Bacchus Budget Buys
Wine of the Week: Neil Pendock picks pocket-friendly tipple
Spar supermarkets launched an expanded range of Olive Brook grocer's wines at Kleine Zalze in the winelands earlier this month. Whether it was the black tasting glasses or the instruction to score them logarithmically out of five (with 5/5 translating to 23/20), the only consistent comment to emerge from the serried ranks of wine hacks, bloggers and barflies was "the wines are too cheap" at R33.99 a bottle.
A non sequitur if ever one was broached, along the lines of comments that the recent Nederburg auction was a flop as prices were down 16%. It all depends if you're buying or selling and for consumers, financial reality in the cellar is good news indeed. And likely to be short-lived, as recent rand weakness will drain the local wine lake even faster than the petrol price rises as wineries throw their exports into overdrive.
Aníbal Coutinho is wine buyer for Continente supermarkets, largest wine retailer in Portugal. So when I was looking for a partner to produce a blind-tasted guide to the winelands, he ticked all the boxes: Old World palate, stamina to taste more than 2000 wines blind and an ability to judge value for money. Surely the most important attribute for consumers when buying wine.
We focused on wines that taste of somewhere. Made from grapes grown in a particular vineyard. From the mouth of the Olifants River in the north to the windswept dunes of Elim in the south to the Pierneef plains of the Klein Karoo in the east. Wines possessed of regional identity. Neither better nor worse than big-label blends made from grapes from many appellations. Just different.
We scored them on a heart system, with five being marriage. We awarded five hearts 147 times. Stellenbosch got 39 straight flushes or 27% or the total, which concords with marketing perceptions. Prices for our five-heart heroes ranged from R27 to R1200 a bottle, with an average well over R100.
That said, there is amazing value to be had at R60 and under. Our top 10 value-for-money wines comprise four whites, four reds, one sticky and a rosé, and they come from five different appellations.