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South African troubles

July 18, 2005

Ouch. This is harsh news for South African wines. If true, it could do some serious damage to their international reputation – and their marketability. It’s no secret that I love South African Sauvignon Blancs, especially the ones by Neil Ellis and Springfield’s “Life from Stone”. To me, they represent the perfect compromise between the overwhelming crispness of Sancerre, the gooseberry/asparagus madness of New Zealand and the soft richness of California.

So I’ll wait for further news before making a call on this one. And if true, I doubt that this practice is confined to South Africa. In terms of the question raised by the author about “legitimate” flavouring of wine? I’d consider the use of oak legitimate, although I’ve heard stories of winemakers using oak extract to flavour cheaper wines.

Same for chapatalization – when needed. Adding sugar for the sake of a little extra market share seems a little like cheating. But where do you draw the line? As for flavouring chemicals, I don’t think they have any place in wine, unless their use is clearly identified.

Total aside: I just noticed something awful. Did I really use the words “soft richness” to describe a wine? Ugh, shoot me now!

Sadly, no tasting notes today. For whatever reason, I didn’t drink much wine this weekend. Probably because my step-brother-in-law (it’s a long story) hosted a nice gathering on Saturday where beer was the drink of choice. I did have a nasty oxidized bottle of the Perrin Family’s “Vieille Ferme” white that I picked up this weekend, but that’s not worth writing about.

Usually the Vieille Ferme is a nice, crisp, vaguely Rhone-style white (the red is also very tasty) which is perfect on hot days. I’d prefer if it had more than 10% Rousanne, but if it did, I wouldn’t be paying $10.49 per bottle before taxes.

I’ll close off with this. You can take bad wine back to the MLCC, just like you would with any other decent retail outlet. Make sure you have your receipt, and don’t let them push you around. If the wine is off, they should take it back, because the customer is always right. Same goes for restaurants. And you’ll know when it’s off. Trust me. If it smells or tastes like sherry – it’s oxidized. Don’t drink it. If it smells like a wet dog, it’s just plain bad. Same advice applies.

However, if your wine smells a little bit like a barnyard or a forest floor, and has the words Romanée-Conti on the label, invite me over and I’ll be happy to take it off your hands. I wouldn’t want you to have to worry about it.

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