guide which was first published in 2002 with R30 as the value price ceiling.
Without giving away any trade secrets (the results are embargoed until the awards ceremony on August 27) there were some categories which impressed more than most. Chardonnay has pretty much stayed the same, as has Shiraz. Notching up 50% increases over last year’s figures were white blends, Chenin Blanc, Merlot, bubblies and the port-style wines and sherries.
The big success stories are Sauvignon Blanc and Pinotage, both of which have doubled. The latter category is where most of the joy of this competition can be found. Even in the screening round they stood out as everything that consumers are looking for – succulent and juicy approachable wines with abundant fruit and heaps of drinkability.
Sauvignon Blanc remains a crowd pleaser with its crisp, refreshing acidity although it is noticeable how styles have changed over the years. Gone are the extremely grassy and herbaceous Kiwi-style examples and in their place are more generous ripe tropical fruit flavours – granadilla, papaya, litchi and melon.
But basically the future looks rosy for consumers looking for a bargain as the bulk of the wines making the book remain in the region of R60 and below…