How to distinguish a good wine

Some 30 years ago an old French winemaker with a vineyard along the Rhone told me how to distinguish a good wine. “First rinse your mouth thoroughly” he said. “Next you go with the bottle in the open air and sniff the air. Then you open the bottle and if you smell the wine it’s no good, even if you like the taste”.

“Wine you have to smell with your nose in the glass. Now take a zip and let it go through your palate. Repeat that twice. If you still feel the wine indulging your palate after one hour you can be sure of its quality”.

It’s as simple as that and no snob talk needed.

With this in mind I went to a small winery here in Napier (Western Cape, South Africa) where they were just starting bottling their first white muscadel and I had to taste that. Skipskop produces limited editions of amongst others Viognier, Sangiovese and Petit Verdot wines from ‘terroirs’ in Napier and near Ladysmith in the Klein Karoo. Virtually all the wines are exported; only small quantities are locally for sale.

So I held a glass under the tap and poured a few zippies, went outside for the fresh air and did what the French winemaker told me ages ago. To make a along story short; after a few hours I could still feel the wine ‘playing’ with my tastebuds. Now you may guess who is in the possession of the first bottle of white muscadel of Origin Napier.

Now I also have a Fraai Uitzicht Syrah

No I’m not going to taste it; just let it mature for a few years. Well that’s what I do with quality wines. Recently I wrote a review about Le Neuf Papesch of this South African wine cellar and I had critics from …. the wine critics who make a living out of drinking/tasting wine and write about it. There are quite a few of them I found out. I received 13 emails (what a number!); two of them asking if I could please withdraw my review from the internet. Others found it of bad taste to inform readers about a simple method of distinguishing qualities; as it’s a secret amongst that particular profession. One (from South Africa) found the review ‘intriguing’ and from the UK I got the remark I was “too honest” …. The French ‘Vigneron’ (wine-maker’) with over 300,000 followers (re-)tweeted the link several times and French tweeting about South African wines ….. that’s quite something; I feel obliged.

In the meantime I acquired a second bottle for my collection from Fraai Uitzicht. This time a Syrah. Now I also want to have their Merlot, Viognier and Grenache…

The wines are not cheap and one cannot expect that real quality is cheap. These are wines for special occasions including a dinner or lunch at the restaurant of Fraai Uitzicht that has so many awards that the owners lost count. The wines (if in stock) are also online available. For Europeans: The wines are distributed from Germany.

The fragrance of POTpourri …

And the smell goes on…..

Flower tasting is like wine tasting. A bottle can have an attractive label and the wine-maker an appealing story. Etc., etc. That does not mean that the wine is good although many will say so because of the ‘packaging’. Same with flowers. There are beautiful flowers but the ‘fragrance’ is horrible and seemingly less beautiful flowers spread a wonderful scent; a Feast for the senses._DSC4365web


After the harvest and tomorrow we taste

Growing grapes is one thing but creating excellent wines of grapes demands at least as much craftmanship. Although modern technology helps the wine maker he/she still needs the, as the Germans say, ‘Fingerspitzengefuhl’. At Springfontein in Stanford, South Africa, the grapes are first manually graded (no machine can do it that good) and next the stalks and (partly) skins are automatically removed… well to keep a long story short: via cooling, pressing and (temporary) storage, etc. the wine matures in wooden barrels (and after that some wines mature a few extra years in the bottle in an optimal environment  such as a cellar or climatized room).

You can read between the lines that wine-making is a kind of magic and I don’t understand any of it but I can tell you the difference between a good and not so good wine.

Let’s keep the tasting for tomorrow. Here a few post-harvest pictures.