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The Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show

We were fortunate to be invited by Old Mutual to the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show judges welcome dinner. Various esteemed persons of the wine world had gathered at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl to judge this year’s entries.

Our chauffeur sailed us smoothly to Paarl and dropped us at the entrance to the Grand Roche Hotel, which glowed enticingly in Great Gatsby-esque fashion. We entered to a scene of sparkling chandeliers and glittering glassware. We gravitated to the fire, where we were met by David O’Brien of Old Mutual and his charming wife Zelda. They made us feel welcome, and introduced us to some of the wine judges, many of whom I know by reputation and photograph, but had not met, such as Christian Eedes.

My husband had expressed some concern before the event about whether he would be able to follow the nuanced, intellectual and esoteric musings of the wine professionals. His question was answered early in the evening, when one of the judges loudly announced to us: ’I like a great, big, woody slut of a wine. A real Pamela Anderson, in-your-face sort of a wine. I like wines that are so, so wrong that they are right.’

I had planned to pace my drinking. This plan soon went awry, as a charming young man kept forcing more Vintage Louis Roederer (2006) on me, and it seemed churlish to refuse. We sat down to dinner, and the esteemed Michael Fridjhon, the Show Chairman, gave a welcome speech. He stressed the difficulty of the task of the judges, who had to identify wines both in their current context and according to how they might perform in the future. I tried hard to drum up empathy for these selfless individuals, who were holed up in the Grande Roche for a week and made to taste wine all day long. I did try.

We were fortunate to sit opposite the renowned and fabulous Véronique Drouhin-Boss. She comes from a long line of winemakers, and is head winemaker at the family-run Maison Joseph Drouhin, founded in Beaune in 1880. She told us a fascinating anecdote about a mystery guest who came to her home for dinner. He asked beforehand whether he could bring a bottle of wine. She replied that it was not necessary, but fine to do so. When he arrived, he produced a bottle of wine made by Véronique‘s great-grandfather Joseph Drouhin. Not only was the wine shared between the 17 guests, but the children were woken up to each taste a drop of this rare ancestral nectar.

We met the inspirational Nkulu Mkhwanazi, a young man studying for his Cape Wine Masters, and an associate judge for the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show. His passion is wine education and he already has an impressive track record of achievements in the wine world. I think we will be seeing more and more of his name in times to come. We also sat with Michael Crossley, the manager of the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show. His expertise and competence were self-evident in the orderliness and perfection of our surroundings.

The food was exquisite, and was paired with some of last year’s trophy winners:
Jordan The Outlier Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Paul Cluver Chardonnay 2011
Diemersdal MM Louw Estate Red 2011
Nederburg Private Bin Eminance 2007

The judging panel we spoke with about the day’s tastings found the Chenins to be especially impressive. Judge Fongyee Walker said that she would return to China and spread the word about these wines, and praised their diversity and finesse.

Thank you to Old Mutual for treating us to such a spectacular evening. For more information on the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, the judges, the judging process and the public tastings, see: Old Mutual Wine Trophy Show.

And after a fairy-tale evening, this Cinderella and her prince were whisked back home by our chauffeur, back to the real world again.

Grande Roche

Grande Roche wine cellar

Judges welcome dinner

Judges welcome dinner

David and Zelda

David and Zelda

Michael and Veronique

Michael and Véronique

Kevin and Nkulu

Kevin and Nkulu