On Friday, the eight judges of the ABSA Top Ten Pinotage Competition were faced with 29 wines being the best rated of the wines tasted the previous two days. Our task was to choose a Top Ten – or top dozen actually, as the wines were to be sent to a lab to test for bacterial faults and the possible presence of coffee beans. Of course, choosing a Top Ten is not the same as ranking the wines from “best” to “worst” and then cutting and pasting a personal top ten – the whole point of a Top Ten is to showcase the diversity of styles available. After all, wasn’t the most sensible thing WOSA every said “variety is in our nature?”
And anyway, how do you compare a soft Pinot Noir style to a tight tannic terroir-driven titan to a Bordeaux-style berry blaster? It depends on the dish, the desire and the wallet. This point was most eloquently made by Malcolm Gladwell in What the Dog Saw (Little, Brown, 2010). Considering the ketchup conundrum (how come mustard is offered in dozens of varieties but ketchup has but a single style) he interviews “a lineal descendent of the legendary 18th century Hassidic rabbi known as the Seer of Lublin” Howard Moskowitz. Not to spoil Howard’s punch line, suffice to say that when it comes to food and drink, there are no universals. The Platonic ideal does not exist.
If there is no single Pepsi, how can there be a best Pinotage? There is not even an ideal spaghetti sauce – there are 36 varieties of Ragú in six classes: Old World, Chunky Garden, Robusto, Light, Cheese and Rich & Meaty. As Malcolm concludes “there is very nearly an optimal spaghetti sauce for every man, woman and child in America.” And using the same reasoning, at least as many “best Pinotages” as there are consumers to buy the brands.
Which gives producers a way forward – let consumers choose the wines they’d buy. Which is precisely what lifestyle blogger Clare Mack will do in August when she invites 100 women down to the luxury V&A Hotel at the Cape Town Waterfront for the weekend to do exactly that – choose 100 wines. (Note to anoraks, the V and A in V&A is not Volatile Acidity!) Never mind the Seer of Lublin, Clare is the Seer of Dublin! Instead of asking nebulous questions like “should Merlot have mint?”, Clare asks which wines would you serve if the boss was coming to dinner? Which wine to kiss and make up after a contretemps? Which wine for the monthly book club? She might be on to something, as women buy 80% of wine sold in SA.
Ladies who wish to play should e-mail Clare on email@example.com to book their place in a revolutionary new wine competition which will boot the status quo back to the stone age.
What a great idea. I’d love to be there. And it’s true – that’s exactly the way women choose the wines they buy – by the occasion (birthday, celebration, ****** day at the office etc) Well done Clare.