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Wednesday, November 11, 2015


(Michael Green)

The Veritas Awards, established by the South African National Wine Show, celebrate their 25th anniversary this year. They have become the best-known yardstick for measuring the quality of South African wines and brandies.

This year a total of 1,763 entries were submitted to a panel of international and local judges. Overall 57 double gold, 157 gold, 473 silver and 662 bronze medals were awarded.

Sauvignon blanc scored the highest number of double gold medals, followed by cabernet sauvignon and shiraz.

Shiraz was the top-scorer in gold medals, followed by chenin blanc.

A tasting of many of these splendid wines was presented recently at Umhlanga, and a very large crowd, many of them people in the liquor trade, attended.

Your faithful scribe was briefly the centre of attention. Every year Veritas honours a handful of people who have contributed in one way or another to the wine industry. This year I was among those chosen and was presented with an imposing scroll.

The citation said I had been a wine writer for more than 40 years and that, as a newspaper editor, I had been instrumental in having wine columns regularly published.

I am of course greatly honoured and flattered by all this. I have never thought of myself as being a particularly distinguished or significant wine writer, but I have been around for a long time and perhaps the award is an acknowledgment of long service.

I have always been an enthusiastic consumer of wine, and I began writing about wine when I came to Durban 47 years ago. I think it fair to say that in those days there was less interest in wine in this part of the world than there is now. The KwaZulu/Natalians were the banana boys, not the grape boys.

Now it is a very different scene. We have wine producers at Abingdon and Highgate, in the Howick area. And I read recently about a wine shop in Rosetta in the Natal Midlands. Apparently it keeps a stock of 2,500 different wines.

The official population of Rosetta is 557 men, women and children, which means that the shop has five different wines for each person. And some of them probably don’t even drink wine.

My roots are in the Western Cape, and I am happy that as a wine columnist I have often been invited there. I attended and reported on more than 20 Nederburg wine auctions. I became friendly with Patrick Grubb, the celebrated Nederburg auctioneer, and I greatly admired his mastery of the gentle art of euphemism. When tastings became a little noisy and unruly he would refer to “palate fatigue”.

Among my friends there are Bennie Howard and Duimpie Bayly, the first two Cape Wine Masters. We all know the difficulties and perils of blind tastings of wines. In conversation with me years ago Duimpie Bayly summed it up neatly. He said: A glance at the label is worth 25 years’ tasting experience.

Since my retirement from the newspaper world I have written nearly 300 articles about wine for the artSMart website (

For the Veritas tasting at Umhlanga I wore a tie with a badge that says Veritas. The word is of course Latin for Truth, and this is the motto of Harvard University, where I was a student long, long ago. This is their tie.

Veritas, Truth, is surely a good watchword for the venerable Cape wine industry, for a famous American university, and for a humble journalist as well. – Michael Green